Leon Trotsky

What Next?

Vital Questions for the German Proletariat

Part III

11. The Contradictions Between the Economic Successes of the USSR and the Bureaucratization of the Regime

One cannot work out the foundations of revolutionary policy “in one country.” The problem of the German revolution is at present inextricably tied up with the question of political leadership in the USSR. This connection must be understood thoroughly. The proletarian dictatorship is the reply to the resistance of the possessing classes. The restriction of liberties arises from the military regime of the revolution, i.e., from the conditions of the class war. From this point of view it is entirely self-evident that the inner stabilization of the Soviet republic, its economic growth, and the weakening of the resistance of the bourgeoisie, especially the successes in “liquidating” the last capitalist class, the kulaks, should result in the burgeoning of party, trade-union, and Soviet democracy.

The Stalinists never weary of repeating that “we have already entered into socialism”; that the present collectivization signifies by itself the liquidation of the kulaks as a class; and that the next five-year plan will carry these processes to their conclusion. That being so, why did this same process lead to the complete suppression of the party, the trade unions, and the soviets by the bureaucratic apparatus, while the latter in its turn has taken on the character of plebiscitarian Bonapartism? Why did the life of the party proceed in full swing in the days of famine and civil war? Why didn’t it even enter into anyone’s mind to question whether it was or wasn’t permissible to criticize Lenin or the CEC as a whole? And why does the slightest divergence with Stalin now lead to expulsion from the party and to administrative repressions?

The threat of war on the part of imperialist governments can in no case explain, much less justify, the growth of bureaucratic despotism. If within a national socialist society the classes have been liquidated more or less, then that should signify that the dissolution of the state is beginning. The socialist society may victoriously combat foes from without precisely as a socialist society and not as a state of proletarian dictatorship, much less a bureaucratic one.

But we are not speaking of the dissolution of the dictatorship: it’s too early for that, we have not as yet “entered into socialism.” We speak of something else. We want to know: How to explain the bureaucratic degeneration of the dictatorship? What is the origin of the strident monstrous, and murderous contradiction between the successes of the socialist construction and the regime of personal dictatorship which leans upon an impersonal apparatus and which holds by the throat the ruling class of the nation? How explain the fact that economics and politics are developing in directions directly opposite?

The economic successes are very great. Economically the October Revolution has justified itself fully even now. The high coefficients of economic growth are irrefutable demonstrations of the fact that socialist methods reveal themselves to be immeasurably superior even for the solving of those problems of production which were solved in the West by capitalist methods. How great then will be the superiority of socialist economy in the advanced countries!

Nevertheless, the question posed by the October overturn has not been answered as yet even in outline.

The Stalinist bureaucracy calls the economy “socialist” on the strength of its postulates and tendencies. These are not enough. The economic successes of the Soviet Union are still taking shape on a low economic base. The nationalized industry is passing through stages which have been passed long since by the foremost capitalist nations. The working woman who stands in line has her own criterion of socialism, and this “consumer’s” criterion, as the functionary scornfully refers to it, is the decisive one in the given question. In the conflict between the views of the working woman and the bureaucrat we, the Left Opposition, side with the working woman against the bureaucrat who exaggerates the achievements, glosses over the contradictions, and holds the working woman by the throat lest she dare criticize.

Last year, a sharp about-face was made from the equalized to the differential (piecework) working wage. It is absolutely undebatable that given a low level of productive forces and hence of general culture, equality in payment for labor cannot be realized. But this itself means that the problem of socialism is not solved by social forms of ownership only, but postulates a certain technical power of society. Meanwhile the growth of technical power automatically draws the productive forces beyond the national boundaries.

After returning to wages by piecework, which was abandoned too soon, the bureaucracy refers to the equalized wage as a “kulak” principle. This is an out-and-out absurdity and shows into what blind alleys of hypocrisy and falsehood the Stalinists drive themselves. As a matter of fact they should have said, “We have rushed too far ahead with methods of equalized wages for labor; we are still far from socialism; and since we are still poor, we must needs turn back to semi-capitalist or kulak methods of paying for labor.” We repeat, in this there is no contradiction with the socialist goal. Here we only have an irreconcilable contradiction with the bureaucratic falsification of reality.

The retreat to piecework wages was necessitated by the resistance of a backward economy. There will be many such retreats, especially in the sphere of rural economy, where too great an administrative leap forward has been executed.

Industrialization and collectivization are being put through by the one-sided and uncontrolled laying down of the law to the laboring masses by the bureaucracy. The trade unions are deprived entirely of any means of influencing the correlation between consumption and accumulation. The differentiation within the peasantry is still being liquidated not so much economically as administratively. The social measures of the bureaucracy as regards the liquidation of the classes run much too far ahead of the basic process, the development of productive forces.

This leads to the rise in basic industrial costs, to the lowering of the quality of products, to an increase in prices, and to a dearth in goods for consumption, and it offers as a perspective the threat of a return to unemployment.

The extreme tension in the national political atmosphere is the consequence of the contradictions between the growth of Soviet economy and the economic policies of the bureaucracy, which either straggles monstrously behind the economic needs (1923-1928) or, taking fright at its own straggling, leaps forward and tries to make up for lost time by purely administrative measures (1928-1932). Here, too, after the right zigzag, we get a zigzag to the left. During both zigzags, the bureaucracy finds itself in contradiction with the realities of economy and consequently with the mood of the workers. It cannot permit them to criticize—neither when it straggles behind, nor when it leaps ahead.

The bureaucracy cannot exercise its pressure upon workers and peasants except by depriving them of all possibility of participating in decisions upon questions that touch their own labor and their entire future. Herein lies the greatest danger! The constant dread of meeting opposition on the part of the masses leads in politics to the “closed ranks in double time” of the bureaucratic and personal dictatorship.

Does this mean that the tempos of industrialization and collectivization should be lowered? For a given period—undoubtedly. But this period may not long endure. The participation of workers themselves in the leadership of the nation, of its politics and economy; an actual control over the bureaucracy; and the growth in the feeling of responsibility of those in charge to those under them—all these would doubtless react favorably on production itself: the friction within would be reduced, the costly economic zigzags would likewise be reduced to a minimum, a healthier distribution of forces and equipment would be assured, and ultimately the coefficients of growth would be raised. Soviet democracy is first of all the vital need of national economy itself. On the contrary, bureaucracy secretes within itself tragic economic surprises.

Surveying as a whole the history of the period of epigonism in the development of the USSR, it is not difficult to arrive at the conclusion that the basic political postulate for the bureaucratization of the regime was the weariness of the masses after the shocks of the revolution and civil war. Famine and epidemics ruled the land. Political questions were relegated to the background. All thoughts centered on a piece of bread. Under War Communism, everybody received the same famine ration. The transition to the NEP brought the first economic successes. The rations became more ample but they were no longer allotted to everybody. The reestablishment of a commodity economy led to the calculation of basic costs, to rudimentary rationalization, and to the elimination of surplus hands from the factories. For a long time economic successes went hand in hand with the growth of unemployment.

One must not forget for a single moment that the strengthening of the power of the apparatus arose from unemployment. After the years of famine, every proletarian at his bench stood in fear of the reserve army. Independent and critical workers were fired from factories, blacklists of oppositionists were kept In the hands of the Stalinist bureaucracy this became one of the most important and effective weapons. Lacking this condition, it could have never succeeded in strangling the Leninist party.

Subsequent economic successes gradually led to the liquidation of the reserve army of industrial workers (the concealed rural overpopulation, masked by collectivization, still remains in full force). The industrial worker already no longer fears that he will be thrown out of the factory. Through his daily experience, he knows that the lack of foresight and the self-will of the bureaucracy interfered enormously with the fulfillment of his tasks. The Soviet press exposes individual workshops and factories where insufficient freedom is allowed the initiative of workers, as if the initiative of the proletariat can be restricted to factories, as if factories can be oases of industrial democracy amidst the complete subjugation of the proletariat within the party, the soviets, and the trade unions!

The general state of mind of the proletariat now is no longer what it was in 1922-1923. The proletariat has grown numerically and culturally. Having accomplished the gigantic labor of restoring and uplifting the national economy, the workers are now experiencing the restoration and uplift of their self-confidence. This growing inner confidence is beginning to change into dissatisfaction with the bureaucratic regime.

The strangling of the party and the overgrowth of the personal regime and the personal arbitrariness may at first glance evoke the idea that the Soviet system is weakening. But that is not so. The Soviet system has become very much stronger; but simultaneously the contradiction between this system and the iron rule of its bureaucracy has been sharpened extremely. With amazement the Stalinist apparatus observes that economic successes, instead of strengthening, are undermining its sway. In fighting for its positions, it is forced to turn the screws still tighter and to forbid all forms of “self-criticism” other than the Byzantine flattery addressed to the leaders.

It is not the first time in history that economic development has come into contradiction with those political conditions within whose framework it is achieved. But one must clearly understand precisely which of these conditions engenders dissatisfaction. The oncoming opposition wave is not in the least degree directed against socialist tasks. Soviet forms, or the Communist Party. The dissatisfaction is directed against the apparatus and its personification, Stalin. Whence arises the new phase of the furious battle against the so-called “Trotskyist contraband.”

The adversary threatens to become unconquerable; he is everywhere and nowhere. He bobs up in factories and in schools, he penetrates into historical journals and into all textbooks. This means that facts and documents convict the bureaucracy, exposing its vacillations and mistakes. One cannot calmly and objectively recall the bygone day, one must remodel the past, one must plaster up all the cracks, through which suspicions might leak out as regards the infallibility of the apparatus and its head. We have before us all the traits of a ruling caste that has lost its head. Yaroslavsky himself proves to be unreliable! These are not accidental episodes, not trifles, nor personal quarrels: the root of the matter lies in the fact that the economic successes, which in their first stages strengthened the bureaucracy, are now becoming, by the dialectic of their development, opposed to the bureaucracy. That is why during the last party conference, i.e., during the conference of the Stalinist apparatus, the thrice and four times annihilated and buried “Trotskyism” was decreed to be “the vanguard of bourgeois counterrevolution.”

