Leon Trotsky

What Next?

Vital Questions for the German Proletariat

Part II

5. An Historical Review of the ... United Front

THE contentions regarding the policies of the united front take their origin from such fundamental and inexorable exigencies of the struggle of class against class (in the Marxist and not the bureaucratic sense of these words) that one cannot read the refutations of the Stalinist bureaucracy without a feeling of shame and indignation. It is one thing to keep on explaining, from day to day, the most rudimentary ideas to the most backward and benighted workers or peasants. One can do it without any feeling of exhaustion; for here it is a matter of enlightening fresh strata. But woe to him who is perforce obliged to explain and to prove elementary propositions to people whose brains have been flattened out by the bureaucratic steam roller. What can one do with “leaders” who have no logical arguments at their disposal and who make up for that by referring to the cyclopedia of international epithets. The fundamental propositions of Marxism they parry by one and the same epithet, “counter-revolution”! This word has become inordinately cheapened on the lips of those who have in no manner as yet proved their capacity to achieve a revolution. Still, what about the decisions passed by the first four Congresses of the Comintern? Does the Stalinist bureaucracy accept them, or not?

The documents still survive and still preserve their significance to this day. Out of a large number, I have chosen the theses worked out by me, between the III and the IV Congresses; they relate to the French Communist Party; they were approved by the Politbureau of the CPSU and the Executive Committee of the Comintern and were published, in their time, in various foreign Communist publications. Below is reprinted verbatim that part of the theses which is devoted to the formulation and the defence of the policy of the united front:

It is quite obvious that the class life of the proletariat does not cease during the period preparatory to the revolution. Clashes with industrialists, with the bourgeoisie, with the state, at the initiative of either side, occur with the self-same regularity. In these clashes, in so far as they involve the vital interests of the entire working class, or of its majority, or any part of it, the working masses realize the need for united action ...The party that mechanically counterposes itself to this need ... will be inevitably condemned in the minds of the workers.

“The problem of the united front – notwithstanding the inevitable split, in a given period, between the political organizations which lean upon the working class – originates in the urgent need to guarantee to the working class the possibility of the united front in its struggle against capitalism. For him who does not understand this problem, the party is a society for propaganda, and not the organization for mass action.

“Had not the Communist party broken definitely and irrevocably with the social democracy, it could have never become the party of the proletarian revolution. Had not the Communist party sought for organizational means to the end that, at each given moment, joint action, mutually agreed upon, be made possible between the Communist and non-Communist (including the social-democratic) working masses, it would have revealed thereby its incapacity – on the basis of mass action – to win over the majority of the working class.

“After dissociating the Communists from reformism, it is not enough to bind them by organizational discipline; it is also necessary that the organization be taught how to guide all collective activities of the proletariat, in all spheres of its living struggle. That is the second letter of the ABC of Communism.

“Is the united front to be extended so as to include only the working masses, or so as to include also opportunistic leaders? The very manner in which this question is posed is the outgrowth of a misconception. Were we able to simply unite the working masses around our banner ... by eliminating the reformist party, or trade union organizations – that, of course, would be the best way. But, in that case, the very question of the united front, in its present form, would be non-existent.

“We are interested, beyond all other considerations, in dragging the reformists from out of their lairs and in opposing them before the eyes of the struggling masses. With a correct tactic, we alone stand to gain thereby. The Communist who is dubious or afraid of this behaves after the fashion of a swimmer who, after approving the propositions as regards the best method of swimming, dares not risk jumping into the water.

“Upon entering into agreements with other organizations, we bind ourselves, of course, to a certain discipline of action. But this discipline must not take on an absolute character. In the event that the reformists begin applying the brake to the struggle, to the evident detriment of the movement and in counterpoise to the situation and the state of mind of the masses, we, as an independent organization, always reserve the right to lead the struggle to its conclusion without our temporary semi-allies.

“One can see in this policy a merger with the reformists only from the point of view of a journalist, who flatters himself that he is far removed from reformism because he criticizes it in the self-same pat phraseology, without leaving the editorial room, but who is leery of encountering it in the eyes of the working masses and thus giving them the opportunity to appraise the Communist and the reformist under the equal conditions of the mass struggle. Behind this ostensibly revolutionary dread of ‘merger’ there hides, in fact, a political passivity which yearns to maintain such an order of things as will allow both the Communists and the reformists to have their own sharply demarcated spheres of influence, their own audiences at meetings, and their own press – which all together creates the illusion of a serious political struggle.

“In the question of the united front, as it is raised, we observe a passive and wishy-washy tendency masked by verbal intransigence. At once, the following paradox hits one in the eye: the Right wing elements of the party, with their Centrist and pacifist tendencies… step forward as the most irreconcilable opponents of the united front. And on the other hand, those elements, which, during the most difficult moments held their position entirely on the grounds of the 3rd International, now step forward for the tactic of the united front. What is actually the case is that the supporters of the temporizing and passive tactic are now stepping forward behind the mask of pseudo-revolutionary intransigeance.” (Trotsky, Five Years of the Comintern, pp.375-378; Russian edition.)

Doesn’t it seem as if these lines were written today against Stalin-Manuilsky-Thälmann-Neumann? Actually, they were written ten years ago, against Frossard, Cachin, Charles Rappaport, Daniel Renoult and other French opportunists disguising themselves with ultra-leftism. We put this question point blank to the Stalinist bureaucracy: Were the theses we quoted “counter-revolutionary” even during that time when they expressed the policies of the Russian Politbureau, with Lenin at its head, and when they defined the policy of the Comintern? We warn them duly not to attempt in answer to reply that conditions have changed since that period: the matter does not concern questions of conjuncture; but, as the text itself puts it, of the ABC of Marxism.

And so, ten years ago, the Comintern explained that the gist of the united front policy was in the following: the Communist party proves to the masses and their organizations its readiness in action to wage battle in common with them, for aims, no matter how modest, so long as they lie on the road of the historical development of the proletariat; the Communist party in this struggle takes into account the actual condition of the class at each given moment; it turns not to the masses only, but also to those organizations whose leadership is recognized by the masses; it confronts the reformist organizations before the eyes of the masses with the real problems of the class struggle. The policy of the united front hastens the revolutionary development of the class by revealing in the open that the common struggle is undermined not by the disruptive acts of the Communist party but by the conscious sabotage of the leaders of the social democracy. It is absolutely clear that these conceptions could in no sense have become obsolete.

Then how explain the rejection of the policy of the united front by the Comintern? By the miscarriages and the failures of this policy in the past. Were these failures, the causes for which reside, not in the policy but in the politicians, examined and analyzed and studied in their time, the German Communist Party would be strategically and tactically excellently equipped for the present situation. But the Stalinist bureaucracy chose to behave like the near-sighted monkey in the fable; after adjusting the spectacles on its tail and licking them to no result, the monkey concluded that they were no good at all and dashed them against a rock. Put it as you please, but the spectacles are not at fault.

The mistakes made in the policy of the united front fall into two categories. In most cases the leading organs of the Communist party approached the reformists with an offer of joining in a common struggle for radical slogans which were alien to the situation and which found no response in the masses. These proposals partook of the nature of blank shots. The masses remained indifferent, the reformist leaders interpreted these proposals of the Communists as a trick to destroy the social democracy. In each of these instances only a purely formal, declamatory application of the policy of united front was inaugurated; whereas, by its very nature, it can prove fruitful only on the basis of a realistic appraisal of the situation and of the condition of the masses. The weapon of “open letters” became outworn from too frequent and thereto, faulty application, and had to be given up.

The second type of perversion bore a much more fatal character. In the hands of the Stalinist bureaucracy, the policy of the united front became a hue and cry after allies at the cost of sacrificing the independence of the party. Backed by Moscow and deeming themselves omnipotent, the functionaries of the Comintern seriously esteemed themselves to be capable of laying down the law to the classes and of prescribing their itinerary; of checking the agrarian and strike movements in China; of buying an alliance with Chiang Kai-Shek at the cost of sacrificing the independent policies of the Comintern; of re-educating the trade union bureaucracy, the chief bulwark of British imperialism through educational courses at banquet tables in London, or in Caucasian resorts; of transforming Croatian bourgeois of Radich’s type into Communists, etc., etc. All this was undertaken, of course, with the best of intentions, in order to hasten developments by accomplishing for the masses what the masses weren’t mature enough to do for themselves. It’s not beside the point to mention that in a number of countries, Austria in particular, the functionaries of the Comintern tried their hand, during the past period, at creating artificially and “from above” a “Left” social democracy to serve as a bridge to Communism. Nothing but failures were produced by this tomfoolery likewise. Invariably these experiments and flubusterings ended catastrophically. The revolutionary movement in the world was flung back for many years.

Thereupon Manuilsky decided to break the spectacles; and as for Kuusinen – he, to avoid further mistakes, decreed everyone, except himself and his cronies, to be Fascists. Whereupon the matter was clarified and simplified, no more mistakes were possible. What kind of a united front can there be with “social Fascists” against National Fascists, or with the “Left social Fascists” against the “Rights”? Thus by describing over our heads an arc of 180°, the Stalinist bureaucracy found itself compelled to announce the decisions of the first four Congresses as counter-revolutionary.

6. Lessons of the Russian Experience

In one of our earlier pamphlets, we made reference to the Bolshevik experience in the struggle against Kornilov; the official leaders answered with bellows of disapproval. We shall recapitulate here once again the gist of the matter, in order to show more clearly and in greater detail how the Stalinist school draws lessons from the past. During July and August 1917, Kerensky, then head of the government, was in fact fulfilling the program of Kornilov, the commander-in-chief of the army. He reinstated at the front military court-martials and the death penalty. He deprived the duly elected soviets of all influence upon government matters; he repressed the peasants; he doubled the price of bread (under the state trade monopoly of the foodstuffs); he prepared for the evacuation of revolutionary Petrograd; with Kornilov’s consent, he moved up counter-revolutionary troops towards the capital; he promised the Allies to initiate a new attack at the front, etc. Such was the general political background.

