THE last decade has witnessed the appearance of a new political formation -- the Third or Communist International. Born of the Russian revolution, it unites under its banner all the political parties which call themselves communist and aim at the establishment of the "dictatorship of the proletariat" by forcible methods. In all questions of policy, even those involving merely local tactical problems, they follow instructions from Moscow, the capital of the Revolution.

Immediately after the war it was generally believed, at least in bourgeois circles, that the working class all over the world was going to smash the framework of the old socialist parties and join en masse the Third International, substituting the methods of Bolshevism for those of a socialistic democracy. This is exactly what did not happen. In the advanced countries of Europe, after a considerable initial success, the communists met with the strong resistance of the well-organized social-democratic parties. Their efforts to capture the Orient were doomed to disappointment. In both North and South America their political influence is negligible. The question whether they now are gaining or losing ground is one in which the friends and enemies of socialism are equally interested. To this question I shall attempt to give an answer, limiting my investigation, however, to those countries with which I am in a degree familiar, that is, the countries of Europe.

At first sight the task seems relatively easy. To aid us in measuring communist gains and losses we have reasonably complete data, under three main heads: the membership of the parties; the strength of the communist labor organizations; and the number of votes obtained by their candidates at elections.

But as soon as we begin to examine the problem at closer range we discover that it is by no means as simple as we imagined. Since the war about half of Europe has been living under a régime of dictatorship, open or disguised, which leaves practically no room for parties of the opposition, for freedom of organization, and for regular elections. The mere statement, for instance, that in Italy, in Hungary, in Jugoslavia, communist parties have been destroyed or prohibited, does not by any means establish the fact that communism is losing ground in the conscience of the masses. Again, although in the course of the last years the membership of the communist parties has certainly been drastically reduced in all European countries except Russia, the French and other communists declare that the decrease in their number is of no mportance, that it is the quality not the quantity that matters. Their chief preoccupation, they say, is the formation of a determined and well-disciplined vanguard, capable at a given time of assuming the leadership of the masses which by nature are passive and inert. They have succeeded in Russia. They hope to succeed in other countries when a situation favorable to the revolution is created -- in the event, for instance, of a new war.

Similarly, the trade unions affiliated with the Moscow International (excluding, of course, those of the Soviet Russia itself) appear of little importance if compared with the trade unions and organizations which depend on the Féderation Syndicale Internationale of Amsterdam. But it is hard to differentiate between them precisely. In many countries, for example Germany and England, the unity of the international labor movement has been preserved. In these countries the trade unions affiliated with the International of Amsterdam include, side by side with the large socialistic majority, a number of neutral and communist members. The policy of the latter at the present time is not secession but the "cell-system" ("noyautage"). The general strike in England in 1926 showed the influence which might be exercised at a critical moment by a violent and determined minority.

As to the number of votes obtained by the communists at the elections, it may be admitted that in the countries where democratic institutions are working normally it is the least imperfect method of reckoning the advance or recoil of communism. But the statistics of political and labor organizations, although helpful, are not sufficient in themselves to answer all our questions.

Keeping these preliminary remarks in mind we may now proceed to examine the membership of the communist parties, the strength of communist labor organizations, and the number of votes obtained by the communists at the elections.


Before the World War and the Russian revolution the political forces of socialism were practically united. It is true that anarchists and the revolutionary syndicalists remained outside the official movement, and that in certain countries, especially in Russia, there were rival socialist groups. But nevertheless there was only one International, and in it Lenin and Trotzky met with Jaurès and Ramsay MacDonald and the German social-democrats.

Immediately after the war, and as a direct consequence of it, a cleavage took place. The social-democrats, the so-called majority, remained faithful in their allegiance to what became known as the Second International (the First International having lasted from 1864 to 1873), while the Bolsheviks established the Third International. The Union of Vienna, organized by the non-communist socialists of the extreme left, endeavored to bring the two groups together, but abandoned its attempts after the Bolsheviks refused to collaborate. In 1924, at the Congress of Hamburg, it joined the "majority" group which was reorganized into a new International, frequently referred to as the Second International though its official name is the Internationale Ouvrière Socialiste. Four years later, at the Congress of Brussels, this new or re-organized International, which has its headquarters at Zurich, counted about six million members.

