Karl Radek

Russian revolutionary (1885-1939)

Karl Berngardovich Radek (31 October 1885 – 19 May 1939) was a Marxist active in the Polish and German social democratic movements before World War I and an international Communist leader in the Soviet Union after the Russian Revolution.

Karl Radek


  • Interestingly, neither our Stalin nor your Pilsudski actually hold any positions that would give them the formal right to rule. They simply rule because both the entire ruling class and the majority of society consider them the best, the smartest and the most brilliant. This is their strength.
    • Mieczysław Lepecki , Memoir of Marshal Pilsudski's adjutant, National Scientific Publishing House, Warsaw 1989, ISBN 8301068280, p. 172.
  • Ready for peace, ready for concessions, Russia waits; ready for peaceful cohabitation with capitalist countries even, as long as Labour in the West suffers the burden of the capitalist system. But Soviet Russia is not a carcase upon which the vultures of Imperialism will sharpen their beaks and claws. Soviet is a power, a power that is firm and growing, and it will compel its enemies to treat it as such and allow it to live in peace.
    • "England and the East" (1920)
  • During the French revolution and parallel with its development, the Socialist current gained strength in the depths of society; it was then represented by the party of the “Jacques Roux”, whose history has not yet been written, but which played a very important part in the events of 1793 (the literature on this party is very poor). Robespierre was an avowed and convinced opponent of this movement. In the pamphlets of the Girondist, Brissot, the representative of the commercial bourgeoisie of Southern France, we find not only all the arguments with which the bourgeoisie later fought Socialism, but we also find the mad, raging hatred which is due to the recognition of the power of the Communists in the French revolution. These were backed by a considerable part of those who saved France in 1793.
    • Is the Russian Revolution a Bourgeois Revolution? (13 December 1921)
  • Comrades, the question of the relationship between the Communist International and the trades unions is the most serious, most important question facing our movement. The trades unions are the biggest mass organisations of the working class; they play a decisive role in the economic struggles, the chief elements in the disintegration of capital, and after the victory of the revolution the trades unions will be in the forefront of those organisations called on to work at the economic construction of socialism.
    • Minutes of the Second Congress of the Communist International, Ninth Session (August 3)
  • LIKE everything else in nature, Lenin was born, has developed, has grown. When Vladimir Ilyitch once observed me glancing through a collection of his articles, written in the year 1903, which had just been published, a sly smile crossed his face, and he remarked with a laugh:
    “It is very interesting to read what stupid fellows we were!"
    • "Lenin" (1923)
  • The great October Revolution, which marked the beginning of the world proletarian revolution, was the decisive factor in the birth of the Communist International.
    The October Revolution utilised and extended the great experience of the Paris Commune, the revolution of 1905, and the revolution of February, 1917, began to put, into effect Marx’s slogan of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and created a new type of state, the Soviet type of state.
    • Fifteen Years of the Communist International (1935)
  • It is impossible to be a leader of the working class without knowing the whole history of the class. The leaders of the labour movement must know the history of the labour movement; without this knowledge there can be no leader, just as nowadays there can he no great general who could be victorious with the least expenditure of force unless he knew the history of strategy. The history of strategy is not a collection of recipes as to how to win a war, for a situation once described never repeats itself. But the mind of the general becomes practised in strategy by its express study; this study renders him elastic in war, permits him to observe the dangers and possibilities which the empirically trained general cannot see. The history of the labour movement does not tell us what to do, but it makes it possible to compare our position with situations which have already been experienced by our class, so that in various decisive moments we are enabled to see our path clearly, and to recognise approaching danger.
    • "Lenin" (1923)
  • FASCISM is no longer a fruit peculiar to Italian soil, but an international phenomenon. Italy is merely the first country where the Fascisti have seized the government, just as Russia is the first country where the proletariat has seized power. But the Fascisti flood is rising in Germany, in Czechoslovakia, and is beginning to stir in the United States, and France, and Austria.