This silly and politically quite unterrifying resolution lifts the veil from some very “practical” plans of Stalin in the sphere of personal reprisals. Not for nothing did Lenin warn against the appointment of Stalin as general secretary, “This cook will prepare only peppery dishes.” ... The cook has not yet completely exhausted his culinary prowess.

But despite the tightening of all theoretical and administrative screws, the personal dictatorship of Stalin is clearly nearing its eclipse. The apparatus is all in cracks. The crack called Yaroslavsky is only one of a hundred cracks who today still remain nameless. The fact that the new political crisis is being prepared on the basis of the self-evident and undebatable successes of Soviet economy and the numerical growth of the proletariat and the initial successes of collective farming—that is sufficient guarantee that the liquidation of bureaucratic absolutism will coincide not with the breakdown of the Soviet system, which was a danger some three or four years ago, but on the contrary, with its liberation, advance, and flowering.

But precisely in this, its final period, the Stalinist bureaucracy is capable of causing much evil. The question of prestige has now become for it the central question of politics. If nonpolitical historians are expelled from the party only because they proved incapable of shedding luster on Stalin’s feats in 1917, can the plebiscitary regime permit the recognition of the mistakes it perpetrated in 1931-1932? Can it renounce its theory of social fascism? Can it whitewash Stalin, who formulated the gist of the German situation as follows: let the fascists come first, then we will follow?

By themselves the objective conditions in Germany are so imperative that, had the leadership of the German Communist Party at their command the necessary freedom of action, they would no doubt even now be orienting to our side. But they are not free. At the time when the Left Opposition submits the ideas and slogans tested by the victory of 1917, the Stalinist clique, aiming to create a diversion, sends orders by telegraph to inaugurate an international campaign against “Trotskyism.” The campaign is carried on not on the basis of the questions of the German revolution, that is, on the life-and-death questions of the world proletarian but on the basis of a wretched and falsified article of Stalin on the questions of the history of Bolshevism. It is difficult to conceive of a greater disproportion between the tasks of the epoch on the one hand and the petty ideological resources of the official leadership on the other. So degrading and unworthy and at the same time profoundly tragic is the position of the Comintern.

The problem of the Stalinist regime and the problem of the German revolution are tied up with an absolutely indissoluble knot. The coming events will untie or cut this knot—in the interests of the Russian as well as of the German revolution.

12. The Brandlerites (KPO) and the Stalinist Bureucracy

Between the interests of the Soviet state and those of the international proletariat there is and there can be no contradiction. But it is false at the root to transfer this law over to the Stalinist bureaucracy. Its regime is coming into an ever greater contradiction with the interests of the Soviet Union as well as the interests of the world revolution. Hugo Urbahns cannot see the social foundations of the proletarian state for the Soviet bureaucracy. Together with Otto Bauer, Urbahns constructs the conception of a state resting above the classes, but in contradistinction to Bauer he finds the example not in Austria but in the present Soviet republic.

On the other side, Thalheimer asserts that “the Trotskyist position as regards the Soviet Union, which casts doubt [?] upon the proletarian character [?] of the Soviet state and the socialist character of the economic construction” (Arbeiterpolitik, January 10, 1932) bears a “centrist” character. Thereby Thalheimer only demonstrates the extent to which he identifies the workers’ government with the Soviet bureaucracy. He demands the Soviet Union be regarded not through the eyes of the international proletariat but exclusively through the spectacles of the Stalinist faction. In other words, he reasons not as a theoretician of the proletarian revolution but as a flunkey of the Stalinist bureaucracy. Insulted and disgraced, but a flunkey just the same, who awaits forgiveness. Wherefore even when in “opposition” he does not dare so much as mention the bureaucracy out loud: it, like Jehovah, does not pardon this: “Thou shalt not take my name in vain.”

Such are these two poles in the Communist groupings: the one cannot see the forest for the trees, the other is kept by the forest from distinguishing the trees. However there is absolutely nothing unexpected in the fact that Thalheimer and Urbahns find in each other kindred souls and actually make a bloc against the Marxist appraisal of the Soviet state.

A perfunctory “support” which commits them to nothing, of the “Russian experiment” from the sidelines has become, in recent years, a rather widespread and very cheap commodity. In all parts of the world there is no lack of radical and semi-radical, humanitarian and pacifist “also-socialists,” journalists, tourists, and artistes who take toward the USSR and Stalin the same attitude of unconditional approval as do the Brandlerites. Bernard Shaw, who in his time savagely criticized Lenin and the author of these lines, is now wholeheartedly IN favor of Stalin’s policies. Maxim Gorky, who was in opposition to the Communist Party during Lenin’s period, is now wholeheartedly for Stalin. Barbusse, who went hand in hand with the French Social Democrats, supports Stalin. The American monthly New Masses, a publication of second-rate petty-bourgeois radicals, defends Stalin against Rakovsky. In Germany, Ossietzky, who cites with sympathy my article on fascism, finds it imperative to remark that I am unjust in my criticism of Stalin. Old Ledebour says, “As regards the chief question in dispute between Stalin and Trotsky, to wit: may socialization be undertaken in one country and worked out happily to its conclusion, I am entirely on Stalin’s side.” The number of such examples can be produced ad infinitum. All these “friends” of the USSR approach the problems of the Soviet state from the sidelines, as observers, as sympathizers, and occasionally as flaneurs. Of course, it accrues more to one’s honor to be a friend of the Soviet five-year plan than a friend of the New York stock market. But just the same this passive, middle-class left sympathy is too far removed from Bolshevism. The first major failure of Moscow will suffice to scatter the majority of this public like dust before the wind.

By what is the position of the Brandlerites in relation to the Soviet state to be distinguished from the position of all these “friends”? Perhaps only by a greater lack of sincerity. Such support is neither fish nor fowl to the Soviet republic. And when Thalheimer lectures us, the Left Opposition, the Russian Bolshevik-Leninists, on what our attitude should be to the Soviet Union, he cannot fail to evoke a feeling of aversion.

Rakovsky was in direct charge of the defense of the frontiers of the Soviet revolution; he participated in the first steps taken by the Soviet national economy and in the elaboration of the policies towards the peasantry; he was the initiator of the committees of landless villagers (the peasant poor) in the Ukraine; he was in charge of applying the policies of the NEP to the singular Ukrainian conditions; he knows every twist and turn of this policy, he is following it even now, from Barnaul, with passionate interest and from day to day he warns against mistakes and suggests the correct ways. The old warrior Kote Tsintsadze who died in exile, Muralov, Carl Gruenstein, Kasparova, Sosnovsky, Kossior, Aussem, the Elzins—father and son—Dingelstedt, Shumskaya, Solntzev, Stopalov, Pozhriansky, Sermux, Blumkin, shot down by Stalin, Butov, tortured to death in prison by Stalin, and tens, hundreds, thousands of others thrown into prisons and exile—yes, these are all warriors who fought in the October insurrection and in the civil war; these are all participants in the socialist construction who are abashed by no difficulties and who at the first signal are ready to take their post in the front line. Are they to go to school to Thalheimer to learn the correct attitude toward the workers’ state?

Everything which is progressive in Stalin’s policies was formulated by the Left Opposition and was hounded down on the part of the bureaucracy. For its initiative in inaugurating the planned economy, the higher tempos of development, the fight against the kulaks and for broader collectivization, the Left Opposition has paid and is paying with ears in prison and exile. What has been the contribution to the economic policies of the USSR by all these unconditional supporters and sympathetic friends, including the Brandlerites? All told—nothing! Behind their vague and uncritical support of everything that is being done in the USSR there lurks no international enthusiasm whatever but only a lukewarm sympathy; because, you see, the things are taking place beyond the frontiers of their own fatherland. Brandler and Thalheimer opine and declare openly on occasion, “for us Germans, Stalin’s regime would, of course, hardly do; but for the Russians it’s good enough!”

The reformist looks upon the international situation as a sum of the national situations; the Marxist observes the national policy as a function of the international. In this key question the group of the KPO (Brandlerites) takes a national-reformist position, i.e., it rejects in deeds, if not in words, international principles and the criteria of national policy.

The closest adherent and colleague of Thalheimer was Roy, whose political program for India as well as for China was entirely derived from the Stalinist idea of “worker-peasant” parties for the East. For a number of years, Roy came forward as the propagandist of a national-democratic party for India; in other words, not as a proletarian revolutionist but as a petty-bourgeois national democrat. This did not interfere in any way with his active participation in the central staff of the Brandlerites. [6]

The national opportunism of the Brandlerites evinces itself most crudely in their attitude toward the Soviet Union. The Stalinist bureaucracy, if you take their word, operates in its own back yard absolutely without mistakes. But somehow or other the leadership of the identical Stalinist faction becomes fatal for Germany. How is that? For, involved in the matter are not Stalin’s personal mistakes, which are engendered by his not being acquainted with other countries, but a definite course of mistakes, an entire trend. Thälmann and Remmele know Germany as Stalin knows Russia, as Cachin, Semard, or Thorez know of France. Jointly they form an international faction and elaborate the policies for the different countries. But, it appears, this policy, irreproachable in Russia, is ruinous to the revolution in all other countries.

Brandler’s position becomes particularly jinxed if it is transferred into the USSR, where a Brandlerite is bound to support Stalin unconditionally. Radek, who essentially was always closer to Brandler than to the Left Opposition, capitulated to Stalin. Brandler could not but approve this action. But Stalin immediately compelled Radek, after he had capitulated, to proclaim Brandler and Thalheimer as “social fascists.” The platonic wooers of the Stalinist regime in Berlin do not even attempt to crawl out from under these degrading contradictions. Their practical goal is self-evident however, even without commentaries. “If you place me at the head of the party in Germany,” says Brandler to Stalin, “I on my part shall bind myself to recognize your infallibility in Russian matters, provided you permit me to put through my own policies in German matters.” Can one have any respect for such “revolutionists”?

