Source: New International, Vol.1 No.3, September-October 1934, pp.90-94.
Transcription/Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2006. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License
The dispute between the Russian party officialdom and the Leninist Opposition around the question of the Anglo-Russian Committee, established between the British and Russian trade union leaders, is of more than historical importance. It throws a brilliant light on the knotty problem of the united front, especially valuable at the present time when it has been brought forward in new form by the change of front of the Stalinist parties. Practically every important aspect of the problem was embraced in the conflict seven years ago. The document reproduced here draws a balance of the A-RC experience. Suppressed, like so many others, in the Soviet Union, it never appeared there or in any other country. This is its first publication, from the original manuscript in the archives of the author, a copy of which was brought back to this country by the editor. We are indebted to John G. Wright for the translation from the Russian. – ED.
IN HIS report at the general membership meeting of the Moscow railwaymen, comrade Andreyev made the first – and still the only – attempt to put two and two together in the question of the Anglo-Russian Committee. Comrade Andreyev did not succeed in putting two and two together, but instead – despite his own intentions – he did make a serious contribution toward explaining just where lies the difference between opportunist and Bolshevik policies.
1. Comrade Andreyev begins by very plaintively relating how the British busted up the A-RC just at the time when it should have gone on living for many, many years. Imperialism has passed over to the offensive, strangling China, preparing a war against the USSR: “That is why the existence and activities of “the A-RC and similar organizations are most urgently needed right now.” Again, further on: “It is precisely right now, at the time of this offensive of capital against the working class, that the urgent need for the existence of the A-RC becomes especially clear.” And so on, in the same vein.
Concurrently, comrade Andreyev supplies a lot of direct information about the measures that were taken to preserve the A-RC (in enumerating these measures, ‘however, he religiously avoids the Berlin conference of the A-RC in April of this year). But all these exertions availed nothing: the A-RC broke up just at the moment when the need for it became most acute.
As a matter of fact, this presentation as it stands is of itself a merciless condemnation of the very policy that Andreyev is defending. One may suffer defeat at the hands of an enemy despite the most correct policy, because the enemy is stronger. But when, in the course of many months, one forges a weapon against the enemy and then complains that this weapon went to pieces in one’s hands on the eve of the battle – that is tantamount to self-condemnation: either the blacksmith is bad, or he forged out of worthless material.
2. After the General Council had broken the general strike in May 1926, the defenders of the official line said to us: “But didn’t we know all along that the General Council is composed of reformist traitors?” Let us allow that we knew. But did we foresee that the General Council would collapse precisely when the need for it would be most urgent? Obviously this was not foreseen. Because not even the worst blacksmith would begin forging a weapon which he knew beforehand would fall apart on the eve of the battle.
Yet the controversy between the Opposition and the majority revolved precisely around this question. The Opposition said:
“The members of the General Council are liberal labor politicians of divers shades. As is always the case with liberals, they have been plunged to the Left by the first and still formless revolutionary wave. The general strike swept them to the Right. They can have no independent policy. Swept to the Right, they become transformed into the active agency of the bourgeoisie. Their role will be counter-revolutionary. Since they have betrayed the general strike of their own workers, and the strike of their own coal miners, only a pathetic philistine can pin any hope on the possibility that these people would protect the Chinese revolution or the Soviet Union from the blows of British imperialism. Quite the contrary. In the critical moment they will come to the aid of imperialism against the revolution.”
Such was our prognosis in this question. But after the English had broken the A-RC comrade Andreyev comes before Soviet workers with his pathetic lamentations: the A-RC left this world just at the time when its activity was “most urgently needed”.
In politics, comrade Andreyev, this is called bankruptcy!
3. We said above: let us allow that the representatives of the official line did actually know whom they were dealing with – in which case their responsibility would be all the greater. As a matter of fact, they are vilifying themselves after the event. Their appraisal of the General Council was false, they did not understand the internal processes in the English working class, and they sowed illusions because they shared them themselves.
a) There is no need of going into the period prior to the strike: during that period Purcell, Hicks and the others were pictured as our most trustworthy friends, almost our adherents. A veritable cloud of proof can be produced. We shall confine ourselves to a single instance. In his pamphlet, The Practical Questions of the Trade Union Movement – published in 1925 – comrade Tomsky said:
“Those [trade unionists] who have entered into the agreement with us are maintaining themselves staunchly both against bourgeois lies and slanders, and against the former [?] leaders of the English movement: Thomas, Clynes, and MacDonald. The leaders of the British trade unions, the section that is furthest to the Left – one can say with assurance, the majority – are working harmoniously with us. This gives us the assurance of and the occasion for hoping that the English, who are averse to striking quick agreements, who take a long time to think, weigh, discuss and hesitate prior to coming to this or another decision, will strictly fulfill the agreement; and that we shall not have to put to ourselves the question: what will the unity of the world trade union movement give the Russian worker?” (p.48.)
