Leon Trotsky

The Third International
After Lenin

II. Strategy and Tactics in the Imperialist Epoch

(Part 3)

8. The Period of Right-Centrist Down-Sliding

9. The Maneuverist Character of Revolutionary Strategy

10. The Strategy of Civil War

8. The Period of Right-Centrist Down-Sliding

The policy of the most important communist parties, attuned to the Fifth Congress, very soon revealed its complete inefficacy. The mistakes of pseudo-"leftism" which hampered the development of the communist parties, later gave an impetus to new empirical zigzags: namely, to an accelerated sliding down to the Right. A cat burned by hot milk shies away from cold water. The “Left” Central Committees of a number of parties were deposed as violently as they had been constituted prior to the Fifth Congress. The adventurist Leftism gave way to an open opportunism of the Right-Centrist type. To comprehend the character and the tempo of this organizational Rightward swing, it must be recalled that Stalin, the director of this turn, back in September 1924 appraised the passing of party leadership to Maslow, Ruth Fischer, Treint, Suzanne Girault, and others, as the expression of the Bolshevization of the parties and an answer to the demands of the Bolshevik workers who are marching toward the revolution and “want revolutionary leaders.

Stalin wrote, “The last half year is remarkable in the sense that it presents a radical turning point in the life of the communist parties of the West, in the sense that the social democratic survivals were decisively liquidated, the party cadres Bolshevized, and the opportunist elements isolated.” [30]

But ten months later the genuine “Bolsheviks” and “revolutionary leaders” were declared social democrats and renegades, ousted from leadership and driven out of the party.

Despite the panicky character of this change of leaders, frequently effected by resorting to rude and disloyal mechanical measures of the apparatus, it is impossible to draw any rigorous ideological line of demarcation between the phase of ultra-left policy and the period of opportunistic down-sliding that followed it.

In the questions of industry and the peasantry in the USSR, of the colonial bourgeoisie, of “peasant” parties in the capitalist countries, of socialism in one country, of the role of the party in the proletarian revolution, the revisionist tendencies already appeared in fullest bloom in 1924-25, cloaked with the banner of the struggle against “Trotskyism,” and they found their most distinctly opportunist expression in the resolutions of the conference of the CPSU in April 1925.

Taken as a whole, the course to the Right was the attempt at a half-blind, purely empirical, and belated adaptation to the set-back of revolutionary development caused by the defeat of 1923. Bukharin’s initial formulation, as has already been mentioned, was based on the “permanent” development of the revolution in the most literal and the most mechanical sense of the term. Bukharin granted no “breathing spaces,” interruptions, or retreats of any kind; he considered it a revolutionary duty to continue the “offensive” under all circumstances.

The above quoted article of Stalin, On the International Situation, which is a sort of program and which marks Stalin’s debut on international questions, demonstrates that the second author of the draft program also professed the very same purely mechanical “Left” conception during the initial period of the struggle against “Trotskyism.” For this conception there existed always and unalterably only the social democracy that was “disintegrating,” workers who were becoming “radicalized,” communist parties that were “growing,” and the revolution that was “approaching.” And anybody who looked around and tried to distinguish things was and is a “liquidator.”

This “tendency” required a year and a half to sense something new after the break in the situation in Europe in 1923 so as then to transform itself, panic-stricken, into its opposite. The leadership oriented itself without any synthesized understanding of our epoch and its inner tendencies, only by groping (Stalin) and by supplementing the fragmentary conclusions thus obtained with scholastic schemes renovated for each occasion (Bukharin). The political line as a whole, therefore, represents a chain of zigzags. The ideological line is a kaleidoscope of schemes tending to push to absurdity every segment of the Stalinist zigzag.

The Sixth Congress would act correctly if it decided to elect a special commission in order to compile all the theories created by Bukharin and intended by him to serve as a basis, say, for all the stages of the Anglo-Russian Committee; these theories would have to be compiled chronologically and arranged systematically so as to draw a fever chart of the ideas contained in them. It would be a most instructive strategical diagram. The same also holds for the Chinese revolution, the economic development of the USSR, and all other less important questions. Blind empiricism multiplied by scholasticism – such is the course that still awaits merciless condemnation.