But the Brandlerites also criticize the Comintern policies of the Stalinist bureaucracy in a manner extremely one-sided and theoretically dishonest. Its sole vice appears to be “ultra-leftism.” But can anyone accuse Stalin’s four-year bloc with Chiang Kai-shek of being “ultra-left”? Can one call the creation of the Peasant International ultra-left? Can one assign to putschism the bloc with the strikebreakers of the General Council? Or the creation of worker-peasant parties in Asia and the Farmer Labor Party in the United States?

Furthermore, what is the social nature of Stalinist ultra-leftism? What is it? A temporary mood? A fit of sickness? One seeks in vain for an answer from theoretician Thalheimer.

Meanwhile the riddle has long been solved by the Left Opposition: the matter concerns the ultra-left zigzag of centrism. But precisely this definition, which has been verified by the developments of the last nine years, cannot be accepted by the Brandlerites because it finishes them off too. They perpetrated with the Stalinist faction all its right zigzags but rebelled against the left; thereby they demonstrated that they are the right wing of centrism. That they, like a dry branch, broke off from the main trunk of the tree—that is in the nature of things; during sharp evolutions of centrism, groups and layers are inevitably torn off from the right and from the left.

What has been said above does not imply that the Brandlerites were mistaken in everything. Not at all. Against Thälmann and Remmele they were and they remain right in many things. There is nothing extraordinary in this. Opportunists may occupy correct positions in their struggle against adventurism. And, on the contrary, an ultra-left trend may correctly seize the moment of the transition from the struggle for the masses to the struggle for power. In their criticism of Brandler, the ultra-lefts aired many correct ideas at the end of 1923, which did not hinder them from committing the grossest mistakes in 1924-1925. The fact that in their criticism of the monkeyshines of the “third period” the Brandlerites reiterated a number of old but correct concepts, does not at all vouch for the correctness of their general position. The policies of each group must be analyzed in several stages: during defensive battles as well as during offensives; during periods of high as well as ebb tide; under the conditions of the struggle to win the masses; and under the conditions of a direct struggle for power.

There can be no Marxist leadership specializing in questions of defense or offense, or the united front, or the general strike. The correct application of all these methods is possible only if there exists the capacity for synthetically appraising the environment as a whole; the ability to analyze its moving forces, to establish stages and turns, and to build upon this analysis a system of action which corresponds to the existing environment and which prepares for the next stage.

Brandler and Thalheimer consider themselves to be almost monopolistic specialists in “the struggle for the masses.” Keeping their faces straight and serious, these gentlemen insist that the arguments of the Left Opposition for the policy of the united front are in themselves ... a plagiarism of their—the Brandlerites’—views. One should deny no one the privileges of being ambitious! Just imagine, for example, that while you are explaining to Heinz Neumann his error in multiplication, some valiant teacher of arithmetic appears on the scene and informs you that you are committing a plagiarism because he, year in and year out, expounds in just this way the mysteries of the art of reckoning.

The pretensions of the Brandlerites have at any rate afforded me a merry moment in the present uncomical situation. The strategic wisdom of these gentlemen is no older than the Third Congress of the Comintern. I was then defending the ABC of the struggle for the masses against the then existing “left” wing. In my book The New Course, which was devoted to a popular exposition of the policy of the united front, and which was in its time published by the Comintern in various languages, I stressed in every which way the elementary character of the ideas therein propounded. Thus, for instance, we read on page 70 of the German edition, “All that has been said constitutes ABC truths from the point of view of the serious revolutionary experience. But certain ‘left’ elements of the congress have discovered in this tactic a shift to the right.” ... Among those certain elements, together with Zinoviev, Bukharin, Radek, Maslow, and Thälmann, was to be found Thalheimer himself.

The charge of plagiarism is not the only charge. After stealing Thalheimer’s spiritual property, the Opposition, it appears, gives it an opportunistic interpretation. This oddity deserves notice insofar as it enables us in the course of our discussion to throw into sharper relief the question of the policies of fascism.

In an earlier pamphlet, I expressed the thought that Hitler cannot attain to power through parliamentary procedure; even if we allow that he could muster his 51 percent of the votes, the growth of the economic and the sharpening of the political contradictions would necessarily lead to an open outburst before that moment could be reached. In this connection the Brandlerites ascribe to me the idea that the National Socialists will leave the scene of action “without the need of extra-parliamentary mass action on the part of the workers.” Wherein is this superior to the fabrications of Die Rote Fahne?

From the impossibility of the National Socialists’ coming “peacefully” into power, I deduced the inevitability of other ways of attaining power: either by way of a direct overturn of the government or by way of a coalition stage with the subsequent inevitable governmental overturn. A painless self-liquidation of fascism would have been a possibility in one and only in one case: in the event that Hitler applied that policy in 1932 to which Brandler had resorted in 1923. Without overestimating the National Socialist strategists, I still am of the opinion that they are more farsighted and of sterner stuff than Brandler & Co.

Even more profound is the second refutation of Thalheimer: the question as to whether Hitler attains power in a parliamentary manner or otherwise has no significance whatever, because it does not change “the essence” of fascism which in either case can entrench its rule only on the fragments of the workers’ organizations. “The workers may calmly leave to the editors of the Vorwärts the task of research as regards the contrasts between the constitutional and unconstitutional coming of Hitler to power” (Arbeiterpolitik, January 10). Should the most advanced workers listen to Thalheimer, Hitler will without fail cut their throats. To our sage schoolteacher only the “essence” of fascism is important and he leaves the editors of Vorwärts to judge how that “essence” will be realized. But the whole matter lies in the fact that the pogrom “essence” of fascism can become palpable only after it comes to power. And the task consists precisely in not permitting it to attain power. For this, one must understand the strategy of the foe and explain it to the workers. Hitler is straining to his utmost to bring the movement outwardly into the constitutional channel. Only a pedant who deems himself a “materialist” is capable of thinking that such behavior leaves no effect on the political consciousness of the masses. Hitler’s constitutionalism serves not only to keep the door open for a bloc with the centrists but also to fool the Social Democrats, or to put it more correctly, to make it easier for the leaders of the Social Democracy to fool the workers. If Hitler swears that he will attain to power only constitutionally then it is clear that the danger of fascism is not so great today. At any rate there will be time enough left to verify a few more times the correlation of forces during all sorts of elections. Under the cover of the constitutional perspective which lulls his adversaries, Hitler aims to reserve for himself the possibility of striking the blow at a convenient moment. This military cunning, no matter how simple in itself, secretes a tremendous force, for it leans upon not only the psychology of the intermediate parties, which would like to settle the question peacefully and legally, but, what is more dangerous, upon the gullibility of the national masses.

It is also necessary to add that Hitler’s maneuver is two-edged: he fools not only his adversaries but his supporters. And meanwhile, a militant spirit is essential for a struggle, particularly an offensive one. It can be sustained only by instilling in one’s army the understanding that an open battle is inescapable. This consideration bespeaks also the fact that Hitler cannot too long protract his tender romance with the Weimar Constitution without demoralizing his ranks. He must in due time produce the knife from under his shirt.

It is not enough to understand only the “essence” of fascism. One must be capable of appraising it as a living political phenomenon, as a conscious and wily foe. Our schoolteacher is too ’sociological to be a revolutionist. Isn’t it clear, in reality, that Thalheimer’s profundity enters into Hitler’s reckoning as a favorable circumstance; for when one lumps together into one pile the broadcasting of constitutional illusions by the Vorwärts and the exposure of the military cunning of the enemy that is built upon these illusions, then one aids the enemy.

An organization may be significant either because of the mass it embraces or because of the content of those ideas that it is capable of bringing into the workers’ movement. The Brandlerites have neither the one nor the other. But despite this, with what grandiloquent contempt do Brandler and Thalheimer hold forth on the centrist morass of the SAP! In reality, if one juxtaposes these two organizations—the SAP and the KPO—all the advantages are on the side of the former. The SAP is not a morass but a live stream. Its direction is from the right to the left, to the side of Communism. The stream has not been cleared, there is much rubbish and slime in it, but it is no swamp. The denomination “morass” is much more applicable to the organization of Brandler-Thalheimer, which is characterized by a complete ideological stagnation.

Within the KPO group there has long existed its own opposition which is chiefly dissatisfied with the fact that their leaders tried to adapt their policies not so much to the objective conditions as to the moods of the Stalinist general staff in Moscow.

That the opposition of Walcher-Frölich, etc. has tolerated for a number of years the policies of Brandler-Thalheimer, which, particularly in relation to the USSR, bore not simply an erroneous but a consciously hypocritical and politically dishonest character—that, of course, no one will enter to the credit of the group that has split off. But the fact remains that the group of Walcher-Frölich has finally recognized the utter hopelessness of the organization, whose leaders orient themselves at the beck and call of their superiors. The minority deems it necessary that an independent and active policy be undertaken not against the hapless Remmele but against the course and the regime of the Stalinist bureaucracy in the USSR and in the Comintern. If we interpret correctly, on the basis of still rather extremely insufficient material, the position of Walcher-Frölich, then it represents a step forward in this question. But having split from an obviously dead group, the minority is only now faced with the question of a new orientation, national and, particularly, international.

The minority that split off, so far as one can judge, sees its chief task in the immediate future in concentrating upon the left wing of the SAP, and after winning over the new party for Communism, in subsequently breaking up with its aid the bureaucratic conservatism of the KPD. In regard to this plan in its general and undefined form, it is impossible to comment, because those basic principles upon which the minority stands are still unclear, as are the methods which it intends to apply in the struggle for these principles. A platform is essential! We have in mind not a document recapitulating the commonplaces of the Communist catechism, but clear and concrete answers to those questions of the proletarian revolution which have torn the ranks of Communism for the past nine years and which retain their burning significance even now. Lacking this, one can only become dissolved in the SAP and hinder, not facilitate, its development toward Communism.

