From Fourth International, vol.6 No.7, July 1945, pp.201-207.
Transcribed, marked up & formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for ETOL.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Indispensable to a thorough understanding of the latest tactical shift of the Stalinists is the entire historical background of Stalinist degeneration. This necessary material is supplied by the document we publish below. It is one of the official documents of the world Trotskyist movement, drafted originally for the First International Conference of the Fourth International, held at Geneva, July 29, 30 and 31, 1936. Contained in this document – in the form of 38 theses – is a succinct history of the rise and subsequent degeneration of the Communist International. It covers a period of approximately 17 years, that is, from the founding of the Comintern in March 1919 to early 1936.
To supplement this document, it is only necessary to sumnrarize the developments in the succeeding years. In 1936 the Stalinists throughout the world were in the midst of their “People’s Front” era which finally terminated in the Four Power Munich pact (England, France, Germany, Italy). June 1936 saw the beginning of a vast revolutionary mass movement in France. The “People’s Front” policy succeeded in diverting and demoralizing the French masses. An exceptionally favorable revolutionary situation was frittered away, thanks, first and foremost, to the influence of the Stalinists. At the same time, the identical policy was employed to bleed white the forces of the proletarian revolution in the Spanish Civil War. It was in 1936, in the midst of the Spanish Civil War and the revolutionary crisis in France, that Stalin staged the monstrous Moscow Trials in order to annihilate physically the old Bolshevik cadres and every vestige of political opposition inside the Soviet Union.
As it turned out, the entire period of “People’s Front” and the unprecedented blood purge in the USSR served only as a prelude to another diplomatic maneuver: this time, an alliance with Nazi Germany. In August 1939 Stalin signed his pact with Hitler, and thereby gave the signal for the outbreak of World War II. In this alliance, the Kremlin, as Trotsky pointed out, assumed the role of Hitler’s quartermaster. The Stalinist parties adjusted their policies to conform to the new foreign policy of Moscow. Nazi Germany was proclaimed, together with Mussolini’s Italy, as a genuine peace-loving nation, and the role of imperialist aggressors was assigned exclusively to England, France, the United States and other capitalist “democracies.” This abysmal capitulation to the Fascist imperialist powers was covered up by radical-sounding phrases. The Stalinist parties posed as opponents of imperialist war, mouthed class-struggle phrases and in this way further disoriented and demoralized the world working class.
In the Manifesto of the Fourth International on The Imperialist War and the Proletarian Revolution, issued in May 1940, Leon Trotsky summed up this Stalinist maneuver as follows:
“After five years of the crudest fawning upon the democracies, when the whole of “communism” was reduced to the monotonous indictment of Fascist aggressors, the Comintern suddenly discovered in the autumn of 1939 the criminal imperialism of the Western democracies. Left about face! From then on not a single word of condemnation about the destruction of Czechoslovakia and Poland, the seizure of Denmark and Norway and the shocking bestialities inflicted by Hitler’s gangs on the Polish and Jewish people! Hitler was made out to be a peace-loving vegetarian continually being provoked by the Western imperialists. The Anglo-French alliance was referred to in the Comintern press as the ‘imperialist bloc against the German people.’ Goebbels himself could have cooked up nothing better!”
But the alliance with Hitler did not endure even two years. In June 1941, Hitler’s armies invaded the USSR. This imposed an overnight switch in the policy and propaganda of the Communist International. All the labels were changed. The services of the Comintern previously at the disposal of Hitler were now sold to the “democratic” imperialists. The Stalinists out-jingoed the jingoes. In the United States and England the Stalinists became strike-breakers. In India they became an open tool of British imperialism in suppressing the liberationist movement of the Indian masses. the Stalinist propaganda against Germany from the first acted to reinforce the Nazi regime. Again, Goebbels could have asked for nothing better! In May 1943, Stalin sealed his collaboration with the “democracies” by formally dissolving the moribund Comintern.
It will be observed that beginning with 1933, the year of Hitler’s assumption of power in Germany, the successive shifts in Stalinist policy are inseparably bound up with the shifting imperialist alignments on the world arena; and that each shift can be correctly appraised only in connection with the Kremlin’s foreign policy. The gist of this foreign policy consisted in maneuvering between the rival imperialist camps, and utilizing the Communist International as a supplementary means in all the diplomatic horse-trades. Each time the interests of the world proletariat and the colonial peoples were ruthlessly and deliberately trampled under foot.
The same thing is true of the current Stalinist shift. Its causes lie in the international situation in which the Kremlin gang now finds itself, and the conflict between it and the single imperialist bloc which is completely under the domination of the United States. In the game of power politics, the Stalinist parties serve today as they did in the past the role of mere pawns.
1. The imperialist world war of 1914-1918 was the clearest indication that the capitalist mode of production had become a fetter on the productive forces, and that conditions had become ripe for the victory of the proletarian revolution. However, the Second International, whose bureaucracy had adapted itself to bourgeois society during the long period of capitalist expansion, betrayed the interests of the proletariat at the decisive moment of the outbreak of war, and occupied the position of the defense of the fatherland, i.e., defense of the frontiers of the bourgeois national state, which – together with the system of private property – had become a brake on the further development of productive forces.
