First Published: Pravda May 11, 1918
Source: International Socialist Library No. 15, Revolutionary Essays by Bela Kun, B.S.P., London.
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Proofreader: Chris Clayton
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2005). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
At Kieff, the gallows is the weapon used against the minds of the German soldiers who have been converted to Socialism and revolutionised. At Reval, mutinous German sailors have been hung.
Immediately behind the front line time is more valuable: there is no time to build gallows there, but the bullet is quite sufficient. There it is bullets which are prescribed as remedies for revolutionary minds.
Nevertheless, the devastation in human material wrought by the war has been so great that the German and Austro-Hungarian imperialists, though they make use of gibbets and bullets, are forced to attempt to use the moral weapon also in the struggle with the minds converted to Socialism. In this way a new phrase has been coined, to describe the counter-revolutionary agitation in Germany and Austria-Hungary. This new phrase is “desocialisation of minds.”
In Austria-Hungary the revolutionary “danger” is extremely strong. There the layer of workers bought over by means of the surplus value squeezed out of debtor States is considerably thinner than in Germany. It was there, therefore, that German militarism first gave the order to desocialise minds.
The pamphlets about the Bolshevik Government disseminated by the Ministry for War amongst the ranks of the Austro-Hungarian Army, represent an attempt to paralyse the influence of the Russian proletarian revolution. As for the prisoners of war, the government of the Dual Monarchy has had to give up all hope of them. The Government is so occupied by the struggle with internal collapse, it has become indebted to such an extent, that it has neither time nor money to spend on using these “spiritual” methods with the prisoners of war. Austria’s only resource in this respect is the system of punishment camps which await all those returning from captivity; but hundreds of soldiers escape from these camps back to Russia, Ukraine, the Caucasus.
Germany, however, is a “cultured country” and a creditor State. Germany has both money and “spiritual” weapons for the struggle with the Bolshevik poison. She has not yet lost all hope of reforming her returning prodigals. The German prisoners of war are not less infected, but Germany is in a condition, at any rate, to create an apparatus for desocialising them.
The so-called “Chief German Commission,” staying at present in Russia, has already been entrusted with the task of desocialising minds. It has brought with it informational material. The productions of German militarist literature will co-operate with the work of counter-revolution, with the object of restoring “voluntary” discipline, and, to quote from military regulations, the “self-reliance” of the troops if this is insufficient, gallows and bullets will be forthcoming, to desocialise for all time those minds which do not lend themselves to correction.
The diplomatic intervention of German imperialism hitherto relied on could, it is true, bring about alterations in the organisation of revolutionary agitation amongst the prisoners of war, but it was not in a position to prevent the revolutionising of minds. For this it would have been necessary not only to destroy the Revolution, but also to shoot the prisoners themselves.
The German imperialists cannot bring these methods to play; and for that reason — and for that only — they fall back upon the “culturo-informative” work of the German Commission.
Nevertheless, the “culturo-informative” work of the German counter-revolutionaries only assists the revolutionary work of the Communist emigrants from the Central Powers. This militarist propaganda attempts to restore “their native conditions” to the prisoners of war in Russia; and, according to advices from Minsk, Dvinsk, Vilna, and Przemysl, where concentration camps exist, escapes en masse are beginning. In this way the German and Austro-Hungarian proletarians will fly to Russia from under the yoke of German militarism.
German imperialism will be able to desocialise minds only by having recourse to the methods it has already tried in the Ukraine, at Reval, and at Vollmar: “Hands up!” and then the gallows or the bullet.