Sunday, February 23, 2020

The International Socialist Congress (1904)

From the September 1904 issue of the Socialist Standard

Space will not permit a full report of the seven day’s proceedings of the Amsterdam Congress, but in later issues of our paper we shall, no doubt, be enabled to deal more fully with some of the points raised.

This was the sixth International Congress and was attended by 482 delegates – Great Britain with 101 and France with 98 sending the largest delegations. Congress had already opened when the majority of the Britishers reached Amsterdam on Sunday, with Van Kol (Dutch) as President and Plekhanoff (Russian) and Sen Katayama (an English-speaking Jap) as Vice-Presidents. Troelstra, in the name of the Dutch Socialists, welcomed the Delegates to Amsterdam, and at the conclusion of his speech the two vice-presidents rose and shook hands amidst great cheering. Katayama referred to the difficulties of Socialist propaganda in Japan, and declared that the Japanese workman had no quarrel with his fellow workman of Russia. Both were crushed by capitalism and militarism. Plekhanoff followed in similar strain. The Czar, who was making the war, was the greatest enemy the Russian people had. The Congress then adopted a motion sending fraternal greetings to the proletariat of Russia and Japan, after which the sitting terminated.

In the afternoon a great outdoor demonstration was held at which speeches were delivered by the prominent men and women of the movement. Here we were fortunate in meeting an English-speaking Dutch comrade. to whom we explained the situation in England and the reasons which led us to found The Socialist Party of Great Britain. We exchanged addresses for correspondence purposes.

On Monday morning the British section met. At this and the following meetings contests took place between the S.D.F. and the I.L.P. over matters which they considered important. In the main the I.L.P. scored. The Congress met in the morning. passed a resolution of sympathy with the Colorado miners, and after formal announcements had been made as to the constitution of the various commissions, adjourned until Tuesday afternoon, so that the commissions could prepare their reports. At that sitting Cipriani (France) presided, the vice-presidents being Hilquit (U.S.A.) and Iglesias (Spain). It was immediately proposed that the meeting be suspended until the following morning. as the Commission on International Policy and Tactics as well as others had not prepared their reports. Hyndman opposed this, for the reasons which he had put forward in the British Section, viz., that the discussion upon International Policy should be put off as long as possible. He preferred that disputed matters such as that should not be discussed at the Congress, and he therefore wished the Congress to proceed with the discussion of minor matters, to the exclusion, if possible of this, the one really important matter on the Agenda. We fail to recognise the necessity for holding an International Congress in order to pass resolutions upon matters concerning which we are already agreed. Surely matters of disagreement should be discussed with the object of arriving at an understanding which shall be a guide to the movement internationally. However, Hyndman was not successful, and the Congress adjourned.

When Congress was resumed on Wednesday morning the Tactics Commission report was not ready, so that other matters had to be proceeded with. The first was that of Industrial Insurance and Labour Protective Legislation. Molkenbuhr (Germany) presented the report which called attention to the low wages which the workers received, and which prevented them from making provision for illness, accident, inability, old age, glut, pregnancy or maternity. The workers should therefore demand state provided insurance to meet these contingencies. S. G. Hobson then moved a resolution which had been drafted with the special object of condemning Great Britain for her treatment of India. Its concluding words called “upon the workers of Great Britain to enforce upon their Government the abandonment of the present nefarious and dishonourable system and the establishment of self-government in the best form practicable by the Indians themselves (under British Paramountcy)”. Dadabhai Naoroji, at whose instance were added the last three words (which seem to us to take away from the Indians the right which it is desired to concede in the preceding phrases), seconded the resolution, which was adopted.

Van Kol again presided on Thursday, Pete Curran (Britain) and Knudsen (Denmark} being vice-chairmen. On the motion of Ferri, the Congress agreed to a resolution sympathising with the Italian Committee which is agitating for the release of those imprisoned for participation in the disturbances of 1898. Van Kol then submitted the report of the Commission on Colonial Policy, and a resolution was adopted declaring it to be the duty of national Socialist parties and of parliamentary groups to oppose without any compromise colonial expansion in the interests of financial gangs. In the afternoon Madame Roland Holst reported that the Commission on the General Strike had adopted the resolution formulated by the Dutch Party, and eventually this became the resolution of the Congress. It declared a general strike would defeat its own object and warned the workers not to be misled by the Anarchists, who were responsible for this proposal.