The Left Opposition will follow the evolution of the minority attentively and without any preconceived opinions. More than once in history, the rift within a lifeless organization has given an impulse to the progressive development of its viable section. We shall rejoice indeed should this law verify itself in this case also, in the fate of the minority. But only the future can supply the answer.

13. Strike Strategy

In the sphere of the trade unions the Communist leadership has entirely confused the party. The common course of the “third period” was directed toward parallel trade unions. The presupposition was that the mass movement would surge over the old organizations and that the organs of the RGO (the Revolutionary Trade Union Opposition) would become the initiative committees of the economic struggle. A mere trifle was lacking for the realization of this plan: the mass movement During floods in springtime, the waters carry away many a fence. Let us try removing the fence, decided Lozovsky, perhaps the floods of spring will then rise! The reformist trade unions have survived. The Communist Party succeeded in getting itself thrown out of the factories. Thereupon partial corrections began to be introduced into the trade-union policy. The Communist Party has refused to call upon the unorganized workers to join reformist unions. But it likewise has taken a stand against workers leaving the trade unions. While creating parallel organizations it has resurrected the slogans of a battle for influence within the reformist unions. The whole mechanism represents an ideal self-sabotage.

Die Rote Fahne complains that many Communists consider meaningless the participation in reformist unions. “Why should we revive the old pushcart?” they declare. And as a matter of fact, why? If one intends seriously to fight for the control of the old unions, one should appeal to the unorganized that they enter them; it is precisely the new strata that can supply the backing for the left wing. But in that case one cannot build parallel unions, i.e., create a competitive agency to enroll the workers.

The policy that is recommended from above for work within the reformist unions is on a par with the rest of the hopeless mess. Die Rote Fahne on January 28 laced into the Communist members of the Metal Workers’ Union of Düsseldorf because they issued the slogan ’War without mercy against the participation of trade-union leaders’ in the support of the Brüning government. Such “opportunistic” demands are disallowed because they presuppose (!) that the reformists are capable of refusing to support Brüning and his emergency decrees. Truly, this is like a bad joke! Die Rote Fahne deems it sufficient to call the leaders names but disallows their being subjected to a political test by the masses.

And all the while it is precisely within the trade unions that an exceptionally fruitful field is now open for action. While the Social Democratic Party still has the wherewithal to fool the workers by political hullabaloo, the trade unions are confronted by the impasse of capitalism as by a hopeless prison wall. The 200,000 to 300,000 workers who are now organized in independent RGO unions could serve as a priceless leaven within the reformist brotherhoods.

Towards the end of January there was held in Berlin a Communist conference of the factory committees from the entire country. Die Rote Fahne carried the report, The factory committees are welding the Red Workers Front (February 2, 1932). But you would seek in vain for information regarding the composition of the conference, the number of industries and workers represented. In contradistinction to Bolshevism, which painstakingly and openly marked every change in the correlation of forces within the working class, the German Stalinists, following in the footsteps of the Russian, play hide and seek. They are loath to admit that less than 4 percent of the factory committees are Communist, as against 84 percent which are Social Democratic! In this correlation is summed up the balance of the “third period.” Suppose one does call the isolation of Communists in industry the “Red United Front”; will this really help advance matters?

The prolonged crisis of capitalism induces within the proletariat the most virulent and dangerous line of demarcation: between the employed and the unemployed. Through the circumstance that the reformists control the industrial centers while the Communists control the unemployed, both sections of the proletariat are being paralyzed. The employed are in a position to bide a while longer. The unemployed are more impatient. At present their impatience bears a revolutionary character. But should the Communist Party fall to find such forms and slogans for the struggle as would unite the employed and the unemployed and thereby open the perspective of a revolutionary solution, the impatience of the unemployed will inevitably react against the Communist Party.

In 1917, despite the correct policy of the Bolshevik Party and the rapid development of the revolution, the more badly off and the more impatient strata of the proletariat, even in Petrograd, began between September and October to look away from the Bolsheviks towards the syndicalists and anarchists. Had not the October insurrection broken out in time, the disintegration within the proletariat would have become acute and would have led to the decay of the revolution. In Germany there is no need for anarchists; their place can be taken by the National Socialists who have wedded anarchist demagogy to conscious reactionary aims.

The workers are by no means immunized once for all against the influence of fascism. The proletariat and the petty bourgeoisie interpenetrate, especially under the present conditions, when the reserve army of workers cannot but produce petty traders and hawkers, etc., while the bankrupt petty bourgeoisie effuses proletarians and lumpenproletarians.

Salaried employees, the technical and administrative personnel, and certain strata of the functionaries composed in the past one of the most important supports of the Social Democracy. At present, these elements have gone or are going over to the National Socialists. They are capable of drawing in their wake, if they haven’t already begun to do so, a stratum of the labor aristocracy. In this direction, National Socialism is penetrating into the proletariat from above.

Considerably more dangerous, however, is its possible penetration from below, through the unemployed. No class can long exist without prospects and hopes. The unemployed do not represent a class, but they already compose a very compact and substantial layer, which is vainly striving to tear itself away from intolerable conditions. If it is true in general that only the proletarian revolution can save Germany from disintegration and decay, this is especially true as regards the millions of unemployed.

Alongside of the impotence of the Communist Party in the factories and in trade unions, the numerical growth of the party resolves nothing. Within a tottering nation shot through with crises and contradictions, an extreme left party can rind new supporters in the tens of thousands, especially if its entire apparatus is directed to the sole purpose of capturing members, by way of “competition.” Everything depends upon the interrelation between the party and the class. A single employed Communist who is elected to the factory committee or to the administration of a trade union has a greater significance than a thousand new members, picked up here and there, who enter the party today in order to leave it tomorrow.

But the individual influx of members into the party will not at all continue indefinitely. If the Communist Party continues any longer to delay the struggle until that moment when it shall have entirely pushed out the reformists, then it will learn for certain that after a given point the Social Democracy will cease losing its influence to the Communist Party, while the fascists will begin disintegrating the unemployed who are the chief support of the Communist Party. Failure to utilize its forces for the tasks that spring from the total situation never allows a political party to go scot-free.

In order to clear the road for the mass struggle, the Communist Party strives to stimulate isolated strikes. The successes in this sphere have not been great. As ever, the Stalinists devote themselves to self-criticism: “We are as yet incapable of organizing” ... “We haven’t yet learned how to attract” ... “We haven’t as yet learned how to capture” ... And when they say “we,” it unfailingly means “you.” That theory of the March Days in 1921, of blessed memory, is being resurrected, which proposed to “electrify” the proletariat by means of the offensive activities of the minority. But the workers are in no need whatever of being “electrified.” What they want is to be given a clear perspective, and to be aided in creating the basis for a mass movement.

In its strike strategy the Communist Party is obviously motivated by isolated citations from Lenin as interpreted by Manuilsky or Lozovsky. As a matter of fact, there were periods when the Mensheviks fought against the “strike frenzy,” while the Bolsheviks, on the contrary, took their place at the head of every new strike, drawing into the movement ever-increasing masses. That corresponded to the period of the awakening of new working-class strata. Such was the tactic of the Bolsheviks in 1905; during the industrial upward trend in the years preceding the war; and during the first months of the February revolution.

But in the period directly preceding October, beginning with the July clash of 1917, the tactic of the Bolsheviks assumed another character: they held back strikes; they applied the brake to them, because every large strike had the tendency to turn into a decisive battle, while the political postulates for it had not as yet matured.

However, during those months the Bolsheviks continued to Place themselves at the head of all strikes which flared up, despite their warnings, chiefly in the more backward branches of industry (among textile workers, leather workers, etc.).

While under some conditions the Bolsheviks boldly stimulated strikes in the interests of the revolution, under other conditions, on the contrary, they restrained strikes in the interests of the revolution. In this sphere as well as in others, there is no ready-made formula. But in every given period, the strike tactics of the Bolsheviks always formed part of their general tactics, and to the advanced workers the connection between the part and the whole was always clear.

How do matters stand now in Germany? The employed workers do not resist wage cuts because they are in fear of the unemployed. Small wonder; in the face of several million unemployed, the ordinary trade-union strike, so organized, is obviously futile. It is doubly futile in the face of political antagonism between the employed and the unemployed. This does not exclude the possibility of individual strikes, especially in the more backward and less centralized branches of industry. But it is just the workers of the more important branches of industry who, in such a situation, are inclined to heed the voices of the reformist leaders. The attempts of the Communist Party to unleash a strike struggle without changing the general situation within the proletariat lead only to minor guerrilla operations, which, even if successful, remain without a sequel.

According to the testimony of Communist workers (cf., say, Der Rote Aufbau), there is a great deal being said in factories to the effect that the strikes in different industries have no meaning at present, and that only a general strike could lead the workers out of their troubles. “The general strike” here signifies the prospect of struggle. The workers are less apt to become inspired by isolated strikes because they have to deal directly with the state power; monopoly capital speaks to the workers in the language of Brüning’s emergency decrees. [7]

At the dawn of the workers’ movement, in order to draw the workers into a strike, the agitators often refrained from launching into revolutionary and socialist perspectives, in order not to scare the workers away. At present the situation bears just the opposite character. The leading strata of the German workers can decide to begin a defensive economic struggle only in the event that they are clear about the general perspectives of subsequent struggles. They do not feel that these perspectives obtain among the Communist leadership.

