Source: Published in Toward the United Front: Proceedings of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International, 1922 (https://www.haymarketbooks.org/books/472-toward-the-united-front), pp. 94–132.
Translation: Translation by John Riddell.
HTML Markup: David Walters for the Marxists Internet Archive, 2018.
Copyright: John Riddell, 2011, 2017. Republished here with permission.
It is now my task to deliver a report on the activity of our executive between the Third and Fourth Congresses. I will then speak regarding the Communist International’s future activity. My report thus divides into two parts.
I have set down the basic facts and figures on the Executive’s activity during these fifteen months in an article that has been published in all languages. I will therefore not repeat that.
We have to review two questions: first, whether our Executive correctly carried out the decisions of the Third Congress, and second, whether these decisions were correct. Because now, fifteen months later, we have a great deal of material that was unavailable earlier.
As the Third Congress closed, what was the situation that determined our entire policy? After the Third Congress it immediately became clear that world capitalism had launched a pronounced, well-organised, and systematic offensive against the working class on almost the entire world. The working class found itself to some extent in retreat. The fifteen months of our activity were taken up with a large number of very important and major strikes around the world. But when we look more closely at the outcome of these strikes, we must recognise that the large majority ended in the workers’ defeat. The membership of working-class economic organisations shrank. The trade unions, for example, embraced about twenty-five million members in 1920; now there are only eighteen million, and possibly even this figure is somewhat exaggerated. This fact alone shows us the difficult conditions under which the working class found itself during the period under consideration.
We must not underrate the importance of Soviet Russia’s situation during this period. As you recall, soon after the Third Congress it became clear that Russia was stricken by a severe famine. This was not yet evident during the congress, but right after its conclusion, the Communist International Executive had to turn to the working class of the entire world with an appeal to support the Russian proletariat in this year of hunger.
This fact had major political consequences. You know that the International is often attacked for being a mere tool of the Russian Soviet republic. There are many ‘friends’ who make this assertion. It is now clear that an important and very close interrelationship exists and must exist between the first proletarian republic and the Communist International. From our communist viewpoint it is clear that the Communist International is very important for Soviet Russia, and vice versa. It would be absurd to ask which is the subject and which is the object. They are the foundation and roof of a building; each one belongs to the other.
The conditions we faced during this year were fully used by our opponents in order to combat the very idea of a proletarian dictatorship. The entire Second International tried to use the famine in Russia as the point of departure for a campaign against the Communist International. And it used this situation to launch another very noisy campaign, claiming that the Communist International was merely a tool of the Soviet Russia. The Russian Soviet republic is a significant political fact that obviously no one can ignore. The question is simply: On which side of the barricades do you stand?
Take just one recent example: the letter of Mr. Clynes, a leader of the British Labour Party. I believe that most of you have read this letter. Mr. Clynes, one of the best known ‘worker leaders’ of recent years, sent a letter to the Soviet Russia that has now been published. In this letter Clynes proposes that the Soviet Republic conclude as fast as possible the proposed agreement with Mr. Urquhart, in order to improve the Labour Party’s prospects in the current elections. Mr. Clynes [notes] that he is speaking not in his own name but in that of all his colleagues.
Britain is undergoing an interesting stage in its imperialist development. The elections are closely tied to the situation in Soviet Russia. The Labour Party, one of the most important parties of the Second International if not its major component, cannot ignore this; it must take a stand. But on which side of the barricades? On the side of Mr. Urquhart, the side of the bourgeoisie. So, when the Second International accuses the Third of always going together with the Russian Soviet republic, of being its tool, we can reply: You also do not disregard Soviet Russia; you also find it necessary to take a stand regarding it. But you do this in a manner that seeks to make use of the first proletarian Soviet republic in the interests of the bourgeoisie rather than the proletariat.
As said, the Second and Two-and-a-Half Internationals took the famine in Soviet Russia as the starting point for an energetic campaign. We must concede that this enjoyed some success. For the ordinary worker, who was now faced with the plain fact that the first Soviet republic was in the grip of famine, that the life of workers and peasants was very difficult – for the worker who is not a party member and not yet politically educated, this aroused a certain disappointment regarding the revolution as a whole. That is troubling but understandable. Given the conditions in which the working masses found themselves after the war, this was absolutely unavoidable. It was surely unscrupulous of our opponents to seize on this fact. They were very familiar with the origins of this hunger. They knew very well that the main responsibility lay with the traitors of the Second and Two-and-a-Half Internationals and with imperialism’s policy of blockade. But it is quite clear that the Second International had to use this fact in its campaign against us, and that is what they did.
So during this year, the Communist International and the first Soviet Republic were in a rather difficult situation, one that our unprincipled opponents of the Second and Two-and-a-Half Internationals set out to use, and did use with success.
As I said, the strikes were defensive actions of the working class. I will not present you with extensive tables – that can be done in a pamphlet. I will rather focus on the country that is particularly important for us for the question of the united front: France. The comrades in France were the most emphatic opponents of the united front tactic. That has now changed. But I believe that if our French friends, when they were sharply criticising the Communist International, had been aware of the facts that I will now present, they would surely have had a quite different attitude to the united front tactic.
Strikes in France where workers were on the offensive, that is, where they fought for an improvement in their standard of living, were as follows: in 1915, during the war, only 8,000 workers in France conducted such strikes. In 1916, still during the war, the number was 37,000. 1918: 131,000. 1919: 1,053,000. First half of 1920: 628,000. But then the curve bends downwards. In the second half of 1920 only 57,000, and in 1921, the year we are considering, only 9,000 workers took part in strikes for gains. By contrast, during the first eight months of 1921, 160,000 French workers took part in strikes that had a defensive character. What does that mean? That means that in the years 1921–22 capitalism’s offensive was extremely intense, so that the French working class had to limit itself to defensive strikes. It did not have the power to conduct strikes for gains, because the bourgeoisie was on the offensive all down the line.
In my opinion, this fact was decisive in France, as in other countries, with regard to the united front tactic. If our French friends had noted these figures and followed the development of strikes in their own country more closely, then in my opinion they would have withdrawn most of their opposition to the united front.
That was the overall situation as our activity began during the year under review. The Third Congress had for the first time drawn a clear line against the so-called ‘left elements’ like the KAP and the semi-anarchist groups. It also drew a line against groups on the right. I remember the Levi group, which at the Third Congress was still the subject of much debate. I remember the Socialist Party of Italy, of which so much was said at the Third Congress. We recognised at this congress that the construction of true Communist parties had only begun. The Third Congress bequeathed to us the celebrated slogan, ‘To the masses’. Its resolution on tactics formulated our task as being to win the majority of the working class, to make the socially decisive layers of the proletariat ready for battle and to lead them in struggle.
Out of this general situation flowed the slogan of the united front, which was formulated by our Executive for the first time in December 1921. I believe, comrades, that now, after the holding of two further expanded meetings of the Executive – which were in fact small world congresses – events have reached the point where in France both the Communists and also the syndicalists have given up their opposition to the united front tactic. We will thus have less to say in this congress about this tactic. It is clear that our Executive acted rightly when it declared in December 1921 that the slogan ‘To the masses’ necessarily led to the united front tactic. Indeed our policies as a whole were nothing other than a practical application of the united front tactic in the specific conditions of different countries. And let me say at once that in my opinion this will remain our task for the coming year, and perhaps also for a number of years.
The united front tactic was in fact the first large-scale international campaign undertaken by the Executive. As you know, we have spoken much of the fact that the Communist International must be an International of action, a centralised international world party, and much more. In principle that is quite right, and we must insist on this. But it will take years and years to achieve this in life. It is fairly easy to adopt a resolution that says: We must carry out international actions. The attempt that we made right after the Third World Congress – an effort that actually was basically no different from the efforts of the Second International – failed, because our parties are still too heterogeneous. In some cases they are not yet Communist; there is still much in them that is Social Democratic. Our organisations are still deficient, and carrying out an international action entails great difficulties.
In recent years we sought to carry out many international campaigns, such as that for famine relief in Russia or the campaign regarding the trial of the Social Revolutionaries. But the campaign to apply the united front tactic was particularly important. And I must admit that it caused a great deal of commotion. We will deal with that fully in a special point on the agenda.
It became clear that some groups of our Communist International would like to carry over too many of the habits of the Second International into the Third. In my view, comrades, we cannot let what has happened in France pass without protest. At a time when the Communist International must be a centralised world organisation of the proletariat, when it has begun a campaign of massive proportions against the Second International through the united front tactic, discipline must prevail in our ranks – if not iron discipline, then at least one that is basic and proletarian in character. And this was not the case. I must say that what the French and to some extent the Italian party did was a disruption of the international campaign that our organisation had initiated. We should see that clearly and take the necessary measures. Although this was politically a very important campaign, it was not one capable of mobilising millions of comrades. And when such disruption occurs in a campaign of this sort, it arouses justified anxiety that in difficult times, when we must combat arms in hand, we will again face disruption of this kind.
Comrades, I believe it will be best if this report takes up the Executive’s activity one country at a time. And here I must express my general impression that the larger the segments of the old Social Democratic movement incorporated into our ranks, the greater are the survivals of centrism and social-democratism in our party. You will see that clearly in my brief overview.
I will begin with Germany.
At the Third Congress, Germany was the focus of almost all our discussion. As you all know, the German party was in a rather difficult situation during that congress. Our enemies spoke of its total collapse, leading many of our friends to become overly fixated on the momentary difficulties of our German sister party. The Executive is proud that it was able to provide our German sister party with some degree of assistance in resolving this difficult crisis. I believe that we are fully justified in saying, without exaggeration, that at the Fourth World Congress our German sister is counted among the firmest and best organised (in relative terms of course) and politically clearest parties. And that should provide consolation when we see that many of our larger parties now find themselves in a similarly difficult situation. For example, many participants in this congress regard the French party with the greatest pessimism. Given the example of the German party, I believe we can reassure the congress and say that if the congress acts rightly, we will succeed in providing the French party with assistance and bringing it rapidly back on its feet. The political situation in Germany is generally revolutionary and favourable for the only truly revolutionary party that exists in Germany, that is, our Communist party.