The effects of this course showed themselves most fatally in the three most important questions: in the internal policy of the USSR; the Chinese revolution; and in the Anglo-Russian Committee. The effects were in the same direction, but less obvious and less fatal in their immediate consequences, in all the other questions of the policies of the Comintern in general.

As regards the internal questions of the USSR, a sufficiently exhaustive characterization of the policy of downsliding is given in the Platform of the Bolshevik-Leninists (Opposition). We must limit ourselves here merely to this reference to the latter. The Platform, now receives an apparently most unexpected confirmation in the fact that all the attempts of the present leadership of the CPSU to escape from the consequences of the policy of the years 1923 to 1928 are based upon almost literal quotations from the Platform, the authors and adherents of which are dispersed in prisons and exile. The fact, however, that the present leaders have recourse to the Platform only in sections and bits, without putting two and two together, makes the new Left turn extremely unstable and uncertain; but at the same time it invests the Platform with a greater value than ever as the generalized expression of a real Leninist course.

In the Platform, the question of the Chinese revolution is dealt with very insufficiently, incompletely, and in part positively falsely by Zinoviev. Because of the decisive importance of this question for the Comintern, we are obliged to subject it to a more detailed investigation in a separate chapter. (See Section III.)

As to the Anglo-Russian Committee, the third most important question from the strategical experiences of the Comintern in recent years, there only remains for us, after all that has already been said by the Opposition in a series of articles, speeches, and theses, to make a brief summary.

The point of departure of the Anglo-Russian Committee, as we have already seen, was the impatient urge to leap over the young and too slowly developing communist party. This invested the entire experience with a false character even prior to the general strike.

The Anglo-Russian Committee was looked upon not as an episodic bloc at the tops which would have to be broken and which would inevitably and demonstratively be broken at the very first serious test in order to compromise the General Council. No, not only Stalin, Bukharin, Tomsky, and others, but also Zinoviev saw in it a long lasting “co-partnership” – an instrument for the systematic revolutionization of the English working masses, and if not the gate, at least an approach to the gate through which would stride the revolution of the English proletariat. The further it went, the more the Anglo-Russian Committee became transformed from an episodic alliance into an inviolable principle standing above the real class struggle. This became revealed at the time of the general strike.

The transition of the mass movement into the open revolutionary stage threw back into the camp of the bourgeois reaction those liberal labor politicians who had become somewhat Left. They betrayed the general strike openly and deliberately; after which they undermined and betrayed the miners’ strike. The possibility of betrayal is always contained in reformism. But this does not mean to say that reformism and betrayal are one and the same thing at every moment. Not quite. Temporary agreements may be made with the reformists whenever they take a step forward. But to maintain a bloc with them when, frightened by the development of a movement, they commit treason, is equivalent to criminal toleration of traitors and a veiling of betrayal.

The general strike had the task of exerting a united pressure upon the employers and the state with the power of the five million workers, for the question of the coal mining industry had become the most important question of state policy. Thanks to the betrayal of the leadership, the strike was broken in its first stage. It was a great illusion to continue in the belief that an isolated economic strike of the mine workers would alone achieve what the general strike did not achieve. That is precisely where the power of the General Council lay. It aimed with cold calculation at the defeat of the mine workers, as a result of which considerable sections of the workers would be convinced of the “correctness” and the “reasonableness” of the Judas directives of the General Council.

The maintenance of the amicable bloc with the General Council, and the simultaneous support of the protracted and isolated economic strike of the mine workers, which the General Council came out against, seemed, as it were, to be calculated beforehand to allow the heads of the trade unions to emerge from this heaviest test with the least possible losses.

The role of the Russian trade unions here, from the revolutionary standpoint, turned out to be very disadvantageous and positively pitiable. Certainly, support of an economic strike, even an isolated one, was absolutely necessary. There can be no two opinions on that among revolutionists. But this support should have borne not only a financial but also a revolutionary-political character. The All-Russian Central Council of Trade Unions should have declared openly to the English mine workers’ union and the whole English working class that the mine workers’ strike could seriously count upon success only if by its stubornness, its tenacity, and its scope, it could prepare the way for a new outbreak of the general strike. That could have been achieved only by an open and direct struggle against the General Council, the agency of the government and the mine owners. The struggle to convert the economic strike into a political strike should have signified, therefore, a furious political and organizational war against the General Council. The first step to such a war had to be the break with the Anglo-Russian Committee. which had become a reactionary obstacle, a chain on the feet of the working class.

