Source: Published in To the Masses: Proceedings of the Third Congress of the Communist International, 1921 (https://www.haymarketbooks.org/books/897-to-the-masses), pp. 179–235.
Translation: John Riddell
HTML Markup: David Walters & Andy Bluden for the Marxists Internet Archive, 2018.
Copyright: John Riddell, 2017. Republished here with permission.
Comrades, our Communist International is now already in its third year. The Executive, by contrast, has been functioning as a genuine international body for only a year, since the Second Congress. From the First to the Second Congress, the leadership of the Communist International was recruited, by and large, only from a group of Russian comrades. It was not easy, at the close of the Second Congress, to convince parties to send their representatives to the Executive for an entire year. Comrades who took part in the Second Congress will recall how the German party’s representative, for example, and other parties as well were opposed to choosing delegates of the different parties to come here to Moscow for the Executive and to having these delegates work here during this entire period. There was an inclination to simply leave the management of affairs, as before, in the hands of the Russian comrades. Only when we protested and insisted categorically on our demand did the congress decide to send delegates from the non-Russian parties.
Ten of the sister parties did in fact send their delegates. Nonetheless, we must say that during this year, not all parties carried out their duty to the International. Several parties met their organisational obligations only inadequately, and ties were therefore rather loose. In this regard, no one is less content with the work of the Executive than the Executive itself. We demand that the Third Congress take all the needed measures so that we obtain an Executive that is genuinely international in composition, an Executive that looks after all the daily work and organises the whole political leadership in a genuinely international fashion.
We must discuss the Executive’s activity clearly and unsparingly. There have been inadequacies in the work of the Executive. Errors have been made, and we will follow the discussion intently and accept the parties’ instructions.
On the organisational side – we must tell you this at the start – the work was rather inadequate and sometimes even bad. Still, comrades, I believe we can note with satisfaction that, despite everything, this year the Executive provided, for the first time in the history of the modern workers’ movement, a genuinely international leadership. In the Second International, the International Socialist Bureau was not a political leadership, nor was it a body that carried out practical daily work. The Bureau gathered every three months, mostly for show. In the Communist International’s first two years, its leadership was not yet fully international. We can say with satisfaction that only this year did we see the beginnings of an institution, composed of representatives of at lest ten or twelve parties; one that, based on this composition, at least attempted to lead the Communist workers’ movement in an international fashion. Comrades, I believe this is a great step forward for the international workers’ movement. And if we all agree that our International should continue to evolve along these lines, we will shrink from no sacrifice and will all help out with the best forces at our disposal. In this way we will soon have a really good international leadership.
We convened this congress somewhat earlier than required by the Statutes, aware of the great responsibility borne by this first genuinely international Executive. During this period, in many of the countries most decisive for the modern workers’ movement, very important processes of development have been and still are under way. The Statutes state that between congresses the Executive of the International has decisive authority. We believe, however, that when major questions arise and if it is in any way possible, our Executive should always appeal to a congress, which is the source of all our decisions. And given that we faced very important problems in a number of countries, and especially given that it was possible, we considered it our bounden duty to convene this world congress as rapidly as possible, in order to let the congress itself make these crucial decisions.
I will now share with comrades some statistics regarding our Executive’s activity. Not quite eleven months have passed since the Second Congress. During this period, the Executive met in 31 sessions, which took up 196 questions – 128 of them purely political, and the others organisational in character.
We had the strongest ties with Germany. It was also in Germany where developments in the workers’ movement were the most important. During the year under consideration, the Executive’s sessions took up Germany 21 times, Italy 12 times, the United States 12 times, Britain 9 times, Romania 12 times, Czechoslovakia 10 times, France 7 times, Bulgaria 7 times, and the Near and Far East 10 times. Then there are other countries that were dealt with two, three, or four times in Executive sessions. In this regard, I must note that – as almost all of you know – in addition to the Executive there is also a smaller Bureau, made up recently of seven comrades and holding sessions more frequently, roughly twice as often as the Executive itself. We received a large number of visits during this year, from the most varied countries. We had less cause for complaint in this regard than we did the previous year. It was much easier to travel to Russia, and many parties took full advantage of these opportunities.
What was the political content of our work during this year? It was determined, of course, by the decisions of the Second Congress. So what was achieved, in broad terms, at the Second Congress?
We said at the time that the Second Congress was essentially the first, founding congress of the Communist International. What we call the First Congress was in fact only a gathering of a quite small number of groups. The Second Congress was thus the real founding congress. It developed the Statutes of the Communist International, provided us with basic resolutions on the role of the parties, and defined the Communist International’s policies in rough, general terms.
What was the line of the Second Congress? We conducted a battle on two fronts there. We had to contend with those of our comrades who – like some of the British, Italian, and American comrades – considered themselves as a so-called ‘left’ opposition to us. Recall, for example, the question of the British comrades’ participation in the Labour Party. The Second Congress spent two days on that question, and our British comrades were almost unanimously opposed. They considered participation in the Labour Party to be opportunist. The American comrades – the late John Reed and his friends – supported them in this regard. We opposed them. Britain is a country where the mass movement is developing magnificently but where the Communist Party’s influence has increased only very slowly. Precisely in such a country, we believe, we have a great responsibility to take part in the mass organisation that embraces hundreds of thousands and millions of proletarians, to organise our forces there, form cells, and in this way win influence in it. Here the Second Congress gave us a clear directive to take part in these mass organisations and to oblige all our new Communist groups to take part in formations like the Labour Party and in the trade unions. We told the comrades, ‘You have to organise there and struggle within the trade unions against the trade-union bureaucracy and reform-socialist politics. You must succeed in winning influence in these organisations for communism.
We also had to contend with the so-called Left during the Second Congress on the question of parliamentarism. As you recall, Comrade Bordiga – whom we can now confidently term one of our best and most sincere revolutionaries in Italy and the entire Communist International – Comrade Bordiga and his group launched a struggle in this very room against parliamentarism. They had support from a number of Swiss and Belgian comrades. We combated this point of view and obtained adoption of a decision that Communists should not reject revolutionary parliamentarism. Our point of view here was similar to that in the question of activity in the Labour Party or the trade unions. That was one of the congress’s directives.
The second directive took the form of the celebrated Twenty-One Points. This second decision has had a much greater impact on our activity over the last year. It was directed against opportunism, against centrist and half-centrist forces.
On the left, we faced not enemies but friends who were inclined to sectarianism, who lacked understanding of many of the concrete conditions of revolution. On the right, by contrast, we faced an entire array of dangerous enemies. As you will recall, general conditions in Europe and the United States at the time of the Second Congress were such that it became the fashion then to join the Communist International. Every centrist with a modicum of wits wanted to belong to the Communist International. We even received a delegation from Hillquit’s party in the United States – roughly speaking, the same current as the right USPD or the Scheidemanns [SPD] in Germany. This delegation was quite astounded not to be admitted in hospitable fashion. You will recall Dittmann and Crispien, who are now taking part officially in bourgeois governments – they were here and demanded to be admitted to the Communist International. You will also recall the presence here of D’Aragona and other Italian reformists, who have now proved to be quite open saboteurs of the proletarian struggle. They too considered it obvious that they should belong to the Communist International.
On the other hand, the situation was then still so unclear and relationships so inadequate that even we Russian comrades, shut off by the blockade, had very little information. We were so naïve that, initially, we welcomed gentlemen like D’Aragona as brothers. I am still ashamed to recall that I was responsible for the fact that tens of thousands of magnificent Petersburg proletarians literally carried these gentlemen on their shoulders through the streets of Petrograd. We thought that genuine brothers had come to us.
The situation became much clearer during the course of the Second Congress itself. The congress adopted a tough and unambiguous stance toward the right wing. We faced genuine enemies on our right. We were all well aware that these clever people would go to any ends simply to sneak into the Communist International, which they would then sabotage from within. Our struggle with the centrists resulted in the Twenty-One Points. And these directives shaped our entire subsequent activity.
The situation in Germany after the Second Congress was that the Communist International’s only affiliate was the Spartacus League, an organisation with a glorious past that was, however, not a mass party at that time. In addition, we had in Germany the USPD with its left wing, whose worker forces were also revolutionary. The congress charged the Executive with the task of drawing the best and genuinely Communist forces out of the USPD and unifying them with the Spartacus League.
We received similar tasks regarding other countries.
Comrades, looking back today, after a year of activity, to the Second Congress decisions, we must ask who was correct in the issues disputed with our friends on the left and our enemies on the right.? Consider the question of British Communists’ participation in the Labour Party. As you know, the Labour Party itself decided, on the initiative of the Hendersons and MacDonalds, not to admit our comrades to the Labour Party. In my opinion, that is the surest indication that it was we who were right, and not the British comrades who feared that they would lose their Communist innocence if they entered the Labour Party. The opportunists sensed the danger at once. They noticed that when Communists organised within the Labour Party and sought to exert influence within it, this represented a great danger to them. Serrati, of whom we will have much to say, was with the lefts on this question. He said then, ‘How can we join a Labour Party?’ Now he writes, ‘See how inconsistent the Communist International is. In Italy it demands that Turati be expelled, and in Britain it insists that Communists go into the Labour Party.’ Serrati is by no means so innocent a child as to be incapable of perceiving here that there is a minor difference. He has tried deliberately to mislead the Italian workers. I believe the British comrades will now admit that it was not they but the Second Congress that was right in this matter when it said: Not out of the Labour Party, but into it, in order to struggle for communism and expose the traitorous leaders from the inside. (Applause)
As for parliamentarism, we did not achieve any great success during the past year, and that must be stated frankly. All the splits have revealed that the most vacillating, moderate, and worst elements are to be found in the parliamentary fractions. We have seen that in France, Italy, Germany, and also Switzerland. That was the situation wherever there were splits during the past year.
And if you ask me which of the Twenty-One Conditions was carried out the worst this year, I must say it was the condition that the parliamentary fraction be completely subordinated to the party and that it carry out genuinely revolutionary parliamentary activity. Although we did not yet achieve much in this field during the past year, I nevertheless still believe that it will now be quite clear to every comrade that the majority at the Second Congress was correct here. We were still able in this way to achieve closer ties with the masses. Revolutionary parliamentarism has brought us initial successes in several countries, and we will press the Third Congress to do everything necessary to drive our party forward in this area.
So, comrades, what was the legacy, the slogan that the Executive received from the Second Congress? The slogan was that the British and American comrades, indeed comrades in all countries where communism was still weak but where there was a massive workers’ movement and working class, must come into contact with the masses and establish firm links with them. We had to do everything possible so they would not remain on the sidelines and become a sect, but would rather take part in the mass movement.
Our other task was this: Given that belonging to the Communist International was in fashion, the Executive had to do everything possible to denounce these super-intelligent diplomats in the centrist camp, draw the best forces away from them, and win them for the Communist movement. These were the great tasks – political and also, quite significantly, organisational – that the Second Congress passed on to us. Today we must judge to what degree the Executive has fulfilled these tasks.
As events unfolded during the last year, the convention of the German Independents in Halle was the most important milestone. However, for the Communist International, it was not so much the German but the Italian question that was politically decisive. This was true not only with regard to the difficulties we had to overcome but also because we saw here the first indications of a degree of crisis in the Communist International. I will therefore deal at length with the Italian question.
As I said earlier, when the Italian delegation came to Moscow, communications were still so poor that we did not know that those who came were reformists. At that time, we had full confidence in Serrati and also in those he brought with him. Our view at the time was that these forces were not entirely clear on the issues, but that they were honest in their intentions toward the proletarian revolution. And here we experienced a bitter disappointment. It is only now that the proceedings of the Second Congress have appeared in German, unfortunately only after much delay. I hope that the technical apparatus will now function better, so that we will have the proceedings of the Third Congress after about a month. At least the German comrades will now be able to read the proceedings of the Second Congress. Anyone reading these proceedings today and considering the stance of Serrati and the Italian comrades must ask how we could still have any illusions, how could we still hope to win over Serrati?
The proceedings include a list that indicates how often the speakers took the floor. Serrati spoke four times on matters of principle: on the national question, the agrarian question, the Twenty-One Conditions, and the Communist International’s basic tasks. As you see, all four of these topics figure among the most important issues before the congress. On all four of these topics Serrati made a statement indicating that he was opposed or would abstain on the vote. He would take ten minutes to relate anecdotes, but the content of his remarks on these four decisive issues was hostile to the congress. We considered at the time that it was perhaps merely a matter of misunderstandings, and we did all that we could to convince him. The course of events showed us that we had been sorely mistaken.
We had to put out a special book on the Italian Socialist Party’s relations with the Communist International. The book consists in the main of articles, statements, and resolutions by Serrati himself. That is what makes the book important. We are very sorry that we must discuss these matters today in the absence of representatives of the Italian Socialist Party. We did everything possible to bring them here. We issued our invitation to them three and a half months ago and asked them to come here on time. When the first group of Italian comrades arrived in Moscow two weeks ago, we once again sent off a telegram asking them to come on time. Members of that party have not yet arrived, although three weeks have passed since 1 June, the original date on which the congress was to open, and about a thousand delegates have arrived from every conceivable country. That means that the Italian comrades do not want to come. I am therefore compelled to try to explain the Italian problem in the absence of representatives of the Italian Socialist Party.
The first article that Serrati published in Avanti, immediately after his return, consists simply of an attempt to discredit the Communist International congress. I will have to read many quotations, and I ask those present to be patient. But in my view the Italian question has been decisive in the Executive’s activity over the past year. So Serrati writes in this, his first article:
The Second Congress began in conditions where most delegates came to Russia before the Twenty-One Conditions had been made known in their countries, and their mandates were therefore only general and personal in character.
That is Serrati’s first point and his first untruth. He then continues, second:
Many points on the agenda were not examined ahead of time in the individual parties, which were unfamiliar with some far from unimportant issues.
I must explain that a comparison of preparations for the Second and Third Congresses will show that those for the Second Congress were far more carefully done than for the Third. The theses were ready weeks in advance, and we had carried out sweeping discussions with the USPD on all significant issues months earlier. So the second sentence is the second untruth. Third:
The site of the congress was far distant from countries with a proletarian movement. Communications were difficult, given the very protracted blockade. There was almost no supervision by workers, who ought to have been present, and by the press, which could have reported promptly to a broad public. All these circumstances gave to the sessions the character of closed meetings, lacking any connection with the outside world.
Serrati wrote this only a few days after the congress, a few days after he had taken his place in the congress Presidium. No supervision by workers or the press. It was a secret conspiracy. Fourth:
Delegates at the congress did not know each other well…
True, at least we did not know Serrati well.
… They were not familiar with the movements, with the forces actually represented by this or that delegate, with the resources at their disposal. We did not know what influence they held in international politics.
It’s obvious that this statement by Serrati also does not correspond to reality. Fifth:
The congress met under the protection of a great revolutionary government …
Was this perhaps not to Serrati’s liking?
… at the very moment when its armed forces were engaged in a life-and-death struggle with the forces of reaction, and when the Communist government was required – as it is to this day – to carry out both defence and offense against international and national capitalism.
Here is where Serrati begins his vile insinuations. The fifth point continues:
Policies that assist the Soviet republic will indisputably be of assistance to the proletariat as a whole, but they may not correspond to the tactical needs of a country that is undergoing a critical period of its own still latent revolution.