2. Only a very small number of revolutionary Marxists drew from the shameful treachery and miserable collapse of the Second International the conclusion that a Third International was necessary. It is true, in most countries an opposition formed against the chauvinist standpoint of the Social Democratic parties, but such opposition had in the beginning mainly a pacifist-centrist character. At the international conferences of the opponents of imperialist slaughter at Zimmerwald (1915) and Kienthal (1916) the supporters of the building of the Third International remained in the minority and were termed by all centrists and social-imperialists as fanatics, utopians, and sectarians.
3. The victory of the Russian revolution in October 1917 was the victory of the revolutionary principle of struggling against the enemy at home and of turning imperialist war into civil war, which since 1914 had been counterpoised by the handful of revolutionary Marxists and especially the leadership of the Russian Bolsheviks against the principle of defending the fatherland. The Bolsheviks - -after overcoming analogous tendencies in their own ranks – broke with the ambiguous centrist majority of Zimmerwald and raised the banner of the Third International.
4. At the foundation congress of the Third International (March 1919) only the representatives of a few and comparatively weak parties and groups met side by side with the victorious Bolshevik Partv. Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, who would have deserved a place of honor at this gathering, had been murdered by the soldiery of the German Social Democrat, Noske.
The First Congress [of the Communist International], took a very definite stand against the reactionary effort to rebuild the Second International in its pre-war form (Berne Conference of the Social Democratic and independent parties in February 1919) and stood for gathering the vanguard in a homogeneous revolutionary international. The manifestoes of the Congress pitilessly exposed the treacherous pacifism of President Wilson and the illusion of a capitalist League of Nations, which was supported by the Second International. One of the most important results achieved by the Congress was the restoration of the Marxist teachings on the State is an instrument of class rule and the exposure of parliamentary democracy as the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie over the proletariat. Lenin’s theses on “Democracy and Dictatorship,” which were adopted by the Congress, explain the counter-revolutionary, bourgeois character of the abstract slogans and principles of “pure,” formal democracy (“liberty,” “equality,” etc.). They showed by the example of the Russian experiences the necessity of abolishing the bourgeois state apparatus and the establishment of the proletarian dictatorship on the foundation of the Soviet (workers’ councils).
5. In 1919 the experience of the Hungarian revolution wasalso made. There, owing to the complete deterioration and confusion of the bourgeoisie, power had fallen into the lap of the Communists and Left Social Democrats. But from the start the Hungarian revolution had no real leadership. The Communist Party was assimilated in the Social Democratic Party and thereby showed that it was not a Communist party. The Hungarian revolution failed not only because of the unfavorable international situation, but also owing to the complete incapability of Bela Kun and Co.’s leadership (in regard to the agrarian question, apart from the question of party organization). The Communist-International, only just recently formed, was not yet firm enough in an organizational sense to give a different direction to the Hungarian revolution.
6. The disastrous results of the war led to a powerful awakening of proletarian class-consciousness among the masses. They began to an ever-increasing extent to clearly see through the treacherous role played by the Social Democratic Parties. Under pressure of their rank-and-file some of the old reformist and social-pacifist leaders (the German Independent Socialist Party, the Italian Socialist Party, the French Socialist Party, the British ILP, etc.) sought affiliation to the Comintern, without however revising their centrist positions. This danger of injecting opportunist tendencies into the ranks of the Comintern was counteracted by the Second Congress (1920) which adopted the 21 points, setting the conditions for membership in the Communist International. These conditions declared implacable war against the ambiguousness, the wavering attitude and the sterile social-pacifism of the centrists, and demanded a complete break with all pacifist ideas and illusions (such as disarmament, League of Nations, international arbitration, etc.) To the governing principle of the Second International of maintaining loose contacts between parties nationally independent (and acting directly in opposition to each other), was counterpoised the principle of the world party built on the foundation of common theory and practice, and the aim of realizing a common international leadership on the principles of democratic centralism.
7. Those centrist and conciliatory (toward the Second International) politicians, who had been hindered by the Second Congress from joining the Comintern, tried to form a Two-and-a-Half International (beginning of 1921), a go-between affair, midway between open social treachery and revolution (the Austro-Marxists, the German “Independents,” the French Longuetists,” the ILP, etc.). The Two-and-a-Half International proclaimed afresh – as Karl Liebknecht put it – “the unity of fire and water,” the unity of revolutionists and social traitors in one international But history had left no place for such a half-hearted solution. The Two-and-a-Half International was crushed in the struggle between the Second and Third Internationals. Its revolutionary elements turned to the Third International. Its bureaucratic tops reunited in 1923 (the Hamburg Congress) with the Second International.
