Courtesy Reuters

The Rebirth of Social Democracy

IN 1920, when Great Britain attempted to intervene in the Russian Revolution, Ernest Bevin, then leader of the English dock-workers, organized Councils of Action and strikes to prevent intervention. In 1948, Ernest Bevin, by this time British Foreign Secretary, signed the Brussels Treaty and, a year later, the North Atlantic Alliance; and although both these pacts are unmistakably designed for defense, they are fraught with the possibility of war with Russia. In 1920 as in 1949 Ernest Bevin was supported by the overwhelming majority of the British working class and by most of the Social Democratic Parties on the Continent.

This change in the attitude of European Social Democrats toward Communist Russia is of comparatively recent date. Until the eve of the Second World War, Social Democrats looked upon the Soviet Union as the great revolutionary Power -- the first and only country in the world which had abolished capitalism. There were few illusions among the rank and file, and still fewer among the leaders, as to the despotic character of the Communist dictatorship in Russia. The first Congress of the reinstituted Labor and Socialist International, meeting at Hamburg in 1923, stated in its resolution on Russia that while the Congress "considers it to be the duty of the world's workers to combat with all their strength all endeavors by the imperialist Powers to intervene in the home affairs of Russia. . . ." it nevertheless demands "complete abandonment of the system of terrorist party dictatorship and adoption of a régime of political freedom and democratic self-government of the people."

The tendency, however, was to extenuate the Russian dictatorship. The theory was that Russia had never in her history established liberal and democratic traditions, that the masses of the illiterate and superstitious peasants and workers were not yet ready for democracy, that the rapid transformation of the Russian semifeudal agricultural society into a Socialist industrial society was only possible by the coercive force of a dictatorship, and that, in face of the most violent social ferment and the

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