I suggest to the comrades of the KAPD that they might be interested in Serrati’s fifth point here, because on this topic Serrati anticipated the views of leftists from the KAPD who are now publishing the writings of Hermann Gorter. Sixth:
There was an obvious discrepancy in the qualities of different delegates, to a greater degree than ever before at an international congress. This was a significant cause of very understandable difficulties, vacillations, and concessions during the discussion.
Understand that if you can, and if you care to. For my part, I do not understand what this is supposed to mean. ‘Discrepancy in qualities at an international Communist congress’: I think he is trying to say the same thing as Crispien, ‘What kind of Communists are these?’ Seventh:
The votes allocated to each country did not correspond to the real and genuine importance of the different parties, in political and moral terms, but rather to the capitalist importance of the countries they represented. Thus France received the same number of votes as Italy, even though the French delegates represented only an entirely insignificant minority both of the party and the [trade union] confederation.
Serrati leaves no stone unturned in discrediting the Second Congress. Then, eighth:
The remoteness of the congress site and the difficulties of communication obstructed the reporting of its decisions to an even greater degree than during its preparation. It is sufficient to note that two months after the congress, some parties have not yet been able to receive a single report on it, since the final text of the decisions taken there were only made known more than a month after the congress closed.
And so on, and so on. As we see, no more than a few weeks after the Second Congress closed, in September 1920, Serrati was already doing everything in his power – and beyond his power – to diminish the congress in the eyes of Italian proletarians and to present matters as if the congress had been neither communist nor international. Unfortunately, we ourselves were then insufficiently cautious, and we still cherished the hope that Serrati was someone whom the Communist International wanted.
Given conditions in Italy, Serrati had to make the best of a bad situation. Regarding the Twenty-One Conditions, he said, as he had to say, that he was for them. In the article I have quoted, he states:
We accept the Twenty-One Conditions, even though they have been presented to Socialists internationally in much too harsh a form. However, we set two conditions.
1.) First, no unnecessary concessions should be made to those who were infected by the nationalist fever during the War and most disgracefully betrayed the proletariat, but now declare, in the same shameful fashion, that they submit to the harsh discipline prescribed by Moscow. Tomorrow they will betray us again. Along the road the proletariat is travelling we meet far too many Pauls to be able to believe they are all truly honest. True, a moral verdict on a person’s past actions in revolutionary struggle is not all so important. Nonetheless, there is a political criterion that must be applied to the immorality of certain transformations, and the proletariat must apply it without fail, in order not to breed traitors in its own ranks.
2.) Parties belonging to the Communist International must preserve the right to carry out, on their own responsibility, the actions necessary to cleanse their ranks, in order to avoid damaging in any way the unity of the proletarian movement and of the revolution that is believed in Moscow to be so close.
Thus Serrati, draping himself in the toga of a man of the left and a revolutionary, declares as his first condition that we should be more stringent toward the right, especially the French comrades. Overall, Serrati seems to have some special hatred for the French comrades. I have no idea why. He has attempted to portray himself to Italian workers as a pillar of orthodoxy, demanding stern measures against the Right. To this end, he proposed a twenty-second condition. He said that a twenty-second condition was adopted against the Freemasons. But although this condition was adopted, he said, Zinoviev stuck it in his pocket, and it no longer existed. That is the kind of fairy tale that Serrati is peddling around Italy in all earnest. What is the story with these Freemasons? There was a motion of the Italian comrades. We regarded it as obvious that the motion should be adopted, but we said that it was impossible for the Communist International to print such a motion. And Serrati, in all seriousness, is presenting the matter to the Italian working class so as to suggest that I am probably a Freemason and the majority [of delegates] are also inclined in that direction.
The second condition set by Serrati is posed in an indistinct manner. There is to be a cleansing, but in such a way as not to injure the unity of the proletarian movement. Later he found other formulations, such as ‘cleansing but with autonomy’, which means that the cleansing should be left in the hands of the party in question. The Italian party’s Central Committee held thorough discussions on these issues. Two resolutions were presented there, one by Comrade Terracini and the other by Comrade Baratono, a friend of Serrati. Terracini demanded unconditional acceptance of the Twenty-One Conditions. Baratono demanded their acceptance, but the party must reserve the right to interpret them. The Central Committee voted, and Comrade Terracini received a majority; Serrati was defeated.
In order to intimidate people, Serrati had stated that he would resign as editor of Avanti. Our Italian comrades, instead of greeting this resignation with enthusiasm, said that this was unacceptable and Serrati must stay put. Our comrades have now learned their lesson, on their own, and we do not want to rub salt in their wounds. But they did make the error and left Serrati in his position as editor, under the condition, of course, that he carry out the decisions of the Central Committee. Serrati retained editorship of Avanti, a large and influential newspaper with a circulation of two hundred thousand copies, but he did everything other than carry out the decisions of the Central Committee. He began to conduct an unprecedented polemic against the Executive, which gradually developed into a vicious polemic. Later, I will read you the most significant passages.
Then came the reformists’ convention in Reggio Emilia, where they united in a ‘Concentration Faction’. They concentrated themselves. Turati and D’Aragona took part in the conference. These are clever people, and they are aware that you cannot tell the Italian workers flat out that you are against the Communist International. Their resolution therefore says the following:
The differences in assessment of the current historical period are insufficient to justify a split in the party. There have always been different schools of socialist thought in the party. Their coexistence was never, in the past, an obstacle to its powerful development and will not, in the future, obstruct fraternal common work. This work will be all the more fruitful to the degree that different sectors of the party hold each other in mutual respect and display a common will to maintain freedom of opinion, whatever the situation, while observing stringent discipline in the manifold forms of development of the class struggle.
This is the summit of reformist diplomacy, in which Turati, Treves, and D’Aragona are past masters. They will make outstanding government ministers. What did they do? They passed the following motion:
The Concentration Faction approves the party’s affiliation to the Communist International, as well as a consistent application of the Twenty-One Points in keeping with conditions in each country. It declares categorically that anarchist and syndicalist groups and the forces of Freemasonry must be excluded from sections of the International.
They thus simply repeated what Serrati had whispered in their ear. They are for carrying out the Twenty-One Points, but the Twenty-One Points aligned with conditions in the country; for a united party, but against the syndicalists and anarchists. But our Communist comrades were derided by them as syndicalists and Freemasons. That cost them little.
The decision of the Concentration Faction could not avoid saying something about the dictatorship of the proletariat. Here is what they said: ‘The dictatorship of the proletariat, understood in a Marxist sense…’ – Turati and D’Aragona, parading as interpreters of Marxism – ‘…is not an obligatory programmatic demand but a transitory measure rendered necessary by special circumstances.’
They are crafty. They say they do not oppose ‘the dictatorship of the proletariat, understood in a Marxist sense’. It is quite true that the dictatorship is not eternal but rather a temporary necessity. But they look at matters as if the dictatorship were liquidated entirely. They therefore assert that if revolution in Italy is carried out forcibly and destructively, and if the soviet order as in Russia is introduced immediately, as the extremist forces propose, this will lead rapidly to its collapse, unless it receives active economic and political support from the proletariat of some more developed state during the unavoidable time of economic collapse.
Here you see the teachings of these reformist gentlemen: they do not want the revolution in Italy to take a violent and destructive form. They are also against immediate establishment of a soviet government on the Russian model. Well, actually a soviet government on an Italian model would have been just fine. (Laughter)
This short declaration was made together with the long-winded resolution on Freemasonry.
So much for the credo of the reformist group in Reggio Emilia. That is the true face of the group, under a magnifying glass. We had to take action here and expel these elements. The whole quarrel concerned only this group, which is against the dictatorship of the proletariat and against revolution and against the Soviet order ‘on the Russian model’. After all these declarations, Serrati had the effrontery to say that there are no reformists in Italy. He wants to expel the reformists, wants it even more than us, but someone should please tell him who these reformists are. Poor Serrati has no idea where to find reformists in Italy.
As you recall, Comrade Lenin sent Serrati an open letter that included, of course, the demand for expulsion of the reformists. Serrati responded with an article entitled, ‘Reply of an Italian Communist to Comrade Lenin’. In this article we read:
‘Can reformists be tolerated in the ranks of the party?’ Permit me to respond to this question with another question, ‘Who is a reformist?’ If, as your letter indicates, reformists are those who strive for class collaboration, who wish to share power with the bourgeoisie, who engage in counterrevolutionary activities, and who might at any moment transform themselves into the Scheidemanns and Noskes of our country, then you are quite right, and I join you in favouring their expulsion.
Serrati then seeks to demonstrate that Turati, Treves, and company are not reformists. He says:
These are people who two months ago were asked by one of your government’s representatives in Italy, Vodovosov, to exert pressure on Giolitti on behalf of the parliamentary fraction in order to obtain concessions.
That is Serrati’s method. When you talk of principled questions, he responds with petty gossip about money for the Daily Herald, and so on. But he does not tell us plainly whether he is with the reformists or against them.
In an article in Avanti on 24 October, Serrati states:
What are we supposed to do? There are only two possible paths: Either achieve power by legal means or make the revolution. Achieve power in whose interests? And how? And why? Given the present devastation, the only result of taking power would be to transfer the responsibility now weighing on the bourgeoisie to the Socialist Party.
That was written in October 1920. What kind of statement is that? It is just the same as what Dittmann and Crispien said: We are afraid to take power, even if we could, because we do not want to take responsibility for the economic devastation caused by the War. The only possible conclusion is simply this: We must wait until the economy improves, until we have helped capitalism become strong once again, and only then can we make the revolution. Previously it was only Kautsky who said this. His position is that first we must increase production, and the struggle for power comes later; otherwise it can only be a consumer socialism. And Serrati, the ‘communist’, advances this Kautskian viewpoint quite openly in October 1920.
Comrades, this is actually the crux of the matter. During the Second Congress, there was general agreement that Italy was closest to proletarian revolution. Serrati too had to concede that. But if there is an example anywhere in history where a party has missed a situation and thus directly damaged the movement, it is the example of Italy. It is an incredible error for a party to have missed a situation the way this happened in Italy.
A year ago, the Italian working class was enthusiastic, prepared to struggle, and better organised than anywhere else. The bourgeoisie was dejected. Both the soldiers and the peasantry, in great number, were sympathetic to the proletariat. Then came the magnificent movement in September, in which the Italian workers discovered a new form of struggle by occupying the factories. The bourgeoisie was completely disorganised. Giolitti himself said that in September there was nothing he could do. When he was asked, why did you not send in the army in September in order to clean out the factories, he responded: It was not in my power to do that. I had to start by utilising homeopathic remedies; only later could I resort to surgery. With the help of Serrati and his comrades, he first suppressed the movement with homeopathy, and now he has switched over to surgery. The Fascists are excellent surgeons. They are butchering the Italian working class very conscientiously and thoroughly.
The party, and especially Serrati, are to blame for having allowed a favourable conjuncture in the struggle to pass them by, objectively delivering the working class over to the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie was granted a year of time in which to recover its health, organise itself well, and make the transition from homeopathy to surgery. During this time, the working class was corrupted and broken apart.
Then came the Italian congress [in Livorno]. Comrades, as you know, the Executive tried to send Bukharin and me to the congress. We did not receive visas, and the Italian party – Serrati in particular – did not lift a finger to facilitate our presence at the congress. We had to reorganise the delegation, with the Bulgarian comrade Kabakchiev and the Hungarian comrade Rákosi as our representatives. A great deal of gossip and nonsense has been written in the international press about the actions of these two comrades. It was Serrati who started this; that is his method. There are good comrades who believe Livorno would perhaps have turned out much differently if Kabakchiev and Rákosi had acted more shrewdly and diplomatically. An attempt has been make to portray Kabakchiev as a fierce dictator. Anyone acquainted with him knows that is pure invention. He is one of the most cultured Marxists, a very quiet comrade who is not swept away by passions in the manner depicted by Serrati. He is a comrade who worked for many years in the Bulgarian party as a theoretician. There is nothing but good to be said of him.
Comrades who were in Livorno will themselves relate what happened there. It is no exaggeration to say that the congress was turned into a circus. When Comrade Kabakchiev took the floor, there was an uproar, with shouts, ‘Long live the pope!’ Someone released a dove, and there were various displays of outrageous chauvinism. And after all that, they say that Comrade Kabakchiev was to blame.
After all of Serrati’s statements in September and October, no one here can have any further doubt. What’s at issue here is not what was said by Comrade Kabakchiev. Rather what we have is the degeneration of a left revolutionary party, or at least of its leading layers, into a simple, ordinary Social Democratic party. That is what we see in Italy: a degeneration under the pressure of a whole number of factors, a degeneration of the leadership into simple Social Democrats. I must say that in Halle, the right-wing Independents – and I owe it to them to say this – conducted themselves far more properly toward the Communists than Serrati and his people did in Livorno.
Serrati and his group came to the congress with their own special resolution. He proposed that the party take the name Socialist-Communist Party, that it adopt the Twenty-One Conditions, but that it keep its hands free. There was no mention of any split. Turati was the only one to make a principled speech, and he received an ovation. Turati is actually the leading figure in the party. He said quite frankly that he was against the use of force and that everything should be done by peaceful means. Yet people are trying to shove the blame for the split onto the Executive.
What alternative was there for the Executive? Surely it is quite clear. It was the first collision between the Communist International and the reformist forces, the first test of strength. If the Communist International had given way in this situation, at that moment – I must say frankly – we would no longer have had a Communist International, we would have lost all moral and political authority. If we had given way on this point, it would have meant that the Communist International had got down on its knees before Turati and the other reformists. It would have perished, or, if it continued to exist with large parties in its ranks, it would have been morally defunct. It was the first test of strength, and we emphasise that the Communist International must be proud that at this moment it did not waver, but rather said firmly and decisively that even if we lose a large number of Italian workers for a period of time, that cannot be avoided, and we will win them back again. But not a step, not a single step backwards, for otherwise the Communist International is lost. What was at stake was the clarity of the Communist International and the principles of communism. And we are indeed sorry that some groups of leaders, such as a segment of the German comrades who had otherwise provided great services, did not perceive clearly at the time what was at stake. But by and large the Communist International, as an international association of the working class, grasped very quickly that what we were shedding was a major illusion. We were absorbing a loss, but we had to hold firm all the way, for the sake of the principles of communism.
Serrati began to sing in a different key. Before it was the hard line, demanding no concessions to the Freemasons. Now it was different. Serrati came up with a theory about equal rights, demanding equality between Italy and France. Why have more concessions been made to the French comrades than to the Italian comrades? I will take up the French party later. It was our bounden duty to deal with each party according to the specific conditions of the relevant country, considering the history of the workers’ movement, the degree of revolutionary maturity, and so on. We could not deal with the French, American, Italian, Latvian, and Czechoslovak parties according to a formula.
The internationalism of our Executive consists of basing our judgements of every party on the specific circumstances and defining our attitude on that basis. Our approach to the French party was developed accordingly. It is quite clear that a genuine Communist cannot come and say: Because the French party is still backward, you must treat the Italian party that way too, so that it too will be backward. That is not internationalism.
Serrati initiated a quite personal and sordid campaign against us. Thus, in an article printed on 24 December, he wrote the following, and I quote:
If it is not out of place to take up Amsterdam, we would like to ask Zinoviev why the Russian government, so irreconcilably opposed to opportunists, gave £72,000 – as all Europe knows – to the Daily Herald, which supports the policies of opportunist socialism in Britain. And why did the Communist International take a stand that Communists should join the Labour Party, which belongs to the Second and Amsterdam Internationals?