In relation to the tactic of the March Days of 1921 in Germany (to “electrify” the minority of the proletariat instead of capturing its majority), the writer spoke at the Third Congress as follows: “When the overwhelming majority of the working class takes no account of the movement does not sympathize with it or is doubtful of its success, at the same time when the minority rushes ahead and by mechanical means strives to drive the workers into strikes—then this impatient minority in the guise of the party can fall foul of the working class and break its own head.”

Does this mean that the strike struggle should be renounced? No, not renounced but sustained, by creating for it necessary political and organizational premises. One of these is the restoration of the unity of the trade unions. The reformist bureaucracy, of course, is averse to this. The split has hitherto assured its position in the best manner possible. But the immediate threat of fascism is changing the situation within the trade unions to the detriment of the bureaucracy. The gravitation to unity is growing. Should Leipart’s clique try under present conditions to prohibit the restoration of unity, this would immediately double or triple the Communist influence within the unions. Should the unification materialize, nothing could be better; a wide sphere of activity would be opened to the Communists. Not halfway measures are urgent, but a bold about-face!

Without a widespread campaign against the high cost of living, for a shorter work week, against wage cuts; without drawing the unemployed into this struggle hand in hand with the employed; without a successful application of the policy of the united front, the improvised small strikes will not lead the movement out onto the open road.

The left Social Democrats chat about the necessity of resorting to the general strike “in the event that the fascists come into power.” Very likely, Leipart himself flaunts such threats within the four walls of his study. On this account Die Rote Fahne makes reference to Luxemburgism. This is vilifying the great revolutionist. Even though Rosa Luxemburg overestimated the independent importance of the general strike in the question of power, she understood quite well that a general strike could not be declared arbitrarily, that it must be prepared for by the whole preceding course of the workers’ movement, by the policies of the party and the trade unions. On the lips of the left Social Democrats, however, the mass strike is more of a consoling myth superimposed over sorry reality.

For many years, the French Social Democrats had promised that they would resort to the general strike in the event of war. The Basle Congress of 1912 even promised to resort to a revolutionary uprising. But the threat of general strikes as well as of uprisings assumed in these instances the nature of theatrical thunder. What is here involved is not the counterposition of the strike to the uprising, but the lifeless, formal, and merely verbal attitude to the strike as well as to the uprising. The reformist armed with the abstraction of the revolution—such in general was the Bebel type of Social Democrat prior to the war. Next to him the postwar reformist brandishing the threat of a general strike is an outright caricature.

The Communist leadership, of course, bears to the general strike an attitude that is much more conscientious. But it lacks clarity on this question also. And clarity is urgent. The general strike is a very important weapon of struggle, but it is not universal. There are conditions under which a general strike may weaken the workers more than their immediate enemy. The strike must be an important element in the calculation of strategy and not a panacea in which is submerged all other strategy.

Generally speaking, the general strike is the weapon o struggle of the weaker against the stronger; or, to put it more precisely, of the one who at the beginning of the struggle feel himself weaker against him whom one considers to be the stronger; seeing that I myself cannot make use of an important weapon, I shall try to prevent my opponents using it; if I cannot shoot from cannons, I shall at least remove the gunlocks. Such is the “idea” of the general strike.

The general strike was always the weapon of struggle against an entrenched state power that had at its disposal rail roads, telegraph, police and army, etc. By paralyzing the governmental apparatus the general strike either “scared” the government, or created the postulates for a revolutionary solution of the question of power.

The general strike is the most effective method of fighting under the conditions where the masses are united only by revolutionary indignation but are lacking military organizations and staffs, and cannot beforehand either estimate the correlation of forces, or work out a plan of action. Thus, one may suppose that the anti-fascist revolution in Italy, after beginning from one or another sectional clash, will inevitably go through the stage of the general strike. Only in this way will the present disjointed proletariat of Italy once again feel itself as a united class and match the strength of the enemy’s resistance, whom it must overthrow.

One would have to fight in Germany against fascism by means of the general strike only in the event that fascism was already in power, and had firmly seized the state apparatus. But so long as the matter concerns the repelling of the fascist attempt to seize power, the slogan of the general strike turns out to be just so much space wasted.

At the time of Kornilov’s march against Petrograd neither the Bolsheviks, nor the soviets as a whole, even thought of declaring a general strike. On the railroads the fight was waged to have the workers and the railroad personnel transport the revolutionary troops and retard the Kornilov detachments. The factories stopped functioning only in proportion as the workers had to leave for the front. The industries that served the revolutionary front worked with redoubled energy.

At the time of the October insurrection there was likewise no talk of a general strike. The factories and regiments in their overwhelming majority were already, on the eve of the overturn, following the leadership of the Bolshevik Soviet. Under these conditions, to call the factories to a strike meant to weaken oneself and not the enemy. At the railroads, the workers strove to aid the uprising; the railway officials, under the guise of neutrality, aided the counter-revolution. A general strike of railroad workers would have lacked any significance: the question was decided by the preponderance of the workers over the officials.

Should the struggle flare up in Germany through sectional clashes initiated by fascist provocation, the call for a general strike would hardly meet the general situation. The general strike would first of all mean that city would be isolated from city, one section of the city from another, and even one factory from the next. It is more difficult to find and collect the unemployed. Under such conditions the fascists, who have no lack of staffs, can obtain a certain preponderance thanks to centralized leadership. True, their masses are so disjointed that even under these conditions the fascist attempt could be repelled. But that is already another side of the matter.

The question of railroad communications, for instance, must be taken up not from the point of view of “prestige,” which demands that everybody should strike, but from the point of view of military expediency: for whom and against whom would the ways of communication serve in the time of conflict?

It is necessary, therefore, to prepare not for a general strike but for the repulsion of fascists. This means that everywhere there should be created bases of operation, shock troops, reserves, local staffs and central authorities, smoothly working means of communication, and elementary plans of mobilization.

That which was accomplished by the local organizations in a provincial corner, in Bruchsal and Klingenthal, where the Communists together with the SAP and the trade unions, although boycotted by the upper crust of the reformist bureaucracy, have created the organization for defense—that, despite its modest scope, serves as a model for the whole country. O, supreme leaders!—would that one’s voice could carry from here and one could shout—O, sevenfold sages of strategy, learn from the workers of Bruchsal and Klingenthal! Imitate them! Widen the scope of their experience and elaborate upon their forms! Learn from the workers of Bruchsal and Klingenthal!

The German working class has at its command potent political, economic, and sport organizations. Therein lies the difference between “Brüning’s regime” and “Hitler’s regime.” This is not Brüning’s virtue; a weak bureaucracy is no virtue. But one must see what is. The chief, the fundamental and crowning fact is that the working class of Germany stands even today in the full panoply of its organizations. If it is weak, that is only because its organized force is incorrectly applied. But it is only necessary to spread throughout the country the experience of Bruchsal and Klingenthal and the entire outlook in Germany would be different. In relation to the fascists, the working class under these conditions would be able to apply much more effective and direct methods of struggle than the general strike. But if through a concatenation of circumstances, the need for resorting to the general strike should still arise (such a need could arise from definite interrelation between the fascists and governmental organs), then the system of the Committees of Defense on the basis of the united front could put through the mass strike with success assured beforehand.

The struggle would not stop on this stage. For what is the Bruchsal or Klingenthal organization of defense in its essence? One must be able to observe the great in the little; it is the local soviet of workers’ deputies. That is not what it calls itself, that is not how it feels, for the matter concerns a small provincial nook. Quantity here too determines quality. Transfer this experiment to Berlin and you will get the Berlin soviet of workers’ deputies!

14. Workers’ Control and Collaboration with the USSR

Whenever we speak of the slogans of the revolutionary period, the latter should not be construed in too narrow a sense. The Soviets should be created only in a revolutionary period. But when does that begin? One cannot consult the calendar and thus learn. One can only feel one’s way through action. The soviets must be created at the time when they can be created. [8]

The slogan of workers’ control over production relates, particularly and in general, to the same period as the creation of soviets. But neither should this be construed mechanically. Special conditions may draw the masses toward control over production considerably prior to the time when they will show themselves ready to create Soviets.

Brandler and his left shadow—Urbahns—have used the slogan of control over production independently of the political background. This has served no purpose other than to discredit the slogan. But it would be incorrect to reject the slogan now, under the conditions of the looming political crisis, only because on the face of it the mass offensive doesn’t exist as yet For the offensive itself, slogans are necessary which would define the perspectives of the movement. The period of propaganda must inevitably precede the penetration of the slogan into the masses.

The campaign for workers’ control can develop, depending upon the circumstances, not from the angle of production but from that of consumption. The promise of the Brüning government to lower the price of commodities simultaneously with the decrease in wages has not materialized. This question cannot but absorb the most backward strata of the proletariat, who are today very far from the thought of seizing power. Workers, control over the outlays of industry and the profits of trade is the only real form of the struggle for lower prices. Under the conditions of general dissatisfaction, workers’ commissions with the participation of worker-housewives for the purpose of checking up on the increased cost of margarine can become very palpable beginnings of workers’ control over industry. It is self-evident that this is only one of the possible manners of approach and it is given only as an example. Here the matter will not as yet concern the management of industry; the working woman will not go so far at once; such a thought is far removed from her mind. But it is easier for her to pass from consumer control to control over production and from the latter to direct management, depending upon the general development of the revolution.

In contemporary Germany, under the conditions of the present crisis, control over industry signifies control not only over the operating but also over the partly operating and shutdown industries. This presupposes participation in control by those workers who worked in those industries prior to their dismissal. The task must consist of setting the dead industries into motion, under the leadership of factory committees on the basis of an economic plan. This leads directly to the question of the governmental administration of industry, i.e., to the expropriation of the capitalists by the workers’ government. Workers’ control, then, is not a prolonged, “normal” condition, like wage-scale agreements or social insurance. The control is a transitional measure, under the conditions of the highest tension of the class war, and conceivable only as a bridge to the revolutionary nationalization of industry.