The unification of the USPD and the SPD that we predicted in Halle is now a fact. I remember well that when after the historic vote in Halle, we said in our summary that no other road was open to the right wing but a return to the Social Democracy, there was great indignation; this was termed shameless demagogy and the like. But no prophet was needed to predict that. It was quite clear that in this epoch of civil war, those who do not want to be Communist must wind up in the Social Democracy. Now that has come to pass.
I believe that this development is positive for the revolutionary movement. In his greetings to the congress, Comrade Lenin was correct to say that the unification of the Second and Two-and-a-Half Internationals was a step forward for the revolutionary movement. It is better for the working class to have less fiction, less deception, and fewer illusions. When we regard old-fashioned revolutionaries such as Ledebour in Germany, we now know for certain that he must go one of two ways: either with the Communists or with the Social Democrats. The German proletariat will see that within a few months.
Which parties have best applied the united front tactic? The German and the Czech, in relative terms, of course. We have sometimes noted that our German sister party does not sufficiently stress the independence of our own line, since for us the main point in this tactic is to maintain freedom for communist agitation. That was not always rightly done, but in general the German sister party applied this tactic quite correctly. Strikes like that of the German railway workers were a classic example of the correct application of the united front tactic. This strike also showed that every economic strike can grow into a political one. I have read an article in the German Internationale that says the Fourth Congress should state clearly what is now coming in Germany: a period of sharpened economic struggles or one of sharpened political struggles. It is quite wrong to put the question this way. For what is coming is a period of sharpened economic struggles and simultaneously a sharpening of political struggle. That is how the question is posed. The railway workers’ strike showed quite distinctly that in the present situation almost every economic conflict becomes a political conflict.
You know about the factory council movement, which has now begun and doubtless has a great future. The Social Democrats accuse our party of aiming to call a congress of factory councils and then placing Germany before the accomplished fact, as the Bolsheviks did in 1917 with the convocation of the second congress of soviets (when they had already overthrown bourgeois rule). Unfortunately, our German party does not deserve this accusation, or better, this compliment. The Communist Party in Germany is unfortunately not yet strong enough to carry through what the Bolsheviks achieved in October 1917. But this campaign will be of the highest importance; it will become the catalyst for a truly revolutionary mass movement around the Communist Party.
Numerically, our party in Germany has not grown greatly. More generally, it is striking that the parties whose political influence among the masses has increased this year have not grown numerically to the same extent. There are various reasons for this, such as unemployment and the poverty of workers who are not even able to pay the paltry party dues. There are also political causes. That can be seen most clearly in Germany. No one will deny that our German sister party has substantially increased its political influence. And yet its membership total has not grown greatly. I once told a meeting of the Russian Communist Party that the German party should adopt the slogan of achieving a membership of one million. But that will not be easily achieved. I will not say that the proletarian revolution must be postponed until this figure of a million has been achieved. I remember that the Russian party, for example, had at most 250,000 members when the proletarian revolution broke out – in relative terms the German party is already larger than the Russian one was in 1917.
But we can be certain that the decay of German social democracy will continue at a rapid pace. We sense that decisive events in Germany may take place much sooner than many of us expect.
There are still disagreements in our German party; much must still be fought out. For example, with regard to programme, there was not full agreement at the last meeting of the Central Committee. But when we compare the movement with what existed fourteen months ago, we must recognise that the German party has taken a giant step forward. Unless every indication is wrong, the path of the proletarian revolution leads from Russia through Germany. The recovery of our German party is therefore of the greatest political significance. There are only two parties in Germany. As for the Ledebour group, we predict that within a few months they will either wind up with the Communists or amount to a fat zero. We will wait confidently to see how this turn out. What is clear is that only two significant parties exist in Germany and that the future belongs to our party.
The Executive’s organisational relationship with the German party was its best, which is not to say that it was ideal. There was much that went wrong, and blame lies partly with the Executive, and partly with the German party. Nonetheless relations were on the whole firm and good, and no political development passed us by without an interaction between the Executive and the German party.
I come to France. We will have a separate discussion on this point. But I cannot avoid saying something of this in my general report. A few months ago I wrote an article,The Birth of a Communist Party, in which I said that the birth of a Communist party is no easy matter. And comrades, when we view the situation after the Paris convention, we must say that the birth of the Communist party in France was even more difficult than could have been expected. Here we find a concretisation of the formula I suggested: the larger the elements that have come over from the old party, the greater the difficulties we have to overcome. You still see that in Norway, and perhaps in other countries as well. Suddenly in France we won over the majority of the old party, and it seems that much time will be needed now before we have overcome all the ailments caused by that fact. The most important observation of the Executive and its different representatives, including Humbert-Droz who spent almost half a year in France, was – if I may speak frankly – that we must seek a large number of forces for a Communist party in the ranks of the syndicalists, the Communist syndicalists. That may seem strange, but it is so.
The tradition of the French movement has led to a situation where we must recognise, after the Communist Party’s first two years, that a large number of communists, who will be the best elements in our future Communist Party, are found for the moment outside the Communist Party, in the ranks of the trade unions. And I believe that one of the most important tasks before our congress and the French commission lies in drawing to us these genuinely proletarian and revolutionary forces. The tradition in France is to view the party as representing the politiciens [politicians], and unfortunately I must say that there is some truth in this. (Hear! Hear!)
We did not go far enough at the Third Congress in our criticism of the French party. It was too young, and at that congress we had other preoccupations. It was perhaps a failing of the Executive – that must be admitted – but it is a fact: we did not go far enough at the Third Congress in our criticism of the French party, and this was damaging to our French sister party.
Three or four months ago, the leadership of the French party still confronted the Executive as ‘left’ critics. They criticised the united front tactic, saying that the Executive had been too opportunist. I do not know if many members of the Communist International were so naïve as to believe that the French party was really criticising us from the left. I do not believe that many members of the Communist International believed that. But it is good that this period is now behind us.
The French party did not know how to apply the tactic in a country where events called for it in compelling fashion. I have already given you some statistics regarding strikes in France. They show that if the party had really understood the actual mass movement, it would have understood the united front tactic and taken it as the starting point to draw closer to the masses. The bourgeoisie in France is carrying out a systematic campaign against the eight-hour day, and I must concede that the Executive was unable to convince our party to undertake a systematic campaign to counter this. Our efforts to launch a campaign in France in the spirit of the united front to defend the eight-hour day failed.
I recall the last ‘general strike’ that took place in France. Here too I must speak very frankly. In the years 1908 – 10 we became accustomed to the official syndicalists proclaiming the general strike almost every day. But no one took any notice. That was the worst time for the syndicalists, and I believe that rooting out this tradition is among our party’s most important tasks. Unfortunately our party managed to carry this bad tradition into the present. The general strike call that went out a few weeks ago to the French workers (Le Havre) was in reality pushed through under the pressure of a quite small clique of anarchists. Our paper, l’Humanité, the largest workers’ newspaper in France, was used to call the working class out on strike at a moment when our party was entirely unprepared for it. The strike is now over, and we must draw a conclusion from it: we must make sure that in future nothing like this can happen again in France. The working class finds itself in a tragic situation. Truly we cannot accept that our party, a section of the Communist International, permits such strikes, in the process assuming on its own and our behalf such great responsibility.
At its congress, the French party unanimously approved the Twenty-One Points. I had somewhat forgotten these Twenty-One Points, so today I read through them again. In the Twenty-One Points, the first condition states that the press must be truly communist. I must frankly admit that in France this first point of the Twenty-One Conditions has not been carried out. l’Humanité wants to be a communist newspaper, but that is not yet the case. It is widely distributed, and in some fields it has done excellent work – that must be recognised – but it is not yet a communist newspaper. And the Fourth Congress must begin to truly carry out at least this first point of the Twenty-One Conditions. I hope that we will succeed in this.
In the French party there are now, as you know, three major tendencies and two smaller ones. I will not characterise them one by one. Speaking generally, they are as follows: the Centre current, of whom we previously said that they stand in the centre but are not centrist. We have written and spoken on this. That was possibly too optimistic with regard to the French comrades. They are not fully centrist, but a good element of centrism is evident there. They in fact represent both the Centre and centrism. We must now try to hold the centre while ushering centrism out the door. It is mostly a matter of the leaders who came over to us from the old party, who certainly have achieved much for the Communist International, but who have not yet shaken off their social democratic original sin. If we read Comrade Marcel Cachin’s most recent editorial on the trade unions, we must say that this article is not much better than those of Verfeuil, whom we expelled at the Paris party congress.
The second current, the Renoult group, plays a mediating role. We must say that it includes very good proletarians, many of whom have criticised the united front tactic sincerely from the left, but in the end will be convinced that our policy was correct and will come to us.
It is the third tendency that is truly communist. We are not required to agree with everything that comrades of this tendency have done. They committed major errors at the Paris congress. I personally consider the resignation of our comrades of the Left to have been a gross error, but I must say that it is this group that deserves the Communist International’s moral support. This group has begun the struggle for the united front tactic. In this they have made some errors, but they were the only ones in France that genuinely defended the Marxist tactic of the united front and secured its victory.
I must tell you, comrades, that based on our initial discussions with the French comrades, we are convinced that a split can be avoided, and obviously the Communist International will do everything possible to prevent such a split. But we can see from this example how difficult is the birth of a Communist party. Consider, comrades, that the French party has not yet carried out a single mass action. Consider what will happen when that takes place. I remember how a real differentiation in the German Communist Party began only after it had moved into action. (Interjection from the Germans: ‘Very true!’) Leave aside whether this was for good or ill: the true differentiation began with action. In this sense, the action was therapeutic for the party, saving it and curing it – but it was also the starting point for a new differentiation. We make no prophecies, but if the French party undertakes a genuine action, a mass action, where life and limb is at stake, then we will see a true differentiation, we will see who really belongs in the Communist Party and who does not.
