Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History, Vol. 5 No. 2

Jakob Reich (‘Comrade Thomas’)

The First Years of
the Communist International

This document speaks eloquently enough of its origins. Its author, Jakob Reich (1886–1956), was born in Lemberg (Lvov) in Galicia, was wounded twice during the 1905 Revolution, served for a year in the Austro-Hungarian Army, and was a student in Bern when the Russian Revolution occurred. He edited Russische Nachrichten, the information bulletin of the Soviet diplomatic mission established in Switzerland in 1918. He was among those who helped to organise the First Congress of the Communist International in March 1919, and was sent to Berlin later in the year to set up its Western European Secretariat, which he ran under the pseudonym of ‘Comrade Thomas’, although he was more generally known as ‘Fatty’.

Reich dropped out of active work with the Communist movement after a visit to Moscow in 1925. He was for a while in the Brandlerite movement, was expelled from it along with Jakob Walcher and Paul Frölich in January 1932, and joined the SAP (Socialist Workers Party). Along with the noted Menshevik scholar Boris Nicolaevsky, who compiled the article below from his conversations with Reich, he helped to gather material in Berlin for Lev Sedov to send to Trotsky to use in writing his History of the Russian Revolution. He fled to Czechoslovakia after Hitler came to power, and then on to New York in 1938.

This text has been translated by Harry Ratner from Les premières années de l’Histoire de l’Internationale Communiste, in J. Freymond, Contribution à l’Histoire des Communistes (Geneva 1965). We are indebted for this little-known text to Walter Kendall, who investigated the influence of Soviet financing upon the formation of the Communist Party of Great Britain in his well-known book The Revolutionary Movement in Britain 1900–1921: The Origins of British Communism (London 1969). The evidence produced by ‘Comrade Thomas’ constituted an important part of the documentation which led the author to conclude that ‘Russian material aid and Russian political intervention played a crucial part in the foundation of the CPGB’, and that ‘one is entitled to ask, without such aid, would the party have come into existence at all?’ (p. 256), a controversial view that may be disputed by many of our readers. He has also investigated these matters in respect of the Communist International as a whole in his as yet unpublished work World Revolution: The Russian Revolution and the Communist International 1919–1935.

More information on Reich and his activities, drawn from the archives of the Communist International and the German Communist Party, can be found in Alexander Vatlin’s article “Genosse Thomas” und die Geheimtätigkeit der Komintern in Deutschland 1919–1925, in his Die Komintern 1919–1929 (Mainz 1993).

by Boris Nicolaevsky

‘COMRADE Thomas’ was the name by which the man whose story is told below was known in the Bolshevik Party and the Communist International. He played a considerable role within the Communist International during its early years (from 1919 to 1925). Not only was he the first official representative of the Executive Committee of the Communist International in Western Europe, and, at the same time, the first representative of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party attached to the German Communist Party, he was also the person mainly responsible for the distribution of the funds which the Soviet government allocated to Communists in the West under various forms and guises. And it is precisely by means of these subsidies from Moscow that the Western Communist parties were subordinated to the political control of the Soviet dictatorship, and were transformed into docile instruments of Soviet foreign policy.

This early period of the Comintern, during which ‘Comrade Thomas’ played a decisive part (it is no accident that the veterans of the Communist International call it ‘the Comrade Thomas period’), is basically unknown to historians up to now. The official and unofficial accounts of the Communist International never mention a ‘Comrade Thomas’; as far as the non-Communist historians are concerned, they hardly know it or hesitate to venture into a maze of intrigues or confused tales of inexplicable and often scandalous financial transactions. This period was extremely important. During these years, when the bureaucratic apparatus of the Communist International had not yet consolidated itself either abroad or in Moscow, many of the features of the future internal evolution of the International were already becoming clear.

Some clarification of the tale told by ‘Comrade Thomas’ is called for, both on the circumstances of its telling and its scope, which for the first time provides a more or less coherent picture of his doings (or more exactly of the first years). This account was written down by the author of these lines nearly 30 years ago; moreover it was written down in a hurry, without the required continuity, and remained unfinished. All this is due to the circumstances that then existed, and it is these circumstances that need to be known to understand the unusual frankness of the Communist narrator.