On Friday, Troelstra was President and Sigg (Geneva) and Rosa Luxembourg (Austria) the Vice Presidents. Vandervelde reported for the Commission on International Policy and Tactics. He stated that in the Commission the Swiss had proposed that the Congress proceed to the next business, which, however, was rejected. De Leon had offered an amendment to the following effect :
  “Whereas, the struggle between the working-class and the capitalist class is a continuous and irrepressible conflict, a conflict that tends every day rather to be intensified than to be softened ;
  “Whereas, the existing governments are committees of the ruling class, intended to safeguard the yoke of capitalist exploitation upon the neck of the working class;
  “Whereas, at the last International Congress, held in Paris, in 1900, a resolution generally known as the Kautsky Resolution, was adopted, the closing clauses of which contemplate the emergency of the working-class accepting office at the hand of such capitalist governments, and also, especially, presupposes the possibility of impartiality on the part of the ruling class governments in the conflicts between the working class and the capitalist class; and
  “Whereas, the said clauses – applicable, perhaps, in countries not yet wholly freed from feudal institutions – were adopted under conditions both in France and in the Paris Congress itself, that justify erroneous conclusions on the nature of the class struggle, the character of capitalist government, and the tactics that are imperative, upon the proletariat in the pursuit of its campaign to overthrow the capitalist system in countries, which, like the United States of America, have wholly wiped out feudal institutions; therefore, be it –
  “Resolved, (1) that the said Kautsky Resolution be and the same is hereby repealed as a principle of general Socialist tactics ;
  “(2) That, in fully developed capitalist countries like America, the working class cannot, without betrayal of the cause of the proletariat, fill any political office other than such they conquer for and by themselves.”
which was also rejected. A further amendment had been proposed by Vandervelde and Adler, which merely confirmed the Kautsky Resolution  of 1900. This also was rejected by 24 votes to 16, and the Dresden Resolution, adopted by the Socialist Party of France in order to be moved at this Congress, was adopted in the Commission by 27 votes to 3, with 10 abstentions. (It must be recollected that the above votes refer to Nationalities). It had therefore been agreed that the Dresden Resolution, with the amendment of Vandervelde and Adler, should be submitted to the Congress. After speeches by Jaures, Bebel, Adler, Ferri, Vaillant, and Anseele, the Dresden Resolution, with one alteration, was agreed to by 25 to 5 with 12 abstentions. The resolution as adopted read as follows :
 “The Congress repudiates to the fullest extent possible the efforts of the Revisionists, which have for their object the modification of our tried and victorious policy based on the class war, and the substitution, for the conquest of political power by an unceasing attack on the bourgeoisie, of a policy of concession to the established order of society;
 “The consequence of such Revisionist tactics would be to turn a party striving for the most speedy transformation possible of bourgeois society into Socialist society – a party therefore revolutionary in the best sense of the word – into a party satisfied with the reform of bourgeois society ;
 “For this reason the Congress, convinced. in opposition to Revisionist tendencies, that class antagonisms, far from diminishing, continually increase in bitterness, declares :
  “1. That the party rejects all responsibility of any sort under the political and economic conditions based on capitalist production, and therefore can in no wise countenance any measure tending to maintain in power the dominant class.
 “2. The Social-Democracy can accept no participation in the Government under bourgeois society, this decision being in accordance with the Kautsky Resolution passed at the International Congress of Paris in 1900.
 “The Congress further condemns every attempt to mask the ever-growing class antagonisms, in order to bring about an understanding with the bourgeois parties.
 “The Congress relies upon the Socialist Parliamentary Group to use its power, increased by the number of its members and by the great accession of electors who support it, to persevere in its propaganda towards the final object of Socialism, and. in conformity with our programme, to defend most resolutely the interests of the working class, the extension and consolidation of  political liberties, in order to obtain equal rights for all; to carry on more vigorously than ever the fight against militarism, against the imperialist and colonial policy, against injustice, domination and exploitation of every kind, and finally to exert itself to the utmost to perfect social legislation and to enable the working-class to fulfil its political and civilising mission.”
This concluded Friday’s sitting.