On August 26, Kornilov broke with Kerensky because of the latter’s vacillation, and threw his army against Petrograd. The status of the Bolshevik Party was semi-legal. Its leaders from Lenin down were either hiding underground or committed to prison, being indicted for affiliation with the General Staff of the Hohenzollerns. The Bolshevik papers were being suppressed. These persecutions emanated from Kerensky’s government, which was supported from the left by the coalition of Social Revolutionary and Menshevik deputies.

What course did the Bolshevik Party take? Not for an instant did it hesitate to conclude a practical alliance to fight against Kornilov with its jailers – Kerensky, Tseretelli, Dan, etc. Everywhere committees for revolutionary defense were organized, into which the Bolsheviks entered as a minority. This did not hinder the Bolsheviks from assuming the leading role: in agreements projected for revolutionary mass action, the most thoroughgoing and the boldest revolutionary party stands to gain always. The Bolsheviks were in the front ranks; they smashed down the barriers blocking them from the Menshevik workers and especially from the Social Revolutionary soldiers, and carried them along in their wake.

Perhaps the Bolsheviks took this course of action only because they were caught unawares? No. During the preceding months, the Bolsheviks tens and hundreds of times demanded that the Mensheviks join them in a common struggle against the mobilizing forces of the counterrevolution. Even on May 27, while Tseretelli was clamoring for repressions against Bolshevik sailors, Trotsky declared during the session of the Petrograd Soviet, “When the time comes and the counterrevolutionary general will try to slip the noose around the neck of the revolution, the Cadets will be busy soaping the rope, but the sailors of Kronstadt will come to fight and to die side by side with us.” These words were fully confirmed. In the midst of Kornilov’s campaign, Kerensky appealed to the sailors of the cruiser Aurora, begging them to assume the defense of the Winter Palace. These sailors were, without exception, Bolsheviks. They hated Kerensky. Their hatred did not hinder them from vigilantly guarding the Winter Palace. Their representatives came to the Kresty Prison for an interview with Trotsky, who was jailed there, and they asked, “Why not arrest Kerensky?” But they put the query half in jest: the sailors understood that it was necessary first to smash Kornilov and after that to attend to Kerensky. Thanks to a correct political leadership, the sailors of the Aurora understood more than Thälmann’s Central Committee.

Die Rote Fahne refers to our historical review as “fraudulent.” Why? Vain question. How can one expect reasoned refutations from these people? They are under orders from Moscow, on the pain of losing their jobs, to set up a howl at the mention of Trotsky’s name. They fulfill the command, as best they can. Trotsky produced, in their words, “a fraudulent comparison” between the struggle of the Bolsheviks during Kornilov’s reactionary mutiny, at the beginning of September 1917; at the time when the Bolsheviks were fighting with the Mensheviks for a majority within the soviets, immediately before an acutely revolutionary situation; at the time when the Bolsheviks, armed in the struggle against Kornilov, were simultaneously carrying on a flank attack on Kerensky – with the present “struggle” of Brüning “against” Hitler. “In this manner, Trotsky paints the support of Brüning and of the Prussian government as ‘the lesser evil’.” (Die Rote Fahne, December 22, 1931) It is quite a task to refute this barrage of words. A pretense is made that I compare the Bolshevik struggle against Kornilov with Brüning’s struggle against Hitler. I don’t overestimate the mental capacities of the editors of Die Rote Fahne – but these gentlemen could not be so stupid as not to understand what I meant. Brüning’s struggle against Hitler I compared with Kerensky’s struggle against Kornilov; the struggle of the Bolsheviks against Kornilov I compared with the struggle of the German Communist Party against Hitler. Wherein is this comparison “fraudulent”? The Bolsheviks, says Die Rote Fahne, were fighting at the time with the Mensheviks for the majority in the soviets. But the German Communist Party, too, is fighting against the Social Democracy for the majority of the working class. In Russia they were faced with “an acute revolutionary situation.” Quite true! If, however, the Bolsheviks had adopted Thälmann’s position in August 1917, then instead of a revolutionary situation a counterrevolutionary situation could have ensued.

During the last days of August, Kornilov was crushed, in reality not by force of arms but by the singleness of purpose with which the masses were imbued. Then and there, after September 3, Lenin offered through the press to compromise with the Social Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks: you compose the majority in the soviets, he said to them. Take over the state; we shall support you against the bourgeoisie. Guarantee us complete freedom of agitation and we shall assure you of a peaceful struggle for the majority in the soviets. Such an opportunist was Lenin! The Mensheviks and the Social Revolutionaries rejected the compromise, i.e., the new offer of a united front against the bourgeoisie. In the hands of the Bolsheviks, this rejection became a mighty weapon in preparation for the armed uprising, which within seven weeks swept away the Mensheviks and the Social Revolutionaries.

Up to now there has been only one victorious proletarian revolution in the world. I do not at all hold that we committed no errors on our road to victory; but nevertheless, I maintain that our experience has some value for the German Communist Party. I cite the closest and the most pertinent historical analogy. How do the leaders of the German Communist Party reply? With profanity.

Only the ultra-left group, Der Rote Kaempfer, attempted to refute our comparison “seriously,” accoutred in the complete armor of erudition. It holds that the Bolsheviks behaved correctly in August, “because Kornilov was the standard-bearer of the Czarist counter-revolution, which means that he was waging the battle of the feudal reaction against the bourgeois revolution. Under these conditions the tactical coalition of the workers with the bourgeoisie and its Social Revolutionary Menshevik appendage was not only correct but necessary and unavoidable as well, because the interests of both classes coincided in the matter of repelling the feudal counter-revolution.” But since Hitler represents not the feudal but the bourgeois counter-revolution, the Social Democracy which supports the bourgeoisie cannot take the field against Hitler. That’s why the united front does not exist in Germany, and that’s why Trotsky’s comparison is erroneous.

All this has a very imposing sound. But coming down to actual facts, not a word of it is true. In August 1917, the Russian bourgeoisie was not at all opposed to the feudal reaction; all the landowners supported the Cadet Party, which fought against the expropriation of the landowners. Kornilov proclaimed himself a Republican, “the son of a peasant” and the supporter of agrarian reform and of the constitutional assembly. The entire bourgeoisie supported Kornilov. The alliance of the Bolsheviks with the Social Revolutionaries and Mensheviks was made possible only because the conciliationists broke with the bourgeoisie temporarily: they were compelled to, from fear of Kornilov. The representatives of these parties knew that the moment Kornilov was victorious the bourgeoisie would no longer need them, and would allow Kornilov to strangle them. Within these limits there is, as we see, a complete analogy with the interrelations between the Social Democracy and fascism.

The distinctions begin not at all where the theoreticians of Der Rote Kaempfer see them. In Russia, the masses of the petty bourgeoisie, above all the peasants, gravitated to the left and not to the right. Kornilov did not lean upon the petty bourgeoisie. And just because of this, his movement was not fascist. The counter-revolution was bourgeois – not at all feudal – in conspiracy with the generals. Therein lay its weakness. Kornilov leaned upon the moral support of the entire bourgeoisie and the military support of the officers and Junkers, i.e., the younger generation of the same bourgeoisie. This proved to be insufficient. But had Bolshevik policies been false, the victory of Kornilov was by no means excluded.

As we see, the arguments in Der Rote Kaempfer against the united front in Germany are based on the fact that its theoreticians understand neither the Russian nor the German situation. [3]

Since Die Rote Fahne doesn’t feel secure on the slippery ice of Russian history, it attempts to tackle the question from the opposite direction. “To Trotsky, only the National Socialists are fascists. The declaration of the state of emergency, the dictatorial wage reductions, the effective prohibition of strikes ... all this is not fascism to Trotsky. All this our party must put up with.” These people almost disarm one with the impotence of their spleen. When and where did I suggest anyone’s “putting up with” Brüning’s government? And just what does this “putting up with” mean? If it’s a matter of parliamentary or extraparliamentary support of the Brüning regime, then you should be ashamed of even bringing up such a topic for discussion among Communists. But in another and a wider historical sense you, raucously bleating gentlemen, are nevertheless compelled to “put up with” Brüning’s government, because you lack the thews and sinews to overthrow it

All the arguments which Die Rote Fahne musters against me in relation to the German situation might have been used with equal justification against the Bolsheviks in 1917. One might have said, “For Bolsheviks, Kornilovism begins only with Kornilov. But isn’t Kerensky a Kornilovite? Aren’t his policies aimed toward strangling the revolution? Isn’t he crushing the peasants by means of punitive expeditions? Doesn’t he organize lockouts? Doesn’t Lenin have to hide underground? And all this we must put up with?”

So far as I recall, I can’t think of a single Bolshevik rash enough to have advanced such arguments. But were he to be found, he would have been answered something after this fashion. “We accuse Kerensky of preparing for and facilitating the coming of Kornilov to power. But does this relieve us of the duty of rushing to repel Kornilov’s attack? We accuse the gatekeeper of leaving the gates ajar for the bandit. But must we therefore shrug our shoulders and let the gates go hang?” Since, thanks to the toleration of the Social Democracy, Brüning’s government has been able to push the proletariat up to its knees in capitulation to fascism, you arrive at the conclusion that up to the knees, up to the waist, or over the head isn’t it all one thing? No, there is some difference. Whoever is up to his knees in a quagmire can still drag himself out Whoever is in over his head, for him there is no returning.