The task of the Fourth Congress, in my opinion, is not to pass over everything indulgently, as the Third Congress did, but rather to state things as they are and give moral support to the comrades who are truly comrades. That does not mean that the other comrades should be expelled from the Communist International, but we must tell them plainly what their weaknesses are. We must explain to them how you become a true communist.
I now come to Italy. The example of Italy could be taken as a classic example of a Communist Party’s policy and of how to build a Communist International. If we were to develop a policy manual for Communist parties, then I think that Italy will provide the most important chapter, the most important example. Italy is not a classic country of the Communist movement, but still we see that much is taking place there with classical clarity, as in no other country.
In the autumn of 1920 Italy was the focal point of the Communist movement. Our differences with Italy did not then involve us telling the Italian comrades: You must absolutely make the revolution at once. The Communist International has never said that to the Italian party. Theoretically speaking it is true that if our party in Italy had seized power in the fall of 1920, the Hungarian example might have repeated itself. I do not say that is certain. I do not know whether that would have triggered an immediate blockade. I do not know, but it is not excluded. It is possible that if we had seized power in Italy in 1920, things might have gone the same way as in Hungary. So we never told the Italian comrades, you must absolutely make the revolution. It could have been correct not to take power at that moment. If the majority had held this viewpoint, that would not have been justification for carrying out the break with the Italian Socialist Party on this point.
The break did not come because they did not want to take power. Our position at that time was that the situation is revolutionary and one must be ready for any eventuality; first of all, the reformists had to be excluded in order to build a genuinely revolutionary party. For this reason we demanded the expulsion of those who were sabotaging the revolution. The Communist International did not in any way demand an uprising in 1920 in order to seize power. Such an assertion is historically incorrect. As you know, D'Aragona has now openly admitted that the reformists stayed in the party in order to obstruct the revolution. That is why they had to be expelled. It was a question only of preparing the party for the possibility of revolution, not of carrying it out immediately.
As you know, the majority of the Italian [Socialist] party did not carry out our demand for expulsion of the reformists. They did not want to build a revolutionary party and did not want a break with these agents of the bourgeoisie. This term ‘agents of the bourgeoisie’ caused quite a commotion. When we sent a telegram calling the reformists ‘agents of the bourgeoisie’, our friends in France cried bitter tears over my tactlessness in applying this name to the reformists. But now, after the admission by D'Aragona himself, it seems to me that the term ‘agents of the bourgeoisie’ is surely the most tactful label for these gentlemen. I cannot think of any more tactful way of putting it. The reformists, as agents of the bourgeoisie, stayed in the Italian party and did all they could to thwart the revolution and deliver the working class into the hands of counter-revolution.
Among the Italian comrades there is now a debate on what has happened in Italy: a coup d’état or a farce. It could possibly be both. Viewed historically, it was a farce. A few months or years will pass and it will turn out favourably for the Italian working class. But for the moment it is a very serious turnabout, a very serious counter-revolutionary action. Our comrades in Italy are not to blame because they failed to ‘make’ the revolution at such-and-such a moment. Rather their responsibility and perhaps their criminal error lay in allowing the bourgeoisie’s accomplices to remain in the party, giving them the possibility to carry out a betrayal in classic fashion and delivering the working class into the hands of the fascists.
You are familiar with the policy that the Executive applied in the Italian question. As you know, there was much debate at the Third Congress regarding whether we acted rightly at Livorno. I believe it is now clear that we acted rightly at Livorno, and it is equally clear that we also acted rightly during the last year. Our Communist Party in Italy acted against the Executive’s policy on many questions. But comrades, I believe we had to act as we did. We had to break firmly and decisively with the Italian Socialist Party at the necessary moment. If we had not done this, the entire Communist International would have been lost. But at the same time we must do everything to make it easier for them to return to the Communist International. It is quite clear that in the coming months, come what may, the great majority of workers who are now still with the Maximalists will come over to the Communist International. And because they will belong to us, we must take every fraternal measure to ease their return to the Communist International. That is what the Communist International is for – to ease the path of a segment of the working class at a moment when it has recognised its error and wishes to return to us. Certainly we must ask for guarantees, and we will do that. The type of events we have seen in Italy must not be repeated. The Communist International must receive convincing guarantees that nothing like that will happen again. Nonetheless, we must do all possible to reunite with these comrades.
I heard that some comrades in the Communist Party of France came to the opinion that perhaps, after all, it is not so dangerous to break with the Communist International: ‘Perhaps we will get something of a dressing down, but at the fifth or sixth congress they will invite us and unify with us’. And they were thinking of the Italian example. Well, comrades, what does this mean? Those who talk in this way have overlooked one detail: that in the interim the Italian party was almost lost and the Italian working class was delivered into the hands of the worst fascists. They view the matter from a personal point of view: Today I get a dressing down, but in a year’s time I can come back and be welcomed. The fact that the party and working class are destroyed in the process, is for them a secondary matter. I believe that such a point of view can be held only by a few individuals. Surely it cannot be held by the majority of the French party.
The lesson of the Italian party is not that this or that leader quarrelled with us for two years and has now come to Moscow. That is a secondary matter. The personal issue is inconsequential. Not so is the lesson of the Italian party – it goes much deeper and consists of this: Whoever gives a finger to reformism will lose his entire hand. And anyone who commits such an error destroys his party and causes the greatest harm to the working class of his country.
We will have debates, not only with the Maximalists but with the Italian Communists.
In many questions we do not have agreement. They have adopted a programme that is not Marxist. We have criticised it and rejected it. And these viewpoints are deeply rooted in the Italian party. There is still a touch of abstentionism in the Italian party. Our friend Bordiga has achieved much for the Italian movement. The comrades have fought valiantly. They have done everything to raise the banner of the Communist International in a most difficult situation. We must recognise these achievements of the Italian party and, not least, of Comrade Bordiga. But we must also say we have serious differences with the Communist Party of Italy. A touch of abstentionism is still there. Bordiga no longer advocates anti-parliamentarism – he fell into step on this – but its spirit is still there. We saw that with regard to the united front as a programme and a tactic.
The leadership of the Italian party still maintains a position that the united front tactic is permissible in economic but not in political questions. In our view, this is nonsense. Both belong together. You failed in Italy to apply the united front tactic correctly. The slogan of the workers’ government was raised too late in Italy. Personally I made the error of conceding too much to Comrade Bordiga and doing without an open discussion of the Italian question at the last Expanded Executive meeting. That was a mistake. We should have had an open discussion.
Nonetheless, the Communist Party of Italy stands among the bravest contingents of the Communist International, among its best parties. Precisely in this difficult moment this party will show what it can do. Today I read an underground appeal of the Communist Party of Italy and received the first underground edition of its official publication. That shows that under the most difficult conditions the Italian party has not let the banner fall from its hand. (Loud applause) We have chosen an Italian commission. It will review two issues: (1) Unification of the party; and (2) How to reorganise our forces in this period of fascism. We do not know how long this period will last, but we must be prepared for the worst.
Now, as to Czechoslovakia. The Executive successfully carried out the unification of the Czechoslovak party, of course with the eager help of the party itself. During the Third Congress we had two parties and many groups. It was not yet clear whether it would be possible, in this country where the national question plays a great role, to organise a unified party. This has succeeded.
As for the trade unions, we had many failings. Nonetheless, our party generally succeeded in bringing the majority of the economically organised workers under the Red banner. The Czechoslovak party applied the united front tactic in what we can call exemplary fashion. Reading the bourgeois press in Czechoslovakia, reading reports of developments printed in opponent publications, we must acknowledge that our party has conducted itself correctly and succeeded in winning over large segments of workers that had belonged to opponent organisations. And we hope that the practical application of the united front tactic will continue in outstanding fashion.
As you know, there is a point where we have a certain disagreement with the Czechoslovak party – and perhaps also internationally; that remains to be seen. This concerns the expulsion of the so-called opposition. We have established a commission to deal with this question. Still, I can’t avoid explaining our point of view. At its party conference the Czechoslovak sister party expelled seven Central Committee members, including its former chairman, Šturc, for breach of discipline. That came as a surprise for the Executive, which had not been consulted. The Executive considered it had the duty to immediately cancel this decision. That does not mean we should concede that the opposition was right. The Executive supports the position of the party majority. We do not want to label this as a left opposition or to support it politically. But we say that the expulsion was premature and that all means had not yet been exhausted. In the heat of battle an attempt was made to compare this group’s misdeeds with those of Levi. The offence of the group was that it published an appeal, despite the Central Committee’s prohibition. From the standpoint of party discipline, such a step certainly cannot be approved. But it is mistaken to compare this breach of discipline with that of Paul Levi. Levi betrayed the working class at a moment when our brothers were being shot down. At that moment Paul Levi wrote a pamphlet for the German prosecutor. That was a betrayal of the working class, for which there is only one answer: expulsion. What the comrades in Czechoslovakia did was certainly a severe breach of discipline, but in no sense was it betrayal.
Now we must do all possible to hold this group in the party ranks, under the condition, of course, that no further breaches of discipline occur, and that when decisions are taken they are also carried out. We must have a disciplined party, but we must not be so quick to exclude even a very small group of workers until it has been shown that every attempt has been made to achieve a settlement. And in this case, that was not demonstrated. We hope that the comrades invited here understand that the Executive has not invited them to hail their action or to tell them, ‘You can trample discipline under foot’ – no, not at all. We have invited the comrades in order to try to bring them back into the party and to tell them that party discipline is sacred above all things. Should it become clear that the comrades are unable to adhere to proletarian discipline, then there is nothing to be done. The congress decisions will be binding on this group of comrades.
The situation is sharpened by the fact that we already have six hundred thousand unemployed in Czechoslovakia. Poverty among the workers is appalling, and their discontent is great. The masses are angry. We could now easily see the formation of a syndicalist group, a ‘Communist Workers Party’ similar to the Communist Workers Party of Germany. The group must understand this clearly. It could form such a group, which might then eke out an existence for half a year, causing harm to the working class and disgracing itself politically. But we must see the situation as it is. In a country like Czechoslovakia, with such a shockingly high number of unemployed, we must do everything possible to block the formation of a separate ‘Communist Workers Party’ group. The Communist International must do all possible to avoid that. And I hope we will succeed.