On Saturday morning Congress decided to refer to the Bureau the Report of the Commission on Emigration, and adopted resolutions with reference to Women’s Suffrage, the First of May, and Trusts. These will be published in full in The Socialist Standard at a future date. The President announced the formation of an International Parliamentary Bureau, composed of a Parliamentary Representative from each Nationality, which would endeavour to meet once a year and act in conjunction with the Bureau. It was decided that the next Congress should be held at Stuttgart in 1907.
Jack Kent, Alex Pearson, 
The Delegates of the Socialist Party of Great Britain.

Bebel’s Answer to Jaurès on “Political Tactics” (1904)

From the September 1904 issue of the Socialist Standard

International Socialist Congress 1904

(Translated from El Heraldo de Madrid, by P. J. Tobin)

When the German Social-Democracy discussed at the Dresden Congress the proposition that is being now debated, nobody thought of bringing it before the International Congress. Nevertheless I am pleased that the Parti Socialiste de France have submitted it to the consideration of the bodies which form the great International Socialist Party, because, contrary to the opinion of Jaurès, this proposition is applicable, in the same manner as it is to Germany, to Belgium, France, Holland, and all other countries.

When Kautsky and Singer drew up the Dresden proposition they took into consideration not alone the conditions under which things exist in Germany, but also certain circumstances that are inseparable from the social ambient created by the system of capitalist production in all the countries where it reigns.

Jaurès pretends that there is such an enormous difference between Germany and France that it is absolutely impossible that an International Congress could adopt rules of Socialist conduct practised with success in one of these nations so as to apply them to the other. Jaurès suffers from a sad error, because although there are differences between France and Germany, they are not so great as he supposes.

I must point out that in the treatment of this question I do not consider it from a particular standpoint which the country where I live supplies me with, but from a general standpoint. All nations may see themselves very soon attacked by this illness that we want to put an end to now, Switzerland as Holland—

Troelstra (Holland): We are not ill.

Bebel: You are not, but you could be so tomorrow, and it is necessary to avoid this happening.

Two perfectly defined tendencies exist in the German Social-Democracy. The two were discussed in the Dresden Congress, and afterwards the proletariat decided in favour of that one which it considered as having best hit the mark. Once the subject was resolved upon, nobody has been found wanting in respect to what was agreed, nobody has produced disagreements in our great party. In France the situation is very different; between Socialists there are serious disputes which do not exist in Germany.

Jaurès admits, like ourselves, the class war, and considers its antagonisms as irreducible; but he also believes that the proletariat ought to work with the radical elements of the middle class, to ensure its own emancipation, if these elements lend themselves to help them in their struggle for liberty. These words of Jaurès enclose a censure for those who do not march in unison with the so-called “progressive” forces of the middle-class, since we spurn a means of serving the cause of the proletariat.

The censure is not just; we avail ourselves of all means for bettering the condition of our comrades the workers. We do not spurn reforms; but what we do refuse, and that in the most explicit manner, is the coming to an agreement with any faction whatsoever of the middle-class, no matter by what name it may go. An agreement of this kind cannot be of any other consequence than to make Socialism responsible for the oppression which the capitalists exercise over the masses of the working-class. Besides, this agreement would give rise to an error that being persevered in by the workers, would lead them to abandon the saving camp of Socialism to throw themselves with closed eyes into the abyss of anarchism. The policy adopted by the French Socialist Party has had two effects: to throw from its bosom the best elements for the fight, the most self-denying, and give entrance to those who accept the attitude of this party in relation to the Minister Combes in order to reach high political posts. As you see, the results of the Revisionists’ policy could not be more disastrous.

In the most flourishing period of French Ministerial Socialism, France has given spectacles which incite the passions of all those who feel the flame of Socialism burning in their breasts. Millerand, the Socialist Millerand, who received, as the most correct of courtiers, during his occupation of the Ministry, kings and queens visiting Paris on the occasion of the Exhibition of 1900, did not remember that an international Socialist Congress was about to be held at approximately the same date; more, he consented that the free exercise of the right to public demonstration should be denied the Socialists, a thing that was permitted to them in 1889. Strange paradox. The Liberal Ministry of Waldeck-Rousseau did not permit in 1900 the exercise of an individual right which the Conservative Ministry that ruled France in 1889 authorised! I cannot understand [with great indignation] how all the delegates did not uprise possessed of the same anger, to protest against the cynicism of those governors that call themselves “democratic”—

Adler (Austria): If you refer to what occurred in the Père-Lechaise demonstration, I must state that the Congress had already concluded its tasks.