b) In the nature of things, matters did not improve very much after the strike was broken, either. Even after the Opposition came out with utmost decisiveness for a break with the Anglo-Russian Committee as an institution which was false and rotten to the core and which served only to befuddle the workers by its existence, the Moscow Committee lectured the party as follows in the special theses issued against the Opposition:
“The Anglo-Russian Committee can, must, and undoubtedly will play a tremendous role in the struggle against all types of intervention directed at the USSR It will become the organizing center for the international forces of the proletariat in the struggle against all attempts of the international bourgeoisie to start up a new war.” (Materials toward the Summary of the July Plenum of the CEC of the CPSU, Agit-Prop Department of the Moscow Committee.)
As a matter of fact, in the agitation among the rank and file, that is, in the really important agitation embracing the masses, the fundamental, chief, and pertinent argument against the Opposition was (lie following: We are threatened by the war danger and the General Council will help us to ward it off, but the Opposition, pursuing its “factional aims”, demands that we break with the General Council. And from this sprang the stupid and base accusation of semi-defensism, defeatism, etc.
On the other hand, the Opposition maintained that the General Council would dillydally so long as no serious danger threatened its masters, the bourgeoisie, and then later on it would break with us at the moment when it best serves the bourgeoisie, i.e., when most dangerous to us.
Now comrade Andreyev comes forward and tearfully laments that the General Council broke with us, you see, just at a time when the activity of the A-RC was “most urgently needed”. Needed by whom – us or the English bourgeoisie? For the General Council is the agency of the English bourgeoisie in the workers’ movement. It is clear that it broke the bloc with us when this break happened to be “most urgently needed” by Chamberlain.
In politics, comrade Andreyev, this is precisely what is meant by bankruptcy.
c) As for the famous argument of comrade Rykov to the effect that since Baldwin was demanding the dissolution of the A-RC, therefore the Opposition was aiding Baldwin – didn’t this argument in its entirety flow from the false appraisal of the General Council, from the misunderstanding of its class nature and its social role? The General Council is the agency of the English bourgeoisie. A good master must watch his agency like a hawk. Agents have their own personal interests. The agent in his operations may go further than is profitable to the master. Baldwin watches sharply after his agency, he exerts pressure on it, frightens it, and presents it with demands for an accounting. Baldwin had to see to it that the General Council makes no extra promises, and that it be able to make a timely break with us. The closer the approach of great problems the more inevitable the rupture. Among us those failed to understand this, who made a false appraisal of the General Council, who painted it up, cherished illusions on this score and hoped that in a major and serious question the A-RC would carry out a policy directed against Chamberlain. The Opposition took its point of departure from the fact that a break was inevitable and that this break must occur over such questions as would be most clear and comprehensible to the English working masses.
4. But even during the very last period, even after the Berlin conference, comrade Tomsky continued to paint up the General Council. He rejected indignantly all references to the fact that the A-RC had become a reactionary impediment in the way of the workers’ movement. He asserted that the A-RC is playing and can play a progressive role, even in case of war. True, in April 1927 he expressed himself much more cautiously: 99% in favor of the General Council’s betraying us in case of war, as against I chance in a hundred that it might not betray. Can we – demanded Tomsky – reject even one chance against 99 in so great a cause? To reason in such manner is to turn politics into a lottery. But guaranteeing the defense of the USSR by lottery methods is a pitiful policy indeed, all the more so since the odds to lose are 100%. And when the loss became patent, comrade Andreyev with many sighs told the assembled railwaymen how fine it would have been had the opportunists turned out to be not as they are in reality but as comrade Andreyev had imagined them to be.
All this, comrade Andreyev is precisely what is called the opportunistic policy of illusions.
5. Today, after the event, there is no lack of volunteers anxious to renounce the wretched crib of comrade Uglanov upon the subject that the Anglo-Russian Committee “will become the organizing center of the international forces of the proletariat in the struggle against all attempts on the part of the international bourgeoisie to start up a new war”.
But precisely in this hope lay the crux of our entire official policy. It was precisely in this that the party was fooled. It was precisely by this that the Opposition was “beaten”.