I now come to the question of Norway. I said earlier that the more forces we receive from the old movement, the more difficult the birth of a genuinely communist party. In Norway we gained almost the entire old party, and there we now have major difficulties, which I will not conceal. The question is the same as in France. Certainly there are big differences, but the causes are the same. In France we took over very many traditions from the old party. In Norway strong federalist traditions are still alive, and the organisational principles are quite idiosyncratic. The party was built as an organisation of the trade unions. Already at Halle we had a talk with Comrade Kyrre Grepp, leader of the Norwegian party, and with other comrades, who promised us then to reorganise their party. So far this has not happened. Even the name of the official newspaper has not yet been changed. The Norwegian paper still carries the name Social-Demokraten (Interjection: ‘Hear, hear’.) And there are eleven papers in the regions called Social-Demokraten (Again: ‘Hear, hear’.) As you see, it is high time to intervene in this country and carry through what the Communist International has demanded.
We are a Communist Party. And nonetheless, we still have parties where the social-democratic spirit has not yet been fully eliminated. We were of course born in the womb of the Second International, and we took over many of its traditions, which could not be eradicated overnight. But when this night lasts a couple of years, we must demand that this process be speeded up. In our papers in Norway you can read articles that, for example, support the Scheidemanns against the German Communists. We also have vestiges of syndicalism in the negative sense of the word. Comrade Tranmael was earlier a member of the IWW, and some of this syndicalist tradition remains with him. He has no understanding of discipline. In one article he writes, ‘Discipline, discipline, I cannot stand this word. It is demeaning for the dignity of free people’. And this is said by one of our comrades who is by no means an intellectual of a bad sort. He is an honest and upright fighter who belongs to the working class, and yet traditions are stronger than the individual. Tradition is so strong that it can cause such devastation with regard to one of our best comrades in Norway. A group of academics there, similar to Clarté, publishes a journal Mot Dag, which defends the same principles as the Levi group. And our party tolerates such a group and does not intervene.
We must act decisively this year. The minority in the Norwegian party is represented here, and we are firmly convinced that we will succeed in achieving what is necessary unanimously, or at least by majority vote. Comrades from Norway, you must understand that the Communist International can no longer permit a situation similar to what has existed up to now. We know how to prize the strong sides of the Norwegian movement, which has grown up together with the working masses. It has comrades who are totally committed to the proletarian revolution. But they must absolutely, once and for all, shake off the Social Democratic dust. They must recognise that they cannot become a genuine Communist Party unless they put an end to these things.
I come to Poland. We have an illegal mass party in Poland. Coordinating legal and illegal work is a very important problem, and in my opinion the experience of recent years shows that it is not as easy to achieve as we imagined. The Russian Communists had the experience of 1905–6. Our view was that where a legal movement is not possible, then legal and illegal movements must be coordinated, with the illegal one taking the lead. Now, however, the experience of several countries shows that this coordination is not so easy. In Poland it was possible and has worked. We have there an illegal party, which is simultaneously a mass party. We have small legal footholds subordinated to the party. This is possible in Poland because the party there has already experienced a revolution, in 1905, when it led the working class. This leadership was illegal, but fought in the front lines of the working class as a whole. It enjoys the general recognition of Communist workers, won through its effectiveness during the revolution. In Poland something is working that is much more difficult in other countries, such as the United States, for example, because the illegal party there has not acted as a leader in the eyes of the working class as a whole, and the leadership has not proved itself to this extent. There the relationship, the coordination between legal and illegal work is quite different.
As said, in Poland we have an illegal mass party, an old party with a glorious past. However there are points where the Executive has had certain disagreements with the Polish party on quite fundamental issues: the agrarian question, the question of nationalities, and to some extent that of the united front. We will discuss the agrarian question with our Polish comrades separately. The point of view long dominant on this question among our Polish comrades could in my opinion be called old-fashioned and almost social democratic. Let me remind comrades of the position on this question taken by the Second Congress. We then grappled with the idea of division of the land of great landowners as a measure to win the peasantry. We ran into some opposition to this proposal from the Italian socialists. The fascists have now shown that they understand very well how such a programme can be utilised demagogically in their interests. Such an error can cost us dear in Poland and other countries. Fortunately the Polish party has made a turn, and we hope that we will come to agreement with them on the agrarian question, so that we can establish an action programme that will have attractive power for the peasantry as well. The Communist Party is a workers’ party. But that does not mean that it makes demands on behalf only of workers. Rather as a party of the working class it knows how to lead all oppressed layers in struggle against the bourgeoisie.
We had similar differences with the Polish comrades with regard to the nationalities question. We hope that these differences too have been removed.
As for the united front question, it has become clear that a minority in the Polish party – a small minority, if I am not mistaken – was against the united front. However it is quite significant that such an opposition cropped up in one of the oldest parties. We are convinced that the Polish party itself will overcome these differences – and probably has done so already. Yet the differences existed, showing how difficult it is to apply the united front tactic in practice.
I will not say much regarding the Balkans. I must note that our Balkan federation is functioning poorly. As a federation our organisation barely exists. The meetings are irregular. In my opinion, we must insist that the Balkan federation be strengthened and that the Bulgarian party give it more attention.
A few words on Romania. We owe it to our Romanian comrades to tell the congress that these comrades, despite all the persecution, have carried out loyally all the responsibilities placed upon them. As you know, the Romanian comrades’ entire convention, several hundred comrades, was thrown in prison – right from the congress hall to the prison. Many of them were shot down, and many are still locked in prison. The Social Democracy concluded a shameless alliance with the bourgeoisie against these Communist forces. All the greater is the achievement of our Romanian friends in having remained loyal to the banner of the Communist International under such difficult conditions, true to their duties and responsibilities.
In Yugoslavia the party is undergoing a crisis. There too the problem of legality and illegality is posed, and it is not yet resolved. We are experiencing many difficulties. But we see that in Yugoslavia things are once again going forward. A new movement has begun in the trade unions, and we hope that our party will once again regain its previous strength. As for the differences in Yugoslavia, these will be discussed by the commission.
In Britain, a very important country, our party is developing extremely slowly. Perhaps in no other country is the Communist movement developing so slowly. The question of our party’s affiliation to the Labour Party has now been resolved successfully. Our party has decided to join the Labour Party. The incoming Executive will face the special task of devoting more attention than previously to Britain. We must begin studying Britain. We do not yet understand why development is so slow. Britain has never been a country of large political mass organisations. As you know, neither the Social Democratic nor the Communist Party has a large membership. No party of the German type exists in Britain. There are unusual traditions in Britain. Given the widespread unemployment and the deep poverty of the British proletariat, it is strange that Communism is developing so slowly. We see a stagnation, and we have every reason to pay more attention to the movement in Britain than we have done up to now.
We were also able to send a delegate to the United States, who stayed there a rather long time. We must study the experiences of the entire movement. The greatest difficulty of the movement there lies in the task of unifying legal with illegal work. The situation is quite different than in Poland, Yugoslavia, Finland, and Latvia, where there was a revolution in which the working-class leaders proved themselves with success and won recognition from the working class. In the United States we have a different situation: a rather strong left trade union movement and a Communist Party marked by severe factional battles. We therefore face a particularly difficult problem in the United States, which must be studied.
In Austria our party has made significant progress, despite all difficulties.
In Hungary the situation is very regrettable. I see here many comrades who have taken part energetically in faction struggles and thus contributed to a worsening of the situation. Allow me to analyze somewhat their conduct before the forum of the Communist International. Many of the comrades who played leading roles in the revolution and achieved much in the past have now done all possible – and all impossible as well – to ruin the situation and harm their party. The Executive has now made an energetic attempt to overcome all the squabbling. I will not say anything negative about emigration. We know from the past that emigration can be very useful for the cause. The Italian party may now have to go through a period of emigration. But there is emigration – and emigration. There are emigrations, following the defeat of a revolution, that must endure a great deal of adversity, but our Hungarian comrades have achieved so much in this field that it has become unbearable. In my view, the Fourth Congress will have to seriously and energetically say ‘enough’, that we do not want to experience any repetition of what we have seen, and that we will not permit the slightest expression of anything of this sort. A few weeks ago, in a single day, 170 Communists were arrested. Although the revolutionary movement is advancing, the situation of our party is as bad as it could possible be. We have the responsibility at this moment, when the working class is advancing, when the bourgeoisie has once again begun to arrest hundreds of our comrades, to overcome the faction struggles in emigration and build an illegal party.
In passing, let us note that the unification of legal and illegal work will be easier in Hungary, because the Communists there have a serious tradition.
In Japan there is a small party, which with the Executive’s help has united with the best syndicalist forces. Our Japanese party is young, but it represents an important nucleus, and it is now to adopt a programme. The congress of parties and peoples of the Far East that met here in Moscow has great importance for Japan in particular, because this was the first get-together with important persons in the Japanese movement.
In India we have registered important accomplishments. I can inform you that our comrades’ work over the last few months has been crowned with success. Our comrades succeeded in smoothing their path in India, where they found access to the newspapers, joined the trade unions, and are working to gather Communist forces. In my opinion this is a very great step forward.
During the past year we founded party nuclei with greater or less strength in Turkey, China, and Egypt. We should have no illusions: these are still quite small nuclei. But it is a step forward. We must help comrades there to carry out work of two types: first, to broaden the core of the proletarian movement, and, second, to press forward as the vanguard of the liberation movement as a whole.
Important steps have also been taken in Australia and other countries.
I will now turn to the Profintern. As you know, comrades, in 1921 the Profintern encountered the fact that in one of the best parties, the German party, there was a liquidationist tendency against it. There was serious discussion in the German party whether the Profintern was born prematurely, whether it should be liquidated, and so on. True, that happened under the influence of the Levi current, but it was not only the Levi people who were slightly tinged with this. That was a dangerous issue for the Profintern. The Executive of course took it as its duty to combat the liquidationist tendency. In our view, the Profintern was not at all born prematurely.