Comrades, this quotation alone will be enough to demonstrate to every genuine revolutionary comrade what kind of person appears before the forum of the Communist International. We say that Turati and D’Aragona are reformists and we had to expel them. That was decided by the Second Congress.
Serrati goes on to say that Chicherin and his government paid £72,000 to the Daily Herald, a claim – first made by Lloyd George – that was used as the pretext to expel our comrade Kamenev from Britain. Serrati simply makes a denunciation. The Communist International is well aware that the Russian government must negotiate with various individuals and forces. The International also knows why such dealings are necessary: simply because the working class in all these countries is still too weak. We, the only proletarian government in the world, must still negotiate with bourgeois governments. But what connection is there between this fact and the question whether Turati and other reformists have to be expelled from the party?
As I have already said, Serrati nurses a particular hatred for the French section. In one article, ‘A Few Other Considerations’, which appeared in Avanti in January 1921, he writes:
In France, for example, the majority of the Socialist parliamentary deputies, who only yesterday were for the ‘fatherland’ and the ‘sacred union’, went over en bloc to the Communist International.
And in another article, he said that fifty-five deputies had gone over to the Communist Party. That is a flagrant lie. There were sixty-seven deputies in the Socialist fraction, of which only twelve or thirteen went over to the Communist Party, while fifty-five stayed with Longuet, that is, with Serrati’s friends. He is deceiving the Italian working class, utilising his post in Avanti to tell a lie. He says that fifty-five deputies came over to us. If that were the case, it would be very good. But it is one of Serrati’s impudent falsehoods.
The same goes for the German party. Serrati says, in one of his articles, ‘The split of the Independents in Germany is to be explained more by national factors than by those of international doctrine and practice’. So the split in which half the party went over to communism took place for national reasons? What is that supposed to mean? That is chauvinism, plain and simple. He is trying to persuade Italian workers that the German workers belong to the International for national reasons, not international ones. That amounts to baiting the German working class. These are the tools Serrati uses to work against the Executive and against the most important section of our International. Further, Serrati writes – and permit me to quote:
As for anonymous sources of information, a few comments are in order. The Executive of the Communist International sends representatives from Moscow to every country, chosen from among the Russian comrades and known to the Russian comrades on the Executive. Whether a representative has the qualities needed for such a mission, and whether he can carry out the work in an appropriate way – this is up to the Executive alone. And such an éminence grise sends reports to the Executive that are entirely unknown – or may be unknown – to the party leadership in the country where the supplier of this information is active. This flow of information is subject to no criticism, no supervision.
Comrades, as I demonstrated earlier, Serrati is Levi’s forerunner. Serrati coined the term, éminence grise, and Levi, the word Turkestaner. I believe I may say that the air in this room is somewhat fresher because these two gentlemen are not present with us this year. (Applause)
Comrades, I could present many more quotations, but you have the book, and in addition, I believe the examples I have read out are fully sufficient. I would like merely to read the resolution by Bentivoglio that was adopted in Livorno after our comrades left. It reads:
The Seventeenth Congress of the Italian Socialist Party has discussed and confirmed the resolutions on the basis of which it joined the Communist International and has endorsed its basic methods without any reservation. Nevertheless, the congress protests the statement of the Executive Committee representative, which declares it to be expelled on the basis of a difference regarding the judgement of local and incidental issues. Such issues could and must be resolved through amicable statements and fraternal agreements. Reaffirming fully the party’s affiliation to the Communist International, the congress refers the dispute to the upcoming congress of the Communist International, to be dealt with there. The party commits itself now, in advance, to accept the decision of the congress and to carry it out.
Comrades, in formal terms, here is the situation: After the Communists left, Serrati’s party adopted this decision. It appeals to our Third Congress and declares in advance that it will accept our decision. That is the resolution it adopted unanimously. And what happened then? Several months went by, during which Serrati did not show any intention of accepting congress decisions, but rather, through various machinations, managed to ensure that the party has no delegates here. I ask you comrades who have seats in the French or some other parliament to help me find a parliamentary expression for this conduct. Serrati and his friends decide, after the Communists have left, that they will accept the decision of the congress. And when the congress meets, there are no delegates here. It is obvious to any thinking person that they are unwilling to submit. After the resolution was adopted, Serrati stated, and I quote:
It is quite possible that the statements (of the Executive representative) were composed in Livorno; nonetheless, the Communist International will never repudiate them. In addition, Levi told me yesterday that they in Germany are also being treated without respect. It is enough to note that the KAPD, which has a nationalist orientation and supported the Kapp-Lüttwitz Putsch, has been accepted into the Communist International as a sympathising party.
That’s the kind of thing you find in Avanti. And that’s continued right up until the convening of this congress. That’s the formal side of the question.
Comrades, we must be clear about the situation. Since the Livorno Congress, the party has degenerated even more. Here is some evidence. In the Avanti of 11 May there is an article entitled, ‘International Solidarity’. It is full of enthusiasm and internationalist feelings. Why? An organisation sent fifty thousand lire to the trade unions. Certainly a fact that could have international significance. But what organisation sent the money? The Amsterdam trade-union International. And that gives rise to an enthusiastic article, which states:
The Amsterdam International Federation of Trade Unions, which has sent us the expression of solidarity and sympathy announced here, is not entirely in agreement with us regarding the necessary requirements of the proletarian movement. Some of its leaders are, in fact, far removed from our political ideas. If this were the moment for a personal polemic, we could reproach several of them regarding the solidarity they expressed during the War for those who today are the most outspoken representatives of capitalist reaction, both here and in other countries.
But we do not wish to diminish the importance of this internationalist gesture, which moves us deeply. Regardless of the names of those who stand at the head of the Amsterdam secretariat, it is indisputable that the international proletariat united under its banner, many millions strong, is bound by common interests with the oppressed of the entire world. And we are bound to it and to them by the same ties. And there can be no doubt that every honest and sincere expression of internationalism speeds on the proletarian unification of workers of every country.
Comrades, as you know, every vulgarian, every revisionist, every centrist is constantly shouting about Moscow gold, although it is quite natural for the victorious working class of Russia to provide help to workers in other countries, and that is generally understood. But when the Amsterdam trade union federation, which has relations with the League of Nations through its International Labour Office headed by [Albert] Thomas, sends the Italian Serratis fifty thousand lire, they tell us that it is no disgrace to accept the money and write about it. And Serrati does not notice that by doing this he dirties his hands. He does not consider the money he has taken from these traitors to be a red-hot coal. He writes about international solidarity. As you see, truly the dead ride swiftly, and this man who is dead for the Communist International has excelled himself in this regard.
I have here a booklet entitled, Il Bolscevismo: guidicato dai socialisti italiani [The Italian Socialists Assess Bolshevism], written by a bourgeois. This booklet was distributed even more broadly than the one by Levi. It consists of quotations by the gentlemen who Serrati brought here and whom we welcomed so hospitably. They have pulled together everything that happened and that didn’t happen in order to show how terrible things are when the working class is in power.
I would like to give you a bit more information, comrades, on recent developments, for example the elections. In Sowjet, a publication edited by Paul Levi which still enjoys the collaboration of several members of the VKPD, there is an article by Comrade Kurt Geyer on the Italian elections. According to him, the election results are as follows: Serrati’s party obtained 1.4 million votes, and the Communist Party about 450,000 – which he says means that the masses are with Serrati and this is an obvious defeat for the Communist International. Indeed he asserts that the setback of Italian Communists is a defeat not only for communism but for Zinoviev and the Executive.
So when a new party gets 450,000 votes, this is a defeat. On the contrary, when Scheidemann, after he and his gang had murdered Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, still received millions of votes, that was a genuine and painful defeat for the working class. (Loud applause) It shows that many workers and petty bourgeois still vote for these murderers. But where is the defeat in Italy?
Here is an article from Le Populaire [de Paris] of 4 June, written by Cesare Alessandri. He is an Italian deputy who appears to be close to Serrati. He writes about the elections – and I will report only the figures:
The new Socialist Party parliamentary group consists of 123 deputies, of which three are not party members; they were elected as a protest against their jailing. So of 120 Socialist deputies, 48 belong to the Right, 42 to the Left, and 30 to the Centre.
So Cesare Alessandri, a friend of Serrati, says that the new group consists of 120 deputies, of which 48 are with the Right, 42 with the Left, and 30 in the Centre. You have to consider, comrades, what it means in Italy when Cesare Alessandri refers to the ‘Right’. It means simply Scheidemann-Noske. Supposedly, Alessandri is on the Right, and on the Left are Lazzari, Maffi, and others who could not or did not want to come here. Lazzari, who during the War was an outspoken pacifist, like Bernstein, is on the Left. On the Right is someone like Dugoni. Yesterday, I was given a newspaper reporting on a trade-union congress in Mantua, where this man made a speech and got a resolution adopted that reads as follows:
Having examined the situation that recent events have created for the trade-union and cooperative movement, this congress protests any violence, wherever it comes from.
So, at a trade-union congress, Serrati’s friend introduces a resolution in which the congress protests against any use of violence, regardless of whether it comes from the bourgeoisie or the proletariat. So here we have an entirely neutral point of view.
That is the situation. I want to read you one more quotation. Serrati is still for a coalition with the bourgeoisie, for collaboration with it – that goes without saying. During the electoral campaign, Turati himself wrote an appeal to workers in the chemical industry, which was printed in the French paper La Vie ouvrière. In this manifesto, Turati says:
Do not give way, brothers. Do not accept defeat. Do not strike out wildly. I pledge to you that violence will bring no gains to those who use it. When the tempest has passed, you will be the stronger. Do not be provoked; provide them with no pretext. Do not respond to their curses. Be good; be patient; be holy. You have been so for a thousand years; continue on this course. Be tolerant, good-natured, and also forgiving. The less you think of revenge, the more will you be revenged. Those who have deployed terror against you will tremble at what they have done. The war remains, it refuses to die, it persists in its hateful existence, and yet it is in its death agony. You, peasants of Italy, represent work and peace. You are, therefore, the enemy, but you also represent the victory that is certain; you are the future.
To that, Comrade Frossard commented simply, ‘As you can see, these people are the most obvious and unambiguous reformists.’ That is certainly the least that one can say. It is with such electoral manifestos that the Socialists triumphed – that is how Serrati’s party has evolved in 1921. Given these facts, comrades, I believe it will truly be a simple matter for us to come up with a fully unanimous decision on this question.
There are the first signs of rifts in Serrati’s party. Baratono has spoken up, demanding that at least those who most blatantly violate discipline should be expelled. Serrati immediately opposed this. Baratono tried to publish an article about this; Serrati forbade it. Baratono persisted, however, and got the letter published after the elections. He says, ‘If it is really the case, Serrati, that you and your associates have concluded that the party must turn to the right, then you must find a way to call a congress and propose to the party that it pursue different policies.’
Serrati, of course, replied as always with anecdotes and gossip, casting suspicion on Baratono. Serrati said quite plainly:
Yes, we must learn from the election results. It is in fact true that we must steer the party toward the right. That is not something we – or Turati – have thought up; it is a historical necessity. Even Lenin is at this moment turning to the right.
You can also find this line of argument in Levi’s notorious journal, Sowjet, where his most recent article states: What are the Bolsheviks doing now? They are making concessions to the workers, to the peasants. It is essential to maintain contact with the masses. But I, Levi, have proposed the same thing in Germany.
So in a country like Russia, where the working class is in power, a country where the workers and peasants have the majority, the party makes concessions to the masses in order to maintain the dictatorship of the working class. And in Germany? A minor detail is overlooked: namely, what prevails there is the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, not the working class. And this distinction is decisive. Serrati is no child. He must understand that, and in fact he understands it very well.
So, comrades, that is the situation in Italy. We must not harbour any illusions. Time will be needed to bring the revolutionary workers of Italy fully over to our side. We must turn to these workers. For us, Serrati is nothing; these workers are everything. We must turn passionately to these workers, on behalf of the entire congress. We must have patience in order to win them over to our side. The more quickly we expose Serrati before the whole world, the faster this will be achieved. (Loud applause)
In my view, the example of Italy highlights the whole situation inside the International. It also clarifies the general political situation. As I have already said, after the Second Congress, a wonderful movement started up in Italy, in which the workers occupied the factories. It was a new form of proletarian struggle. In many localities, the workers held on for two weeks. A beginning was made in organisation of a Red Army. Then the trade-union federation stepped in and stabbed the workers in the back, betraying the movement. After that, in response to Lenin’s open letter, Serrati declared that this movement had not been revolutionary but rather a simple trade-union matter. The factory occupations were not evidence, he said, that a revolutionary uprising was taking place. Rather it was a broad and deep trade-union movement, he said, which had proceeded quite peacefully, aside from minor incidents.
That marked Serrati as a Judas. Everyone understood that this was not a peaceful trade-union movement, but rather the beginning of a genuinely revolutionary struggle. Under Serrati’s leadership, the party did everything possible to let the struggle fizzle out and deliver over the working class, helpless, to the bourgeoisie. And the bourgeoisie understood Serrati and was able to utilise his betrayal very cleverly. We must never forget this lesson.
Offensives should not be undertaken lightly, but it is also wrong to let opportunities for such offensives pass us by. Missing this opportunity set back the movement in Italy for many years. The working class will now have to wait patiently and make many more sacrifices than would earlier have been necessary – all because its leaders were on the side of the bourgeoisie, not the working class, and because they were a straitjacket on the workers during their revolutionary movement. That is the lesson for the Italian party. And there is also a lesson for us in our internal relationships, which can be summed up in a proverb: ‘All that glitters is not gold.’ Not everything that looks like real Communist gold is so in fact.
Comrades, in the future we have to be mistrustful. We have experienced too many examples of betrayal similar to that by Serrati. We must test every party ten times before concluding that we can trust it. Genuine Communists will have no objection to this. This example shows that the main enemy is on the right and nowhere else. (Applause) Italy provides an example of how we have succeeded in educating our friends on the left. I have already referred to Bordiga, who stands at the head of the Communist Party. He has dissolved his faction and has abandoned any personal or factional attitudes from the old party. Here is a soldier of the proletarian revolution. We need forces like this, and we must develop friendly relations with them – up to a certain point, of course. In the case of the KAPD, they went beyond this point. But the real enemy is on our right, lying in wait for us and seizing on our weaknesses, poised to creep through every hole in order to sabotage us from within.
Serrati stated, not long ago, ‘We now stand devant l’église – in front of the church door. Well, we are Christian comrades. We will wait until the door opens and then go in.’ That is well put. But in reality he is not standing in front of our Communist church. He is lying with his nose in the manure pile of bourgeois ideology. (Loud applause) We have proceeded decisively on the Italian question. We were fully aware, of course, of the responsibility we assumed, and we now confidently await the verdict of the Third Congress, a verdict on whether we were right to slam the door in the faces of these people and call out to them: ‘Either communism or reformism. Whoever is not with us is against us, with the bourgeoisie.’
I now turn to the German party. Obviously, I can only take up the most important experiences, which had a real impact on our policies. The Halle Congress was our first great success following the Second Congress. The ground had been prepared during the Second Congress. I believe that our conduct in Halle showed that we know full well that what the Communist International needs is not sects but large revolutionary mass parties. We exerted ourselves to build such a mass party in Germany, and we believe that in this we have largely succeeded.
