Speech at Session of Enlarged Executive of C.I.

Second Day of Session: Evening

(13 June 1923)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 3 No. 45, 22 June 1923, p. 442.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2021). 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.

June 13, 1923

It is feared that owing to rigid centralism there is no spiritual life vibrating in the Communist International. From the discussion which went on here, one could gain a better lesson. While at Hamburg there was not any serious discussion upon a single question, here we are listening to a pointed public discussion already at the second Session. The workers can convince themselves that this is the only place for thorough discussion. Comrade Falk is opposed to discussing the actions of national parties at the International. But how can we put errors right if they art not pointed out to us? The Norwegian comrades have heard what the German comrades had to say. What they said has come straight from the soul of the German workers. And what do the German comrades tell us? They tell us that the only hope was in action taken by the International. Hoeglund’s article draws our attention incidentally to a particular danger, which can be obviated only by outspoken discussion. Zinoviev’s report contained two main points: the consolidation of the International, and the extension of the basis of our activity. In so far as the consolidation of the International is concerned, there is dose connection between the Italian and Norwegian question. Comrade Urbani asked us to show him on which occasion the decisions of the Communist International had been sabotaged. He adduces the testimony of Comrade Dimitri. But the attitude of the Italian Party, shows quite clearly that the Italian Party is also largely to blame for the events in connection with the Italian question. When Comrade Urbani points out that Velli and Nenni are also to blame, even this does not argue in favor of the Italian Party. Precisely because individual leaders of the Socialist Party wished to sabotage the amalgamation, it was the foremost duty of our Party to prevent it Our Italian friends are excellent comrades, and he who has any dealings with them in Italy, comes back in a felicitous mood. But this should not prevent us from pointing out their errors. It is not a question of outside interference, but of an exchange of international experiences. Comrade, Falk declares that if we wish to discuss centralism, they are ready, but that we are preferring unfounded charges. On close examination, it transpires that we are not dealing with misunderstandings. The Executive had rightly judged the. situation politically. At one time the Norwegian comrades voted for the decisions of the International, declaring the Communist International competent in all questions, and then they came out in opposition. Now we ask you: What opinion do you represent now? The Norwegian Party is a sound proletarian party, and he who would try to separate it from the International will burn his fingers. The Party suffers from holding aloof from the big events, and its history fully accounts for its present situation. But (his peculiarity must be overcome not by means of “ukases” but by straight talk with our Norwegian comrades. If the leading comrades will fail to appreciate this necessity, then it will be understood by the non-leading comrades. With regard to the extension of the basis of activity, we have to deal here with three questions: the Workers’ and Peasants’ Government, the national question, and the religious question. The religious question is of tremendous importance. This does not mean to say that we ought to make it our first task, with the backward elements of the proletariat, who are still addicted to religion, to distribute anti-religious tracts among them. Comrade Zinoviev pointed out that comrades in Russia were expelled from the Party for being married by priests. But we in Russia have a different situation from other countries. We are a beleaguered fortress, and the Communists are its defenders. The soldier who dares not oppose bis aunt can still less be expected to oppose his enemy. You of the West-European parties are now recruiting new armies. Comrade Zinoviev did not suggest that you expel those members who did not break away from the Church (Zinoviev: “Quite right!”). A leader of the party must be quite clear in his own mind upon the religious question. Nevertheless in view of the psychology of the masses, it is the very question of religion which ought to be treated with the greatest prudence.

And now let us turn to the Peasant question. This is by no means a new watchword. We have long since given up the social-democratic notion that we should have nothing to do with the peasants. If we now bring this question to the front it is because our cause is moving rapidly forward. Economic demands for the improvement of the lot of the peasants are by themselves insufficient. We must be in a position to say to the peasants that they cannot hope for any improvement of their lot until we have taken over the power jointly with them. The Bolshevik Party has always championed the cause of the peasants, but it was the slogan of the revolution of 1905, the slogan of coalition with the peasantry, that has attained the greatest significance. Yet this coalition with the peasant does not mean that we should form a coalition with Witos in Poland or with the radical Socialists in France; these are counter-revolutionary peasant parties, with which we cannot form any coalition.

The national question, i.e. the education of the proletariat to the necessity of making the party representative of the nation, is in England only the propagandists’ expression of the final goal. The case is different in Germany, where the national question is of quite different significance. It is characteristic that in a national-socialist paper – Das Gewissen (Conscience) – we find the statement that the Communists are becoming more and more National Bolshevist. National-Bolshevism in Germany in 1920 meant an alliance to save the generals, who immediately after the victory would have made short shrift of the Communist Party. To-day National-Bolshevism means that the only salvation is to come through the Communists. The strongest emphasis on the nation in Germany is a revolutionary act, just as it is in the colonies. This ought to be understood by our French friends. If Poincaré should hold sway in France for a few years longer, then it will also be the turn of our French party to take the stand that is now taken by the German party. Hoglund reproached the Executive with having commit led mistakes, which he was going to prove later on. In this he will not succeed. Much a9 the executive was criticized by individual friends, no one could demonstrate how the things could be done better.

The resolution to be submitted on this question must outline the new tasks for the months to come, so that no new controversies should arise and that the Communist International should continue its march forward.

Last updated on 3 September 2022