This current has now been fully overcome in Germany, and I hope also in other countries, and the Profintern is on the high road to success. We can predict that in the coming years if not months, the Profintern will experience a great upturn and is headed toward great achievements. As you know, the Amsterdamers now want to speed up the split. The have carried through the split in France and Czechoslovakia. In Germany a split in the unions is imminent. Our task and that of the Profintern is, we believe, to combat this split. We need the unity of the workers’ movement; the Amsterdamers need its split. The more influence we win, the more these people want to split the unions, and the more we must fight against that. We must organise for this and seek countermeasures. We need a separate discussion of how to do this. But where they force us to organise ourselves separately, as they have done in France and Czechoslovakia and are in the process of doing in Germany and other countries, we must declare that our unions born as a result of this split are born with the cry for unity on their lips. The first call of our newly born union organisation, formed because of expulsions, must be, ‘trade union unity!’
If the Czech, German, and other comrades are compelled to build a separate union – overall or in one sector – they must take as their first slogan, ‘Unity, struggle for unity of the trade union movement!’ In the second part of my talk I will speak more fully about this.
Our movement is making important progress as regards the cooperative and youth questions. I would like to speak in particular about the Youth International. Its transfer to Moscow has proved its worth. The fears were unfounded; the Youth International has worked well. Yes, we must note a dropping away in some countries, and that is disturbing. The youth have gone through difficult times in Germany and in some other countries. That reflects the overall difficulties faced by the working class. Despite this, the Youth International and the youth movement remains an advance guard of the Communist International. After our congress there will be a youth congress, which we must watch attentively. We must keep in mind that our youth organisations need new methods for their struggle. We must attain a decisive majority among the youth. The unification of the Second and Two-and-a-Half Internationals will cause the Social Democrats especially great damage in the youth movement. New methods are needed to penetrate into the masses of youth, who have become somewhat apathetic. We will have an opportunity to do this.
That gives an overview of our work during the fifteen months. True, we have made very many errors, for which you should criticise us. But do we wish to maintain the Twenty-One Points or not? Our comrades in France have criticised Clause 9, for example, on the basis of which Fabre was expelled. I doubt that there will be a single comrade who questions that we acted correctly here. This expulsion was absolutely necessary. But some of the French comrades have complained about this expulsion. They said that it was wrong to do this, that we interpreted Clause 9 too sweepingly. The congress must decide if we were right to apply Clause 9 in this way.
Now another question. The Executive decided that national congresses of the communist parties will as a rule take place after the world congress. Exceptions are permitted. I will not insist on an examination of whether this was absolutely required. But what was the meaning of this decision? Its meaning was that we want a centralised world party. We want a party that is led in centralised fashion. We want the world congress to be truly the decisive body for all parties. We do not want the Communist International to be simply a hodgepodge of parties. This was strongly criticised in France.
What does the example of France show us? If the convention had met after our congress, would it have been better? Who knows? As I said, if you wish to modify that decision, I am not going to argue strongly against that. I am ready to go into that. But the sense of the decision is that we must remain a centralised world organisation. The Twenty-One Points have been applied negligently. If you want to cudgel us for that, you will be completely justified. The Twenty-One Points must now be applied much more stringently. I am not saying we have done nothing. The Communist International has existed for only 3½ years. Comrades, that is too short a period of time in which to organise our Communist parties on a world scale. The greatest misfortune would have been not in applying the Twenty-One Points negligently but if we had regarded them as a mere piece of paper. But I believe the congress will say that the Executive’s task is to carry out the Twenty-One Points. We must succeed in becoming a true international world party. We have been for that in principle; we must make it reality.
That is the report on the Executive’s activity during the last fifteen months. I have yet to report on the future policies of the Communist International.
Comrades, I hope that the theses that I have proposed on this question have been distributed or will be distributed shortly. I will limit myself to a commentary on these theses.
We must begin with the questions of the economic situation, the international political situation, and the situation in the workers’ movement.
As for the first question, I do not believe we need to change in any fundamental way what we decided at the Third Congress. In my theses I propose that the Fourth Congress merely confirm the theses of Trotsky and Varga at the Third Congress on the economic situation. We can and should note that the evolution during the last fifteen months has basically and generally confirmed these theses. The course of events did in fact take the form that we had foreseen in these theses. Although there is a temporary upturn in the United States, Britain, Japan, and France, and perhaps also in some other countries, it is quite clear that this upturn is only momentary, and that Comrade Varga was right in his recent pamphlet to characterise the situation as a period of capitalist decline. What we are now experiencing is not one of capitalism’s periodic crises but the crisis of capitalism, its twilight, its disintegration. Despite some improvement in a number of countries, the world economic situation remains as before. Capitalism cannot save itself from this situation. The only rescue for humankind, the only rescue for the productive forces lies in socialist revolution. In this sense the diagnosis is fully as before, and we can confidently stand by what the Third Congress said: the objective situation remains revolutionary. Capitalism cannot find within itself the resources needed to save itself from the decisive crisis of the entire capitalist world.
Now as to the international political situation. Here too we can say that the contradictions are sharpening daily, and the objective situation remains revolutionary. During the last fifteen months, the disintegration of the Entente has proceeded with great strides. We have experienced an actual liquidation of the Versailles Treaty in various forms, and this treaty’s disintegration continues. Bourgeois ‘pacifism’, which found its outstanding representative in the person of Lloyd George, is completely bankrupt. The Genoa and Hague conferences sealed the bankruptcy of bourgeois pacifism. The election campaign now under way in Britain demonstrates an unprecedented lack of ideas on the part of the bourgeois parties. This battle between the old classical bourgeois parties in the oldest capitalist country displays not an iota of principle. It marks a total spiritual collapse of the bourgeoisie – a struggle of cliques, underlining what was already clear: that bourgeois pacifism has fallen into complete bankruptcy, and that the bourgeois parties are no longer capable of carrying out major struggles on issues of principle.
The colonial and semi-colonial countries, one of the most important factors in the process that we call the world revolution, raised their struggle during this period to a very high level. We observe that in a large number of oppressed countries, despite all measures by the imperialist governments, the liberation movement has advanced ever onward during this period. I believe there can hardly be any doubt among us today that this struggle, although not communist or socialist in character, is and remains objectively a struggle against the capitalist governments. The great movements that we have witnessed during this time in India and other colonies and semi-colonies are in no way communist, but objectively they have the weight of a top-ranking factor against the capitalist regime.
We have been observing the twilight of bourgeois democracy for many years; now it is disintegrating more and more with every month.
What do the events in Italy mean? Is this not an unprecedented blow to bourgeois democracy? Was not Italy one of the countries enjoying this blessed bourgeois democracy? Of course, Italy was such a country. The Fascist attack is a blow not only against the idea of monarchy but also against that of bourgeois democracy. Thrust aside politically by the Fascist bands, the Italian monarch has suffered a loss of prestige, and so too has the entire system of bourgeois democracy. We must understand that what has happened in Italy is no local event. Inevitably we will experience similar developments in other countries, perhaps in a different form. If the Fascists in Italy hold their own – and that is likely during the coming period – it is quite certain that similar phenomena will appear, probably in Germany and perhaps in all Central Europe. The triumph of a Stinnes government in Germany will perhaps differ in form from what we see in Italy, but can develop into something downright similar in content.
What we see today in Austria is also something quite similar to the Italian overturn. And that is also a blow against bourgeois democracy, which was defended in Austria not only by the bourgeois parties and the Second International, but until now by the Two-and-a-Half International as well.
Preparations for such a counter-revolutionary overturn are under way in Czechoslovakia as well, not to mention the situation in Hungary. The Fascists took Hungary as their precedent.
In the Balkan countries, especially in Yugoslavia, we see developments similar to those in Italy. We must see the facts for what they are. This applies for a period that will not last long, but that will be a testing time for our Communist parties. It is perhaps unavoidable that we will see a period of more or less Fascist overturns of this type in Central Europe, opening a period of illegality for our party for an entire period of time. A few months ago, the Executive alerted a number of our important parties, through specially assigned comrades, to the fact that we must prepare for a period of illegality, similar to what we see in Italy. The political situation before us at the time of the Fourth World Congress confirms this prediction. We must recognise this danger clearly, but that does not mean that the world revolution will come to a halt. Rather we are dealing with a revolutionary process, which does not develop in a straight line. It can go through various episodes. What we see in Italy is a counter-revolutionary act, but from a historical perspective it signifies a sharpening of the situation and the ripening of proletarian revolution in that country. We can say the same thing about the proletarian movement in a number of other important countries.
Thus the international political situation has, in general, sharpened during this period. The Third World Congress was quite right to say that we did not have a secure equilibrium in capitalist Europe, and that events of importance, even parliamentary conflicts, major strikes, and the like, could easily lead to revolutionary conflicts. The picture we have drawn for you, although superficial, shows that this diagnosis was absolutely correct. The international political situation is sharpening, and what we saw in the Balkans was quite remarkable. Developments related to the Greek-Turkish war show that the spectre of a new war was at a certain point as tangible as could be. It was actually a small prelude to a future new world war. Right now, as I speak to you, we also see a sharpening of this problem, which can easily lead to bigger complications. To the degree that we have an overview of the situation, it will not lead now to a new war. But what we experienced in the Balkans was a small-scale symptom of what will and must take place, unless the social revolution arrives first and robs the bourgeois state of the possibility of organising a new war.
The situation thus remains uncertain. A decay of the capitalist regimes is also noticeable in the field of pure politics. At the same time we see an unprecedented strengthening in the political position of Russia, the only revolutionary state, which has already maintained itself for five years.
We will speak more fully about the New Economic Policy when we take up the Russian question. I will not get into that now; I will only emphasise what I already said when the congress began its work. We have become convinced that Soviet Russia’s New Economic Policy is no accident, resulting from the weakness of some of our Communist parties, but something larger in scope. You are right to say, as all the best friends of Soviet Russia say, that if Russia had to resort to the New Economic Policy, this was because the German, French, and British workers were too weak to overthrow their bourgeoisie. That is correct. But that alone does not exhaust the question. We have come to the conclusion that not only our country, with an overwhelmingly peasant population, but perhaps all countries or almost all countries with a large proletarian population will have to go through such a political phase in one form or another. The New Economic Policy is not the result of our weakness or the weakness of the world proletariat; it is rooted in the relationship of forces with the peasantry and the petty bourgeoisie.
