Chapter Ten: The Russian Revolution (1917-1919)

10. The Russian Revolution (1917-1919)

Even while directing the formation of the world's first
socialist state, the USSR, Lenin was keenly involved
in the formation of working class consciousness in the US.
The great Russian Revolution of November 7, 1917, born of the deepening general crisis of world capitalism, was the first Socialist breakthrough of the fortifications of the international capitalist system. The revolutionary masses of workers and peasants, led by the Bolshevik Party, which was headed by the great Lenin, smashed tsarism-capitalism in Russia and thereby dealt a mortal blow to the international capitalist system. World imperialism was broken at its weakest link. The Revolutions of 1905 and of March 1917 had been but preliminary to the very basic Bolshevik Revolution of November 1917. A new era of world history was now ushered in—the era of proletarian and colonial revolutions and the decline of world capitalism.

With revolutionary energy the new Soviet government carried through the great tasks that the Kerensky provisional government could not and would not do. "In order to consolidate the Soviet power, the old, bourgeois state machine had to be shattered and destroyed and a new, Soviet state machine set up in its place. Further, it was necessary to destroy the survivals of the division of society into estates and the regime of national oppression, to abolish the privileges of the church, to suppress the counter-revolutionary press of all kinds, legal and illegal, and to dissolve the bourgeois Constituent Assembly. Following on the nationalization of the land, all large-scale industry had also to be nationalized. And, lastly, the state of war had to be ended, for the war was hampering the consolidation of the Soviet power more than anything else. All these measures were carried out in a few months, from the end of 1917 to the middle of 1918."1 The Soviets withdrew from the war and called upon the world to make peace.

The Russian Revolution sent a thrill of joy through the hearts of hundreds of millions of the exploited and oppressed all over the world. Its influence was decisive in the profound wave of revolution which swept eastern and central Europe upon the end of the war. Kings and emperors toppled as this revolutionary upsurge went through Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Balkans. The whole of European capitalism was shaken to its foundations.

If the peoples of the world were inspired by the Russian Revolution, the capitalists of all countries were profoundly shocked by it. In their fright they trembled at the threatened destruction of their whole system of exploitation and robbery. So they lost no time in taking drastic measures to try to checkmate and defeat the revolution. Immediately at the close of the war the victorious Entente powers began to pour their troops into Soviet Russia and to stimulate and organize the domestic counter-revolutionists to fight the Soviet government. Great Britain, France, Japan, the United States, Germany, Poland, and Czechoslovakia all had a hand in this counter-revolutionary intervention.

The consequence was a tremendous civil war. The revolutionary Soviet people, although harassed by economic breakdown, famine, blockade, and general exhaustion from the world imperialist war, rallied their forces, built up a powerful Red Army, and with unparalleled heroism, beat back all their foreign and domestic enemies. In this desperate struggle they battled through a thousand Valley Forges. At one time by far the greater portion of the country was in the hands of the interventionists and their Russian counter-revolutionary allies. But the Red Army finally defeated them all, smashing Denikin, Kolchak, Yude-nich, Wrangel, and the host of other tsarist and foreign generals. Consequently, at the end of 1920 Great Britain, France, and Italy had to lift their blockade, and soon thereafter Japan was forced out of Siberia. The United States troops had to get out, too. The revolution had won a decisive victory in its life-and-death struggle.

The bases for this immense victory were the indomitable revolutionary spirit of the Russian people, their all-out support of the Soviet Red Army, the invincible power of the Communist Party, and the brilliance of its great leader, Lenin. Not the smallest factor in winning the victory was the supporting spirit among the workers in many other countries, which prevented the respective capitalist governments from mobilizing their full strength against the embattled Soviet people.

The United States government, dominated by reactionary monopoly capital, took a leading part in the counter-revolutionary intervention against Soviet Russia during 1918-20. The "liberal" President Wilson, without even asking any authorization whatever from Congress, arbitrarily sent armed American expeditions to Siberia and north Russia. The alleged purpose of the one to Siberia was to guard against the danger from large numbers of German and Austrian prisoners, freed by the Revolution; whereas the stated purpose of the expedition to north Russia was to attack Germany from the rear. But the whole intervention was nothing but a brazen attempt to overthrow the young Soviet government and to restore capitalist reaction to power.

