Communism from Social Democracy? But not in India or China!
July 29 2008
In the last day or so, I have had occasion to remind myself of how 20th Century Communism had, as one influence upon it, 19th Century German social democracy. The Russian Communists did not even have “communist” in their name until the VII Petrograd Congress March 6-8 1918 when they became the “Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik)”. That became “All Union Communist Party (Bolshevik)” by the XIV Congress of Dec 18-31 1925, and “All Union Communist Party” as late as the XIX Congress of Oct 5-15, 1952. Between the I Congress in Minsk 1898 and V Congress in London 1905, the name was Russian Social Democratic Labour Party; at the VI Congress in Petrograd, Jul 26-Aug 3 1917, the word “Bolshevik” got added.
It has been suggested to me this was because they wanted to avoid repression by the Czarist regime. That is a possible factor. Equally, it is possible they were merely radicals, anarchists and social democrats who could not have anticipated the First World War, let alone the Treaty of Brest Litovsk or the Bolshevik Revolution.
Yes, after 1848, Marx himself was expelled from Brussels, returned to Paris, and worked for something called “the Communist League”. He and Engels established themselves in Cologne and even published something called “Demands of the Communist Party in Germany”. But their aims were radical-democratic and republican and they hardly seemed “communist” in the 20th Century sense of being Leninist.
The Russian Communist Party grew out of European socialism and the social democratic movement. Indian communists may seem rather rootless because they, like the Chinese communists, developed from the Russian communists without having developed any social democratic origins themselves.
Postscript February 11 2009: The above may also explain how European communists could relatively easily stop being communists and restart being social democrats again, while China’s communists and India’s communists are clueless about how best they may abandon their backward ideologies and instead become serious social democrats.