Certainly the peasantry of a country like Russia is quite different from that in Germany. Nonetheless, even in Germany and other developed capitalist countries with a large industrial proletariat, the working class will be compelled at the crucial moment to take a series of measures aimed at neutralising the decisive segment of the peasantry. It will have to take a number of measures that we had to take in Russia. As I said, we will speak of these things when we take up the Russian question.
Looking at the world political situation, there is no way to avoid recognising the first-class factor represented by the Soviet government. At a moment when on the one hand the Entente is breaking apart, the colonial and semi-colonial peoples are engaging in heightened struggles, when in the Balkans the spectre of war is abroad – at this moment Soviet Russia is reinforced by adopting a new economic form. That makes Soviet Russia an enormous factor in world politics. The star of the first proletarian republic is rising higher and higher. That is creating a situation that is objectively revolutionary.
The capitalist offensive, international in character, is one of the revolutionary factors. The working class has not yet been able to bring it to a halt. There are many indications – in France and also in other countries – that there will be a shift in this regard soon. Workers are offering more and more resistance, and they will repulse this offensive.
I now come to the situation within the workers’ movement. In this regard the most important development is the unification of the Second and Two-and-a-Half Internationals that will in a very short time be an accomplished fact. In Germany it is already consummated, and yesterday we received a report of a similar unification in Sweden. Branting took the ‘left’ Social Democrats into his party. What happened in Sweden and Germany will take place in other parties, too. The unification has not yet been completed organisationally, but politically it is there. And that is a fact of great historical importance. The Second International is the enemy of the working class. It is the Two-and-a-Half International that is going into the Second, and not vice versa – there is no need for me to demonstrate that here. If it is nonetheless necessary, then I need only introduce a quotation of Martov, one of the intellectual leaders of the Two-and-a-Half International, far superior to many of the others. Martov writes in the most recent issue of his journal Socialist Messenger regarding the problem of the Second International:
No illusions! The mechanical unification of the two Internationals, under the given conditions, means a return to the reformist Second International by those parties that left it in the hope of creating an entirely new International. It is a defeat for these parties.
Martov is here expressing his opinion quite clearly. Of course Martov finally comes up with a consolation for the Two-and-a-Half International, saying, ‘Inside the Second International we will champion Marxism’. But those are only words. In reality this is nothing other than a return to the Second International, an outright defeat of the Two-and-a-Half International.
So we will have a unification of the reformist parties. This fusion of reformist Internationals will hasten to an extreme degree the split of the working class. But we must say: No illusions! The unification of the Second and Two-and-a-Half Internationals means two things. First it means a preparation of White Terror against the Communists. The world political situation is leading to Fascist overturns, to overturns whose results on a governmental level can be seen in the people around Stinnes. The fusion of the Second and Two-and-a-Half Internationals is the preparation for an unprecedented split in the working class, which will weaken it. As for the first question, it is not hard to conclude that this fusion opens an entire period of White Terror against the Communists. It is no accident that at the head of the counter-revolutionary movement in Italy we now have Mussolini, a renegade of the Second International, a former Social-Democrat. It is also no accident that in Germany we have an Ebert and a Noske at the head of the government, and in Poland Pilsudski. It is no coincidence that in some countries, such as Britain and Germany, the Second International plays a decisive role. For in a country like Germany, all it would take would be for the trade unions to swing over to the side of the working class, and the relationship of forces would be radically altered. So no illusions! This fusion means nothing other than wheeling up the artillery of White Terror against the Communist parties.
In addition, this fusion means the splitting of the working class. We take our stand today for unity of the trade unions – and not in vain! The reformists see clearly that the ground is slipping away beneath their feet. Historically that is inevitable.
It is inevitable that these trade unions in their entirety – if events develop in a normal manner – will come into the hands of the Communists. These people sniff that out – there’s nothing wrong with their nose. They sense it and fully understand its inevitability. They see that the influence of Communists and of revolutionary movements as a whole is growing in the working class. They sense that instinctively, and seek a defence against it. They act as if they had received direct instructions from the bourgeoisie to smash the trade unions into pieces – to smash them before they are forced out. I am not saying that this is a direct order. You know that politics is not so simple – Stinnes, for example, does not just give the trade union leaders a written order. But politically the bourgeoisie’s instruction is this: Before the socialist leaders make their exit, they should destroy the trade unions, slamming the unions’ doors behind them so hard that they break every window in the trade unions. That’s what is happening.
As said, we do not know when this process will reach completion, how many years or months it will last, but historically it is absolutely unavoidable, and that is sensed by our ‘deities’ of the Second International. That’s why we see the same pattern everywhere, an outright preparation for split at a moment when they feel that major sectors are going over to us. They aim to weaken the working class and the trade unions and smash them into pieces, so that when we take control of the trade unions we will find that they are nothing but fragments. As I said, that is exactly what the bourgeoisie needs now. It is a betrayal such as we have never seen. Even the betrayal of 1914 was much smaller than what we see being prepared now. A betrayal is being methodically prepared. They want to fragment and split the workers’ movement so that at the moment when it must be ready to confront the bourgeoisie, it will be deprived of organisational strength, weakened, divided, and split. That is the politics of the fusion of the Second and Two-and-a-Half Internationals.
The current split is no small episode. What’s at stake here is no trivial matter but a major problem. Despite all their mistakes, despite the betrayal of the leaders, despite all defeats, the working class has built, in the form of these trade unions, a large organisation embracing millions of workers. At a given moment this organisation will be decisive for our struggle. And now, as this moment nears, in historical terms, the Two-and-a-Half International and the Amsterdamers are perpetrating the greatest betrayal of the working class. It will try to smash to pieces this organisation, the last refuge of the working class, so that when we take over from the Social Democrats, we get nothing and are left without a genuine mass organisation. That is the most important fact before us. That is why the Social Democrats and Amsterdamers are condemned to become professional splitters of the working class, not only to betray, not only to cause harm to the politics of the working class, but to smash to pieces its weapon, its organisation. In the coming period, this task will permeate the entire politics of the now unified Second and Two-and-a-Half Internationals. That is a new reality with which we must reckon.
That is why, comrades, our united front tactic is not merely a strategy against our enemies. Of course we have the right and duty to develop strategic plans against our enemies, but the united front is established by the overall situation of capitalism, by its economic and world-political situation, and by the situation inside the workers’ movement. If what I have told you regarding the policies of the Second and Two-and-a-Half Internationals is correct, if they are in fact preparing a systematic split of the trade unions and the working class, our united front tactic follows necessarily. It follows that for this and many other reasons we must undertake a counter-campaign against this plan of the Second International.
And the united front tactic is exactly that.
At the Third Congress we set ourselves the task of winning the majority of the working class. Has this task been accomplished? No, not yet. That must be said plainly. In many countries our party’s influence has risen enormously, yet still at our Fourth Congress – and perhaps this will be true at the Fifth Congress also – we cannot say that we have won the majority of the working class. Arduous efforts are still needed to win the majority of the working class. In such a situation, the united front tactic is, to repeat, the most effective means to win this majority of the working class. It must be stated clearly that the united front tactic is no mere episode in our struggle. It is a tactic that will endure for an entire period, perhaps an entire epoch.
Under certain circumstances we will perhaps modify this tactic, but generally speaking, given that the Second International is the main enemy and the mainstay of the bourgeoisie, we must stand firmly by this tactic.
In economic terms, capitalism is ripe for socialism. The world-political situation can be characterised as revolutionary. The Second International is the mainstay of the bourgeoisie, which cannot hold on without its support and that of the Amsterdam International. That is why our relationship to the Second International is a question not merely of party tactics but of the world revolution, of the entire policy of our class. And since, as I have noted, the unified Second International will, over the years, work directly for split, the way we will win the majority of the working class is to counter this systematically with the united front tactic.
We have already gained from this tactic, we have won a great deal from it. The united front tactic brought great advantages this year to the Communist International, and we must not overlook that. Not in the sense that we have won the majority. If we had that, we would already have almost everything. But we have already won much for the party. We have achieved that it is not the Communist parties that the working class sees as splitters, but our opponents. Previously, the working class was of a different opinion, and in fact there was some justification for that. There was a time when in the interests of the workers as a whole we had to split the old Social Democratic party. Not to have carried out this split would have been a betrayal of the working class. There was a time when, in order to speak the truth to the working class and to win them, we had to split the old Social Democratic party. It was impossible to do this within the old Social Democratic party. We therefore had to split the old Social Democratic party and create a rallying point for a genuine liberating movement of our class, through the creation of the Communist parties. So there was a period of time when we had to accept that we would be called splitters. Yes, we had to split the old Social Democratic party. There was no way around it: otherwise we could not gain this rallying point; we could not create an instrument for working-class liberation.
But now we are in a new historical period. This task has been accomplished. We now have Communist parties. True, they harbour social democratic leftovers, along with ailments of childhood and growth, ailments of various sorts that must receive treatment. But the task now is much more the winning of the majority of workers and rescuing and winning the trade unions, the most important weapon that the world proletariat possesses. Thus the united front tactic. Comrades, I believe that we will not have any big fights over this issue at this congress.
In France, the ‘Last of the Mohicans’ of the fight against the united front have put away their weapons, and – most importantly – not only the Communists but the majority of syndicalists now use this tactic. Yesterday we had a quite brief talk with our friends of the CGTU [United General Confederation of Labour]. When we asked, ‘Are you still opposed to the united front?’ they replied simply, ‘We are carrying out the united front’. And anyone who follows the state of affairs in France knows well that the united front tactic is being applied consciously and methodically there, including by the syndicalists in the CGTU, because there is no alternative. The needs of the proletariat’s daily struggle have compelled all those who defend the interests of the working class in both economic and political fields to apply the united front tactic. Winning over the opponents of the united front in France has been quite a big success, which shows that our ranks have now come together and are carrying out our tactic consciously and methodically.