The Siberian expedition of some 7,000 men, under General W. S. Graves, co-operated with the Russian reactionaries and the Japanese to overthrow the local Soviet in Vladivostok. President Wilson supported the tsarist General Kolchak in his efforts to smash the Soviet government and to make himself dictator of Russia. The Siberian adventure came to an inglorious end when Kolchak's forces were wiped out by the Red Army.

The adventure in north Russia, centering around Archangel, was carried out in conjunction with the British, French, and White Guard Russians. About 5,000 American soldiers, under Colonel Stewart, made up this country's armed forces. The aim of the allied expedition was the capture of Petrograd and the overthrow of the Soviet government.

But the northern invaders were defeated and in danger of annihilation. "On March 30, igig, Company T of the 339 U.S. Infantry refused to obey orders to proceed to Archangel." The men yielded only after one of their number who had been arrested was released. This unrest was blamed upon "Bolshevik propaganda." "Fear of a general mutiny was expressed, and General March, Chief of Staff, pledged the withdrawal of the American forces by June,"2 which was carried out.

Lenin roundly condemned this reactionary United States intervention, declaring that "the British and Americans are acting as hangmen and gendarmes of Russian freedom, in the same sense in which the role was played under the Russian hangman, Nicholas I."3

This was only the first of a generation-long series of United States aggressions against Soviet Russia, including also economic blockade and diplomatic boycott—all of which were defeated by the unconquerable revolutionary Russian people. The United States refused even to recognize the U.S.S.R. diplomatically until 1933, in Roosevelt's day. This bitter anti-Soviet hatred on the part of the ruling monopolists of the United States, implacable and never-ending, has finally culminated in Washington's present attempt to organize an all-out capitalist war against the U.S.S.R.


Inspired by the Russian Revolution and horrified by the butcheries 01 World War I, the world's workers were swept by a great wave of revolutionary spirit, especially in Europe. Given proper leadership, the latter were ready to follow the example of the Russian workers. They were ripe for Socialist revolution. But the right-wing leaders of the big European Social-Democratic parties, strongly entrenched in all the organizations of the working class, had quite different ideas. To them the proletarian revolution, both in Russia and in their own countries, was a terrible nightmare—no less so than to the employers. It went violently counter to their whole outlook and program, which was to patch up capitalism here and there with minor reforms. They were committed, in reality, to the continuation of the capitalist system, and the very last thing they wanted was to see this system overthrown and a real Socialist system substituted. 

Therefore, just as these elements had rushed to the support of their respective capitalist classes during World War I, so now they hurried to the defense of the capitalist system itself, threatened as it was with revolution. Joining forces with the capitalists, these pseudo-Socialists proceeded to attack with fire and sword the entire revolutionary movement among the proletarian masses in all its manifestations, both at home and in Russia.

The dominant and traitorous European right-wing leaders were typified by such figures as Legien, Noske, and Scheideman in Germany, Henderson, Hyndman, and MacDonald in England, Guesde and Thomas in France. Another group of Social-Democratic leaders, the centrists, were typified by Kautsky, Hilferding, Bauer, Longuet, Fenner Brockway, Hillquit, and Ledebour. The latter group was long on revolutionary phrases and short on revolutionary struggle. Lenin characterized Kautsky as "In words everything, in deeds nothing." The substance of the centrists' policy was to give lip service to the revolution while fighting against it in fact. The general effect of this policy was to paralyze the action of the revolutionary workers, while the right forces, in open alliance with the capitalists, virtually cut the revolution to pieces. It was these centrist elements who set up so-called left Socialist parties to block the Communist parties in various countries. In February 1921, in Vienna, they formed the International Working Union of Socialist Parties, nicknamed the "Two-and-a-Half International," as a counterweight to the Communist International. After the depth of the revolutionary crisis in central Europe had passed, the centrists and their phony international went back where they belonged politically, into the Second International.

The apparently divergent policies of the right-wing leaders and the centrists were, in fact, only a division of labor, the basic aim of which was to defeat the revolution in central and western Europe. This they accomplished together, working hand in hand with the capitalist generals and politicians. They shot down the revolution in Germany, Hungary, Austria, and Italy, and only the strong fist of the Red Army prevented them from doing the same thing in Soviet Russia. The right and centrist Social-Democratic leaders saved capitalism in middle Europe, and thereby also in western Europe. Upon the heads of these betrayers of socialism, therefore, rests the responsibility for all the evils that have since followed—the rise of fascism, World War II, and now the threat of another great world conflagration.