In the July 1926 joint plenum, comrade Stalin lectured us complacently:
“The aim of this bloc [the A-RC] consists in organizing a wide working class movement against new imperialist wars in general, and against intervention into our country on the part [especially so!] of the most powerful of the imperialist powers of Europe – on the part of England in particular.” (Minutes, 1st issue, p.71)
Instructing us Oppositionists that it is necessary to “be concerned about the defense of the first workers’ republic in the world from intervention”, Stalin added for good measure:
“If the trade unions of our country in this cause, meet with the support on the part of English, even if reformist, trade unions, then this should be hailed ...
“VOICES: Correct!” (Idem., p.71)
We may be quite sure that among those shouting “correct” was also the voice of comrade Andreyev. Yet these were the voices of blind men who were exposing the defense of the USSR to the danger of a sudden blow. It is not enough for one to “be concerned about the defense of the USSR”; one must also be concerned about the Marxist line of the policies; one must know the basic forces of the world struggle, understand class relations and the mechanics of parties; and one must be a Marxist-Leninist and not a philistine.
Stalin keeps chewing his ideas with the smugness of a provincial wiseacre. Each vulgarity is numbered: first, secondly, thirdly and fourthly. First, pinning hope on Chiang Kai-Shek; secondly, pinning hope on Wang Chin Wei; thirdly, on Purcell; fourthly, on Hicks. Today’s hope is being pinned on the French radicals, who, if you please, will repel the French imperialists, but this falls under fifthly ... It is not enough for one to “be concerned about the defense”, one must have some inkling as to what’s what.
In the same speech Stalin goes on to sermonize:
“If the reactionary English trade unions are willing to enter into a bloc with the revolutionary trade unions of our country against the counter-revolutionary imperialists of their own country – then why not hail this bloc?” (p.71)
Stalin cannot understand that were the “reactionary trade unions” capable of waging a struggle against their own imperialists, they would not be reactionary trade unions. Falling into middle-class superficiality, Stalin loses all sight of the line of demarcation between the concepts reactionary and revolutionary. Out of sheer habit he refers to the English trade unions (i.e., obviously their leadership) as reactionary, but he really cherishes entirely Menshevist illusions about them.
Stalin sums up his philosophy as follows:
“And so, the A-RC is the bloc between our trade unions and the reactionary trade unions of England ... for the purpose of struggle against imperialist wars in general, and against intervention in particular.” (p.71)
That’s just it: both in general and in particular. In general, and in particular – middle class narrowness (suggested topic for the “Red” professors of the Stalinist school).
With the smugness of a provincial wiseacre Stalin concludes his sermonizing with an attempt at irony,
“Comrades Trotsky and Zinoviev should remember this, and remember it well.” (p.72.)
That’s just it! We have remembered everything very firmly indeed. We have remembered that our criticisms of the Stalinist hopes in Purcell as the guardian angel of the workers’ state were called by Stalin a deviation from “Leninism to Trotskyism”.
“A VOICE: Voroshilov has affixed the seal!
“TROTSKY: Fortunately, all this will appear in the minutes.” (p.71)
Yes, this is all to be found in the minutes of that very same July plenum which removed Zinoviev from the Political Bureau, which thundered against “Trotskyism” and which assumed the defense of the Uglanov-Mandelstamm crib.
We now propose that the speeches of Stalin together with our speeches on the question of the A-RC be published for the congress. This would provide an excellent examination as to whose views stand the test of events and of time: the views of Stalin or the views of the Opposition?
6. We shall pass over the scholastic constructions of Bukharin. Upon this question he observed seven theoretical-Fridays a week. Here is the sophism that the A-RC is a trade union organization and not a political bloc. Here is also the sophism that the A-RC is not the union of leaders but the union of masses. Here too is the defense of the April capitulation in Berlin by an argumentation of a state and diplomatic character. And many, many other things besides. We evaluated these theories in their own time for what they were worth. It would be a fruitless waste of time to unwind, after the event, Bukharin’s talmudic knots. The course of events has swept away Bukharin’s scholasticism, as so much rubbish, out of which only one fact emerges clearly: the ideo-political bankruptcy. And just to think that all this put together is being served up as the general line of the Comintern!
“From the moment the general strike was broken [relates Andreyev] there was begun the preparation of a plan how best to destroy the A-RC, or to reduce the A-RC completely to a cipher, to such a position as would keep it from being a hindrance to the General Council ... This is what the plan of the present leaders of the General Council amounted to. And what happened at the last Congress was the fulfillment of this plan.”