In May 1935 I spent some time in Prague where the Executive Committee of the German Social Democratic party had set up its headquarters in order to guide clandestine work in Hitler’s Germany. One of the German comrades – I don’t remember who – knowing that I was collecting material on the history of the Communist International, told me ‘Comrade Thomas’ was in Prague, having recently escaped from Germany. ‘Comrade Thomas’ was very keen to meet me. I had not yet had the opportunity of meeting him, but I knew quite a lot about him, particularly that he knew many of the secrets of the early years of the Communist International. Although I was very busy, I was nevertheless willing to find time to have an interview with ‘Comrade Thomas’ on condition that he was willing to talk to me frankly about the past. Within five or 10 minutes I was called to the phone: ‘Comrade Thomas’ was on the line, and he told me that he was willing to tell me anything in which I was interested, but warned me that he wanted something from me in return.

We met that same evening, on 20 May 1935. What he had to ask of me was indeed important: it concerned the large library he had assembled on the history of the Communist International and of the Russian and German revolutions, as well as precious archives consisting of documents and letters by Lenin, Trotsky, Bukharin, Radek and many others, copies of his correspondence with Moscow, and many other valuable documents. According to ‘Comrade Thomas’, he had collected all this material in order eventually to write the ‘documentary history of the Communist International’, but the lot had remained in Germany in a location he considered safe. Despite Hitler’s coming to power, he had not been too worried, as influential friends had assured him that these archives were safe. Now he realised that he had relied too much on his German friends, many of whom had already disappeared, and their guarantee had certainly ceased to count. What he therefore asked of me was this: knowing that in 1933 I had successfully moved the archives of the Social Democratic Party from Berlin, he wanted to know if I could do the same for his. He was ready to agree to any conditions, for instance that his archives be put together with those of the German Social Democratic Party, which were under my supervision in Paris. He hoped to obtain the necessary funds to cover the cost of transporting the archives, as it was essential was to rescue the material he had assembled.

Naturally, I was sympathetic. I said I would do all in my power, but getting archives out of Hitler’s Germany, which particular circumstances had made possible in 1933, was a feat impossible to repeat in May 1935. I was willing to take steps to clarify the situation, but I saw not the slightest hope of successfully carrying out this operation. Anticipating, I hasten to say that the steps I took had no success, and all the archives of ‘Comrade Thomas’ were lost during the war. Part of his library was spared, but it wasn’t the most interesting part. After the war, the remaining books were transported to the USA, and after the death of ‘Comrade Thomas’, they were, according to his wishes, donated to one of the new American universities (I never had the opportunity of seeing them). ‘Comrade Thomas’ died in America 10 or 12 years ago without having written the ‘documentary history of the Communist International’, without, it seems, having even begun it. The account which follows is based on the notes written by me at his dictation. Apparently, this is the only account that remains of his activities, except, of course, the writings and documents preserved in Moscow, but of which historians are nowhere near being aware …

After discussing the archives, the talk turned to the past. ‘Comrade Thomas’ had indeed much to tell, and although my time was limited, I soon realised that one evening would not be sufficient for our talk. Today, I still cannot forgive myself for not having remained a few days longer in Prague to complete these conversations.

‘Comrade Thomas’ had a good memory; he had remembered the salient facts and dates, as well as the substance of discussions and the points of view of this or that person. He was neither a theoretician nor a politician. He approached all questions as a practical man but with a broad outlook, and he knew how to relate the details to the whole. The main problem that his account was to raise was soon evident: he had so much to tell about the personalities, the political discussions and the relationships between the leaders. It was obviously impossible to deal with all this information in two evenings of talk, however condensed. Therefore, we decided to stay within precise limits: all the personal questions relating to the activity of the Communist International in the various countries would be left out of his tale (this mainly concerned the German Communist Party, in which the relations between the leaders were particularly mixed up and confused) so as to leave as much time as possible for questions relating to the activity of the Executive Committee of the Communist International, to its relations with the different parties, and to the personal role of Lenin.

