Karl Radek

The Results of the Berlin Conference
of the Three Internationals

(12 April 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 26 No. 2 [Vol. 2 No. 26], 12 April 1922, pp. 193–194.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2019). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

The Conference of the three Executives which was brought about to discuss the question of calling a general International Workers’ Conference against the robber plans of Genoa, has disbanded without being able to decide upon the convocation of this World Congress. At a time when the representatives of the capitalistic Robber States are meeting in Genoa to confer about a new means of plundering the world, the international proletariat has not summoned up sufficient energy and resoluteness to demonstrate jointly against international capitalism. That is the first result that must be established, established with deep mourning. And since this result is brought up, we must simultaneously establish why it is that the Conference is impossible at this particular time. The accepted joint resolution of the three Executives establishes the reason for the failure of the proposal for a World Congress when it says:

“That the representatives of the Second International have reported that they consider it impossible to prepare for a general conference during the month of April, and during the time of the Genoa Conference.”

Thus this statement explains in bare words that the Communist International and the Vienna Working Union saw no obstacles in the way of the immediate convocation of the World Congress, but that the opposition of the Second International frustrated the plan.

The reason for this attitude of the Second International is easily understood if it is known that this organization, representing one section of the proletariat, refused absolutely to take up the slogans of the demonstration which was to take place instead of the World Congress and to raise the cry “Down with the Versailles Peace!”

How can this be explained? The three strongest parties of the Second International are: the English Labour Party, the Belgian Workers’ Party and the German Social Democrats. Who doubts that the German Social Democrats are against the Versailles Peace? The Versailles Peace is not only a strangling rope for the German proletariat, but also a Damocles sword suspended over the Government belonging to the Social Democrata. The German Social Democrats would very willingly demonstrate against the Versailles Peace, but the Labour Party and the Belgian Workers’ Party do not permit it. They do not permit it out of consideration for the Entente Governments and for the German Government. Although the latter is collapsing under the pressure of the Versailles Peace, it does not dare even to broach the question of the Versailles Peace at the Genoa Conference. Thus, considering the vetoes of the reformist parties of the Entente Countries, the German Social Democracy does not dare of its own accord to protest against the Versailles Peace. Just as the German Government was filled with hopes by the whispered promises of the English Ambassador Lord d’Abernon, so the German Social Democracy’s efforts were centered on postponing the conference as far as possible. Only it should not take place now, not during the Genoa Conference. “Perhaps in the Summer”, they said. All attempts to make other reasons for the refusal of the present conference as important as this main reason, are merely an exchange of falsehoods. When the question of Versailles was presented, the representatives of the Second International declared peremptorily that they would leave the Conference at the attempt to broach this question, at no other question, only at the question of the Peace of Versailles. And that is clear enough.

The representatives of the Second International naturally had other reasons too, for their attitude But these were not the ones which caused the postponement. Who would believe that a certain Wels was opposed to the conference because of boiling indignation at the bad treatment of the Social Revolutionaries or Georgians, although he had no fault to find with the occupation of the latter by German troops in the year 1918? But everyone knows that the German Social Democracy refused until now, in economic fights, in tax fights, to sit at the same table with the Communists, and together with them to light for the alleviation of the burden which is almost crushing the proletariat, the fear that it would be necessary to draw a lesson from the international united front for Germany’s problems was the second reason why the German Social Democracy nursed the idea of frustrating the conference. And the representatives of the Labour Party made no secret of the fact that they fear the united front with the Communists, because the Communists in the English Trade Unions, in the coming large economic struggles – strengthened by the international united front – can disturb and break the policy of the trade union bureaucracy.

Consideration for international victorious capital, and consideration for its own policy of coalition with the bourgeoisie, yielding to the capitalist offensive, the fear that this policy can be disturbed by the international united front – these were the reasons for the efforts of the Second International to dissolve the Berlin Conference.

