From The Militant, Vol. IV No. 18, 8 August 1931, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
It has been said that without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement. In Spain, this truth has never been so much in evidence as at the present moment Our labor movement is terribly disoriented at a time when a clear and distinct orientation is now more necessary than ever before. The ideological chaos into which the National Confederation of Labor has sunk constitutes a mortal danger for the revolution. Anarcho-syndicalism can only lead the Spanish proletariat to defeat. The last congress of this central dispelled the slender hopes for correction that might have remained; the leaders of the N.C. of L. have learned nothing from the rich experiences of recent years and they continue to debate in a frightful confusion.
Theoretical poverty has always characterized the Spanish Socialist Party. But if its leaders gave no revolutionary theory to the working class of our country, it was not only out of incompetence but with the aim of subjecting its hosts to the liberal bourgeois ideology. Today, socialism is no longer at the Right wing of the labor movement, but perhaps not even at the Left wing of the bourgeoisie.
In the Communist movement painful as it is to say so, the situation is not much more alluring in this respect. In the official Communist party, the system of bureaucratic leadership chokes off in its infancy all possibility of theoretical life. Nobody dares, out of fear of expulsion, to hazard the slightest idea or his own initiative. On the other hand, the autonomous organizations, such as the Catalonian-Balearic Communist Federation or the Agrupacion de Madrid, floating ideologically in the air, maintain an indefinite policy full of vacillation and wavering.
Should the present ideological disorientation persist, the immense possibilities that the situation contains objectively for the proletariat, will be wasted. There is lacking in Spain a powerful Communist party capable of directing the spontaneous movement of the masses towards the conquest of power. But the indispensable premise for the formation of such a party and the guarantee of its effectiveness as an instrument of the liberation of the working class, is the elaboration of a revolutionary strategy and tactic. For this reason, the struggle on the theoretical front must occupy at present a prominent place, and the deviations and the mistake! must be combated with the maximum of energy.
In this sense, the lecture given on June 8 at the Ateneo of Madrid by comrade Joaquin Maurin cannot be allowed to pass in silence, inasmuch as the spirit that animated it constituted an attempt at revisioin of the basic principles of revolutionary Marxism, an attempt which, should it succeed, would represent an immense danger for the Spanish revolution.
The author of these lines, at the meeting which followed the next day at this hall, combated the errors of Maurin. But they are of such importance that we deem it indispensable to bring them forward once more before the Spanish Communists.
Maurin began by declaring that the Communists of the Catalonian-Balearic Federation, in whose name he spoke were regarded as Stalinists by the “Trotskyists” and as “Trotskyists” by the Stalinists. The thing is logical. The fate which is reserved for those who, as in the case of Maurin and of the organization he represents, have no definite political position, is to receive the blows from both sides and to be compelled, in the final analysis, to pronounce themselves concretely, incorporating themselves into one of the tendencies or else to be eliminated conclusively from the political arena.
The tragic conflict that now divides the international Communist movement has its roots in profound differences on the fundamental problems of the revolution. These differences can and should be overcome by the sole effective manner known up to now: the application of democratic centralism, converted into a dead letter by bureaucratic centralism of the International. But the fact is that the differences not only exist but have become deeper, and to remain indifferent or to maintain an attitude of neutrality towards them, is impossible for any Communist. To persist in claiming the contrary, leads to what Maurin has been led to, to adopt a political orientation which has alienated from the Stalinists and from the Left Opposition in exchange for an approach to the Left wing of the petty bourgeoisie.
Since politics does not tolerate a vacuum, Maurin had to say why he was not with the Left Communist Opposition and why he dissented from the policy of the International.
Against the political orientation of the Opposition, Maurin was unable to oppose his own, or else he had none, or still better because he did not presume to declare that its evaluation of the Spanish political situation and the tactics it recommends were correct. Therefore, he went off on a tangent, resorting to one of the arguments favored by the sub-Stalinists of every country: to assert that the Communist Left Opposition is an enemy of the Five Year Plan. Precisely in recent times, Reuter and other bourgeoisie press agencies, singing in chorus with the Stalinists, have attributed interviews and falsified articles to Trotsky, according to which our comrade called the Plan a “fraud” and proclaimed its complete downfall. Maurin who, up to now, had maintained a neutral attitude on the internal problems of the Russian revolution believed it his duty to join his voice to the Stalino-bourgeois chorus. We do not congratulate him on it. Because Maurin who, for various reasons, is much better informed on what is going on in Russia that many other militants, Maurin who cannot limit himself to the simple worship of a neophyte before the Russian revolution, but has the duty to study its problems and to know the genuine history and not that manufactured by the Stalinist bureaucracy – knows perfectly well that the accusation he formulated does not correspond to the reality. Has the leader of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Bloc forgotten the history of these last years? Does he not know that it was precisely the Left Opposition that initiated the industrialization of the country, which conducted a furious struggle for it against the present leaders of the C.P.S.U. who accused us as super-industrialists, and utilized the collaboration of the Mensheviks in the economic organs of the state – the same ones whom Stalin recently had to try as sabotagers – for the elaboration of plans based upon the minimal development of industry and upon the protection of the Kulak? Does not Maurin know that it is precisely for having defended industrialization against those who stigmatized them as counter-revolutionists, that the militants of the Communist Left Opposition were expelled from the party, imprisoned deported and shot? Maurin knows all this perfectly well and that is why his assertion can have only two meanings: to fall deliberately into error, or else to buy the good will of the International, by throwing a stone against the “Trotskyists”.
