Fergus McKean

Communism versus Opportunism

An Examination of the Revision of Marxism in the Communist Movement of Canada


†In order to be able to pass judgment on what constitutes revisionism it is necessary to refer to the writings of the founders and most authoritative exponents of Marxism-Leninism. Lenin gave the following definition of revisionism:†

†“The principle tactical difference in the present labor movement of Europe and America reduce themselves to a struggle against two big trends that are departing from Marxism, which has in fact become the dominant theory in this movement. These two trends are revisionism {opportunism, reformism) and anarchism (anarcho-syndicalism, anarcho-socialism). Both these departures from the Marxist Theory that is dominant in the Labor Movement, and from Marxist tactics, were to be observed in various forms and in various shades in all civilized countries during the course of the more than half century of history of the mass labor movement.” (Lenin’s Selected Works, Vol XI, p. 739.)†

†It should be noted that Lenin here, and in other writings, uses the terms revisionism, opportunism and reformism interchangeably as different terms basically meaning one and the same thing. As regards the outlook of the proponents of these two trends Lenin stated:†

“The revisionists regard as mere phrasemonegering all reflections on ’leaps’ (revolutions, F.M.) and on the fundamental antithesis between the Labor Movement and the whole of society. They regard reforms as a partial realization of Socialism. The anarcho-syndicalist rejects ’petty work’ especially the utilization of the parliamentary platform. As a matter of fact, these latter tactics amount to waiting for the ’great days’ and to an inability to muster the forces which create great events.†† Both hinder the most important and most essential thing, namely, the concentration of the workers into big, powerful and properly functioning organizations, capable of functioning properly under all circumstances, permeated with the spirit of class struggle, clearly realizing their aims and trained in the true Marxist world conception.” (Ibid., p. 740.)

Lenin further declared:

“The revisionists declare the doctrine of the class struggle to be ’antiquated,’ or begin to conduct a policy which in fact amounts to a renunciation of the class struggle”.–(Ibid., p. 742.) And again:

“In the domain of politics, revisionism tried to revise the very foundation of Marxism, namely, the doctrine of the class struggle”. (Ibid., p. 708.)

Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin all devote a considerable proportion of their writings to the struggle against revisionism (opportunism). Lenin in particular, during his entire lifetime in the revolutionary movement, conducted a relentless struggle against the opportunism of the Social Democratic Parties affiliated to the Second International including the opportunist (Menshevik) wing of his own party. Both Lenin and Stalin accused the theoreticians of the parties of the Second International of “emasculating Marxism of its revolutionary content.” Since the doctrine of the class struggle constitutes the “very foundation of Marxism,” as Lenin put it, the “Philistines” of the Second International gave particular attention to substituting the theory and practice of “reforming capitalism,” of co-operating with their own capitalist class, of “class collaboration,” for the theory and practice of the class struggle.

†The doctrine of the class struggle was not an abstract idea conjured up in the mind of Karl Marx but a recognition and an understanding of a phenomenon that has existed in all societies with class divisions, As Marx put it, in the Communist Manifesto:†

“The history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of class struggles (Engels added, with the exception of the classless society of primitive communism).†

“Free man and slave, patrician and plebian, lord and serf, guild master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, n0w hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.”

As regards modern capitalist (bourgeois) society, Marx stated:†

“The modern bourgeois society that has sprouted from the ruins of feudal society, has not done away with class antagonisms. It has but established new classes, new conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle in place of the old ones.”– (Communist Manifesto, p. 13.)†

”According to Marx,” Lenin stated, ”the state is an organ of class domination, an organ of oppression of one class by another; its aim is the creation of order which legalizes and perpetuates this oppression by moderating the collisions between the classes.” (State and Revolution, p. 9.)†

Liberalism and Revisionism†

It has been amply established and explained by the authorities of Marxism-Leninism that the modern “State” is an “organ,” an “apparatus” for the domination and oppression of the proletariat (the working class) by the bourgeoisie (the capitalist class). What has not been so amply established and explained is-the methods used by the bourgeoisie to carry out their domination and to maintain their “class rule.”

In dealing with this vitally important question in an article entitled, Differences in the European Labor Movement, written in 1910, Lenin wrote:

“If the tactics of the bourgeois were always uniform, or at least homogeneous, the working class would rapidly learn to reply to them by tactics also uniform or homogeneous. But as a matter of fact, in every country the bourgeoisie inevitably works out two systems of rule, two methods of fighting for its interests and of retaining its rule, and these methods at times succeed each other and at times are interwoven with each other in various combinations. They are, firstly, the method of force, the method which rejects all concessions to the labor movement, the method of supporting all the old and obsolete institutions, the method of irreconcilably rejecting reforms. Such is the nature of the Conservative policy which in Western Europe is becoming less and less a policy of the agrarian classes and more and more one of the varieties of bourgeois policy in general. The second method is the method of ’liberalism’ which takes steps toward the development of political rights, towards reforms, concessions and so forth.”–(Ibid., p. 742).

According to Lenin, the so-called “liberalism” or “progressiveness” of the liberal bourgeoisie, policies of introducing reforms and concessions, is one of their “two systems of rule.” Lenin continued:†

“The bourgeoisie passes from one method to the other, not in accordance with the malicious design of individuals, and not fortuitously, but owing to the fundamental contradictions of its own position. Normal capitalist society cannot develop successfully without a consolidated representative system and without the enjoyment of certain political rights by the population, which is bound to be distinguished by its relatively high ’cultural’ demands. This demand for a certain minimum of culture is created by the conditions of the capitalist mode of production itself, with its high technique, complexity, flexibility, mobility, rapidity of development of world competition, and so forth. The oscillations in the tactics of the bourgeoisie, the passage from the system of force to the system of apparent concessions, are, consequently, peculiar to the history of all European countries during the last half-century, while at the same time, various countries chiefly develop the application of one method or the other at definite periods. For instance, England in the ’sixties’ and ’seventies’ was a classical country of ’liberal’ bourgeois policy. Germany in the ’seventies’ and ’eighties’ adhered to the method of force and so on.†“When this method prevailed in Germany, a one-sided echo of this system, one of the systems of bourgeois government, was the growth of anarcho-syndicalism, or anarchism as it was then called, in the labor movement (the ’young’ at the beginning of the ’nineties,’ Johann Most at the beginning of the ’eighties’). When in 1890 the change toward concessions took place, this change, as is always the case, proved to b? even more dangerous to the labor movement, and gave rise to an equally one-sided echo of bourgeois ’reformism’: opportunism in the Labor Movement.†

“’The positive and real aim of the liberal policy of the bourgeoisie’ Pannekoek says, ’is to mislead the workers, to cause a split in their ranks, to transform their policy into an impotent adjunct of an impotent and ephemeral, sham reformism.’†

“Not infrequently, the bourgeoisie for a certain time achieves its object by a ’liberal’ policy, which as Pannekoek justly remarks, is a ’more crafty’ policy. A part of the workers and a part of their representatives at times allow themselves to be deceived by sham concessions. The revisionists declare the doctrine of the class struggle to be ’antiquated,’ or begin to conduct a policy which in fact amounts to a renunciation of the class struggle. The zigzags of bourgeois tactics intensify revisionism within the labor movement and not infrequently exacerbate the differences within the labor movement to the pitch of a direct split.†

“All causes of the kind indicated give rise to differences on questions of tactics within the labor movement and with the proletarian ranks. But there is not and cannot be a Chinese wall between the proletariat and the strata of the petty bourgeoisie contiguous to it, including the peasantry. It is clear that the passing of certain individuals, groups and strata of the petty bourgeoisie into the ranks of the proletariat is bound, in its turn, to give rise to vacillations in the tactics of the latter.†

“The experience of the labor movement of various countries helps us to understand from the example of concrete practical questions the nature of Marxist tactics; it helps the younger countries to distinguish more clearly the true class significance of the departures from Marxism and to combat these departures more successfully.”–(Ibid., pp. 741-42-43.)

Lenin established the following important points:

1. The passage from “the system of force” to the “system of apparent concessions” is peculiar to the history of all European countries for the past half century as two methods of bourgeois rule. Further, the bourgeoisie passes from one method to the other because of the “fundamental contradictions of its own position,” although at times both methods are interwoven.
2. During a period when the bourgeoisie of a given country resorted to the ”method of force,” a one-sided echo of this method was the growth of anarcho-syndicalism in the labor movement. When the method of “concessions” was in operation, the one-sided echo was “opportunism in the labor movement.”
3. The method of concessions is, for the labor movement, ‥even more dangerous” than the method of force because it is a more ”crafty policy” by which a number of the workers’ ‥representatives” allow themselves to be deceived by ”sham concessions.”
4. The experience of the labor movement of various countries helps other countries to ”distinguish more clearly the true class significance” of the revision of Marxism. This revisionism Lenin attributes to the class influence of the big bourgeoisie through the “passing of certain individuals, groups and strata of the petty bourgeoisie” (their ideology is essentially bourgeois) into the ranks of the proletariat.

In Lenin’s preface to Letters to Kugelman, he writes:

†“The Marxian doctrine has bound the theory and practice of the class struggle into one inseparable whole. And whoever distorts a theory which soberly presents the objective situation into a justification of the existing order and goes to the length of striving to adapt himself as quickly as possible to every temporary decline in the revolution, to discard ’revolutionary illusions’ as quickly as possible and to turn to ’realistic’ tinkering, is no Marxist.”–(Lenin’s Selected Works, Vol.† XI, p. 716.)†

The revision of Marxism, then, almost invariably takes the form of revising the “very foundation” of Marxism, the doctrine of the class struggle, of concentrating on the winning of reforms “as a partial realization of socialism.” And this is the logical outcome of revisionism. In view of the fact that Marxism is the science of the working class movement and its foundation is the doctrine of the class struggle, it therefore follows that revisionism would almost of necessity take the form of either theoretically revising that doctrine or of conducting policies which, in fact, would amount to the “renunciation of the class struggle.” Theoretically and in practice to “renounce the class struggle” would mean to advocate or follow policies which, instead of recognizing the conflict of interests of the two basic classes, of their irreconcilability, would substitute the identity of interests of the two classes; in other words, to advocate and practice class co-operation or class collaboration.†

†The danger of revisionism entering the working class movement, Lenin pointed out, is greatest during a period when the government follows a policy of liberalism, a policy of appearing progressive through granting certain reforms and concessions to the working class, which, however, are designed to “mislead the workers” and “cause a split in their ranks.”