It may be instructive to compare the composition of the membership of the Second and of the Third (or Communist) Internationals in order to obtain an idea of the relative importance of the two wings of the socialist movement. In 1928 their respective membership was as follows:

Country Socialists Communists
Belgium 597,971 1,500(?)
Denmark 148,492 1,400   
Germany 867,671 124,729   
Great Britain 3,388,286 9,000 (?)
France 99,106 52,376   
Holland 52,904 1,400   
Jugoslavia 4,000 3,000   
Norway 76,000 8,000   
Austria 683,786 10,000   
Poland 63,406 illegal   
Russia illegal 1,300,000   
Sweden 203,338 15,479   
Switzerland 36,072 3,500   
Czechoslovakia 194,960 150,000   
Italy illegal illegal   
--------- ----------
  Total 6,355,991 2,787,384[i]

The communists also report adherents in other countries, as follows: Greece, 2,000 (socialists 2,800); United States, 12,000 (socialists 15,000); Canada, 5,000; Mexico, 1,000; Australia, 500. The socialists, on the other hand, count supporters in a number of countries where communism, at least as an organized political party, is practically non-existent, for instance in Hungary, (138,427), Finland (37,722), Bulgaria (30,126), Palestine (22,500), Rumania (13,000), Argentine (10,000), Spain (8,000), Latvia (5,000), Esthonia (5,000), and so on.

Generally speaking, then, the communist forces are weak in most countries, not to say insignificant. The only striking exception is Soviet Russia, where in spite of expulsions, deportations, and internal dissensions the membership of the Communist Party is steadily growing: 1924 -- 446,000; 1925 -- 910,000; 1926 -- 1,078,000; 1927 -- 1,200,000; 1928 -- 1,300,000.

One must remember, however, that an increase in the official membership of the Russian Communist Party does not necessarily mean an increase in the number of communists. As a matter of fact, it has nothing in common with the political parties of other countries. It is an instrument of the government, an organ of collective dictatorship, itself more and more dominated by an inner circle of party leaders. (Rakovsky, the former ambassador of the Soviets to Paris, once remarked to me: "We are a congregation"). To be or to call oneself a communist is not sufficient to qualify for admission. It is necessary to be officially ordained, and to accept the duties as well as the privileges which result from the affiliation. The membership of the party is therefore primarily dependent on the number of men and women which the dictatorship considers expedient to enroll in its civil militia of state employees and delegates. The imposing numerical membership of the party certainly proves that Stalin and his friends have at their disposal a very powerful weapon. But it does not necessarily mean -- and there is even a considerable evidence to prove the contrary -- that Bolshevik communism is making progress in the country of its origin.

In the other countries the situation is entirely different. The history of the communist parties in Europe is primarily the history of their failures, their cleavages, their schisms. Some -- for instance those of Norway, Czechoslovakia, and France -- were quite powerful at the beginning, because they formed the majority at the congress at which the split with the socialists took place and therefore suceeded in assuming the direction of the local organizations, and of the press and property of the party. But since then they almost all have been losing ground.

The already very small Belgian Communist Party has split into two (the Stalinists and the Trotzkists). In the Netherlands the Communist Party is divided into three branches. In Germany one identifies at times as many as four or five rival communist groups. In Czechoslovakia the social-democrats have reconquered the majority of the labor forces. In Norway the Communist Party lost to the social-democrats nine-tenths of its supporters. In Italy, where the communists are sharing the unhappy fate of other political parties, many of them have joined Fascism. In Great Britain, where they numbered 5,000 in 1925, they were reduced to 3,700 in 1929. In France the leaders of the Communist Party try to explain the continuous decrease in the membership of the party, which they no longer deny. Here are the official figures as given by the French communists themselves: after the schism of Tours -- 130,000; 1924 -- 68,000; 1925 -- 83,000; 1926 -- 75,000; 1927 -- 52,000; 1928 -- 40,000. And the socialists, who after Tours barely numbered some 40,000, now far exceed 500,000.