Lenin wrote about the ultra-lefts: “They say many flattering things about us Bolsheviks. At times one feels like saying, ‘Please, praise us a little less, and try your hand a little more at investigating the tactics of the Bolsheviks, and become a little better acquainted with them.’”

7. Lessons Of The Italian Experience

Italian fascism was the immediate outgrowth of the betrayal by the reformists of the uprising of the Italian proletariat From the time the war ended, there was an upward trend in the revolutionary movement in Italy, and in September 1920, it resulted in the seizure of factories and industries by the workers. The dictatorship of the proletariat was an actual fact; all that was lacking was to organize it, and to draw from it all the necessary conclusions. The Social Democracy took fright and sprang back. After its bold and heroic exertions, the proletariat was left facing the void. The disruption of the revolutionary movement became the most important factor in the growth of fascism. In September, the revolutionary advance came to a standstill; and November already witnessed the first major demonstration of the fascists (the seizure of Bologna). True, the proletariat, even after the September catastrophe, was capable of waging defensive battles. But the Social Democracy was concerned with only one thing: to withdraw the workers from under fire at the cost of one concession after the other. The Social Democracy hoped that the docile conduct of the workers would restore the “public opinion” of the bourgeoisie against the fascists. Moreover, the reformists even banked strongly upon the help of Victor Emmanuel. To the last hour, they restrained the workers with might and main from giving battle to Mussolini’s bands. It availed them nothing. The Crown, along with the upper crust of the bourgeoisie swung over to the side of fascism. Convinced at the last moment that fascism was not to be checked by obedience, the Social Democrats issued a call to the workers for a general strike. But their proclamation suffered a fiasco. The reformists had dampened the powder so long, in their fear lest it should explode, that when they finally and with a trembling hand applied a burning fuse to it, the powder did not catch.

Two years after its inception, fascism was in power. It entrenched itself thanks to the fact that the first period of its overlordship coincided with a favorable economic conjuncture, which followed the depression of 1921-1922. The fascists crushed the retreating proletariat beneath the offensive power of the petty bourgeoisie. But this was not achieved at a single blow. Even after he assumed power, Mussolini proceeded on his course with due caution: he lacked as yet ready-made models. During the first two years, not even the constitution was altered. The fascist government took on the character of a coalition. In the meantime the fascist bands were busy at work with clubs, knives, and pistols. Thus, slowly, the fascist government was created that meant the complete strangulation of all independent mass organizations.

Mussolini attained this at the cost of bureaucratizing the fascist party itself. After utilizing the onrushing forces of the petty bourgeoisie, fascism strangled it within the vise of the bourgeois state. He couldn’t have done otherwise, for the disillusionment of the masses he had united was transforming itself into the most immediate danger ahead. Fascism, become bureaucratic, approaches very closely to other forms of military and police dictatorship. It no longer possesses its former social support. The chief reserve of fascism – the petty bourgeoisie – has been spent. Only historical inertia enables the fascist government to keep the proletariat in a state of dispersion and helplessness. The correlation of forces is changing automatically in favor of the proletariat. This change must lead to a revolution. The downfall of fascism will be one of the most catastrophic events in European history. But all these processes, as the facts bear out, need time. The fascist government has maintained itself for ten years already. How much longer will it hold on? Without venturing into the risky business of setting dates, one can still say with assurance that Hitler’s victory in Germany would mean a new and a long lease of life for Mussolini. Hitler’s crash will mean the beginning of the end for Mussolini.

In its politics as regards Hitler, the German Social Democracy has not been able to add a single word: all it does is repeat more ponderously whatever the Italian reformists in their own time performed with greater flights of temperament. The latter explained fascism as a post-war psychosis; the German Social Democracy sees in it a “Versailles” or crisis psychosis. In both instances, the reformists shut their eyes to the organic character of fascism as a mass movement growing out of the collapse of capitalism.

Fearful of the revolutionary mobilization of the workers, the Italian reformists banked all their hopes on “the state. “ Their slogan was, “Victor Emmanuel! Help! Intervene!” The German Social Democracy lacks such a democratic bulwark as a monarch loyal to the constitution. So they must be content with a president. “Hindenburg! Help! Intervene!”

While waging battle against Mussolini, that is, while retreating before him, Turati let loose his dazzling motto, “One must have the manhood to be a coward.” The German reformists are less frisky with their slogans. They demand, “Courage under unpopularity (Mut zur Unpopularität).” Which amounts to the same thing. One must not be afraid of the unpopularity which has been aroused by one’s own cowardly temporizing with the enemy.

Identical causes produce identical effects. Were the march of events dependent upon the Social Democratic Party leadership, Hitler’s career would be assured.

One must admit, however, that the German Communist Party has also learned little from the Italian experience.

The Italian Communist Party came into being almost simultaneously with fascism. But the same conditions of revolutionary ebb tide which carried the fascists to power served to deter the development of the Communist Party. It did not take account of the full sweep of the fascist danger; it lulled itself with revolutionary illusions; it was irreconcilably antagonistic to the policy of the united front; in short, it called from all the infantile diseases. Small wonder! It was only two years old. In its eyes fascism appeared to be only “capitalist reaction.” The particular traits of fascism which spring from the mobilization of the petty bourgeoisie against the proletariat, the Communist Party was unable to discern. Italian comrades inform me that with the sole exception of Gramsci, the Communist Party wouldn’t even allow of the possibility of the fascists’ seizing power. Once the proletarian revolution had suffered defeat and capitalism had kept its ground, and the counter-revolution had triumphed, how could there be any further kind of counter-revolutionary upheaval? The bourgeoisie cannot rise up against itself! Such was the gist of the political orientation of the Italian Communist Party. Moreover, one must not let out of sight the fact that Italian fascism was then a new phenomenon, and only in the process of formation; it wouldn’t have been an easy task even for a more experienced party to distinguish its specific traits.

The leadership of the German Communist Party reproduces today almost literally the position from which the Italian Communists took their point of departure: fascism is nothing else but capitalist reaction; from the point of view of the proletariat the differences between divers types of capitalist reaction are meaningless. This vulgar radicalism is the less excusable because the German party is much older than the Italian was at a corresponding period; and in addition, Marxism has been enriched now by the tragic experience in Italy. To insist that fascism is already here, or to deny the very possibility of its coming to power – amounts politically to one and the same thing. By ignoring the specific nature of fascism, the will to fight against it becomes inevitably paralyzed.

The brunt of the blame must be borne, of course, by the leadership of the Comintern. Italian Communists above all others were duty-bound to raise their voices in alarm. But Stalin, with Manuilsky, compelled them to disavow the most important lessons of their own annihilation. We have already observed with what diligent alacrity Ercoli switched over to the position of social fascism, i.e., to the position of passively waiting for the fascist victory in Germany.

For a long time, the international Social Democracy solaced itself with the notion that Bolshevism was conceivable only in a backward country. It found refuge in the same solace afterwards as regards fascism. The German Social Democracy is now compelled to experience on its own back the falseness of this comforting notion: its fellow travelers from the petty bourgeoisie have gone and are going over to the fascist camp; the workers are leaving it for the Communist Party. Only these two groups are growing in Germany: fascism and Bolshevism. Even though Russia on the one hand and Italy on the other are countries incomparably more backward than Germany, nevertheless they have both served as arenas for the development of political movements which are inherent in imperialist capitalism as such. Advanced Germany must recapitulate the processes which reached their fulfillment in Russia and Italy. The fundamental problem of German development may be at present formulated thus: which way out — the way of Russia, or the way of Italy?

Obviously this does not mean that the highly developed social structure is of no significance from the point of view of the development of the destinies of Bolshevism and fascism. Italy is a petty-bourgeois and peasant country to a much greater degree than Germany. One need only recall that to 9.8 million engaged in farming and forestry in Germany there are 18.5 million employed in industry and trade; that is, almost twice as many. Whereas, in Italy, to 10.3 million engaged in farming and forestry there are 6.4 million employed in industry and trade. These bare totals do not by far give an adequate representation of the preponderant relative weight of the proletariat in the life of the German nation. Even the tremendous number of the unemployed is only a proof, turned inside out, of the social might of the German proletariat. The whole question consists in how to translate this might into the language of revolutionary politics.

The last major defeat of the German party, which can be placed on the same historical board with the September days in Italy, dates back to 1923. During the more than eight years that have elapsed since, many wounds have been healed, and a new generation has risen to its feet. The German party represents an incomparably greater force than did the Italian Communists in 1922. The relative weight of the proletariat; the considerable time elapsed since its last defeat; the considerable strength of the Communist Party – these are the three advantages, which bear a great significance for the general summation of the background and of the perspectives.

But to make the best of one’s advantages, one must understand them. That is lacking. Thälmann’s position in 1932 reproduces Bordiga’s in 1922. In this direction, the danger takes on a particularly acute character. But here too there exists one supplementary advantage which was nonexistent ten years ago. Within the revolutionary ranks in Germany there is a Marxist opposition, which leans upon the experience of the preceding decade. This opposition is weak numerically, but the march of events adds extraordinary strength to its voice. Under certain conditions a slight shock may bring down an avalanche. The critical shock of the Left Opposition can aid in bringing about a timely change in the politics of the proletarian vanguard. In this lies our task at present.