What is the united front and what is it not? It should certainly not be what the French call an ‘electoral combination’. We carried out a survey of how the united front tactic is being applied, and it went rather well. We received three hundred to four hundred answers, not only from the official publications of our party but also from comrades in the midst of the working class, in the midst of the masses. This survey is now being analysed, and we will probably publish a book on it, which would be quite worthwhile. The survey showed that there is still much confusion in the minds of our comrades on what exactly the united front tactic means. As stated, it does not mean an electoral combination and certainly not an organisation fusion with the Social Democracy.
The responses from the Italian and French party publications showed me that many comrades, curiously, had the notion that we should be ready for an organisational fusion with the Social Democracy. That would be the greatest crime we could commit. All of us would rather cut off our hand that sign up for unity with the greatest betrayers of the working class, who are now enemies, the final prop of the bourgeoisie.
That is not at all a united front. The united front is the unified struggle of the worker masses in their daily demands against capitalism. The united front should mean that we are ready to fight together with all workers, whether they be anarchists, syndicalists, Christian socialists, Social Democrats, or whatever names they bear, united against capitalism and the capitalists in daily struggle for a slice of bread, against wage reductions, and against abolition of the eight-hour day. We accept in this that we sometimes must sit at a table with leaders who are betrayers. That is what the united front means – that and nothing else. I believe this problem has been resolved for the Communist International and even for the party in France, where the greatest confusion reigned.
We will also struggle for each partial demand of the working class. Today I was shown an article by our former comrade Gorter. He writes: ‘We must take a stand against every strike. You will ask: Why against every strike? Because we need to save up our strength for propaganda, for revolution’. Further on, he writes, ‘We are very few. Our forces, those of the KAPD, are so few that we must concentrate not on strikes but on revolution’.
That is such a mishmash that one stands disarmed before the naïveté of such a politician. He does not have time to help the workers in daily struggle against the bourgeoisie, because he wants to help the entire revolution. Anyone who has a feel for the working class, whose devotion to it is not merely subjective but based on some understanding of its life, who has worked in this class and with it, will reject such childishness. Precisely because we wish to struggle for proletarian revolution we must take part in every strike, leading the way and fighting for every partial demand. We are revolutionaries. That does not mean that we are ignorant of the need to better working-class conditions, be it only to the extent of a drop of milk for the children. We are against reformism, but not against bettering the lives of the working class. We know of course that under the given conditions of capitalism there is very little scope for this, and that the revolution will lead to a genuine improvement in working-class living standards. But we also know that we can only organise the working class if we fight for its partial demands. In this sense we view the united front tactic as not merely a momentary occurrence, an episode, but as something that under the given conditions of capitalism will endure for an entire period.
The slogan of the workers’ government has not been sufficiently clarified. The united front tactic should be applied almost universally. We can hardly name a country with a significant working class where the united front tactic would not now be appropriate. It fits well in the United States, just as in Bulgaria, Italy, and Germany. Under present conditions, this tactic is almost universal. That however is far from the case with the demand for a workers’ government. The workers’ government should not be interpreted in that general way; it is more limited in its application. It should be employed only in countries where the relationship of forces brings to the fore the question of power, of government, both in the parliamentary and extraparliamentary framework. Certainly it is possible in the United States today to carry out good propagandistic work with the slogan of a workers’ government, explaining to the workers that if they wish to free themselves, they must take the power into their own hands. But given the relationship of forces in the United States, it cannot be said that the slogan of a workers’ government will arouse the kind of echo that it did in Czechoslovakia, can do in Germany, and both did and will do in Italy.
The slogan of the workers’ government does not have the general character of the united front tactic. The workers’ government slogan is a specific and concrete application of the united front tactic under specific conditions. It is easy to make errors of many kinds in this area. I believe, comrades, that we must protect ourselves against attempting to use this slogan universally, as if we necessarily had to go through a period of workers’ government. I believe that to the extent one can prophesy, it is much more likely that the workers’ government will become a reality only exceptionally, under quite specific, concrete conditions in one or another country. Moreover it does not mean that we are going to go through a semi-peaceful period and that the workers’ government will relieve us of the burden of struggle. A workers’ government with only a parliamentary basis would be of no value. It would be only a small episode in the struggle, which would not prevent civil war. That does not mean that the workers’ government slogan should not be used, under certain conditions. The working class must clearly understand that the workers’ government can only be a transitional stage, which will not eliminate the struggles and the civil war. That must be said plainly. Only when we understand the dangers of this slogan can we use it confidently.
The united front tactic too has its dangers, as the Executive pointed out in its December theses. It brings us especially great dangers in the question of the workers’ government. In countries with a parliamentary tradition, such as France, this is seen as if it meant something different for us than the dictatorship of the proletariat. We understand this slogan as an application of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Even if a workers’ government materialises, we cannot avoid civil war, and under certain circumstances it will even sharpen the civil war.
I must say a few words regarding the factory council movement. There is a separate section on this in my theses. I propose the following thesis: if a party does not have a Communist organisation and Communist cells in the factories, it is not to be taken seriously, it is not a genuine Communist mass party. I will add: The workers movement that has not understood the need to support and organise a mass movement in the form of factory councils is not a genuine revolutionary mass movement.
This thesis can be applied in almost every significant workers’ movement of our times. It is a sign of the times that in Germany, where important battles are approaching rather quickly, the factory council movement plays the vanguard role in the movement. Turning to other countries, we must advise our comrades first to establish Communist cells in the factories and second to support the factory council movement. Only then will we become a mass movement. Many of our parties have not heeded this advice. At the Third Congress we adopted a splendid resolution written by Comrade Kuusinen that explained how every Communist party should work, what the mechanism of the work should look like, how cells should be founded, and so on. But it must be said that there is no point in adopting such good resolutions if we do not carry them out. It’s a matter of actually carrying out this resolution, of founding the cells. That will enable the movement to advance ever onward.
I must add a few words about international discipline. In the theses on the united front tactic proposed by the Renoult group at the Paris convention, there is an entire section about international discipline. Wonderful words are written there. The group has brilliantly demonstrated that nothing can be achieved without discipline, that the International is lost if it does not enforce this discipline. Wonderful words. But this group that wrote in its theses about international discipline has shown that sometimes, even among us, words and deeds are far apart. This group could have done better. International discipline is demonstrated only through deeds. Our united front tactic is at present a very complex matter. There is an ‘International’ rooted in the bourgeoisie that is carrying out a consistent policy against us. In order to combat it, we must be rigorously organised in a real International with rigorous discipline. The task of the Fourth Congress will be to state that and carry it through.
In the coming period we will encounter decisive struggles. I have heard some objections from esteemed comrades who say there is presently an interruption in the world revolution, that we will see an advance only when the material conditions of Russian workers have risen so high as to exceed the average conditions of European and American workers. Then the example of the economic conditions of Russian workers will exert a revolutionary influence, and a new revolutionary wave will rise up. Comrades, that point of view in my opinion is objectively opportunist, representing a sophisticated opportunism, even though it is defended by many of our friends that are subjectively revolutionary and true soldiers of the International. I will not spend much time on this – only a few words. The living standard of the Russian worker is rising now – that is a fact. The living standard of the average European worker is falling, and that of Russian workers is rising. That is clear. It is rising slowly, but an improvement is evident. And the time will come when conditions of Russian workers are economically better than those of European workers. However, it would be true opportunism to say that so long as the situation in Russia remains so difficult it is impossible to carry out a revolutionary struggle of workers of the capitalist countries. It would be outright opportunism.
The real revolution will not be carried out by the working class of a given country to give an example to other countries, and not because the workers of this country want to ensure that other workers receive more bread, more meat. No! The revolution will take place because the working class in the given country sees no other way of overthrowing the bourgeoisie. And we should therefore permit no such suggestion to slip into our agitation, which can only cause a blockage. The Russian worker had more obstacles to overcome than any other working class will have in the future. The working class of each country will enjoy the support of the Russian workers. The Russian working class was the first to carry out a revolution and had the entire bourgeois world against it. It is unlikely that any other working class will face such difficulties. And we must explain the conditions of the Russian proletariat to the working class of the world just as it has been, with blockade, hunger, epidemics, diseases, but also in all its greatness. We must understand that the Russian working class, despite all its agony, has now got past the most difficult time and is going toward improvements, hour by hour, day by day, and month by month. That is the conception of the Russian revolution that must represent the foundation for our policies as a whole. (Applause)
10. The Comintern’s Third Congress had ended sixteen months earlier, after sessions held in Moscow, 22 June–12 July 1921.
11. See International Press Correspondence (hereafter Inprecorr), 2, 99 (16 November 1922), pp. 791–3.
12. Leslie Urquhart was chairman of a British corporation that had owned large mining works in the Urals under the tsar. In 1921, Urquhart and Soviet authorities drafted an agreement (‘concession’) for Urquhart to operate his former properties under Soviet authority. In October 1922, however, the Soviet government rejected the agreement, on Lenin’s insistence. In explanation, Lenin cited Britain’s exclusion of Soviet Russia from negotiations on Turkish independence. Lenin Collected Works, vol. 33, p. 388.
13. The Third Congress demanded that the KAPD either affiliate to the German CP or lose its status as a sympathising party of the Comintern. The KAPD then left the International. See ‘Resolution on the Executive Committee Report’ in Riddell (ed.), To the Masses: Proceedings of the Third Congress of the Communist International, 1921 (Historical Materialism Book Series, 2015), p. 922.
14. It is not clear to what campaign Zinoviev is referring. Two sentences later, Zinoviev refers to the ambitious campaign launched on 30 July 1921, immediately following the Third Congress, for material aid to Soviet Russia.
15. Regarding famine relief, see the Fourth Congress report and resolution, Toward the United Front, pp. 634–47, 1069–71.