No revolutionist who weighs his words will contend that a victory would have been guaranteed by proceeding along this line. But a victory was possible only on this road. A defeat on this road was a defeat on a road that could lead later to victory. Such a defeat educates, that is, strengthens the revolutionary ideas in the working class. In the meantime, mere financial support of the lingering and hopeless trade union strike (trade union strike’in its methods; revolutionary-political’in its aims), only meant grist to the mill of the General Council, which was biding calmly until the strike collapsed from starvation and thereby proved its own “correctness.” Of course, the General Council could not easily bide its time for several months in the role of an open strike-breaker. It was precisely during this very critical period that the General Council required the Anglo-Russian Committee as its political screen from the masses. Thus, the questions of the mortal class struggle between English capital and the proletariat, between the General Council and the mine workers, were transformed, as it were, into questions of a friendly discussion between allies in the same bloc, the English General Council and the All-Russian Central Council of Trade Unions, on the subject of which of the two roads was better at that moment: the road of an agreement, or the road of an isolated economic struggle. The inevitable outcome of the strike led to the agreement, that is, tragically settled the friendly “discussion” in favor of the General Council.

From beginning to end, the entire policy of the Anglo-Russian Committee, because of its false line, provided only aid to the General Council. Even the fact that the strike was long sustained financially by the great self-sacrifice on the part of the Russian working class, did not serve the mine workers or the English Communist Party, but the self-same General Council. As the upshot of the greatest revolutionary movement in England since the days of Chartism, the English Communist Party has hardly grown while the General Council sits in the saddle even more firmly than before the general strike.

Such are the results of this unique “strategical maneuver.”

The obstinacy evinced in retaining the bloc with the General Council, which led to downright servility at the disgraceful Berlin session in April 1927, was explained away by the ever recurring reference to the very same “stabilization.” If there is a setback in the development of the revolution, then, you see, one is forced to cling to Purcell. This argument, which appeared very profound to a Soviet functionary or to a trade unionist of the type of Melnichansky, is in reality a perfect example of blind empiricism’adulterated by scholasticism at that. What was the significance of “stabilization” in relation to English economy and politics, especially in the years 1926-1927? Did it signify the development of the productive forces? The improvement of the economic situation? Better hopes for the future? Not at all. The whole so-called stabilization of English capitalism is maintained only upon the conservative forces of the old labor organizations with all their currents and shadings in the face of the weakness and irresolutely of the English Communist Party. On the field of the economic and social relations of England, the revolution has already fully matured. The question stands purely politically. The basic props of the stabilization are the heads of the Labour Party and the trade unions, which, in England, constitute a single unit but which operate through a division of labor.

Given such a condition of the working masses as was revealed by the general strike, the highest post in the mechanism of capitalist stabilization is no longer occupied by MacDonald and Thomas, but by Pugh, Purcell, Cook, and Co. They do the work and Thomas adds the finishing touches. Without Purcell, Thomas would be left hanging in mid-air and along with Thomas also Baldwin. The chief brake upon the English revolution is the false, diplomatic masquerade “Leftism” of Purcell which fraternizes sometimes in rotation, sometimes simultaneously with churchmen and Bolsheviks and which is always ready not only for retreats but also for betrayal. Stabilization is Purcellism. From this we see what depths of theoretical absurdity and blind opportunism are expressed in the reference to the existence of “stabilization” in order to justify the political bloc with Purcell. Yet, precisely in order to shatter the “stabilization,” Purcellism had first to be destroyed. In such a situation, even a shadow of solidarity with the General Council was the greatest crime and infamy against the working masses.

Even the most correct strategy cannot, by itself, always lead to victory. The correctness of a strategical plan is verified by whether it follows the line of the actual development of class forces and whether it estimates the elements of this development realistically. The gravest and most disgraceful defeat which has the most fatal consequences for the movement is the typically Menshevist defeat, due to a false estimate of the classes, an underestimation of the revolutionary factors, and an idealization of the enemy forces. Such were our defeats in China and in England.

What was expected from the Anglo-Russian Committee for the USSR?