But we must not attach too much importance to internal strife and divisions, and to the decline in the membership of the communist parties. The Christian sects of the first centuries waged a fierce struggle between themselves: this did not prevent Christianity from conquering the world. Experience has also shown that expelled or excommunicated communists have invariably failed to secure popular influence: the rank and file usually remain faithful to the official communist party affiliated with the Third International, for it alone receives the subsidies and support of Moscow. Moreover, the official membership of the party may decline and at the same time, as we shall see later, the number of votes cast for it at the elections may increase. It certainly is not without importance that in a given country the communist "cells" are losing some of their substance; but the fact remains that in most European countries the existence of a communist party -- more or less strong and more or less well organized -- must be accepted as a permanent factor of political life. And one should also recognize that the working class will probably remain divided, at any rate as long as Bolshevism lasts in Russia, and that the Third International will find new recruits among the malcontents from all classes, and particularly among the most destitute and the most impulsive elements of the proletariat.


Following the scheme we have adopted in dealing with political parties, we shall now try to get some idea of the absolute and relative importance of communist trade unions, and then compare them with the non-communist labor organizations. The table given below is based on the returns of the Second and the Communist Internationals and may be considered approximately accurate.

Membership Membership
Allegiance January 1, 1925 January 1, 1928
Féderation Syndicale Internationale, of Amsterdam 17,702,431 19,377,448[ii]
Communist Labor Organizations 7,333,845 13,670,482
Confessional Labor Organizations 2,112,109 2,149,069
Syndicalist Labor Organizations 8,442,887 10,704,581
---------- ----------
    Total 36,062,711 46,187,060

From this we may draw two conclusions: (1) the labor organizations having their centre in Moscow constitute a considerable percentage of the total number of labor organizations; (2) between 1925 and 1928 the membership of these organizations has increased much more rapidly than that of any other group.

But if we follow our former method and examine the data for each country in detail, the imposing figure given by the Communist International acquires a very different meaning. Indeed, out of the total membership of 13,670,000 (on January 1, 1929), 2,800,000 represent the share of China, and it is permissible to raise the question how many of these hastily mobilized members of a revolutionary proletariat have survived the bloody events since January 1, 1929. Furthermore, Russia by itself accounts for more than 10,000,000 of the remaining members; and in Russia we are confronted with a compulsory syndicalism not dissimilar, mutatis mutandis, to the corporate organization of the Fascist state. Very little therefore is left for the other countries, except perhaps France, where the communist labor organization claims 250,000 members; and here the socialist organization has a membership of 600,000.

Let us remember, however, that if outside Russia the membership of communist trade unions is practically negligible, this is not because there are no communists among the members of the labor organizations, but because the communists, realizing that they are not strong enough to work independently, continue their affiliation with the Féderation Syndicale Internationale of Amsterdam. They are acting under orders and are organizing communist "cells." In time of industrial peace their work is carried on through secret channels and seldom appears on the surface. It takes advantage of some crisis to gain strength, and often contributes to the violent and disorderly character of a strike. Nevertheless the Bolshevik influence in the labor organizations seems at the present time to be declining. In Belgium, for instance, during the period of inflation (1926) some of the labor organizations were carried away by the Bolshevik propaganda and rather inclined to follow the lead of Moscow. This tendency was particularly noticeable among the building trade of Brussels, among a section of the dockers at Ghent and Antwerp, and among some of the miners. But since the stabilization of currency these groups have recovered; they sent back to the ranks or expelled the communists who had succeeded in making their way into their committees. Similar developments, we know, have taken place in Great Britain and also in industrial Germany. Generally speaking, the recovery of Europe from the devastating effects of the war is being accomplished by the liberation of the labor organizations from the grasp of communism. But will what is true today still be true tomorrow ? Chi lo sa? All that we can say is that at the present time communism is losing ground with the labor organizations. The communists themselves are willing to admit it; but they staunchly maintain that the tide will turn in their favor at the first emergency.


