Revolutionary Continuity: Birth of the Communist Movement, 1918-1922 by Farrell Dobbs is one of Pathfinder’s Books of the Month for August. This is the second of two volumes tracing the early history of the communist movement in the U.S. Dobbs emerged as a young leader of the Minneapolis Teamster strikes in 1934, then led the Teamster campaign to organize a quarter of a million over-the-road drivers in the Midwest. He was Socialist Workers Party national secretary from 1953 to 1972, and the party’s presidential candidate from 1948 to 1960. The excerpt is from “Letter to American Workers” by Russian revolutionary leader V.I. Lenin, written in August 1918. Copyright © 1983 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.
BY V.I. LENIN
[A]t the present time the American revolutionary workers have to play an exceptionally important role as uncompromising enemies of American imperialism — the freshest, strongest and latest in joining in the world-wide slaughter of nations for the division of capitalist profits. At this very moment, the American multimillionaires, these modern slaveowners, have turned an exceptionally tragic page in the bloody history of bloody imperialism by giving their approval — whether direct or indirect, open or hypocritically concealed, makes no difference — to the armed expedition launched by the brutal Anglo-Japanese imperialists for the purpose of throttling the first socialist republic.
The history of modern, civilised America opened with one of those great, really liberating, really revolutionary wars of which there have been so few compared to the vast number of wars of conquest which, like the present imperialist war, were caused by squabbles among kings, landowners or capitalists over the division of usurped lands or ill-gotten gains. That was the war the American people waged against the British robbers who oppressed America and held her in colonial slavery, in the same way as these “civilised” bloodsuckers are still oppressing and holding in colonial slavery hundreds of millions of people in India, Egypt, and all parts of the world.
About 150 years have passed since then. Bourgeois civilisation has borne all its luxurious fruits. America has taken first place among the free and educated nations in level of development of the productive forces of collective human endeavour, in the utilisation of machinery and of all the wonders of modern engineering. At the same time, America has become one of the foremost countries in regard to the depth of the abyss which lies between the handful of arrogant multimillionaires who wallow in filth and luxury, and the millions of working people who constantly live on the verge of pauperism. The American people, who set the world an example in waging a revolutionary war against feudal slavery, now find themselves in the latest, capitalist stage of wage-slavery to a handful of multimillionaires, and find themselves playing the role of hired thugs who, for the benefit of wealthy scoundrels, throttled the Philippines in 1898 on the pretext of “liberating” them, and are throttling the Russian Socialist Republic in 1918 on the pretext of “protecting” it from the Germans.
The four years of the imperialist slaughter of nations, however, have not passed in vain. The deception of the people by the scoundrels of both robber groups, the British and the German, has been utterly exposed by indisputable and obvious facts. The results of the four years of war have revealed the general law of capitalism as applied to war between robbers for the division of spoils: the richest and strongest profited and grabbed most, while the weakest were utterly robbed, tormented, crushed and strangled.
The British imperialist robbers were the strongest in number of “colonial slaves.” The British capitalists have not lost an inch of “their” territory (i.e., territory they have grabbed over the centuries), but they have grabbed all the German colonies in Africa, they have grabbed Mesopotamia and Palestine, they have throttled Greece, and have begun to plunder Russia.
The German imperialist robbers were the strongest in organisation and discipline of “their” armies, but weaker in regard to colonies. They have lost all their colonies, but plundered half of Europe and throttled the largest number of small countries and weak nations. …
The American multimillionaires were, perhaps, richest of all, and geographically the most secure. They have profited more than all the rest. They have converted all, even the richest, countries into their tributaries. They have grabbed hundreds of billions of dollars. And every dollar is sullied with filth: the filth of the secret treaties between Britain and her “allies,” between Germany and her vassals, treaties for the division of the spoils, treaties of mutual “aid” for oppressing the workers and persecuting the internationalist socialists. Every dollar is sullied with the filth of “profitable” war contracts, which in every country made the rich richer and the poor poorer. And every dollar is stained with blood — from that ocean of blood that has been shed by the ten million killed and twenty million maimed in the great, noble, liberating and holy war to decide whether the British or the German robbers are to get most of the spoils, whether the British or the German thugs are to be foremost in throttling the weak nations all over the world.
While the German robbers broke all records in war atrocities, the British have broken all records not only in the number of colonies they have grabbed, but also in the subtlety of their disgusting hypocrisy. This very day, the Anglo-French and American bourgeois newspapers are spreading, in millions and millions of copies, lies and slander about Russia, and are hypocritically justifying their predatory expedition against her on the plea that they want to “protect” Russia from the Germans! …
The workers of the whole world, no matter in what country they live, greet us, sympathise with us, applaud us for breaking the iron ring of imperialist ties, of sordid imperialist treaties, of imperialist chains — for breaking through to freedom, and making the heaviest sacrifices in doing so — for, as a socialist republic, although torn and plundered by the imperialists, keeping out of the imperialist war and raising the banner of peace, the banner of socialism for the whole world to see.