In July 1926, Stalin lectured to us at the joint plenum of the Central Committee and the Central Control Commission as follows:

“The task of this bloc [the Anglo-Russian Committee] consists in organizing a broad movement of the working class against new imperialist wars and generally against an intervention in our country (especially) on the part of the mightiest of the imperialist powers of Europe, on the part of England in particular.”

While he was instructing us, Oppositionists, to the effect that “care must be taken to defend the first workers’ republic of the world against intervention” (we, naturally, are unaware of this), Stalin added:

“If the reactionary trade unions of England are ready to conclude a bloc with the revolutionary trade unions of our country against the counter-revolutionary imperialists of their own country, then why should we not hail such a bloc?”

If the “reactionary trade unions” were capable of conducting a struggle against their own imperialists they would not he reactionary. Stalin is incapable of distinguishing any longer between the conceptions reactionary and revolutionary. He characterizes the English trade unions as reactionary as a matter of routine but in reality he entertains miserable illusions with regard to their “revolutionary spirit.”

After Stalin, the Moscow Committee of our party lectured to the workers of Moscow:

“The Anglo-Russian Committee can, must, and will undoubtedly play an enormous role in the struggle against all possible interventions directed against the USSR It will become the organizing center of the international forces of the proletariat for the struggle against every attempt of the international bourgeoisie to provoke a new war.” [31]

What did the Opposition reply? We said:

“The more acute the international situation becomes, the more the Anglo-Russian Committee will be transformed into a weapon of British and international imperialism.”

This criticism of the Stalinist hopes in Purcell as the guardian angel of the workers’ state was characterized by Stalin at the very same plenum as a deviation “from Leninism to Trotskyism.”

Voroshilov: “Correct.”

A Voice: “Voroshilov has affixed his seal to it.”

Trotsky: “Fortunately all this will be in the Minutes.”

Yes, all this is to be found in the Minutes of the July plenum at which the blind, rude, and disloyal opportunists dared to accuse the Opposition of “defeatism.”

This dialogue which I am compelled to quote briefly from my earlier article,”’ What We Gave and What We Got, is far more useful as a strategical lesson than the entire sophomoric chapter on strategy in the draft program. The question – what we gave (and expected) and what we got? – is in general the principal criterion in strategy. It must be applied at the Sixth Congress to all questions that have been on the agenda in recent years. It will then be revealed conclusively that the strategy of the ECCI, especially since the year 1926, was a strategy of imaginary sums, false calculations, illusions with regard to the enemy, and persecutions of the most reliable and unwavering militants. In a word, it was the rotten strategy of Right-Centrism.

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9. The Maneuverist Character of Revolutionary Strategy

At first sight, it appears incomprehensible why the “maneuvering” and “flexibility” of Bolshevik strategy are passed over in complete silence in the draft. Out of this entire vast question only a single point is taken’the point on agreements with the colonial bourgeoisie.

Yet, the opportunism of the recent period, zigzagging ever more deeply to the Right, has advanced primarily under the banner of maneuver strategy. The refusal to concur with unprincipled compromises which, because of this very fact, were harmful in practise, was characterized as lack of “flexibility.” The majority declared its basic principle to be the maneuver. Zinoviev maneuvered back in 1925 with Radic and LaFollette. Stalin and Bukhrarin thereafter maneuvered with Chiang Kai-shek, with Purcell, and with the kulaks. The apparatus continually maneuvered with the party. Zinoviev and Ramenev are now maneuvering with the apparatus.

A whole corps of specialists in maneuvers for bureaucratic requirement arose which consists predominantly of people who never were revolutionary fighters, and who now bow all the more ardently before the revolution after it has already conquered power. Borodin maneuvers in Canton. Rafes in Peking, D. Petrovsky maneuvers around the English Channel, Pepper maneuvers in the United States, but Pepper can maneuver in Polynesia, too; Martinov maneuvers from a distance, but to make up for it he does it in every corner of the globe. Whole broods of young academicians in maneuvers have been brought up who approach Bolshevik flexibility mainly by the elasticity of their own spines. The task of this school of strategy consists in obtaining through maneuvers what can be won only through revolutionary class forces. Just as every alchemist of the Middle Ages hoped, in spite of the failure of others, to make gold, so the present-day strategists in maneuvers also hope, each in his place, to deceive history. In the nature of things, of course, they are not strategists but only bureaucratic combinationists of all statures, save the great. Some of them, having observed how the Master settled petty questions, imagine that they have mastered the secrets of strategy. That is precisely the essence of epigonism. Others, again, obtained the secrets of combinationism at second and third hand, and after becoming convinced that with them wonders are sometimes achieved in small matters, they concluded that these methods are all the more applicable to great matters. Yet, all attempts to apply the method of bureaucratic combinations as being “more economic” in comparison with the revolutionary struggles in order to solve great questions, have led invariably to disgraceful failures, in addition to which, combinationism, armed with the apparatus of the party and of the state, each time broke the spine of the young parties and the young revolutions. Chiang Kai-shek, Wang Ching-wei, Purcell, the kulaks’all these have up to now emerged as victors from the attempts to deal with them by means of “maneuvers.”