The Brandlerites accuse the Left Opposition of having snitched from them the slogan of control over production after having jeered at this slogan for a number of years. The accusation has quite an unexpected tone! The slogan of control over industry was first issued, on a wide scale, by the Bolshevik Party in 1917. In Petrograd, the charge over the entire campaign in this sphere, as well as in others, was placed in the hands of the Petrograd Soviet. As an individual who watched this work and participated in it, I bear witness that we were never obliged to turn to Thalheimer-Brandler for initiative, or to make use of their theoretical information. The accusation of “plagiarism” is formulated with a certain imprudence.

But that is not the chief trouble. The second part of the accusation is much more serious—until now, the “Trotskyists” have argued against a campaign under the slogan of control over production, but right now they come out for this slogan. The Brandlerites see herein our inconsistency! As a matter of fact they only reveal a complete ignorance of the revolutionary dialectic embodied in that slogan of workers’ control, which they reduce to a technical prescription for “mobilizing the masses.” They condemn themselves when they cite the fact that they have been repeating for a number of years the slogan which is suitable only for a revolutionary period. The woodpecker who has drilled away at the bark of an oak tree, year in and year out, in all probability at the bottom of his heart also holds to the conviction that the woodsman who chops down the tree with the blows of his axe has criminally plagiarized from him, the woodpecker.

For us, therefore, the slogan of control is tied up with the period of dual power in industry, which corresponds to the transition from the bourgeois regime to the proletarian. Not at all, objects Thalheimer: dual power must signify “equality [!] with the proprietors”; but the workers are fighting for total direction of industries. They, the Brandlerites, will not allow the revolutionary slogan to be “castrated” (that is the way they put it!). To them, “control over production signifies the management of the industries by the workers” (January 17, 1932). But why then designate management as control? In the language of all mankind control is understood to mean the surveillance and checking of one institution over the work of another. Control may be active, dominant, and all-embracing. But it remains control. The very idea of this slogan was the outgrowth of the transitional regime in industry when the capitalist and his administrators could no longer take a step without the consent of the workers; but on the other hand, when the workers had not as yet provided the political prerequisites for nationalization, nor yet seized the technical management nor yet created the organs essential for this. Let us not forget that what is involved here concerns not only taking charge of factories, but also the sale of products and supplying of factories with raw materials and new equipment as well as credit operations, etc.

The correlation of forces in the factory is determined by the strength of the overall drive of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie. Generally speaking, control is conceivable only during the indubitable preponderance of the political forces of the proletariat over the forces of capitalism. But it is wrong to think that in a revolution all questions need to be and are solved by force: the factories may be seized with the aid of the Red Guard, but their management requires new legal and administrative prerequisites, and over and above that, knowledge, skills, and proper organizational forms. A certain period of apprenticeship is required. The proletariat is interested in leaving the management during that period in the hands of an experienced administration, but compelling it to keep all the books open and establishing an alert supervision over all its affiliations and actions.

Workers’ control begins with the individual workshop. The organ of control is the factory committee. The factory organs of control join together with each other, according to the economic ties of the industries between themselves. At this stage, there is no general economic plan as yet. The practice of workers’ control only prepares the elements of this plan.

On the contrary, the workers’ management of industry, to a much greater degree even in its initial steps, proceeds from above, for it is inseparable from state power and the general economic plan. The organs of management are not factory committees but centralized soviets. The role of the factory committees remains important, of course. But in the sphere of management of industry it has no longer a leading but an auxiliary role.

In Russia where, like the bourgeoisie, the technical intelligentsia was convinced that the Bolshevik experiment would endure only a few weeks, and therefore had steered its course towards all sorts of sabotage and had refused to enter into any agreements, the stage of workers’ control did not develop. Moreover, the war was destroying the economic structure by changing the workers into soldiers. Therefore there is comparatively little in the Russian experience to be found in relation to workers’ control, as a special regime in industry. But this experience is all the more valuable for the opposite reason: it demonstrates that even in a backward country under the general sabotage of not only the proprietors but also of the administrative-technical personnel, the young and inexperienced proletariat, surrounded by a ring of enemies, was able nevertheless to organize the management of industry. What wouldn’t the German working class then be able to accomplish!

The proletariat, as has been said above, is interested in seeing to it that the transition from the private capitalist to the state capitalist and then to the socialist method of production be accomplished with the least economic convulsions and the least drain upon the national wealth. That is why, while nearing power and even after seizing power by way of the boldest and most decisive struggle, the proletariat will demonstrate complete readiness to establish a transitional regime in the factories, plants, and banks.

Will the relations in industry in Germany during the period of revolution differ from those in Russia? It is not easy to answer this question, particularly from the sidelines. The actual course of the class struggle may not leave room for workers’ control as a special stage. Under the extreme tension of the developing struggle, under the increased pressure of the workers on the one side and the sabotage on the part of the proprietors and administrators on the other, there may be no room left for agreements, even though temporary. In such a case, the proletariat will have to assume, together with the power, the full management of industry. The present semi-paralyzed state of industry and the presence of a great army of unemployed make such an abridgment quite possible.

But, on the other hand, the presence of mighty organizations within the working class, the education of the German workers in the spirit of systematic activities and not of improvisations, and the tardiness of the masses in swinging towards revolution can tip the scale in favor of the first way. Therefore it would be inexcusable to reject beforehand the slogan of control over production.

In any event, it is obvious that in Germany, even more than in Russia, the slogan of workers’ control has a meaning apart from that of workers’ management. Like many other transitional slogans, it retains an enormous significance independent of the degree to which it will be realized in reality, if realized at all.

By its readiness to establish transitional forms of workers’ control, the proletarian vanguard wins over to its side the more conservative strata of the proletarian and neutralizes certain groups of the petty bourgeoisie, especially the technical, administrative, and banking staffs. Should the capitalists and the entire upper layer of the administration demonstrate an utter irreconcilability by resorting to methods of economic sabotage, the responsibility for the severe measures that follow therefrom will fall, in the eyes of the nation, not upon the workers but upon the hostile classes. Such is the additional, political import of the slogan of workers’ control, along with the above-mentioned economic and administrative meaning.

In any case, the extremes of political cynicism are attested by the fact that those people who have issued the slogan of control in a non-revolutionary situation, and have thereby given it a purely reformist character, accuse us of centrist duality, because of our refusal to identify control with management.

The workers who rise to comprehend the problems of the management of industry will not wish nor will they be able to become drunk with words. They have become used in factories to dealing with materials, less flexible than phrases, and they will comprehend our thoughts better than bureaucrats; genuine revolutionary thinking does not consist in applying force everywhere and at all times, and far less in choking with verbal enthusiasm over force. Where force is necessary, there it must be applied boldly, decisively, and completely. But one must know the limitations of force, one must know when to blend force with a maneuver, a blow with an agreement. On anniversaries of Lenin’s death the Stalinist bureaucracy repeats memorized phrases about “revolutionary realism” in order the more freely to jeer at it during the remaining 364 days.

The prostituted theoreticians of reformism attempt to discover the dawn of socialism in the emergency decrees against the workers. From the “military socialism” of the Hohenzollerns to the police socialism of Brüning!

Left bourgeois ideologists dream of a planned capitalist economy. But capitalism has had time to demonstrate that in the line of plans it is capable only of draining the productive forces for the sake of war. Disregarding everything else, in what manner can the dependence of Germany—with its enormous figures of import and export—upon the world market be regulated?

We, on our side, propose to begin with the sector of German-Soviet relations, i.e., the elaboration of a broad plan of collaboration between the Soviet and German economy in connection with and supplementary to the second five-year plan. Tens and hundreds of the largest factories could go ahead full steam. The unemployment in Germany could be entirely liquidated—it would hardly take more than two or three years—on the basis of an all-embracing economic plan involving just these two countries.

The leaders of capitalist industry in Germany, obviously, cannot make such a plan, because it means their social self-elimination. But the Soviet government, with the aid of German workers’ organizations, first of all the trade unions and the progressive representatives of German technology, can and must work out an entirely practical plan, capable of opening truly grandiose perspectives. How petty all these problems of reparations and added pfennigs for customs will appear in comparison to those possibilities which will be opened by coupling the natural, technical, and organizational resources of the Soviet and German national economies.

The German Communists are spreading widescale propaganda concerning the successes of Soviet construction. This work is necessary. But they go off into sickly-sweet rhapsodies. That is entirely superfluous. But worse yet, they have been unable to link together both the successes and the difficulties of the Soviet economy with the immediate interests of the German proletariat; with unemployment, with the lowering of wages, and with the general economic impasse of Germany. They have been unable and unwilling to pose the question of Soviet-German collaboration on a strictly practical and at the same time deeply revolutionary basis.

During the first stage of the crisis—more than two years ago—we posed this question in print. And the Stalinists immediately set up a hue and cry that we believe in the peaceful coexistence of socialism and capitalism, that we want to save capitalism, etc. They failed to foresee and understand just one thing, to wit, what a potent factor in a socialist revolution a concrete economic plan of collaboration could become, if it were made the subject of discussion in trade unions and at factory meetings, among workers of operating as well as shut-down industries; and if it were linked with the slogan of workers’ control over production and subsequently with the slogan of seizing power. For international planned collaboration can be realized only under monopoly of foreign trade in Germany and the nationalization of the means of production, in other words, under the dictatorship of the proletariat. Along this road, one could pull new millions of workers, non-party, Social Democrat, and Catholic, into the struggle for power.

The Tarnows are scaring the German workers with the prospect that the industrial breakdown as a consequence of the revolution would result in frightful chaos, famine, etc. Let it be kept in mind that these same people supported the imperialist war, which could bring to the proletariat in its train nothing save tortures, hardships, and degradation. To burden the proletariat with the agonies of war under the banner of the Hohenzollerns? Yes! Revolutionary sacrifices under the banner of socialism? No, never!

