V. I. Lenin

Letter To

The German and the French Workers

Regarding The Discussion On The Second Congress Of The Communist International[1]

Delivered: 25 September, 1920
First Published: Pravda No. 213, September 25, 1920; Published according to the Pravda text
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965, Volume 31, pages 280-282
Translated: Julius Katzer
Transcription\HTML Markup: David Walters & R. Cymbala
Copyleft: V. I. Lenin Internet Archive (www.marx.org) 2002. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

Comrades, the bourgeois press of Germany and France is devoting much attention to the discussion within the German Independent Social-Democratic Party and the Socialist Party of France on affiliation to the Communist International. It is vigorously supporting the views of the Right-wing opportunist sections in the two parties.

That can be readily understood, for these Right-wing elements are in essence petty-bourgeois democrats, who, like Dittmann and Crispien, cannot think in terms of revolution, and are incapable of helping the working class prepare for and carry out the revolution. A break with these Right-wing and opportunist elements is necessary; it is the only way to rally all the genuinely revolutionary and genuinely proletarian masses.

All the clamour about Moscow’s “dictates”, etc., is simply a red herring. As a matter of fact, only five of the twenty members of the Communist International’s Executive Committee belong to the Russian Communist Party. All this talk about “dictates”, etc., is either self-deception or deception of the workers. It serves to cover up the bankruptcy of certain opportunist leaders, just as similar talk in the K.A.P.D. (Communist Workers’ Party of Germany) has served to cover up the bankruptcy of several of its leaders, who have abandoned the path of proletarian revolutionism. The outcry that the “Moscow dictators”, making use of the terms of admission to the Communist international, are persecuting certain individuals is likewise self-deception or deception of others. Article 20 of the terms of admission says clearly in black and white that “exceptions” (Ausnahmen) to the strict rules in regard of Right-wing leaders and members of central bodies can be made with the consent of the Executive Committee of the Third International.

Since exceptions are expressly declared to be permissible, there can be no talk of an absolute bar against specific individuals. Consequently, there is full recognition of the need to take into account, not the past but the present, the change in the views and conduct of individuals, of individual leaders. Since exceptions are declared to be permissible with the consent of the Executive Committee of the Third International—in which Russians constitute only one-fourth of the membership—it follows that the clamour about “dictates”, etc., is stuff and nonsense, sheer falsehood.

All this clamour is simply a red herring. In fact, a struggle is going on between the revolutionary proletarian elements and the opportunist petty-bourgeois elements. Today as in the past, the latter include the Hilferdings, the Dittmauns, the Crispiens, numerous members of the parliamentary groups in Germany and France, etc. A struggle between these two political trends is in progress in every country without exception. This struggle has a long history. It grew extremely acute everywhere during the imperialist war, and has become aggravated since then. Opportunism is represented by elements of the “labour aristocracy”, the old bureaucracy in the trade unions, co-operative societies, etc., by the intellectualist petty-bourgeois strata, etc. Without the elimination of this trend—which, by its vacillation and its “Menshevism” (the Dittmanns and Crispiens fully resemble our Mensheviks) in fact exerts the bourgeoisie’s influence on the proletariat from within the working-class movement, from within the socialist parties—without the elimination of this trend, a break with it, and the expulsion of all its prominent representatives, it will be impossible to rally the revolutionary proletariat.

By their constant veering towards reformism and Menshevism, and their inability to think and act in terms of revolution, the Dittmanns, the Crispiens, etc., without realising the fact, are actually carrying bourgeois influence into the proletariat from within the proletarian party—they subordinate the proletariat to bourgeois reformism. Only a break with such and similar people can lead to international unity of the revolutionary proletariat, against the bourgeoisie, and for the overthrow of the bourgeoisie.

The events in Italy should open eyes most stubbornly closed to the harmfulness of “unity” and “peace” with the Crispiens and the Dittmanns. The Italian Crispiens and Dittmanns (Turati, Prampolini and D’Aragona) began at once to hinder the revolution in Italy as soon as things reached the stage of a real revolution. Throughout Europe and the world things are moving in that direction more or less rapidly, and more or less arduously and painfully.

It is high time to discard, once and for all, these most harmful illusions about the possibility of “unity” or “peace” with the Dittmanns and the Crispiens, with the Right wing of the German Independent Social-Democratic Party, the British Independent Labour Party, the French Socialist Party, etc. It is high time for all revolutionary workers to purge their parties of these trends, and form genuinely united Communist parties of the proletariat.

N. Lenin

September 24, 1920


[1] The letter was published in Die Rote Fahne, organ of the Communist Party of Germany, l’Humanite, organ of the Socialist Party of France and The Communist, organ of the Communist Party of Great Britain, in the period from September to November 1920, p. 280