In the United States, as in other countries, a wave of fighting spirit was generated among the masses by the advent of the great Russian Revolution, but, unlike eastern Europe, it did not reach the intensity of a tornado. At last the workers had succeeded in smashing their way through the fortifications of the hated capitalist system and had opened tip the way to socialism. Even the more conservative categories of workers realized that a great blow had been struck for freedom. Crowded meetings of workers in American cities, hungry for every scrap of information about the First Workers Republic, made the rafters ring with applause at every mention of the Bolsheviks and their great leader, Lenin. Debs, with his genius for revolutionary expression of rank-and-file spirit, declared, "From the crown of my head to the soles of my feet I am a Bolshevik, and I am proud of it. The day of the people has come."4 The Seattle longshoremen, in the spirit of the period, struck against loading munitions to be used against Soviet Russia. The broad masses of the American proletariat distinctly felt that the great victory in Russia was also their victory. This was especially the case among the huge armies of immigrant workers.

But the opportunist leaders of the American Social-Democracy, like their kind in Europe, took an altogether different attitude toward the Russian Revolution. The A.F. of L. top leaders, for example—an undeveloped brand of Social-Democrats who, because of the ideological undevelopment of the American working class, do not need to make demagogic use of Socialist slogans 5—condemned the revolution from the outset. Their instinct, as labor tools of the capitalists, was as unerring in their hatred of living socialism as that of the big monopolists themselves. The 1919 convention of the A.F. of L. refused its endorsement of the Soviet government of Russia, and subsequent conventions, becoming bolder in their reaction, attacked the Soviets with unlimited violence and slander. From the earliest period right down to the most recent days, the big bureaucrats of the A.F. of L. have been outstanding and relentless instigators of every capitalist assault against the Soviet Union.

The leaders of the Socialist Party, at the outset, were more circumspect. They were mostly centrists of the Hillquit brand—the bulk of the extreme right-wing leaders having quit the Party after their failure to win it for a pro-war policy. The centrist opportunists, who also in their hearts deeply hated the Soviet government and considered it the repudiation of all their political plans and programs, adopted a policy of maneuvering regarding it, against the pressure of the militant rank and file of the Party. Consequently, they weakly hailed the Revolution, and in their 1919 convention, tongue-in-cheek, pledged "our support to the revolutionary workers of Russia in the maintenance of their Soviet government." 6 They also, pushed on by the rank and file, lodged a formal protest against the armed intervention of the United States and other capitalist powers in Soviet Russia. But when, as the sequel showed, the hypocrisy of these pretenses was unmasked, Hillquit and his co-leaders became no less violent in their opposition to the Soviet Union than were their political kin, the reactionary leaders of the A.F. of L. Hillquit later pronounced the Soviet government "the greatest disaster and calamity that has ever occurred to the Socialist movement." 7

The left wing tirelessly challenged the treacherous attitude of the Hillquit leadership toward the Russian Revolution, bringing to the masses, as best it could, the lessons of this tremendous political forward leap of the world's working class. And the Communist Party, born from the left wing of the Socialist Party, throughout its 32 years of life, has never flagged in its efforts to have the masses of workers understand the constructive meaning of this gigantic political development.


The Russian Revolution, and the long revolutionary struggle preceding it, resulted in the formulation of tremendous contributions to the body of Marxist social science. These were expressed in the reality ofthe great Revolution itself and, inseparably, in the brilliant scientific writings of Lenin. The sum and substance of this whole theoretical development was to raise Marxism to the level of Marxism-Leninism. This, in a scientific sense, is the greatest of all the contributions of the Russian Revolution to world humanity.

"Leninism," says Stalin, "is the Marxism of the era of imperialism and of the proletarian revolution."8 There are two major aspects to the theoretical work of Lenin. First, Lenin re-established the principles of Marxism, as already stated by Marx and Engels in The Communist Manifesto and their other works. These principles the right-wing theoreticians of the Second International had been busily tearing down and burying for the previous half century. Second, Lenin further greatly developed Marxism, adding to it the basic lessons to be learned from the present period of imperialism and proletarian revolution. His work summed up to a complete theory of the Socialist revolution.