Discussions concerning the topic that “our German workers” would never agree to suffer “such sacrifices” consist in simultaneously flattering the German workers and vilifying them. Unfortunately, the German workers are too patient. The socialist revolution will not exact from the German proletariat one hundredth of those sacrifices that were swallowed up in the war of Hohenzollern-Leipart-Wels.

15. Is the Situation Hopeless?

It is a difficult task to arouse all at once the majority of the German working class for an offensive. As a consequence of the defeats of 1919, 1921, and 1923, and of the adventures of the “third period,” the German workers, who on top of that are bound by powerful conservative organizations, have developed strong centers of inhibition. But, on the other hand, the organizational solidarity of the German workers, which has almost altogether prevented until now the penetration of fascism into their ranks, opens the very greatest possibilities of defensive struggle. One must bear in mind that the policy of the united front is in general much more effective for the defensive than the offensive. The more conservative or backward strata of the proletariat are more easily drawn into a struggle to fight for what they already have than for new conquests.

Brüning’s emergency decrees and the threat on the part of Hitler are, in this sense, an “ideal” signal of alarm for the policy of the united front It is a matter of defense in the most elementary and obvious meaning of that word. Under such conditions the united front can encompass the widest mass of the working class. And moreover, the goals of the struggle cannot but evoke the sympathy of the lowest layers of the petty bourgeoisie, right down to the street vendors in the workers’ sections and districts.

With all its difficulties and dangers the present situation in Germany bears in itself also tremendous advantages for a revolutionary party; it imperiously dictates a clear strategic plan, beginning on the defensive, then assuming the offensive. Without for an instant renouncing its basic goal—the conquest of power—the Communist Party may occupy a defensive position for the sake of immediate and urgent actions. “Class against class!” It is high time to restore to this formula its real significance!

The repulsion by the workers of the offensive of capital and the government will inevitably call forth a redoubled offensive on the part of fascism. No matter how modest the first steps of the defense, the reaction from the enemy would immediately weld together the ranks of the united front, extend the tasks, compel the utilization of more decisive measures, throw out the reactionary layers of the bureaucracy from the united front, extend the influence of Communism by weakening the barriers between the workers, and thus prepare for the transition from the defensive to the offensive.

If the Communist Party conquers the leading position in defensive battles—and it is assured of this under a correct policy—then it will in no way require the assent of the reformist and centrist upper crust when the transition to the offensive is reached. The masses are the ones who decide; the moment that the masses are separated from the reformist leadership, any agreement with the latter loses all meaning. To perpetuate the united front would be to misunderstand the dialectic of revolutionary struggle, and to transform the united front from a springboard into a barrier.

The most difficult political situations are in a certain sense the easiest; they allow only of one solution. Once the task is lucidly stated then it is in principle already solved: from the united front in the name of defense to the conquest of power under the banner of Communism.

Can this be done? The situation is difficult. Reformism is backed by ultraleft ultimatism. The bureaucratic dictatorship of the bourgeoisie is supported by reformism. Brüning’s bureaucratic dictatorship intensifies the economic agony of the nation and nourishes fascism.

The situation is very onerous, very dangerous, but far from hopeless. No matter how powerful the Stalinist apparatus may be, armed as it is with the usurped authority and the material resources of the October Revolution, it is not omnipotent. The dialectic of the class war is more powerful. One need only give it timely assistance.

At this moment many “lefts” are making a display of pessimism as regards the fate of Germany. In 1923, they say, when fascism was yet very weak, while the Communist Party had a serious influence in the trade unions and factory committees, the proletariat failed of victory; how then may one expect victory now when the party has become weaker and fascism incomparably stronger?

Imposing as this argument may seem at first glance, it is nevertheless false. In 1923 matters did not reach the stage of battle; the party shunned battle before the phantom of fascism. Where there is no fight, there can be no victory. It is precisely the strength of fascism and its thrust that eliminate this time the possibility of avoiding battle. Battle will have to be given. And if the German working class begins to fight it may conquer. It must conquer.

Even yesterday the supreme leaders said, “Let fascism assume power, we are not afraid, they will quickly shoot their bolt, etc.” This idea ruled the summits of the Communist Party several months at a stretch. Had it become absolutely entrenched, it would have signified that the Communist Party had undertaken to chloroform the proletariat prior to Hitler’s lopping off its head. Herein lay the greatest danger. At this moment no one repeats it any longer. The first positions have been won by us. The working masses are becoming imbued with the idea that fascism must be crushed before they can come to power. That is a very valuable victory. One must lean upon it in all subsequent agitation.

The mood of the working class is deeply troubled. They are tormented by unemployment and need. But they are goaded even more by the confusion of their leadership and the general mess. The workers understand that Hitler must not be allowed to come to power. But how? No way is visible. From above there comes not assistance but interference. Yet the workers want to fight.

There is an astounding fact, insofar as one may judge from afar, which has been insufficiently appraised, to wit: the Hirsch-Duncker coal miners have resolved that the capitalist system must be supplanted by the socialist! Why, this means that tomorrow they will be ready to create soviets as the organs of the entire class. Perhaps they are ready for it even today; one must only know enough to ask them! This symptom alone is a thousand times more important and convincing than all the impressionistic appraisals of literary gentlemen and orators, who are haughtily displeased with the masses.

Within the ranks of the Communist Party there seems to be passivity, factually and demonstrably, despite the proddings of the apparatus. But why? The rank and file of the Communists attend more and more rarely the meetings of the cells, where they are fed dry chaff. The ideas, which are supplied to them from above, can be applied neither in the factory nor on the street. The worker feels the irreconcilable contradiction between that which he needs when he stands face to face with the mass and that which is dished out to him during the official meetings of the party. The false atmosphere that is created by the shrill and boastful apparatus that brooks no contradiction is becoming insufferable for the rank and rile of the party. Hence we get emptiness and frigidity at party meetings. But this is not an unwillingness to fight, only political confusion as well as a dumb protest against the all powerful but brainless leadership.

The perplexity in the ranks of the proletariat raises the spirits of the fascists. Their offensive is extended. The danger grows. But precisely the nearness of the fascist danger will sharpen extremely the sight and hearing of the leading workers and will create an advantageous atmosphere for lucid and simple propositions that lead to action.

Citing Brunswick as an example, Münzenberg wrote in November of last year, “As regards the fact that this united front will spring up all at once, elementally, under the pressure of the increased fascist terror and fascist attacks—as regards this fact, there can be no doubt even today.” Münzenberg does not explain to us why the Central Executive Committee, of which he is a member, has not made the Brunswick events a point of departure for a bold policy of the united front. But just the same, without ceasing thereby to be an admission of his own insufficiency, Münzenberg’s prognosis is correct.

The imminence of the fascist danger cannot but lead to the radicalization of the Social Democratic workers and even of considerable sections of the reformist apparatus. The revolutionary wing of the SAP will indubitably take a step forward. So much the more inevitable, under these conditions, does the about-face of the Communist apparatus become, even at the cost of inner rifts and splits. One must orient oneself precisely towards this direction of developments.

A turn by the Stalinists is inevitable. Symptoms here and there, measuring the force of pressure from below, are to be observed already; some arguments are supplanted by others, the phraseology becomes more and more obscure, the slogans more equivocal; at the same time all those are being excluded from the party who were careless enough to comprehend the task before the CEC. All these are unmistakable symptoms of the approaching about-face; but they are only symptoms.

More than once in the past it has happened that the Stalinist bureaucracy, having spoiled paper in hundreds of tons in polemics against counterrevolutionary “Trotskyism,” thereafter made an abrupt turn and tried to fulfill the program of the Left Opposition—in truth, sometimes after hopeless delays.

In China the turnabout came too late and in such form as to finish off the revolution (the Canton insurrection!). In Britain the “turnabout” was made by the adversaries, i.e., the General Council, which broke off with the Stalinists when it no longer needed them. But in the USSR the 1928 turnabout came just in time to save the dictatorship from the impending catastrophe. It is not hard to find the reasons for the differences in these three important examples. In China, the young and inexperienced Communist Party believed blindly in the Moscow leadership; the voice of the Russian Opposition did not generally, succeed in even getting there. Approximately the same thing happened in Britain. In the USSR, the Left Opposition was on the spot and ceaselessly continued its campaign against the kulak policies. In China [9] and Britain, Stalin & Co. took risks at a distance; in the USSR the matter concerned their own heads directly.

The political advantages of the German working class consist in the fact that all questions are posed openly and in good time; that the authority of the leadership of the Comintern has been greatly weakened; that the Marxist Opposition operates on the scene, in Germany itself; and that in the composition of the proletarian vanguard there are to be found thousands of experienced and critical individuals, who are capable of making themselves heard, and who are beginning to make themselves heard.

Numerically the Left Opposition in Germany is weak. But its political influence may prove decisive on the given, sharp, historical turn. As the switchman, by the timely turn of the switch, shifts a heavily laden train onto different tracks, so the small Opposition, by a strong and sure turn of the ideological switch, can compel the train of the German Communist Party, and the still heavier train of the German proletariat, to go on in a different direction.

The correctness of our position will become apparent in action with each passing day. When the ceiling overhead bursts into flame, the most stubborn bureaucrats must forget about prestige. Even genuine privy councilors, in such situations, jump out of windows in their underwear. The pedagogy of facts will come to the assistance of our criticism.

Will the German Communist Party succeed in making the turn in time? At present one may speak of timeliness only conventionally. Had it not been for the frenzy of the “third period,” the German proletariat would today be in power. Had the Communist Party, after the last elections to the Reichstag, taken the program of action proposed by the Left Opposition, victory would have been assured. One cannot now speak of an assured victory. It is necessary now to call that turn timely which will enable the German workers to give battle before fascism takes over the state apparatus.