There were two urgent questions in Halle. The first was whether the Spartacus League should continue to exist, in one or another form, somewhat as a precaution, a guarantee, a supplementary organisation. On behalf of the Executive I spoke out against that, and I believe we were right. We have had a lot of experience in Russia with organisations of that type. In our opinion, such organisations have an inner logic. If there is a danger that the party is going to be watered down, it is better not to unify. If you unify, however, you must do it in loyal fashion, without maintaining separate organisations. I must point out that all leading comrades in the Spartacus group held basically the same view, and the question was therefore resolved quite readily and smoothly.
The second question concerned the tempo of development that the party should have in view. The political atmosphere in Germany was then such that even people like Ledebour were talking about the existence of a central bureau for murder. The bourgeoisie was attempting, together with the Social Democrats and the right USPD, to provoke the party as quickly as possible and involve it in a big struggle, in order to deprive the party of the opportunity to organise itself solidly. On behalf of the Executive, I advised the leading comrades then not to be drawn too rapidly into decisive struggles. Of course we were not so doctrinaire as to think this depended on us alone, rather than also on the overall situation and the stance of our opponent. We considered that the party should be allowed as much time as possible for its consolidation. There was no difference of opinion among us on this point. It was obvious that the unification of two parties, embracing 100,000 and 400,000 members, would not proceed completely smoothly. There would be frictions, backward steps, and centrist or half-centrist ailments.
Bearing in mind the entire history of the German movement, it was obvious to us that, here too, the danger threatening this party came mostly from the right, not the left. (Applause) We saw how the Spartacus League even before the fusion let such situations pass it by, for example during the Kapp Putsch. That was an indication that our party was insufficiently engaged in the historical movement. This was even more true of the USPD. Tracing back the party’s history, we saw that we should expect ailments of this character. We told the German comrades during the Second Congress that we did not understand why, when there is a movement that suffers defeat, you immediately come up with a shibboleth, saying that it is a putsch. We said, do not keep raising this concept of ‘putsch’.
We told them not to be thoughtless, not to get involved in struggles that are unprepared. But looking back on the course of the German working class, we can say that it has not carried out a single putsch, let alone that this course is strewn with putsches and putschists, as one might well conclude to be the case from publications criticising the revolutionary course of the German proletariat. It is so easy to accuse every movement that does not succeed right away of being a putsch. We suffered dozens of such defeats in Russia, before we triumphed. If we had viewed all these struggles at putsches, we would never have won! (Applause)
When the VKPD was formed, we feared the emergence within it of centrist currents. Unfortunately, our fears all too quickly became reality. I have already discussed the Italian question, saying it was international in nature and linked with Germany. The Executive wrote a resolution and took disciplinary action against leading German comrades, with our esteemed comrade Zetkin at their head. We did not do that gladly. We considered twenty times over whether we should take this action. We were well aware that such resolutions should only be adopted in extreme circumstances.
I have explained to you the Italian question. It gave rise to the conflict in Germany. What was at issue? Levi was in Livorno as a representative of his party. He conspired there with Serrati against the Communist International. That is proven by everything that transpired in Livorno. Levi returned to Germany; a resolution was adopted; then there were amendments. Then five or six members of the Zentrale [Central Bureau] resigned from it because they were not in agreement with the Executive on the Italian question. They said that the Executive had made errors and wants artificial splits, sects, and the like. Serrati went to Berlin and found his way to Stuttgart. He wrote in Avanti – in boldface type – that the German party was with him. Our new Italian sister party thus received a stab in the back from the German comrades.
I asked the German comrades to imagine that after the split in Halle, a Russian comrade, like Lenin or Trotsky for example, had said, ‘I do not agree with this split. I resign from the central leadership in protest against the Executive.’ Everyone came to the conclusion that the action by some German comrades represented just such a stab in the back against the Italian party. (Shouts of ‘Very true!’)
As we said, you had to be blind not to recognise that Serrati had evolved backward to reformism. I have presented quotations showing how he acted on all the major issues, how all his articles besmirched the French and German parties, how he betrayed the party in the September movement. So it was quite obvious that we were dealing with a typical reformist – and then they stab us in the back and resign from the Zentrale. Writing on this matter, Radek asked whether members resigned their posts so quickly in the old Social Democratic Party when they disagreed on a specific question. Even if we had been wrong in Italy – and in fact we were only too right – even in that case it was necessary to act more cautiously. Not a word was said to the Executive in advance; it was confronted with the fait accompli. That is why we concluded that something was rotten here. It is not merely the Italian question. We are all great internationalists, but we know that there would not be such nervousness in Germany if only the Italian question were at stake. Mostly, people get nervous when their own party, their own movement is at stake. People sensed that there was a connection.
Comrades, if it turns out that Serrati acted cleverly, wisely, and with talent, and that comrades who are reasonably experienced in politics were in error, and that all this is a misunderstanding, so much the better. But comrades, let’s not get our hopes up.
That is why we had to intervene in this question, and we ask the congress to tell us frankly if it was an error on our part, so the Communist International can learn something from our errors. Or was it an error by the comrades who resigned? You must speak frankly on that too, so the Communist International can learn something from that, and so that we finally begin to feel we are an international party.
The March Action will be dealt with in a separate report. I will not say a great deal on that. When we began to receive news about it, Comrades Brass, Geyer, and Koenen were here. On hearing the news, we all felt that finally things were on the move, finally the movement in Germany had begun, finally there was a fresh breeze. After the defeat, when we wrote our first appeal, Comrades Brass and Geyer judged the matter in the same way as all of us. (Radek: ‘Hear! Hear!’) We dictated the statement, and Comrade Kurt Geyer wrote it down. (‘Hear! Hear!’) He acted as stenographer. The German comrades did not make a single amendment. Why did they act in this way? Simply because they had the feeling, as any revolutionary would have, that there had been a struggle, one that was forced on us, and it had been lost. We must absolutely not stab the workers in the back. Comrades then judged the matter objectively. So I am saying here for the record – and I am convinced both comrades will confirm this – that this is how the initial appeal came to be, one in which we all said that we defended the action. (Commotion) You have read our resolution on tactics and strategy. As you see, we do not engage in the usual gushing praise. We take up the errors of the March Action clearly and precisely. The congress is not being held so we can pay each other mutual compliments.
Much too much has been said about the revolutionary offensive. God save us from wading through these stupidities all over again. We are completely in agreement with what Comrade Brandler said in his pamphlet54]: It was not an offensive; it was a purely defensive struggle. The enemy took us by surprise. There is no need to bewail the concept of a wrongly understood offensive. Many errors were made, and many organisational weaknesses came to light. Our comrades in the German Zentrale are not ignorant of these errors; they wish to correct them.
The question is: can we assess these struggles as a step forward, as a revolutionary episode along the painful road of the German working class, or must we brand it as a putsch? In the Executive’s view, the March Action was no putsch. It is absurd to talk of a putsch when half a million workers took part in the struggle. That is not a putsch, that is a struggle that was forced on the German working class in that situation. We must speak plainly of the errors and learn from them. We hide nothing; we are not engaged in factional politics; this is not secret diplomacy. Our opinion on this struggle is that the German party, by and large, has nothing to be ashamed of. Quite the contrary.
I will not conceal the fact that the fate of the International is tied in with this question. We must say plainly, without diplomacy, that there is a danger of premature movements. When Comrade Terracini gave his report in the Executive Committee, I had somewhat the impression that the Italian Communists too believed that now they were out of the swamp party they had to launch their attack. No, you cannot draw such a conclusion just like that. Twenty times more caution is needed at this time; everything must be carefully prepared and thought through twenty times before you launch the struggle. In this regard, Comrade Trotsky was right to be critical regarding the French question. We must perceive this danger, even exaggerate it a bit – that will not cause us harm.
I will now take up the KAPD. As you know, this question has also taken on international importance.
At the Second Congress, we made concessions to this party and permitted it to speak here to this international forum. The party’s representatives here decided that it was better for them to hit the trail ahead of time. That is what Otto Rühle did, and as you know, he has now covered quite a distance. Although he believes he has the most left-wing position, actually he is now in the counterrevolutionary camp. We had many discussions with the VKPD comrades at the Halle Congress and afterwards. Almost everyone believed that we should not admit the KAPD into the Communist International, even as a sympathising party. The Executive had a different view. On behalf of the Executive, I presented this view to the comrades in Berlin. Of course it is awkward to have to go against the decision of the party on such an important German issue. Nonetheless, comrades, the Executive certainly had the right – formally, morally, and politically – to take this action in such circumstances.
We believed it essential to admit the KAPD as a sympathising party for the following reasons. We believed that no stone should be left unturned in efforts to educate the genuinely revolutionary proletarian forces in this party and win them to us. We believed that the record of our German party, its lack of activity, its great errors – for example in the Kapp Putsch, which it has itself conceded – could well have provided fertile ground for the KAPD. We believed that the sickness lodged in the KAPD could most readily be cured through international influence. Even though the party is not large – indeed it is only a very small party, a sect – we had to do everything possible, through the International, to win the best of these workers. The entire international workers’ movement underwent such a dreadful crisis during and after the War, so it is only too understandable that the different parties and groups suffer from many ailments. That is why we had to be patient with these forces, who are fundamentally revolutionary.
The Executive was almost unanimous in deciding to grant this party sympathising status. After a fundamental discussion in which Comrade Gorter presented the KAPD position, while that of the Executive was presented most fully by Comrade Trotsky, the Executive resolved to admit the KAPD with consultative vote. Giving the summary on behalf of the Executive, I said the following:
There are only two logical ways out of this situation. Over time we cannot have two parties in a single country. Either the KAPD will develop into a genuine Communist Party and then become an integral part of the Communist Party of Germany, or the KAPD will cease to belong to us, even as a sympathising party.
That is the question we face today, and I believe that the congress cannot avoid taking a decision on this question.
Unfortunately, I must say that the leadership plays a greater role in the KAPD than is the case in any of the other parties. (‘Very true!’) With regard to this leading layer, we observed a regression during the past year. Allow me to demonstrate this. I have here a pamphlet, The Path of Dr. Levi – the Path of the VKPD, published by the KAPD. No author is listed, but clearly this is written by Gorter. The KAPD comrades really do Gorter a great service in printing everything he writes. It would be better if Gorter had left much of what he has written recently lying on his desk, in order not to damage his reputation as a great Marxist, which he once was.
Now, comrades, listen to how this sympathising party speaks of the International. Chapter 3 carries the title, ‘What are the preconditions for the proletariat to win state power, and how is state power won?’ Gorter explains it to you in detail for three pages. He has considerable experience in winning state power, experiences gained in the Netherlands. (Laughter) He says:
Levi answers these questions on pages 18 to 42. These are central questions of revolution, the very core of revolution. And here we see most clearly the stupidity of the author, the stupidity of the VKPD, the stupidity of the Moscow Executive Committee, and the stupidity of the Communist International.
I have heard that in Dutch, the word stupidity does not mean the same thing as in German. Gorter continues by accusing the Executive of crimes against the international revolution. In Russia, the peasantry was a revolutionary class, but in the rest of the world, it is a counterrevolutionary class. In Western Europe there is only one revolutionary class, the proletariat. But this revolutionary class, the Western European proletariat, is itself counterrevolutionary, as we see in the trade unions. And so on. Therefore we must make the revolution tomorrow. These are Gorter’s postulates. He believes there is only one revolutionary class, the working class, which is itself counterrevolutionary. And therefore, we should not proceed slowly and carefully with these masses and these stupid trade unions, but rather make the revolution tomorrow. That is his entire argument. And all that is cleverly mixed together with a jumble of abuse toward the Communist International, Soviet Russia, and the largest party in the International.
Comrade Gorter continues: ‘And now look at Levi – and with him, the VKPD, the Communist International, the Executive Committee, and all the national parties with one exception…’. Who the exception is remains a puzzle. I don’t know – is it perhaps the Dutch school? Or the KAPD? I am not sure whether Gorter would give up on the Dutch party so readily. I do not think so. Take a look at Proletarier, published by the KAPD with the modest subtitle, ‘The Dutch Marxist School’. In this little pamphlet you will find the entire school. It consists of three articles: ‘Party and Class’ by Gorter, ‘Marxism and Idealism’ (the most burning question of social revolution) by Pannekoek, and ‘The Rise of a Mass Communist Party’ by Henriette Roland-Holst, of whom I truly must say, ‘It long has been a grief to me that I see you in such company.’ With her outstanding abilities, she really should have been able to do better in the Communist International.
Joking aside, comrades, the KAPD, in its literary publications, has developed into an enemy of the Communist International. Gorter says in one spot, ‘But in the past, the spirit of Levi has also been that of the VKPD, of the Executive Committee, and of the Communist International. For how did they act in Tours, in Halle, in Livorno?’
So, you see, we acted wrongly in Halle, wrongly in Tours, where we expelled the French centrists, and wrongly also in Livorno, where we embraced too many of the masses.
In Gorter’s opinion, the fact that we are admitting too many of the masses is shown by his statement that ‘you only want numbers, not quality’. So the entire International does not represent quality; only Gorter represents quality. Then Gorter says, in the manner of Cicero, ‘How long will they continue to pursue the politics of leaders, rather than of the masses? Are Russia, Bavaria, Germany – or just Russia alone – not enough of an example…?’ What does this mean, comrades? This sounds very similar to Dittmann. What does it mean to say that Russia is an example of the politics of leaders? If so, he should say clearly how this is expressed. Who are these leaders? What are the policies? Who are the proletarians that have fallen in vain? What is the politics of leaders that these people are condemning? That must be said plainly. Gorter continues:
How long will they continue to support the pseudo-struggle of the trade unions, these pseudo-realities, while boycotting the struggle of the factory organisations? How long will they continue to sabotage new scientific Marxist policies?
So are the trade unions, which today represent the genuine starting point of the entire social revolution, pseudo-realities, because they do not adhere to our policies? Noske, Scheidemann, Thomas, Ebert, Hörsing – they are all pseudo-realities. Only Gorter is not a pseudo-reality.
This is not the situation at all. Yes, the trade unions today are ultra-reactionary, but if we do not win over the unions and their weapons, the proletarian revolution is finished. Anyone who tries to teach that trade unions are pseudo-realities is at best a thoughtless phrase-monger, rather than a leader of the combative working class that aims to overrun the bourgeoisie. Elsewhere we read:
The objection that the VKPD failed this time because it was not yet strong enough is invalid, because so long as it is a mass party it will never have sufficient inner strength. (The emphasis is in the original in the boldest possible type.)
So they do not want a mass party, and yet they demand mass politics. Understand that if you can. In my opinion, comrades, what I have quoted from the Dutch school’s pamphlet will be enough for now.
However, I must say that this is not as harmless a matter as it may seem. The KAPD comrades are going over to exactly the same methods as Serrati. Here is an issue of KAZ [Kommunistische Arbeiter-Zeitung] dated 1 May, that is on a holiday when we make special efforts to stress international solidarity and all that unites us. This is what we read there:
Moscow must grasp the lessons of the March struggles this year. If that does not happen, if there is no last-minute decision to place a review of the Twenty-One Points on the agenda of the next congress, we will be compelled to draw the only possible conclusions.