In the first aspect of Lenin's work, namely, the freeing of Marxism from opportunist revisionism, Lenin restated Marx's basic proposition that the present state is a repressive instrument of capitalism, the "executive committee of the capitalist class," thereby theoretically destroying the current Social-Democratic revisionist conception that the modern state under capitalism is a sort of people's state, without specific capitalist class domination. Lenin also proved the correctness, under modern conditions, of Marx's fundamental contention that the capitalist state, because of ruling class violent resistance to all democratic advance, would have to be abolished before socialism could be established. He declared that all the right-wing Social-Democratic chatter about capitalism being gradually transformed step by step into socialism was opportunism. At the same time, Lenin showed the growing over of the bourgeois democratic revolution into the socialist revolution.

Lenin, too, demonstrated irrefutably the fundamental correctness of Marx's conception of the dictatorship of the proletariat being the state form of the workers' rule under socialism, 9 and he shattered all revisionist nonsense about socialism—or what the opportunists miscall socialism-being only a continuation, in a more advanced form, of bourgeois democracy. Lenin also brilliantly revalidated the great Marxist principle of the class struggle, as against the mess of class collaborationism, which actually means working class subordination to capitalist class domination, into which the revisionist theoreticians of the Second International had hogged down the Socialist movement. Finally, to mention no more of Lenin's tremendous rebuttressing of Marxism, he restated Marx's fundamentals of dialectical materialism, 10 in opposition to the welter of bourgeois idealism and eclecticism which the degenerate Social-Democratic theoreticians of the Second International had absorbed from their bourgeois masters.

In the second major aspect of Lenin's theoretical accomplishments, namely, the development of Marxism to encompass the many problems of modern monopoly capitalism and proletarian revolution, Lenin performed a prodigious amount of pioneering theoretical work. Here we can give only the barest outline of his immense contributions in this respect. Lenin performed the basic task of analyzing capitalist imperialism, dissecting the whole structure of modern monopoly capitalism, and demonstrating that it is moribund capitalism, the final stage of the capitalist system. In doing this work, Lenin laid bare the basic causes of modern war. This general analysis he further strengthened by his profound discovery of the law of the uneven development of capitalism: the law which explains how and why the capitalist nations, instead of all developing at an even pace, grow at widely varying tempos, with the result that they periodically readjust by war their changing political relationships. Lenin also successfully challenged the bigwigs of the Second International, who held that socialism must come first in the most industrialized countries and, to be successful, must also occur in several of them at once. He proved that socialism, on the contrary, could be established in one country alone, specifically in backward, predominantly agricultural Russia. Stalin, later on, was also to make brilliant contributions on this key question. Lenin, while pointing out the ingrained warlike character of imperialism, also stressed both the necessity and the possibility of the peaceful coexistence of capitalist and socialist states in the world.

Lenin, along with Stalin, developed the theory of colonial and national liberation revolution. He likewise demonstrated the basic need for co-operation between the colonial peoples and the revolutionary proletariat of the imperialist countries. Repudiating the entire body of Social-Democratic revisionist theory, Lenin also showed the revolutionary potentialities of the peasantry in alliance with and under the general leadership of the proletariat. Lenin, who was as great a strategist and tactician as he was a theoretician, developed the role of partial demands, of trade unionism, and of parliamentarism, thus solving many difficult problems of methods and weapons in the general fight of the working class for socialism. Lenin, throughout his entire work, thoroughly unmasked the opportunist Social-Democrats, showing them to be wedded  to  the capitalist system, and exposing the economic and political reasons why this was so.

To cap his immense theoretical achievements, Lenin was also the architect and chief organizer o£ the great Russian Communist Party, which led the Russian people in their historic victory over capitalism. Lenin called this "a party of a new type." It is incomparably the most highly developed political organization in the history of mankind. The Communist Party is composed of the best, most advanced elements of the working class, peasantry, and intellectuals. It is highly disciplined, yet it practices a profound democracy. It employs a regenerating self-criticism —learning from its own mistakes—which invigorates it in every phase and stage of its work. Its membership is inspired by the highest qualities of courage, devotion to the Soviet people's interests, and loyalty to the great cause of socialism. This great Party, the nightmare of capitalists and their Social-Democratic henchmen all over the world, is an imperishable monument to Lenin's theoretical skill and organizing ability and also to the profound revolutionary spirit of the Soviet people.