8. Through the United Front – To the Soviets as the Highest Organs of the United Front

Verbal genuflections before the soviets are equally as fashionable in the “left” circles as the misconception of their historical function. Most often the soviets are defined as the organs of struggle for power, as the organs of insurrection, and finally, as the organs of dictatorship. Formally these definitions are correct. But they do not at all exhaust the historical function of the soviets. First of all they do not explain why, in the struggle for power, precisely the soviets are necessary. The answer to this question is: just as the trade union is the rudimentary form of the united front in the economic struggle, so the soviet is the highest form of the united front under the conditions in which the proletariat enters the epoch of fighting for power. The soviet in itself possesses no miraculous powers. It is the class representation of the proletariat, with all of the latter’s strong and weak points. But precisely and only because of this does the soviet afford to the workers of divers political trends the organizational opportunity to unite their efforts in the revolutionary struggle for power. In the present pre-revolutionary environment it is the duty of the most advanced German workers to understand most clearly the historical function of the soviets as the organs of the united front.

Could the Communist Party succeed, during the preparatory epoch, in pushing all other parties out of the ranks of the workers by uniting under its banner the overwhelming majority of the workers, then there would be no need whatever for soviets. But historical experience bears witness to the fact that there is no basis whatever for the expectation that in any single country – in countries with an old capitalist culture even less than in the backward ones – the Communist Party can succeed in occupying such an undisputed and absolutely commanding position in the workers’ ranks, prior to the proletarian overturn.

Precisely in Germany today are we shown that the proletariat is faced with the task of a direct and immediate struggle for power, long before it has been completely united under the banner of the Communist Party. The revolutionary situation itself, if approached on the political plane, arises from the fact that all groups and layers of the proletariat, or at least their overwhelming majority, are seized with the urge to unite their efforts in changing the existing regime. This does not mean, however, that they all understand how to do it; and still less that they are ready at the very moment to break with their parties and to join the ranks of the Communists. The political conscience of the class does not mature so methodically and uniformly; deep inner divergences remain even in the revolutionary epoch, when all processes develop by leaps and bounds. But, at the same time, the need for an organization above parties and embracing the entire class becomes extremely urgent. To crystallize this need into a form – that is the historic destiny of the soviets. That is their great function. Under the conditions of a revolutionary situation they arise as the highest organized expression of proletarian unity. Those who haven’t understood this, have understood nothing in matters relating to the problem of the soviets. Thälmann, Neumann, and Remmele may keep on writing articles and uttering speeches about the future “Soviet Germany” without end. By their present policies they are sabotaging the inception of the soviets in Germany.

Removed from the actual sphere of action, unable to gather direct impressions from the masses or to place a hand daily on the pulse of the working class, it is very difficult to forecast the transitional forms which will lead in Germany to the creation of soviets. In another connection I offered the hypothesis that the German soviets may arise as an expanded form of the factory committees: in this, I leaned chiefly on the experience in 1923. But of course that is not the only way. Under the pressure of want and unemployment on the one hand and the onset of the fascists on the other, the need for revolutionary unity may all at once come to the surface in the form of soviets, skipping the factory committees. But whichever way the soviets arise, they cannot become anything save the organizational expression of the strong and weak sides of the proletarian, of its inner contradictions and the general urge to overcome them; in short, the organs of the united front.

The Social Democracy and the Communist Party divide in Germany the influence over the working class. The Social Democratic leadership does its best to repel the workers from itself. The leadership of the Communist Party strives with all its might to counteract the influx of the workers. As a consequence we get the formation of a third party and a comparatively slow change in the correlation of forces in favor of the Communists. But even if Communist Party policies were entirely correct, the workers’ need for a revolutionary unification of the class would have grown incomparably faster than the preponderance of the Communist Party within the class. The need of creating soviets would thus remain in its full scope.

The creation of the soviets presupposes that the different parties and organizations within the working class, beginning with the factories, become agreed, both as regards the very necessity for the soviets and as regards the time and methods of their formation. Which means: since the soviets, in themselves, represent the highest form of the united front in the revolutionary epoch, therefore their inception must be preceded by the policy of the united front in the preparatory period.

Is it necessary to recall once again that in the course of six months in 1917, the soviets in Russia had a conciliationist Social Revolutionary-Menshevik majority? Without renouncing for one moment its revolutionary independence as a party, the Bolshevik Party observed, within the framework of soviet activities, discipline in relation to the majority. There isn’t the slightest doubt that in Germany, from the very first day on which the first soviet is formed, the Communist Party will occupy in it a place much more important than that of the Bolsheviks in the soviets of March 1917. Nor is the possibility excluded that the Communists would very shortly receive the majority in the soviets. This would not in any way deprive the soviets of their significance as the apparatus of the united front, because the minority – the Social Democratic, non-party, Catholic workers, etc. – would at first still number millions; and any attempt to hurdle such a minority is the best conceivable method of breaking one’s neck under the most revolutionary conditions obtainable. But this is all the music of the future. Today, the Communist Party is in the minority. And that must serve as our point of departure.

What has been said above doesn’t mean, of course, that the infallible means of achieving the soviets lies in preliminary agreements with Wels, Hilferding, Breitscheid, etc. If in 1918 Hilferding cudgeled his brain for ways of including the soviets in the Weimar Constitution without injuring the latter, then one must assume that his brain is now at work over the problem of how to include fascist barracks in the Weimar Constitution without damaging the Social Democracy ... One must begin creating the soviets at the moment when the general condition of the proletariat permits soviets to be created, even against the will of the upper crust of the Social Democracy. But to do so, it is necessary to tear away the Social Democratic mass from the leading clique; and the way to do that is not by pretending it is already done. In order to separate the millions of Social Democratic workers from their reactionary leaders we must begin by showing these workers that we are ready to enter the soviets even with these “leaders.”

One must not, however, discount entirely beforehand the possibility that top layers of the Social Democracy will be once again compelled to venture into the red-hot atmosphere of the soviets in order to try to repeat the maneuver of Ebert, Scheidemann, Haase, etc., in 1918-1919: here the outcome will depend not so much on the bad faith of these gentlemen as upon the degree and manner in which history will seize them in its vise.

The formation of the first important local soviet in which the Communist and Social Democratic workers would represent not individuals but organizations, would have an enormous effect upon the entire German working class. Not only Social Democratic and nonparty workers but also the Catholic and liberal workers would be unable long to resist the pull of the centripetal force. All the sections of the German proletariat most adapted to and capable of organization would be drawn to the soviets, as are iron filings to the poles of a magnet. Within the soviets, the Communist Party would obtain a new and exceptionally favorable arena for fighting for the leading role in the proletarian revolution. One may hold absolutely incontrovertible the statement that even today the overwhelming majority of the Social Democratic workers and even a considerable part of the Social Democratic apparatus would be participating within the framework of soviets, had not the leadership of the Communist Party so zealously aided the Social Democratic leaders in paralyzing the pressure of the masses.

If the Communist Party holds inadmissible any agreement on a program of definite practical tasks with Social Democratic, trade-union and other organizations, then this means nothing else but that it holds inadmissible the joint creation of the soviets together with the Social Democracy. And since there cannot be purely Communist soviets, and since, indeed, there wouldn’t be any need of them in that case, then the refusal by the Communist Party to make agreements and take joint action with other parties within the working class means nothing else but the refusal to create soviets.

Die Rote Fahne will doubtless answer this deduction with a volley of curses, and proceed to prove that just as two times two are four, so am I surely Brüning’s campaign agent, Wels’s secret ally, etc. I am ready to stand indicted under all these charges, but under one condition: that Die Rote Fahne on its part undertakes to explain to the German workers when and in what manner the soviets may be organized in Germany without accepting the policies of the united front in relation to other workers’ organizations.

Just to clarify the question of the soviets as the organs of the united front, the opinions expressed on this subject by one of the provincial Communist papers, Der Klassenkampf of Halle-Merseburg, are extremely instructive. “All workers’ organizations,” says this paper ironically, “in their present form, with all their faults and weaknesses, must be combined into great anti-fascist defensive unions. What does this mean? We may dispense with lengthy theoretic explanations; history itself proved a severe teacher in these questions to the German working class: the formless hodge-podge united front of all workers, organizations was paid for by the German working class at the price of the lost revolution in 1918-1919.” In truth, an unsurpassable sample of superficial verbiage!

In 1918-1919, the united front was realized primarily through the soviets. Should the Spartacists have entered the soviets or shouldn’t they? According to the exact meaning of the passage cited, they should have remained apart from the soviets. But since the Spartacists represented only a small minority of the working class, and since they could in no way substitute for the Social Democratic soviets their own, then their isolation from the soviets would have meant simply their isolation from the revolution. If the united front was “formless” and a “hodge-podge,” the fault lay not with the soviets, as the organs of the united front, but with the political condition of the working class itself; with the weakness of the Spartakusbund; and with the extreme power of the Social Democracy. The united front, in general, is never a substitute for a strong revolutionary party; it can only aid the latter to become stronger. This applies fully to the soviets. The weak Spartakusbund, by its fear to let slip the extraordinary occasion, was pushed into taking ultra-left courses and premature demonstrations. Had the Spartacists kept apart from the united front, that is, the soviets, these negative traits would undoubtedly have been yet more sharply pronounced.

Can it be possible that these people have gathered nothing at all from the experience of the German revolution in 1918-1919? Have they at least read Left-Wing Communism? Truly, the Stalinist regime has caused a mental havoc that is horrifying! After bureaucratizing the soviets in the USSR, the epigones look upon them as a technical weapon in the hands of the party apparatus. Forgotten is the fact that the soviets were founded as workers’ parliaments and that they drew the masses because they offered the possibility of welding together all sections of the proletariat, independently of party distinctions; forgotten is the fact that therein precisely lay the great educational and revolutionary power of the soviets. Everything is forgotten; everything is jumbled and distorted. O, thrice-cursed epigonism!