Capitalism developed in the U.S. and also in Canada under historic conditions very different from those of the European countries. The fact that feudalism had never been widely established in North America, the availability of free land, mass emigration to both countries, democratic traditions established in early years, particularly following the American Revolution of 1776 and the Civil war of 1861-65 in the U.S.A. and the rebellion of 1837 in Canada, these all served to further strengthen democratic forms. Largely because of these factors and the economic power of American and British Imperialism, the Labor movement in North America was much slower in developing Independent political action and organizing political parties than was the case in the European countries, where class lines were much more sharply drawn. In fact, Marxism was brought to the United States by German emigrants, and although a Marxist Party was formed in the ”seventies,” it took a considerable period before it exerted any degree of influence.†

However, because of the important position the U.S.A. occupies in the system of world imperialism, it is important to study the advice given to the American Marxists, on the question of developing an independent working class political movement, by the founders of Marxism-Leninism.†

The Advice of the Authorities of Marxism to the American Labor Movement†

Frederick Engels in writing to Sorge, Nov. 29, 1886, pointed out:

“The American masses had to seek out their own way and seem to have found it for the time being in the K(nights) of L(abor), whose confused principles and ludicrous organization appear to correspond to their own confusion. But according to all I hear the K. of L. are a real power, especially in New England and the West, and are becoming more so every day owing to the brutal opposition of the capitalists.”– (Selected Correspondence of Marx & Engels, p. 450.) Engels continued:†

“The first great step of importance for every country newly entering into the movement is always the organization of the workers as an independent political party, no matter how, so long as it is a distinct workers party. And this step has been taken, far more rapidly than we had a right to hope, and that is the main thing. That the first program of this party is still confused and highly deficient, that it has set up the banner of Henry George, these are inevitable evils but also only transitory ones. The masses must have time and opportunity to develop and they can only have the opportunity when they have their own movement – no matter in what form so long as it is only their own (Engels’ italics) movement – in which they are driven further by their own mistakes and learn wisdom by hurting themselves.” – (Ibid., p. 450.) Engels concluded as follows:

From good historical reasons, the Americans are worlds behind in all theoretical things, and while they did not bring over any medieval institutions from Europe they did bring over masses of medieval traditions, religion, English common (feudal) law, superstition, spiritualism, in short, every kind of imbecility which was not directly harmful to business and which is now very serviceable for making the masses stupid. And if there are people at hand whose minds are theoretically clear, who can tell them the consequences of their own mistakes beforehand and make it clear to them that every movement which does not keep the destruction of the wage system in view the whole time as its final aim is bound to go astray and fail – then many a piece of nonsense may be avoided and the process considerably shortened. But it must take place in the English way, the specific German character must be cut out and for that the gentlemen of the Sozialist have hardly the qualification, while those of the Volkzietung are only more intelligent where business (Engels’ italics) is concerned.”(Ibid., p. 451.)

In this letter written 59 years ago, Engels, with penetrating clarity, outlined the most important political tasks of the American working class and the reasons for them are as follows:†

1. That for “historical reasons” the Americans were “worlds behind” in their understanding and utilization of revolutionary theory as a weapon in the hands of the labor movement, and the American bourgeoisie, also “worlds behind” in “theoretical things,” nevertheless, were utilizing “medieval traditions,” in short, “every kind of imbecility” for “making the masses stupid.”
2. Because of the fact the American working class lacked a revolutionary theory (in the opening part of his letter, Engels pointed oUt the emigrant German Socialists in the U.S.A. were unable to impart Marxism to the American workers because they regarded Marxism as a dogma, a credo, rather than “a guide to action,” and hence did not understand it themselves) they “had to seek out their own way” and appeared to have found the path through the medium of the Knights of Labour. But because of their own theoretical unclarity the “principles” and “organization” of their movement reflected this unclarity and confusion.
3. Engels further points out that the new American labor movement would have to learn from its own experience and mistakes, to “learn wisdom by hurting themselves.” This could only be accomplished, however, providing they had their own movement so long as it was only their own.
4.†If there were people at hand who were “theoretically clear”† (Marxists, F.M.) and could point out the consequences of mistakes† beforehand, “many a piece of nonsense could be avoided” and the† “process” ( the achievement of socialism, F.M.) “considerably short-ended.”
5. “Every movement which does not keep the destruction of the wage system in view the whole time as its final aim is bound to go astray and fail; i.e., the aim of achieving socialism.
6. “The organization of the workers as an independent political party, no matter how, so long as it is a distinct workers’ party, is always the first great step of importance for every country newly entering the movement.”

†It is quite clear that Engels in his letter to Sorge is not referring to the organization of a relatively small revolutionary party, a Marxian Party, but to a broad all-inclusive “distinct workers’ party” because there already was in existence in the U.S.A. a professed Marxian Party, a Socialist Labour Party. In other words, Engels was stressing the need of organizing an independent mass third party movement based on the American working class.†

In his letter to Florence Kelley Wischnewetsky, two months later, Engels returned to the same theme in concluding his letter as follows:†

“Had we, from 1864 to 1873, insisted on working together only with those who openly adopted our platform where should we be today? I think that all our practice has shown that it is possible to work along with the general movement of the working class at every one of its stages without giving up or hiding our own distinct position and even organization, and I am afraid that if the German Americans choose a different platform they will commit a great mistake.”–(Selected Correspondence of Marx & Engels, p. 445.)†

In an earlier letter, written December 28, 1886, Engels stressed the need of a mass workers’ party as follows:†

“A million or two of workingman’s votes next November for a bona fide workingman’s party is worth infinitely more at present than a hundred thousand votes for a doctrinally perfect platform.”– (Selected Correspondence of Marx & Engels, p. 454.)†

In 1892 Engels again returns to the need of and prospects for an independent political movement of the working class, this time with regard to England:

“In fact in England too, the working people have begun to move again. They are, no doubt, shackled by traditions of various kinds. Bourgeois traditions, such as the widespread belief that there can be but two parties, Conservatives and Liberals, and that the working class must work out its salvation by and through the great Liberal ”Party. If the sons of the old Chartists, for reasons explained above, were not quite up to the mark, the grandsons bid fair to be worthy of their forefathers.”–(Socialism Utopian & Scientific, p. 29.)†

Fifteen years later, April, 1907, Lenin, in commenting on Engels’ letters regarding the tactics to be followed by American Socialists, points out that the fundamental features of the British and American Labor movements are:†

“The absence of any at all big, nation-wide democratic problems, facing the proletariat; the complete subjection of the proletariat to bourgeois politics; the sectarian isolation of groups, handfuls of Socialists from the proletariat; not the slightest success of the Socialists at the elections among the working masses, etc.”– (Vol. XI, Lenin’s Selected Works, p. 724.)

Lenin explains further:†

“Engels lays so much stress on the economic organizations of the workers in such conditions because he is dealing with the most firmly established democratic systems, which confront the proletariat with purely Socialist tasks. (By ’purely Socialist tasks,’ Lenin here is referring to the fact that the democratic tasks of abolishing remnants of feudalism had been largely completed.–F.M.)†

†“Engels stresses the importance of an independent workers’ party, even though with a bad program, because he is dealing with countries where hitherto there had not been even a hint of political independence of the workers, where in politics, the workers most of all dragged, and still drag, after the bourgeoisie.”–(Ibid., p. 725.)†

And again:

“And now we very clearly perceive the two lines of Engels’ (and Marx’s) recommendations, directions, corrections, threats and exhortations. They most insistently called upon the British and American Socialists to merge with the Labor Movement and to eradicate the narrow and hidebound sectarian spirit from their organizations.” (Ibid., p. 731.)†

Lenin further explained why it was essential for the British and American Socialists to “merge with the labor movement” by the following:

“In countries where there are no Social Democratic workers parties, no Social Democratic members in parliament, no systematic and consistent Social Democratic policy either at elections or in the press, etc., Marx and Engels taught that the Socialists must at all costs rid themselves of narrow sectarianism and join with the labor movement so as to shake up the proletariat politically, for in the last third of the nineteenth century the proletariat displayed almost no political independence either in England or America. In these countries – where bourgeois-democratic historical tasks were almost entirely absent – the political arena was wholly filled by the triumphant and self-complacent bourgeoisie, which, in the art of deceiving, corrupting, and bribing the workers has no equal anywhere in the world.”– (Ibid., p. 723.)†

Thirteen years later, at the second Congress of the Communist International, July 23, 1920, Lenin noted with satisfaction the existence of an independent, working class, mass political party in England and insisted that the British Communists affiliate to it on the conditions then prevailing, under which each affiliated group retained its independence and the right of freedom of criticism. In castigating those Communists who opposed the affiliation, on the grounds such affiliation would constitute class collaboration, Lenin stated:†

“... I declare that there will be no class collaboration in this... But in regard to the British Labor Party, it is only a matter of the advanced minority of the British working class collaborating with the overwhelming majority. . What we get here is collaboration between the vanguard of the working class and the backward workers – the rearguard. This collaboration is so important for the whole labor movement that we categorically demand that the British Communists should serve as a connecting link between the Party, i.e., the minority of the working class, and all the rest of the workers. If the minority is unable to lead the masses,to link up closely with them, then it is not a Party and is worthless, no matter whether it calls itself a Party or the National Committee of Shop Stewards Committees–as far as I know the Shop Stewards Committees in England have their National Committee. Until the opposite is proved we can say that the British Labor Party consists of proletarians and that by being in the ranks we can secure collaboration between the vanguard of the working class and the backward workers. If this collaboration is not carried out systematically, then the Communist Party will be worthless and then there can be no talk of the dictatorship of the proletariat.”– (Vol. X, Lenin’s Selected Works, p. 216-217.)†

At the fourth Congress of the C.I. (Communist International), held in November, 1922, a resolution was adopted on the question of a ”workers’ and peasants’ government” from which the following excerpts are taken:†

“The slogan of ’Workers’ and Peasants’ Government,’ as the old slogan of Workers’ Government, by no means takes the place of, or shifts into the background, our agitation for the proletarian dictatorship, which is the cornerstone of Communist tactics... Correct interpretation of the slogan of ’workers’ and peasants’ government’ will enable the Communists not only to mobilize the proletarian masses in the towns, but also to establish for themselves reliable points of support in the villages and thus pave the way for the conquest of power.–(Proceedings of the 5th Congress of the C.I. pp. 117-118.)†

“As a general agitational slogan, the workers’ government (or the workers’ and peasants’ government) can be applied everywhere.– (Ibid., p. 110.)†

“Of course, the agitation under the slogan of ’workers’ and peasants’ government’ must be concretely adapted to the circumstance of every particular country. For instance, in America, it must deal with the problem of the toiling farmers... (Ibid., p.118.)†

“In the specific conditions that existed in America at that time when no Labor or Farmer parties, national in scope, existed, the slogan, ’A Workers’ and Peasants’ Government,’ was apparently replaced with the slogan, ’A Farmer-Labor Party.’ Speaking at the fifth Congress of the C.I. June 24, 1924, delegate Dunne of the American Party, reported the Party’s object: ’... In carrying on the manoeuvers for the formation of the Farmer-Labor Party was to drive a wedge between the exploited farmers and workers and the capitalist parties. Some wished to base it upon the industrial workers, but the minority tended to overemphasize the importance of the agricultural workers.’” (Proceedings of the fifth Congress of the C.I. p. 73.)†

Delegate Amter’s contribution to the discussion was reported in part as follows:†

“The official pamphlet of the American Party dealing with the growth of the Labor Party, stated that it would be a mistake of the greatest magnitude to exclude the working farmers from the Labor Party. The co-operation of the farmers and workers had become traditional in America. Comrade Amter quoted figures to show that in many States the Farmer-Labor Party contained large groups of industrial workers which held the Party completely under their Control. There were other States in which the membership was predominantly farmers, notably the State of Montana.”– (Ibid., p. 94.)†

†It would appear from the above statements that some headway had finally been made by the American Labor movement in creating an independent third party movement in the U.S.A.; to create a party that would politically break the masses away from “trailing behind the bourgeoisie.” This was 48 years after Engels had first exhorted the American Socialists to proceed with the building of a Party of the working people which, he said, was the “first great step” for every country newly entering the movement, “the organization of the workers as an independent political party.” However, ten years later it would appear that little real progress had been made in building a mass third party movement of the working people.†