Lenin, like Marx, incorporated his theoretical work in many powerful books. And Lenin, again like Marx, also found the greatest justification of his writings, not only in their strong argumentation, but especially in the supreme test of experience in life itself. Lenin not only worked out revolutionary theories, but he also stood at the head of the masses of the Russian people in carrying through, in line with these theories, the greatest revolution in all of human history. His closest co-worker in this tremendous movement was Stalin. Lenin's theories and Marx's are now-being profoundly justified by the present whole course of world political development, by the rapid decline of capitalism and rapid rise of socialism.


Marxism-Leninism is universal in its application. It is as naturally international as are all other branches of science. Its principles and policies apply to all countries, in all stages of capitalist or Socialist development. But, following the dictum of Engels, and as every Communist theoretician has pointed out time and again, Marxism-Leninism is not a dogma, but a guide to action. It is not to be applied as a blueprint in every situation, as a readymade panacea. The value of Marxism-Leninism can be realized in a given country only if its principles and policies are flexibly adapted to the specific situation prevailing in that country. As Lenin put it in 1918, "the revolution proceeds with a different tempo and in different forms in different countries (and it cannot be otherwise)."11

Marxism-Leninism made its impact upon the American left Socialist movement not only by means of the practical example of the Russian Revolution and Lenin's major writings, but also by direct counsel from Lenin himself. Lenin knew the American situation profoundly and was deeply interested in it. He wrote a basic work on American agriculture,12 and twice he sent major political letters directly to the American working class—once, in 1916, in answer to a manifesto of the Socialist Propaganda League, and the second time in 1918, in his famous A Letter to American Workers. Also, during the early years of the Communist International, Lenin often spoke about the "American question."

The initial influence of Marxism-Leninism on American Marxist thinking was tremendous. Lenin provided the basic answers to many complicated problems of theory and practice which for decades past had confused and crippled the American Socialist movement. This clarification, besides acting with crushing effect upon the right-wing sophistries, also tended to liquidate the traditional sectarian errors of the left wing. Lenin exposed the De Leonite theories, syndicalist and sectarian, which had dominated and plagued the left wing ever since the death of Engels almost a quarter of a century earlier. Lenin provided a solid theoretical basis for the left's fight against Gompersism in the trade unions, and he also refuted the pseudo-Socialist pretenses of all sections of right-wing Social-Democracy—including its Bernsteinian and Kaut-skyan varieties. This had a clarifying and strengthening effect upon the American Marxist movement.

Highly important from the American standpoint was Lenin's scientific analysis of imperialism. With powerful emphasis, Lenin pointed out the qualitative differences that develop within the whole structure of capitalism with the growth of monopoly. Previously, without clearly differentiating itself from the right wing on this question, the left wing had tended to consider the growth of monopoly as merely a quantitative development of capitalism, and its "expansionism" (imperialism) as simply a secondary policy manifestation, instead of a basic expression of monopoly capitalism. This error led to a profound underestimation of the aggressive character, reactionary aims, and war-making potentialities of imperialism.   Lenin cleared up all this confusion.13

Lenin also made clear the road of all-out political mass struggle to socialism. In so doing, he annihilated for Americans the prevalent De Leonite, syndicalist ideas that the workers would win their way to power by "locking out the capitalists," or by means simply of a general strike, and other kindred illusions. He also smashed the syndicalist conception, 14 Lenin, Capitalism and Agriculture in the the U. S. previously held almost unanimously by all sections of the American left wing, to the effect that after the workers had secured political power the party would dissolve itself and the unions would take over the management both of the industries and of society as a whole. Lenin with the reality of the Russian Revolution to back up his words, clearly outlined the Soviet form of the dictatorship of the proletariat, pointed out that it is incomparably more democratic than the bourgeois dictatorship, and stressed the decisively leading role of the Party in every stage of the struggle, both before and during the existence of socialism. 15 Lenin also, in his masterly analysis of the national question, with the able co-operation of Stalin, laid the basis for a fundamental understanding of the Negro question in the United States, a problem that had baffled left-wing thinking up to that time. With his historic doctrine that "Without a revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement," Lenin struck hard, too, at the traditional American tendency to minimize theory. 