In order to appreciate the actual meaning of the number of votes cast for the various communist parties in Europe in the course of the last ten years, one should remember that immediately after the war, in 1918-1919, at the very moment when the tide of Bolshevism had reached its highest point, these parties were not yet organized. In France, in Germany, in Great Britain, the communists as such had no candidates at the first general elections which took place after the armistice; the only lists opposing the "bourgeois" parties were those of the socialists. Only later did the extremist elements sever themselves from the socialist or labor parties and, reviving the name of communism given to socialism by Marx in 1848, start a fierce campaign against the non-communist labor organizations. This campaign met with varying success in different countries. In France from the very beginning they nearly balanced that section of the electorate which remained faithful to democratic socialism. In Germany, where from the outbreak of the war the Socialist Party had split into majority and independent groups, a section of the latter joined the old party; the remaining independent socialists formed the Communist Party. In Great Britain, although the Labor Party displayed at a certain moment very vivid sympathies for Soviet Russia, the communists nevertheless organized a party of their own; but they always were and still remain an infinitely small minority. The same may be said of the communist organizations in Austria, Belgium, Holland, and Scandinavia.

Since their establishment, such communists parties as were not destroyed by dictatorial governments have regularly taken part in elections, although they never miss an opportunity of emphasizing their unimportance. We shall examine the results statistically.


In the parliamentary elections of 1919 -- that is, immediately after the armistice -- the French Socialist Party, then still united, received 1,615,000 votes and won 68 seats.

In the parliamentary elections of 1924, which were carried out under the same method of balloting (scrutin de list), the party, together with other purely socialist lists, received 687,668 votes, The lists of the so-called Cartel des Gauches, comprising socialists. radicals, etc., polled 2,107,545 votes. Estimating that of this number one half were cast for socialists, the total number of socialist votes reached the figure of 1,700,000 and won 101 seats. At the same election the Communist Party polled 900,000 votes and won 25 seats.

In the parliamentary elections of 1928, which were carried out under a different system of ballot (scrutin uninominal), the Socialist Party received 1,620,000 votes and won 100 seats. The Communist Party received 1,070,000 votes and won 14 seats.


Socialists Socialists Communists
(Majority group) (Independent group)
Date No. of seats No. of votes No. of seats No. of votes No. of seats No. of votes
1919 -- 11,500,000 -- 2,300,000 -- --
1920 -- 6,100,000 -- 5,010,000 -- 580,000
1924 131 7,880,058 -- -- 45 2,708,176
1928 152 9,112,438 -- -- 54 3,832,675

Great Britain:

Labor Party Communist Party
Date No. of seats No. of votes No. of seats No. of votes
1918 57 2,244,945 - --
1922 142 4,236,733 1 28,441
1923 191 4,348,379 - 19,092
1924 151 5,487,620 1 55,436
1929 289 8,362,594 - 50,622


In the parliamentary elections of 1921 the communists received 2,226 votes. In 1925 they fought in 12 electoral districts out of 30 and received 34,149 votes. In 1929 the communists of the Stalin group in the same districts polled 37,688 votes. In these districts, therefore, in spite of the considerable increase in the electorate, the gain of communism is modest, 3,429 votes. In the other districts where the communists had no candidates in 1925 the Stalin group in 1929 obtained 5,676 votes. The communists of the Trotzky group fought the elections in five districts and obtained 7,257 votes. Together the two communist groups succeeded in depriving the Belgian Socialist Party of 50,501 votes. The Stalin group has won one seat in the lower chamber of the Belgian parliament. The socialists have received 803,369 votes and won 70 seats out of the total number of 187.


In the 1925 elections the socialists polled 706,689 out of a total of 3,085,862 votes and won 24 out of 100 seats; the communists polled 36,770 votes and won one seat. In the 1929 elections the socialists polled 804,818 out of 3,380,217 votes and won 24 seats; the communists adhering to Moscow (led by De Visser) won 37,622 votes and one seat, while the dissident communists (led by Wynkoop) won 29,860 votes and one seat.


Socialists Communists
Date No. of votes No. of votes
1919 1,211,814 ......
1920 1,072,709 25,840
1923 1,311,870 22,164
1927 1,539,088 16,181

Out of the total number of 165 seats in the new legislative assembly, 71 are held by socialists. As to the communists, they have never succeeded in winning a seat.


