‘Letter Yugo-Slav Communists’ by Christian Rakovsky from Truth (Duluth). Vol. 3 No. 3. January 21, 1921.

Rakovsky dictating a letter in 1924.
‘Letter Yugo-Slav Communists’ by Christian Rakovsky from Truth (Duluth). Vol. 3 No. 3. January 21, 1921.

I send you greeting on behalf of Soviet Ukraine on the occasion of your recent successes in the municipal elections and the general success of the communist movement in Yugo-Slavia. The old Serbian Socialist-Democracy at the beginning of the war, gave a fine example of revolutionary class policy, rising above the Social-Democratic parties of Austria, Germany, and France, that had then betrayed the cause of the proletariat; it is thus continuing its glorious revolutionary tradition. It is quite natural that in order to preserve and deepen its revolutionary tactics the party had to suffer a certain amount of internal friction and disruption. In the great proletarian movement we have always had instances of weakness even on the part of some of the best individual representatives of the proletariat. There are many great names of which the proletariat was once proud, but which have now become the flames of its enemies.

The great change which is taking place in the international proletarian movement in favor of Communism obliges us comrades of the Balkan Communist parties, to analyse as closely as possible the blunders of the buried Second International and to try to avoid them. I shall take advantage of this opportunity to call your attention to one of the most fundamental blunders of the Second International, a blunder which proved fatal, and helped on the victory of opportunism.

Delegates of the First Congress of the SRPJ(k) in front of the building of the former Hotel Slavija, Belgrade in 1919.

The old International was rather like a society mutually pledged to abstain from revolution. Remember the attitude of some of the best leaders of the II International towards the revolution. In the weakness and treachery of parties in other countries they tried to find a justification for their own weakness and treachery. Thus, for Instance, when the question of a general strike as a means to prevent war came up the leaders of the proletariat in Germany and France argued as follows: the French said: “If we declare a strike while there is no strike in Germany, we shall only open the gates of France to a German invasions.” On the other hand, the leaders of the German Social Democracy said; “If we declare a strike while there is no strike in Russia we shall only open the gates of Germany to victorious Russian Tsarism”: The leaders of the French proletariat in the world and yet they thought it their duty not to allow Its revolutionary fervour to reach its logical conclusion, i.e. the triumph of the revolution. The leaders of the German proletariat were convinced that the German proletariat was better prepared for the revolution than the Russian; this difference in revolutionary preparedness was used by them for negative conclusions: not in favor but against the revolution in Germany.

I shall not try to test here these suppositions by facts which proved to be just the reverse of what the German and French opportunists had foretold I only wish to show the faultiness of the tactics of the Socialist parties which strove not to carry out their revolutionary duties in their respective countries but waited for an example to be given by the party of some neighboring country. The result was exactly as have said: a mutual pledge of revolutionary inactivity was given. We must try to avoid this fatal blunder of the past. Of course, revolution in a neighboring country is a favorable condition for the triumph of the revolution and for seizure of power in one’s own country. That is an axiom easily understood without stretching the imagination. But this very revolution in the “neighboring” country as well as the revolution in one’s own country are possible only when the party which is better prepared for revolution does not restrain the revolutionary impulse of its masses, but, on the contrary, develops it and brings it to violent rebellion. Every attempt to restrain the natural revolutionary spirit of the masses which has shown itself everywhere since the war, and every attempt to turn this revolutionary spirit into legal channels, is essentially counter-revolutionary work, against which every conscious communist ought to struggle with all his might. The communist should not be afraid of isolation. For the essence of the Communist Revolution is such that both Its victories and defeats will equally serve to raise the revolutionary level of the working class. To the question whether the Hungarian working class is better prepared now for soviet government than it was before the first Hungarian Soviet Republic, I do not hesitate to reply: Yes. It is better prepared now. It understands now that opportunists are not to be trusted even if they offer the Soviet Republic their aid and that of their organizations.

Delegates of the Second Congress of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, Workers’ Hall, Vukovar, 1920.

If a socialist revolution were to take place in Yugo-Slavia, I do not think it would be isolated; I think that a similar movement would take place in Bulgaria, Italy and perhaps in Austria also. (I do not talk of Rumania, Hungary and Greece, because I think the reaction is still too strong there while the proletariat is not sufficiently organized or conscious). But even if Yugo-Slavia had to remain isolated it should not keep back the Yugoslavian comrades from doing their revolutionary duty to the end. Of course, paralled with the preparation of revolution in its own country, every Communist party is obliged to utilise all the means in its power to influence the proletariat of neighboring countries, to push them as far as possible along the path of revolution. No interventions of opportunism and of counter-revolution. There is absolutely nothing blameworthy in intervening in the internal affairs of a party in a neighboring country, in criticising its blundering, in attacking leaders when they do not carry out their revolutionary and proletarian duties. On the contrary, it is the immediate duty of every communist party. Of course, it would be an ideal condition for the victory, of the revolution if it were, as Mazzini once said, “universal and simultaneous”. We ought to strive towards this. But we should be careful not to lose the opportune moment at home while waiting for neighbors. The seizure of power by the proletariat is also a military and strategical task, dependent on the various forces within the country concerned. There are moments when the bourgeoisie is weak, either on account of the weariness that follows war, or in connection with acute economic crises and strifes. If you let these moments pass you may have long to wait for them to return. The ship of the bourgeoisie is frequently hit. If we allow the bourgeoisie always to repair the holes, it is liable to get stronger even though only for a time thus postponing the moment for the seizure of power.

I am one of those who have lived in close contact with the Second International and, from 1893 at Zurich till 1910 at Copenhagen, I participated in all its international congresses. At the Congress of Amsterdam in 1904, I represented the Serbian Social-Democratic Party, I therefore have thought it necessary, while dwelling upon the blunders of the II International to point out the above blunder which we must avoid now at all costs. Before ending this letter, I think I must return to the necessity of influencing the proletarian movement of the parties in neighboring countries. The greatest influence will be possible if the Communist party is in close organizational contact with the communist parties of those countries. Hence it is clear that the Balkan proletarian alliance must be reconstructed, under the flag of Communism. A decision to this effect has been adopted at the Balkan Communist conference in Sophia It is now necessary to include Hungary in this alliance and make the union closer and more active.

With communist greetings, Ch. Rakowsky, Kharkov.

Truth emerged from the The Duluth Labor Leader, a weekly English language publication of the Scandinavian local of the Socialist Party in Duluth, Minnesota and began on May Day, 1917 as a Left Wing alternative to the Duluth Labor World. The paper was aligned to both the SP and the I.W.W. leading to the paper being closed down in the first big anti-I.W.W. raids in September, 1917. The paper was reborn as Truth, with the Duluth Scandinavian Socialists joining the Communist Labor Party of America in 1919. Shortly after the editor, Jack Carney, was arrested and convicted of espionage in 1920. Truth continued to publish with a new editor J.O. Bentall until 1923 as an unofficial paper of the C.P.

Access to full issue: https://www.mnhs.org/newspapers/lccn/sn89081142/1921-01-21/ed-1/seq-1

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