The question of the interrelationship between the party and the soviets is of decisive importance for revolutionary policy. While the present course of the party is in fact directed towards supplanting the soviets by the party, Hugo Urbahns, loath to miss the opportunity to add to the confusion, is preparing to supplant the party by the soviets. According to a Sozialistische Arbeiter Zeitung dispatch, Urbahns, in refuting the pretension of the Communist Party to the leadership of the working class, said at a meeting in Berlin, in January, “The leadership will be kept in the hands of the soviets, elected by the masses themselves and not in accordance with the desires or at the discretion of the one and only party. (Violent applause)” One can easily understand that by its ultimatism the Communist Party irritates the workers, who are ready to applaud every protest against bureaucratic presumption. But this does not alter the fact that Urbahns in this question as well has nothing in common with Marxism. No one will gainsay that the workers will elect the soviets “themselves.” But the whole question lies in whom they will elect. We must enter the soviets together with all other organizations such as they are, “with all their faults and weaknesses.” But to avow that the soviets “by themselves” are capable of leading the struggle of the proletariat for power – is only to sow abroad vulgar soviet fetishism. Everything depends upon the party that leads the soviets. Therefore, in contradistinction to Urbahns, the Bolshevik-Leninists do not at all deny the Communist Party the right to lead the soviets; on the contrary, they say, “Only on the basis of the united front, only through the mass organizations, can the KPD conquer the leading position within the future soviets and lead the proletariat to the conquest of power.”

9. The SAP (Socialist Workers Party of Germany)

Only functionaries gone mad, who are sure they can do anything, or stupid parrots, who repeat epithets without understanding their meaning, can label the SAP as a “social fascist” or “counter-revolutionary” party. Yet it would be an act of inexcusable light-mindedness and cheap optimism to place one’s faith, in advance, in an organization which after breaking with the Social Democracy still finds itself midway between reformism and Communism, under a leadership which is closer to reformism than to Communism. In respect to this question as well, the Left Opposition does not assume the slightest responsibility for Urbahns’s politics. The SAP is without a program. We are not discussing the matter of a formal document; the program holds water only in the event that its text is tied up with the revolutionary experience of the party and with the lessons gained from battles which have entered into the flesh and blood of its cadres. The SAP has none of these. The Russian Revolution, its separate stages, the struggle of its factions; the German crisis of 1923; the civil war in Bulgaria; the events of the Chinese Revolution; the battles of the British proletariat (1926); the revolutionary crisis in Spain – all these events, which must live in the consciousness of a revolutionary as luminous guideposts for the political road, are for the cadres of the SAP only murky recollections culled from newspapers and not revolutionary experiences lived through and assimilated.

That a workers’ party is compelled to carry out the policy of the united front – that is not to be gainsaid. But the policy of the united front has its dangers. Only an experienced and a tested revolutionary party can carry on this policy successfully. In any case, the policy of the united front cannot serve as a program for a revolutionary party. And in the meantime, the entire activity of the SAP is now being built on it. As a result, the policy of the united front is carried over into the party itself, that is, it serves to smear over the contradictions between the various tendencies. And that is precisely the fundamental function of centrism.

The daily paper of the SAP is steeped in the spirit of going fifty-fifty. Despite Ströbel’s departure, the paper remains semi-pacifist and not Marxist. Isolated revolutionary articles do not change its physiognomy, on the contrary, they only accentuate it. The paper goes into raptures over Küster’s letter to Brüning on militarism which is, in spirit, tasteless and petty-bourgeois through and through. It applauds a Danish “socialist,” former minister to His Majesty, for refusing to accept a place in the government delegation upon terms too degrading. Centrism is content with trifles. But the revolution demands a great deal. The revolution demands everything, absolutely everything.

The SAP condemns the trade-union policy of the Communist Party: the splitting of the unions and the formation of the RGO (Revolutionary Trade Union Opposition). Undoubtedly the policy of the Communist Party in the sphere of the trade unions is extremely erroneous: Lozovsky’s leadership is not being bought cheaply by the international proletarian vanguard. But the criticism of the SAP is not a bit less false. The fault of the Communist Party does not lie in that it “splits” the ranks of the proletariat, and “weakens” the Social Democratic unions. That is not a revolutionary criterion because, under the present leadership, the unions serve not the workers, but the capitalists. The Communist Party is guilty of a crime not because it “weakens” Leipart’s organization but because it weakens itself. The participation of the Communists in reactionary unions is dictated not by the abstract principle of unity but by the concrete necessity to wage battle in order to purge the organizations of the agents of capital. With the SAP this active, revolutionary, attacking element in the policy is made subservient to the bald principle of the unity of unions that are led by agents of capital.

The SAP accuses the Communist Party of a leaning toward putschism. Such an accusation is also borne out by certain facts and methods; but before it has the right to fling this accusation, the SAP must formulate in detail and show in action its own attitude to the basic questions of the proletarian revolution. The Mensheviks were forever accusing the Bolsheviks of Blanquism and adventurism, i.e. of putschism. On the contrary, the Leninist strategy was as far removed from putschism as heaven is from earth. But Lenin himself understood and taught others to understand the significance of ’the art of insurrection’ in the proletarian struggle.

The criticism of the SAP in this respect becomes all the more suspicious in character the more it leans upon the authority of Paul Levi, who became frightened of the infantile diseases of the Communist Party and preferred to them the senile complications of the Social Democracy. During the intimate conferences on the events of March 1921 in Germany, Lenin said about Levi, “The man has lost his head entirely.” True, Lenin immediately added slyly, “He, at least, had something to lose; one can’t even say that about the others.” The term “others” denoted Bela Kun, Thalheimer, etc. No one can deny that Paul Levi had a head on his shoulders. But the man who lost his head and in that condition made a leap from the ranks of the Communists into the ranks of the reformists, is hardly qualified to be a teacher for a proletarian party. The tragic end of Levi, his leaping out a window in an irresponsible state of mind, seems to symbolize his political orbit.

Although for the masses centrism is only a transition from one stage to the next, for individual politicians centrism can become a second nature. At the head of the SAP stands a group of desperate Social Democratic functionaries, lawyers, and journalists – all people of such an age that one must consider their political education as having been completed. A desperate Social Democrat still does not mean a revolutionist.

Representative of this type – its best representative – is Georg Ledebour. Not long ago I chanced to read the official report of his trial in 1919. And while reading, more than once I mentally applauded the old warrior, for his sincerity, his temperament, and his nobility of nature. But Ledebour just the same did not step over the boundaries of centrism. Wherever the matter touches mass actions, the highest forms of class struggle, their preparation, and the assumption by the party of the outright responsibility of leadership in mass battles, there Ledebour remains only the best representative of centrism. This separated him from Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg. It separates him from us now.

Indignant over Stalin’s accusation that the radical wing of the old German Social Democracy is passive in its attitude to the struggle of oppressed nations, Ledebour in response refers to the fact that he always had evinced great initiative on precisely national questions. Ledebour personally never failed to respond with great passion to the notes of chauvinism in the old German Social Democracy, not at all hiding thereby his own powerfully developed national feeling. Ledebour was always the best friend of Russian, Polish, and other revolutionary emigrants; and many of them preserve a cherished memory of the old revolutionaries who in the ranks of the Social Democratic bureaucracy was referred to with patronizing irony either as “Ledebourov” or “Ledeboursky.”

Nevertheless Stalin, who is acquainted with neither the fact, nor the literature of that period, is correct on this point, at least insofar as he repeats Lenin’s general appraisal. In his attempt to refute, Ledebour only corroborates this appraisal. He advances the fact that in his articles he gave vent to his indignation more than once over the complacence with which the parties of the Second International observed the handiwork of their fellow members: Ramsay MacDonald, for instance, while he was solving India’s national problems with the aid of bombing planes. This indignation and protest provides an undebatable and honorable distinction between Ledebour and an Otto Bauer, not to mention the Hilferdings and the Welses: those gentlemen lack only an India for proceeding with democratic bombings.

Nevertheless, Ledebour’s position even on this question does not leave the precincts of centrism. Ledebour demands that a battle be waged against colonial oppression; he is ready to vote in parliament against colonial credits; he is ready to take upon himself a fearless defense of the victims of a crushed colonial insurrection. But Ledebour will not participate in preparing a colonial insurrection. Such work he considers putschism, adventurism, Bolshevism. And therein is the whole gist of the matter.

What characterizes Bolshevism on the national question is that in its attitude toward oppressed nations, even the most backward, it considers them not only the object but also the subject of politics. Bolshevism does not confine itself to recognizing their “right” to self-determination and to parliamentary protests against the trampling upon of this right. Bolshevism penetrates into the midst of the oppressed nations; it raises them up against their oppressors; it ties up their struggle with the struggle of the proletariat in capitalist countries; it instructs the oppressed Chinese, Hindus, or Arabs in the art of insurrection and it assumes full responsibility for this work in the face of civilized executioners. Here only does Bolshevism begin, that is, revolutionary Marxism in action. Everything that does not step over this boundary remains centrism.

The policy of a proletarian party can never be appraised solely on the basis of national criteria. The Marxist holds this as an axiom. What then are the international connections and sympathies of the SAP? Norwegian, Swedish, and Dutch centrists, organizations, groups, or individuals, whose passive and provincial character enables them to straddle between reformism and Communism – such are its closest friends. Angelica Balabanoff is the symbolic figure for the international affiliations of the SAP: she is even now busy trying to merge the new party with the shreds of the Two-and-a-Half International!

Leon Blum, the defender of reparations, the socialist godfather of the banker Oustric, is termed “comrade” in the pages of Seydewitz’s paper. What is this, politeness? No, lack of principle, lack of character, lack of backbone! “Petty quibbling,” some office wiseacre will reply. No, these trifles reveal the political undercurrent much more correctly and honestly than does the abstract recognition of the soviets, which is not attested by revolutionary experience. There is no sense in making oneself ridiculous by calling Blum a fascist. But he who does not feel hatred and disgust toward this political breed – is no revolutionist.

