Max Bedacht 1922
Fourth Congress of the Communist International

Speech in Discussion of Executive Committee Report

November 12, 1922

Source: Published in Toward the United Front: Proceedings of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International, 1922 (, pp. 253-256
Translation: Translation by John Riddell
HTML Markup: David Walters for the Marxists Internet Archive, 2018
Copyright: John Riddell, 2017. Republished here with permission.

Comrades, brothers and sisters: As representative of the tendency in the American party that, according to Comrade Carr, has not acted in harmony with the course of the Communist International Executive, I would like to say here that this tendency is on all questions completely in agreement with the general direction charted by the Executive during the year covered by this report.

I must take up Comrade Carr's remarks somewhat. Let me say first that Comrade Carr has fallen into the error previously criticised by Comrade Bukharin, by limiting himself only to the internal issues facing the Communist Party of the United States. And then he expected that congress delegates would accept his words as true, without having any knowledge of the specific conditions in the United States. He says that given the small size of the party in the United States, it is appropriate to be modest, and he certainly was modest, if only intellectually. However, surely the small size of the United States party should not mislead us regarding the fact that the problems of this country are among the greatest of world revolution. In a country where the bourgeoisie stands at the height of its power, where the workers' movement lags the furthest behind, the tasks awaiting a revolutionary party are surely among the most daunting. Comrade Carr says that life inside the U.S. party has proceeded entirely in line with the theses adopted by the Executive in Moscow and then brought to the United States, where they were the object of quarrels. A while later, other theses were adopted ordering us to stop quarrels, and so we did, just like that. A very simple process. But in fact things did not proceed in this straightforward manner. After all, Moscow is not some Prussian sergeant-major and we are not some hayseed recruits, obediently awaiting our orders - all the more since the party has no cause to wait for orders from Moscow.

What were the differences that developed in the American party in the recent period? The International decided on implementing the united front tactic. The American party then had to assess the situation and apply the tactic in united fashion. But the then majority of the Central Committee objected to this assessment. The Central Committee declared that in the United States the application of the united front tactic on a political level did not involve the joining together of different more or less revolutionary groups and parties, because no such groups and parties exist. In the United States, the united front tactic is to be applied, they said, by first awakening the political consciousness of the working masses and, after that, leading them into struggle.

In resolving this problem, the capitalists are providing us with assistance. They are bringing into action all the instruments of power at their disposal for action against the working class, all down the line. When workers go out on strike against the employers, on the next day they see the police, the national guard, the organs of state power, the federal army all arrayed against them. You have probably seen how, when the railway shop workers went out on strike, a judge in Chicago put an end to the matter by simply banning the strike.[1] The way that capitalism in the United States brings all its instruments of power into the battlefield awakens among the workers an awareness that they have their own interests.

Previously, this consciousness did not exist among the masses. Politically, the working class had fully merged into the bourgeois parties, Republicans and Democrats. But now the working masses are awakening. Resolutions are being adopted by large worker organisations, such as the railway brotherhoods, which encompass about half a million workers; the miners, who also have about half a million members in their union; and the machinists, with more than two hundred thousand members. The workers demand in these resolutions and at their congresses that an organisation be created in the United States through which they can enter political struggle independently, as a class. These resolutions show us two things: first, their origin reflects the awakening political class consciousness of the workers; second, the diversity of ways in which they are made public reflect the attempt of the leadership to lead this awakening spirit into some kind of morass.

What should we as Communists do in this situation? Three options seem to be open to us. First, to oppose these tendencies, which are ultimately headed toward forming a Labour Party, and thus oppose the motion toward independent political activity of the working class. Second, we can stand aside passively from this tendency. Or, third, we can take the leadership of this movement. The majority of the Central Committee at that time decided for the third option, that is, to attempt to take control of this movement - not just to intervene, but to try to take the leadership, the initiative, to enable these awakened masses to move forward. This was the basic conflict in the American party that grew out of the united front question.

In Comrade Carr's opinion, this signified not making propaganda for our party but betraying the task of building our own party.

Building the party, after all, is a process.[2] Through the activity of the mass workers' party, our party will be able to draw in all forces attracted to its programme. Simultaneously, it will create a mass political movement of American workers who are not yet revolutionary and are not ready for our party, and thus take us an enormous step toward the proletarian revolution. Through this work, we will achieve a commanding position, even in the period of this party's formation. We will become an integral part of this movement, not just at the moment when the workers make the attempt to come over to us, but as part of the forces that have created this mass party. We will genuinely be a force driving it forward. And in this way we could perform a great service for the American movement. This conception and assessment does not violate any theses, resolutions, or decisions of the International. But if we are making a mistake here, it is up to the Fourth Congress to tell us that this is an error.

Finally, a word regarding support to the candidature of Meyer London.[3] Comrade Carr thought it appropriate to portray things as if there were a tendency in the party that had withdrawn the Communist Party's candidate out of friendship for Meyer London, in order to get him elected. What was the real situation? Meyer was the only candidate of the Socialist Party, nominated by them. We have just begun to build strength among the Jewish working masses. We are not yet strong enough to dispute the commanding position of the Socialist Party, which has its strongest base in this area. There are masses of workers who still believe that the Socialist Party candidate is their candidate and who do not yet know, as we do, that it does not matter for the workers whether they vote for Meyer London or a Democratic Party candidate. If we had maintained our own candidate right to the elections, we would have set these masses against us, giving the Socialist Party a weapon with which to blame us for having helped deny victory to a workers' candidate and thus giving victory to the bourgeois candidate. We would be wrong to hand the Socialist Party such an argument. What did we actually do? We nominated a candidate, carried out an election campaign against the Socialist Party, and at the last moment, just before the vote, we withdrew our candidate. We told the workers of this district that we were withdrawing our candidate not because we view Meyer London as a good representative of the workers, but because we have not yet persuaded the workers of this and want to give him the opportunity to demonstrate and prove this fact before the very eyes of our voters. I believe that this is the only policy proposed in the American party and is also the only policy that could conceivably have been carried out. Comrade Carr and his friends were against this policy, but in all modesty they have abstained so far from proposing any alternative. I believe that modesty is right now not appropriate. There is a problem to be solved here. Either we solve this problem, or we must abdicate as Marxists and Communists.


1. About four hundred thousand railway workers struck on 1 July 1922 to block wage reductions. The U.S. government mobilised troops and police to crush the strike, and ultimately obtained an injunction, on 1 September, that banned the strike and all activities promoting it.

2. The German text reads 'not a process', an apparent misprint.

3. London was Socialist Party congressman for the Lower East Side district in New York.