The Second International succeeded – as was already said – in hindering the immediate convocation of the World Conference of the proletariat but – and this we establish as the second result of the Conference – it did not succeed in destroying the beginnings of the united front, modest as they may be. It had to consent to the appointment of a Committee of the representatives of the three Executives, whose task it is to prepare for the calling of a World Congress and other conferences. It has to agree to call together as early as April, international demonstrations against the offensive of capital, against the Genoa robber conference, for the recognition of Soviet Russia, and against the strangling reparations policy, that is not much. But even that could only be accomplished by the spontaneously formed block of the Communists and the Vienna International, who jointly defended the idea of the united front. With a coarseness which is peculiar to it, the Berlin Vorwärts in its morning issue of April 6th reports that at the conference the Second International had taken up the joint declaration “in a certain measure, out of politeness to the Vienna Working Union”. The Second International will undoubtedly do everything in the future, as it did at the Conference, to sabotage every concrete attempt to transform, in action, the impulse given by the International Conference. But the conference ol the three Executives has already shown that when the Communist International and the Vienna Working Union honorably and resolutely defend the thought of the united front, the attempts of the Second International to sabotage will run aground for a long time to some. They will run aground not because the Communist International and the Vienna Working Union can overrule by majority vote any decision of the Second International, but because by their very attitude they manifest the ardent will of the proletariat for the united front.

The Communist International openly abandoned every attempt to cause the Berlin Conference to frame nice sounding and far-reaching conclusions. It knows very well that the big promises to the Second International are not worth the paper they are written on. It is not a question of the promises that the Second International could make, but of the pressure upon it of the working masses, which will express itself most emphatically in the urgent questions of the proletarian necessities of life. The Communist International intentionally did not begin an offensive at this conference against the unheard of deeds of the Second International during and after the war. Only when the Second International tried to take the offensive against the Communist International, did the Communist International delegation nuke a counter attack which sufficed at least to hold back the Second International so that it did not to shatter the Berlin Conference. There is no doubt that the holding back of the Delegation of the Communist International will be considered a concession by many of our comrades. The delegation knew that. But it had to say to itself: “We are the representatives of the fighting movement of the proletariat.” The successful fight of the proletariat is impossible without its unity for the defence of the interests nearest to the proletariat. The proletariat will not assemble to speak sharply about the past, or to pronounce screamingly the demands of the present. It will assemble in order to express most decisively its will for a united front. It will judge the parties not by what they say but by what they do. And therefore our holding back and moderation were the sharpest form of attack on the Second International. Our moderation showed that we were forming the united front not as a parade for one day, but as a tenacious fight for the setting up and the preservation of the united front. The quieter and more prudently we show this to the working masses in the future, the more will all the attacks of the Second International against the united front of the proletariat recoil to its disadvantage; this is the slogan of the Communist International in the given historical situation. We have declared ourselves ready to participate in the united front, even with those who for eight years abandoned the interests of the proletariat. Since we maintain this idea quietly, firmly and without a waver, we shall be capable of setting up the proletarian united front, even against the Second International, if it tries to disturb this united front. That is the result of the Berlin Conference.

When we conceived this idea of the united front, it was very clear to us that the idea could not be victorious in one hour, one day or even one month.

When we conceived the idea of the International Congress the road to the international united front was shown us. This road proves to be impossible at the present time, but the idea of the united front has shown itself so strong, that the Second International, which in the year 1921 gave it a serious setback when it was first expressed in Germany through the Open Letter of the Communist Party of Germany, can now only sabotage it in an underhand way. The idea of the united front is beginning to go into effect, and it will go through. This assurance strengthened the conference for all the Communist participants, in spite of the slight practical results of the first attempt. And we should not in the least undervalue the fact that since the idea of the united front was substantiated at the conference, it convinced the representatives of all shades of opinion in the Communist International of the justness of the idea of the united front much more than theoretic discussion could have done. It can be stated that the delegation of the Communist International gave its unanimous endorsement to the joint resolution, which is undersigned by its representatives.

Last updated on 4 September 2018