The Tactic of the United Front and of the People’s Front

At the 7th Congress of the C.I. the general secretary of the International, Georgi Dimitroff, made his historic report in which he warned the working people of the world that international imperialism was driving towards the establishment of fascist dictatorships in all countries for the purpose of placing the “whole burden of the crisis in the backs of the toilers,” in order to “solve the problems of markets by enslaving the weak nations, by intensifying colonial oppression and repartitioning the world anew by means of war,” and finally that “they are striving to forestall the growth of the forces of revolution by smashing the revolutionary movement of the workers and peasants and by undertaking a military attack against the Soviet Union–the bulwark of the world proletariat.” (The United Front, P. 9.)†

Fascism in power, Dimitroff defined as “The open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic and most imperialist elements of finance capital” (Ibid., p. 10.)†

“Fascism was able to come to power,” stated Dimitroff, “primarily because the working class, owing to the policy of class collaboration with the bourgeoisie pursued by the Social-Democratic leaders, proved to be split, politically and organizationally disarmed, in face of the onslaught of the bourgeoisie. And the Communist Parties, on the other hand, apart from and in opposition to the Social-Democrats, were not strong enough to rouse the masses and to lead them in a decisive struggle against fascism.”† (Ibid., p. 19.)†

†In answer to the question, “How can fascism be prevented from coming to power and how can fascism be overthrown after it has been victorious,” Dimitroff answered:

“To this the Communist International replies: The first thing that must be done, the thing with which to begin, is to form a united front, to establish unity of action of the workers in every factory, in every district, in every region, in every country, all over the world. Unity of action of the proletariat on a national scale is the mighty weapon which renders the working class capable not only of successful defense but also of successful counter-attack against fascism, against the class enemy.”†– (Ibid., p. 30.)†

This exhortation of Dimitroff would appear to be fairly simple and understandable. In order to prevent fascism from coming to power, then, the workers must, first of all, be united in action. Secondly, this unity in action must begin at the point of production “in every factory” and be extended to cover whole regions and countries.

Dimitroff further defined the character of this united action and its effects as follows:†

“Yes, Comrades, the road in the way of fascism can be blocked. It is quite possible. It depends on ourselves – on the workers, the peasants, and all working people.”–(Ibid., p. 25.)†

This statement makes it clear that the blocking of fascism depends on the workers, peasants (or farmers) and all working people.†

The type of action to be taken Dimitroff outlined as follows:

“Whether the victory of fascism can be prevented depends first and foremost on the militant activity of the working class itself, on whether its forces are welded into a single militant army combating the offensive of capitalism and fascism. By establishing its fighting unity, the proletariat would paralyze the influence of fascism over the peasantry, the petty bourgeoisie of the towns, the youth and the intelligentsia, and would be able to neutralize one section of them and win over another.”– (Ibid., p. 25.)†

These statements are also quite simple and understandable. According to Dimitroff, victory over fascism is dependent on the militant activity of the working class itself. Such a “fighting unity,” he said,†

“would win over one section of the middle class and the farmers to the side of the workers and render neutral another section, thus paralyzing the influence of fascism over the only sections of the population among which fascism could hope to secure a mass base.”†

The success of the United Front of the working class in the struggle against fascism and war, Dimitroff pointed out, largely depended on the workers who followed the leadership of the Social Democratic politicians and trade union leaders, deserting the policy of class collaboration and adopting a policy of class struggle. Dimitroff continued:†

“A process of differentiation is taking place in all the Social Democratic Parties. Within their ranks two principal camps are forming: side by side with the existing camp of reactionary elements, who are trying in every way to preserve the bloc between the Social Democrats and the bourgeoisie, and who, rabidly reject a united front with the Communists, there is beginning to form a camp of revolutionary elements who entertain doubts as to the correctness of the policy of class collaboration with the bourgeoisie, who are in favor of the creation of a united front with the Communists, and who are increasingly coming to adopt the position of the revolutionary class struggle.”– (Ibid., p. 30.)†

This meant, that in addition to a united front of the working class, based on “militant activity,”, being essential in order to defeat fascism, that as a result of the division among the followers of the Social Democratic parties a united front was now possible and realizable.†

In answer to the question, “What is and ought to be the basic content of the United Front at the present stage?” Dimitroff answered:†

“The defense of the immediate economic and political interests of the working class, the defense of the working class against fascism, must form the starting point and main content of the united front in all capitalist countries.”– (Ibid., pp. 3 5-36.)†

In order to further the efforts of the working class to “paralyze the influence of fascism over the peasantry, the petty bourgeoisie of the towns, the youth and the intelligentsia” and to “neutralize one section of them and win over another,” Dimitroff proposed further that the working class form a united front with these middle class elements in the struggle against fascism. This united front of the working class with sections of the farmers and the middle class Dimitroff termed the Anti-Fascist People’s Front. He explained the need of such a people’s front as follows:†

“In mobilizing the mass of working people for the struggle against fascism, the formation of a wide, popular anti-fascist front on the basis of the proletarian united front is a particularly important task. The success of the whole struggle of the proletariat is closely bound up with establishing a fighting alliance between the proletariat on the one hand, and the toiling peasantry and basic mass of the urban petty bourgeoisie, who together form the majority of the population even in industrially developed countries, on the other.”–(Ibid., p. 39.)

However, while stressing the need of the working class winning allies for the struggle against fascism Dimitroff warns that the working class must play the decisive role. He states:†

“The fundamental, the most decisive thing in establishing the anti-fascist People’s Front is resolute action of the revolutionary proletariat in ’defense of the demands of these sections of the people, particularly the working peasantry – demands in line with the basic interests of the proletariat – and in the process of struggle combining the demands of the working class with these demands.”– (Ibid., p. 40.)†

Dimitroff is here pointing out that, in order to secure allies from the ranks of the farmers and the middle class the working class must advance their demands and combine them with their own. In other words, the working class must fight for the interests of the farmers and the urban middle class as well as for their own demands in order to build the People’s Front.†

Dimitroff then proceeds to deal with the question of how the working class should proceed to approach the farmers and the middle class through their economic and political organizations in order to achieve united action and build the People’s Front. He states:†

“In the Capitalist countries the majority of these parties and organizations, political as well as economic, are still under the influence of the bourgeoisie and follow it. The social composition of these parties and organizations is heterogenous. They include big kulaks (rich peasants) side by side with landless peasants, big business men alongside petty shopkeepers; but control is in the hands of the former, the agents of big capital. This obliges us to approach the different organizations in different ways, taking into consideration that not infrequently the bulk of the membership does not know anything about the real political character of its leadership. Under certain conditions, we can and must try to draw these parties and organizations or certain sections of them to the side of the anti-fascist People’s Front, despite their bourgeois leadership... “(Ibid., p. 40.)

There should be no room here for misinterpretation of the tactics which Dimitroff is outlining for the working class to follow. In order to forestall any attempt of the fascist bourgeoisie to secure a mass base among the farmers or the middle class of the towns Dimitroff proposed that, in spite of the fact control of the farmers’ organizations, farmers’ political parties and urban middle class political parties was in the hands of big capital, the working class should nevertheless strive to draw these organizations and parties, or sections of them, to the side of the People’s Front. Obviously if the working class were successful in doing so it would mean winning them away from the influence and control of big capital and making them allies of the working class.

Dimitroff then proceeded to deal specifically with the organizations and political parties of the farmers and middle class of different countries which should be considered:

“Such for instance is today the situation in France with the Radical Party (at that time, 1935, in France a United Front on a national scale had already been effected between the Communist and Socialist parties. The Radical Socialist Party did later unite with them, thus forming the French Peoples Front or Popular Front as it was called in France. At the election which followed, the Popular Front won a victory at the polls and the Socialist and Radical Socialist Parties jointly formed the government under the premiership of Leon Blum, leader of the French Socialist Party. The Communist Party did not join the Government although they stated later they were prepared to do so if necessary.–F.M.) in the United States with various farmers’ organizations, in Poland with the ’Stronnictwo Ludowe’, in Yugoslavia with the Croation Peasant Party, in Bulgaria with the†Agrarian League, in Greece with the Agrarians, etc. But regardless of whether or not there is any chance of attracting these parties and organizations as a whole to the Peoples’ Front, our tactics must under all circumstances be directed towards drawing the small peasants, artisans, handicraftsmen, etc., among their members into the antifascist peoples’ front.”– (Ibid., p. 40.)†

In connection with the above quotation from Dimitroff’s report it is significant to note that in practically every instance in referring to the organizations and parties that should be drawn into the People’s Front he stipulates farmers’ parties and organizations.† In referring specifically to the United States he includes only ”various farmers’ organizations.” This is quite consistent with his reference to the decisive thing in building the People’s Front being resolute action on the part of: the working class in defense of the demands of these people, “particularly the working peasantry.” He further makes the point that regardless of whether or not these organizations are won for the People’s Front, that section of their membership which is made up of “peasants, artisans, handicraftsmen, etc.,” must be won over.†

A Mass Workers’ and Farmers’ Party in the U.S.A.

In the section of his report entitled “Key Questions of the United Front in Individual Countries,” significantly enough, Dimitroff begins by stating:†

“Let us take, for example, so important a country in the capitalist world as the United States of America, where vast masses are beginning to abandon the bourgeois parties and are at present at the cross roads... In contradistinction to German fascism, which acts under anti-constitutional slogans, American fascism tries to portray itself as the custodian of the constitution and ’American Democracy.’

Dimitroff then warns that if American fascism “succeeds in penetrating to the wide masses who have become disillusioned with the old bourgeois parties it may become a serious menace in the very near future.”– (The United Front, p. 42.)†

After again dealing with the importance of the United States in the world scene and the necessity of organizing more than the class conscious vanguard, Dimitroff warns that “It is perfectly obvious that the interests of the American proletariat demand that all its forces dissociate themselves from the capitalist parties without delay.” He continues, “It must find in good time ways and suitable forms to prevent fascism from winning the wide mass of discontented working people.” (Ibid.)†

Dimitroff then proposes:†

“And here it must be said that under American conditions the creation of a mass party of working people, a ’Workers’ and Farmers’ Party’ might serve as such a suitable form. Such a party would be a specific form of the Mass Peoples’ Front in America and should be put in opposition to the parties of the trusts and of the banks, and likewise to growing fascism. Such a party of course, will be, neither Socialist nor Communist. But it must not be an anti-Communist Party.” (Ibid.)†

Dimitroff then proceeds to outline the program of the proposed party as follows:

“The program of this Party must be directed against the banks, trusts and monopolies, against the principal enemies of the people, who are gambling on the woes of the people. Such a party will correspond to its name only if it defends the urgent demands of the working class, only if it fights for genuine social legislation, for unemployment insurance; only if it fights for land for the black and white sharecroppers and for liberation from debt burdens; only if it tries to secure the cancellation of the farmers indebtedness; only if it fights for equal status for negroes; only if it defends the demands of the war veterans and the interests of members of the liberal professions, small business men and artisans. And so on.” (Ibid., pp. 42-43.)

And Dimitroff adds:†

†“It goes without saying that such a party will fight for the election of its own candidates to local government, to the state legislates, to the House of Representatives and the Senate”. (Ibid., p. 43.)

