Comrade Zinoviev

Speech at Session of Enlarged Executive of C.I.

(22 June 1923)

Source: International Press Correspondence, Vol. 3 No. 45, 22 June 1923, pp. 438–439.
On-line Publication: Zinoviev Internet Archive, October 2021.
Transcription/Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The Session then proceeded to the consideration of the first point of the agenda. Comrade Zinoviev mounted the tribune and was greeted with general applause. He said:

Six months have passed since our last Congress. We see things much clearer today. New political questions have sprung up. We must now examine to what extent the decisions of the Fourth Congress were correct and in what manner they were carried out. in many countries the political situation has altered in favor of the capitalists. America is experiencing a boom; the situation in England and France has improved. In Central Europe the former disorganization prevails; Japan is on the eve of a crisis. The International situation is for the moment characterised by the Anglo-Russian complication. The new tendency has begun in England not because Russia has grown weaker. On the contrary, it is because it has been growing stronger. The capitalists were deceived by the new economic policy. They thought it was the beginning of our capitulation. They thought that the communists would bring about their own ruin. But our situation improved; Russian grain appeared on the world market; we have never before enjoyed such undivided support of the workers as we do today. Therefore perhaps, a new chapter in the attitude of the capitalist States towards us is beginning.

Fascism is marching onward

We are witnessing events in Bulgaria. The King is giving the putsch the form of legality. That may happen in any revolution which does not set the King aside. We must test Fascism on its economic side. We cannot place all phenomena under one hat in Italy Fascism is undergoing a change.

The danger of war has increased; the situation may become critical at any moment.

The Fusion of the 2nd and 2½ Internationals

In Hamburg the fusion of the second and the 2½ Internationals took place, is it necessary to speak at length of these gentlemen here? Even from the reformist standpoint the new international has no objective; it contains only two parties of any significance at all: the German Socialist Party, and the British Labor Party, Kautzky, at one time, was against the acceptance of the Labor Party into the Second International, has this party become better since that period? No! But the Second international has become worse. Therefore the Labor Party is able to play first fiddle. The Russian Mensheviks, who were formerly the left wing of the 2½ International, are now the right wing of the new International. Its statutes say: Ministers cannot be members of the Executive Committee, in other words, it says to the minister: when you become a thief, you cannot be a member of our honorable society, but when you come out of prison, you may join us again. These gentlemen need no International. What they want is an international parade. Will it make any impression? A temporary one perhaps, such as was made by the fusion of the German Social-democrats with the Independent Socialist Party. The German Social-Democratic Party was weakened by its union with the independent Socialist Party; it became a thing without a soul. The union of the Second International with the 2½ International will accelerate the process of its decay.

There is only one real International the Communist International.

That has now been made obvious. We have not yet got the majority of the proletariat behind us, but such forces as we have we have consolidated for the purposes of international action. Two great parties of our International, the German and the French, in a decisive and momentous hour, carried on a joint campaign seconded by Soviet Russia. They have practically demonstrated that they know how to work together when two bourgeoisies are at loggerheads. This was a step towards a great end, the creation of a truly United Communist world Party.

The bourgeoisie as a class is united. The German Lutterbeck, appeals for armed aid to the French General Degoutte.

The United Front

On the question of the united front we have overcome many difficulties during this period, especially in France where even the Syndicalists have learned to apply this weapon. The question may perhaps be put: is the United Front a strategical manoeuvre or do we really desire to work side by side with the social democratic proletariat? This method of putting the question is incorrect. Of course, we are in favour of approaching the social-democratic and the non-party workers.

We always were. But formerly we wished to achieve this end over the heads of the leaders. We have convinced ourselves that it would not work. We must again appeal to the leaders until the masses understand that our outlook upon the situation is the correct one. Is this simply a strategic manoeuvre? That depends entirely upon the leaders. If they are minded to fight, then it is a strategic manoeuvre. But I have not a spark of belief that Scheidemann and Renaudel will fight in common with us. But why perpetually repeat this? In order not to bring confusion into our own ranks. We must show the masses the whole road. If we had neglected to do this in France, the Syndicalists would never have marched with us. The tactic of the United Front contains a danger for our party, as Trotzky has rightly pointed out, namely, the danger of demoralization and deterioration. Nevertheless, our tactic is a correct one. Many have called me an obstinate opponent of the tactic of the United Front. That is not true. Formerly I had doubts, but now I am a convinced partisan of the tactic of the United Front.

The R.I.L.U. achieved considerable success during this period. Not more than a year ago many of our members believed the R.I.L.U. to be a premature creation, they will now have changed their minds.

