Gilbert Giles Roper, 1937

The alternative to the Communist Party

Source: The Militant, Sydney, December 27, 1937
Proofreading, editing, mark-up: Steve Painter

A month has elapsed since I publicly dissociated myself from the Stalinist renegade leadership of the Comintern by publishing a statement entitled, What is happening in the Communist Party? The intervening weeks have been full of events confirming the correctness of that action.

In reply to my criticism of the political degeneration and organisational bureaucracy of Stalinism, certain indirect answers have already appeared in the central CP organ.

Firstly, the local Stalinist leadership has sharpened its unscrupulous and foundationless attack upon the Trotskyist movement, linking it up in an utterly fantastic manner with Les Cagoulards in France, and has given even more prominence to the venomous slogan of Miles: “Drive the Trotskyists out of the labour movement.”

Secondly, the political bureau of the CP, contrary to its usual practice, has published in its organ a “balance sheet of the Defeat the Lyons Government Fund. This document succeeds in accounting for about one tenth of the £6200-odd collected, but workers will note that it is unattested by any auditor’s certificate. Most of the CP election expenses seem to be covered by the “balance sheet” (leaflets, posters, radio, fares, etc). So what has happened to the other nine-tenths of the money? Is it true that a great part of the DLG Fund, like other funds which preceded it (and of which, also, no proper accounts have been published), was not used for the purpose implied by its name, but was appropriated for general party revenue?

The last month has brought further evidence of the need for every principled Marxist to support the movement for a Fourth International. In the Soviet Union the blood purge has mown down more of the old Leninist Bolsheviks. Is it possible now to doubt the Thermidorian character of the regime? The new Stalin constitution stands exposed as a monstrous fraud. To use Stalin’s expression, it is “tragi-comic”. Every columnist in the capitalist press finds it an easy target for ridicule, and certainly there are some comic features about the one-candidate constituencies. But basically the new constitution is a tragedy for the Soviet masses — an effort to secure mass endorsement of the unbridled tyranny of Stalin and the bureaucracy. Elsewhere on the continent, a Soviet diplomatic official is reported to be undertaking the organisation of mass pressure to stay the hand of Stalin’s jailers and executioners. In Switzerland the government has arrested several OGPU agents on a charge of having murdered Ignace Reiss, a Communist who, like myself, had linked up with the Trotskyists. The trial promises important disclosures of Stalinist terrorism, perhaps having a bearing on the murder of Nin and other anti-Stalinist working-class leaders. In France a secret meeting of representatives of 17 national sections of the Comintern has discussed a plan to liquidate the international in order to satisfy the demands of Stalin’s bourgeois military allies. The Comintern leaders hope either to merge with the Second (reformist) International or to dissolve into a new People’s Front International. Finally, in the principal capitalist countries various factors seem to be unexpectedly shortening the duration of the period of relative prosperity. The first shocks of the approaching economic crisis are being felt in Australia. Prices have been pegged by the armament drive, but at any time the export and home markets may collapse and bring down the bloated credit system like an avalanche. An economic crisis will cause a political crisis.

The replies of the Miles leadership and the march of events confirm the urgent need for the rejection of Stalinism by the masses. Not only is “the great teacher of the proletariat” going ahead with the physical obliteration of every possible alternative leader in the Soviet Union, but the OGPU terrorism is spreading to Spain, China, Switzerland and elsewhere. What is the meaning of Miles’s slogan, “Drive the Trotskyists out of the labour movement”? We get the answer in Radek’s final statement (inspired, of course, by the OGPU) in the court during the recent Moscow Trials:

We must tell the Trotskyist elements in France, Spain and other countries that the experience of the Russian Revolution has shown that Trotskyism is a pest of the labour movement. We must warn them that they, too, will pay with their heads unless they learn by our experience.

This threat and the frequent excitements in the Workers Weekly are the expression of terrorist moods, which are symptomatic of the anti-Trotskyist panic now seizing the whole Stalinist leadership. Let the murder of Nin, Reiss, Freer, and countless revolutionary pioneers in the USSR waken the Australian working class to the deadly menace of Stalinism, the new scourge of the labour movement.