Naturally, this does not mean to say that maneuvers are impermissible in general, that is, incompatible with the revolutionary strategy of the working class. But it must be clearly understood that maneuvers can bear only a subordinated, auxiliary, and expedient character in relation to the basic methods of revolutionary struggle. Once and for all it must be grasped that a maneuver can never decide anything in great matters. If combinations appear to solve something in small affairs, it is always at the expense of great matters. A correct maneuver can only facilitate the solution by providing the possibility of gaining time or of attaining greater results with smaller forces. It is impossible to escape from fundamental difficulties by means of a maneuver.

The contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie is a fundamental one. That is why the attempt to bridle the Chinese bourgeoisie by means of organizational and personal maneuvers and to compel it to submit to combinationist plans is not a maneuver but contemptible self-deception, even though it be colossal in scope. Classes cannot be tricked. This applies, considered historically, to all the classes and it is particularly and immediately true of the ruling, possessing, exploiting, and educated classes. The world experience of the latter is so great, their class instinct so refined, and their organs of espionage so varied that an attempt to deceive them by posing as somebody else must lead in reality to trapping, not the enemy, but one’s own friends.

The contradiction between the USSR and the capitalist world is a fundamental one. There is no escape from it by way of maneuvers. By means of clear and candidly acknowledged concessions to capital, and by utilizing the contradictions between its various sections, the breathing spell can be extended and time gained, but even this, only under certain historical conditions, and by no means under any and all circumstances. It is gross self-deception to believe that the international bourgeoisie can be “neutralized” until the construction of socialism, that is, that the fundamental contradictions can be overcome with the aid of a maneuver. Such self-deception may cost the Soviet republic its head. Only the international proletarian revolution can liberate us from the fundamental contradiction.

A maneuver can consist either of a concession to the enemy, or an agreement with a temporary and, therefore, always dubious ally, or a well-timed retreat calculated to keep the enenly from our throat, or, finally, the raising of partial demands and slogans in such succession as to split the enemy camp. These are the principal varieties of maneuvers. Others might be mentioned, secondary ones. But every maneuver is by its nature only an episode in relation to the fundamental strategical line of the struggle. In maneuvering with the Kuomintang and the Anglo-Russian Committee, these must always be kept in mind as the perfect examples of a Menshevik and not a Bolshevik maneuver. What occurred was just the reverse. What should have been only a tactical episode developed there into a strategical line and the real strategic task (the struggle against the bourgeoisie and the reformists) was atomized into a series of second-rate and petty tactical episodes which, moreover, were only decorative in character.

In a maneuver, one must always proceed from the worst and not the best assumptions with regard to the adversary to whom concessions are made, or the unreliable ally with whom an agreement is concluded. It must be constantly borne in mind that the ally can become an enemy on the morrow. This applies even to such an ally as the peasantry:

“We must be distrustful towards the peasantry, always organize ourselves separately from it, and be ready for a struggle against it, in so far as the peasantry shows itself to be reactionary or anti-proletarian.” [32]

This does not at all contradict the great strategically task of the proletariat which Lenin worked out for the first time theoretically as well as practically with such gifted profundity, the task of tearing the exploited layers of poor peasants away from the influence of the bourgeoisie and Leading them after us. But the alliance between the proletariat and the peasantry is by no means given ready-made by history and it cannot be created by means of oily maneuvers, contemptible attempts at wheedling, and pathetic declamations. The alliance between the proletariat and the peasantry is a question of the political relation of forces and consequently of the complete independence of the proletariat in relation to all other classes. The ally must first be educated. This can be achieved, on the one hand, by paying great attention to all its progressive and historical needs, and, on the other hand, by displaying an organized distrust towards the ally, and fighting tirelessly and relentlessly against its every anti-proletarian tendency and custom.