Among his many other contributions to the American revolutionary movement, Lenin clarified the question of the role of the farmers, which had always been a weak spot in S.L.P. and S.P. policy, especially after the advent of De Leon. Lenin stressed the vital necessity of labor co-operating with the oppressed and exploited strata of these toilers, and he indicated the basic conditions under which such co-operation, with working class leadership, should be carried out. Lenin,  also,  with his strong anti-sectarian position and his supreme genius for mobilizing all the potential strength of the anti-capitalist forces, laid the basis for a clarification of the question of the labor party. Smashing through the crippling De Leonite policy of non-participation in the broad, elemental mass movements of struggle, Lenin categorically, like Engels long before him, supported participation in such movements. Lenin likewise clarified  the knotty question of partial political demands, which had also been a bone of contention in left-wing ranks for many years, especially under De Leon's intellectual tutelage. Indeed, Lenin had made this question quite clear in Russian practice, long before the Bolshevik Revolution.  He showed that partial demands are an integral part of the workers' whole struggle. And Stalin, in his Foundations of Leninism, points out that reforms are by-products of revolutionary struggle and reforms can and must be used in the fight for socialism.

Lenin also clarified American Marxists on the question of religion. The Socialist Party, from its inception, had a confusion of policy on the matter, ranging from a cultivation of petty-bourgeois "Christian socialism" to the placing of "God-killing" as the main task of the Party. Lenin, reiterating Marx's statement that "Religion is the opium of the people," stressed its class role in the exploitation of the workers, and declared: "We demand that religion be regarded as a private matter so far as the state is concerned, but under no circumstances can we regard it as a private matter in our own party." Lenin insisted, on the one hand, upon the complete separation of Church and State, and on the other, on an educational campaign by the Party. However, "the propaganda of atheism by the Social Democracy must be subordinated to a more basic task— the development of the class struggle of the exploited masses against the exploiters." The Party should not write atheism into its program. It should, however, freely admit religious-minded workers to membership and then educate them to a scientific outlook on life.16

The writings of Lenin, the master Party builder, clarified the American left-wing movement about the structure, practice, and role of the Communist Party. In this respect he also made crystal-clear many problems which had worried and handicapped the left for many years. Lenin's basic teachings on the Party were especially needed in the United States, because of the long prevalence of syndicalist and semi-syndicalist ideas, the heart of which was a belittlement of the Party and an underestimation of political action.

To all these great contributions of Lenin to the American movement must be added at least another. It was Lenin, above all others, who finally knocked on the head that chronic American sectarian disease, the dual union illusion. As we have seen earlier, ever since the days of Debs' American Railway Union in 1894 and De Leon's Socialist Trades and Labor Alliance in 1895, American left-wingers had been obsessed with the idea that the way to revolutionize the labor movement was to withdraw from the conservative trade unions and to organize independent, theoretically perfect industrial unions. The general effect of this policy had been to leave the Gompers machine in virtually unchallenged control of the basic mass economic organizations of the working class and to waste the strength of the dynamic left-wing fighting trade unionists in innumerable Utopian industrial union projects.

Lenin had encountered the problem of such abstention from the unions in Russia in 1908, on the part of the Otzovists, a group among the Bolsheviks. These elements, among other wrong tendencies, refused to work in the trade unions and other legally existing societies. Lenin, with his keen ability to go straight to the heart of a problem, and thus with a penetrating analysis to settle it once and for all, sailed into the Otzovists and destroyed their position completely. 17 Lenin dealt again and  crushingly shortly after the beginning of the Russian Revolution, when "ultra lefts" in Germany, Holland, England, and other European countries, in the exuberance of their revolutionary spirit, had no patience for work in the old trade unions, but sought short cuts by setting up new revolutionary labor organizations. Lenin sharply denounced this practice as a serious form of sectarianism. He declared that "To refuse to work within reactionary trade unions means leaving the insufficiently developed or backward working masses under the influence of reactionary leaders, agents of the bourgeoisie, labor aristocrats, or 'bourgeoisified' workers." 17 This criticism applied with triple force to the United States, where the dual union fallacy had reigned almost unchallengeable in left circles for many years, thereby doing incalculable damage to the revolutionary movement.