In the 1924 elections the socialists polled 725,407 votes and won 105 seats; the communists (two groups, those faithful to Moscow and a dissident group led by Höglund) polled 89,902 votes and won 4 seats. In 1928 the socialists polled 872,500 votes and won 90 seats; the communists won 149,096 votes and 8 seats.


Immediately after the war the communists of Czechoslovakia found themselves in the majority at a congress of the Socialist Party and forced the minority to establish a new party of their own. But while the socialists of German and Czech origin organized separate national socialist groups, the communists preserved their unity and at the elections obtained more votes than the German and Czech socialists taken together. Their position nevertheless does not seem to be very strong. Last May the Bulletin d'Informations Politiques, Economiques et Financières of Czechoslovakia noted that although the party has 61 deputies and senators in the two houses of parliament, it is in a state of decay. "It lost over 10,000 votes at the last provincial elections," ran the comment, "and the decline is proceeding rapidly . . . . The animosity between Prague and Moscow is growing daily, and everything tends to indicate that the gulf between the leaders of the party and the Comintern is rapidly widening."[iii]

From the foregoing data it appears that with the exception of Sweden, Czechoslovakia, France and Germany, communism is practically non-existent as a factor in parliamentary elections. It may be laid down as a general proposition that it is not gaining ground or that its gains are insignificant. Even in those countries where it has recently obtained a certain success this can easily be exaggerated. In France they lost half of their seats, but the number of votes they received increased from 900,000 to 1,000,000. On the other hand, their influence with the French electorate outside the capital is practically nil; it is almost completely restricted to the suburbs of Paris where the workers -- badly organized and living in most unattractive surroundings -- throw a "red belt" around the wealthy residential districts of the capital. In Germany, where since the revolution of November 1918 the proletariat has gone through severe trials, the Bolsheviks are numerous (about 4,000,000 voters) and their number is growing. But they lack capable leaders and a constructive program and they attract only the most destitute and the least educated workers. From the parliamentary point of view they are considered by the other groups as a practically negligible factor, or, to be exact, as a negative one. Were they united as during the war, the forces of the proletariat would now be the masters of the state; divided through the efforts of the communists, they have abandoned to the bourgeois parties the greater share of governmental powers.


The membership of most of the communist parties in Europe undoubtedly is dwindling. Except in Russia and perhaps China, labor organizations affiliated with the Communist International are practically non-existent. In the countries where reaction has, or has had, the upper hand (such as Italy, Hungary, Bulgaria, Bavaria, etc.) the Bolshevik organizations have been dissolved, annihilated, or forced under-ground. As to the European countries still enjoying free democratic institutions, we have seen that election results convincingly show that, with very few exceptions, the communists form an exceedingly small -- often almost imperceptible -- fraction of the labor vote.

If therefore our answer to the question whether communism is moving forward or is in retreat were to be based solely on such evidence as that presented above we should have small room for hesitation: we should conclude that at the present time communism is not advancing, or is hardly advancing. And for a young party which boldly started out to conquer the world, not to gain means to lose.

But to base our verdict on such evidence alone would be to expose ourselves to the reproach from communists that we place undue importance on parliamentary and electional imbecility. From their point of view, indeed, the whole parliamentary and political activity of the labor organizations is merely a weapon, and by no means the most important one, for carrying out revolutionary propaganda and agitation. To anyone who tells them that in almost every parliament their representation is infinitely small and the electorate which votes for them quite insignificant, the communists point out that in Italy Fascism had less than 30 deputies when Mussolini seized power, and that in Russia itself, although the Bolsheviks formed less than one-quarter of the Constituent Assembly in 1918, this did not prevent Lenin and Trotzky from dissolving it and from establishing the dictatorship of the Communist Party, helped by the bayonets of the red soldiers. What really matters in their eyes, therefore, is neither the increase in the number of those who vote for them, nor the creation of labor organizations capable of carrying on the struggle for better wages, nor yet the building up of well-disciplined parties for the conquest of democratic power: all this is to them at best a matter of secondary importance. The real purpose is to prepare beforehand for the day when circumstances will prove favorable for the mobilization of the revolutionary proletariat in the wake of the communist vanguard. The Franco-Prussian war of 1870 was followed by the Commune of Paris; the war of 1914 established the Union of the Socialist Soviet Republics on the ruins of the Empire of Tsars; it is a new world war, the inevitability of which for the communists is an article of absolute faith, that will usher in the triumphant world revolution.

