N. Bukharin

Discussion on the Report of the Executive

(December 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 107, 5 December 1922, pp. 869–871.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

I would like to analyze the general tactics of the Executive and its bearing upon the various groups and tendencies.

We have to say, whether the Executive of the Communist International has acted properly or not. This may be divided into two main questions: 1. Whether the International has rightly judged the various tendencies within the Communists International, whether the internal political tactics were properly carried out. 2. Whether it has rightly or wrongly defined the general line of tactics. These are the two main questions to which we should receive the answer. Within the International I can distinguish various tactical currents and tendencies. I would like first of all to enumerate them: firstly, the Centrist tendencies, secondly, the semi-reformist tendencies parading under the mask and phraseology of the Left Wing; thirdly, various transitory forms partly reformist, or perhaps embodying the two currents at one and the same time; and fourthly, the Left Wing proper. By the Left I understand such groupings that commit the so-called “Left” errors. After these we have the proper kernel of the International, which as we hope, is pursuing the right policy.

The Centrist tendencies have been expressed in their crudest form in the general activity of the International and at the Congress through the delegations from two parties, firstly by a section of the French Party and secondly by a section of the minority of the Norwegian Party, the representatives of which have spoken here. The French Centrist tendencies are a survival of the former social democratic ideology, and they also pass under the mask of pretending to accept everything that is proposed to them. They are offered the 21 conditions, and they will accept them. Some good resolutions on Party activity may be suggested to them, and they will accept these unanimously without even discussion, and with acclamation. They are ready to assent to anything that the so-called “ Moscow Dictatorship ” may desire. Later of course, they will abuse the “ Moscow Dictatorship ” with characteristic communist vigour, but they subscribe to everything that is asked of them. Outwardly this looks perfectly loyal, but the great danger consists in the fact that all this exists only on paper. As a rule after the acceptance of such pood resolutions, nothing is done. Those tactical deviations which are real and which really take place have never yet been formulated. The attempt has never been made to elucidate the standpoint underlying these deviations.

One of our French Comrades was quite right – this was perhaps one of the few points in his speech, where he was right – when be said: “We of the Left have always our discussions, but the Centrists always make reservations and it is therefore difficult to know what these people are really driving at”. Yes, this is the most dangerous thing, and when speaking of the French Centrists, we have to define their tactics in the struggle for the conquest of power, within the limits of their own party of course. With regard to that half of the Party which is turned towards the masses, we must say that there is nothing here of real support to the labor movement in France. Of the struggles of the Trade Unions, which is the real substance of working class social life in France, one finds no trace in the Party. This the Party entirely ignores. This can be seen in the work of all the French Party and in its central organs. The central organ is still far from being a Communist organ; we must say this frankly to our French comrades. L’Humanité is still a long way oft from being a Communist paper, although if has very great possibilities for influencing the workers in a Communist sense. If the French comrades would fake a deeper interest in the working class, they could exercise a much greater influence among the French workers than they have done hitherto. Within this tendency we also have a strong pacifist current of pronounced humanitarian hue, which has the only virtue of prolonging the existence of French bourgeois traditions.

There is yet another point. This tendency contains also a certain anti-communist leaning which is directed against the international discipline of the Communist International, and this danger from the Right we must combat.

With regard to the Norwegian Party, we have heard even a comrade of the Right Wing speaking here. What did he tell us? He told us that the name of the Norwegian paper Social-Democrat was nothing else than a jumble of letters. But why do we call ourselves Communists? Possibly our Norwegian comrade thinks that it is due to our liking for particular letters. Nevertheless, we take it that the name is a symbol which defines our methods at the very start. We have tolerated the social democratic newspapers for two years, and do you think that this has no influence on the contents of the papers? We can and will prove that by their contents also these papers are partly semi-social-democratic, and in these papers one at times comes across articles which are written in a spirit of hostility towards the Communist International. This is the absolute truth and when our comrades here tell us that this is only a minor matter, that things will be put right in January, – after two and a half years – I say that this has been promised many times, but never done. Then again, what about International discipline? The comrade is entirely oblivious of that We have repeatedly and unequivocally stated the decision of the International and of the Executive that our Congresses will not tolerate such a situation, and yet they come along here and tell us that this is a matter of little importance. Some of the Centrist and semi-Centrist elements form a special category whose peculiarity is that they always appear under a Left mask. We have heard two criticisms of our program, notably on the agrarian question and on the question we were criticized very sharply from the Left by our friend Serrati. He said it was a strange sort of Marxism to divide part of the land among the peasants, i.e. the petty bourgeoisie, and he thinks that as truly revolutionary and orthodox Marxians we should fight against the petty bourgeois canaille. This sounds very well. But experience has shown that it is only a cloak. And I hope that Comrade Serrati himself will not deny it. Something is wrong at the root.