To which I must reply: Go right ahead; we have no objections. Gorter then continues:
We will then be justified in drawing the conclusion that the main reason why we are being dragged ever deeper into the swamp is a complete lack of understanding regarding the problems of revolution in Western Europe, combined with an inclination to serve the particular interests of the Russian Soviet government.
To that, there is nothing to add beyond what I said in Halle. We told the right-wing USPD people in Halle, ‘Gentlemen, today you are for Soviet Russia, but tomorrow you will be in the camp of the enemies of Russia.’ They cried out, ‘Never’. But already today they are open and outspoken opponents of Russia. Today I say the same thing. These politics, half childish and half criminal, will turn you into enemies of the proletarian republic.
Radek: Gorter is already defending Kronstadt!
Zinoviev: The same article continues:
But if we want to be true to the needs of the Western European revolution, the goal for which we must strive is to break the Communist International free, politically and organisationally, from the system of Russian government policy.
Although expressed somewhat diplomatically, the meaning is clear. We said at the Second Congress, and we repeat today in the name of our party, that we will be overjoyed by the victory of the proletarian revolution in Germany or elsewhere, which enables us to move the centre of the Communist movement to Berlin or to another location. Of course it fills us with pride that the workers of the most diverse countries give us this honour at present. We have made efforts to follow the specific problems of international revolution in each country, to study conditions in every country, and to learn from them, and we will continue to do so. You know that better than we do. However, this May article makes it quite clear that the KAPD comrades are following in the footsteps of Serrati, which will drive them into the arms of Dittmann.
I received by telegraph a decision of the expanded Central Committee of the KAPD, taken on 5 June 1921.
The expanded Central Committee of the KAPD resolves that the party’s membership in the Communist International, whether with sympathising or full status, is conditional on the inviolability of the party’s programme.
What a great International this is! The KAPD’s programme must be inviolable. Why not then also the programmes of the French, Italian, and Czechoslovak parties? What kind of childishness is this? Is it Gorter’s childishness? There cannot be an International in which this or that party is inviolable. The Central Committee continues:
As regards fusion with the VKPD, any ultimatum is to be rejected. The delegates are mandated, if appropriate, to declare the KAPD’s immediate resignation from the Communist International.
Comrades, if this situation arises, if the KAPD comrades really believe it is useful for them to leave the International – and I hope they will think that over carefully – if the decisions of the international Communist proletariat have no weight for them, if only the Dutch school is authoritative in their eyes, well, then they should leave. But in my opinion, we in this congress should not regret having gone through this experience. We have demonstrated to every revolutionary worker in the KAPD that our intentions are to work with them honourably and fraternally, that we have given them time and made concessions to them. If they leave now, they will leave at a time when we in Germany have a mass party, tested in struggle. Perhaps it has made major errors, but we all make errors. We are nonetheless a large revolutionary party, tested in fire, which has a completely different moral weight in the eyes of the working class than the KAPD. If we now suffer the misfortune that Gorter and his close friends leave us, we will find some way of coping with this misfortune. We are convinced that sooner or later the large majority of workers who still support the KAPD will recognise these errors. These workers will not say they are inviolable. They will say, ‘Of course none of us are inviolable, and the Communist International will be authoritative for us all.’ That is what I have to say about the KAPD.
To wrap up our comments on Germany, I will take up the Levi case. Paul Levi wrote us a letter asking that his expulsion from the German party be reversed. The Presidium will present a motion to the congress on this question. As you all know, the Executive approved the expulsion. Since Levi’s pamphlet discusses policy questions, we maintain that they should be discussed under our agenda point on tactics and strategy. As for the other questions – the talk about Turkestaners and all the other gossip – I believe, and you will surely agree with me, that it would do the pamphlet too much honour for me to speak of these matters any further here. (Applause) That settles the matter.
I now come to the other parties. First of all, the French party. We gave an exhaustive report on this in the session of the Expanded Executive. It is true that we handled the French party differently from the other parties, because we were aware of the situation in that country. In our opinion, we had to proceed more cautiously with this party. We had to consider that there were still elements in this party like the Longuet people, and we therefore had to allow the party time for clarification. We are well aware of the weaknesses of this party.
Comrades, permit me to place in the congress proceedings the stenographic transcript of the speech on the French question that I made to the session of the Executive, and then move on to the other parties, because otherwise we will lose too much time.
Speech in the Executive Committee session of 12 June 1921 on the French question
Comrades, first of all, I would like to motivate to Executive members our conduct toward the French party. Actually, the old Executive, with its old composition, took a decision to admit this party, which was then explained in a large number of statements. As you know, Serrati complained about the Executive and about me, asserting that, in his view, we had made excessive concessions to the French party. A collection of articles and resolutions is available, explaining our conduct toward the Italian Socialist Party. In this collection the reasons are laid out why I, as the Executive’s representative, have acted differently toward the French party than I have toward the Italian one, why I made a special agreement, so to speak, with the French comrades. Serrati has written a large number of articles demanding that we should act toward the Italian party in exactly the same way as we did toward the French party. I consider it my duty here to explain the attitude we took toward the French comrades and the reasons for this approach.
It is true that we intended to act toward the French party in a more cautious and conciliatory manner than toward the Italian, which already belonged to our International. This was for the simple reason that the situation in the French party, in our opinion, was different from that in Italy. When Cachin and Frossard were in Moscow, we faced a party in France that had not yet undergone its first split. Thomas and Renaudel, the French Scheidemanns, were still inside the party. We had to reckon with the fact that the Communist group inside the French party was rather weak, and almost all of its leaders were in jail. For this reason, we favoured taking a softer line toward the French party than toward the Italian party, which already belonged to the Communist International, which had taken part officially in the Second Congress, and which had made commitments that it unfortunately did not carry through.
The agreement with Renoult included a point that if it should turn out that Longuet accepted the conditions of the Second Congress, we were ready to propose to the next congress making an exception for him. Renoult asked for that in the name of Loriot, and we agreed. There is no reason to regret that now. Longuet soon made his famous speech. That made it clear he could not conceivably agree to the Twenty-One Conditions. Still, the French comrades insisted on this point. They wanted to make plain for the French working class that we were prepared to make an exception for Longuet. I believe that we handled this case correctly. And Serrati is completely wrong to claim that he too should have been able to stay in the International.
Longuet did not accept the Conditions, and the party broke with him. At the last moment, when Longuet had already said that he was not willing to accept the Conditions, Frossard asked him not to leave the party. Comrades who took part in the Tours Congress will no doubt remember that the Executive sent the congress a last-minute telegram, coming out very strongly against Longuet. It branded him as a reformist, that is, an agent of capitalism, and demanded his expulsion. Frossard made an attempt to excuse this telegram to Longuet, saying that the Russians were given to strong language and that this should not be taken too hard. The telegram was formulated rudely, he said, but Longuet should stay in the party just the same and fight together with the party. I do not know if this telegram ended up playing the deciding role, but we believed it had at least made a major contribution. Frossard was obviously wrong in continuing his efforts to convince Longuet to remain in the party.
After the decisions made at Tours, we faced the question of our future conduct toward the French party. It was quite clear that this was not yet a Communist Party, not fully, at least. Various forces remained in the party that are even now still centrist or half-centrist, giving expression to these traditions everywhere – in the party, in its press, and in parliament. Nonetheless, our opinion was still that we had to act differently in this case than toward the Italian party, which had already belonged to the Communist International for two years. We made a tacit agreement with the comrades in the Communist group within the French party: We would grant them a number of months to enable them to reorganise and carry out organisational work within the party. We did not put pressure on the party. Yesterday, Loriot quoted an article in which I am supposed to have said that the French party had acted correctly. I confirm that. This refers to a telegram that the Executive sent to the last administrative congress of the French party. In the telegram, the Executive states that it still welcomes the French party and that at our next congress we will negotiate with its representatives about what needs changing in the party’s policies.
We must size up the party and its organisation accurately. Our discussion here yesterday and today has done this. I believe that the Executive has acted correctly in displaying extreme caution and toleration toward the French party over the last half-year. That does not mean, however, that we should refrain from saying here what we believe needs to be said. In my opinion, the so-called ‘leftist stupidities’ are not so dangerous for the French party. Sizing up the overall condition of the French party as it is today, everyone will agree that the dangers threatening the party do not come so much from the left as, rather, from the so-called opportunist elements. (Applause) The youth movement is very weak in France. If it commits blunders, we must point this out. Obviously, when the party is opportunist, the youth, as a vanguard, must not be opportunist. The conduct of the youth will promote the party’s recuperation. I believe that precisely in the French party the old traditions, brought with them by some parliamentary deputies, are very dangerous and must be consistently combated.
As was said here yesterday and repeated today, L’Humanité is not an entirely Communist paper. Comrade Kun has already been put through the wringer today, and I certainly do not want to make his life more miserable. His assertion that L’Humanité is worse than Freiheit is contrary to the facts. Freiheit is an outright counterrevolutionary paper, while L’Humanité is at worst a paper that is not yet consistently revolutionary. L’Humanité’s evolution is positive; Freiheit’s is negative. Frossard makes progress, slowly and with vacillations and relapses. L’Humanité deals honestly with Russia, while Freiheit carries out concealed, sordid propaganda against the only proletarian state, engaging in strike-breaking.
Nonetheless, we must insist that L’Humanité must become a strictly revolutionary paper, developing in a revolutionary direction. Comrade Trotsky, in his speech yesterday, provided a glaring example of such a failure. There are a dozen such questions that L’Humanité has not taken up. What is more, the French comrades acknowledge this both in their official reports and in private discussion. Even Loriot said today, ‘We are quite well aware that our paper and our [parliamentary] fraction are opportunist. We are well aware that there is much that we do badly.’ The Executive believes that the time has now come to intervene and say forthrightly and frankly what we expect of the French party.
Comrade Lenin was right in saying that things are going well in the French trade unions, and that some steps forward can be noted there. When he adds that this is an achievement of the French party, however, I must say that he has not followed this question well. Even the French comrades do not say this. Loriot himself said that the party’s work in the trade unions is not good, and that it is pursuing an unclear political course. If the syndicalists obtain a majority at the next congress, neither they nor the party will know what to do with this majority. True, we note the progress in the trade unions, despite the party’s vacillation and confusion on this question. (Applause) The party does not yet have a clear line on this question, and for that reason, the syndicalists do not have one either. And that is exactly why the present situation arose, in which the syndicalists consciously want to establish their own political party.
And here I want to say a few words regarding the comments by Comrade Sachs. He said that the example of France teaches us that the Second Congress decisions on the trade unions were not advisable. On the contrary, it is precisely the example of France that shows how right it was to propose building cells in the trade unions. If we had followed the advice of the KAPD, where would we be today? We would be even further removed from our goal, and we would merely have brought grist to Jouhaux’s mill. Our advice was Communist. Despite the bad conditions in the party and the bad situation generally, a number of trade unions are with us. Although conditions in France remain somewhat chaotic, there are grounds to hope that the party will find a path to the syndicalists and the unions. It is precisely the example of France that shows how right the Second Congress was in calling on the party to turn its attention to the trade unions.
I maintain that despite all the weaknesses, and despite the bad practices that Cachin has brought from the old party, we must have confidence in the French party. During the War, there were no grounds for confidence in the party, and – as we know – the workers themselves displayed great mistrust in it. But precisely because there is a group of Communists in parliament and in the trade unions, we can now state confidently and without exaggeration that trust in the banner and the idea of revolution has reawakened in France. Today we have a party in France that already has more than 100,000 members. This party is shaped by a different spirit than that of the old French party, even though it also has many weakness and imperfections. Our main enemy is the opportunist current. Still, we must concede that we have taken a great step forward in regaining the confidence of workers in France. In the French parliament there is a small, weak, but nonetheless internationalist Communist fraction. Conditions today are not entirely satisfactory, but they improve daily. Our French comrades themselves acknowledge their errors and are therefore glad to accept the advice of the Communist International Executive.
The Executive must convey its opinion to the party frankly, in a resolution or a letter. Of course it is quite excluded that we would make a proposal to expel Frossard. Such a proposal cannot even be posed for serious discussion. A positive evolution is under way in France, but opportunism is still present, and that is the enemy we must overcome. We must tell the French workers what is at stake here. It is possible that there will be split-offs; indeed, if major struggles arise, the party may face not only split-offs but a major crisis. This is confirmed by the French Communists. Still, we want to help the party now and support it, so that it remains a mass party. Developments in the French party have shown that we had a correct policy on this question at the Second Congress. It was correct against left blunders, as explained today by Comrade Lenin, and especially against opportunist blunders. The line adopted at the Second Congress should be reaffirmed at the Third Congress.
The Czechoslovak question was also very important for us, and was also discussed very fully in the Expanded Executive. I hope that this material will also be inserted into the proceedings. I will restrict myself here to a few words. We have polemicised against the Šmeral current. We hope that he will still arrive here, so that all these differences of opinion can be discussed in his presence. Information received from Comrade Burian and others indicates that the Czechoslovak party is developing into a real revolutionary mass party. And given that we have demonstrated to the Czech comrades, in comradely fashion, the weaknesses of their party, I believe we will soon experience the existence in Czechoslovakia of a tested Communist Party. It is possible that at first there will be some reformist forces in this party, just as in the German sister party – indeed given the entire context that is rather to be expected. But we believe that such a genuine proletarian organisation, built with solid proletarian timber, will be able, with support from the International, to overcome readily any possible opportunist or centrist elements. We do not yet have a unified Communist Party in Czechoslovakia; that remains to be created. We must have a unified and well-organised Czechoslovak party, led and consolidated across national divisions. That is the goal that the Executive formulated and that I would like to stress once more.
Speech in the Executive Committee session of 13 June 1921 on the Czechoslovak question
I have been asked to motivate the resolution on the Czechoslovak question drafted by the Small Bureau and distributed to the Executive Committee. First of all, I would like to express my regret that Comrade Šmeral is not present. At the party’s congress in Prague, he launched a political struggle against the Communist International. In our view, it was his duty to come to the congress and conduct this struggle here. Therefore, after consulting with the Czech comrades present here, we decided to send a telegram to Šmeral, requesting him to come to the congress in Moscow, if at all possible, and defend his position here. So far, we have not received an answer, but we have still not given up hope that Šmeral will appear here in person.
I would like to discuss above all the national question, which plays such an important role in Czechoslovak affairs. We must exercise great caution here. To start with, I note that a few weeks ago Právo lidu attributed to me a very stupid assertion. I am supposed to have stated in the Executive that I absolutely do not recognise the Czechoslovak state. (Laughter) Právo lidu makes a big deal out of this fictitious statement. How could anyone imagine that the Executive or one of its members would not recognise an established fact? For our part, we will not object to an assertion by the Czechoslovak comrades that they intend to struggle in the framework of this state, which is a product of the War and of historical development. But at the same time we do not say that world history has yet spoken the last word on all these territorial questions.