Now accepting this point of view for the purposes of argument, what are communism's losses and gains for the period since the Russian revolution?

The Russian Communist Party, with the addition of a few out-posts in other countries, is today the only great organizing power under the orders of the Communist International. It controls an immense territory and resources far in excess of those of all other labor organizations; helped by a formidable machinery for propaganda and revolutionary activity, it struggles to expand its moral and material influence in the world.

On the morrow of the Bolshevik revolution of October 1917 a great many people believed that the Bolshevik adventure was to be of short duration; others, especially in those countries where the war ended in a revolution, imagined that Russian communism was to spread all over Europe. Its actual success, however, proved to be limited to the states where the democratic tradition was still weak and where the standards of the revolutionary masses were as primitive as in Russia. Moreover, the tide soon began to recede, and it was then, after its failure in Europe, that the communists concentrated their attention on Asia. But here too, and especially in China, the ground which seemed to be so favorable soon began to slide out from under their feet. Now these are grave setbacks. Nevertheless the fact remains that Bolshevism, which appeared as though it could not last, is still here; it has lasted for nearly twelve years, and millions of men and women all over the world look upon it as a gigantic stepping-stone towards new revolutions.

Will these revolutions, if they take place, be on the whole for good or evil, and are they likely to follow the lines forecast by the communists? Will the ineluctable social transformations which are to be expected in the none too distant future, be accomplished through the action of the socialist democracy, under a régime of peace, or through the action of the Bolsheviks, under a régime of war? Or will they be accomplished -- as seems to me the more probable course -- through the combined action of all the piled-up forces which press for a change in the actual social conditions of the world? In this uncertain and tortured world of ours it is a brave man who will risk a prophecy which may be belied by the events of tomorrow. The utmost we may say is that if world peace is preserved, and if socialist democracy refrains from compromising with the capitalistic régime (a compromise which would destroy the confidence the socialists continue to enjoy among the working classes), and if the propertied classes whose political and economic privileges are at stake refrain from provoking the laboring masses, then and only then are we entitled to believe that the future of Bolshevik communism is very limited.

The general conditions of the moment are not favorable to communism. The fiasco of the August 1 manifestations, the inability of the German communists to obtain the necessary signatures for the referendum on the question of naval armament, the disappointing results of the British elections, the stubborn opposition of the Russian peasants to the requisitions of Stalin, the innumerable and constant difficulties which the Soviet Government has to face and which are so eloquently brought to light in the last book by Trotzky, all these are unmistakable signs of a very unfavorable situation. And if Moscow acknowledges this situation, we may be sure the leaders of the opposition, or rather of the oppositions, will certainly not miss the opportunity to bring them to the attention of the masses.

The seriousness of the situation has already been recognized by well-known communists who still proclaim themselves faithful to their doctrine. They began sounding the alarm some time ago, with whatever degree of freedom of speech was left to them. As early as 1927 Boris Souvarine, who was not yet expelled from the French Communist Party, wrote in the Bulletin Communiste:

Let us figure up the account.

Our Russian party has just passed through a new crisis which has resulted in the banishment of three of Lenin's closest collaborators -- Zinoviev, Kamenev, and Krupskaya -- in the disgrace of a score of the militant Bolsheviks of the early days, and in the discredit of the régime.

Our German party, after it had succeeded in assuring the election of Hindenburg as President of the Republic, has suffered several amputations to its "left," has expelled or lost almost all its leaders, theoreticians and standard-bearers of 1924, 1925, and 1926, such as Maslov, Ruth Fischer, Urbahns, Scholem, Korsch, Katz, Schwartz, Rosenberg, etc., and is still in the throes of a bitter internal struggle.

Our party in Poland, after it had expelled its leaders of the so-called "right" (who were the founders of the party) and had established in their place the leaders of the so-called "left," has now witnessed the expulsion of the new leaders and the restoration of those who were formerly banished. As these had meanwhile been taking their orders from Pilsudsky, this naturally has led to a new crisis.