All of which is entirely correct. The General Council did have its own plan, and it did execute this plan methodically. “The break is the fulfillment of a carefully thought out plan which the General Council had prepared and which it executed during the last Congress.” This is absolutely correct. The General Council knew what it wanted. Or rather, the masters of the General Council knew where it had to be led. But did comrade Andreyev know where he was going? He did not. Because not only did he fail to hinder but he also assisted the General Council to fulfill its perfidious plan to the greatest benefit of the General Council itself, and its actual political principals, i.e., the British bourgeoisie.
8. If the General Council did have a plan and if it was able to execute this plan methodically, then couldn’t this plan have been understood, deciphered and foreseen? The Opposition did foresee. As early as June 2, 1926, two weeks after the General Strike was broken we wrote to the Political Bureau:
“But may not the General Council itself take the initiative to break away? This is more than probable. It will issue a statement that the CEC of the Russian trade unions is striving not toward the unity of the world working class but to fan discord among trade unions, and that it, the General Council, cannot travel along the same road with the CEC of the Russian unions. Then, once more we shall call after them: Traitors! – which will express all the realism there is in the policy that consists of supporting rotten fictions.” (Minutes of the Political Bureau, June 8, 1926, p.71)
Hasn’t this been confirmed literally, almost letter for letter? We did not break with the General Council after it had betrayed the general strike and had aroused against itself the extreme exasperation of millions of English workers. We did not break with it under conditions already less favorable to us, after it had broken the coal miners’ strike, together with the priests of the bourgeoisie. Nor did we break with it under still less favorable conditions – on the question of British intervention in China. And now the English have broken with us over the question of our interfering in their internal affairs, our striving to “give orders” to the English working class, or to turn the English trade unions into instruments of our state policies. They broke on those questions which are most favorable to them, and which are most apt to fool the English workers. Which is precisely what we had been forecasting. Whose policy, then, turns out to be correct, sober and revolutionary? The one that penetrates the machinations of the enemy and foresees the tomorrow? or the policy that blindly assists the enemy to carry its perfidious plan to completion?
9. During the July 1926 plenum a cable was received from the General Council with its gracious consent to meet with the representatives of the CEC of the Russian unions. At that time this cable was played up as a victory not over the General Council but over the Opposition. What an effect there was when comrade Lozovsky brought up this telegram!
“What will you do,” he demanded from the Opposition, “if they [the General Council] do consent; more than that, what will you do if they have already consented? We have received such a cable today.
“TROTSKY: They have consented that we shield them temporarily by our prestige, now when they are preparing a new betrayal. (Disorder, laughter.)” (p.53.)
All this is recorded in the minutes. At that time our forecasts were the subject for taunts, disorder and laughter. Comrade Tomsky did indeed crow over the receipt of the cable.
“TOMSKY: Our little corpse is peering out of one eye ... (Loud laughter.)” (p.58)
Yes, the laughter was loud. Whom were you laughing at than, comrade Andryev? You were laughing at yourselves.
And how comrade Lozovsky did taunt the Opposition with the fact that its expectations had not materialized.
“What makes you so certain,” he inquired, “that your second supposition will materialize? Wait ...” (p.63)
To which we answered:
“TROTSKY: This means, that for the moment the wiser and the more astute among them have gained the day, and that is why they have not broken as yet. (Disorder.)” (p. 53)
Again “disorder”. To Andreyev, Lozovsky and others it was absolutely clear that the Opposition was motivated by “gross factional considerations”, and not by the concern how we should distinguish correctly friends from enemies, and allies from traitors. Hence the laughter and the disorder in the production of which comrade Andreyev by no means took the last place. “What makes you so certain that your second supposition will materialize?” inquired comrade Lozovsky. “Wait ...” The majority was with Andreyev and Lozovsky. We had to wait. We waited more than a year. And it so happened that the Anglo-Russian Committee which, according to Rykov, should have tumbled bourgeois strongholds – assisted instead its own bourgeoisie to deal us a blow, and then screened Chamberlain’s blow by dealing its own supplementary blow.
When the test of great events comes, comrade Andreyev, one must always pay heavily for the policy of opportunistic illusions.
10. We have already recalled that Andreyev in his report skipped completely over the Berlin conference of the A-RC, April 1927, as if no such conference had ever been. Yet this conference marks the most important stage in the history of the A-RC after the general strike was broken. At the Berlin conference the delegation of the CEC of the Russian unions renewed its mandate of faith in the General Council. The delegation behaved as if there had been neither the betrayal of the general strike, nor the betrayal of the coal miners’ strike, nor the betrayal of the Chinese revolution, nor the betrayal of the USSR All the notes of credit were renewed and comrade Tomsky boasted that this was done in the spirit of perfect “mutual understanding” and “heart-to-heart relations”. It is impossible to give traitors greater aid. What did we get for it? The disruption of the A-RC within four months, at the time when our international position became worse. In the name of what did we capitulate in Berlin? Precisely upon this question, comrade Andreyev didn’t have a word to say to the membership meeting of the railwaymen.