8. Opportunist centrism, which did not lead the masses but wanted to be led by them, found its complement in ultra-radicalism which instead of winning the masses from within by cooperation in their organizations, their struggles and experiences, put an ultimatum to them from outside. These ultra-lefts declared themselves against participation in parliamentary elections, for leaving the mass trade unions and the formation of “pure” revolutionary unions, and for isolated action of the vanguard. These tendencies led in Germany to the formation of the KAP (Communist Workers Party) in 1920. But even the official Communist Party of Germany had not been able to rid itself of adventuristic tendencies. This was shown, above all, in the course of the March events (1921) when the party instead of confining itself to defensive tactics against the provocative challenge of the Social Democrats in the government, led the isolated vanguard to an armed offensive and suffered shipwreck. But the greatest danger was this, that now a whole school of theorists had established itself in the party who transformed the tactics of March into a principle (Thalheimer, Froelich, Maslow, Koenen, etc.). The Third Congress condemned ultra-left adventures and issued the slogan, “ To the masses ;,” recognizing that the first great post-war wave (1917-1920) was now ebbing, and that a breathing space had occurred which it was necessary to utilize by preparing better and more thoroughly for the coming struggles. The strategy and tactics of the Communist parties were drafted in resolutions which remain models, even today. The Congress adopted “Guiding Principles for the Organizational Development of the Communist Parties, the Methods and the Content of Their Work,” which, in spite of being too mechanical, “too Russian” (Lenin, at the Fourth Congress) give many valuable suggestions, particularly regarding the connection between legal and illegal work, the necessity of a quick switch-over from one to the other method of work, the organization of the press, the creation of factory cells, etc.
9. The Fourth Congress (1922) reaffirmed the lessons of the Third Congress, dealt with them more thoroughly and concretely. The NEP (New Economic Policy) of the Soviet Union, following on “War Communism” which had to be introduced under the pitiless pressure of circumstances, supplied the immensely important experience of necessary tactical retreats even after the winning of power, an experience which most probably will have its validity not only for backward Russia, but also for more advanced countries.
The Fourth World Congress was able to look back on tremendous organizational results. In the course of three years, in all continents and in practically all countries, sections had been created, and apart from this the Red International of Trade Unions and the Young Communist International had been built up. The Communist parties in a number of countries were at that time leading mighty revolutionary mass actions.
The defeat of the Italian proletariat in 1922 was not a defeat of the strategical and tactical methods of the Leninist Comintern, but of those of Italian Maximalism (Serrati) against which the Comintern since the Second World Congress had been continuously carrying on a hard struggle, without, however, being able to avert the catastrophe.
10. One of the greatest achievements of the Comintern of those years was the publicity given by it to the historical importance of national movements of liberation in the colonies and semi-colonial territories, and the support given by it to the struggle of enslaved nations against imperialist oppression, a task which the Second International had always neglected, and which, by its attitude in the World War, the Second International had absolutely betrayed.
Lenin’s “Guiding Principles on the National and Colonial Question” at the Second Congress were definitely directed against any attempt to fasten a Communist label on revolutionary movements of liberation which were not in reality Communistic. A temporary alliance with the national revolutionary movement was considered by these theses as necessary, but it was pointed out that the task of the Communists was not to amalgamate with these nationalist parties, but under all circumstances unconditionally to uphold the independent character of the proletarian movement.
11. The year 1923 represents a decisive turning point in the history of the Comintern. Owing to the development of new layers of exploiting elements in the Soviet Union as a consequence of the NEP, and owing to the general exhaustion of the working class after the tremendous efforts and the fervor of the years of revolution and Civil War, the bureaucracy of the party and state apparatus, which had meantime become very strong, was enabled to raise itself at an ever-increasing rate as an independent social force, as an arbiter over the classes. However, the bureaucracy could gain political power only by a struggle against the proletarian vanguard, against proletarian democracy inside the party and the Soviets. This is the content of the struggle which began in 1923 between Stalinism and Trotskyism. The ascent of the bureaucracy coincides with the grave illness and forced political inactivity of Lenin who, however, in his last writings (especially in the article “Better Less, But Better” and in the so-called Testament) had clearly recognized and called for a struggle against the danger of bureaucratization and against Stalin as its main representative.
12. In Germany, in 1923, a revolutionary crisis broke out afresh. The consequences of the [first imperialist] war, which had not been by any means overcome, the economic crisis interrupted only by slight boomlets, the occupation of the Ruhr territory by the French army, the organization and the collapse of “passive resistance” of the German bourgeoisie against this occupation, the runaway inflation of German currency – all these causes led to an extraordinary sharpening of the class contradictions. Huge mass strikes took place. The shop stewards movement became a gathering point for the revolutionary masses. The workers organized themselves in “Hundertschaften” (bodies of 100) and commenced to arm themselves. In a number of large trade unions the Communists even obtained a majority. Social Democracy was in confusion; the bourgeoisie was split. The mass movement reached the critical point when decisiveness and practical initiative of the highest degree are required of the revolutionary leadership to push this movement further ahead to victory. But the leadership of the CommunistParty (Brandler, Thalheimer, Walcher, Froelich, etc.) showed itself incapable of fulfilling its historical tasks and thereby proved that it was only a Social Democratic leadership, with a coating of Communist varnish. It stuck to the united front with the Social Democracy, without being able to grasp that the idea of the united front is to “step back in order thus to leap forward all the better”; without being able to grasp that at a certain moment the fight for winning’ the masses can be carried out only by a direct struggle for power. The leadership of the Comintern, which already showed signs of bureaucratic degeneration, also proved incapable of leading the CPG on to the correct road. When the German bourgeoisie at last gathered its forces, proclaimed a state of siege and proceeded to take the offensive, the CPG capitulated without a struggle. The consequence was a severe defeat of the German, and with it the European, proletariat, giving thereby European capitalism the possibility of stabilizing itself anew.