The same thing as to the question of nationalities. In the question of nationalities we also had an opponent in the person of Herr Levi. He said that we were making terrible concessions in raising the question of nationalities. He wanted to know what hat become of our orthodoxy. Later on we saw the wonderful development of our quondam Comrade Levi. Here we had an ocular demonstration of what was heretofore hidden in the shell. Yes, it was only a mask that was assumed by the opportunist tendency to conceal its opportunist character. Our Mensheviks and Social-Revolutionaries are shouting from the housetops that they represent the real interests of the workers. This is a strategical trick which we have to expose.

Let us take our French comrades. Their main tactical course is one of pure passivity. They do not support strikes, and so forth. But they also wear a cloak: “the dangers of the United Front”. They say: what can we do with such miserable fellows who are really not Socialists at all? We had an illustration of this in the speech of our extremely Left Comrade Duret. Some time ago Comrade Duret spoke against the expulsion of Verfueil and Co. He was and continues to be in favor of trade union autonomy, and at the same time he comes here to accuse us of opportunism. A few days ago he was against the expulsion of Verfeuil. Verfeuil is an out-and-out bourgeois wretch. And now Comrade Duret tells us: What an opportunist International we have, that it demands from us the United Front, the welcoming of Serrati, etc. What does it mean? It means, Comrade Duret that also in your person the International has a survivor of reformism, and that your phrases are meant to deceive. Nevertheless, we are extremely glad that you are on the road to convalescence, but in politics the symptoms of convalescence are not everything, and the situation has to be watched to see how you will get on in future. We must have practical proof of your recovery before we can fully trust you. We know how some people are apt to be swayed, and when a comrade talks here so sharply, almost with derision at the International, then we have to repeat what Comrade Radek once said to such a comrade: You should be a little more modest, and you should first of all give us proof of your own really revolutionary activity.

Let us examine the substance of Comrade Duret’s arguments in so far as I have been able to crystalize his more important points. His first point was that our Party was unable to manoeuvre. This was the first argument against the United Front, aud it has already been brought up by our friend Bordiga. But I say that it is wrong to believe that a party must first be built up to the last man before manoeuvring, before they are perfected, because it is in the process of manoeuvring that real parties are built. If we were to wait until we get perfect parties, we would be falling into the tactics of passivity which has been consistently criticized by the French Party. The Left point a finger of scorn at the Centrist comrades and accuse them of being passive people who will not do a stroke of work, yet they themselves repeat the same mistakes when they wish to wait until they get a perfect party. No, the Party is produced in the course of the struggle, and the same thing will have to happen in France.

Comrade Duret raised another argument that socialist opportunists are unwilling to march together with us. This is indeed a smashing argument. Just fancy, you must at once give up your communist virtues for the reason that the socialist opportunists refuse to march with you. What a strange argument! If you cannot come to an agreement, it is your ditty to expose them, to write against them, to agitate against them, and so forth. This is the only sensible way of making use of the sins of the social patriots. But here again you are handicapped by their confounded passivity. You are too lazy, that is what I would like to say to you.

The third, and extremely comical argument was, that for Germany of course the tactics of the United Front was an excellent thing. This is what the Reformists usually say. Even during the war it used to be said in Germany: Why, of course, we support the revolution in Russia, but in Germany it is quite a different matter. You are arguing in a similar way. In Germany, you say, the masses are organized, in our country they are not. Therefore, in Germany the masses can be won by the tactics of the United Front, and in France they cannot. But, in the name of common sense, where is the proof or shade of proof of such an argument. In France, just as in Germany the movement cannot depend upon the organized workers alone. The unorganized too should turn to you tor guidance. I be growth of the numbers of your organized comrades would ring you a corresponding increased following among the unorganized. Your argument is really an extraordinary one. Not being a parliamentarian, I would simply call it piffle.

