January 13, 2018

DIMITROV ON THE USE OF LANGUAGE

Georgi Dimitrov

İt must be borne in mind that the masses cannot assimilate our decisions unless we learn to speak a language which they understand. We do not always know how to speak simply concretely, in images which are familiar and intelligible to the masses. We are still unable to refrain from abstract formulas which we have learnt by rote. As a matter of fact if you look through our leaflets, newspapers, resolutions and theses, you will find that they are often written in a language and style so heavy that they are difficult for even our Party functionaries to understand, let alone the rank-and-file workers.

If we consider, Comrades, that the workers, especially in fascist countries, who distribute or only read these leaflets risk their very lives by doing so, we shall realize still more clearly, the need of writing for the masses in a language which they understand, so that the sacrifices made shall not have been in vain.

The same applies in no less degree to our oral agitation and propaganda. We must admit quite frankly that in this respect the fascists have often proved more dexterous and flexible than many of our comrades

I recall, for example, a meeting of unemployed in Berlin before Hitler's accession to power. It was at the time of the trial of those notorious swindlers and profiteers, the Sklarek brothers, which dragged on for several months. A National Socialist speaker in addressing the meeting made demagogic use of that trial to further his own ends. He referred to the swindlers, the bribery and other crimes committed by the Sklarek brothers, emphasized that the trial had been dragging on for months and figured out how many hundreds of thousands of marks it had already cost the German people. To the accompaniment of loud applause the speaker declared that such bandits as the Sklarek brothers should have been shot without any ado and the money wasted on the trial should have gone to the unemployed.

A Communist rose and asked for the floor. The chairman at first refused but under the pressure of the audience, which wanted to bear a Communist, he had to let him speak. When the Communist got up on the platform, everybody awaited with tense expectation what the Communist speaker would have to say. Well, what did he say?

'Comrades,' he began in a loud and ringing voice, 'the Plenum of the Communist International has just closed. It showed the way to the salvation of the working class. The chief task it puts before You. Comrades, is to win the majority of the working class. ... The Plenum pointed out that the unemployed movement must be politicized. The Plenum calls on us to raise it to a higher level.... The Plenum appeals for this movement to be raised to a higher level.'

He went on in the same strain, evidently under the impression that he was 'explaining' authentic decisions of the Plenum.

Could such a speech appeal to the unemployed? Could they find any satisfaction in the fact that first we intended to politicize, then revolutionize, and finally mobilize them in order to raise their movement to a higher level?

Sitting in a corner of the hall, I observed with chagrin how the unemployed. who had been so eager to hear a Communist in order to find out from him what to do concretely, began to yawn and display unmistakable signs of disappointment. And I was not at all surprised when towards the end the chairman rudely cut our speaker short without any, protest from the meeting.

This, unfortunately, is not the only case of its kind in our agitational work. Nor were such cases confined to Germany. To agitate in such fashion means to agitate against one's own cause. It is high time to put an end once and for all to these, to say, the least, childish methods of agitation.

During my report, the chairman, Comrade Kuusinen, received a characteristic letter from the floor of the Congress addressed to me. Let me read it:

In your speech at the Congress, please take up the following question, namely, that all resolutions and decisions adopted in the future by the Communist International be written so that not only trained Communists can get the meaning, but that any working man reading the material of the Comintern might without any preliminary training be able to see at once what the Communists want, and of what service communism is to mankind. Some Party leaders forget this. They Must be reminded of it, and very strongly, too. Also that agitation for communism be conducted in understandable language.

I do not know exactly who is the author of this letter, but I have no doubt that this comrade voiced in his letter the opinion and desire of millions of workers. Many of our comrades think that the more highsounding words and the more formulas, often unintelligible to the masses, they use the better their agitation and propaganda, forgetting that the greatest leader and theoretician of the working class of our epoch, Lenin, has always spoken and written in highly popular language, readily understood by the masses.

Every one of us must make this a law , a Bolshevik law, an elementary rule:

When writing or speaking, always have in mind the rank-and-file worker who must understand you, must believe in your appeal and be ready to follow you. You must have in mind those for whom you write, to whom you speak.

Georgi Dimitrov
Unity of the Working Class against Fascism