†Dimitroff then proceeds to explain the tactics to be followed in building such a mass “third party,” pointing out that the people themselves must be made to realize the need of such a party. He said:†

“Our comrades in the United States acted rightly in taking the initiative for the creation of such a party. But they still have to take effective measures in order to make the creation of such a party the cause of the masses themselves. The question of forming a ’Workers’ and Farmers’ Party,’ and its program, should be discussed at mass meetings of the people. We should develop the most widespread movement for the creation of such a party, and take the lead in it. In no case must the initiative of organizing the party be allowed to pass to elements desirous of utilizing the discontent of the millions who have become disillusioned in both the bourgeois parties, Democratic and Republican, in order to create a ’third party’ in the United States, as an anti-Communist party, a party directed against the revolutionary movement.”(Ibid., p. 43.)†

Recognizing the dangers which arise in applying the tactics of the United Front and the People’s Front, of the new “tactical orientation” of the world communist movement, Dimitroff warned:

“We want to intensify in every way the struggle against all concrete manifestations of Right opportunism, realizing that the danger from this side will increase precisely in the practice of carrying out our mass policy and struggle.”(Ibid., p. 93.)

Dimitroff went further and warned that the Communist Parties must guard against any penetration into their ranks of the ideology of compromise with the bourgeoisie. Said Dimitroff:

“We have combined and shall continue to combine our readiness to march jointly with the Social Democratic Parties and organizations to the struggle against Fascism with an irreconcilable struggle against Social Democracy as the ideology and practice of compromise with the bourgeoisie, and consequently also against any penetration of this ideology into our own ranks.”(Ibid., p.83.)†

Dimitroff returned to the same theme and again warned against any dependency on the capitalist class: “The whole experience of the labor movement, particularly the experience of the fifteen years of coalition policy in Germany, has shown that the policy of class collaboration, the policy of dependence on the bourgeoisie, leads to the defeat of the working class and to the victory of fascism. And only the road of irreconcilable class struggle against the bourgeoisie, the road of the Bolsheviks, is the true road to victory.” (Ibid., p. 88.)

The warning given here by Dimitroff, one would think, is perfectly clear and unequivocal: ”The policy of dependence on the bourgeoisie leads to the defeat of the working class and the victory of fascism/’ Furthermore, such a policy he denounces as ”class collaboration” which he previously pointed out was the ideology of the Social Democratic parties which paved the way for fascism in a number of countries.†

†The stature of Dimitroff as one of the outstanding Marxists of the world was recognized by the delegates to the congress: “(In a lengthy ovation, Stalin and Dimitroff were greeted as the leaders of the world communist movement.)” (Ibid., p 141.)

On the basis of the statements of the most authoritative founders and proponents of Marxism, namely, Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Dimitroff, there has been established in the foregoing material the following important estimations, warnings and proposals, as to policies and tactics, to the labor movement generally and to the American labor movement in particular:

1. Revisionism, in practice, is basically the same as opportunism or reformism. Revisionism means to rob Marxism of its revolutionary content and particularly to revise the very foundation of Marxism, the doctrine of the class struggle. Revisionism means to substitute the theory and practice of co-operation with one’s own capitalist class, of dependence upon the bourgeoisie, of class collaboration, for “the theory and practice of the class struggle.”

The theory and practice of class collaboration has historically been the policy followed by the Social Democratic parties of all countries which resulted in disarming, dividing and defeating the working class movement and making possible the victory of fascism in several countries. “Leninism,” said Stalin, “grew and became strong in the clashes with the opportunism of the Second International, a struggle which was and remains an essential condition precedent to the success of the struggle against capitalism.”(Foundations of Leninism, p. 9.)†

2. The bourgeoisie maintain their class rule through the medium of the State “which is an organ of oppression of one class by another” and in doing so resort to “two systems of rule” which “at times succeed each other and at times are interwoven with each other” These two methods of rule are the “method of force” and the “method of liberalism” (reforms and concessions to the working class). Of the two methods, the method of liberalism is the most dangerous to the working class because of the danger of revision of Marxism, of opportunism arising during a period in which the method of liberalism was the method of rule used by the bourgeoisie. This opportunism in the labor movement Lenin attributed to the influence of the ideology of the capitalist class brought into the labor movement by “individuals, groups and strata of the petty bourgeoisie.”

3. Beginning with Engels 59 years ago the world’s leading authorities of Marxism stressed the need of establishing a third party movement in the United States based on the working class, an independent party. Lenin stressed the need of an independent workers’ party in the United States and Britain because “in politics the workers most of all dragged and still drag after the bourgeoisie.”

The British and American bourgeoisie, he said, “in the art of deceiving, corrupting and bribing the workers has no equal anywhere in the world.”†

4. Beginning at the 4th Congress of the C.I. in November, 1922, the Communist International agreed the “third party” movement in the U.S.A. should take the form of a “Farmer-Labor Party.” This was confirmed at the 5th Congress in July, 1924, where it was reported headway had been made in building a “Farmer-Labor Party.”

In August, 1935, the 7th Congress of the C.I., through its secretary, Georgi Dimitroff, proposed that in the United States the People’s Front take the form of a Workers’ and Farmers’ Party. The basis of the People’s Front, he said, was the united front of the working class, “unity of action of the workers in every factory.” The victory of fascism, he said, could be prevented by the “militant activity of the working class itself.”†

The People’s Front, he explained, should be composed of workers, farmers and urban middle class people. In another section of his report he spoke of them as small farmers, artisans, handicraftsmen, etc., these being the natural allies of the workers.

As for the American working class, Dimitroff warned “that all its forces dissociate themselves from the capitalist parties without delay” The Democratic and Republican parties he classified as bourgeois parties which the Workers’ and Farmers’ Party should oppose with its own candidates. He specifically warned against “the ideology and practice of compromise with the bourgeoisie.” And again he said, “The policy of dependence on the bourgeoisie leads to the defeat of the working class....” In order that there should be no errors made regarding the class forces which the proletariat should secure as its allies, Dimitroff, in December, 1936, in an article entitled “The People’s Front” wrote:†

†“When the working class marching as a unit, begins to act together with the peasantry, the lower middle classes and all democratic elements, on the basis of the Peoples’ Front program, then the offensive of the fascist bourgeoisie is confronted with an insurmountable obstacle.– (The United Front, p. 199.) In case there might be any misunderstanding as to who he was referring to as “democratic forces,” Dimitroff returns to the question: “The Peoples’ Front makes it possible for the lower middle classes, the peasantry and the democratic intelligentisia, not only to resist the tutelage and oppression of the clique of finance capital, but also to rise up against it in defense of their vital interests and rights, relying for support on the militant collaboration of the working class nationally and on an international scale.”(Ibid., p. 199.)

And again:†

“The People’s Front helps the working class to avoid the political isolation towards which the bourgeoisie purposely impels it; it creates the most favorable conditions for the working class to accomplish its historic role, to head the struggle of their people against the small clique of financial magnates, big capitalists and landlords, to be in the vanguard in the uncompleted democratic revolution and in all movements for progress and culture. The class struggle between exploited and exploiters thus receives an immeasurably wider base and a mighty scope.”( Ibid., p. 199.)†

Dimitroff here makes it clear that the tactic of the People’s Front was not a substitute for the class struggle but on the contrary provided the working class with a “wider base and a mighty scope” for more successfully conducting the class struggle.†

†Neither did Dimitroff in any way infer that the tactic of the “People’s Front against War and Fascism” constitute a compromise with the capitalist system as, in the very next paragraph, he stated:†

“The unity of the proletarian ranks and the formation of the People’s Front... in the long run pave the way for the victory of labor over capital.”(Ibid., p. 200).

†In dealing with the infantile leftism of the Left Social Democrats who do not or cannot understand the tactic of the People’s Front, Dimitroff again specifically outlined the class composition of the People’s Front. He said:

†“They (the left Social Democrats.–F.M.) make the mistake of identifying the People’s Front with the policy of class collaboration with the bourgeoisie, and demand a pure working class policy, declaring that the joint struggle of the working class and the democratic sections of the lower middle classes, the peasantry and intelligentsia against fascism constitutes a retreat from the position of the class struggle”. (Ibid., p. 200.)

†It should be noted that Dimitroff here does not only not include any section of the bourgeoisie but does not even include all of the middle class but speaks of the lower “middle classes, the peasantry and intelligentsia.”

Consider now, how these exhortations, warnings and proposals of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Dimitroff for the formation of an independent mass third party were carried out by the American Communist movement.†

How Browder Applied the Tactic of the People’s Front

Following the 7th Congress of the C.I., in August, 1935, Browder, in November, proposed the formation of a Farmer-Labor Party as the American form of the People’s Front. However, addressing the 9th Plenum of the Communist Party of Canada during the same month he stated:†

“We are taking some concrete steps forward in the United States, especially in the great Youth Congress movement which is the biggest† ††achievement of our movement in the United States so far in the field of United Front Work.”†

†So, in November the biggest achievement of the American party, according to Browder, was not in the achievement of the United Front of the workers, beginning in “every factory,” nor of achieving trade union unity, nor of laying the foundation for the Farmer-Labor Party, but the Youth Congress movement, which was, to a large extent, composed of and led by middle class youth.

†In December 1936, “he analyzed the Republican election defeat as a vote along class lines, as hastening the disintegration of the two party system and widening the split in the Democratic Party.” And Browder concluded that “these things improve and broaden the prospect for the building of a People’s Front.”†

†So! A year and a half after the 7th Congress of the C.I. had proposed the immediate formation of a Workers and Farmers Party (“We should develop the most widespread movement for the creation of such a party, and take the lead in it.”–Dimitroff.) it was, according to Browder, still only a “prospect.”

In June 1937, nearly two years after the American Party had supposedly taken on the task of building a “Workers and Farmers Party,” Browder stated that “mass trade unions and progressive groups” should be encouraged “to systematic and organized activity within the Democratic Party (in some places the Republican Party)...”

†By 1937, less than two years after Dimitroff had stressed that “the interests of the American proletariat demand that all its forces disassociate themselves from the capitalist parties without delay” and that a Workers and Farmers Party be formed, Browder tells the American working class the exact opposite: that the workers’ organizations “be encouraged” to activity within the Democratic and Republican Parties. Browder even drops the use of the Marxian term “People’s Front” whose class composition Dimitroff had defined several times and replaces it with the vague, nebulous and non-Marxian term “Democratic Camp” which he defined as “the American equivalent of the People’s Front.”† Its class composition he described as “now materialized in the organized labor movement, first of all the great movement of the C.I.O. and the progressive movements led by middle class figures within the old parties.”†

This definition of a supposed “Democratic Camp” in actual fact constitutes a revision of the Marxian doctrine of the class struggle. In practice such a policy only could and did result in subordinating the class interests of the working class to the class interests of the big bourgeoisie as it meant tying the working class to the support of the political parties of the bourgeoisie.†

†In 1938 the formulation “Democratic Camp” was replaced by that of†“Democratic Front.” By 1939 all use of the terms People’s Front and Workers’ and Farmers’ Party had been completely discarded and so had any attempt at, or prospect of, achieving them. The working class had been encouraged to participate in what was classically described by Browder himself as: “The progressive and democratic majority is a coalition between the Democratic Party and the independent radical third of the electorate. President Roosevelt has embodied that coalition and by his leadership has consolidated and strengthened it.”

Well! Well! The American working class together with the Communist Party had now become part of an electoral coalition whose leader was none other than the leader of the American bourgeoisie, President Roosevelt himself. The People’s Front of struggle against the bourgeoisie had been perverted into an electoral coalition of labor with the liberal bourgeoisie and under the leadership of the liberal bourgeoisie.

And this in spite of the admonitions of Dimitroff in June 1937:

“When carrying out the policy of the Peoples’ Front against fascism and war, when participating in joint action with other parties and organizations of the working people against the common enemy, and fighting for the vital interests and democratic rights of the working people, and for peace and liberty, the communists do not lose sight of the historic need for the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism, which has outlived its day, and for the establishment of socialism, which brings emancipation to the working class and the whole of mankind.” (The United Front, p. 236.)