Now, comrades, let me turn to another category who are so to speak half way between the Left and the Reformists, and whose typical representative is comrade Weithauer. He declares himself an adherent of the left, it is the Left Wing Opposition io Czechoslovakia; comrade Weithauer appears to me to be one who appears to be at his wits end endeavouring to invent an ideology for the Left Wing Opposition. I maintain that all criticism should not come from the Right but from the Left. What comrade Weithauer proposes has really nothing to do with Communism, but has much in common with petty bourgeois Proudhonism from beginning to end. The Labor Movement in Germany knows of a certain Dr. Bernstein who, for the purpose of fighting against capitalism, advocated a strike against child-bearing, Because it would mean that no new children would be born, and without children militarism cannot exist. Weithauer comes along with a proposal to deal capitalism a mortal blow: by advocating a boycott of goods of capitalists who are callous towards the working class. Here we have a bright idea. I cannot conceive of any other weapon that comrade Weithauer might wage against capitalism that would hit the working class harder than the one he now proposes. This is the language of philanthropy, which would fit comrade Weithauer much better it he were a member of the gentle sex and at the same time of aristocratic descent. But, comrades, it is really a serious matter. This is not Marxism; it is theoretically wrong from A to Z. This fallacy that the worker is more exploited by merchant capital than by industrial capital betrays such profound ignorance that I would advise comrade Weithauer to join an elementary, Marxian preparatory school. This theory is not only ridiculous, but it is also absolutely opportunist.

Comrades, I would like to enlarge upon the fallacy of comrade Weithauer. I hear that he is a philosopher. But his philosophy is not the embodiment of Pure Reason, but rather the dialectical negation of pure reason. The question is: did the Executive treat this question properly? The Executive saw at once that here we had to deal with some honest working class elements. In the French question, the Executive took a firm stand and demanded the expulsion of the Right Wing Opportunists, yet with regard to the Centre, the Executive proposed the policy of patience, – up to certain limits, of course. Was it right or wrong? It was right of course. In the case of Czechoslovakia we knew that here were some honest workers behind the fallacies of comrade Weithauer. What did we do? We practiced patience, urging the Czecho-Slovakian Party to retain in the Party those workers who were influenced by these fallacies. It is for you here to decide whether the Executive was right.

I would like now to say a few words on the so-called mistakes of Leftism, and in the first place with regard to the speech by Comrade Ruth Fischer. Her principal mistake was in exaggerating dangers. In some cases the criticism was proper, and Comrade Radek who can by no means be described as a Leftist, has declared this criticism to be justified. But the mistake begins when Comrade Ruth Fischer says: “Here we have Reformism and Revisionism in full bloom”. This is an exaggeration, an entirely undialectical treatment of quite complete situations and action. This is her mistake, which should be frankly pointed out.

Another mistake I noticed in the speech was, when she said the following phrase which I put down in writing: “The idea of strong Organization is a survival of the social democratic spirit". No, it is not in any way a survival of the social democratic spirit. We should not frame our policies on the assumption that the strength of organization means nothing to us, while the whole bourgeoisie devises even new forms of organization. Fascism is not merely a form of organization that the bourgeoisie had possessed previously, it is a newly invented form, adapted to the new movement calculated to drag in the masses. In other words, the bourgeoisie sees the necessity of having a mass party, which unfortunately even Comrade Bordiga tails to understand. It is a question of the form of organization, and of course, we cannot take upon ourselves to dictate the form of organization which should be adopted. On the contrary, it is the masses that have to decide, but we have the nucleus of the form of organization, and this is a problem not only for a social democratic party, but for every militant party.

Now we come to the third point. Comrade Fischer said that the Putschist tactics have been the subject of much strife within the German Party, and has brought about a certain state of depression in the Party. That may be so. But it is a known fact that in the battle of life not every point can be defined and described beforehand. It would have been much worse for the Party if there had been no vigorous campaign against Putschism.

I have yet a few other remarks to make. Look at the equation in Italy to-day. Everything cries aloud for the unity of the proletarian forces. The most important problem in Italy is the problem of organizational unity with the Socialist Party. Yet comrade Bordiga nas not a word to say about this important problem. His entire speech was an essay of the most abstract Bergsonesque philosophy of action, which is no action at all. But not a single word on concrete problems. This is another outpouring of his meagre spirit, which in reality is not a sound instrument of the proletarian struggle. It is the survival of purely dogmatic sectarianism. The Italian Party, having done some very good work, has also committed mistakes in the agrarian question, in the question of the “Arditi Del Popolo”, etc. All the mistakes of the Italian Party are the logical outcome of the fallacious ideas that have found expression tn the speech of comrade Bordiga.

Comrades, in dealing with these questions, and in correcting the errors of Leftism, the Executive did not act upon the standpoint of either “right”, or “left”, but on the standpoint of the proper proletarian tactics. The proper proletarian tactics need not be either Right or Left; all it has to do is to adapt itself to the concrete conditions of the proletariat of the respective countries. I therefore invite you to consider the tactics of the Executive as your very own, to test it and to continue to support it until we shall become the real power with the entire proletariat on our side.

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