13. The defeat of 1923 led to a serious internal crisis in the CPG. A new “left” leadership (R. Fischer-Maslow) was chosen. This leadership, however, did not recognize that the October defeat was decisive in character. Instead of ordering a retreat, it proceeded along the path of adventurism and thereby increased the scope of the defeat.
In Bulgaria, the Comintern section of that country (under the leadership of Kolarov-Dimitrov) also let slip in 1923 a highly favorable revolutionary situation and then endeavored to make up for it by putschist adventures in September 1923, thereby causing a fatal defeat of the Bulgarian proletariat.
After the German defeat the Comintern adopted a policy of adventurism and extended this course to the entire International, the consequence being a further defeat in Esthonia (uprising in Reval, December 1924).
14. To the extent that the German defeat had weakened the positions of the international proletariat and of its vanguard, to the same extent it acted to strengthen the tendencies of the Soviet bureaucracy to become an independent force. This accounts for the fact that the Fifth World Congress of the Comintern (1924) signifies above all the subjection of the Comintern to the yoke of the Russian bureaucracy. The Comintern itself became bureaucratized and was brought into complete dependence on the bureaucratic center in Moscow.
15. The theory of “socialism in one country,” advanced by Stalin, the head of the bureaucracy, in the autumn of 1924 in glaring contradiction to the entire theory and practice of Marxism-Leninism, became for the newly formed social layers (bureaucracy, kulaks, “spetses” (specialists), etc.) the ideological expression of their nationally-limited interests. Not the international proletariat, but the bureaucracy was proclaimed as the bearer of Socialism. The Comintern, created to be an instrument of world revolution, now became the tool for the national interests of the Soviet bureaucracy. This fundamental contradiction placed its imprint on the future policy of the Comintern, which from that point on became centrist – zigzagging, unprincipled adaptation to the reformist bureaucracy and bourgeois democracy on the one hand, and putschist adventurism on the other. All these traits became combined in its policy. The social basis of this type of centrism – the stable point in a world movement – is the Soviet bureaucracy.
16. The two methods adopted by the Comintern for handling the masses – on the one hand, unprincipled adaptation to existing circumstances and the bourgeois democratic and petty-bourgeois reformist parties; and on the other, the sudden, unprepared appeals to the revolutionary instincts of the masses – have their roots in the social position of the Soviet bureaucracy (the Comintern bureaucracy being its obedient appendage). Owing to its entire social character, the Soviet bureaucracy inclines toward adapting itself to the privileged and exploiting sections of Soviet society (kulaks, intellectual strata, labor aristocracy). However, as soon as the development has reached a critical point, when these strata become so powerful socially that they threatenthe bureaucracy’s position of political privilege, the latter saves itself by an appeal to the masses. In reality, it only stirs the proletarian masses (or more correctly merely small sections of these masses) by applying rigidly the whole force of state power (in particular, the GPU). On the international field, the Soviet and Comintern bureaucracy feel themselves attracted by petty-bourgeois democracy. But whenever, for national reasons or by the logic of events, the Soviet bureaucracy finds itself in opposition to petty-bourgeois democracy, it endeavors all of a sudden to drive the masses to revolutionary action. But as the Comintern lacks the state forces required to enforce its ultimatums, the masses remain passive.
This explains, on the one hand, the pseudo-successes of Stalinist policy in the Soviet Union (which so impress the philistines of all shades, from the reactionary English Fabians, Webbs & Co., over to the Romain Rollands, and down to the “London Bureau” of the SAP-ILP); and on the other hand, the catastrophic failures of the Comintern.
17. The adventuristic course of 1924-25 found its opportunistic supplement in bureaucratic combinations, directed entirely against the interests of the proletarian vanguard. The formation of a Peasants’ International (Krestintern), the flirtation with the Croatian Peasants’ Party of Radich, and with LaFollette in the United States (Federated Farmer-Labor Party), were examples of the endeavors by the Stalinist bureaucracy to use, on an international scale, the kulak tendencies as a counter-balance against the proletarian vanguard. The union with the Chinese Kuomintang, in which the class differences were ignored, the hopes pinned on the English trade union bureaucrats, all these props of the adventuristic course of 1924.25 became the most essential elements of the openly opportunist course of 1925-27.