And further:†

“True sons of their class, defenders of the interests of their people, free from all connections with and dependence on the bourgeoisie† thoroughly consistent internationalists, the communists will best of all be able to play the role of uniting link in the ranks of the proletariat itself and also among all the parties, organizations, and groups of the working people, democratic petty bourgeoisie, peasantry and intellectuals in the struggle against fascism and war.” (Ibid., p. 238.)†

Dimitroff gives a further warning against subordinating working class interests to the interests of the bourgeoisie:

“What is required is that, in determining their policy, all working class organizations should make their starting point the defense of the interests of their own class, and should not act to the advantage of the interests of the bourgeoisie. By making their starting point their own class interests, the working class and its organizations thereby defend the interests of all the exploited, of the entire people. An end must be put to the policy of reconciling the interests of the exploited and the exploiters. One cannot be, at one and the same time, on the side of the financial magnates and on the side of the working people.” (Ibid., p. 231.)†

In spite of the exhortations of Dimitroff to put an end to “the policy of reconciling the interests of the exploited and the exploiters,” to be “free from all connections with or dependence on the bourgeoisie,” under Browder’s influence the American Labor movement was taken into the bourgeois parties and accepted the leadership of the bourgeoisie.

The policy of encouraging “mass trade unions and progressive groups” to “systematic and organized activity within the Democratic Party” seemed to be most fully carried out in the State of Washington. There, an organization which embraced trade unions, old age pensioners, etc., was formed under the name of The Washington Commonwealth Federation, as an adjunct to the Democratic Party, with the avowed purpose of securing the election of New Deal supporters of Roosevelt’s domestic policies to Congress and the State Legislature. The fact that the State elected a full slate of New Deal Democrats, including some labor men, was considered to be a tremendous achievement. The objective appeared to be to utilize the Democratic Party apparatus for the labor movement. This was not the first time that such attempts were made in the history of the labor movement. Writing on this very question in 1893 Engels said:

“The Fabians are on ambitious group here in London who have understanding enough to realize the inevitability of the social revolution but who could not possibly entrust this gigantic task to the rough proletariat alone and are therefore kind enough to set themselves at the head. Fear of the revolution is their fundamental principle. They are the educated par excellence. Their socialism is municipal socialism; not the nation but the Municipality is to become the owner of the means of production at any rate for the time being. This socialism of theirs is then represented as an extreme but inevitable consequence of bourgeois liberalism and hence follows their tactics of not decisively opposing the Liberals as adversaries, but of pushing them on towards socialist conclusions and therefore of intriguing with them, of permeating Liberalism with Socialism, of not putting up Socialist candidates against the Liberals, but of fastening them onto the Liberals forcing them upon them, or deceiving them into taking them. That in the course of this process they are either lied to and deceived themselves or else betray Socialism, they do not, of course, realize.”(Marx & Engels’ Selected Correspondence, pp. 505-06.)

†Apparently it never occurred to those who advocated the policy of “systematic and organized activity within the Democratic Party” that in the process of doing so they would either “be lied to and deceived themselves or else betray socialism.” Apparently they never realized that instead of “permeating Liberalism with Socialism” inside the Democratic Party what would and did actually happen was the permeation of Socialism (Communism) with bourgeois liberalism.

Following the 1944 Presidential election the Washington Commonwealth Federation was dissolved. Apparently it was felt that the process of “socializing” the Democratic Party had been so successful that there was no longer any need of maintaining a separate labor wing of the Democratic Party, so what separate identity the labor elements had retained was abolished and they were completely submerged in the bourgeois ideology of the Democratic Party.†

The one other State where the tactics of “systematic and organized activity within the Democratic Party (in some places the Republican Party)...” seemed to have the greatest “success” was New York. In New York Communist candidates were not only endorsed by their own Party but secured the nomination and endorsement of the bourgeois parties and the Social Democratic, American Labor Party. For a Communist to be nominated or endorsed by the bourgeois parties was apparently considered to be a considerable achievement.

Following the arrest of Earl Browder in 1940, Wm. Z. Foster again raised the question of a Farmer-Labor Party:†

“If the United States is to play a constructive democratic peace role internationally, it is necessary to break the hold of finance capital upon the American Government. To achieve this the masses of the workers, farmers and other toilers must organize themselves into a great peoples peace front, into a broad Farmer-Labor Party and thus bring into active play their potentially overwhelming power.” (The Communist, April, 1940, p. 319.)†

In the same article Foster writes:†

“The Roosevelt administration is putting into effect this war policy of Big Business. In doing so it is receiving in all major essentials, the support of the Republican leaders, as well as that of the dominant forces of Wall Street.” (Ibid., p. 310.)

As regards the slogan “National Unity” Foster stated:†

“The fourth basic aspect of Roosevelt’s (big capital’s) war policy is this country’s warlike attitude toward the Soviet Union. This is the heart of capitalist class unity in the U.S. which they call National Unity.” (Ibid., p. 312.)†

Foster concluded his estimate of the National Unity slogan of Roosevelt as follows:†

“Altogether, the ’National Unity’ scheme is a very dangerous trap for the workers and other forces.”(Ibid., p. 316.)†

In 1940, then, the Roosevelt Government was recognized, at least by Foster, to be putting into effect the “policy of Big Business,” of receiving the “support of the Republican leaders,” and the “support of the dominant forces of Wall Street.” Roosevelt’s slogan of “National Unity” was characterized as a “very dangerous trap for the workers” and the need of “workers, farmers and other toilers” organizing into a broad “farmer-labor party” was recognized.

Four years later however, Browder, in estimating the results of the American Presidential election and the re-election of the Roosevelt administration informs us that the re-election of Roosevelt:†

“Consolidates the pre-conditions, established at Teheran, for the world to begin to face and work out peaceful paths toward the liberation of the colonial world from its bondage, and the inclusion of those areas within the domain of democracy and increasing well being.

“It clears the way to a new era of full employment, to be extended systematically to more and more of the world, through the united leadership of Britain, the Soviet Union, and America, in an organized world family of nations.†

“Only in such a world can America solve her domestic problems, and find the road to inner peace and democracy.†

“We have turned the corner on the historic path to that bright†† future. What Stalingrad was to the Soviet Union, the definite turning of the tide against fascism, so was the Nov. 7th elections for the United States.” (National Affairs Monthly, Dec. 1944, pp. 261-62.)

Just consider! What had, in 1940, been an administration representing Wall Street and reactionary Big Business, four years later, when re-elected, according to Browder, “consolidates the pre-conditions” to “work out peaceful paths toward the liberation of the colonial world from bondage,” it “clears the way to a new era of full employment and expanding well being” and finally, the importance of the re-election of Roosevelt is placed on a par with “the definite turning of the tide against fascism,” at Stalingrad.

But not only had the Roosevelt Government been transformed into its opposite by Browder but Roosevelt’s slogan of “National Unity” also underwent a metamorphosis. Whereas, formerly the heart of “National Unity” was Roosevelt’s and the capitalist classes’ “warlike attitude toward the Soviet Union” and “a very dangerous trap for the workers.” Browder, in December 1944, interprets it as follows:

“The reactionary camp was defeated by the aroused intelligence of the masses, by the unity brought about among the most advanced sectors of all classes in support of Roosevelt and by the superb leadership of the president himself at the head of the camp of National Unity.” (Ibid., p. 259.)

Clearly, while it was correct to avoid disunity, which would disrupt the war effort after the war had become a just war, it was wrong to attribute progressive qualities to monopoly capital which it did not possess and to uncritically follow the leadership of the liberal bourgeoisie behind the bourgeois slogan “national unity.”

The Tactic of Coalition with the Liberal Bourgeoisie

However, the American Communists, following the publication of the Duclos article, made sincere efforts to eradicate revisionism from their ideology and practice. They adopted a resolution, after two months of discussion and the submission of 5,000 amendments, which outlined the policies and tactics for the American Communist movement to follow. However, Foster himself stated, following the convention at which the American Communist Party was reconstituted, that:

“The worst mistake we could make, however, would be to conclude from this that the fight against Browder’s revisionism has been won and that we can proceed unconcernedly with our daily tasks.” (The Worker, Aug. 5, 1945.)†

The resolution adopted by the convention of the Communist Party of the U.S.A. includes the following:

“The dominant sections of American finance Capital supported the war against Nazi Germany not because of hatred of fascism or a desire to liberate suffering Europe from the heel of Nazi despotism, but because it recognized in Hitler Germany a dangerous imperialist rival determined to rule the world.”

Further on the resolution states:†

“It is necessary, as never before, to strengthen decisively the democratic unity of the nation, to create that kind of national unity for the postwar period which will be able to facilitate the destruction of fascism and to prevent fascism from coming to power in the United States. Therefore it is essential to weld together and consolidate the broadest coalition of all anti-fascist and democratic forces as well as all other supporters of Roosevelt’s anti-axis policies.”

†In the first draft of the resolution it read: “including all supporters 0f Roosevelt’s Anti-Axis policies.” Apparently there must have been some objection to the formulation because in the final draft, the word “including” was changed to “as well as.”†

†The previous section of the resolution pointed out that the war policies of Roosevelt, which were anti-Axis policies, were supported by the dominant sections of finance capital for their own imperialist aims. Therefore, to state that all “supporters of Roosevelt’s anti-Axis policies” be included in the camp of national unity, in the democratic coalition, is to continue to link the labor movement to the big bourgeoisie.†

Vulgarization of the Term Sectarianism†

A. B. Magil, writing in Political Affairs, warns against sectarianism as follows:

“One of the principal forms it takes is that of obscuring the differences within the bourgeoisie. In practice this means rejecting the Leninist policy of taking advantage of ’every antagonism of interest among the bourgeoisie of the various countries,’ of utilizing ’even the smallest opportunity of gaining, a mass ally, even though this ally be temporary, vacillating, unstable, unreliable and conditional.’ I feel that in this respect the resolution is still not satisfactory for it practically obliterates all conflicts of interest and policy among the monopolists. It is true that section 3 says that ’labor should cooperate with those capitalist groupings and elements who, for one or another reason, desire or endeavor to promote democratic objectives.’ This, however, stands in contradiction to section 2, where, the present role of the bourgeoisie is described as if it were a homogeneous unit.” (Political Affairs, Aug., 1945, p. 724.)

The above method of presentation of the question of taking advantage of antagonisms between various groups of the bourgeoisie constitutes a distortion of Marxism. Since similar viewpoints have been advanced by other writers who professed to be Marxists it is necessary to deal with the implications and concepts contained in Magil’s statement. First, he states that “one of the principal forms it (sectarianism) takes is that of obscuring the differences within the bourgeoisie.”

Since when has this become one of the principal forms of sectarianism? Dimitroff defined sectarianism at the 7th Congress as that which “More than anything else impedes our struggle for the realization of the united front”; and Dimitroff explained: “satisfied with its divorce from the real life of the masses”; which “considers it superfluous to learn from the masses,” “from the lessons of the labor movement.” “Sectarianism,” he stated, “finds expression particularly in overestimating the speed at which they are abandoning the positions of reformism.” And further: “The necessity of stubborn struggle in the very midst of the masses themselves has been ignored, the struggle for the demands of the workers and work in the reformist trade unions and fascist mass organizations have been neglected.”(The United Front, p. 85.)†

Lenin stated it succinctly:†

“We must not regard that which is obsolete for us as obsolete for the class, as obsolete for the masses... you, must soberly observe the actual state of class consciousness and preparedness of the whole class( not only of the Communist vanguard), of all the toiling masses (not only of its advanced elements).” (Left Wing Communism, p. 41).