We consider that these questions will be definitively resolved only when soviet governments exist everywhere. The boundaries established by these soviet governments will be definitive. I hope that when Czechoslovakia is a soviet state, its representatives will join with us in taking the offensive in a war to the end against all monarchical and [bourgeois] democratic republics. As early as the First Congress of the Communist International, we stressed that the existing national boundaries are very fluid and provisional and will be rather quickly overtaken by history. That has been the position of the Communist International since the moment it was born, and I hope that the Czech comrades too will approve it. In this regard, the Czech comrades need to constantly stress an internationalist viewpoint. We do not deny the existence of the Czechoslovak bourgeois state. But as internationalists, we must declare that the Czechoslovak comrades need to deal with all national issues, which are quite acute now and will become more so later on, with proletarian policies and from an internationalist point of view. (Applause)
Now as regards the mass party. We certainly need to express appreciation for the fact that the Czechoslovak comrades have come to the Communist International with a party of 350,000 members. The Czechoslovak comrades deserve great credit for this. It is obvious that we have taken a great step forward in Czechoslovakia, handing the Social Democracy a humiliating defeat. That is a great achievement, and we must not overlook it. We are more committed to the concept of a mass party than gentlemen like Levi who are constantly making the case for it. In fact, we note that it is precisely those who really favour sects who always talk more about mass parties than others, like us, whose politics have nothing in common with sectarianism.
We gladly concede that the Czechoslovak party is a genuine proletarian mass party. That is our starting point and the foundation that determines our policies on this question. However, there are mass political parties that are neither socialist, nor communist, nor revolutionary. Unfortunately, such mass parties exist. We know that the Social Democrats in Germany are still quite a substantial mass party. We know that the Labour Party in Britain is a very large mass party. We know that the working class in France is fashioning a large mass party. But is that enough? If there were no Social Democratic mass parties, the entire world would long ago have been swept by revolution. (Applause) We can well imagine that there are mass parties that pay homage to bourgeois or half-bourgeois ideology. But in Czechoslovakia, this is not the case. The Czechoslovak party is certainly not based on bourgeois ideology. But a layer of the masses is still quite susceptible to centrist influences. We must keep this fact in view and reckon with it. We want this to be a mass party in line with the Communist International’s conditions. We have not set Comrades Muna, Zápotocký, and Šmeral on a fixed line of march; on the contrary, we said that they should not proceed too quickly in launching the Communist Party. They should wait for the right moment. But we also told them, if you do found a Communist Party, then it must be a genuine Communist Party. (Loud applause)
As for the Czechoslovak comrades who are continually saying that if we oppose Šmeral that will result in a new Livorno, I must ask what that means? Does it mean that these comrades are forced to admit that the Czechoslovak party is currently centrist? (Loud applause) What was Livorno? I do not wish to pre-empt the discussion of Livorno, and will speak of it only briefly. What we saw in Livorno was a split in a mass party with about 200,000 members. The majority went to the centrists; the minority to the Communists. Our blame in this matter consists solely in the fact that we trusted Serrati too much and too long, that we failed to build a strong opposition against Serrati.
If comrades are saying that the Czechoslovak party will quickly split and only a small minority will remain Communist, what does that mean? It means that they have a large mass party, in which the Communists are still only a minority. If the outlook is really so gloomy, you must have no illusions. I only hope that it is not in fact so gloomy. We know that there is a group in the Czechoslovak party that has perceived all the political and organisational problems very clearly. We have seen the letter that Comrades Muna and Zápotocký wrote from prison. Everyone should study this letter conscientiously; it is a very important document. They explain exactly what we are saying here. It is true, unfortunately, that they do not mention Šmeral by name; I do not know why. But they analyse the situation just as we do. The fact that no one dared protest their letter shows that these comrades have support in the party. At the very least, the Communist International must declare its solidarity with the statements of these comrades in prison.
However, we must go further and quite frankly make all the criticisms of Šmeral that are in order. We do not want to tell the comrades, ‘Make the revolution now.’ Do not think that is our view. We also do not want to say, ‘You must launch your attack tomorrow, or a month from now.’ What we do want to say is that agitation and propaganda must be revolutionary and not centrist in character. When I listened to Comrade Taussig’s speech yesterday, I could only think that these are the words of someone from the Two-and-a-Half International. Among other things, he said – and Comrade Bukharin has already taken this up in detail – ‘We are surrounded by ruined states. Therefore we cannot make a revolution.’ What does that mean? Are we supposed to wait until capitalism has regained its strength, and only then strike out against a capitalist system in full bloom? That is the same theory that Kautsky advances. I also heard an interjection from Comrade Taussig. When a speaker said that the Czechs should not wait for other states, Comrade Taussig called out, ‘Then there must be a strong movement in Poland as well.’ I too believe that a strong movement is needed in Poland. Indeed, this movement exists, despite the white terror. However, is not what Comrade Taussig says exactly the same as what we hear from the Second International? The Second International also says, ‘I am ready to launch the attack, but my neighbour must do so too, at the same moment.’ How do they imagine that this is going to happen? Perhaps they think that one fine day the leaders will come together and adopt an agreement setting down the exact day on which the revolution will break out everywhere. That would be truly ideal. But revolutions cannot be carried out so neatly as to permit us to simply sign agreements with each other and then, one fine day, launch the attack. Launching the attack depends on numerous factors. Going by this theory, we must ask why backward Russia came first in line, rather than the capitalist United States? (Loud applause) We must really have done with these theories of the Second and Two-and-a-Half Internationals. Under no circumstances do we want to propose to any party that they launch the attack on such and such a day. The Executive will never make such a proposal. Obviously, such a question must be weighed a thousand times before a decision is taken.
Something quite different is at stake here. Must we accept that a party convention elects leaders who then simply spit in the face of the International? (Loud applause) There are a thousand delegates here [for the world congress]. Comrades may wish to divide into groups in different rooms and carefully read Šmeral’s speech [at the Czechoslovak CP congress]. I am convinced that every comrade will say that Šmeral’s speech is half-centrist. In this speech we see the same tone, the same method, the same insincerity as with Serrati. And this speech was given at a moment when the party had already declared that it wished to join the International. The party should have protested immediately against Šmeral’s speech. That would have created a much different situation. Now we have to speak against Šmeral’s speech.
The resolution proposed by the Czechoslovaks states two or three times that they accept all of the Twenty-One Points and will implement them. Why all these repeated solemn assurances? Would it not be better to set about, finally, implementing these conditions? What is the point of swearing such an oath, when the party leaders argue in the newspaper against the Twenty-One Conditions? How can they claim to be carrying out the Twenty-One Conditions? Šmeral talks against the Communist International; many of their leaders speak against affiliation and against the Twenty-One Conditions. Šmeral is now even beginning to talk of collaborating with other parties in the country, saying that we are such a large party that we can exert real influence on the present government. Anyone familiar with the history of socialism up to 1921 knows full well the meaning of such words from a man as skilled as Šmeral.
What happened during the December strike? Everyone coming from Czechoslovakia confirms that if there was anyone who was helpless as a baby in the face of these events, it was Šmeral. Everyone confirms this, including the press. Šmeral simply wanted to float around for a few more years in capitalist waters, watching and waiting, and only then taking a stand. That is why we believe, comrades, that we must take a clear and explicit position. As to whether we should admit the party, we must say yes. What should be done with Šmeral? We do not call for him to be expelled or immediately removed from his posts, but we do wish to assert our right to say what we have to say to tell Czechoslovak workers, and warn them against, such speeches and actions. We must not forget that Šmeral’s three-hour-long speech was not off the cuff. It was worked out in advance, and every word was carefully chosen.
We call on the Czechoslovak working class to develop further and not slip backwards. The Czechoslovak comrades tell us that the bourgeois press will greet our resolution with a shout of joy. I am not sure that this joy would be justified. We know that the bourgeois press will attempt to utilise this unedifying polemic for its own purposes. Once again it will chatter idiotically about Moscow’s diktat and the Hungarian comrades. I am well aware that even party members are susceptible to such insinuations and ideology. But to concern ourselves with such stupid prattle is not true internationalism. It will not have the slightest influence on our decisions.
We have to speak honestly to the Czechoslovak workers. We have nothing against Šmeral as a person. He came here a year ago and bared his soul to us, saying, ‘I was a social patriot and now I am here.’ We did not place a single obstacle in his path. We gave him a fraternal welcome, and for a whole year we have supported him in every way possible. Even today, we have no reason for personal hostility to him. He is without doubt a person who wishes to serve the proletarian class selflessly. But we must note his political errors. Comrade Kreibich was right to remind us that when we discussed Šmeral’s conduct with him a year ago, we were in favour of taking action against Šmeral. Kreibich argued persuasively against this, saying that it was only a matter of minor differences of opinion regarding Šmeral’s policies. However, recent events have convinced Comrade Kreibich otherwise.
We ask the Czech comrades to set aside all national considerations in this matter. I am well aware that we are all human, fostered on bourgeois ideology, who absorbed national sensitivities with our mother’s milk. But what is at stake here is not a national question, not a German or Czech question; it’s a matter of consistent communism as against vacillating half-communism. Why is Šmeral now raising the question of superstructure and federalisation? How can we conceive of the Communist International in any way other than as a unified party in each country? How can that issue still be an object of debate in a Communist Party? It is simply necessary to establish a commission to carry through with centralisation rather than putting it off. For these reasons, comrades, we must tell the delegation of the Czechoslovak party plainly what we think about the situation in their party. It is no accident that the delegates of the Bulgarian, Italian, German, Russian, and Polish party have said this too. We are following the situation very closely indeed. We are compelled to do this by the attempt that has been made to create a crisis in the Communist International. This is positive. I am convinced that there will not be another Livorno. I am confident that when the majority hears what the Communist International has said, not only the majority, but also those who have friendly relations with Šmeral, will say that although Šmeral is our friend, the Communist International is a greater friend. I am convinced that a large majority of workers in Czechoslovakia will accept our decisions, and I hope this will be true of most comrades in other countries. Let Šmeral think what he wants. In submitting our resolution to the Executive, we are confident and fully convinced that it will greatly assist the development of a genuine Communist Party, a genuine party of struggle, inside the Czechoslovak working class. (Loud, prolonged applause and cheers) Comrades, I ask you to adopt the resolution that Comrade Karl Radek will distribute on behalf of the Small Bureau of the Executive.
I want to say a few things about the Scandinavian parties. In Sweden and Norway we have quite different parties. In Sweden, there has been some progress from a half-pacifist party to a genuine Communist one, but this evolution is not yet completed. In Norway there is a mass party that must still be freed from certain centrist influences.
In the Swedish party, much must still be accomplished organisationally. For example, in Clause 2 of this party’s statutes I read:
The parliamentary fraction and other party members who receive any kind of official governmental task must receive the approval of the Central Committee and, in important matters, the party council, before accepting such tasks.
I must say that I simply do not understand this. Nor do I understand Clause 3, which states:
The activity of the parliamentary fraction must fully conform to the party programme and party convention decisions. During the interval from one convention to the next, the parliamentary fraction is obligated to carry out proposals and adopt the viewpoints expressed by the party council or the Central Committee.
What tasks would a bourgeois government give to Communist deputies? I do not get that at all. The same applies to the discipline applied to the parliamentary fraction. They say that the fraction is subordinate to the general line of the party congress, and, between congresses, Central Committee decisions are binding. That has a far too innocent ring.
There is also something less than full clarity in Sweden on the question of arming the proletariat. Branting says, ‘My Communists are good; they are good people’. But I know very well that our opponent says such things with a purpose, and I do not take it seriously. We must judge matters more objectively than Branting, who has been harmed in many ways by our Communists. Nonetheless, we must note that the party newspaper, Politiken, is not yet a fighting, inspiring proletarian paper. The paper has failed to take a completely clear position on issues that are crucial for the Communist International.
As for the Norwegian party, we have reached a degree of agreement on collective tasks. We have made certain concessions to this party. Nonetheless, we consider that this state of affairs cannot be more than transitory, and that this party too must be organised on the same basis as has been done in the other parties.
Comrades, during the past year we have not only carried out splits but also worked for unifications, namely in Britain and America.
In Britain, at the time of the Second Congress, we had eight small currents, more or less Communist, which were fighting with one another. Now we have a single, unified party. That is the result, to a considerable extent, of pressure from the Executive.
The same is true in the United States. We said that we would not admit any of the factions in the United States until they unified. We must advise our American friends not only to learn to work in the framework of an underground party but also to organise – in the teeth of the white terror – a movement that is legal or semi-legal and can work parallel with the party to win broader layers of the working class.
For the American and British parties, it is a matter of life and death to stop being sects. The soil in Britain and the United States has been very well prepared, and our party must be able to sow the seed. In our opinion, the main slogan for these two parties must be: Closer ties with the masses; more legality. (Loud applause)
As for other countries, I note that in Denmark there has been a split among the syndicalists, and that some of them have joined the Communist International.
In Austria too, the left wing of the Social Democratic Party split away and joined the Communist Party.
The situation is similar in Belgium, where the Jacquemotte group broke away. The Belgian [Workers] Party press was very upset over that split, but our Communist comrades do not consider it to be an important development. I believe they are mistaken. We consider the split to be quite significant. And in my opinion, the International has an interest in unifying this group with our Belgian sister party as rapidly as possible.
A similar development took place in Switzerland, where the left broke away from the Social Democratic Party and joined the Communists, who expelled Nobs in the process. During the debate with us, Nobs made reference to a letter from Clara Zetkin. I believe we should keep this experience in mind and not be so quick to write letters to such people. I too have written a letter to Nobs, and he has printed it, but only as evidence of my bad manners. (Laughter) But Nobs tried to use Comrade Zetkin’s letter against the Communist International. That is a bad business.
The movement in Switzerland is making good progress. Our comrades in French Switzerland have enjoyed good success, and the influence of the Social Democratic Party is diminishing day by day. Grimm, the celebrated leader of Swiss Social Democrats, has turned into a mere agent of the bourgeoisie.
In Spain we see a similar evolution toward unification of the Communist groups. Something quite interesting took place there. A delegation from the old [Spanish Socialist Workers] party came here. One delegate, a worker, was a Communist; the other, a professor, was a reformist. This professor was naïve. He told us frankly: ‘I do not want to join the Communist International, but the Spanish workers who sent us do want to join, and I have to do their bidding.’ (Laughter)
We get many visits of this sort. A certain Mr. Flueras, a former government minister, came to us from Romania. He was quite surprised when Comrade Bukharin told him, with his characteristic courtesy, ‘Mr. Flueras, given that you are a bourgeois minister, and that in our opinion you ought to remain so, we ask you to please leave the room.’ (Laughter) He was appalled by our lack of international hospitality. We had quite a few rather peculiar visits of this type during the last six months.
In Romania the split has now taken place, and we can report to the congress that our Comrade Cristescu, and others who previously were often termed centrists, have loyally carried out their responsibilities. As supporters of the Communist International, they have all been sent to prison. We have too little information about the situation in Romania, but we must say that so far the negotiations are producing good results.
Our Yugoslav party is now underground. It was a large party with about eighty thousand members. The centrists have been so contemptible as to publish a legal newspaper in which they utilise their monopoly of legality to attack our Communist comrades. This centrist wing has been expelled and is now back in the Two-and-a-Half International. I cannot say whether centrist remnants remain in the party, of course, because I have no close knowledge of the underground party’s composition. We hope that this is not the case. But if such centrist forces exist, we ask the Yugoslav delegation – which has come here in good number – to take up the struggle against them immediately in the name of the old Executive Committee.
Reformist socialism is a poison with a special purpose. Comrade Barbusse wrote a brilliant article about reformist socialism, which I showed to Comrade Gorky, saying: Barbusse understands very well what you do not yet understand. Barbusse says, reformist socialism is a poison designed specifically for the proletariat. Even a few drops of this poison in our body can cause it to break out in gangrene, just when it is locked in a most difficult struggle. We must keep our attention fixed on this poison and always have the antidote at the ready, in no small quantities.