Bebel: That is true, but it does not matter; the delegates who were still in Paris and the French Socialist Party ought to have formulated that protest.

Jaurès, in order to explain his reasoning on the diversity of proceedings that should be applied in France and in Germany, tells us Germans: You cannot compare your situation with ours. You live under an Imperialist regime, while the regime to which we are subject is the Republican. The observation is correct. We must confess that did it depend on us, the Imperial Government of Germany would not have another instant of life. But this does not justify the attitude of the Ministerial Socialists, because the proceedings of the French Republic are so dull and arbitrary that I find myself in the sad necessity of becoming an advocate of the Monarchy.

In Germany we have liberty of union and of association, which the Authority respects. In our strikes armed force never intervenes. On the other hand, in France the liberty of union and association is constantly being trampled upon, and in all strikes, and under any pretext whatever, the Government sends infantry, cavalry, and even artillery to the field of action. Now, before this conduct which shows how great is middle-class precocity, I ask Jaurès: How is it possible to explain that a Government which proceeds in this manner has included amongst its number an individual Socialist, and now has the aid of a Parliamentary minority?

The exterior clothing with which the Monarchy clothes itself does not hide its pretensions. At first sight all of us know what a Government of the capitalist class symbolises. Nevertheless, sometimes conscience pricks, and abandoning being logical with itself, realises acts of justice to the workers, which injure the masters.

The bourgeois Republic decks itself out in raiment which cajoles the masses, lulls them with fine words, makes them promises which are on the lips but not in the heart, and this acts so that later, when workmen are assassinated in Châlons-sur-Marne, in France; in Colorado of the USA; or in Vale, of Switzerland, the cynicism, the shamelessness and criminality of these actions appear in greater relief. As you can observe, there is not the difference that Jaurès establishes between the Monarchy and the Republic. And this, I say, in reference to the economic system, takes place as well with militarism, clericalism, and other problems.

After acts such as those I have related do not be astonished that I deduce that there is an absolute incompatibility of the office of Minister to a capitalist government with the character of a militant socialist.

The force of working-class emancipation has taken root in the class-consciousness that the workers possess. I remember very well when on a certain occasion Marx and Engels were asked how was it that England being a country where industry was so developed and having so liberal and progressive a Government, how was it that under such conditions Socialism was so little evolved? They answered that the English middle-class was so astute and intelligent, that they had arranged everything so that historic and social acts were mystified, introducing confusion and division into the ranks of the working-class.

I think it to be my duty to affirm that in questions of greater importance, in those of more interest for public life and national prosperity, Germany has nothing to envy France; on the contrary, in what concerns the navy and colonial question, etc which affect the productive classes in so great a manner, France has made no concession whatever, and in Germany, yes. Further, in the fiscal system, the income tax in Prussia is an ideal compared with what exists in France.

Although it may appear strange, on account of what is now going on in France, the capitalists will never destroy clericalism, because it is an arm which in crucial moments can be used against the workers. I agree and applaud the work now being accomplished in France, but it must not be forgotten that in thirty years’ time nothing worthy of note will have been done in this sense.

If a fight of this nature were undertaken tomorrow in our country we would assist with vigour, but we would take good care not to contract any compromise that might diminish our independence, and would not abandon the defence of working-class interests, not even in moments when the struggle may be hottest. The Jaurès method is of use only in making anarchists.

It cannot be denied that this Congress is competent to give judgement on the question of tactics. Jaurès himself maintained this opinion when the Kautsky resolution was voted upon at the Congress of 1900. Moreover, if we can discuss protection and free-trade, the general strike, etc, why cannot we treat of tactics?

With respect to the design which guides us in asking that the Dresden Proposition be voted upon, everyone who knows us will say what is true, that we do not attempt to whimsically impose an opinion, but to give an advice, to furnish a rule of conduct that is the outcome of thirty-six years of experience.

Tactics may be modified, but the idea will never disappear which inspires the Dresden Resolution, an idea that the proletarian will never abandon, because it is the only one capable of carrying it to the close of its day’s labour—the expropriation of the dominant class.