In France, since the Fourth Congress, the Party has passed into healthy convalescence. It was obliged to undergo a severe operation, but it was proved that the health of the Party was sound. The Party has been consolidated, its membership has increased, and its press has been enlarged. The Party still lacks correct routine in conducting political action. A certain confusion of thought has placed the words “Labor Imperialism” into people’s heads. One of our best comrades, Treint, has likened the overthrow of the bourgeoisie by a triumphant proletariat to labor imperialism. The bourgeois press exploited this to the full. We have nothing to do with imperialism; imperialism belongs entirely to the bourgeoisie. It was Treint, too, who rejected the point of view that we should moderate our criticism of the Social Democrats. That is wrong. We welcome the fact that the French Party has succeeded in overcoming its great difficulties.

There was also a conflict in the German Party arising out of the fact that the situation changes very rapidly in Germany and that new problems arise causing differences of opinion. With the help of the international this conflict has been settled.

The Fourth Congress was engaged with the Italian question. The Communist Party of Italy saw the arch enemy not in Mussolini but in Serrati. It failed to observe that live situation had changed since the Leghorn Conference, and that Serrati has changed with it It wanted to carry out the decision of the Fourth Congress to affiliate with the Socialist Party solely as a matter of discipline. The Party was responsible tor the fact that Serrati was obliged to stay here so long. Regarded subjectively, our Italian comrades are the best fellows in the world, but their tactics are leading to the destruction of the Party. The last Congress of the Italian Socialist Party can only be regarded as an episode. It would he the sheerest folly to break with that Party merely on that account. It will have to be considered, whether we should accept the Socialist Party as a sympathetic party or not. Let Nenni and Velli and their like dare to reject this in the face of the Italian proletariat.

We are having a dispute with the Swedish Party. There Hoglund is expressing the point of view that not onty for the State, but also for the Party, religion is a private affair. We must oppose this point of view stubbornly.

At the Fourth Congress there was much dispute as to whether the party in America should be legal or not. We decided in favour of the legal party and now we have got it.

Our attitude toward the peasantry and toward the national question

In this we still have a strain of the Second International in us. Our British Party still does not understand the great significance of national emancipation. On this question it is radical in words, but cannot make up its mind to some bold action either in the case of Ireland or the Colonies. The National question is a vital question of German policy. Our Party can say with justice that if we do not recognize any bourgeois fatherland, nevertheless we defend the future of the country, the people, and the nation. This our comrades recognized, but they dared not institute a practical campaign. Our Jugoslavian Party, too, dues not grasp the importance of the National Question. In Czechoslovakia there are still two communist textile organisations that are divided by nationality. Nihilism reigns in the National Question. The difference between us and the bourgeois parties is not that they are afflicted with the National Question and we are not, but that they are incapable of solving the National Problem. The National Problem can only be solved in a socialist society. Our parties still do not possess the psychology that they must have the majority of the country behind them. And yet we are not a Workers’ Party merely within bourgeois society. We are no close party of workers, but a Workers’ Party that is a party of the whole people. This applies still more to the Peasant question. Here great sins of omission are to be recorded. In Germany, where we allowed ourselves to be taken by surprise by the Social Democrats, and in Poland, where a proper campaign for the distribution of land was not undertaken. Our slogan of a Workers’ Government must be extended to:

“A Workers’ and Peasants’ Government”

Our American Party has understood this. The Social Democrats will have to give up many of their positions amongst the workers and seek their lot with the peasants. We must occupy the evacuated positions and at the same time compete with them for the peasants. “A Workers’ and Peasants’ Government” is a circumlocution for the dictatorship of the proletariat. If we intend to have a real dictatorship of the proletariat, we must understand how to win over the peasants. Many workers who have lost faith in the belief that we are able to triumph by our own strength, will be re-emboldened when they find that we have won new allies. The slogan can be of great service in all countries. It is a sign of the times that the peasants everywhere have an independent role to play. The new slogan comes unprepared. Perhaps this Executive Meeting will still not agree. But we have already achieved a certain elasticity by our tactic of the United Front. It would be wise if we rapidly adopted this slogan. The peasants stand in no real opposition to the workers. Why should we allow them to be played off against us? Let us learn from the Russian example. The proletariat must rule, but it must conduct itself skilfully and not stupidly so as not to loose power. It will be argued that our forces are not adequate. But if our party adopts the peasants, then every worker who has any connection with the land will become an agitator. If we are unable to make the peasants our supporters, we at least can induce them to be neutral. Nothing must be sacrificed of the class outlook – not a single concession. We are not only a Workers’ Party, but a shrewd Workers Party. Our parties must change their psychology. They must be imbued with that will to power which will presently lead them to victory.

Last updated on 18 October 2021