According to Lenin and Dimitroff, then, sectarianism expresses itself mainly and “particularly” as a vice which neglects practical work among the workers and of estimating the degree of class-consciousness of the masses; of the Party running ahead of the masses; refusing to learn from the labor movement and isolating itself from the working people.†

The line of Magil’s whole argumentation is, that one of the principal forms of sectarianism is that of obscuring the differences within the bourgeoisie, that it is necessary to take advantage of these differences and quoting, as he does, Lenin’s reference to the need of gaining an ally “even though this ally be temporary, vacillating, unstable, unreliable and conditional” the inference is, that taking advantage of “the difference within the bourgeoisie” means to secure one section of the bourgeoisie as an ally for the working class.†

What did Lenin mean when he spoke of taking advantage of ”the difference within the bourgeoisie?” Magil did not give the full quotation, which reads as follows:†

“It is possible to conquer this most powerful enemy only by exerting our efforts to the utmost and by necessarily thoroughly, carefully, attentively and skillfully taking advantage of every “fissure” however small, in the ranks of our. enemies, of every antagonism of interests among the bourgeoisie of the various countries; by taking advantage of every possibility, however small, of gaining an ally among the masses, even though this ally be temporary, vacillating, unstable, unreliable and conditional.”(Left Wing Communism, p. 52.)

†In the paragraph from which the above sentence is taken Lenin was referring to the Soviet Union. In addition it should be noted he speaks of “in the ranks of our enemies” which Magil omitted to mention. In the first place the bourgeoisie are not part of the “masses” and consequently he would not be referring to the bourgeoisie or a section of them when he speaks of the need of securing an ally among the masses and not as Magil said “a mass ally.” In the second place it is patently ridiculous to assume that Lenin would be advising the working class to secure a mass ally “in the ranks of our enemies.”†

†How did Lenin propose the working class should take advantage of the “differences within the bourgeoisie,” in “the ranks of our enemies?”††† Lenin wrote:

“To accelerate the inevitable friction, quarrels, conflicts and complete disunity between the Hendersons, the Lloyd Georges and Churchills (Mensheviks, Socialist Revolutionaries, Constitutional Democrats, Monarchists, Schiedemanns, the bourgeoisie, the Kappists, etc.), and to select the moment when the disunity among these ’pillars of the sacred right of property’ is at its highest, in order to defeat them all by a determined attack of the proletariat and capture political power.”(Ibid., p. 75.)†

It may be argued or the proposition supported (as it was by Tim Buck and Alexander Trachtenberg at the Aug. 1945 National Committee meeting of the L.P.P.) that it is a Leninist or Marxian tactic for the working class to form an alliance or coalition with the liberal bourgeoisie or as the American Party resolution states it, “all other supporters of Roosevelt’s anti-axis policies.”

However, what did Lenin say on the subject? Did he ever propose such an alliance or coalition or compromise as a policy to be followed by the working class in the period prior to the advent of socialism?†

In 1908 he wrote:†

†“The experiences of alliances, agreements and blocs with the social reformists liberals in the west and with the liberal reformists (Constitutional Democrats) in the Russian revolution (the bourgeois democratic revolution for the overthrow of semi-feudal Tsarism in 1905–F.M.) convincingly showed that these agreements only blunt the consciousness of the masses, that they weaken rather than enhance the actual significance of their struggle by linking the fighters with the elements who are most vacillating and treacherous. French Millerandism – the biggest experiment in applying revisionist political tactics on a wide, a really national scale – has provided a practical judgment of revisionism which will never be forgotten by the proletariat all over the world. (Lenin is here referring to the action of the French Socialist, Millerand, who accepted a cabinet position in the French Government and was condemned for his action by the revolutionary Marxists of the whole world.)” (Vol. XI, Selected Works, p. 709.)†

Lenin again dealt with the question of the liberal bourgeoisie and the tactics of the Bolsheviks in the 1905 revolution in an article, “History of the Labor Press in Russia,” written in April 1914, as follows:†

“The essence of the Menshevik tactics of that period was recently expressed by L. Martov himself in the following words: ’Menshevism saw no other chance of the proletariat fruitfully participating in the present crisis except by assisting the bourgeois liberal democrats in their attempts to remove the reactionary section of the possessing classes from state power – which assistance, however, the proletariat was to give while preserving complete political independence.’† And Lenin comments:†

“And these tactics of ’assisting’ the liberals meant in practice that the workers would be dependent on the liberals; they amounted in practice to a liberal-labor policy. The tactics of the Bolsheviks, on the contrary, insured the independence of the proletariat during the bourgeois crisis by waging a struggle to bring the crisis to a head, by exposing the treachery of liberalism and by educating and consolidating the petty-bourgeoisie (particularly the rural petty bourgeoisie) to counterbalance this treachery.” (Ibid., p. 66.)†

†Lenin not only condemned alliances between the proletariat and the liberal bourgeoisie as a tactical question but castigated those who advocated such policies as revisionists attempting to revise the very foundations of Marxism.†† Lenin wrote:

“In the domain of politics, revisionism tried to revise the very foundation of Marxism, namely, the doctrine of the class struggle. Political freedom, democracy and universal suffrage remove the ground for the class struggle – we were told – and render untrue the old proposition of the Communist Manifesto that the workers have no country. For, they said, since ’the will of the majority’ prevails under democracy, one must neither regard the state as an organ of class rule, nor reject alliances with the progressive, social reformist bourgeoisie against the reactionaries.†

“It cannot be disputed that these objections of the revisionists constitute a fairly harmonious system of views, namely, the old and well known liberal bourgeois views.” (Ibid., p. 708.)

†For the past ten years the petty-bourgeois opportunists who have distorted, revised and perverted the teaching of Marx, Engels and Lenin in the United States and Canada, have used the tactic of interpreting and explaining sectarianism as an unwillingness or a failure to co-operate with, form alliances and united fronts with, and subordinate the working class to, the petty-bourgeoisie and the big bourgeoisie and their political parties. To achieve this aim their favorite manoeuvre has been to “lift excerpts from their context” particularly from the pages of Left Wing Communism, an Infantile Disorder.

Lenin wrote Left Wing Communism in April 1920, to warn the newly formed, youthful Communist Parties against the danger of their healthy, proletarian disgust of the opportunism and betrayal of the old Social Democratic Parties causing them to overlook the fact that the great mass of the workers and peasants were still politically backward. In order that the Communists might more quickly assist the masses in overcoming their political backwardness Lenin advised the members of the youthful Communist Parties that:

“Participation in parliamentary elections and in the struggle in parliament is obligatory for the Party of the revolutionary proletariat, precisely for the purpose of educating the backward strata of its own class, precisely for the purpose of awakening and enlightening the undeveloped, downtrodden, ignorant peasant masses. As long as you are unable to disperse the bourgeois parliament and every other type of reactionary institution you must work inside them.” (Left Wing Communism, pp. 41-42.)

And further:†

“It is just because the backward masses of the workers and, to a still greater degree, of the small peasants in Western Europe are much more strongly imbued with bourgeois-democratic and parliamentary prejudices than they are in Russia that it is only within such institutions as bourgeois parliaments that Communists can (and must) wage a long and stubborn struggle – undaunted by difficulties – to expose, dispel and overcome these prejudices.” (Ibid., p. 47.)†

But at the same time Lenin warned them:†

“It is difficult to form in a bourgeois parliament a Communist fraction worthy of the working class; it is difficult to ensure that the Communist parliamentarians do not play at the bourgeois parliamentary game of skittles, but take up the very urgent work of propaganda, agitation, and organization of the masses.” (Ibid., p. 93.)†

By no stretch of the imagination can it be suggested that Lenin, by stressing the need of Communists participating in parliament, was inferring that parliamentary activity was all-important. On the contrary he stated:†

†“The action of the masses – a big strike, for instance – is more important than parliamentary activity at all times and not only during a revolution or in a revolutionary situation.” (Left Wing Communism, p. 43.)

The Misuse of Compromises

†For several years now, the revisionists in the ranks of the American and Canadian Communist movements have been elevating the tactic of “compromise” to a pinnacle and depicting it as the very essence of political sagacity. All kinds of compromises were hailed as tremendous victories for the labor movement: Teheran was hailed as a “class alliance” and “a compromise.” Alliances and coalitions between the labor movement and the bourgeoisie were justified as one of the highest forms of revolutionary tactics, the “compromise.” Subordination of the working class to the big bourgeoisie was hailed as a victory for labor and justified as a “compromise.” In fact social progress was even interpreted as an achievement made possible through compromises.

The tragic part of it was, that the revisionists were able to find phrases and sentences of Lenin’s in Left Wing Communism which they used to distort Lenin’s teachings regarding the attitude which Communists should adopt towards compromises. Lenin certainly did not regard compromises necessarily as a virtue. Certain forms of compromise Lenin denounced as absolutely inadmissible betrayals of the working class. Lenin stressed that, on questions of principle, there can be no compromise but, on the contrary, “uncompromising struggle” for these principles.

†“The term compromise,” Lenin wrote, “in politics implies the surrender of certain of one’s demands, the renunciation of part of one’s demands by agreement with another party.” (Lenin’s Selected Works, Vol. III, p. 208.)

And further:†

“Engels held that ’compromises are often unavoidably forced upon a fighting party by circumstances,’ and it is absurd once and for all to refuse, ’to stop at intermediate stations.’†

†“The task of a truly revolutionary party is not to renounce compromises once and for all, but to be able throughout all compromises(Lenin’s italics), when they are unavoidable, to remain true to its principles, to its revolutionary purpose, to its task of preparing the way for the revolution and of educating the masses for victory in the revolution.” (Ibid., p. 208.)

†Lenin, in Left Wing Communism, deals with the following forms of compromises:†

1. Compromises which the working class are obliged to enter into to avoid a complete defeat.
2. Compromises with groups, sections, organizations and parties of the petty bourgeoisie, particularly the peasantry, and of working class parties under reformist leadership in order to win them over, secure allies and defeat the bourgeoisie.
3. Compromises with the bourgeoisie of a certain state, whose interests temporarily coincide with the interests of the proletarian state, against the bourgeoisie of a third state.
4. Compromises with one’s own bourgeoisie in an advanced capitalist country which constitute a treacherous betrayal of the working class.