The SAP divorces itself from “comrade” Otto Bauer within the same limits as does Max Adler. To Rosenfeld and Seydewitz, Bauer is only an ideological antagonist, perhaps even a temporary one, whereas to us he is an irreconcilable foe who has led the proletariat of Austria into a fearful quagmire.

Max Adler – there one has quite a sensitive centrist barometer. One cannot deny the usefulness of such an instrument, but one must know definitely that while it is capable of registering changes of weather, it is incapable of acting upon them. Under the pressure of the capitalist impasse, Max Adler is ready once again, not without philosophic grief, to accept the inevitability of revolution. But what an acceptance! What reservations! What sighs! The best thing possible would be for the Second and Third Internationals to merge. The most would be gained if socialism were installed in a democratic manner. But, alas, this method is apparently impossible. It seems that even in civilized countries, not only among barbarians, the workers will have to – O me! O my! – make a revolution. But even this melancholy acceptance of the revolution is only a literary fact. Such conditions as would enable Max Adler to say, “The hour has struck!” have never obtained in history and never will. People like Adler are capable of justifying the revolution in the past and of accepting its inevitability in the future. but they can never issue a call to it in the present. One must accept as hopeless this entire group of old left Social Democrats who were changed neither by the imperialist war nor by the Russian Revolution. As barometric instruments – if you please. As revolutionary leaders – never!

Towards the end of September, the SAP issued an appeal to all workers’ organizations that meetings be organized throughout the entire country during which orators of every tendency would be allotted equal times. It is plain enough that nothing can be achieved in that fashion. Indeed, what sense can there be in the Communist Party or the Social Democratic Party sharing the platform on equal terms with Brandler and Urbahns and the spokesmen of other organizations and groups which are too insignificant to pretend to a special place in the movement? The united front is to unite the Communist and Social Democratic working masses and not to patch up an agreement with political groups that are without the masses.

We shall be told that the bloc between Rosenfeld-Brandler-Urbahns is only a propaganda bloc for the united front. But it is precisely in the sphere of propaganda that a bloc is out of the question. Propaganda must lean upon clear-cut principles and on a definite program. March separately, strike together. A bloc is solely for practical mass actions. Deals arranged from above which lack a basis in principle will bring nothing except confusion.

The idea of nominating a candidate for president on the part of the united workers’ front is at its root a false one. A candidate can be nominated only on the grounds of a definite program. The party has no right to sacrifice during elections the mobilization of its supporters and the census of its strength. The party candidacy, in opposition to all other candidates, can in no instance conflict with any agreement made with other organizations for immediate aims of struggle. Communists, whether official members of the party or not, will support Thälmann’s candidacy to their utmost. What we are concerned with is not Thälmann but the banner of Communism. We shall defend it against all other parties. Breaking down the prejudices with which the rank and file of the Communists have been inoculated by the Stalinist bureaucracy, the Left Opposition will clear the road into their consciousness for itself. [4]

What were the policies of the Bolsheviks in relation to those workers’ organizations that developed from the left or reformism or centrism toward Communism?

In Petrograd, in 1917, there existed an intermediate interdistrict organization, embracing about 4,000 workers. The Bolshevik organization in Petrograd counted tens of thousands of workers. Nevertheless, the Petrograd Committee of the Bolsheviks entered into agreements on every question with the interdistrict organization and advised it of all plans and in this way facilitated the complete merger.

It might be argued that the interdistrict workers were politically close to the Bolsheviks. But the matter was not confined solely to the interdistrict workers. When the Menshevik-Internationalists (Martov’s group) aligned themselves against the social patriots, the Bolsheviks left nothing undone in order to achieve joint action with the Martovists, and if in the majority of instances this was not achieved, it was not the Bolsheviks who were to blame. Incidentally, one must add the fact that the Menshevik-Internationalists formally remained within the framework of their party in common with Tseretelli and Dan.

The same tactic, but in an immeasurably wider scope, was likewise applied in relation to the Left Social Revolutionaries. The Bolsheviks even drew a section of the Left SRs into the Revolutionary War Committee, i.e., the organ of the overturn, although at the time the Left SRs still belonged to the same party with Kerensky against whom the overturn was directly aimed. Of course, this was not a very logical procedure on the part of the Left SRs and it showed that not everything was in order in their heads. But if one waited until everything was in order in everybody’s head, there would never have been victorious revolutions on this earth. Subsequently, the Bolsheviks concluded a governmental bloc with the party of the Left SRs (left “Kornilovists,” or left “fascist” according to the new terminology), which lasted a few months, and broke up only after the insurrection of the Left SRs.

Here is how Lenin summarized the experience of the Bolsheviks in relation to the left-leaning centrists. “The correct tactic of the Communists must consist of exploiting these vacillations, and not at all of ignoring them: to exploit them, concessions must necessarily be made to those elements which turn to the proletariat and join ranks with it then and wherever and insofar as they do so in the struggle against those elements which turn to the bourgeoisie ... By making a rapid fire decision ‘to dispense with all compromises whatsoever and not to tack or veer on our course,’ one can only do harm to the further strengthening of the revolutionary proletariat ...” In this question as well, the tactic of the Bolsheviks had nothing in common with bureaucratic ultimatism.

It is not so long since Thälmann and Remmele were themselves in an independent party. If they strain their memories, they will succeed perhaps in recalling their political sensibilities during those years when, after breaking with the Social Democrats, they joined an independent party and pushed it to the left. Suppose somebody had then said to them that they only represented “the left wing of the monarchist counterrevolution”? In all probability they would have concluded that their accuser was either drunk or crazy. And yet this is just their manner at present of defining the SAP!

Let us recall the manner in which Lenin reasoned upon the inception of an independent party: “Why is it that in Germany the same, entirely identical (with that in Russia 1917) gravitation of the workers from the right to the left has brought not the immediate strengthening of the Communists but of the intermediate party of the ‘Independents’ at first? ... Obviously one of the causes for this lies in the erroneous tactic of the German Communists, who should admit their mistake fearlessly and honestly and who must learn how to correct it ... Their mistake originated in the numerous manifestations of that ‘left’ infantile disease, which has now broken out openly, and which will be cured all the better and sooner and to the greatest advantage of the organism.” Yes, this was indeed written just for the present moment!

The present German Communist Party is much stronger than the then Spartakusbund. But if today there appears the second edition of the independent party, under the same leadership in part, then the blame for it that falls upon the Communist Party is so much the greater.

The SAP is a contradictory fact. Of course, it would have been best had the workers joined the Communist Party directly. But for this, the Communist Party must have another policy and another leadership. In appraising the SAP, one must take one’s point of departure not from an ideal Communist Party, but from the one that actually exists. To the extent to which the Communist Party, remaining on the positions of bureaucratic ultimatism, counteracts the centrifugal forces within the Social Democracy, to that extent, the inception of the SAP is an inevitable and a progressive fact.

The progressive character of this fact is, however, extremely weakened by the centrist leadership. Should the latter entrench itself, it will wreck the SAP. To reconcile oneself with the centrism of the SAP for the sake of its general progressive role would mean that one would thereby liquidate its progressive role.

The conciliationist, compromising elements that stand at the head of the party are experienced maneuverers, and they will smear over the contradictions and put off the crisis. But these means will suffice only until the first serious onset of events. The crisis within the party may develop at the very moment that the revolutionary crisis flares up, and it may paralyze its proletarian elements.

The task of the Communists consists in giving timely aid to the workers of the SAP to purge their ranks of centrism and to rid themselves of the leadership of their centrist leaders. To achieve this, it is imperative that nothing be hushed, that good intentions be not accepted for deeds, and that all things be called by their names. But only by their own names, and not by fanciful ones. One must criticize, not vilify. One must seek ways for coming together and not hold one’s fist ready to slam away.

Regarding the left wing of the independent party, Lenin wrote, “To fear compromise with this wing of the party – that is simply comical. On the contrary, it is obligatory that the Communists seek and find a suitable form for a compromise with them; i.e., such a compromise as would on the one hand facilitate and hasten the inevitable final fusion with this wing; and on the other in no way hamper the Communists in their ideological-political battle against the right wing of the Independents.” There is nothing to add even today to this tactical course.

To the left elements of the SAP we say, “Revolutionists are tempered not only during strikes and street battles but, first of all, during struggles for the correct policies of their own party. Take the ‘twenty-one conditions’ worked out, in their own time, for the admission of new parties into the Comintern. Take the works of the Left Opposition where the ‘twenty-one conditions’ are applied to the political developments of the last eight years. In the light of these ‘conditions’ open a planned attack against centrism within your own ranks and lead the matter to its conclusion. Otherwise nothing will remain for you except the hardly respectable role of serving as a left cover for centrism.”

And then what? And then – face in the direction of the Communist Party. Revolutionists do not ever straddle fences between the Social Democracy and the Communist Party, as Rosenfeld and Seydewitz would like to. No, the Social Democratic leaders represent the agencies of the class enemy within the proletariat. The Communist leaders, though confused, poor, and incapable, are revolutionists or semi-revolutionists that have been led from the right track. That is not one and the same thing. The Social Democracy must be destroyed. The Communist Party must be corrected. You say that this is impossible? But have you seriously tried working at it?

Just now, at this very moment, when events are pressing down on the Communist Party, we must help the events with the onset of our criticism. The Communist workers will all the more attentively listen to us the sooner they are convinced in action that we do not seek a “third” party but are sincerely straining to help them turn the present Communist Party into an authentic leader of the working class.