18. In the period from 1925 to 1927 the Chinese revolution had its gigantic outbreak. The initial events enabled the Chinese bourgeoisie and its party, the Kuomintang, to take the leadership. The Comintern declared its complete solidarity with the Kuomintang and its military leadership (Chiang Kai-shek). The Chinese Communist Party was forced to renounce an independent policy, and to join and to submit completely to the Kuomintang. Thus, all lessons of the Second World Congress were disregarded. This entirely Menshevist policy was justified by quoting a formula from the days of the 1905 revolution: “democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the poor peasants.” For Lenin this formula was an elementary expression of the idea of a fighting alliance between the proletariat and the poor peasants against the aristocrats and liberal bourgeoisie. It was left to each concrete revolutionary situation to determine the concrete form which this dictatorship of the oppressed against the oppressors should assume. When, however, in the spring of 1917, opportunist tendencies within the Bolshevik party tried to hide behind this old Bolshevik formula, Lenin in his “Letters on Tactics” (April 1917) discarded it as having been rendered obsolete by living developments. However, in the hands of Stalinism, Lenin’s slogan, which had been directed against the liberal bourgeoisie, served for the complete subjection of the proletariat to the liberal bourgeoisie.
Nevertheless, in spite of the opportunist policy of the Stalin bureaucracy, crawling on its belly before the military bureaucracy and lacking confidence in the revolutionary power of the proletariat, the Chinese proletarian masses and poor peasants turned to Communism, imbued with the desire to carry out in their country the “October Revolution,” the partition of the land, the expropriation of the expropriators, the destruction of the bourgeois-militarist state machine and its substitution by Soviets.
The Kuomintang bourgeoisie, tied by finance capital to the landlords and the rich peasants, opposed with all its might the agrarian revolution. The Chinese Communists, thus tied by Stalinism to the Kuomintang, were hindered from placing themselves at the head of the agrarian revolution. The peasants remained without revolutionary leadership and the Chinese revolution was deprived of its strongest lever.
In spite of the submissive policy of Stalinism, the Chinese bourgeoisie did not refrain from settling accounts with the potential danger, created by the rising wave of Communism. The militarist leadership of the Kuomintang made a counter-revolutionary coup d’etat; and, at a time when in Moscow Chiang Kai-shek was still hailed as the hero of the revolution, he ordered to be shot thousands of Chinese proletarians, who had been already deprived of power and arms by the Stalinist policy. After Chiang Kai-shek’s “treason” (not against the class interests of the Chinese bourgeoisie, but against Stalinist illusions), the Stalinist bureaucracy supported the alliance with the “left” Kuomintang (Wang Ching-wei) and underwent with him the same bitter experiences as with Chiang Kai-shek. Only when the defeat was completed, did the bureaucracy appeal to the proletarian masses whose vast majority had just been crushed to the ground. The result was the Canton insurrection which – although bearing a putschist character and condemned to complete isolation and thus to defeat – again showed unmistakably in retrospect the class character of the Chinese revolution and the possibility and necessity of forming Soviets and establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat, and thereby underlined the criminal folly of the whole Stalinist policy.
19. In the other colonial and East-Asiatic countries (British India, Dutch East Indies, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, etc.), Stalinism supported during this period the building of “Peasants’ and Workers’ parties” (of the Kuomintang type) in direct contrast to Communist parties. This policy disorganized and demoralized completely the proletarian vanguard in those countries and – in conjunction with the catastrophic defeat of the Chinese revolution – is the main cause for the fact that in these countries no independent proletarian party has been formed to this day.
20. Parallel with the political alliance with the Kuomintang, a political alliance was made with the English trade union bureaucracy, the so-called “Anglo-Russian Committee” for the purpose of “preventing the war of intervention.” Whereas the Leninist united front tactic has the aim of winning the masses to Communism, the Stalinist bureaucrats here did not come into contact with the English masses at all. The Anglo-Russian Committee confined itself to purely bureaucratic activities (conferences, banquets, and so on). The result was a strengthening of the authority of the reactionary trade union bureaucracy and the direct desertion by the Third International of the Minority Movement which at that time was developing favorably within the trade unions. This reactionary character of the Anglo-Russian Committee was exposed clearly during the English General Strike of 1926 which was miserably betrayed by the trade union leaders (covered by the authority of Moscow).The relations were broken off, not by the Russian, but the English bureaucracy, at a moment most favorable for the latter.
21. In 1927, the fight of the bureaucracy against the proletarian vanguard in the Soviet Union came to its sharpest clash. Due to the catastrophic results of Stalinist policy, which confirmed in all points the criticism of the Left Opposition, (Trotskyist) the bureaucracy – in direct alliance with the kulaks and the other petty-bourgeois sections – took the sharpest measures against the Opposition, measures which were a denial of every principle of proletarian democracy. Expulsions from the party, ejections from office, imprisonment, exile, deportation, smuggling agents provocateurs into the ranks of the Opposition, counterfeit evidence, executions, cleared the road for the Bonapartist dictatorship of Stalin.
22. After having used the kulaks and the urban petty-bourgeois strata as a support in its fight against the Opposition, the bureaucracy itself was faced by the danger of becoming crushed by these strata. For reasons of self-preservation it was therefore now compelled to turn against the kulaks. On the international field, a continuation of the openly opportunist course had likewise become impossible owing to the attitude of the partners (termination of the relations by the British trade union bureaucracy, counter-revolutionary coup d’etat of Chiang Kai-shek and Wang Ching-wei). So far as the German and French Social Democracy was concerned, contradictions existed which were mainly due to national and foreign policy considerations. These were the causes which led to the turn from bureaucratic adaptation to Social Democratic, trade union and national-democratic (Kuomintang) bureaucracies, on the one hand, to bureaucratic ultimatism and adventurism, on the other hand. (See Thesis 16).
