At the time of the Russian Revolution, I was incarcerated still in Wandsworth Prison for resistance to military service. I was not released until Tuesday, January 7th, 1919, under the Cat and Mouse Act, after 14 days’ hunger strike, following upon a long period of work and discipline strike. I was rearrested on Sunday, March 19th, after an extensive Anti-parliamentary campaign in Scotland, at the conclusion of a meeting on Clapham Common. I was returned to Wandsworth Prison and again went on hunger strike, being released four days later. No further attempt was made to rearrest me under the Cat and Mouse Act and I subsequently received my complete military discharge.
I was arrested again on Wednesday, March 2nd, 1921, illegally in Shepherd’s Bush, London, under a Scotch warrant. At this time Bakunin House, Glasgow, the Anti-Par;liamentarian headquarters was surrounded and raided by armed police, and at the identical moment my Shepherd’s Bush flat was raided by a large contingent of Scotland Yard officers. The charge was alleged sedition against the mernbers of the Glasgow Central Group of the Anti-Parliamentary Communist Federation for printing the group paper called The Red Commune. Into the imprisonments that followed it is not necessary to go in the present work. The important point is that between the dates, March 19th, 1919, and March 2nd, 1921, the Anti-Parliamentarian movement in Britain was developing contact with the Anti-Parliamentary movement in Germany and also defining the attitude.of Anti-Parliamentarians in Britain towards the Communist International. This seemed to be a most important period of revolutionary development and must be considered by the new movement that is evolving invisibly out of the present reactionary war situation.
During my imprisonment for resisting military service, which began in May, 1916, the editorship of The Spur was taken over by Rose Witcop. She remained editor of the paper from that time on until the Bakunin Press was closed down by the police raids in 1921. In August 1920, Rose Witcop visited Berlin and so brought English comrades into touch with the various sections of the German revolutionary movement. Her impressions are to be found in The Spur from September to December of 1920.
Writing from Neukolln, Berlin, on August 24th, 1920, she described the relations between the Syndicalist movement and the rising K.A.P.D., and depicted the strength of the Labor movement in Germany at that time. The following excerpt bears on this point : —
“This is my second day in Berlin.... To-day there is only one daily Labor paper in England. Here, the Majority Socialists have 80 daily papers, while the Independent Socialists have 18, and the Syndicalists count their membership by hundreds of thousands. Shall we still refer to Germany as being backward? ”
This small excerpt illustrates well the extent of the terrible German defeats of 1923 and 1933, and the disaster that has overtaken the organized Labor movement in Europe.
From Munich, Rose Witcop wrote her impressions of the official and the unofficial Communist elements. The latter she found to be genuine enthusiastic comrades, but the former were neither helpful nor interesting.
In an essay on Lessons from Munich, she threw light on the betrayal of the Munich insurrection by the disciples of Moscow “ Official “ Communism. She visited Erich Musham in jail where he was being treated as a political prisoner. Her interview with him was a long one and enabled her to get in contact subsequently with various Anti-Parliamentary Communists in Germany who contributed articles in The Spur on the history of the German movement: Musham’s motto at this time was “I believe in the dictatorship of the proletariat, not the dictatorship of piarties.”
One of the Anti-Parliamentary comrades to whom Musham introduced Rose Witcop was “ Wald Quint.” This was the revolutionary pen-name of an airman, who came over to the Communists during the Munich revolution. He was imprisoned subsequently by the “ Whites,” but released after eighteen months’ imprisonment.
“ Quint “ published an essay on Communism in Germany in The Spur, for December, 1920. This essay was divided into two chapters :(1) The Liquidation of Syndicalism; which argued that the Rhur district, once the hot-bed of Syndicalism had become the cemetery of Syndicalism, owing to the Syndicalists discarding Utopian pacifism and mere strike inaction, to fight in the united ranks of the proletariat, arms in hand, against the military force of the organized reaction; (2) Spartacism: This chapter described the rise of the K.A.P.D., the Anti-Parliamentary Communist Workers’ Party of Germany, and the failure of the K.P.D., the “ official “ Communist Party of Germany.