Having liquidated with such lightness the difference that separates him from the Communist Left Opposition, Maurin had to explain wherein lay his disagreements and those of the organization in whose name he spoke, with the Stalinist leadership of the Communist International. Here the mistake of comrade Maurin is even more serious.
Maurin asserted that what separates him from the Communist International is primarily a difference of evaluation of the present situation. The International – according to him – wanted to impose the experiences of the Russian revolution upon other countries, and this led to the defeat of the Communists in Germany, in Bulgaria, in China and in Esthonia. Spain has to make its revolution a national, original revolution. The conception of Maurin, in this respect, is a distorted transplantation of the anti-Marxist theory of Stalin of socialism in one country, a conception the spirit of which contains grave dangers for the cause of the proletariat.
Nothing could be more disastrous to the Spanish proletariat than to separate itself from the international Communist movement and to claim to orient it in accordance with a domestic policy of home manufacture.The working class, precisely because of international experience, will elaborate the methods of its emancipation. In the elaboration of the tactics of Marx and Lenin the contribution of the experience of the great revolutionary movements of the nineteenth century, and more specifically of the revolutions of 1848 and the Paris Commune, played a role of the first order. Without this experience, Lenin would have been unable to work out with such precision the tactics that led the Russian proletariat to victory in October 1917.
If the Communist International failed in the countries mentioned by Maurin, it was not because it imposed the experiences of the Russian revolution, but precisely because it forgot them completely. In China, in place of assuring the hegemony of the proletariat and of guaranteeing its independence in face of the bourgeois parties, it proclaimed the “bloc of four classes” subordinating the proletariat to the bourgeoisie, represented by the Kuo Min Tang, curbed the agrarian revolution, and as a consequence of all this, prepared the victory of the bourgeois counter-revolution of Chiang Kai-Shek. Then, as if the lesson had not been sufficiently heavy, it submitted the fate of the proletariat and of the revolution to the government of the petty bourgeoisie of Wuhan – the government which, according to Stalin in May 1927 was almost the dictatorship of the proletariat, which – naturally, also betrayed the interests of the working class.
In Germany, the Communist International, thanks to its opportunist policy, did not know how to take advantage of the exceptional opportunity offered it by the exceptional situation in the country in the Autumn of 1923 for the seizure of power. This formidable collapse had enormous consequences for the whole development of the international Communist movement and paved the way for the beginning of the social reaction in Russia, which led to the enthronement of the bureaucratic Stalinist domination.
In Bulgaria, the lack of revolutionary decision and the opportunism of the party leadership provoked the reactionary coup d’etat of Tsankov, for which the Bulgarian workers and peasants paid in torrents of blood. The insurrection that broke out afterwards in this country and later on in Esthonia were adventurist attempts to repair the consequences of the disastrous policy that had been practised.
Did the International fall in these countries because it imposed the methods of the Russian revolution? This is true up to a certain point insofar as the policy of the Comintern in those countries was inspired by the conceptions and the methods of the Mensheviks. We are of course in agreement with Maurin if this is the example which he urges us [not] to follow. We are not, it is needless to say, if by his assertion he claims that we have to lay aside the Bolshevik experience. And in saying this, we have no desire at all to affirm that it will be necessary to copy literally that which the Bolsheviks did in Russia. Naturally, one must take into account the circumstances of time and place, the specific peculiarities of each country in the same way that the doctor takes into account the peculiarities of each patient, in order to apply the general treatment. What is essential is the general political orientation. And in this sense it must be said that the general takes precedence over the particular. When we speak, for example, of the bourgeois revolutions of the past, we do not refer to the various forms in which they manifested themselves in each country but to their fundamental characteristic: the destruction of feudal relationships to be substituted for by bourgeois democracy. In our epoch, the struggle of the exploited against the exploiters unfolds itself on a world scale, the national manifestations of this struggle constitute only one aspect of this general struggle. In this huge battle, the proletariat can find its emancipation only in the establishment of its dictatorship, based upon mass organizations, such as the Soviets, the revolutionary Juntas and similar organizations, with a directing Communist party as guide. Outside of this general formula are admissable all the modifications and amendments imposed by national circumstances and peculiarities.
Let us record in this connection that in 1923, when the Political Bureau of the Russian Communist Party was discussing the problems of the German revolution it was precisely our comrade Trotsky who opposed Zinoviev’s proposal to create Soviets, arguing correctly that at that moment the mass organizations around which the German proletariat had grouped itself were not the Soviets, as in 1918, but the factory councils.
(To be concluded)
Last updated on 13.1.2013