Lenin, in fighting for a correct political line, fought on two fronts. That is, he combated both the right danger and all forms of pseudo-leftism. This two-front fight was particularly necessary in the United States, with its ingrained historical right weakness of American exceptionalism and its long affliction of "left" sectarianism.

The long-continued sectarianism of the left wing was basically an immature political reaction against the extreme opportunism of the S.P. and A.F. of L. leaders, which was bred of the especially corrupting influences of American political life. The left's dual unionism, anti-labor party, anti-farmer, anti-immediate demands, anti-parliamentary, and other ultra-revolutionary policies and attitudes were short-cut methods aimed to create powerful trade unions, a militant workers' party, and a mass Socialist ideology. A historical influence, too, producing left sectarianism was the pressure of the vast body of foreign-born workers, who were as yet little integrated into American economic, political, and social life.

Important also in this general respect was the fact that the American Marxist movement, in the imperialist epoch, had produced no outstanding Marxist theoretician, capable of immediately and basically solving the many complex problems faced by die working class. During many years, from the 1890's on, the great Lenin was developing Marxism into Marxism-Leninism and building the core of the eventual powerful Bolshevik Party. At this time, the American Socialists, in an extremely difficult objective situation, were being gravely hindered in their development by the powerful but revisionist influence of the ultra-left sectarian and semi-syndicalist theoretician, De Leon.

The sudden impact of Lenin's profound and comprehensive writings, supported as they were by the tremendous reality of the Russian Revolution, revolutionized the thinking of the Marxist forces in the United States. The left moved rapidly toward a position of scientific communism. As Alexander Bittelman put it: "The formative period in the history of our Party appears as a development from Left Socialism to Communism. The essence of this development consisted in this, that the Left wing of the Socialist Party (1918-1919) was gradually freeing itself from vacillation between reformism and ultra-Left radicalism by means of an ever closer approach to the positions of Marxism-Leninism."18

Manifestly, Marxism-Leninism applied completely to the United States, but not as a blueprint. For this country is no "exception"; it is flesh and blood of the world capitalist system and is subject to that system's laws of growth and decline. But to adapt this tremendous body of scientific Marxist-Leninist principles to the specific conditions prevailing in the United States—that is, for the strengthening of every phase of the American workers' struggle for a better life—was a task of very large proportions. And as the sequel showed, many mistakes were to be made in this adaptation. Long-continued modes of incorrect thinking and of sectarian policies were not be overcome in a day. To build a mature Communist Party in any capitalist land is a very difficult political task, but most of all, in the United States, the stronghold of world capitalism.

1 History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, p. 214.
2 F. L. Schuman, American Policy Towards Russia Since 1917, pp. 136-37, N. Y„ 1928. 
3 Cited by P. M. Pospelov in For a Lasting Peace . . . , Jan. 26, 1951.
4  The Liberator, May 1919.
5 Lenin made no basic distinction between the A.F. of L. leaders and the European fight-wing Social-Democrats. For example, he said in his letter to the Socialist Propaganda League in 1916: "Such men, however, as Mr. Legien in Germany and Mr. Gompers in the U.S.A. we consider to be bourgeois, and their politics are not socialist but national middle class politics. Mr. Legien, Mr. Gompers and the like represent lot the working class but the aristocracy and the bureaucracy of the working class." (Collected Works, Vol. 18.)
6 Trachtenberg, ed., American Labor Year Book, 1919-20, p. 414. 
7 New Leader, Feb. 4, 1928.
8 Joseph Stalin, Foundations of Leninism, p. 10, N. Y., 1939. 
9 Karl Marx, Critique of the Gotha Program, p. 18, N. Y., 1958.
l0 V. I. Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, in Selected Works, Vol. u; 
11 Joseph Stalin, Dialectical and Historical Materialism, N. Y., 1940.
12 Lenin, A Letter to the American Workers, p. 21.
13 V. I. Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, N. Y., 1939.
14  Lenin, State and Revolution.
15 V. I. Lenin, Religion, pp. u-ao, N. Y., 1933.
16 History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, p.  135.
17 Lenin, "Left-Wing" Communism, an Infantile Disorder, p. 36.
18 Alexander Bittelman, Milestones in the History of the Communist Party, p.  27, N. Y., 1937.

Chapter 11

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