“ Wald Quint “ was challenged by a German Syndicalist in the January, 1921, Spur, and replied in the April issue, defending the attitude of the K.A.P.D. towards syndicalism. The following passage merits quotation for its clarity of definition :
“ The Syndicalists are, according to the explicit declaration of the Third International and the repeated assertions of Lenin, useful and unquestionably revolutionary. They stand for Soviet organization and for Communism. Not the goal divides us from them, for the cooperation which Communism strives to attain, will recognize neither State nor Rulers nor Ruled. They only commit the error of declaring birth without pregnancy, not only as being possible, but as being a basic principle. They hope to secure the domination of the working class over the means and instruments of production and distribution, without first establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat over the counter
revolutionary forces of capitalist domination. ”
Returning to the December essay, and the important second chapter on Spartacism, we find the story of the rise of the Anti-Parliamentary movement in Germany told in the appended excerpts :
“ When on March 13th, 1920, the German counter-revolution closed ranks and went into action, with the avowed object of establishing a Junker militaristic dictatorship, there existed no de facto Workers’ Party that embodied the revolutionary will of the German masses. Karl Liebknecht, the creator and founder of the Spartacus League, whose watchword was followed by hundreds of thousands of workers during the bloody months that succeeded the outbreak of the Revolution, whose name was last on the lips of hundreds of revolutionary workers who yielded their blood in its cause — this man of word and deed was murdered. In 1919 the Spartacus League represented revolutionary mass-action, the advance guard of the class-conscious proletariat, and to the bourgeoisie it seemed close akin to the Final tribunal, A year later this revolutionary party upon which the proletarians of Germany — indeed, of Europe — gazed with the hope it would be the leader in the coming battle for liberty, sank to the position of a mere marionet, and became a shieldbearer to the Scheidmanns and Kautzkys.”
“ Wald Quint “ proceeds to describe the fate of the fighters for the revolution, the menaces, imprisonments, and slaughtering for which the Ebert “ Socialistic “ Government was responsible. He relates how 24 Anti-Parliamentarism delegates, representing 10,000 workers, were expelled, after the Heidelberg Conference in the autumn of 1919, when the leaders pledged the party by resolution to parliamentarism and Trades Unionism. The Spartacus League refused to accept the challenge and declined to constitute itself a Workers’ Party. The Kapp coup d”etat of March, 1920, witnessed the complete failure of the K.P.D. Says “ Quint “ —
“ The Executive of the K.P.D. (Communist Party of Germany) not only failed completely during the Kapp counter-revolution, but also published its declaration of ‘loyal opposition’ towards a bourgeois government, and advised the heroic proletariat at the Ruhr district to lay down their arms on the plea that further struggle was futile. This was a direct blow in the back of the class-conscious workers, and the latter therefore decided that it was their duty to found the Communist Party of Germany anew, in order to continue the class struggle with undiminished vitality...
“ The new ‘ Communist Workers’ Party ‘ unhesitatingly declared its affiliation with the Third International....
“ In July, 1920, the Communist Labor Party sent delegates to Moscow to effect the affiliation of the party to the Third International. In so far as the delegates were requested to commit themselves to undertakings which would have involved the suicide of the Party, and its complete subjugation to the Spartacus League, they broke off negotiations, and left Moscow before the opening of the Second Congress. IN POINT OF PRINCIPLE, THE RELATION OF THE PARTY TO THE THIRD INTERNATIONAL WAS, AND STILL IS THIS, THAT THE PARTY HAS NOTHING TO SAY AGAINST THE CENTRALISM WHICH IS CONCERNED WITH CREATING UNITY AND AN INCREASED PREPAREDNESS OF THE MOVEMENT. BUT IN SO FAR AS METHODS AND TACTICS ENTER THE QUESTION, THE PARTY REPULSES EVERY ATTEMPT AT INTERFERENCE AS AN UNWARRANTED INVASION.
“ The National Conference of the K.A.P.D. which was called after the return of the delegates from Moscow, after having failed to secure the admission of the Party into the Third International, declared that the K.A.P.D. was not concerned sufficiently to renew the discussion on their party program with the bodies of the Third International, in order to undertake a Revision as desired by Moscow. The program, which had been unanimously adopted by the previous Conference, should have formed the irreproachable basis which should have been respected by the Third International, had the affiliation of the K.A.P.D. to the T.I. been deemed necessary and advantageous.
The Third International will now have to formulate its attitude towards the K.A.P.D. — i.e., give an explanation as to how it proposes to arrange its future relationship to this Party on the basis of the K.A.P.D. program and on the basis of the guiding principles formulated by Moscow. Moreover, the T.I. will have always to bear in mind that the K.A.P.D. has not the least intention to sacrifice even only one iota of its principles.
“ The ascendancy of a leader-despotism after Russian style, is in fact, a source of great danger for the international proletariat. In Germany things are taking place at the moment which strongly tend towards the same type of leader-dictatorship, and which call for strenuous care and watchfulness. A dictatorship of a clique of leaders would be the very worst that could happen to the German proletariat, after its long chain of suffering and torture. The proletariat of all lands will be free only when it fights its own battles, for its own freedom, and, after freedom has been secured, rules by itself. ”
Consider how timidly the Trotskyists approached this conclusion and remember that this was written in 1920.
Germany having failed to defeat Fascism, the proletarian stand must be made in Britain and America and the English-speaking nations. The heart of the proletarian struggle in the early 19th century was Britain. Later it moved to France, and then to Germany, and then to Russia. It threatened again to be in Germany. But now it must be Britain and the United States and the proletariat of the English-speaking nations. The issue is World Revolution or World Fascism. Although, finally, the proletariat will win, the failure of the working-class struggle from 1918 to 1933 brought the calamity of the second world war and the fascist depression.