Yet in Berlin capitulation was no accident. It flowed in its entirety from the policy of “preserving” the A-RC at all costs. From the end of May 1926 the Opposition hammered away that it was impermissible to maintain a bloc with people we call traitors. Or the converse: we cannot call traitors people with whom we maintain a bloc. We must break with the traitors at the moment of their greatest betrayal, in the eyes of loyal and indignant masses, aiding- the masses to invest their indignation with the clearest possible political and organizational expression. This is what the Opposition demanded. And it also forewarned that if the bloc was not broken, the criticism of the General Council would necessarily have to be adapted to the bloc, i.e., reduced to nothing. This forecast was likewise completely verified. The manifesto of the CEC of the Red unions on June 8, 1926 contained a rather sharp, although inadequate, criticism of the General Council. Subsequent manifestos and resolutions became paler and more diffuse. And on April 1, 1927, the Russian delegation capitulated completely to the General Council.
At no time was the position of the British trade union leaders so difficult as in May, June and July 1926. The scissure between the leaders and the revolutionary vanguard of the proletariat stood revealed during that period as never before. We had two courses open to us: to deepen this scissure or to assist the General Council to plug it up. Thanks to the assistance we gave the strikers, our prestige was very high. Our breaking relations with the General Council would have been a powerful supplementary blow to its authority and position. On the contrary, the preservation of the political and organizational bloc assisted the General Council to negotiate with least losses the frontier most dangerous to it. “Thank you,” it said to those who helped keep it in the saddle. “I can go on from here myself.” Incidentally, there was no gratitude expressed, the CEC of the Russian trade unions merely received a kick.
On one point Andreyev is correct: this break is the fulfillment of a carefully thought-out plan.
11. But did Andreyev have a plan himself? We have already stated that he had none whatever. Perhaps the most severe indictment of Andreyev lies in his silence about the Berlin conference of April 1927. Yet at the April plenum of the CEC comrade Andreyev spoke very decisively in defense of this conference. Here is what he said then:
“What did we set as our task? At this Anglo-Russian Committee [in Berlin] we set as our task to force the English to give us a direct and clear [!] answer to what their views were about continuing the existence of the Anglo-Russian Committee. And in my opinion, we did force them to do this [?!]. Jointly with us, they said that they were for continuing the existence of the Anglo-Russian Committee, for activizing it, and so forth. At this Anglo-Russian Committee we were to force through a definite decision upon the question of unity and to a certain degree the condemnation of the Amsterdam International for its evasion of unity proposals ... We forced such a decision [?!]. We forced through a resolution on this question. We had to force an answer from them on the question of the war danger, and imperialist mobilization. In my opinion, in this sphere also, we forced through, of course not a 100% Bolshevik decision [?!], but a maximum possible decision that could have been forced through under the given conditions.” (p.32)
Such were the victories gained by comrade Andreyev at the Berlin conference: the English expressed themselves “directly and clearly” in favor of continuing the existence of the A-RC; more than that, in favor of “activizing it”. It is no laughing matter indeed! Andreyev forced a clear answer from the English on the question of trade union unity, and finally – hear! hear! – on the question of war. Small wonder, that in that very same speech of his, comrade Andreyev – poor fellow! – spoke of how the Opposition “has hopelessly sunk in the mire of its mistakes”.
But what to do now? In April “we forced the General Council to give us clear and direct answers”. The Opposition, sunk in the mire of its mistakes, alone failed to understand these successes. But in September, the Trade Union Congress arranged by the General Council broke with the Anglo-Russian Committee. Whence comes this contradiction between April and September? Right now, Andreyev admits that the collapse of the A-RC is the fulfillment of a plan conceived back at the time of the general strike, that is, in May 1926. What then was the import of the “clear and direct” answers of the English in April 1927? Hence follows that these answers were neither clear nor direct, but swindles. The job of the General Council consisted in hoodwinking, gaining time, causing a delay, preparing the Congress, and using it as a shield.
The Opposition issued timely warning on this score as well. Open the minutes of the April 1926 plenum to page 31. We said at that time:
“‘A particular danger to world peace is lodged in the policy of the imperialists in China.’ This is what they have countersigned. How come their tongues didn’t turn inside out, or why didn’t we pull them by the tongue and compel them to speak out precisely who the imperialists were? It is no mere coincidence that all this was signed on the first day of April, this date is symbolic ... (Laughter.)