    Fascism, as we shall show, is a pettybourgeois reaction against post-war conditions – a petty-bourgeois reaction that Big Capital is using to fortify itself wherever its rule is threatened. The difference in the condition of the petty bourgeoisie in different countries is much greater than the difference in the condition of the working classes; and the policies of the former therefore vary more than the policies of Labor.
    • Fascism and Communism (July 1923)
  • You have expelled us from the Party and sent us away as counter-revolutionaries without reckoning that the older ones among us fought for Communism for a quarter of a century and that the younger ones were in the ranks of the October revolution from the first moment of their conscious life. This fact does not give me the right to appeal to your sentiments, but since the time when you decided on the incredible step of expelling us from the Party, with an accusation which dishonors not us but those who have made it, and exiling us – from that moment it is time that you draw the balance and render an accounting on the whole matter.
    • "Appeal for Trotsky"
  • Lenin’s greatness lies in his aiming at goals arising out of realities. In this reality he sees a powerful steed which will carry him to his goal, and he trusts himself to it. But he never abandons himself to his dreams. This is not all. His genius contains another trait: After he has set himself a certain goal, he seeks for the means leading to this goal through reality; he is not content with having fixed his aim, he thinks out concretely and completely everything necessary for the attainment of that aim. He does not merely work out a plan of campaign, but the whole organisation of the campaign at the same time.
    • "Lenin"
  • Naturally our party must defend the working classes against the Fascisti. Naturally we must defend them by force of arms, for if the Fascisti gain power they will rivet the chains of Capitalism upon us. They will try to recover their own prosperity at the cost of the manual workers. But it does not follow that we must fight Fascism with arms alone; we must employ political measures likewise. The proletariat must take the initiative in reconstructing the world on a new foundation. This will convince the petty bourgeoisie that a new era is dawning which may save them from their misery. Therefore if we are to conquer Fascism we must win over the petty bourgeoisie. We must convince them that the capitalists and landlords and reactionary army-men are merely using them as tools. Fascism is middle-class Socialism, and we cannot persuade the middle classes to abandon it until we can prove to them that it only makes their condition worse.
    • "Lenin"
  • History has prepared our party for various tasks. However defective our state machinery or our economic activity may be, still the whole past of the party has psychologically prepared it for the work of creating a new order of economy and a new state apparatus. History has even prepared us for diplomacy. It is scarcely necessary to mention that world politics have always occupied the minds of Marxists. But it was the endless negotiations with the Mensheviki that perfected our diplomatic technique; and it was during these old struggles that Comrade Chicherin learned to draw up diplomatic notes. We are just beginning to learn the miracle of economics. Our state machinery creaks and groans. In one thing, however, we have been eminently successful – in our Red Army. Its creator, its central will, is Comrade L.D. Trotsky.
    • Leon Trotsky, Organizer of Victory (1923)

Quotes about Karl Radek

  • The articulation of universalism with the sense of Jewish identity took varying forms depending on the different revolutionary currents: for internationalists such as Leon Trotsky, Aleksandr Zinoviev, Karl Radek and Rosa Luxemburg, the assimilation of a Jewish revolutionary into the concrete universal party, the dissolution of the 'little difference' into the status of equality of the militant, anticipated the society for which they fought; they did not consider the little difference' as called on to crystallize one day in terms of national identity. Were they blind? Blinkered, certainly, in the sense that they underestimated the national dimension of the Jewish problem in Eastern Europe.
    • Alain Brossat and Sylvia Klingberg, Revolutionary Yiddishland: A History of Jewish Radicalism (2016)
  • "we are comrades, aren't we, even if you are not a member of my party?" "But how do you know who I am?" "News travels quickly in Russia," he replied. "You're an anarchist, you are Emma Goldman, and you were driven out of plutocratic America. That's three good reasons to entitle you to my comradeship and assistance"...He was most cordial, assuring me that I could call on him in any emergency.
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