In February 1922, Soviet authorities announced the forthcoming trial of forty-seven leading members of the Socialist-Revolutionary (SR) party for terrorist conspiracy against the Soviet state. At the conference of executives of the Second, Two-and-a-Half, and Communist Internationals in April, Social Democratic leaders insisted on clemency for the accused SRs, and Bolshevik delegates gave an undertaking that SR defendants would not be executed. This concession was sharply criticised by Lenin. The trial (June–August 1922) ended in death sentences against fourteen accused, but these sentences were later revoked or suspended.
16. The USPD and SPD consummated their fusion at the latter’s Nuremberg convention on 24 September 1922. At the USPD’s Halle congress in October 1920, a majority of delegates voted to affiliate to the Comintern.
17. An ally of Rosa Luxemburg in the pre-war SPD Left, Georg Ledebour stayed with the USPD when the KPD was formed and opposed its affiliation to the Comintern in 1920. However, he refused to rejoin the SPD in 1922 and thereafter led a small independent group.
18. A strike of eight hundred thousand German railway workers 1 – 7 February 1922 was outlawed by the German government, which included SPD ministers. The KPD made an effective appeal to the SPD and USPD to join in defending the right to strike.
19. During the night of 24–25 October 1917, forces organised by the Military Revolutionary Committee of the Petrograd soviets took control of most of the city. At 10 a.m., the committee proclaimed the Provisional Government dissolved and assumed state power. When the second Russia-wide congress of soviets convened that evening, this power was transferred to the congress as a whole, which thereupon organised the Soviet government.
20. See Inprecorr, 2, 63 (1 August 1922), pp. 473 – 4.
21. The Paris congress of the French CP was held 15 – 20 October 1922.
22. Le Havre metalworkers went on strike 20 June 1922 in opposition to a ten per cent wage reduction. Strong local and national support enabled the strike to continue through the summer. In late August, heightened government repression led to a citywide general strike that shut down the docks. By 24 August, more than twenty thousand workers were on strike. On 26 August, the departmental prefect, Lallemand, ordered cavalry to charge the crowds of workers in the street. Troopers fired, killing three workers and seriously wounding one. The crowds stood their ground and did not disperse, but that evening most union leaders in Le Havre were arrested. On Sunday, 27 August, the CGTU called a nationwide general strike for Tuesday. The CGT refused support on the grounds that it had not been consulted. The 29 August strike failed, breaking the momentum of the struggle, although Le Havre metalworkers stayed out until October 10.
23. When the French SP split at its Tours congress in December 1920, acceptance of the Twenty-One Points was the basis of agreement for the majority that then constituted the French CP.
24. By ‘centrism’, Marxists of the period meant currents intermediate between revolutionary and reformist currents and unwilling to embrace a revolutionary course.
25. At the October 1922 Paris congress, the Left current was excluded from the party executive. Leaders of the Left thereupon resigned their posts in the party apparatus and its newspaper, l’Humanité.
26. Zinoviev is referring to the March Action in 1921, which began as a defensive response to police occupation of workers’ strongholds in central Germany; the KPD tried unsuccessfully to broaden it into a national anti-government general strike. Max Hoelz was the leader of a workers’ fighting contingent. Many leaders of the KPD, including Zetkin and Levi, considered the party’s tactics during this action to have been adventurist and ultraleft. The dispute was taken to the Third Congress, which endorsed many of the criticisms.
27. The Hungarian soviet government established in March 1919 was overthrown on 1 August by the invading army of Romania, which acted in concert with the Allied powers.
28. After the January 1921 Livorno congress of the Italian SP, Paul Levi, co-chair of the KPD, argued that the ECCI representatives’ conduct there had unnecessarily divided the Communist forces between those who left the SP to form the Communist Party and those who remained in Serrati’s ‘Maximalist’ current. This issue became linked to the dispute over KPD policy in the March 1921 struggles in Germany, which was the main topic at the Third Comintern Congress in June–July 1921.
29. For the ECCI Presidium’s criticism of the Italian CP programme, see Kommunistische Internationale, 23 (November 1922), pp. 142–5.
30. ‘Abstentionism’ refers to abstention from bourgeois elections, the position prior to 1920 of the current in the Italian party led by Bordiga.
31. Invitations to the Third Comintern Congress were addressed to both ethnically Czech and German CPs in Czechoslovakia, as well as groups in Slovakia and Ruthenia. A fusion congress, held 30 October–4 November 1921, united Czech, Slovak, German, Hungarian, Polish, and Ukrainian forces.
32. At a Czechoslovak CP national conference in April 1922, the party’s left wing, including Šturc, had supported a majority resolution criticising the minority’s conduct. However, in the months that followed, the left current continued public attacks on party policies, including by distributing, on 14 September, a leaflet calling for removal of the party leadership. The seven signatories of the leaflet were expelled at a national conference held 22–24 September.
33. Levi’s pamphlet, Unser Weg wider den Putschismus (Our Path against Putschism), published in April 1921, delivered a stinging critique of the KPD’s conduct during class battles the previous month. The Third Comintern Congress, held June–July that year, tacitly endorsed many of Levi’s criticisms, while confirming his expulsion for indiscipline and disloyalty (see Adler 1980, pp. 229, 290–1). For Levi’s pamphlet, see Gruber 1967, pp. 320–41 and Levi 2009. [REFERENCES]
34. For Communists, SPD leader Philipp Scheidemann was a symbol of the counter-revolutionary role of his party after the German revolution of November 1918.
35. Clarté was a pacifist and internationalist current and journal in France, founded in 1919 and edited by Henri Barbusse.
Mot Dag, a publication launched in September 1921, was initially independent of the Norwegian Labour Party, but its members joined the party as a group in March 1922. Mot Dag published articles critical of the party’s parliamentary tactics, which it considered opportunist, and of Comintern policies.
36. See Theses on the Agrarian Question in Workers of the World and Oppressed Peoples, Unite!, vol. 2, pp. 660–70.
37. The Social Democratic party in Poland (SDKPiL), a major constituent of the forces that formed the CP in 1918, was opposed to the Bolshevik call for self-determination of subjugated nationalities. The party interpreted the outbreak of war as signalling the end of the epoch of struggle for national states. This outlook continued to find supporters in the postwar CP of Poland as it did in the Bolshevik party.
38. Socialist parties in Bulgaria (the Tesniaki), Greece, Romania, and Serbia joined in July 1915 in the Balkan Revolutionary Social Democratic Federation on a platform of internationalist opposition to the war and support for a new, revolutionary International. The Federation’s most prominent leaders were Kolarov and Rakovsky. Their alliance was renamed Balkan Communist Federation at a conference in Sofia, January 1920, which called for a federation of Balkan socialist republics. It remained a Comintern coordinating body for Balkan parties until 1933.
39. The CP of Great Britain applied to affiliate to the Labour Party, a federated organisation, on 10 August 1920. Although this and subsequent bids were rejected, the CP won support for its membership in the Labour Party and union ranks. In June 1922, a Labour Party conference barred CP members from future such gatherings. Nonetheless, local Labour organisations and trade unions chose thirty-eight CP members as delegates to the Labour Party national conference of June 1923.
40. The ECCI delegate was Henryk Walecki (Valetsky), who stayed in the U.S. from July to October 1922.
41. The First Congress of the Toilers of the Far East met in Moscow and Leningrad, 21 January–2 February 1922.
421. ‘Amsterdamers’ refers to the social democratic leaders of the International Federation of Trade Unions, headquartered in Amsterdam.
43. Point 9 of the Twenty-One Conditions states that Communist parties are required to carry out disciplined work in the trade unions. See Riddell 1991, 2, pp. 768–9.
44. Delegates had received a draft resolution on the ECCI report, which was adopted in Session 7. However, Zinoviev’s remark regarding his theses apparently refers to an early draft of the Theses on Tactics.
45. For the Third Congress theses, see To the Masses, pp. 901–20. For Trotsky’s edited and expanded report on the topic, see Trotsky, The First Five Years of the Communist International (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1972) vol. 1, pp. 174–226.
46. See Varga, Die wirtschaftspolitischen Probleme der proletarischen Diktatur (Hamburg: Carl Hoym Nachf., 1921).
47. The Genoa conference (10 April–19 May 1922) was convened to discuss economic reconstruction in Eastern Europe, and especially measures to improve relations with Soviet Russia. The inclusion of Russia among the thirty-four invited governments was a significant gain for the Soviet republic. However, negotiations broke down over French and British insistence that Russia fully pay the debts incurred under tsarism before 1914 and fully restore nationalised foreign-owned property.
It was during the conference (16 April) that Russia and Germany signed the Rapallo Treaty to normalise relations and strengthen economic and military cooperation.
An attempt was made to overcome the Genoa deadlock at the Hague conference (26 June–20 July 1922), with equally negative results.
48. Hugo Stinnes, the leading voice of German industrial capitalism, had close ties to far rightists, like Erich Ludendorff, who sought to overthrow parliamentary democracy. Twelve days after Zinoviev’s speech, a right-wing parliamentary government took office in Germany, headed not by Stinnes but by Wilhelm Cuno.
49. Allied powers had recently placed the Austrian government under trusteeship, in order to carry out sweeping attacks on Austrian working people.
50. In May 1919, the Greek army occupied the region around Izmir (Smyrna) in Turkish Anatolia, against weak resistance, and this territory was granted to Greece in August 1920 by the Treaty of Sèvres. Fighting intensified in 1920 as the Greek forces continued their advance. In January 1921, the Greek army launched an offensive into central Anatolia, seeking to overthrow the revolutionary nationalist regime in Angora (Ankara) that rejected the Sèvres treaty. The Turkish nationalist forces, led by Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk), repelled this offensive, defeated the Greek armies, and occupied Izmir (September 1922). Meanwhile, widespread mutinies in the Greek army forced the abdication of the king of Greece.
51. See December 1921 Theses on the Workers’ United Front, Toward the United Front, pp. 1164–73.
52. For the Third Congress resolution, see To the Masses, pp. 978–1006. See also Lenin’s comments on it during the Fourth Congress, Toward the United Front, pp. 303–40.
Last updted on 6 January 2020