And what if we don’t succeed?

Should we not succeed, that would almost certainly signify in the given historical environment the victory of fascism. But on the eve of great battles the revolutionist does not ask what will be if he fails but how to perform that which means success. It is possible, it can be done – therefore it must be done.

10. Centrism “in General” and Centrism of the Stalinist Bureaucracy

The errors of the leadership of the Comintern and consequently the errors of the German Communist Party pertain, in the familiar terminology of Lenin, to the category of “ultraleft stupidities.” Even wise men are capable of stupidities, especially when young. But, as Heine counseled, this privilege should not be abused. When, however, political stupidities of a given type are repeated systematically in the course of a lengthy period, and moreover in the sphere of the most important questions, then they cease being simply stupidities and become tendencies. What sort of a tendency is this? What historical necessities does it meet? What are its social roots? Ultraleftism has a different social foundation in different countries and at different periods. The most thoroughgoing expressions of ultra-leftism were to be found in anarchism and Blanquism, and in their different combinations, among them the latest one, anarcho-syndicalism.

The social soil for these trends which have spread primarily through Latin countries was to be found in the old and classic small industries of Paris. Their stability added an indubitable significance to the French varieties of ultra-radicalism and allowed them to a certain degree to influence ideologically the workers’ movements in other countries. The development of large-scale industries in France, the war, and the Russian Revolution broke the spine of anarcho-syndicalism. Having been thrown back, it has become transformed into a debased opportunism. At both of its stages French syndicalism is headed by one and the same Jouhaux; the times change and we change with them.

Spanish anarcho-syndicalism preserved its seeming revolutionary character only in the environment of political stagnation. By posing all the questions point-blank, the revolution has compelled the anarcho-syndicalist leaders to cast off their ultra-radicalism and to reveal their opportunist nature. We can rest definitely assured that the Spanish revolution will drive out the prejudice of syndicalism from its last Latin hideout.

The anarchist and Blanquist elements join all kinds of other ultraleft trends and groups. On the periphery of a great revolutionary movement there are always to be observed the manifestations of putschism and adventurism, the standard-bearers of which are recruited either from backward and quite often semi-artisan strata of the workers, or from the intellectual fellow travelers. But such a type of ultra-leftism does not attain ordinarily to independent historical significance, retaining, in most instances, its episodic character.

In historically backward countries, which are compelled to go through their bourgeois revolutions within the environment of a full-fledged and worldwide workers’ movement, the left intelligentsia often introduces the most extreme slogans and methods into the semi-elementary movements of the predominantly petty-bourgeois masses. Such is the nature of petty-bourgeois parties of the type of the Russian Social Revolutionaries, with their tendencies toward putschism, individual terrorism, etc. Thanks to the effectiveness of the Communist parties in the West, the independent adventuristic groups will hardly attain there to the importance of the Russian Social Revolutionaries. But on this account the young Communist parties of the West may include within themselves the elements of adventurism. As regards the Russian SRs, under the influence of the evolution of bourgeois society they have become transformed into the party of the imperialist petty bourgeoisie and have taken a counter-revolutionary position in relation to the October Revolution.

It is entirely self-evident that the ultra-leftism of the present Comintern does not fall under any one of the above specified historic types. The chief party of the Comintern, the CPSU, as is well known, leans upon the industrial proletariat, and operates for better or for worse from the revolutionary traditions of Bolshevism. The majority of other sections of the Comintern are proletarian organizations. Are not the very differences in conditions in the various countries in which the ultraleft policies of official Communism are raging simultaneously and to the same degree, tokens of the fact that there are no common social roots underlying this trend? Indeed, an ultra-left course is being taken in China and in Great Britain, moreover one having the same “principled” character. But if so, where are we then to seek for the key to the new ultra-leftism?

The question is complicated, but at the same time is also clarified by one other extremely important circumstance: ultra-leftism is not at all an unvarying or a fundamental trait of the present leadership of the Comintern. The same apparatus, in its basic composition, held to an openly opportunistic policy until 1928, and in many of the most important questions switched over completely onto the tracks of Menshevism. During 1924-1927, agreements with reformists were not only considered obligatory but were permitted even if thereby the party renounced its independence, its freedom of criticism, and even its proletarian foundation. [5] Therefore the discussion concerns not at all a particular ultra-left trend, but a prolonged ultra-left zigzag of such a trend as has demonstrated in the past its capacity for launching into profound ultra-right zigzags. Even these outward symptoms suggest that what we are dealing with is centrism.

Speaking formally and descriptively, centrism is composed of all those trends within the proletariat and on its periphery which are distributed between reformism and Marxism, and which most often represent various stages of evolution from reformism to Marxism – and vice versa. Both Marxism and reformism have a solid social support underlying them. Marxism expresses the historical interests of the proletariat. Reformism speaks for the privileged position of proletarian bureaucracy and aristocracy within the capitalist state. Centrism, as we have known it in the past, did not have and could not have an independent social foundation. Different layers of the proletariat develop in the revolutionary direction in different ways and at different times. In periods of prolonged industrial uplift or in the periods of political ebb tide, after defeats, different layers of the proletariat shift politically from left to right, clashing with other layers who are just beginning to evolve to the left. Different groups are delayed on separate stages of their evolution, they find their temporary leaders and they create their programs and organizations. Small wonder then that such a diversity of trends is embraced in the concept of “centrism”! Depending upon their origin, their social composition, and the direction of their evolution, different groupings may be engaged in the most savage warfare with one another, without losing thereby their character of being a variety of centrism.

While centrism in general fulfills ordinarily the function of serving as a left cover for reformism, the question as to which of the basic camps, reformist or Marxist a given centrism may belong, cannot be solved once for all with a ready-made formula. Here, more than anywhere else, it is necessary to analyze each time the concrete composition of the process and the inner tendencies of its development. Thus, some of Rosa Luxemburg’s political mistakes may be with sufficient theoretical justification characterized as left centrist. One could go still further and say that the majority of divergences between Rosa Luxemburg and Lenin represented a stronger or weaker leaning toward centrism. But only the idiots and ignoramuses and charlatans of the Comintern bureaucracy are capable of placing Luxemburgism, as an historical tendency, in the category of centrism. It goes without saying that the present “leaders” of the Comintern, from Stalin down, politically, theoretically, and morally do not come up to the knees of the great woman and revolutionist.

Critics who have not pondered the gist of the matter have recently accused me more than once of abusing the word “centrism” by including under this name too great a variety of tendencies and groups within the workers’ movement. In reality, the diversity of the types of centrism originates, as has been said already, in the essence of the phenomenon itself and not at all in an abuse of terminology. We need only recall how often the Marxists have been accused of assigning to the petty bourgeoisie the most diverse and contradictory phenomena. And actually, under the category “petty bourgeois,” one is obliged to include facts, ideas, and tendencies that at first glance appear entirely incompatible. The petty-bourgeois character pertains to the peasant movement and to the radical tendencies of urban reformism; both French Jacobins and Russian Narodniks are petty bourgeois; Proudhonists are petty bourgeois, but so are Blanquists; contemporary Social Democracy is petty bourgeois, but so is fascism; also petty bourgeois are: the French anarcho-syndicalists, the “Salvation Army,” Gandhi’s movement in India, etc., etc. If we turn to the sphere of philosophy and art a still more polychromatic picture obtains. Does this mean that Marxism indulges in playing with terminology? Not at all; this only means that the petty bourgeoisie is characterized by the extreme heterogeneity of its social nature. At the bottom it fuses with the proletariat and extends into the lumpenproletariat; on top it passes over into the capitalist bourgeoisie. It may lean upon old forms of production but it may rapidly develop on the basis of most modern industry (the new “middle class”). No wonder that ideologically it scintillates with all the colors of the rainbow.

Centrism within the workers’ movement plays in a certain sense the same role as does petty-bourgeois ideology of all types in relation to bourgeois society as a whole. Centrism reflects the processes of the evolution of the proletariat – its political growth as well as its revolutionary setbacks conjoint with the pressure of all other classes of society upon the proletariat. No wonder that the palette of centrism is distinguished by such iridescence! From this it follows, however, not that one must give up trying to comprehend centrism but simply that one must discover the true nature of a given variety of centrism by means of a concrete and historical analysis in every individual instance.

The ruling faction of the Comintern does not represent centrism “in general” but a quite definite historical form, which has its social roots, rather recent but powerful. First of all, the matter concerns the Soviet bureaucracy. In the writings of the Stalinist theoreticians this social stratum does not exist at all. We are only told of “Leninism,” of disembodied leadership, of the ideological tradition, of the spirit of Bolshevism, of the imponderable “general line”; but we never hear a word about the functionary, breathing and living, in flesh and bone, who manipulates the general line like a fireman his hose.

In the meantime this same functionary bears the least resemblance to an incorporeal spirit. He eats and guzzles and procreates and grows himself a respectable potbelly. He lays down the law with a sonorous voice, handpicks from below people faithful to him, remains faithful to his superiors, prohibits others from criticizing himself, and sees in all this the gist of the general line. Of such functionaries there are a few million. A few million! Their number is greater than the number of industrial workers in the period of the October Revolution. The majority of these functionaries never participated in the class struggle, which is bound up with sacrifices, self-denials, and dangers. These people in their overwhelming mass began their political lives already in the category of a ruling layer. They are backed by the state power. It assures them their livelihood and raises them considerably above the surrounding masses. They know nothing of the dangers of unemployment, if they are gifted with the capacity to stand at attention. The grossest errors are forgiven them so long as they are ready to fulfill the role of the sacrificial scapegoat at the required moment, and thus remove the responsibility from the shoulders of their nearest superiors. Well, then, has this ruling stratum of many millions any social weight and political influence in the life of a country? Yes or no?