23. The Sixth World Congress (1928) called after a lapse of four years, had an ambiguous, contradictory character. This Congress was held during the period of transition from the ultra-right to the ultra-left course and served the purpose of preparing for the expulsion of the Right Wing which had no desire to depart from the opportunist line adopted and applied from 1925 to 1927 (Bukharin, Rykov, Brandler, Thalheimer, Walcher, Froelich, Kilboom, Lovestone, etc.). The Program adopted by the Sixth World Congress was based, from beginning to end, on eclecticism. It canonized the theory of socialism in one country, thus castrating the Comintern.
The program does not take as a premise the present day world situation of capitalism as an interlocked whole, from which must be deduced the necessity for the world revolution, but it examines in a pedantically reactionary manner the possibility of each country “realizing socialism;’ thus opening wide the door for future social-patriotic degeneration of the Comintern. For the colonies and semi-colonial countries – with certain limitations, even for such countries as Spain, Portugal, Poland, etc. – the program issues the slogan of “democratic dictatorship of the workers and peasants,” filling it with the same anti-Leninist content (fraternization of the classes) which had caused the collapse of the Chinese revolution. On the question of strategy and tactics, the program does not go beyond commonplaces. The real experiences gained by the October victory and the tremendous defeats of the proletariat in Germany, Hungary, China, etc., and the role and the importance of the revolutionary party and of its leadership, are not analyzed.
24. Throughout the subsequent period, the Stalinist bureaucracy operated mainly, but no means exclusively, by the other method at its disposal, i.e., that of issuing commands to the masses, issuing ultimatums, without any preparation. In the midst of the comparative social peace of the then still existing boom period of 1924-1929, a “revolutionary upheaval” was suddenly ordered uniformly on the international field (the so-called “Third Period”). The fatal policy of splitting the trade unions (propagation of the Red Trade Unions as independent organizations) was put in practice. Any pact with the Social Democracy, even one of merely temporary or practical-technical nature, was rejected. The theory of Social Fascism was promulgated (“Social Democracy and Fascism are not antipodes, they are twins” – said Stalin) and every difference between parliamentary democracy and fascist dictatorship was denied. Whereas the “ultra-left escapades” – as Lenin put it – which occurred in the first postwar years, were at any rate caused by honest revolutionary desire, the Stalinist bureaucrats betrayed in scoundrel’s fashion the interests of the proletarian masses.
25. The severe economic crisis originating in America in 1929-1930 shook to the core the existing regime, first and foremost in Germany, suited to which was the characterization given by Lenin to the Russian capitalism of 1917 as being the “weakest link of the capitalist chain.” The policy of the German Social Democratic Party, adapting itself to declining capitalism (under the slogan of the “lesser evil”) and the bureaucratic degeneration of the German Communist Party hindered the strengthening of the working class movement in the crisis. The petty-bourgeoisie turned to demagogic fascism which preached civil war not against the oppressing bourgeoisie, but against the proletariat; and the aim of which is to continue and intensify capitalist exploitation through the suppression of all democratic liberties. But even the rise of this dangerous enemy of the proletariat could have been employed as a lever for the revolution, if only the Communist Party of Germany had understood how to set in motion against it all proletarian forces. But the Stalinist bureaucracy did not even recognize the danger, to say nothing of being able to fight it. The absolutely insane estimation of the Social Democracy as “Social Fascism” led to rapprochement with real fascism (program of national and social liberation, support of the fascist referendum against the Social Democratic government of Prussia in 1931, etc.). This program of adapting oneself to nationalist agitation, and the bureaucratic-cowardly evasion of a military struggle against the fascist opponent found its support in Soviet foreign policy which was solely governed by day-to-day considerations. This foreign policy saw its task in keeping alive German-French antagonism, in order thus to exclude an intervention from the west. Basically, Soviet foreign policy is, of course, absolutely justified in exploiting for its own ends the differences between imperialist powers. But it is an unheard-of-crime to sacrifice the interests of the proletarian revolution to day-to-day considerations of foreign policy.
The criminal, blind policy of the German Communist Party (for which the whole Comintern bears complete responsibility) led to the shameful defeat without a battle of the German proletariat. The miserable collapse of the German Communist Party (which was confirmed anew by the melancholy result of the Saar Plebiscite of January 1935) brought the final proof that the Comintern had become transformed from a subjective factor of the world revolution into an objective obstacle to the world revolution. From this fact derived the absolute necessity of building the Fourth International.
26. The policy of bureaucratic ultimatism found its complement in unprincipled combinations with bankrupt bourgeois politicians, pacifists and novelists (Lord Morley, Barbusse, Remain Rolland, Heinrich Mann, etc. ) as well as in the “Peace Congresses” organized by the Stalinists, the League Against Imperialism, the Friends of the Soviet Union, etc., a policy which is the exact opposite of the Leninist united front tactic for winning the proletarian masses and a policy which reflects the bureaucratic admiration of “people in high positions,” and the bureaucratic scorn of the revolutionary forces of the masses.