“KAGANOVICH : You mean to say we fooled them!”
As may be observed, comrade Kaganovich hit the bull’s eye. Now it has become quite clear as to who fooled whom. Andreyev has some cause to be plaintive over the fact that after all his victories in April 1927 the English liquidated the A-RC at that very moment when it was most urgently needed.
This, comrade Andreyev, is what one would call having hopelessly sunk in a mire!
12. But this wasn’t enough; comrade Andreyev expressed himself even more harshly about the Opposition at the April Plenum:
“Our Opposition comes out with the demand that we break with the English unions. Such a position is a position to isolate us at the most difficult moment, when imperialism is mobilizing its forces against us. You maintain that your position is presumably revolutionary, but you are giving objective aid to the Chamberlains because the Chamberlains want no connections whatever between our trade union movement and the English trade union movement and they want no Anglo-Russian Committees to hinder them.” (p.33)
The Opposition proposed that we do not seize hold of a rotten twig while passing over a precipice. But the policies defended by comrade Andreyev did bring us into isolation “at the most difficult moment, when imperialism is mobilizing its forces against us”. That is the job which was literally fulfilled by the official policies. By supporting the General Council, we weakened the Minority Movement. Within the minority itself, by our conciliationist line, we supported the Right elements against the Left. By this policy we put a brake on the revolutionary education of the proletarian vanguard, including the Communist party among the number. We assisted the General Council to hold its position without losses, to prepare a reactionary Congress of trade union bureaucrats in Edinburgh, and to break with us against the resistance only of a small minority. We assisted the General Council to isolate us in our most difficult moment and thus to realize the plan conceived by the General Council far back during the time of the general strike.
This, comrade Andreyev, implies giving objective aid to the Chamberlains!
13. But now, defending the policies of bankruptcy before a non-party meeting, comrade Andreyev says:
“A few hotheads from the Opposition in our Communist party proposed to us during the entire period the following tactic: ‘Break with the English traitors, break with the General Council.’”
This utterly cheap, philistine phrase about “hotheads” is taken from the dictionary of middle-class reformism and opportunism, which are incapable of a long-range policy, that is to say, the policy of Marxian prescience and Bolshevik resolution. In April 1927 Andreyev reckoned that he had forced serious commitments from the English. To this we replied:
“Political swindlers in the staff of the Amsterdam agency of capitalism commonly sow pacifist bargains of this type in order to lull the workers and thus keep their own hands free for betrayal at the critical moment.” (p.38)
Who proved to be correct? Policies are tested by facts. We saw above what Andreyev expected in April of this year, and what he received in September. Wretched niggardliness, shameful nearsightedness! That is the name for your policy, comrade Andreyev!
14. Andreyev has one remaining solace: “The responsibility [!] for the breaking up of this organization [the A-RC] falls entirely and squarely [!!] upon the leaders of the English trade union movement.” This statement proves that Andreyev has learned nothing. “The responsibility” for the breaking of the A-RC! One might think that this was the most frightful of crimes against the working class. The General Council broke the general strike, assisted the coal barons to enslave the miners, screened the destruction of Nanking, supported the policies of Chamberlain against the workers’ state and will support Chamberlain in case of war. And Andreyev seeks to scare these people by “responsibility” for breaking the A-RC.
What did the English workers see of the A-RC, particularly from the time of the general strike: banquets, hollow resolutions, hypocritical and diplomatic speeches.
And on the other hand, since when have we become afraid of assuming the responsibility for breaking with traitors and betrayers? What sort of a pathetic, wishy-washy, rotten liberal way is this of putting the question, anyway! To prolong the life of the A-RC for four months we paid by the most disgraceful capitulation at Berlin. But in return, don’t you see, we have rid ourselves of the most horrendous responsibility – the responsibility of having broken with the betrayers of the working class. But the entire history of Bolshevism is impregnated with the determination to assume responsibility of this sort!
Comrade Andreyev, you are also one of those who babble about Trotskyism but who have yet to grasp the main thing in Bolshevism.
15. The perplexed reporter says:
“Now every proletarian must give himself a clear accounting, weigh the documents, and compare our policy with theirs.” (Andreyev, Report at the Meeting of Railwaymen)
This is of course a praiseworthy manner of putting the question. One shouldn’t accept anyone’s say so. On this score Lenin had the following to say: “He who accepts somebody’s word is a hopeless idiot.” This Leninist aphorism applies to all countries, the Soviet Union among them. It is essential that our workers gain a clear conception of the policies of comrade Andreyev, i.e., the entire official policy in the question of the Anglo-Russian Committee. To this end, all the documents must be published and made available to every worker. We trust that comrade Andreyev will support this proposal of ours. Otherwise he’ll be in the position of one who maintains that what is good for the English is death for Russians. But this is the viewpoint of chauvinists and not internationalist revolutionists.