We know from older books that the labor bureaucracy and the labor aristocracy are the social foundation for opportunism. In Russia this phenomenon has taken on new forms. On the foundation of the dictatorship of the proletariat – in a backward country, surrounded by capitalism – for the first time a powerful bureaucratic apparatus has been created from among the upper layers of the workers, that is raised above the masses, that lays down the law to them, that has at its disposal colossal resources, that is bound together by an inner mutual responsibility, and that intrudes into the policies of a workers’ government its own interests, methods, and regulations.

We are not anarchists. We understand the necessity of a workers’ government and therefore the historical inevitability of a bureaucracy during a transitional period. But we likewise understand the dangers that are inherent in this fact, particularly for a backward and an isolated country. The idealization of Soviet bureaucracy is the most shameful mistake than can be made by a Marxist. Lenin strove with all his might to raise the party as a self-acting vanguard of the working class above the governmental apparatus in order to control, check, direct, and purge it, placing the historical interests of the proletariat – international, not only national – above the interests of the ruling bureaucracy. As the first condition of the party control over the government Lenin prescribed control by the party masses over the party apparatus. Read over attentively his articles, speeches, and letters during the Soviet period, particularly for the last two years of his life – and you will remark with what alarm his mind turned time and again to this burning question.

But what has happened in the subsequent period? The entire leading stratum of the party and of the government that was at the helm during the revolution and the civil war has been replaced, removed, and crushed. Their place has been taken by the anonymous functionary. At the same time the struggle against bureaucratism which was so acute in character during Lenin’s lifetime, when the bureaucracy was not yet out of its diapers, has ceased entirely now when the apparatus has grown sky-high.

And indeed, who is there capable of carrying on this struggle? The party as a self-controlling vanguard of the proletariat no longer exists now. The party apparatus has been fused with the administrative. The most important instrument of the general line within the party is the GPU. The bureaucracy not only prohibits the criticism of the top from below, but it also prohibits its theoreticians from even talking about it and noticing it. The mad hatred for the Left Opposition is aroused, first of all, by the fact that the Opposition talks openly about the bureaucracy, about its particular role and its interests, thus revealing the secret that the general line is inseparable from the flesh and blood of the new national ruling stratum, which is not at all identical with the proletariat.

From the proletarian character of the government, the bureaucracy deduces its birthright to infallibility: how can the bureaucracy of a workers’ state degenerate? The state and the bureaucracy are thereby taken not as historical processes but as eternal categories: how can the holy church and its God-inspired priests sin? Yet, if a workers’ bureaucracy which has raised itself over the proletariat, waging battle in a capitalist society, could degenerate into the party of Noske, Scheidemann, Ebert, and Wels, why can’t it degenerate after raising itself over the victorious proletariat?

The ruling and uncontrolled position of the Soviet bureaucracy is conducive to a psychology which in many ways is directly contradictory to the psychology of a proletarian revolutionist. Its own aims and combinations in domestic as well as international politics are placed by the bureaucracy above the tasks of the revolutionary education of the masses and have no connection with the tasks of international revolution. In the course of a number of years the Stalinist faction demonstrated that the interests and the psychology of the prosperous peasant, engineer, administrator, Chinese bourgeois intellectual, and British trade-union functionary were much closer and more comprehensible to it than the psychology and the needs of the unskilled laborer, the peasant poor, the Chinese national masses in revolt, the British strikers, etc.

But why, in that case, didn’t the Stalinist faction carry to the very end its line of national opportunism? Because it is the bureaucracy of a workers’ state. While the international Social Democracy defends the foundations of the bourgeois sovereignty, the Soviet bureaucracy, not having achieved a governmental overturn, is compelled to adapt itself to the social foundations laid down by the October Revolution. From this is derived the dual psychology and policies of the Stalinist bureaucracy. Centrism, but centrism on the foundation of a workers’ state, is the sole possible expression for this duality.

Whereas in capitalist countries, the centrist groupings are most often temporary or transitional in character, reflecting the evolution of certain workers’ strata to the right or to the left, under the conditions of the Soviet republic centrism is equipped with a much more solid and organized base in the shape of a multimillioned bureaucracy. Representing in itself a natural environment for opportunist and nationalist tendencies, it is compelled, however, to maintain the foundations of its hegemony in the struggle with the kulak [rich peasant] and also to bother about its “Bolshevik” prestige in the worldwide movement. Following its attempted chase after the Kuomintang and the Amsterdam bureaucracy, which in many ways is close to it spiritually, the Soviet bureaucracy each time entered into sharp conflict with the Social Democracy, which reflects the enmity of the world bourgeoisie to the Soviet state. Such are the sources of the present left zigzags.

The peculiarity of the situation arises not from the supposed special immunity of the Soviet bureaucracy to opportunism and nationalism but from the fact that, being unable to occupy a thorough-going national-reformist position, it is compelled to describe zigzags between Marxism and national reformism. The oscillations of this bureaucratic centrism, in conformity with its power, its resources, and the acute contradictions in its position, have attained an altogether unheard-of sweep: from ultraleft adventurism in Bulgaria and Estonia to the alliance with Chiang Kai-shek, Radich, and Purcell; and from the shameful fraternization with British strikebreakers to a complete renunciation of the policy of the united front with mass organizations.

The Stalinist bureaucracy carries over its methods and zigzags to other countries, insofar as it not only leads the Comintern through the party apparatus but also lays down the law to it. Thälmann was for the Kuomintang when Stalin was for the Kuomintang. At the seventh plenum of the ECCI in the fall of 1926, the delegate of the Kuomintang, ambassador of Chiang Kai-shek, Shao Li-tsi by name, fraternally came forward together with Thälmann, Semard, and all the Remmeles against “Trotskyism.” “Comrade” Shao Li-tsi said, “We are all convinced that under the leadership of the Comintern, the Kuomintang will fulfill its historic task.” (Minutes of the Seventh Plenum) This is a historical fact!

If you take up Die Rote Fahne for 1926, you will find in it multitudinous articles all harping on one note, to wit, that by demanding a break with the British General Council of strikebreakers, Trotsky demonstrates his ... Menshevism! And today “Menshevism” consists already in defending the united front with mass organizations, that is, in applying that policy which was formulated by the Third and Fourth Congresses under the leadership of Lenin (against all the Thälmanns, Thalheimers, Bela Kuns, Frossards, etc.).

These breakneck zigzags would have been impossible were it not for the fact that within all Communist sections a self-sufficient bureaucracy – i.e., independent of the party – had been formed. Here is the root of all evil!

The strength of a revolutionary party consists in the independence of its vanguard, which checks and selects its cadres and, while educating its leaders, gradually elevates them by its confidence. This creates an unbroken connection between the cadres and the mass, between the leaders and the cadres, and it induces in the entire leadership an inward confidence in themselves. There is nothing of the kind in the contemporary Communist parties! The leaders are appointed. They handpick their aides. The rank and file of the masses is forced to accept the appointed leaders, around whom there is built up the artificial atmosphere of publicity. The cadres depend upon the upper crust and not upon the underlying masses. Consequently, to a considerable degree they seek for the source of their influence as well as for the source of their livelihood outside of the masses. They draw their political slogans not from the experience in the struggle, but from the telegraph. And in the meantime Stalin’s files secrete incriminating documents against possible emergency. Each leader knows that at any moment he can be blown away like a feather.

Thus, throughout the entire Comintern a closed bureaucratic stratum is being created which constitutes a culture broth for the bacilli of centrism. While organizationally it is very stable and solid, for it is backed by the bureaucracy of the Soviet state, the centrism of the Thälmanns, Remmeles & Co., is distinguished by extreme instability in political relations. Bereft of assurance, which can be derived only from an organic liaison with the masses, the infallible CEC suffices only for monstrous zigzags. The less it is prepared for a serious ideological battle, the more proficient it is in profanity, insinuations, and calumnies. Stalin’s lineage, “coarse” and “disloyal,” as described by Lenin, is the personification of this layer.

The characterization of bureaucratic centrism given above determines the attitude of the Left Opposition to the Stalinist bureaucracy: a complete and unqualified support insofar as the bureaucracy defends the boundaries of the Soviet republic and the foundations of the October Revolution; an outspoken criticism insofar as the bureaucracy hinders by its administrative zigzags the defense of the revolution and of socialist construction; a merciless resistance insofar as it disorganizes by its bureaucratic overlordship the struggle of the international proletariat.



3. The French periodical Cahiers du Bolchevisme, the most preposterous and illiterate of all Stalinist publications, pounced greedily upon this reference to the devil’s grandmother, never suspecting, of course, that she has a long history in the Marxist press. The hour is not distant, we hope, when the revolutionary workers will send their ignorant and unscrupulous teachers to serve their apprenticeship with the above-mentioned grandmother.

4. All the other views of this group rest on the same plane and are only a rehash of the grossest blunders of the Stalinist bureaucracy, but accompanied by even more exaggerated ultra-left grimaces. Fascism is enthroned already; there is no independent danger in Hitler; and besides, the workers don’t want to fight. If that’s the way matters stand; if there’s still plenty of time left, then the theoreticians of Der Rote Kaempfer might as well put their leisure to some use; and instead of scribbling bad articles they ought better to read a few good books. Marx long since explained to Weitling that ignorance never did anyone any good.

5. Unfortunately, an article was printed in Die Permanente Revolution, not an editorial one, true enough, but in defense of a single workers’ candidate. There cannot be any doubt that the German Bolshevik-Leninists will condemn such a position.

What Next? (1932) Index

The Rise of Fascism in Germany Index

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Last updated on: 21 January 2016