Our Bulgarian party is one of the few that – like the Czechoslovak party – seems to enjoy the support of almost the majority of the working class. The most recent reports indicate that this party as well may possibly be driven underground and may suffer greatly from the white terror. We do not know if these reports are correct.
The party has been charged with a failure, on occasion, to launch a mass struggle at the decisive moment. Investigation has shown that this is not correct. We have been following the party’s history since 1913. It has experienced a considerable number of splits. We believe that, despite some weaknesses, we have a good, strong Communist Party in Bulgaria. When this party makes the transition from preliminary propaganda to action, it will show what it has been preparing for during twenty or twenty-five years. We cherish the hope that in the decisive hour, our party will not disappoint the Communist International in any way.
Let me speak briefly of the Finnish party. It belongs to the Communist International as an underground party. But despite the white terror, the entire underground Finnish workers’ movement is Communist, heart and soul. From what we hear, this underground movement has twice as many members as the old Social Democratic one, which has been absolutely demolished. When we meet ordinary Finnish workers, they always tell us, ‘In Finland, communism is no longer a question of agitation but of weapons, of technical preparations.’ (Loud applause)
Comrades, if I failed to mention one or another party, that was not because there was nothing to say, but because I have to end at some point.
Now let’s take up our important contingents in the Near and Far East. The propaganda council established by the Baku Congress is active in the Near East. There is much organisational work still to be done there. In the Far East the situation is similar.
It is absolutely necessary to develop closer ties with Japan, where we must establish a firm foothold. The situation in this country is roughly similar to that in Russia in 1905. A powerful revolutionary mass movement is developing there. You should see the materials being published there. The first and second volumes of Capital have been translated into Japanese and have already been printed. Many trade unions have been formed there spontaneously by workers acting alone, without leaders. These unions have great sympathy with the Communist International, but, unfortunately, our communications with Japan are very poor.
Given that we wish to be a global International, the Executive has the duty of devoting more attention and resources to the women’s and youth Internationals. (Applause)
The women’s conference has taken place, and we have followed its work. We founded an international women’s publication, Die Fraueninternationale. We believe that the work among women must be promoted by every means. It is indisputable that without the women, the proletariat will never triumph. We must have the women; without them the proletarian republic in Russia could never have survived. (Loud applause)
The Youth International is even more important. It will be holding a world congress here. We have done everything possible during the past year to support the youth International. Comrade Trotsky is entirely right to say in this regard that the Youth means even more for us today than we previously thought, because the working class has been so exhausted by the War. We must devote a hundred times more work to the youth and support them a hundred times better than before. This is one of the most important questions. We therefore hope that this congress will reinforce the youth movement, and we will support the world youth congress in every way possible.
Some persons have tried to foment conflicts between the youth and the Executive. They tried to stir up the youth against the Executive through articles in Levi’s Sowjet. But this will never succeed. In my opinion, the political leadership of the youth must be located in the same place as that of the International as a whole. If we have two parallel leadership bodies in different countries, the directives of these bodies will sometimes unintentionally be at cross purposes and in contradiction to each other. This is twice as dangerous in the youth movement. Therefore, I believe that we should overcome all the organisational difficulties in order to have a common political leadership – today in Russia, tomorrow in Germany or France, depending on how the world revolution evolves. But no matter what happens, we must support the youth everywhere much more generously than in the past. The youth have carried out outstanding work; they have always been in the lead in Czechoslovakia, France, and other countries where a struggle against social patriots and centrists is required. The task is very great, and much more work must be carried out in this field than before. We must support the youth movement with all our energy. (Loud applause)
Implementing an initiative of our Executive, the Second Congress formed the red trade-union International. At the time, this was an entirely new task, but now we have achieved a great deal. Comrade Lozovsky drew up a table showing that more than fifteen million organised workers now belong to our trade-union International. We started by publishing a manifesto opposing the Amsterdam International, and we will take a new and important step forward at this congress. In my opinion, we all understand the importance of this trade-union congress very well, because we must carry through the battle against the Amsterdam International – the bourgeoisie’s last bulwark – to the finish. That is why trade unions now stand as the most important issue before us, to which the congress must pay the closest attention. After the congress, this question must be given top priority in every sister party.
That is the report, in rough outline, on the work carried out by the Executive during the past year. What should be done next? What line of action should we continue to carry out? I believe that the line of the Second Congress was, by and large, correct. During the congress, there were leftist deviations by the British and American comrades. We must overcome this; we need a consistent line. The struggle against the Right, however, is far from over. Indeed, it has not yet begun, if we consider that Amsterdam still represents a trade-union International with twenty million workers. The struggle against the Right is the main issue. The struggle against the trade unions and against the centrists is a policy question. Only the fact that we had set down sound policies enabled us to achieve these gains in different countries. Our tactics and strategy were correct, and this course will bring us victory. In countries where, in the third year of our struggle, we do not yet have a majority, the main slogan is to make sure that we attain the majority and reach the masses.
So far, we have almost never had an international action plan. I heard many comrades ask, ‘Well, what does international strategy mean exactly? Carry out obstruction in parliament? Organise international demonstrations and strikes on specific days?’ Yes, comrades, that is part of it, and I must say that we have not done even that. We have not organised a single international demonstration. We must recognise these weaknesses and frankly acknowledge them.
We must make that good by organising international actions during the coming year. We must hold international demonstrations, act internationally in parliaments – and this will happen even in France. We must start with such small efforts. We have not yet been able to open up a breach in one country in order to support and deepen the struggle in a second country. We were too weak; our foundations were too weak. Our present task is to make up for that.
Now I will say a few words about centralism. An attempt has been made to claim that we impose a dreadful pressure, a dreadful centralism. The opposite is true. Our organisation has been far too loose. We are well aware that many important questions are of such a nature that they must be resolved by the parties directly concerned, in the framework of national conditions. We have thoughtlessly proposed slogans to resolve on an international level issues that are inherently capable of resolution only on a national level.
However, there are issues where international guidelines must be established. We must have a much more centralised organisation, and we must build connections that are much tighter and more effective than has previously been the case. There has been a great deal of stupid uproar about decrees from Moscow. In reality, however, the only reproach that can be held against us is that we were not centralised enough; our forces were insufficiently unified. (‘Very true!’) The bourgeoisie is much better organised than us. We must emulate it; we must grasp the need to build a united international party.
Comrades, do not be shy in passing judgement. We ourselves recognise the errors. You must assign the best forces from every country to the next Executive. You must not choose on the basis that so-and-so is not needed at home; he can be sent to Moscow. We will commit twenty times more blunders if we do not have a leading comrade from the country in question on whom we can rely. It must be understood that having an Executive is not a luxury. Do not say that everything is already set up – the party, the trade unions, the organisations – why do we also need an Executive? It’s not like that at all. The work of the Executive must be taken seriously!
If you want a competent International, a competent Executive, a genuine international proletariat, you must contribute your best forces. We are reproached for our errors; it is said that communication is too weak. But let me turn that around, comrades, and ask the parties what you have done to organise all this? Almost nothing. Your criticism is welcome, but we also demand self-criticism. We need the best forces for the Executive – numerous forces, backed up with sufficient technical staff – and this requires major sacrifices by all parties. If you give us that, then we will have an Executive during the coming year that can rightly be termed a general staff of the proletarian revolution.
Previously, for us to use this term glossed over reality; we had not earned it. We lagged somewhat behind the parties, but by and large we did not deviate from the Second Congress line, applying it in specific conditions. In the coming year this must be done better; we must construct a genuine international Executive. When the Executive is built in this fashion; when our policies have been tested once again; when we have withstood the ordeal of fire; when we have seen the main elements of our tactics and strategy confirmed in the struggle to win the masses – only then will the genuine international work of the Executive and the Communist International begin. At that point the Executive will genuinely be the highest authority between congresses. Its word will be law. There will be no inviolable parties or inviolable programmes any more, but rather iron discipline, international proletarian discipline in struggle against the bourgeoisie. (Loud, prolonged applause)
14. Established to exercise day-to-day leadership of the Comintern’s work, the ECCI’s Small Bureau (Engeres Büro) was elected following the Second Congress. It consisted of Grigorii Zinoviev as chair, with Ernst Meyer, Nikolai Bukharin, Endre Rudnyánszky, and M.V. Kobetsky. Added to it shortly after were Béla Kun, Alfred Rosmer, Wilhelm Koenen, and Karl Radek. In September 1921, following the Third Congress, the body was renamed the ECCI Presidium.
15. The debate on the labour party took place during sessions 2 and 16 of the Second Congress; see Riddell (ed.) 1991, Workers of the World and Oppressed Peoples, Unite! Proceedings and Documents of the Second Congress (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1991), vol. 1, pp.141–78 and 733–44. The debate on trade unions and factory committees was held in sessions 11 and 12 (pp. 589-634).
16. The debate at the Second Congress was over participation by Communists in bourgeois elections and parliaments, and the policies to promote this activity. The topic was discussed in sessions 9 and 10 of the congress; see ibid., pp. 421–79. The resolution approved, ‘Theses on the Communist Parties and Parliamentarism’, appears on pp.470–9.
17. In March 1920 the centrist-led Socialist Party of America, which had expelled the Communist majority several months earlier, formally applied for admission to the Comintern. The delegation referred to may be M.A. Schwartz and Jessie Molle, leading members of the SP from California who were in Russia during the summer of 1920.
18. The USPD was not part of a national governmental coalition during the Third Congress. It did join with the SPD in certain state governments.
19. The ‘Theses on the Conditions for Admission’ approved by the Second Congress – referred to commonly as the Twenty-One Conditions or the Twenty-One Points – can be found in Workers of the World and Oppressed Peoples, Unite!, vol. 2, pp. 765–71.
20. At the time of the USPD’s Halle Congress in 1920, the KPD (referred to here as the Spartacus League) had some 80,000 members, while the USPD numbered around 800,000.
21. Following the formation of the Communist Party of Great Britain in August 1920 the party immediately sought affiliation to the Labour Party. This was rejected by the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee on the grounds that the CP’s stance was inconsistent with Labour’s goal of ‘the achievement of the political, social and economic emancipation of the people by means of Parliamentary Democracy’. Many CP members joined as individuals.
22. An abridged German-language edition of the Second Congress proceedings, Comintern 1920, Der Zweite Kongress der Kommunistischen Internationale, was published shortly after the congress in July–August 1920. A more complete edition under the same title appeared the following year.
23. Le parti socialiste italien et l’Internationale: recueil de documents.
24. The PSI delegation to the Third Congress, consisting of Costantino Lazzari, Fabrizio Maffi, and Ezio Riboldi, arrived in time for the seventh session two days later.
25. The article by Serrati that Zinoviev quotes from, ‘Il secondo congresso della Terza Internazionale: Alcune osservazioni preliminari’, was published in issue 24 of the PSI publication Comunismo, not in Avanti. A comparison with the printed Russian translation of Serrati’s article shows Zinoviev’s quotations to be accurate although somewhat abridged.
26. The reference is to the biblical story of the Apostle Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus.
27. Serrati’s motion stated: ‘Parties belonging to the Communist International are urged to expel from their ranks members of the Freemasons, which is a petty-bourgeois organisation.’ Workers of the World and Oppressed Peoples Unite, vol. 1991, vol. 1, p. 308.
The Comintern’s Fourth Congress in 1922 was to adopt a resolution barring Freemasons from membership in Communist parties. See ‘Political Resolution on the French Question,’ in Riddell (ed.) Toward the United Front: Proceedings of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International (Historical Materialism Book Series, 2012), pp./nbsp;1128–30.
28. The reformist wing of the Italian Socialist Party, the Socialist Concentration faction, held a conference in Reggio Emilia, Italy, on 10–11 October 1920.
29. The resolution proposed by Socialist Concentration leaders Gino Baldesi and D’Aragona concerning the PSI’s ties to the Comintern (‘La concentrazione socialista in cerca di un programma’) was published in Avanti, 12 October 1920.
30. Lenin’s article was published in the 10 December 1920 issue of Avanti under the title ‘La lotta delle tendenze del Partito Socialista Italiano’. It appeared originally in Pravda, 7 November 1920, and can be found as part of ‘On the Struggle of the Italian Socialist Party’ in Lenin, Collected Works, vol. 31, pp. 377–91.
Serrati’s reply appeared in Avanti, 11 December 1920, under the title ‘Risposta di un comunista unitaro al compagno Lenin’.
31. ‘Il dovere dell’ora presente’, in Avanti, 24 October 1920.
32. Beginning at the end of August and continuing through the end of September, over half a million workers, led by the metalworkers, seized factories throughout Italy, creating a revolutionary situation in the country. Workers began to organise production under the leadership of factory councils, and in many places workers organised Red Guards to defend the seized factories. The strikes spread to the railways and other workplaces, and many poor peasants and agricultural workers carried out land seizures. The Italian Socialist Party and the trade-union federation refused to see the movement as anything more than a union struggle, however, and the movement eventually foundered.
33. The Italian Socialist Party’s Livorno Congress took place 15–21 January 1921. A left current, which received 58,783 votes, demanded immediate application of the Comintern’s Twenty-One Conditions for membership. The majority current led by Serrati, which received 98,028 votes, insisted on the need to apply the conditions flexibly. The Right led by Turati received 14,695. Representatives of the ECCI demanded that the party immediately apply the Twenty-One Conditions fully, particularly with regard to expulsion of the anti-Communist Right, on pain of exclusion from the Communist International. After the vote, the Left walked out and organised the Communist Party of Italy.
34. Lev Kamenev, who was heading a Soviet delegation to Britain, was ordered to leave the country on 10 September 1920 on charges of having used the sale of Russian crown jewels to give £72,000 to the Daily Herald, a Labour Party newspaper.
35. Serrati’s article, ‘Di alcuni altre nostre raggioni’ was published in Avanti 1 January 1921. The term ‘sacred union’ (l’union sacrée) is a reference to the class-collaborationist policy of the majority of the French SP and CGT during the War.
36. From ‘Di alcuni altre nostre raggioni’, Avanti, 1 January 1921.
37. ‘Turkestaner’ was a term used mockingly by Paul Levi in his pamphlet Unser Weg to refer to Béla Kun, one of the ECCI’s envoys to Germany during the March Action. Later in the congress, Karl Radek uses the term ironically as a synonym for ECCI emissary.
The origin of the term is unclear. According to some accounts, based on Victor Serge’s Memoirs of a Revolutionary (New York Review Books, 2012), p. 164), it refers to Lenin’s exile of Kun to Turkestan as punishment for atrocities committed by Kun during the Soviet conquest of Crimea in 1920. This explanation is effectively refuted by György Borsányi. Anti-Soviet exiles and the capitalist press did claim Kun to be responsible for reprisals in Crimea, but without convincing evidence. They habitually blamed ‘foreigners and Jews’ for alleged Soviet misdeeds, and Kun was the most prominent potential target, Borsányi notes. (Borsányi The Life of a Communist Revolutionary, Béla Kun [New York: Columbia University Press, 1993].