16. But what to do now, after the rotten stage decoration has collapsed completely? Comrade Andreyev replies:
“The leaders refuse to make agreements with us – we will carry on this policy of the united front over the heads of the leaders and against their wishes, we shall carry it on from below, by means of our ties with the masses, their rank and file organizations, and so forth.”
Fine. But didn’t Manuilsky say more than a year ago, at the July plenum:
“Comrade Zinoviev appears here to console us that after breaking with the Anglo-Russian Committee we shall have to build new bridges to the workers movement. But I want to ask – have you seen these bridges? Did comrade Zinoviev outline new ways for realizing the idea of trade union unity? What is worst in the entire Opposition of comrades Zinoviev and Trotsky is this state of helplessness [!!!].” (p.24)
Thus a year ago the proclamation read that the liquidation of the Anglo-Russian Committee must create a state of helplessness: there being no other bridges in sight. He was considered a true revolutionary optimist who believed in the Purcellian bridge. And now this bridge has collapsed. Cannot one draw the conclusion that precisely Manuilsky’s position is the position of helplessness and occlusion? It may be objected that no one would take Manuilsky seriously. Agreed. But didn’t all th« other defenders of the official line declare that the A-RC is the “incarnation” of the brotherhood between the Russian and English proletariat, the bridge to the masses, the instrument of the defense of the defense of the USSR, and so forth and so on ...?!
To the Opposition – such was the objection of the representatives of the official line – the Anglo-Russian Committee is the bloc between leaders, but for us it is the bloc of toiling masses, the incarnation of their union. Now, permit us to ask: Is the breaking of the A-RC the breaking of the union of the, toiling masses? Comrade Andreyev seems to say – no. But this very same answer goes to prove that the A-RC did not represent the union of toiling masses, for it is impossible to make a union with strikers through the strikebreakers.
17. It is incontestable that we must find ways other than the General Council. Moreover, after this reactionary partition has been eliminated, only then dp we obtain the possibility of seeking genuine connections with the genuine masses. The first condition for success on this road is the merciless condemnation of the official line toward the Anglo-Russian Committee for the entire recent period, i.e., from the beginning of the general strike.
18. The tremendous movements of the English proletariat have naturally not passed without leaving a trace. The Communist party has become stronger – both in numbers and in influence – as a result of its participation in the mass struggles. The processes of differentiation within the many-millioned masses continue to take place. As is always the case after major defeats, certain and rather wide circles of the working class suffer a temporary drop in activity. The reactionary bureaucracy intrenches itself, surmounting internal shadings. At the Left pole a selection of revolutionary elements and the strengthening of the Communist party takes place at a rate more rapid than prior to the strike. All these phenomena flow with iron inevitability from the gigantic revolutionary wave which broke against the resistance not only of the bourgeoisie but also of its own official leadership. One can and must continue building on this foundation. However, the thoroughly false policy restricted to the extreme the sweep of the offensive and weakened its revolutionary consequences. With a correct policy the Communist party could have garnered immeasurably more abundant revolutionary fruits. By the continuation of the incorrect policies it risks losing what it has gained.
19. Comrade Andreyev points to the workers’ delegations as one of the ways toward establishing connections with English masses. Naturally, workers delegations well picked, and well instructed, can also bring benefit to the cause of workers’ unity. But it would be a rock-bottom mistake to push this method to the foreground. The import of workers’ delegations is purely auxiliary. Our fundamental connection with the English working class is through the Communist party. It is possible to find the road to the toiling masses organized into trade unions not through combinations, nor through false deals at the top but through the correct revolutionary policy of the British Communist party, the Comintern, Profintern and the Russian unions. The masses can be won over only by a sustained revolutionary line. Once again this stands revealed in all its certainty, after the collapse of the A-RC As a matter of fact, the point of departure for the erroneous line in the question of the A-RC was the straining to supplant the growth of the influence of the Communist party by skilled diplomacy in relation to the leaders of the trade unions. If any one tried to leap over actual and necessary and inevitable stages, it was Stalin and Bukharin. It seemed to them that they would be able through cunning manoeuvres and combinations to promote the British working class to the highest class without the Communist party, or rather with some cooperation from it. This was also the initial error of comrade Tom-sky. Again, however, there is nothing original in this mistake. That is how opportunism always begins. The development of the class appears to it to be much too slow and it seeks to reap what it has not sown, or what has not ripened as yet. Such, for example, was the source of the opportunistic mistakes of Ferdinand Lassalle. But after the methods of diplomacy and combination have described a complete circle, opportunism then returns, like the fishwife in the fable, to its broken trough. Had we from the very beginning correctly understood that the A-RC is a temporary bloc with reformists which can be maintained only up to their first shift to the Right; had we generally understood that a united front with the “leaders” can have only an ephemeral, episodic and subordinate significance; had we, in correspondence with all this, broken with the Anglo-Russian Committee on that very day when it refused to accept the assistance of the Russian workers to the English strikers – this entire tactical experiment would have been justified. We would have given impetus to the movement of the Left minority and the British Communist party would have received a lesson in the correct application of the tactic of the united front.