To accomplish such a turn, it is necessary to exert every effort. It is necessary for the leading elements of Communism, within the party and without, not to shy away from action. It is necessary to fight openly against the dumb ultimatism of the bureaucracy both within the party and in the face of the working masses.

“But that is a breach of discipline,” the wavering Communist will say. Of course, it is a breach of Stalinist discipline. No serious revolutionary will commit a breach of discipline, even formally, if there are no imperative reasons for it. Yet they are no revolutionists but rags and irresolute riffraff who under the cover of discipline tolerate policies the balefulness of which is quite obvious to them.

It would be a criminal act on the part of the Opposition Communists to take, like Urbahns & Co., to the road of creating a new Communist Party, before making some serious efforts to change the course of the old party. It is not difficult to create a small independent organization. To create a new Communist Party is a gigantic task. Are there cadres for such a task? If there are, what have they done to influence tens of thousands of workers that are enrolled in the official party? If these cadres consider themselves capable of explaining to the workers the need for a new party, they should first of all test themselves in the work of reviving the existing party.

To pose now the question of a third party is to counterpose oneself on the eve of a great historical solution to the millions of Communist workers who are dissatisfied with the leadership but who, from a feeling of self-preservation, hold on to the party. One must find a common tongue with these millions of Communist workers. One must find access to the consciousness of these workers, ignoring curses, calumny, and the persecutions of functionaries; one must show them that we want the same things as they do, that we have no interests other than the interests of Communism, that the road we point out is the only correct road.

We must mercilessly expose ultraradical capitulators and demand from the “leaders” clear answers to the question what to do; and we must offer our answer, for the entire country, for every section, every city, every district, every factory.

Within the party, nuclei of Bolshevik-Leninists must be created. On their banner they must inscribe: change the course and reform the party regime. Wherever they can assure themselves of serious support they must proceed to the actual application of the policy of the united front, even within a small local scope. The party bureaucracy will resort to expulsions? Certainly. But under the present conditions its omnipotence will not long endure.

Within the ranks of Communism and the entire proletariat there must be free discussion, without breaking up meetings, without falsified citations, without venomous vilification—but an honest interchange of opinions on the basis of proletarian democracy. It was thus that we conducted debates with all parties and within our own party throughout the entire year of 1917. Through a widespread discussion the extraordinary session of the party must be prepared for, with the sole question on the order of the day: “What next?”

Left Oppositionists are not intermediaries between the Communist Party and the Social Democracy. They are the soldiers of Communism, its agitators, its propagandists and its organizers. All eyes to the Communist Party! We must explain to it, we must convince it!

Should the Communist Party be compelled to apply the policy of the united front, this will almost certainly make it possible to beat off the fascist attack. In its own turn, a serious victory over fascism will clear the road for the dictatorship of the proletariat.

But even at the helm of revolution, the Communist Party will still bear within itself many contradictions. The mission of the Left Opposition will not at all be completed. In a certain sense it will only begin. In the first place, the victory of proletarian revolution in Germany would signify the liquidation of the bureaucratic dependence of the Communist Party upon the Stalinist apparatus.

On the very next day after the victory of the German proletariat, even before, while yet in the process of its struggle for power, the hoops that bind the Comintern will burst. The barrenness of the ideas of bureaucratic centrism, the national limitations of its outlook, the anti-proletarian character of its regime—all these will at once be revealed in the light of the German Revolution, which will be immeasurably more brilliant than the light of the October Revolution. The ideas of Marx and Lenin will gain their inevitable hegemony within the German proletariat.


A cattle dealer once drove some bulls to the slaughterhouse. And the butcher came nigh with his sharp knife. “Let us close ranks and jack up this executioner on our horns,” suggested one of the bulls.

“If you please, in what way is the butcher any worse than the dealer who drove us hither with his cudgel?” replied the bulls, who had received their political education in Manuilsky’s institute.

“But we shall be able to attend to the dealer as well afterwards!”

“Nothing doing,” replied the bulls, firm in their principles, to the counselor. “You are trying to shield our enemies from the left; you are a social-butcher yourself.” And they refused to close ranks.

– from Aesop’s Fables

“To put the liberation from the Peace of Versailles necessarily, absolutely, and immediately first in precedence to the liberation of other nations downtrodden by imperialism, from the yoke of imperialism—that is middle-class nationalism (worthy of Kautskys, Hilferdings, Otto Bauer & Co.) but not revolutionary internationalism” (Lenin, Left-Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder).

What we need is the complete rejection of national Communism; an open and decisive liquidation of such slogans as “People’s Revolution” and “National Liberation.” Not “Down with the Versailles Treaty!” but “Long Live the Soviet United States of Europe!”

Socialism can be realized only on the basis of the highest achievements of contemporary technology and on the basis of the international division of labor.

The socialist construction of the USSR is not a self-sufficient national process, but an integral part of the international revolution.

The conquest of power by the German and European proletariat is a task infinitely more real and immediate than the building of a closed and self-sufficient society within the boundaries of the USSR.

Unconditional defense of the USSR, the first workers’ state, against the inside and outside foes of the proletarian dictatorship!

But the defense of the USSR cannot be carried on with the eyes blindfolded. International proletarian control over the Soviet bureaucracy. Merciless exposure of its national-reformist and Thermidorean tendencies that find their generalization in the theory of socialism in one country.

What does the Communist Party require?

The return to the strategical school of the first four congresses of the Comintern.

The rejection of ultimatism in relations with mass workers’ organizations; Communist leadership cannot be imposed; it can only be won.

The rejection of the theory of social fascism which aids both Social Democracy and fascism.

Persistent exploitation of the antagonism between Social Democracy and fascism: (a) for the sake of more effective struggle against fascism; (b) for the sake of counterposing the Social Democratic workers to the reformist leadership.

To us the criteria for appraising changes in political regimes of bourgeois rule are not the principles of formal democracy but the vital interests of proletarian democracy.

No direct or indirect support of Brüning’s regime!

Bold, self-sacrificing defense of proletarian organizations against fascism.

“Class against class!” This means all organizations of the proletariat must take their place in the united front against the bourgeoisie.

The practical program of the united front is determined by agreements with organizations made in full view of the masses. Every organization remains under its own banner and its own leadership. Every organization obeys in action the discipline of the united front.

“Class against class!” Indefatigable agitation must be conducted in order that the Social Democratic organizations and the reformist trade unions shall break with the perfidious bourgeois allies in the “Iron Front” and that they join in common with the Communists and all other organizations of the proletariat.

“Class against class!” Propaganda and organizational preparation for workers’ soviets, as the highest forms of the proletarian united front.

Full organizational and political independence of the Communist Party at all times and under all conditions.

No combining whatever of programs or banners. No unprincipled deals. Complete freedom of criticism of temporary allies.

The candidacy of Thälmann for the presidency is, self-evidently, the candidacy supported by the Left Opposition. In the struggle for the mobilization of workers under the banner of the official Communist candidacy, the Bolshevik-Leninists must be in the front line.

The German Communists must take their inspiration not from the present regime in the CPSU, which reflects the domination of the apparatus on the foundation of a victorious revolution, but from that party regime which led to the victory of the revolution.

The liquidation of bossing by the apparatus within the German Communist Party is a life-and-death question.

There must be a return to party democracy.

Worker-Communists must attempt first of all to initiate an honest and serious discussion in the party on questions of strategy and tactics. The voice of the Left Opposition (Bolshevik-Leninists) must be heard by the party.

After a thorough discussion, the decisions must be passed by a freely elected special congress of the party.

A correct policy of the Communist Party in relation to the SAP should consist of an irreconcilable criticism (but conscientious, that is, corresponding to the facts) of the dual nature of its leadership; an attentive, comradely, and sensitive relation to the left wing—with a complete readiness for practical agreements with the SAP and for more intimate political ties with the revolutionary wing.

A sharp turn of the helm in the trade-union policy; a struggle against the reformist leadership on the basis of trade-union unity.

A systematically applied policy of the united front in industry. Agreements with reformist factory committees on the basis of a definite program of demands.

Fight for lower prices. Fight against lower wages. Switch this right onto the tracks of a campaign for workers’ control over production.

Campaign for collaboration with the USSR on the basis of a single economic plan.

A draft plan must be worked out by the respective organs of the USSR with the participation of interested organizations of the German proletariat.

Campaign for the change of Germany to socialism on the basis of such a plan.

They lie who say that the situation seems hopeless. Pessimists and skeptics must be driven out of the proletarian ranks, as carriers of a deadly infection. The inner forces of the German proletariat are inexhaustible. They will clear the road for themselves.


6. A detailed analysis of this opportunistic chapter of the Comintern that lasted a few years is given in our works, The Third International After Lenin, The Permanent Revolution, and Who is Leading the Comintern Today?

7. Roy has just been sentenced to many years’ imprisonment by MacDonald’s government. The papers of the Comintern do not feel themselves obligated even to protest against this: one may ally oneself intimately with Chiang Kai-shek, but one absolutely cannot defend the Indian Brandlerite Roy against the imperial butchers.

8. Some ultra-lefts (for instance, the Italian Bordigist group) hold that the united front is permissible only in economic struggles. The attempt to separate the economic struggle from the political is less feasible in our epoch than ever before. The example of Germany, where wage agreements and workers’ wages are cut by means Of administrative decrees, should instill this truth even in small children.

We shall add in passing that in their present stage, the Stalinists are reviving many of the early crotchets of Bordigism. Small wonder that the “Prometeo group,” which has learned nothing and which has not taken one step forward, stands today, in the period of the ultra-left zigzag of the Comintern, much closer to the Stalinists than to us.

9. Let it be borne in mind that in China, the Stalinists worked against the creation of Soviets during the period of revolutionary upsurge; whereas, when they decided upon an uprising in Canton during the wave of recession, they appealed to the masses to create Soviets on the very day of the insurrection!

What Next? (1932) Index

The Rise of Fascism in Germany Index

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Last updated on: 25.4.2007