Antoinette F. Konikow, M.D.

Antoinette Konikow Views 50 Years of Her Activity

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. 2 No. 48, 5 November 1938, p. 2.
Transcribed by & marked up by David Walters for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Following is the text of the speech delivered by Comrade Antoinette Konikow at the Center Hotel mass meeting last Friday in reply to the tribute paid her there on the occasion of her fiftieth anniversary in the revolutionary movement:

The comrades have received me with warmth and friendship. It gives me tremendous happiness. The kind words written by Comrade Trotsky on his picture presented to me remind me of the greatest honor—the honor that was—given to comrades in Russia, the Order of Lenin pinned upon their breasts.

I feel as if Comrade Trotsky has pinned the Order of Trotsky on my breast! Not that I am a hero-worshipper —for I have helped to pull down too many heroes from their pedestals. But in the last ten years of darkness of despair, the words of Leon Trotsky have been like a bell for a ship in distress, leading it to safe harbor.


In 1888, fifty years ago, I joined the Social Democratic Party of Russia. Life was as dark and hopeless as it may seem to many today. I was delighted to hear the words of Plekhanov at the first congress of the Second International: “Only the working class will lead the Russian revolution!" But the working class of Russia was spiritually even further away from us than the workers of the United States today. If anyone had told us at that time that 15 years later a strike of one and a half million workers would almost overthrow Czarism, and that 15 years after that the Russian soldier would turn his gun not only against Czarism but against the Russian bourgeoisie, we would not have believed it. We would have laughed. But it happened—and it will happen again. Only this time it will not take 30 years.


I have had to sponsor so many new organizations that I have often jokingly told my comrades that I feel like a mother always rocking a new cradle—and that is all wrong for me, for I am known as an advocate of birth control.

But I did rock the cradle of the Russian Social Democracy and out of it came a great giant, the Russian Bolshevik Party. After- being expelled in the United States from the Socialist Labor Party, I soon began to lock the cradle of the Debs party, later the Socialist Party. It seemed to contain a healthy baby, but the war and the Rusian revolution proved that there was a weak spot in its spine.

I then helped to rock another cradle, the cradle of the young, vigorous Communist Party. The glory of those days of the great Russian Revolution shall never be forgotten—the tremendous enthusiasm for Lenin and Trotsky—the ten days that shook the world! But again things went wrong. “Socialism in one country” became the slogan. This meant not only socialism in no other country, but no socialism in any country.

I began to rock another cradle and today the baby is ten years old. Who can deny that it is a sturdy, strong young fellow? The Socialist Workers Party is the only bright ray that today penetrates the horror of present-day nightmares.

I saw the beginning of the Second International and its fall. I saw the beginning of the Third International and its fall. Now together we launch the Fourth International which will accomplish the tasks beti-ayed by the Second and the Third.


We live now in the atmosphere of impending war. My war memories remind me of many encounters. I was sent on tour by the German-language federation of the S.P. to speak in German at anti-war meetings. That was no easy task at the height of the war frenzy. Many times comrades would appz-oach me, pale and trembling, begging that I speak on another subject. They pointed to German detectives and the sheriff sitting in the crowd. Often I felt like weakening—but there was one magic word that gave me strength to do my duty. I tell it to you comrades—it may again help you. The magic word was Liebknecht,.

Before I conclude, let me say a few words to the youth. No sermons or admonitions, for you do not need them! I am proud of you. I went to tell you that I envy you, your youth and vigor. I would like to be 50 years younger to work with you, for your task in the coming years will be the most important in human history. You have great monsters to fight, Fascism, Stalinism. It was easier to work under the Russian Czar than under Stalin, easier under the German Kaiser than under Hitler.


But you have better weapons than we had. more knowledge, the experience of 50 years of the leadership of the greatest living genius of the revolution, Leon Trotsky.

We place in your hands a banner unsoiled. Many times it was dz-agged into the mud. We lifted it up and lovingly cleansed it to give it to you. Under the red banner of Marx, Lenin, and Trotsky, you will conquer.

And when that great moment arrives, pause for a moment and think of us, who will not be with you at that glorious time, and say: “Comrades, sleep in peace. The work has been done.”

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Last updated: 21 January 2017