The Defence of Terrorism (Terrorism and Communism): A Reply to Karl Kautsky

By L. Trotsky | Go to book overview

Preface

By H. N. BRAILSFORD

IT has been said of the Bolsheviks that they are more interesting than Bolshevism. To those who hold to the economic interpretation of history that may seem a heresy. None the less, I believe that the personality not merely of the leaders but also of their party goes far to explain the making and survival of the Russian Revolution. To us in the West they seem a wholly foreign type. With Socialist leaders and organisations we and our fathers have been familiar for three-quarters of a century. There has been no lack of talent and even of genius among them. The movement has produced its great theorist in Marx, its orator in Jaurès, its powerful tacticians like Bebel, and it has influenced literature in Morris, Anatole France and Shaw. It bred, however, no considerable man of action, and it was left for the Russians to do what generations of Western Socialists had spent their lives in discussing. There was in this Russian achievement an almost barbaric simplicity and directness. Here were men who really believed the formulæ of our theorists and the resolutions of our Congresses. What had become for us a sterilised and almost respectable orthodoxy rang to their ears as a trumpet call to action. The older generation has found it difficult to pardon their sincerity. The rest of us want to understand the miracle.

The real audacity of the Bolsheviks lay in this, that they made a proletarian revolution precisely in that country which of all portions of the civilised world, seemed the least prepared for it by its economic development. For an agrarian revolt, for the subdivision of the soil, even for the overthrow of the old governing class, Russia was certainly ready. But any spontaneous revolution, with its foundations laid in the masses of the peasantry, would have been individualistic and not communistic. The daring of the Bolsheviks lay in their belief that the minute minority of the urban working class could, by its concentration, its greater intelligence and its relative capacity for organisation, dominate the inert peasant mass, and give to their outbreak of land-hunger the character and form of a constructive proletarian revolution. The bitter struggle among Russian parties which lasted from March, 1917, down to the defeat of Wrangel in November, 1920, was really an internecine competition among them for the leadership of the peasants. Which of these several groups could enlist their confidence, to the extent of inducing them not merely to fight, but to accept the discipline, military and civilian, necessary for victory? At the start the Bolsheviks had everything against them. They are nearly all

-i-

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The Defence of Terrorism (Terrorism and Communism): A Reply to Karl Kautsky
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Publishers' Note *
  • Preface i
  • Contents v
  • Introduction 7
  • Terrorism and Communism A Reply to Karl Kautsky 13
  • Conclusion of the Report 154
  • In Place of an Epilogue 174
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