Jean-François Fayet, who drew on the Serge account in his biography of Radek, now believes the epithet ‘Turkestani’ was current in Comintern parties before the March Action, as does David Fernbach (communications to the editor; compare Fayet 2004, p. 368 and Fernbach (ed.) 2011, p. 18). Fayet recently wrote that ‘[i]n several parties, acerbic comments were [then] increasingly to be heard regarding “Turkestanis” or “Moscow’s leather boots”; shadowy figures allegedly conspiring behind the backs of national party leaderships in the executive’s name. (Fayet, ‘Paul Levi and the Turning Point of 1921’ in Bolshevism, Stalinism, and the Comintern, 2008, p. 113)
According to Stefan Weber, Levi, in using the epithet, based himself on Kun’s dark complexion. In Ein kommunistischer Putsch? Märzaktion 1921 in Mitteldeutschland, Berlin: Dietz Verlag, 1991), p. 72.
38. The quote is from an abbreviated account of remarks by Serrati at the Livorno Congress, published in the 22 January 1921 issue of Avanti.
39. Fifty thousand lire were given by the Amsterdam International to the CGL under the guise of helping its struggle against Fascist reaction.
In July 1921 one lira exchanged for approximately US$0.05.
40. ‘Solidarietà internazionale’ (unsigned), in Avanti, 11 May 1921.
41. The expression is from Gottfried August Bürger’s ballad, Lenore.
42. Curt Geyer’s article, ‘Über den italienischen Wahlkampf’, was published in Sowjet, 3 (1 June 1921).
43. The German elections of 19 January 1919 – the first held after the fall of the Hohenzollern monarchy – took place four days after the murders of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht. The SPD received 37.9 percent of the vote, almost double the total of any other party.
44. Cesare Alessandri, ‘Lettre d’Italie. Le Parti socialiste ne change pas sa politique’, in Le Populaire de Paris, 4 June 1921.
45. An apparent reference to the November 1920 elections to the Italian Chamber of Deputies.
46. A member of the left wing of Serrati’s Unitary Communist current, Adelchi Baratono had taken a more critical stance toward the reformist Turati wing. At the Livorno Congress, he advocated a more conciliatory approach toward the Comintern and the Communist Faction.
47. At the Halle Congress of the USPD (‘Independents’), held October 12 – 17, 1920, a majority of the delegates voted to accept the Twenty-One Conditions and join the Comintern, against strenuous opposition from a right-wing minority. The left wing subsequently fused with the KPD; the right wing split off and kept the name USPD. Zinoviev gave the main speech in support of Comintern affiliation.
48. Right-wing political assassinations were becoming more frequent in Germany at the time. During the summer of 1921, prominent victims included politicians Karl Gareis (USPD) and Matthias Erzberger (Centre Party).
49. Zinoviev is referring to opinions he and Radek expressed to Paul Levi at the Second World Congress in July–August 1920, particularly with regard to Levi’s criticism of Communists’ assumption of governmental power in Hungary in 1919.
50. At a meeting of the KPD Central Committee on 22 February 1921, Paul Levi, Ernst Däumig, Clara Zetkin, Otto Brass, and Adolf Hoffman announced their resignation from the Zentrale, following the CC’s repudiation, by a vote of 28 to 23, of Levi’s stance on the Livorno Congress.
A March 1921 ECCI resolution condemning these resignations was published in Kommunistische Internationale, 17.
51. Clara Zetkin lived in Stuttgart.
52. A reference to the 6 April 1921 ECCI proclamation, ‘An das revolutionäre Proletariat Deutschlands’, published in Die Kommunistische Internationale, 17, pp. 413–15.
53. The ‘theory of the offensive’ was advanced by majority leaders in the KPD after the 1921 March Action to justify their policies in launching the action and their proposal that such policies continue. The theory called on Communists to radicalise their slogans and initiate minority actions that could sweep the hesitant workers into action.
54. War die Märzaktion ein Putsch?
55. A reference to Terracini’s 20 June 1921 report to the expanded ECCI meeting held prior to the Third Congress. The text can be found in Comintern archives, RGASPI 495/1/39/3-46.
56. A reference to Paul Levi’s characterisation, presented in his pamphlet, Unser Weg: Wider den Putschismus. Published in English as ‘Our Path: Against Putschism’, in Fernbach (ed.) In the Steps of Rosa Luxemburg: Selected Writings of Paul Levi, (Historical Materialism Book Series, 2011), pp. 119–65.
57. The KAPD had two representatives in Moscow for the Second Congress, Otto Rühle and August Merges, but they declared the congress theses to be opportunist and declined to attend. Rühle was expelled from the KAPD in late October 1920 and helped found a German syndicalist union.
58. The KAPD was admitted to the Communist International by the ECCI as a sympathising section on 28 November 1920. The KPD leadership strongly and publicly opposed this decision. Speaking about this decision on the eve of the Third Congress, Lenin stated, ‘I clearly see my mistake in voting for the admission of the KAPD’.
59. Trotsky’s 24 November 1920 speech to the ECCI in response to Gorter was published in Die Kommunistische Internationale, 17 (1921), pp. 186–202. An English translation can be found in Trotsky, First Five Years of the Communist International (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1972), vol. 1, pp. 137–52.
60. The ‘Dutch school’ refers to a leftist current in the international Communist movement led by Anton Pannekoek and Hermann Gorter. Allied with the Bolsheviks in the Zimmerwald Left during 1915–19, these Dutch Marxists led an ultraleft opposition in the early Comintern and quit the International with the KAPD after the Third Congress.
61. ‘Die Holländische Marxistische Schule’, in Proletarier, 4 (1921).
62. The quote is from Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, referring to Faust in the company of the devil.
63. Soviet soldiers and sailors in the Kronstadt fortress, on an island close to Petrograd, mutinied on 2 March 1921, at a moment of grave economic crisis and widespread discontent in Soviet Russia. The revolt was forcibly suppressed by 18 March. Bolshevik opponents such as Mensheviks, Socialist-Revolutionaries, and anarchists pointed to the fate of the Kronstadt rebellion to bolster their opposition to the Soviet regime, as did openly counterrevolutionary and imperialist forces.
64. The KPD Zentrale expelled Levi on 15 April 1921, a decision upheld by the ECCI on 29 April. The ECCI statement can be found in Degras (ed.), The Communist International 1919–1943 Documents, vol. 1, (New York: Frank Cass, 1971), pp. 218–20.
65. According to the ECCI minutes, Zinoviev’s speech on the French question was given on 17 June, not 12 June. See Comintern archives, RGASPI 495/1/38/57.
66. Marcel Cachin and Louis-Oscar Frossard were in Moscow during June and July 1920. While there, they attended the Comintern’s Second Congress as representatives of the French SP, but without decision-making authority. At the congress they declared themselves in favour of the Comintern’s Twenty-One Conditions for Admission.
67. During his stay in Germany to attend the October 1920 Halle Congress of the USPD, Zinoviev met with Daniel Renoult, a leader of the pro-Communist forces in the French Socialist Party. They agreed that if Jean Longuet’s supporters submitted to the majority, they would be permitted to remain in the party and would receive one-third of the places on the party’s leadership bodies.
68. The Tours Congress of the French SP (25–30 December 1920) voted by a 75 percent majority to accept the Twenty-One Conditions and affiliate to the Comintern, giving birth to the CP of France. The minority (‘Dissidents’) split away, preserving the SP’s name.
The ECCI’s telegram to the Tours Congress stated: ‘The resolution signed by Longuet and Faure shows that Longuet and his group have no desire to be exceptions in the reformist camp. They were and are outright conductors of bourgeois influence into the proletariat. Their resolution is unmistakable, not only on the points it deals with, but even more on those about which its authors keep silent. On the world revolution, the proletarian dictatorship, the Soviet system, Longuet and his friends prefer to say nothing, or to utter the most banal ambiguities. The Communist International can have nothing in common with the authors of such a resolution.’ Published in Die Kommunistische Internationale, 16 (1921), pp. 451–2. Translated in Degras (ed.) 1971, 1, pp. 207–8.
69. A reference to the French CP’s Administrative Congress held 15–17 May 1921.
70. According to the ECCI minutes, Zinoviev’s speech on the Czechoslovak question was actually given on 14 June. See Comintern archives, RGASPI 495/1/36/150-7.
71. At the 14–16 May 1921 congress of the Czechoslovak Left Social Democratic Party that founded the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, the main report was given by Šmeral. In his report Šmeral contended that conditions were not ripe for revolution and that there was no prospect for immediate revolutionary action, an implicit criticism of ECCI policy. He called for avoiding putschist adventures and drawing the broad masses into struggle. He also advocated tolerating diverse views within the party, provided that members maintain discipline; he cautioned against rapid unity with the German-Czech party.
72. Šmeral did arrive in Moscow on 29 June to attend the Third Congress.
73. The themes of national boundaries and antagonisms were taken up at the First Congress in the ‘Theses on the International Situation and the Policy of the Entente’ and the ‘Manifesto of the Communist International to the Proletariat of the Entire World.’ See Riddell (ed.), Founding the Communist International: Proceedings and Documents of the First Congress (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1987), pp. 211–19 and 222–32.
74. The letter referred to was read out to the founding congress of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia on 14 May 1921. It was signed by A. Zápotocký, A. Muna, B. Hula, B. Stadnik, and M. Micoh, all prominent Czechoslovak Communists who were in prison at the time. It assailed the ‘deviational and vacillating tone of several of our newspapers and a lack of clarity in the central leadership’ and called on the congress to elect ‘firm and resolute communists’ to the leadership.
75. Taussig’s remarks to the ECCI meeting of 13 June 1921 can be found in Comintern archives, RGASPI/495/1/36/135-38.
76. On 9 December 1920 the government of Czechoslovakia seized the People’s House in Prague, headquarters of the Left Socialist (future Communist) Party and its newspaper, Rudé právo. A general strike was called in response, observed by one million industrial and agricultural workers, which called for the resignation of the government and issued a series of revolutionary demands. In a number of places workers’ councils were set up, as industrial workers seized factories and agricultural workers occupied large estates. The government responded by declaring a state of emergency, and workers were fired upon in several centres. After a week the strike was broken.
77. A reference to the original draft of the theses on the tactics of the Communist International submitted by Radek, which openly attacked Šmeral as follows: ‘Seeing that the Communist International wishes to create only truly revolutionary mass parties, they are making a big noise about the Comintern falling into sectarianism. This is what the Levi group in Germany, the Šmeral group in Czechoslovakia, etc., are doing. The nature of these groups is quite clear. They are Centrist groups; who cloak the policy of passive waiting for the revolution with Communist phrases and theories. The Šmeral group put off the organisation of a Communist Party in Czechoslovakia at a time when the majority of the Czechoslovak workers had taken a Communist stand.’ LCW, 42, pp. 570–77. On Lenin’s proposal, this paragraph was deleted.
78. Hungarian CP leaders in exile were among the most prominent ECCI envoys during this period and had been active in discussions with Czechoslovak Comintern supporters.
79. A reference to the structure of the Czechoslovak Communist movement, which was still divided into separate national units. A congress uniting all national Communist parties within Czechoslovakia into a single organisation was held 30 October–4 November 1921.
80. A reference to the statutes adopted by the May 1917 founding congress of the Left Social Democratic Party of Sweden, which came out of a split in the Swedish Social Democratic Party. The new party decided to join the Comintern in June 1919, and its May 1921 congress voted to adopt the Comintern’s Twenty-One Conditions by a vote of 173 to 34, changing its name to Communist Party.
81. In 1918 the left wing won the majority of the old social-democratic party, the Norwegian Labour Party, and the organisation affiliated to the Comintern in 1919. However, the party retained its previous organisational norms, particularly regarding inclusion of membership through affiliated trade unions alongside individual membership. The majority of the party left the Comintern in 1923.
82. On 31 July–1 August 1920 a Communist Unity Convention in London united the British Socialist Party, 22 Communist Unity groups, and more than 20 other small groups. A second convention in Leeds 29–30 January 1921 completed the unification process, bringing in the Workers’ Socialist Federation, Communist Labour Party, and other organisations. Pro-Communist forces in the Independent Labour Party joined in April.
83. In 1919 the US Communist movement, divided between the Communist Party of America and Communist Labor Party, was driven underground by a wave of government repression. The Communist forces reunified through fusions in May 1920 and 1921. By late 1921, following easing of the ‘Red scare’ and unification of the movement, the majority of the US leadership took steps to found a legal organisation – the Workers Party of America – existing alongside of and controlled by the underground party. This plan was approved by the ECCI in November 1921, and the party was founded in December.
84. A reference to the syndicalist Union of Oppositional Trade Unions (Fagoppositionens Sammenslutning – FS). In early 1921 the majority of the FS decided to formally ally with the Communist Party of Denmark, leading to the creation of the Communist Federation.
85. A reference to the group led by Josef Frey, who had been expelled from the Social Democratic Party in late 1920. He and his supporters joined the Communist Party in January 1921.
86. Joseph Jacquemotte led an organised left wing within the social-democratic Belgian Workers Party, known as the Friends of the Exploited. Expelled from the Belgian Workers Party, this group decided to found a Communist Party in May 1921. In September 1921 Jacquemotte’s group fused with the already existing Communist organisation in the country to found the Communist Party of Belgium.
87. At the 10 – 12 December 1920 congress of the Swiss Social Democratic Party in Bern, right-wing and centrist forces defeated a left-wing motion to join the Comintern by a vote of 350 to 213, after which the Left walked out. In the process of the split, the Left broke with centrist forces in the party led by Ernst Nobs. The Communist Party of Switzerland was founded 5–6 March 1921 by a fusion of this Left with members of the Swiss Communist Party (Old Communists) formed in 1918.
88. The two Communist groups, both represented at the Third World Congress, were the Spanish Communist Party (PCE) and the Communist Workers Party (PCO). The two groups fused in November 1921.
89. The reference is to Fernando de los Rios.
90. The Romanian Socialist Party’s congress of 8–12 May 1921 voted to join the Comintern and change the party’s name to Communist Party of Romania. Before the congress concluded, however, the police surrounded the building and arrested the delegates.
91. Henri Barbusse’s article, ‘Die Pflicht des Sozialisten’, was published in Die Kommunistische Internationale, 15. It appeared originally in L’Humanité, 24 October 1920.
92. The First Congress of the Peoples of the East held in Baku in September 1920 established a Council for Propaganda and Action, which was to work under the aegis of the ECCI. It lasted until early 1922, when its responsibilities were transferred to the Comintern centre in Moscow.
93. Zinoviev is referring to the Second International Conference of Communist Women, held in Moscow 9–15 June 1921, on the eve of the Third Congress.
In August 1920 the ECCI had established the International Communist Women’s Secretariat as a section of the Comintern, with Clara Zetkin as its secretary. This secretariat was sometimes referred to as the Communist Women’s Movement. The Communist Women’s Secretariat published a journal, Die Kommunistische Fraueninternationale (‘Communist Women’s International’) from 1921 to 1925 and coordinated the work of women’s committees and bureaus in each Communist Party. The secretariat was dissolved in 1926.
94. The Moscow session of the Communist Youth International’s Second Congress, held in July 1921, voted to transfer the CYI’s headquarters from Berlin to Moscow.
95. Presumably a reference to the ECCI proclamation adopted 14 January 1921, ‘Dem Bürger Jouhaux, und den Bürgern Fimmen Oudegeest, Amsterdam’ [To Citizen Jouhaux and Citizens Fimmen, Oudegeest of Amsterdam], in Die Kommunistische Internationale, 16 (1921), pp. 441-5.