The import and the limits of a maneuver must always be clearly considered and demarcated. A concession must be called a concession, and a retreat a retreat. It is infinitely less dangerous to exaggerate one’s own concessions and retreats than to underestimate them. The vigilance of the class and the organized distrust of our own party must be maintained and not lulled.

The essential instrument of a maneuver, as in every historical action of the working class in general, is the party. But the party is not simply a tractable instrument in the hand of the “masters” of the maneuver, but a conscious and self-acting instrument, the highest expression of proletarian self-action in general. Therefore, every maneuver must be clearly grasped by the party itself throughout its application. In question here are, of course, not diplomatic, military, or conspiratorial secrets, that is, not the technique of the struggle of the proletarian state or of the proletarian party under capitalist conditions. In question here is the political content of the maneuver. That is why the whispered explanations to the effect that the course of 1924 to 1928 towards the kulaks was a great maneuver, are absurd and criminal. There is no deceiving the kulak. He does not judge by words but by deeds, by taxes, prices, and net profit. However, one’s own party’the working class and the peasant poor’can very well be deceived. Nothing is so calculated to disintegrate the revolutionary spirit of the proletarian party as unprincipled maneuvering and combinationism behind its back.

The most important, best established, and most unalterable rule to apply in every maneuver reads: you must never dare to merge, mix, or combine your own party organization with an alien one, even though the latter be most “sympathetic” today. Undertake no such steps as lead directly or indirectly, openly or maskedly, to the subordination of your party to other parties, or to organizations of other classes, or constrict the freedom of your own agitation, or your responsibility, even if only in part, for the political line of other parties. You shall not mix up the banners, let alone kneel before another banner.

It is the worst and most dangerous thing if a maneuver arises out of the impatient opportunistic endeavor to outstrip the development of one’s own party and to leap over the necessary stages of its development (it is precisely here that no stages must be leaped over), by binding, combining, and uniting superficially, fraudulently, diplomatically, through combinations and trickery, organizations and elements that pull in opposite directions. Such experiments, always dangerous, are fatal to young and weak parties.

In a maneuver, as in a battle, what decides is not strategical wisdom alone (still less, the cunning of combinationists), but the relationship of forces. Even a correctly contrived maneuver is, generally speaking, all the more dangerous for a revolutionary party, the younger and weaker the latter is in relation to its enemies, allies, and semi-allies. That is why’and we arrive here at a point which is of paramount importance for the Comintern’the Bolshevik party did not at all begin with maneuvering as a panacea but came to it, grew into it in the measure that it sunk its roots deeply into the working class, became strong politically and matured ideologically.

The misfortune lies precisely in the fact that the epigones of Bolshevik strategy extol maneuvers and flexibility to the young communist parties as the quintessence of this strategy, thereby tearing them away from their historical axis and principled foundation and turning them to unprincipled combinations which, only too often, resemble a squirrel whirling in its cage. It was not flexibility that served (nor should it serve today) as the basic trait of Bolshevism but rather granite hardness. It was precisely of this quality, for which its enemies and opponents reproached it, that Bolshevism was always justly proud. Not blissful “optimism” but intransigence, vigilance, revolutionary distrust, and the struggle for every hand’s breadth of independence’these are the essential traits of Bolshevism. This is what the communist parties of both the West and the East must begin with. They must first gain the right to carry out great maneuvers by preparing the political and material possibility for realizing them, that is, the strength, the solidity, the firmness of their own organization.

The Menshevik maneuvers with the Kuomintang and the General Council are tenfold criminal because they were flung upon the still frail shoulders of the Communist Parties of China and England. These maneuvers not only inflicted a defeat upon the revolution and the working class but also crushed, weakened, and undermined for a long time to come the fundamental instrument of future struggle, the young communist parties. At the same time they have also introduced elements of political demoralization into the ranks of the oldest party of the Comintern, the CPSU.