Our party in Holland, which has a membership of a few hundreds, has expelled its founders (Wynkoop, Ravenstein, and others), who have organized a new and still smaller party.

Our Austrian party almost vanished at the last parliamentary elections, and Humanité did not even dare publish the number of votes they received.

Our Czechoslovak party had several leaders imposed upon it by Moscow; these proved to be adventurers or agents of the police. It has witnessed the passage of its secretary general, Delezal, to Fascism (no less!), and has enjoyed a little crisis from which the Bolshevik leader of 1924, Neurath, has emerged with a badly damaged reputation.

Our Chinese party has betrayed its most gallant and militant members to the executioners of Chang Tso-lin and Chiang Kai-shek.

This is the information which allows Stalin and Bukharin to proclaim that everything is for the best in the best of Internationals.

Since these lines were written Trotzky has been disposed of and he has been followed by Tomsky, former leader of the communist labor organizations, and by Bukharin himself. Stalin having, like Robespierre, struck out to left and right, remains until further orders the sole master of the situation. But how long will he last? Towards what fate is the Soviet Republic drifting? Will it find its doom in an outbreak of Bonapartism? Or will it fall under the blows of reaction? Or, perhaps, will it survive, only to transform itself -- slowly, painfully -- into a federative democratic state?

Even these hypotheses do not exhaust all the possible combinations. Those who under the pretext that history repeats itself endeavor to prepare the horoscope of the Russian revolution, only too often mistake their own hopes or fears for the actual facts. But if one limits oneself to the situation as it is today, leaving aside what will happen in the more or less distant future, one may recognize that (with due allowance for a rather excessive pessimism) Souvarine was right when he wrote in 1927:

The existing communist parties will continue to be accepted by the workers with lower standards as the vanguard of their class, and in the absence of anything better will continue to serve as rallying-points. Bolsheviks and "Bolshevizators" will add to their old ridiculous discoveries new imbecilities; their Lumpenkomunismus will always find a Lumpenproletariat -- backward workingmen, passive and pliable, and malcontents drawn from all social groups, the whole framed in an array of properly-styled bureaucrats and fanatics.

Bolshevism, however poisonous, will not succeed in those countries where the socialist parties are fighting a reactionary bourgeoisie. The various communist parties will be able to continue leading their obscure existence so long as the Soviet State lasts; they will spread their illusions; they will ferment stillborn revolutionary agitations. All they will preserve of communism will be the name, the banner, and some vague aspirations. They will sell a certain amount of literature, and obtain a certain number of votes at the elections, just as a great many other parties do and using the same methods if perhaps in a different form. They may not even completely deceive the contingent of proselytes which will be supplied to them every year by the force of events, that is by the logic of the existing régime. But as for the formation of an élite, the elaboration of an ideology which could meet the requirements of a better human race, this is an entirely different question. . . . The real communist thought must be developed somewhere else.

It remains to be seen whether "somewhere else" does not mean in the working class itself, a working class again united and looking upon communism -- as did Marx in 1848 and Jaurès fifty years later -- as a mere form of socialism, and which endeavors to bring about the socialist state not by spasmodic outbursts of a minority, but by the constructive, organic and democratic effort of the laboring masses as a whole. But this is a different story, one outside the scope of the present article, in which I have done my best to preserve an objective tone.

[i]Data of the Information Bureau of the Belgian Labor Party, based on the returns of the Second and the Third Internationals. All the figures relating to the communist parties must be treated with caution, and especially those for Belgium and Great Britain.

[ii]The figure 19,377,448 comprises the organizations affiliated with Amsterdam as well as the organizations which, while not officially affiliated with it, belong to the same political orientation.

[iii] It seems useless to add any information relating to the communist parties in the post-war elections in Italy, Hungary, and other countries where their activities are prohibited by law.

You are reading a free article.

Subscribe to Foreign Affairs to get unlimited access.

  • Paywall-free reading of new articles and a century of archives
  • Unlock access to iOS/Android apps to save editions for offline reading
  • Six issues a year in print, online, and audio editions
Subscribe Now
  • EMILE VANDERVELDE, leader of the Socialist Party in Belgium; formerly Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Justice
  • More By Emile Vandervelde