The behaviour of the leaders of the CPA typifies the decline of the Third International. There is the reticence in accounting for large sums of money collected and earmarked for the Defence of the Party, Defeat of the Lyons Government, etc. Then there are the crazy manoeuvres with the NSW reformist groups. A few months ago the CP was strongly advocating union affiliation to the ALP (Seamen, Printers, etc). Members of the CP, urged on by Miles, were ostentatiously collecting funds for the Lang apparatus. Now everything is suddenly reversed: cash must be cut off from the Labor Party. In the NSW municipal elections Miles and Co had at least three different tactics, and they all failed. In Paddington, the CP supported the “rebel” aldermen, who were duly defeated by the official Labor ticket; in Glebe they somersaulted and supported the “inner group” men against the “rebels”, and again failed; in a few areas independent CP candidates were nominated, somersaulting on the very recent decision of the central committee “not to split the workers’ vote”. By carrying on with the treacherous People’s Front policy, instead of a bold, revolutionary program, the CP is rapidly being forced to abandon all consistency and sense of direction. It is becoming irretrievably lost in the reformist labyrinth.

Furthermore, these parliamentary intrigues cannot disguise the opportunism of the Stalinists on the industrial field. The CP leaders are fond of boasting of the enormous progress made by party members in winning elections to paid and honorary positions in the trade unions. Some time ago a report claimed that CP members held 1000 such positions. What gains have the workers made as a result? The answer is that a who period of relative prosperity has come and almost gone without any commensurate movement of the workers for a greater share of the prosperity. There was every indication of a great struggle of the miners in New South Wales. A few concessions were negotiated by the officials, but in return the miners were hog-tied for two years by an arbitration agreement, and the remainder of the miners’ urgent demands were shelved. The seamen’s strike was a defeat of the first magnitude, despite direct CP leadership. Other strike movements have been sporadic and narrow in scope and the results won have been correspondingly meagre. Instead of concentrating all forces on the development of a mighty industrial movement comparable with the recent upsurges in France and the USA, Miles and Co prefer to misrepresent the ALP faction fight as the decisive question for the Australian working class. Time and opportunity have shown the Stalinist leaders to be merely pseudo-militants. Instead of accelerating the progress of the class struggle, they act as a throttle.

It is difficult to realise that the Communist International, which inherited the most noble traditions of the labour movement of the world, and which gave such great promise for the proletariat, is nearing an ignominious end. The first four congresses of the CI (held annually) were under the direct leadership of Lenin and Trotsky. But in the last 13 years there have been only two congresses, and the latest (the seventh) marked the complete renegacy of the CI leadership. So great was Stalin’s contempt for the seventh congress that he took no part in the business except for a brief introductory speech. Now steps are being taken towards the complete liquidation of the Comintern.

The working class must reply to Stalin by building a new revolutionary organisation. Ideologically, this movement is led by Trotsky, president of the Russian Soviet in 1905, organiser of the 1917 Russian Revolution, Commander in Chief of the Red Army during the whole of the victorious Civil War in Russia, and one of the main pillars in the construction of the Third International.

There are Trotskyist groups in about 30 countries. The Workers Party of Australia is the vanguard of the Fourth International in this country. It has survived a tendency to splinter, and although numerically very weak, it is able to give a clear Marxist analysis of the main problems of the Australian workers. Its platform is sound: for an international revolutionary struggle against capitalism, leading to the dictatorship of the proletariat, resting on soviets elected from units of production; against the confusion of the People’s Front and for a real proletarian united front; against pacifism and for a revolutionary struggle against war; for a militant industrial policy; for the initiation by the trade union movement of a democratic unemployed movement; against reformist parliamentary illusions; for the unconditional defence of the Soviet Union and the overthrow of the Stalinist bureaucracy; for a new international based on real democratic centralism, with free election of officials, full information of the membership, and free discussion without baiting or threats of expulsion.

Eight years in the Communist Party have led me to irreconcilable disagreement with the attitude of the Stalinism on a number of major issues. On the other hand, I find myself entirely in accord with the Trotskyists and the Workers Party of Australia.


Les Cagoulards. A French racist organisation similar to the Ku Klux Klan.

Andreas Nin, a leader of the Spanish Workers Party of Marxist Unity (POUM), murdered by the Stalinists.