Was ‘Comrade Thomas’ completely honest in his account and his judgements? He repeatedly stressed that he had not the slightest intention of hiding or glossing over anything. And I formed the impression that he tried to present things as they had really taken place. I doubt whether he completely succeeded, for his state of mind in 1935 was certainly different to what it had been in 1919–20. He insisted that he had nearly always agreed with Radek’s position – Radek, at that period, being the person who most logically and persistently opposed adventures and adventurism – but I am not totally sure that ‘Comrade Thomas’ did not substitute the views he subsequently developed for those he had previously held. But it was possible that this substitution only applied to details. Essentially, in his overall attitude, ‘Comrade Thomas’ could not but align himself with the opponents of adventures and adventurism. Therefore, I believe the general picture he gave me of his position was basically correct.

But there are other points about which I am today inclined to believe ‘Comrade Thomas’ did not wish to be honest, and I think it necessary to point them out.

I have already mentioned that Hitler’s coming to power in 1933 had not overly worried ‘Comrade Thomas’, who, at the time, did not think of leaving Germany, even though he was both Jewish and a Communist editor, people whom the Hitlerites were pursuing right from the start. His attitude changed towards the end of 1934 or the beginning of 1935, and it was then that he decided to go abroad and save his archives. What had occurred during these two years to alter so radically his plans?

It is not difficult to answer this question. In the summer of 1934, Hitler purged not only the SA with Captain Röhm at their head, but also the ‘political generals’ Schleicher and Bredow, that is, the organisation which in the postwar years constructed the political alliance between the Reichswehr and the Soviet dictatorship for the purpose of a common struggle against the Western democracies. [1] The ‘influential friends’ who gave ‘Comrade Thomas’ guarantees about his personal safety and the safeguarding of his archives before Hitler’s coming to power, but who, in 1935, were unable to keep their promises, could only be members of this organisation. Only they had sufficient authority to offer such guarantees, and in any case ‘Comrade Thomas’ was not so naive as to rely on the promises of people who did not have the means to implement them …

Here I must stress that ‘Comrade Thomas’ did not take me into his confidence on this point. These are my own conclusions, but I am convinced that they are correct: the man who from 1919 held highly responsible posts not only on behalf of the Executive Committee of the Communist International but also of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party, who purchased aeroplanes to transport Enver Pasha to Moscow, and who organised bomb attacks against munition trains from France during the Soviet-Polish war, could not have been unaware of the secret links between the Soviet dictatorship and the German revanchists. It is not possible for me to dwell on this part of ‘Comrade Thomas’’ biography, but I think it necessary to stress that many things will be easier to understand if one takes note of this aspect of his activities which he did not reveal in his account. In his talks with me he was, at least so I believe, completely open on all that concerned the political actions of the Russian Communist Party and the Communist International, but he said not a word about the role he played in the dangerous and complex game of the Soviet and German plotters …

Naturally, I tried to check up on the truthfulness of ‘Comrade Thomas’’ account, and the result of my inquiries is reflected in the postscript appended to this account. It is quite possible that some inexactitudes, pure and simple errors, slipped in; given the circumstances of our meetings it would be astonishing if it were otherwise. But a portion of these possible errors can be laid at my door: our two evening sessions of talk each lasted several hours, and my notes were hastily written and cursory, for I do not know short-hand. I immediately rewrote the notes of our first meeting and read them over to ‘Comrade Thomas’, who, on the whole, approved them while often adding and clarifying some points. I realise that my notes of the second meeting could have benefited from being amplified and checked. Nevertheless, I am convinced that in its present form this account, despite some gaps, is of real value for an understanding of the first years of the history of the Communist International.

Finally, I must draw attention to another aspect of my notes: throughout, I refer to the author of this account by the conspiratorial name by which he was officially referred to in the Communist International, that is, ‘Comrade Thomas’. This is deliberate, since I never tried nor was able to establish his real name or identity. I know under which name ‘Comrade Thomas’ lived in Bern before the revolution; I know in whose name the ‘foolproof’ passport was made out when in 1919 Lenin made this Dzerzhinsky’s responsibility; I also know which passport ‘Comrade Thomas’ received in 1926 before leaving Moscow, after having given up his official links with the Communist International and which he used when he went to America. But I have good grounds for believing that none of the names that appeared in these documents was his. I realise that the failure to resolve this leaves a gap: knowledge of the true identity of my interviewee would have been very useful for getting a true idea of ‘Comrade Thomas’’ antecedents before he began his work in the Communist International, and of his revolutionary past. Unfortunately, I am unable to elucidate this point with the required assurance. Therefore, in my opinion, it is better to accept that this mystery has not been resolved rather than speculate without adequate proof. One vital fact: his sponsor, the one who furnished him with the means necessary for the activities he engaged in within the Communist International, the one who gave him the suitcase full of diamonds and other precious stones, was Fürstenberg-Ganetsky.

