About the text:
From: There will come a day… Imperialism and the Working Class. Futura 1971, 31 p., p. 19-22.
First published in Danish in Kommunistisk Orientering, 7th March, 1968.
On rather many occasions we have pointed out the connection between standard of living, ways of thinking and the wish for revolution and socialism, and we have pointed out that Engels was right, when he wrote that the reason why there was no socialism in England around the middle of the 19th century was the simple one that the English workers were bribed with crumbs from the profits from the English colonies and the then existing English industrial monopoly. We also stressed that in our opinion Engels was just as right, when he went on to write that one day the English workers would come down to the level of workers in “foreign countries”, and that t h e r e f o r e there would be socialism in England again.
We have to admit it. All the facts since Engels’ statements have confirmed his words – and they are still being confirmed. People who live well under capitalism do not want capitalism abolished.
This, of course, does not mean that there are not people who want socialism, and who must and will work to prepare the workers for socialism, organisationally, politically and ideologically, the day it comes on the agenda. It means that the class as a whole – the majority of the workers and the majority of the working population do not want socialism – and that therefore socialism will not be introduced – as long as capitalism can procure for them a decent living.
This time – we shall return to the matter again and again – we should like to bring a rather long quotation from Lenin’s speech at the session of the Petrograd Soviet on March 12th, 1919. In this connection it makes useful reading.
Lenin answered a written question as to what should be done about workers who were against Soviet power? He answered that of course you could not expect all workers to support Soviet power right away. The old social order sticks in people’s minds for a long time, and “there will always be people, who are drawn towards the old”. He went on to say:
“Some workers, printers, for instance, say that capitalism was good, there were a lot of newspapers whereas now there are few, in those days they earned a decent wage and they do not want any socialism: There were quite a number of branches of industry that depended on the rich classes or on the production of articles of luxury. Under capitalism quite a number of workers in big cities lived by producing articles of luxury. In the Soviet republic we shall have to leave these workers unemployed for a time. We shall say to them: ‘Get down to some other useful work.’ And the worker will say: ‘I did delicate work, I was a jeweller, it was clean work, I worked for gentlemen; now the muzhik is in power, the gentlemen have been scattered and I want to get back to capitalism.’ Such people will preach going back to capitalism, or, as the mensheviks say, going forward to healthy capitalism and sound democracy. A few hundred workers are to be found who will say: ‘We lived well under a healthy capitalism.’ The people who lived well under capitalism, were an insignificant minority – we defend the interests of the majority that lived badly under capitalism. Healthy capitalism led to world slaughter in the countries with the greatest freedom. There can be no healthy capitalism, there can be capitalism of the sort obtaining in the freest republic, one like the American republic, cultured, rich, technically developed; and that democratic and most republican capitalism led to the most savage world slaughter over the plunder of the whole world. Out of fifteen million workers you will find a few thousands who lived well under capitalism. In the richer countries there are more such workers because they work for a greater number of millionaires and multi-millionaires. They served that handful and received particularly high wages from them. Take hundreds of British millionaires – they have accumulated thousands of millions because they have plundered India and a large number of colonies. It meant nothing to them to make gifts to 10.000 or 20.000 workers, giving them double or higher wages so that they would work well for them. … The vast majority of workers were not in such a position. We, the Communists of the whole world, defend the interests of the vast majority of working people, and it was a small minority of working people, whom the capitalists bribed with high wages and made them the loyal servants of capital.” (Collected Works, vol. 29, p. 27-30)
And another quotation from Lenin from “To Comrade Loriot….”, 28th October, 1919. (Collected Works, vol. 30, p.85):
“In France as in England, victorious imperialism has not only enriched a certain number of small capitalists, but it has also been able to give alms to the upper grade of workers, the aristocracy of the working class, by throwing it a few crumbs from the imperialist exploit, won by the pillage of the colonies, and so on.
But the crisis caused by the war is so serious that even in the conquering countries the working masses are inevitably condemned to appalling misery. From this springs the rapid growth of communism and the increasing movement of sympathy towards the Soviet power and towards the Third International.”
We should like to see a person who in dead seriousness would deny that the majority of the Danish working class and no longer an insignificant minority, as at Lenin’s time – is living “well under capitalism”. Lenin could tell the Soviet workers, that the Bolsheviks immediately represent the interests of the great majority, who lived badly under capitalism, and to him it was self-evident that this great majority wanted and had a direct economic benefit from socialism. To him – just as to Engels – it was self-evident, that when the majority lived badly under capitalism, or would live badly again, they would turn to socialism, fight the capitalists and take the power away from them.
It was self-evident to Lenin that the then existing small minority did not want socialism introduced and wanted capitalism back again, when the socialist revolution had taken place.
For us today it is self-evident that since by now it is the great majority, when, it is the class as a whole, who live well under capitalism, of course this majority do not want socialism – and it is self-evident to us that they will not start wanting socialism by being even better off under capitalism! They will only get to want socialism by being badly off.
Of course this should not be understood to mean that we are directly w a n t i n g the workers and the broad population “in the mire”, as it is commonly put. We have just been striving to fulfil Lenin’s words in the quotation, which we have brought in a previous issue, and which we repeat below – and then we have to stress that it was not according to our “wishes” either that the Danish political working class movement has been reformist from its very beginning, that it was not according to our “wishes” that the prime characteristic feature of the Danish working class today is n o t that it is a suppressed and exploited class, which has nothing but its chains to lose in a revolution, but that it is a bribed class with a petty bourgeois way of living.
Lenin defined the task of the communists of the West as fellows:
“To be able to seek, find and correctly determine the specific path, or the particular turn of events that will lead the masses to the real, decisive and final revolutionary struggle….”
The words “… we have pointed out that Engels was right…” at the beginning of the above article refer to the article “Devaluation – of Money and/or Aims of Struggle”, from 1st December 1967, in which among other things the following is to be found:
“(Engels wrote in a letter to Marx 24th October 1852:)
‘The workers seem…to have become purely bourgeois. A hard castigation through crises must take place, if s o o n they shall become capable of anything.
Many years later Engels wrote:
“The truth is this: during the period of England’s industrial monopoly the English working class have, to a certain degree, shared in the benefits of the monopoly. These benefits were very unequally distributed amongst them; the privileged minority pocketed most, but even the great mass had, at least, a temporary share now and then. And that is the reason why, since the dying out of Owenism, there has been no Socialism in England. With the breakdown of that monopoly, the English working class will lose that privileged position; it will find itself generally – the privileged and leading minority not excepted – on a level with its fellow workers abroad. And that is the reason why there will be Socialism again in England.” (Selected Works, vol. II, p. 378)
Om forfatteren / About the Writer
Gotfred Appel, Formand og ideologisk leder af Kommunistisk Arbejdskreds fra 1964 til splittelsen i 1978. Gotfred Appel fortsatte sammen med Ulla Houton under navnet Kommunistisk Arbejdskreds, KAK.
Gotfred Appel, Chairperson and ideological leader of the Danish Kommunistisk Arbejdskreds, KAK (Communist Working Circle, CWC) from 1964 till the splitt in 1978. Gotfred Appel continuned with Ulla Houton as Kommunistisk Arbejdskreds, KAK.