††Regarding the first kind of compromises, Lenin wrote: “Every proletarian has gone through strikes and has experienced ’compromises’ with the hated oppressors and exploiters when the workers had to go back to work without having achieved anything, or after consenting to a partial satisfaction of their demands.” (Left Wing Communism, pp. 49-50.)†

Lenin also gave a specific example of such a compromise being affected by the new Soviet Republic when its Red Army was not yet consolidated, its people exhausted and a retreat was necessary in order to secure a breathing spell. That was the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, under whose terms the Baltic States and the Ukraine were ceded to the Germans, because the Soviet troops were in no condition to stop the German advance. Regarding this compromise Lenin wrote: “It was indeed a compromise with the Imperialists, but it was a compromise which, under the given circumstances, was obligatory.” (Ibid., p. 21.)†

†Of the second type of compromises Lenin gave a number of examples. Speaking of the tactics of the Bolsheviks, Lenin stated:†

†“Since 1905 they systematically defended the alliance between the working class and the peasantry against the Liberal bourgeoisie and Tsarism, never, however, refusing to support the bourgeoisie against Tsarism (for instance, during the second stage of elections or second ballots), and never ceasing their irreconcilable ideological and political struggle against the bourgeois revolutionary peasant party, the Socialist-Revolutionaries, exposing them as petty bourgeois democrats falsely masquerading as socialists. During the Duma elections in 1907, the Bolsheviks for a brief period entered into a formal political bloc with the Socialist-Revolutionaries. Between 1903 and 1912 there were periods of several years when we were formally united with the Mensheviks in a single Party, the Social Democratic Party, but we never ceased our ideological and political struggle against them as opportunists and carriers of bourgeois influence among the proletariat. During the war we compromised to a certain extent with the Kautskyists with the Left Mensheviks (Martov), and with a section of the Socialist-Revolutionaries (Chernov and Natanson); we had meetings with them at Zimmerwald and Kienthal and issued joint manifestos; but we never ceased and never relaxed our ideological-political struggle against the Kautskyists, against Martov and Chernov. (Natanson died in 1919; he had become a “Revolutionary Communist” Narodnik – very close to us and almost in agreement with us.) At the very outbreak of the October Revolution we entered into an informal, but very important, and highly successful political bloc with the petty-bourgeois peasantry and adopted the Socialist-Revolutionary agrarian program in its entirety, without a single alteration – that is, we entered into what was undoubtedly a compromise in order to prove to the peasants that we did not want to “steam-roller” them but come to an agreement with them. At the same time, we proposed (and soon effected), a formal, political bloc, including participation in the government, to the ’Left’ Socialist-Revolutionaries. The latter broke with this block after the conclusion of the Brest-Litovsk Peace, and then in July 1918, rose in armed rebellion and later waged an armed struggle against us.” (Left Wing Communism, pp. 53-54.)†

As to the term bloc Lenin explains:†

†“Some maintain that a bloc means putting up a joint list of candidates; others deny this and say that it means a common platform. All these disputes are silly and scholastic. The essence of the matter is not altered a whit whether you call the narrower or the wider agreements blocs.” (Selected Works, Vol. III, p. 404.)†

In other words a bloc can mean either a joint list of candidates or a common platform between two parties. “The wider agreement” a “common platform” would, of course, also include a “joint list of candidates.”

It should be noted that all of the instances of compromises with other political parties by the Bolsheviks, which Lenin gives above, were with peasant parties or workers’ parties. The example given of a formal political bloc with the Socialist-Revolutionary Party, the largest peasant party, occurred before the revolution against Tsarism, when the disposition of forces was an “alliance of the working class with the peasantry.”– (Stalin, on Strategy and Tactics, in Foundations of Leninism, p. 89.) The other formal political bloc which the Bolsheviks entered into at the time of the Socialist Revolution in Nov. 1917 was with the party of the poor peasantry, namely, the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries with whom the working class had an alliance which Stalin referred to as an “alliance of the proletariat with’ the poorest section of the peasantry” (Ibid., p. 90.) All the other examples of compromises with other parties were with Socialist Parties with a working class membership. Lenin gave another example of a compromise that was correct in his advice to the German Communists in 1920, as follows:†

“The German Social-Democratic Party is obviously not homogeneous. Alongside the old opportunist leaders (Kautsky, Hilferding, and to a considerable extent, Crispien, Ledebour and others) – who have proven their inability to understand the significance of the Soviet power and the dictatorship of the proletariat, their inability to lead the latter in its revolutionary struggle – there has arisen in this Party a Left proletarian wing which is growing with remarkable rapidity. Hundreds of thousands of proletarian members of this party (and it has, I think, about three quarters of a million members) are leaving Scheidemann and are rapidly going over to Communism.

“This proletarian wing has already proposed – at the Leipzig (1919)†Congress of the Independents – immediate and unconditional affiliation to the Third International. To fear a ’compromise’ with this wing of the party is positively ridiculous. On the contrary, it is the duty of Communists to see and to find an appropriate form of compromise with them, such a compromise as, on the one hand, would facilitate and accelerate the necessary complete fusion with this wing and on the other, would not in any way hamper the Communists in their ideological-political† struggle† against† the† opportunist Right wing of the ’Independents.’ Probably it will not be easy to devise the appropriate form of compromise, but only a charlatan could promise the German workers and German Communists an easy way to victory.” (Left Wing Communism, p. 55)†

†The philistines and opportunists will undoubtedly howl that even the Bolsheviks entered into a compromise, a bloc with the liberal bourgeoisie. But what were the circumstances, the period, and what conclusions did the Bolsheviks form from that experience? Here is Lenin’s explanation:

“... Before the downfall of Tsarism, the Russian revolutionary Social-Democrats repeatedly used the services of the bourgeois liberals, i.e., concluded numerous practical compromises with them. In 1901-1902 prior to the rise of Bolshevism, the old editorial board of Iskra (comprising Plekhanov, Axelrod, Zasulich, Martov, Petresov, and myself) concluded – it is true, not for long – a formal political alliance with Struve, the political leader of bourgeois liberalism while it was able at the same time to carry on an unceasing and merciless ideological and political struggle against bourgeois liberalism and against the slightest manifestation of its influence in the working class movement. The Bolsheviks always adhered to this policy.” (Ibid., p. 53.)†

††First, it should be noted that the compromise or bloc which Lenin refers to was consummated before the fall of Tsarism. Secondly, the bloc was formed prior to the rise of Bolshevism in 1901-1902. Thirdly, the bloc “was not for long.” Fourthly, during the course of the agreement the Social Democratic Labor Party conducted a merciless ideological and political struggle against the influence of bourgeois liberalism in the working class movement. Furthermore, the group which Struve led were known as the “Legal Marxists” and professed to advocate Marxism.

Writing in 1906 Lenin stated: “We are waging ruthless war on the Social Democrats who allow such blocs – no blocs with the Cadets! (Constitutional Democrats; the party of the liberal bourgeoisie.)” (Vol. III, Selected Works, p. 413.)†

The resolution of the Bolsheviks adopted at the Third Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Party, which dealt with the question of the party participating in a provisional revolutionary government in the event of the revolution against Tsarism being successful, took a similar attitude toward the bourgeoisie and bourgeois parties.† It read:†

†“A necessary condition for such participation is that the Party shall maintain strict control over its representatives and that the independence of Social Democracy which is irreconcilably hostile to all the bourgeois parties, shall be strictly maintained.” (Ibid., p. 47.)†

†In Two Tactics of Social Democracy Lenin again stressed the need of maintaining complete independence from the bourgeoisie, even in the course of the bourgeois democratic revolution, as follows:†

†“A Social Democrat must never, even for an instant, forget that the proletarian class struggle for Socialism against the most democratic and republican bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie is inevitable. This is beyond doubt. From this logically follows the absolute necessity of a separate, independent and strictly class party of Social Democracy. From this logically follows the provisional character of our tactics to ’strike together’ with the bourgeoisie and the duty to carefully watch ’our all’ as if he were an enemy, etc.”(Ibid., p. 100.)†

Finally in 1908 Lenin wrote:

†“The experiences of alliances, agreements and blocs with the social reformist liberals in the West and with the Liberal reformists (Constitutional Democrats) (Cadets–F.M.) in the Russian revolution convincingly showed that these agreements only blunt the consciousness of the masses, that they weaken rather than enhance the actual significance of their struggle by linking the fighters with the elements who are least capable of fighting and who are most vacillating and treacherous.” (Vol. XI, Selected Works, p. 709.)

So, although Lenin stated that a bloc had been formed for a short time, during the 1905 Russian Revolution, with the liberal bourgeoisie, that experience, together with the experience of other parties in Europe “convincingly showed” that such blocs were not to the advantage of the†working class even during the course of carrying through the bourgeois democratic revolution, at least in Imperialist countries, because “they weaken rather than enhance the actual significance of their struggle.”

As regards the third type of compromises between a proletarian state and a bourgeois state against the bourgeoisie of a third state, Lenin, in his famous Letter to American Workers, written in August 1918, denounced those who slandered the new Soviet Republic, explained and justified Soviet tactics:

†“The beasts of prey of Anglo-French and American Imperialism ’accuse’ us of coming to an ’agreement’ with German Imperialism.†

“O hypocrites! O scoundrels, who slander the workers’ government and shiver from fear of that sympathy which is being shown us by the workers of their own countries! But their hypocrisy will be exposed. They pretend not to understand the difference between an agreement made by ’Socialists’ with the bourgeoisie (native or foreign) against the workers, against the toilers, and an agreement for the safety of the workers who have defeated their bourgeoisie, with a bourgeoisie of one national color against the bourgeoisie of another color for the sake of the utilization by the proletariat of the contradictions between the different groups of the bourgeoisie.†

“In reality every European knows this very well, and the American people particularly, as I shall presently show, have ’experienced’ it in their own history. There are agreements and agreements, there are fagots et fagots as the French say.†

†“When the German Imperialist robbers in February, 1918, threw their armies against defenseless, demobilized Russia, which staked its hopes upon the international solidarity of the proletariat before the international revolution had completely ripened, I did not hesitate for a moment to come to a certain ’agreement’ with the French Monarchists. The French Captain Sadoul, who sympathized in words with the Bolsheviks while in deeds a faithful servant of French Imperialism, brought the French officer de Lubersac to me. ’I am a French Monarchist. My only purpose is the defeat of Germany,’ de Lubersac declared to me. ’That goes without saying (cela van sans dire),’ I replied. But this by no means prevented me from coming to an ’agreement’ with de Lubersac concerning certain services that French officers, experts in explosives, were ready to render by blowing up railroad tracks in order to prevent the advance of German troops against us. This was an example of an ’agreement’ of which every class conscious worker will approve, an agreement in the interests of socialism. We shook hands with the French Monarchist although we knew that each of us would readily hang his ’partner.’ But for a time our interests coincided. To throw back the rapacious advancing Germans we made use of the equally rapacious counter-interests of the other imperialists, thereby serving the interests of the Russian and the international Socialist revolution. In this way we served the interests of the working class of Russia and other countries, we strengthened the proletariat and weakened the bourgeoisie of the whole world, we used the justified practice of maneouvering, necessary in every war, of shifting and waiting for the moment when the rapidly growing proletarian revolution in a number of advanced countries has ripened.” (A Letter to American Workers, pp. 13-14.)