Instead of this we shifted the tactical axis over to the side of the bloc with the reformist tops. We attempted to transform a temporary and an entirely legitimate agreement into a permanent institution. This institution was proclaimed by us to be the core of the struggle for the unity of the world proletariat, the center of the revolutionary struggle against war, and so forth and so on. Thus we created political fictions, and we preached to the workers to have faith in these fictions, i.e., we were performing work which is profoundly harmful and inimical to the revolution. To the extent that the treacherous character of our allies became revealed – to which we tried to shut our eyes as long as possible – we proclaimed that the crux of the matter lay not in them, not in the General Council: that the A-RC is not a bloc between leaders but a union of masses, that the A-RC is only the “incarnation”, only a “symbol” and so forth and so on. This was already the direct policy of lies, falsehoods and rotten masquerades. This web of falseness was crumpled by great events. Instead of lisping, “the responsibility for this does not fall on us”, we must say, “to our shame – we deserve no credit for it”.
Andreyev says that the whole truth must be told to every English worker. Of course, everything possible must be done. But this is not at all easy. When Andreyev says: “Now no one will believe the members of the General Council any longer,” that is simply a cheap phrase. As the Edinburgh Congress shows, our policy strengthened the General Council. The Berlin conference alone – disregarding all the rest – did not pass scot free for us. We shall have not only to scrub but to scrape away the ideological confusion we have spread. This primarily refers to the British Communist party, and in the second place to the Left wing Minority Movement.
As far back as the time of the general strike, as well as the coal miners’ strike the leadership of the British Communist party was far from always able to display initiative and resolution. One must not forget that the CEC of the British Communist party long refused to print the July 8 manifesto of the Russian unions as too sharp toward the General Council. For him who is able to judge symptoms this episode must appear as extremely alarming. A young Communist party whose entire strength lies in criticism and irreconcilability, reveals at the decisive moment a surplus of qualities of the opposite order. At bottom of it is the false understanding and the false application of the policy of the united front. Day in and day out the English Communist party was taught that the union with Purcell and Hicks would aid the cause of the defense of the USSR and that the Russian Opposition which does not believe this was guilty of defeatism. Everything was stood on its head. This could not pass without leaving its traces upon the consciousness of the British Communist party ... This could not and it did not pass scot free. The Right wing tendencies have become extremely strengthened among the leading circles of the British Communist party: enough to recall the dissatisfaction of a number of the members of the English Central Committee with the CI theses on war as being far too “Left”; enough to recall Follitt’s speech in Edinburgh, the speeches and articles of Murphy, and so on. All these symptoms indicate one and the same thing: for a young party, still lacking real Bolshevik tempering, the policies of the Anglo-Russian Committee inevitably implied the opportunistic dislocation of its entire line. This applies even to a larger measure to the Left wing Minority Movement. The evil caused here is not so easily remedied. It is pregnant with party crises in the future. Of course these words will supply pathetic functionaries with the pretext to speak of our hostility toward the British Communist party, and so forth. We have witnessed this in the past more than once, particularly in the case of China. Up to the last moment the Chinese Communist party was proclaimed as the exemplar of Bolshevist policies, and after the collapse – as the progeny of Menshevism. We have nothing in common with such repulsive political oiliness. It has already brought the greatest harm both to our party and to the Comintern. But this will not cause us to pause on the road of fulfilling our revolutionary duty.
Andreyev’s report aims to smear over one of the greatest tactical lessons of the recent period. In this lies the most serious’ harmfulness of the report and of similar speeches and documents. It is possible to move forward only on the basis of an all-sided examination of the experience with the Anglo-Russian Committee. To this end all the basic documents that shed light on this question must be made available to all communists. In order to move forward it is necessary to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, both to the Russian and English workers.
Moscow, September 23, 1927.
Last updated on: 23.1.2007