Bela Kun

The Moment at Penza

First Published: Pravda April 28, 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.

Far from the London cemetery with its grave covered by a plain stone slab, there has been erected, in the depths of the first proletarian State, the first monument to the first thinker and champion of the proletariat — the first public monument to Marx.

“Let us turn to Russia. The Tsar was placed at the head of European reaction. To-day he is a prisoner of the revolution, and Russia is in the front rank of the revolutionary movement in Europe.”

These words, taken from the introduction to the second Russian translation of the Communist Manifesto, published under the supervision of Marx and Engels, have now passed into reality. Though continuing but painfully in the great struggle, surrounded by a ring of the imperialist executioners of all countries, the proletarian Republic remains the living proof of the truth of the Marxian teaching.

All the distorters of Marxism, traitors to the work of the proletariat in Russia as in Western Europe, the social-traitors and Mensheviks of all shades, are following the progress of the revolution, and the work of the organs of proletarian dictatorship, gnashing their teeth. But the proletariat, erecting a monument to Karl Marx, has left behind these semi-revolutionaries; and now this first stone monument is a splendid and visible demonstration of the fruitful propagandist work of the Communist Party in Russia.

However high the cultural level of the German or French proletariat, the scientific theory of the class struggle has not entered so deep into their soul as it has in Russia.

Even if the mass of the Russian proletariat was as “dark” as the leaders (without followers) of social-democracy are screaming in impotent fury, yet, in the task of awakening class-consciousness in the working-class, the proletarian revolution has done more than the propaganda of all the opportunists — now the deadly enemies of the revolution — taken together. The class struggle has reached the highest degree of intensity in which it was conceived by Karl Marx. The proletariat has organised itself as the ruling class, in spite of all the attempts to hinder it on the part of the social-philosophers, semi-philosophers, and aesthetes.

For the proletariat as a ruling class, a monument to Karl Marx is a monument to its own final victory. Thanks to this victory, Marxism in Russia has ceased to be the affair of intellectual study-circles whose intention it was to alter that teaching as it seemed good to them. The Marxian theory has become the accepted doctrine of the proletarian State, which was born of the revolution, and which continues it. If only because the dictatorship of the proletariat is carrying through the revolution to its logical conclusion, Marxism in Russia will not become an “offficial” theory in the sense in which it became such amongst the German Social-Democrats. Marxism was and is the theory of the revolution, just as Marx himself was never merely a theorist, but a revolutionary champion of the proletariat who always stubbornly fought for its victory.

The revolutionary class can never fall into the error of worshipping of individuals. Nevertheless, what one of the greatest Marxian economists said is true: “Names are factors.” The same can be said of monuments. If the victorious Russian proletariat erects monuments on all its squares to its greatest fighters, this will be not the cult of individuals, but an act of respect towards its own revolution. And even if the priceless treasures of art disappear into the melting pot, it will not be barbarism, as some gentle souls affirm. Everything must be subordinated to the end of the proletarian revolution, just as everything hitherto was subordinated to the purpose of enslaving the proletariat.

The first monument to Marx, unveiled at Penza, is assisting the work of the revolution, since the memory of Marx, in common with all his writings and actions, is in all its forms a factor in the victory of the proletariat.