And Lenin added:†

“I would not hesitate a single second to come to the same kind of an ’agreement’ with the German Imperialist robbers, should an attack on Russia by Anglo-French troops demand it.” (Ibid.)†

As Lenin placed it “there are agreements and agreements.” An agreement between a proletarian state and the bourgeoisie of one country against the bourgeoisie of another country is one thing and an agreement between the so-called “Socialists” of an imperialist country with their own bourgeoisie is something entirely different. Regarding this, the fourth type of compromise, Lenin took a very different attitude. He wrote:†

“A statesman, desirous of being useful to the revolutionary proletariat must know how to single out concrete cases of precisely such compromises as are inadmissible, as express opportunism and treachery, and to direct all the forces of his criticism, the spearhead of merciless exposure and of irreconcilable war, against those concrete compromises, and prevent the experienced ’practical’ Socialists and parliamentary Jesuits from dodging and wriggling out of responsibility by resorting to arguments about ’compromises in general.’ It is precisely in this way that Messieurs the ’leaders’ of the British trade unions, as well as of the Fabian Society and the ’Independent’ Labor Party, dodge responsibility for the treachery they perpetrated, for committing such a compromise which really expresses the worst kind of opportunism, treachery and betrayal.” (Left Wing Communism, p. 22.)†

†Regarding the attitude of his own party towards its “own bourgeoisie”:

“The members of this party in the Duma took the road of exile to Siberia rather than the road leading to ministerial portfolios in a bourgeois government. The revolution, which overthrew Tsarism and established the democratic republic, put the party to a new and tremendous test; the party did not enter into any agreement with ’its own imperialists,’ but prepared their overthrow and did overthrow them.” (Ibid., p. 23.)†

It is not an accident that the philistine perverters of Marxism, who advocated agreements, blocs and compromises “in general” failed to quote that section of Left Wing Communism in which Lenin pointedly outlined why and whom the Communists should resort to manoeuvers and compromises with.†† Here is the quotation:†

“Capitalism would not be capitalism, if the ’pure’ proletariat were not surrounded by a large number of extremely varied transitional types, from the proletarian to the semi-proletarian (who earns half his livelihood by the sale of his labor power), from the semi-proletarian to the small peasant (and petty craftsmen, handicrafts worker and small proprietor in general), from the small peasant to the middle peasant and so on; and if, within the proletariat itself there were no divisions into more or less developed strata, division according to territorial origin, according to trades, sometimes according to religion, and so on. And all this makes it necessary – absolutely necessary – for the vanguard of the proletariat, for its class conscious section, the Communist Party, to resort to manoeuvers and compromises with the various groups of proletarians, with the various parties of the workers and small proprietors. The whole point lies in knowing how (Lenin’s italics) to apply these tactics in such a way as to raise and not lower the general level of proletarian class consciousness, revolutionary spirit and ability to fight to conquer”. (Ibid., pp. 55-56.)†

Lenin here advocates compromises not with ”their own” bourgeoisie hut ”with the various groups of proletarians, with the various parties of the workers and small proprietors.”†

Regarding agreements or blocs with the bourgeoisie Lenin wrote:†

“The fundamental idea of opportunism is an alliance, or a coming together (sometimes an agreement, a bloc, etc.), of the bourgeoisie with its antipodes.” (Lenin on Britain, p. 69.)†

“The antipodes of the bourgeoisie, i.e., its “exact opposite,” is the proletariat, the working class. And Lenin stated further: “Opportunism is Liberal-labor politics.” (Ibid., p. 68.)†

The opportunists in the Communist movement who were so fond of using phrases and sentences from Lenin’s Left Wing Communism to justify their arguments in support of alliances, unity, cooperation, etc., between the working class and “their own” capitalist class or sections of it did not, of course, refer to Lenin’s statements concerning opportunism as the main enemy even at the time when he was writing Left Wing Communism. In answer to the question, “In the struggle against what enemies within the working class movement did Bolshevism grow, gain strength and become steeled?” Lenin replied:

“First of all, and principally, in the struggle against opportunism, which, in 1914, definitely grew into social-chauvinism and definitely went over to the side of the bourgeoisie against the proletariat. This was naturally the principal enemy of Bolshevism in the working class movement. This enemy remains the principal enemy also on an international scale This enemy has claimed, and still claims, most of the attention of the Bolsheviks. This side of the activities of the Bolsheviks is now fairly well known abroad.” (Left Wing Communism, p. 17.)†

†Opportunism, then, and not left sectarianism, was the principal enemy, not only of the Bolsheviks, but “also on an international scale.” This axiom of Lenin’s is more true today, at least in certain English speaking countries of the world, than it was in 1920.

In case there might have been any doubt regarding the attitude of his own party, Lenin made it clear: “It absolutely insists on the need for complete class independence for the party of the proletariat.” (Vol. III, Selected Works, p. 121.)†

Dimitroff, in June 1937, reiterated the same concept when he referred to the Communists as being “free from all connections with and dependence on the bourgeoisie.”

The Perversion of the People’s Front Tactic

It must be stated that when Earl Browder said that the “trade unions and progressive groups” should be encouraged “to systematic and organized activity within the Democratic party (in some places the Republican party),” he was violating Marxian principles and perverting the doctrine of the class struggle which is the “very foundation of Marxism,” disregarding the specific advice of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Dimitroff’ and abandoning the whole fight for the American Peoples’ Front, or for a Workers’ and Farmers’ Party.

This was not a question, so much, of tailing the “politically immature labor movement,” but of playing a role of leadership in further subordinating the whole labor movement to the liberal bourgeoisie. The so-called “democratic coalition” which was “consolidated and strengthened” by Roosevelt was, in fact, nothing more nor less than “liberal labor politics,” i.e., the subordination of the working class to the ideological and political leadership of the liberal bourgeoisie and their chief spokesman, Roosevelt. This does not imply that it was wrong for the labor movement to support the re-election of Roosevelt when the choice lay between him and Dewey and there was no mass third party movement. The point is, the American Communists departed from Marxism in abandoning the task of building a mass third party movement and by encouraging the workers to “utilize” the bourgeois parties. This, of course, did not justify their failure to maintain an independent working class position while supporting the reelection of Roosevelt. However, their position could not very well have been otherwise because the abandonment of the fight for an independent mass third party movement signified acceptance of the leadership of and support to, the liberal bourgeoisie as a barrier to fascism, ęs an alternative to a people’s front of struggle.†

But such a tactic is no more justified today than it was forty years ago in Czarist Russia. At that time the notorious Black Hundreds filled a very similar role to that of the modern fascist organizations which everywhere were organized and grew up under the benevolent protection of governments and, quite often, under governments of the liberal bourgeoisie and of Social Democrats. Lenin, at that time launched a devastating attack against the theory that the election of representatives of the liberal bourgeoisie constituted a barrier to the violence and terrorism of the reactionary Black Hundreds.†

Lenin wrote:†

“The main argument of the Mensheviks is the Black Hundred danger. The first and fundamental falsity of this argument is that it is impossible to fight against the Black Hundred danger by means of Cadet tactics and Cadet policy. The essence of this policy is conciliation with Tsarism, i.e., with the Black Hundred danger. The first Duma proved sufficiently that the Cadet is not fighting against the Black Hundred danger, but is making indescribably despicable speeches about the innocence and non-responsibility of the monarch the known leader of the Black Hundreds. Therefore, by helping to elect the Cadets to the Duma the Mensheviks are not only not fighting the Black Hundred danger, but on the contrary, they are hoodwinking the people, are obscuring the actual significance of the Black Hundred danger. To fight the Black Hundred danger by helping to elect the Cadets to the Duma is like fighting pogroms by means of speeches delivered by the lackey, Rodichev: ’It is impertinence to regard the monarch as being responsible for the pogroms.’†

“The second fault in the current argument is that the Social Democrats tacitly concede the hegemony in the democratic struggle to the Cadets. In the event of a split vote that secures the victory of the Black Hundreds, why should we be blamed for not having voted for the Cadets and not the Cadets be blamed for not having voted for us? ’We are in a minority,’ answer the Mensheviks, thoroughly imbued with the spirit of Christian humility. ’The Cadets are more numerous. Surely the Cadets cannot be expected to declare themselves revolutionaries.’

†“Yes! But there is no reason why Social Democrats should declare themselves Cadets!† Nowhere in the world has there been a case in an indecisive outcome of a bourgeois revolution when the Social-Democrats have been in a majority against the bourgeois-democrats; nor could this happen.† But everywhere, in all countries, the first independent entry of the Social Democrats in election campaigns was met by the howling and barking of the liberals who accused the Socialists of letting the Black Hundreds in. We are, therefore, quite undisturbed by the usual Menshevik cries that the Bolsheviks are letting the Black Hundreds in.†† All the liberals have always shouted this to all the Socialists. By refusing to fight the Cadets you are leaving masses of proletarian and semi-proletarian elements capable of following the Social-Democrats under the ideological influence of the Cadets. Sooner or later, unless you cease to be Socialists, you will have to fight your own battle in spite of the Black Hundred danger. And it is easier and more necessary to take the right step today than it would be to take it tomorrow.† In the third Duma (if it is called after the second) it will be even more difficult for you to dissolve the bloc with the Cadets, you will be still more entangled in the unnatural relations with the betrayers of the revolution and the real Black Hundred danger, let me repeat, lies not in Black Hundred deputies being elected to the Duma, but in pogroms and courts-martial; and you are making it more difficult for the people to fight this real danger by forcing Cadet blinkers upon them.” (Lenin’s Selected Works, Vol. III, pp. 407-8-9.)

†The fact that the resolution of the American Communist Party continues to speak of the “Roosevelt, labor, democratic coalition” and to state “it is essential to weld together and consolidate the broadest coalition of all anti-fascist and democratic forces as well as all other supporters of Roosevelt’s anti-Axis policies” simply shows the American Communists have not yet achieved an independent working class position but retain a position which, in practice, cannot but result in subordinating the political interests of the American working class to the interests of the liberal bourgeoisie.†† Such a policy cannot be justified under any consideration and least of all as a means of blocking fascism coming to power. In his report to the 7th Congress Dimitroff pointed out that coalition governments which included the Social Democrats did not prevent fascism from attacking the working class or of seizing political power, when he stated:†

“Participation of Social Democratic ministers in bourgeois governments is not a barrier to fascism.” (The United Front, p. 35.)†

It logically follows that if a coalition government that included Social Democrats is not a barrier to fascism then neither is a government of the liberal big bourgeoisie.

If reactionary, predatory American Imperialism, intoxicated with its own tremendous economic power and political influence, is to be blocked from the inevitable trend it will follow, towards fascist reaction at home and imperialist aggression abroad, the only force capable of halting it is the American working class.†

To achieve this aim the American working class must be led by a leadership, a political party, with a correct theory and tactics which will build working class unity and secure allies from the ranks of the farmers and the urban middle class on the basis of a policy of class struggle, free from all elements of class collaboration or dependence upon the bourgeoisie.

To fulfill this role, the Communist Party of the U.S.A. should immediately proceed with two vital tasks:†

1. Correct its programmatic resolution by eliminating the remaining revisionist line, expressed in the formulation “coalition of all anti-fascist and democratic forces as well as all other supporters of Roosevelt’s anti-Axis policies” and “the Roosevelt-labor-democratic coalition.”

This will enable the C.P.U.S.A. to achieve the correct position which Dimitroff stressed; a position “free from all connection with and dependence on the bourgeoisie” or as Lenin placed it “complete class independence for the party of the proletariat.”†

2. Once having achieved a correct position “free from all connection with and dependence on the bourgeoisie” the American Communists should proceed immediately either to put their own party on the ballot in a majority of states or carry out the advice of Engels given fifty-nine years ago: the formation of an independent, third mass party of the working people on a national scale. If, because of the peculiar American electoral laws it is found to be impossible to place their own party on the ballot in any number of states so that the workers could have an alternative to the two existing bourgeois parties a mass third party, a Workers’ and Farmers’ Party, would be an advantage. The base of this party should be the American trade unions and its iron core, the Communists. Such a mass party could enable the American Communists, in the words of Dimitroff:

“To find a common language with the broadest masses for the purpose of struggling against the class enemy, to find ways of finally overcoming the isolation of the revolutionary vanguard from the masses of the proletariat and all the toilers, as well as overcoming the fatal isolation of the working class itself from its natural allies in the struggle against the bourgeoisie against fascism.

“To draw increasingly wide masses into the revolutionary class struggle and lead them to the proletarian revolution, proceeding from their vital needs and interests as the starting point, and their own experience as the basis.” (The United Front, p. 92.)