The chapter of the draft dealing with strategy remains obstinately silent about maneuvering’that hoby horse of late years’as if its mouth were filled with water. Indulgent critics may say: silence is good enough. But such rationalizing would be a great mistake. The misfortune lies in the fact that the draft program itself, as we have already shown in a number of examples and as we will show later on, also bears the character of a maneuver in the bad, that is, the combinational sense of the word. The draft maneuvers with its own party. Some of its weak spots it masks with the formula “according to Lenin”; others, it evades by silence. That is the manner in which it deals with the strategy of maneuvers today. It is impossible to speak on this subject without touching upon the fresh experiences in China and England. But the very mention of maneuvers would conjure up the figures of Chiang Kai-shek and Purcell. The authors do not want this. They prefer to remain silent on the favorite theme and to leave the leadership of the Comintern a free hand. And this is precisely what must not be permitted. It is necessary to tie the hands of the combinationists and their candidates. This is precisely the purpose the program should serve. Otherwise, it would be superfluous.

A place must be found in the chapter on strategy for the fundamental rules which determine and delimit maneuvering as an auxiliary method of the revolutionary struggle against the class enemy which can be only a life-and-death struggle. The rules noted above and based upon the teachings of Marx and Lenin can undoubtedly be presented in a more concise and precise form. But they must by all means be brought into the program of the Communist International.

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10. The Strategy of Civil War

In connection with the question of the armed insurrection, the draft program remarks casually:

“This struggle is subject to the rules of the art of war. It presupposes a military plan, an offensive character of the fighting operations, and unlimited sacrifice and heroism on the part of the proletariat.”

Here the draft does not go beyond a terse repetition of a few casual remarks once made by Marx. In the meantime, we have had, on the one hand, the experiences of the October revolution, and on the other, the experiences of the defeat of the Hungarian and Bavarian revolutions, of the struggle in Italy in 1920, the uprising in Bulgaria in September 1923, the German movement of 1923, Esthonia in 1924, the English general strike of 1926, the uprising of the Viennese proletariat in 1927, and the second Chinese revolution of 1925-27. A program of the Comintern must contain an infinitely more lucid and concrete characterization of both the social and political prerequisites of the armed insurrection as well as of the military and strategical conditions and methods that can guarantee the victory. Nothing exposes the superficial and literary character of this document so much as the fact that the chapter devoted to revolutionary strategy occupies itself with Cornelissen and the Guild socialists (Orage, Hobson, G.D.H. Cole, all specified by name), but gives neither a general characterization of the strategy of the proletariat in the imperialist epoch nor a definitive exposition of the methods of the struggle for power on the basis of living historical material.

In 1924, after the tragic experiences in Germany, we raised that question anew, demanding that the Comintern place on the agenda and work out the questions of strategy and tactics of the armed insurrection and of civil war in general.

“It is necessary to say bluntly that the question of the duration of the armed insurrection frequently has the character of litmus paper with which to test the revolutionary consciousness of very many Western European communists who have not liberated themselves to this day from their passive, fatalistic approach to the fundamental tasks of the revolution. Such an approach found its most profound and talented expression in Rosa Luxemburg. Psychologically, this is perfectly comprehensible. Her formative period was spent mainly in struggle against the bureaucratic apparatus of the German social democracy and the trade unions. She demonstrated tirelessly that this apparatus stifled the initiative of the masses and she saw the way out and salvation in a spontaneous movement from below that was to overthrow all social democratic obstructions and barriers. A revolutionary general strike that inundates all the banks of bourgeois society became for Luxemburg a synonym for the proletarian revolution. But a general strike, be it ever so distinguished by mass strength, does not decide the question of power as yet, but only raises it. For the seizure of power, it is necessary to organize the armed insurrection on the basis of the general strike. To be sure, the entire development of Rosa Luxemburg tended in this direction: she departed from the stage before she had said her last words, or even her penultimate words. However, up to the very latest period, very strong tendencies towards revolutionary fatalism have prevailed within the German Communist Party. The revolution is on the way, the revolution is nigh, the revolution will bring with it the armed insurrection and give us power and the party ... will, in the meantime, carry on revolutionary agitation and await the results. Under such conditions, to put point blank the question of the date of the insurrection is to awake the party out of fatalistic passivity and to turn it towards the basic revolutionary task, that is, to the conscious organization of the armed insurrection in order to tear the power out of the hands of the enemy.” [33]

“We devote considerable time and theoretical labor to the Paris Commune of 1871 but completely neglect the struggle of the German proletariat which has already acquired precious experiences in civil war; for example, we hardly occupy ourselves at all with the experience of the Bulgarian uprising of last September; and finally, what is most astonishing, we have completely relegated the experiences of October to the archives....