27. In 1934, a new turn of the Comintern policy was imposed by the domestic-political situation of the Soviet Union as well as the foreign political situation, altered by the victory of fascism in Germany. Whereas the Leninist united front tactic in relation to Social Democracy had been previously regarded as “counter-revolutionary,” now every opportunity presenting itself anywhere was used to make an alliance not only with Social Democracy, but also with its masters, the liberal bourgeoisie, and this treacherous capitulation to bourgeois democracy received the pompous name of “People’s Front.”
28. Stalin’s declaration to the French Premier Laval (May 1935) that “he understood and approved completely the policy of national defense of France” signalizes the Comintern’s desertion to the camp of imperialism. Soviet diplomacy, which in the meantime had joined the League of Nations, advocates “collective security” (i.e., the security of the imperialist robbers to continue to rob without hindrance), international arbitration, and the like. Thereby, the Comintern makes itself the prop for the oldest and most worn-out illusions with which imperialism deceives the masses and prepares them for the mass slaughter, and this at a moment when Italy’s brutal assault on Abyssinia demonstrates clearly the whole emptiness and shallowness of the lying phrases of collective security.
29. The Seventh World Congress, assembling at last in the autumn of 1935, signifies the break with the last remnants of Comintern traditions, “People’s Front” and “National Defense,” social betrayal and social chauvinism are all that this Congress – a hollow theatrical performance of bureaucratic marionettes – had to offer to the world working class.
30. The Stalinist demand in all countries, in exchange for their willingness to defend the “Fatherland,” only one price, i.e., that the foreign policy of the respective country should not be directed against the Soviet Union. The Franco-Soviet military agreement alone sufficed in order to transform the French Stalinists into the worst type of chauvinists, preaching national fraternization of all classes and of all political and religious denominations. The British Stalinists have no other aim but to get the British bourgeoisie to become a signatory to the Franco-Soviet agreement. Today, the American Comintern section already endorses a war of the United States against Japan “for the defense of the Soviet Union.” Although a war of the USA against Japan – given a correct policy on the part of the proletarian party – would offer tremendous possibilities for the proletarian world revolution the American Stalinists are already preaching the renunciation of the revolutionary class struggle and the support of the American bourgeoisie, the mightiest and most dangerous imperialist bourgeoisie of the world. In China, the Stalinists are prepared to deliver the Chinese proletariat and poor peasants again into the hands of the counter-revolutionary Chiang Kai-shek. if the latter only declares himself willing to turn his bayonets against Japan.
In the small European countries, the Stalinists already declare themselves defenders of “national independence.” They forget completely that these countries are links in the imperialist chain, and that they, too, carry on war with imperialist aims, So far as Czechoslovakia is concerned, a nation which is particularly dear to the hearts of the Stalinists, this is not a national state at all, but only a conglomeration of nationalities, held together by French imperialism. Poland, Rumania, Belgium, etc. are themselves oppressors of national minorities. Holland, Belgium, Portugal, and others have colonies of their own which they exploit with a brutality second to none of the great imperialist powers. The Austrian Stalinists declare that they are prepared to defend the “independence of Austria” – of this artificial creation, incapable of independent existence – if only the Austrian bourgeoisie (and Franco-English capital) will allow the Stalinists a certain amount of legality for their patriotic loyal propaganda. The German Stalinists in emigration have become inverted social-patriots, transforming themselves from nationalist champions against the Versailles Peace Treaty, to defenders of the status quo created by this very same treaty. It follows from the present position of the German Stalinists that they will transform themselves into real social-patriots as soon as the fascist dictatorship in Germany is replaced by another type of bourgeois regime.
As against this enormous betrayal of the interests of the proletariat, the organizations of the Fourth International adhere to the internationalist slogan of turning the imperialist war into a civil war; not the defense of the reactionary national frontiers, which decades ago became a brake on any kind of progressive development, but their abandonment; the creation of the United Soviet Republics of Europe and of the whole world is our aim.
31. Due to the social-patriotic transformation of Stalinism, all the differences between the Third International and the Second International, which owes its artificially prolonged existence only to the degeneration of the Comintern, have disappeared for all practical purposes. Thus, it is only logical that the problem of “organic unity” – the amalgamation of the Second and Third Internationals-is increasingly coming to the forefront. In those countries where reformism still has the monopoly power over the working-class movement (Britain, Scandinavia) the parties of the Second International oppose organic unity. In Belgium, the recent successes of the Stalinists and the failure of the Labour Party may probably have caused the latter to become more sympathetic to the idea of amalgamation. In France, however, the Communist Party, which is now growing at the expense of the Social Democracy, is delaying the matter. Nowhere, however, is there any principled, irreconcilable antagonism. What matters are only purely bureaucratic bargaining methods. But no matter whether “organic unity“ is realized or not, the advanced worker must have no doubt that Stalinism and Social Democracy are “not antipodes, but twins.” They both are the yellow agencies of rotting capitalism.
