Nine Years of the Struggle of the Left Opposition

The Ultra-Left Zig-zag in the Comintern and the “Third Period”

(July 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 29 (Whole No. 125), 16 July 1932, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The ultra-Left zig-zag in the Russian party, which began after the grain crisis that followed the Fifteenth Congress of the C.P.S.U. at the end of 1927, was very soon projected in a direct line to the whole of the Communist International. This flight of the frightened bureaucrats from yesterday’s rank opportunism to adventurism is embraced in what has become known as the “third period.”

The Turn at the Ninth Plenum

The arbitrarily defined period does not commence in the Comintern’s history with its proclamation at the Sixth Congress, but even more definitely at the 9th Plenum of the C.I. early in 1928. At that time the first signs of a working class resurgence in Europe could be detected, but only the first signs. The vote cast for the Communist parties, particularly in Germany, was increasing, but with it, also, the vote cast for the social democracy. In a number of other countries, however, the working class was either writhing in the pain of a still unsurmounted defeat, as in China, or else passive under the soporific effects of a temporary high conjuncture, as in France and the United States.

The Ninth Plenum, instead of establishing the precise stage of development of the international labor movement, proclaimed the rise of a “new and higher” stage of the Chinese revolution (not counter-revolution, but revolution!), gave its blanket endorsement to guerrilla adventurism, and announced from the month of Thaelmann and the other spokesmen of the Comintern that the working masses throughout the world were becoming “more and more radicalized”. The warnings against this light-minded conception of an automatic, horizontal progress of the revolutionary movement, were of no avail, for they were uttered by the Opposition. And comrade Trotsky’s clear-sighted analysis of the real status of the movement was not only passed over in silence at the Sixth Congress to which it was presented, but it was not even given to the assembled delegates. His study on this subject, nevertheless remains the first work written against the superficial exaggerations and ultra-Leftism of the post Right wing period of bureaucratic Centrism.

The Sixth Congress in the middle of 1928 carried the Ninth Plenum a few steps further in absurdity. Formally, it marked the culminating point of the collaboration between Centrism and the Right wing (Stalin and Bucharin). Actually, it incorporated into the foundation of the next period a mixture of opportunist premises and ultra-Left deductions which have been at the root of all the confusion and defeats suffered by Communism since that time.

The Sixth Congress had many points of similarity with the Fifth, which was held in 1924 after the defeat in Germany. In 1924, no defeat was acknowledged; on the contrary, the revolution was proclaimed to be right ahead. In 1928, virtually the same atrocious error was made with regard to the Chinese revolution. In the period of the Fifth Congress, Stalin made the novel discovery that the “social democracy was the most moderate wing of Fascism”. In 1928, the Sixth Congress laid the basis for the unique philosophy of “social-Fascism”. The Fifth Congress celebrated the victory of “Bolshevization” and “monolithism”, at a time when the very basis under the various “Bolshevik leaderships” imposed upon the national sections was being undermined. In 1928, the most violent internal struggles were being fought behind the scenes of the “unified Communist International”. The Fifth Congress, with all its ultra-Leftist palaver, contained not merely the germs of a brief spurt to the Left but also a protracted swing to the Right, to the period of the Anglo-Russian Committee, of the Chiang Kai-Shek alliance, the Anti-Imperialist League and the “Peasants’ International”. The Sixth Congress, for all its endorsement of adventurist conclusions, consecrated the revisionist theory of socialism in one country and established the slogan of the “democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry” (that is, the Kerenskiad or the Kuo Min Tang tragedy) as an iron law governing the doctrines of the revolution on three-quarters of the earth.

Stalin and the Right Wing

The struggle against the “Right danger” launched at the Sixth Congress, which Bucharin had resisted only as recently the Fifteenth Congress of the Russian party, was platonic and anonymous. Its value may be estimated from the fact that such a struggle was proclaimed by the international leader of the Right wing, Bucharin, from the Congress tribune. In this manner, the

formal unification of the ruling bloc was preserved and used to cover up the bitter internal dispute. It is instructive to observe that at the very time that Stalin was busily engaged in sapping the ground under Bucharin and Co., going so far as to organize an unofficial congress of his own, simultaneously with “Bucharin’s Congress”, he nevertheless took the leadership in condemning any rumors about disagreements in the Russian party leadership as “Trotskyist slanders.” In a special report on the subject made by Stalin himself to the Council of Elders at the Congress, he repudiated all rumors regarding differences in the Russian Political Bureau. He empathically denied that there were any Right wingers or Right wing views in the Political Bureau or even the Central Committee, and, to confirm his assertions, introduced a resolution, signed by himself and every other member of the Political Bureau which declared:

“The undersigned members of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union declare before the Council of Elders of the Congress that they most emphatically protest against the circulation of rumors that there are dissensions among the members of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the C.P.S.U.”

Needless to say, the assembled marionettes listened solemnly and approvingly to this criminally ludicrous deception of the Communist International, concocted jointly by Stalin and Bucharin. Everybody at the Congress knew the truth; everybody knew that Stalin was simply lying with a straight face; but unlike the boy in the crowd of obedient and respectful subjects through whom the king was passing, nobody could be found to rise and shout that the king was naked! From his exile in Alma-Ata, Trotsky summed up this aspect of the Congress in a letter to a comrade:

“The theses announce a ‘Bolshevization and internal consolidation’ of the parties of the Comintern and the ‘suppression of the internal struggle.’ The Congress, however, (even as seen through the bars set up by the editorial censors) presents a picture of an entirely different character. A violent and muffled struggle is developing all along the line. Factional groupings, large and small, revealed themselves at the Congress in the delegations from Germany, England, Poland, the United States, Rumania, Juglo-Slavia, etc. The delegation of the U.S.S.R. naturally was no exception. On the contrary, it is the one which transplants schisms into the other parties. In a multitude of speeches, complaints were heard about sharp factional battles ‘which are not justified by any serious political differences’. No one took the trouble to ask himself how these ‘factional struggles devour’ the ‘internally consolidated Communist International’. The answer is nevertheless clear. At present, the Comintern is basing itself on a bloc composed of the Right and the Center, or to speak more precisely, of the opportunist faction. The situation in the U.S.S.R. and the regime in the C.I. have retarded the development of the differences of opinion between these groups, whereas the class struggle makes their coalition, shot at from all sides, insupportable. That is where the bitter factional struggles come from in the absence of ‘important political differences’.”

(Continued in next issue)

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