“The experiences of the October revolution, the only victorious proletarian revolution up to now, must be painstakingly studied. A strategical and tactical calendar of the October must be compiled. It must be shown, wave by wave, how events developed and how they were reflected in the party, the Soviets, the Central Committee, and the military organization. What did the vacillations inside the party mean? What was their specific weight in the general sweep of events? What was the role of the military organization? That would be a work of inestimable importance. To defer it still further would be positively criminal.” [34]

“What then is the task properly speaking? The task is to compile a universal reference book, or a guide book, or a manual, or a book of statutes on the question of the civil war and, therefore, above all on the armed insurrection as the highest point of the revolution. A balance must be drawn from the experiences, the preliminary conditions thoroughly analyzed, the mistakes examined, the most correct operations selected, and the necessary conclusions drawn. Will we thereby enrich science, that is, the knowledge of the laws of historical development, or art as the totality of rules of action drawn from experience? The one as well as the other, I believe. For our aim is a strictly practical one; namely, to enrich the military art of revolution.” [35]

“Such ‘statutes’ will necessarily be very complex in structure. First of all, there must be given a characterization of the fundamental premises for the seizure of power by the proletariat. Here we still remain on the field of revolutionary politics; for the uprising is the continuation of politics – only by special means. The analysis of the premises for the armed uprising must be adapted to the varying types of countries. There are countries with a proletarian majority of the population and also countries with an insignificant minority of the proletariat and with an absolute predominance of the peasantry. Between these two extremes lie the countries of the transitional type. As a basis for the analysis, therefore, at least three ‘typical’ countries must be taken: the industrial country; the agrarian country; and the intermediate country. The introduction (treating the premises and the conditions for the revolution) must contain the characterization of the peculiarities of each of these types from the standpoint of the civil war. We consider the insurrection from a twofold angle. On the one hand, as a definite stage of the historical process, as a definite reflection of the objective laws of the class struggle; and on the other, from the subjective or active standpoint: how to prepare and carry out the insurrection in order best to guarantee its victory.” [36]

In 1924, a collective work on the elaboration of the directives of civil war, that is, a Marxian guide to the questions of the open clashes of the classes and the armed struggle for the dictatorship, was begun by a large circle of individuals grouped around the Military Science Society. But this work soon encountered opposition on the part of the Comintern – this opposition was a part of the general system of the struggle against so-called Trotskyism; and the work was later liquidated altogether. A more lightminded and criminal step can hardly be imagined. In an epoch of abrupt turns, the rules of the civil war in the sense presented above must be part of the iron inventory of the entire revolutionary cadre, let alone the leaders of the party. These “statutes” would have to be studied constantly and augmented from the fresh experiences in one’s own country. Only such a study can provide a certain guarantee against steps of panic and capitulation at moments when supreme courage and decisiveness are required, as well as against adventurist leaps in periods which require prudence and patience.

Had such regulations been incorporated in a number of books, the serious study of which is as much the duty of every communist as the knowledge of the basic ideas of Marx, Engels, and Lenin, we might well have avoided such defeats as were suffered during recent years, and which were by no means inevitable, especially the Canton uprising contrived with such puerile lightmindedness. The draft program treats these questions in a few lines, almost as charily as it speaks of Gandhiism in India. Of course, a program cannot become engrossed in details. But it must pose a problem in its full scope and give its basic formulas, citing the most important achievements and mistakes.

Quite independently of this, the Sixth Congress, in our opinion, must instruct the ECCI in a special resolution to elaborate the rules of the civil war into a manual based on the past experiences of victory and defeat.

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30. Pravda, September 20, 1928.

31. Theses of the Moscow Committee.

32. Lenin, Works, Vol.VI, p.113.

33. Trotsky’s speech at the session of the Board of Military Science Society, July 29, 1924 – Pravda, Sept. 6, 1924.

34. Ibid.

35. Ibid.

36. Ibid.

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Last updated on: 15.4.2007