32. At present, the Comintern is experiencing a certain growth which is not to be underestimated, but as a social-treacherous and social-chauvinist, not as a revolutionary party. Faced with tremendous political tension, already signaling everywhere the approach of the new world war, the masses rush to the left and find there the only door known to them, that of the Comintern. Thus, at the last elections the French Communist Party was able to more than double its votes (its number of deputies increased sevenfold). Above all, the proletarian districts – Paris and suburbs – voted Communist. Also, the Belgian Communist Party, always very weak, was able to register in this year’s elections a success which is not unimportant (more than 100 per cent increase in votes, as against 1932, and a threefold increase in mandates). Certain successes may be registered by Stalinism also in Spain, in Switzerland, and partly also in Czechoslovakia. A growth of other sections (England, Holland, Scandinavia, America, etc.) is, if not certain, by no means improbable. But while the masses hope that the Third International will save them from the danger of a war, the Comintern is preparing itself to become the main political instrument in the coming imperialist war. Thus, the Comintern takes the place of the worn-out Second International in the service of bourgeois democracy and imperialism, but it carries within it tremendous contradictions.
33. These recent successes of the Comintern are confusing above all the petty-bourgeois philistines who have united themselves in the “International Bureau of Revolutionary Socialist Unity” (London Bureau), i.e., the SAP of Germany, the English ILP, the Socialist Party of Sweden, the Party of Marxist Unity in Spain (Nin-Maurin), etc. Under the impact of the catastrophic defeat of the German working class movement some of the centrist parties were turning in the direction of the Fourth International. But the Stalinist turn of the autumn of 1934 pulled along with it into the swamp of People’s Front policy the hesitating Walchers, Maurins, Nins, etc., and the complete absorption of the London Bureau by Stalinism is now merely a question of time.
34. A convincing example of the contradictions connected with the present growth of the Communist parties is the tremendous strike movement and factory occupations during the last weeks in France (embracing about two million manual and clerical workers), which started to the utter surprise of the French Communist Party. But whilst this fresh mass movement is commencing on the road of revolution, it finds everywhere obstacles put in its path by the fossilized apparatus of the Comintern. For instance, instead of placing itself at the head of the strike movement and putting forward revolutionary demands, the French Communist Party worked from the very beginning with the government and the employers, in order to find a means of bringing the strike to an end. It may, therefore, be predicted with certainty: either the fresh movement of the proletarian masses in Frances will sweep aside the bureaucratic apparatus of the Stalinist traitors and create a new leadership – then the proletarian revolution will be victorious-or the treacherous bureaucrats will become masters of the situation – then fascism will triumph.
35. The contradiction between the militant masses who are pushing to the left and the new treacherous part played by the Communist parties offers to the organizations of the Fourth International great tasks and possibilities. Some of these organizations have, in the immediate past, joined the Socialist parties and have won over the best elements there to revolutionary Marxism. In countries with tremendously accelerated inner political developments (France, Belgium), this proved to be a short stage. In other countries (Poland, England) this experience is not yet completed. In others again (America) they are still at the beginning. But no matter whether the sections of the Fourth International are working independently or within the Socialist parties, they must direct their attention to the fact that at present the Third International is attracting the workers from the Second International. Therefore, the most essential struggle against social-imperialism-Socialism or Communism in words, and imperialism in practice – is the struggle against the Comintern, against the Stalinist bureaucracy. The most important task is to make clear to the workers the present day character of the Comintern as an agency of imperialism, to make it clear to them that a change-over from the Second to the Third International means jumping from the pan into the fire . 36. The roads and methods of this work will be manifold and various, dependent on the whole development and the peculiarities of each country. It is of decisive importance to utilize every possibility to force the reactionary Stalinist bureaucracy into open antagonism to its social supporters, the revolutionary working class. It is important everywhere to watch developments with open eyes, to collect material, to follow carefully all contradictory tendencies, in order to be able to act opportunely and effectively.
37. Of the theory and practice of the First Four World Congresses there is not a breath left in the existing Comintern. But the strategical and tactical teachings of the Comintern of Lenin and Trotsky, the Leninist re-affirmation of theoretical Marxism, are not forgotten. These teachings and experiences have been defended ever since 1923 by the Bolshevik-Leninist Opposition against bureaucratic degeneration. They are the foundation of the political and the theoretical work of the Opposition, which from the start has fought against the theory of socialism in one country as the source of social-patriotic degeneration. The Leninist strategical teachings and experiences, applied to the new events and phenomena, and the pitiless criticism of Stalinist mistakes and crimes during 1923 to 1936 have been used by the Opposition to educate new Bolshevik cadres throughout the world. Without a thorough study of the programmatic documents and writings of the Bolshevik-Leninist Opposition during this period, no proletarian revolutionary – who wants to deserve the name – can qualify for a leading part in the ranks of the proletarian vanguard.
38. By taking as the sole guiding line for its policy the strategical aim of the proletarian world revolution, adopted by the Third International of Lenin and Trotsky, but betrayed by the Stalinist bureaucracy, the Fourth .International arms itself with the teachings and experience of almost a century of revolutionary struggles between proletariat and bourgeoisie, and re-affirms thereby the ideas and the life work of the great pioneers of the proletariat, Marx, Engels, Liebknecht, Luxemburg and Lenin.
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Last updated on 12.9.2008