The Story of ‘Comrade Thomas’

IN 1917–18, working from the Soviet Mission in Bern, I managed the Russische Nachrichten. [2] In November 1918 I was arrested after a well-publicised strike. [3] The Swiss government decided not to prosecute me, but all persons connected with the mission were expelled. En route, at Basle, I heard through Welti [4] about the murder of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht on 15 January 1919. This establishes the exact date of our expulsion.

The journey through Germany took 18 days. We met one obstacle after the other. At Cottbus we were nearly shot by German reactionaries. At Minsk, we nearly fell into the clutches of Petliura’s partisans. [5] We arrived in Moscow at the beginning of February 1919. Litvinov, Karakhan [6] and others met us at the station. We were taken to the Metropol Hotel. Having arrived in the morning, I was, by five o’clock in the afternoon, already working in Chicherin’s [7] office at the Commissariat for Foreign affairs. To tell the truth, there was hardly any work to do. One day Sverdlov came to see us and took me on: ‘There’s nothing for you to do here, but our Propaganda Section has no one to manage it.’ [8] Since Radek’s departure for Germany [9], the scarcity of comrades was creating a problem. All the work fell on Ossinsky-Obolensky [10], who was unable to deal with all of it. It was thus that I came to work in Sverdlov’s services. In addition to Ossinsky, Liubarsky [11], the former Secretary of the Soviet Mission in Bern, also worked in the Propaganda Section. We published bulletins which were sent out via the north (through Finland). Here, too, the work was light.

Suddenly the question of a conference of the Communist International came up. I don’t remember how it all began. Angelica Balabanova, returning from Stockholm, had, I think, spoken of the work of the Zimmerwald Commission. [12] Ilyich [Lenin] got excited about his old idea: to break the back of the Socialist parties, which, according to him, were all rotting and in the pay of the general staffs. He succeeded in convincing Trotsky and Balabanova. The latter listened only to him. Apparently, Zinoviev [13] and Lenin had already reached agreement. Karl Moor [14] was easily won over. He had come to Russia in search of pretty little girls (it was the old man’s weakness) and to get repayment of the loans he had previously made to the former Russian émigrés. Rakovsky, [15] arriving later, was quickly won over to the project.

The agreement of Rakovsky and Moor, it seems, settled the matter. Our propaganda section soon received instructions to contact left-wing groups abroad and to invite them to the conference. The three of us, Ossinsky, Liubarsky and I, saw to this. Firstly, we decided whom we should invite. These were Loriot and Souvarine from France, Peluso from Spain, Serrati from Italy, the Italian émigré deserter Misiano from Switzerland, and Koritschoner from Austria. I recall that there was talk of inviting one of the Bulgarian ‘Tesniaki’ (Blagoev, I think), Joseph Strasser from Austria, Julius Alpari, etc. In general, we had in mind those who had, during the war, acquired the reputation of being men of the ‘left’. I had brought with me the Serbian Milkic, a Social Democrat deputy, condemned to death in his absence for opposing the war. [16]

In Germany there was a thorny problem. A Communist nucleus had come into being, but Ilyich feared opposition to his plans. Therefore, he insisted that we establish contact not only with the Berlin Spartakus centre but also with the provincial groups, particularly the Arbeiterpolitik people in Bremen (Laufenberg and others who subsequently went over to National Bolshevism), and with Hamburg where Zaks-Gladniev was active and had formed a group (he wrote under the pseudonym ‘Sturmhahn’). [17]

The invitations were sent through couriers. None of these had received any political instruction, not even an explanation of the situation in Russia. All were former prisoners of war anxious to get home, or were (so they claimed) Communist sympathisers. They were given money, and letters, written on silk, were sewn into their trousers or caps. They were asked only to deliver these messages to their destination. As far as I remember, 24 of these couriers were sent. Later we checked up that only three or four of them had actually delivered their messages. We never found out what happened to the rest.

Lenin’s misgivings about the German Spartakists were well founded. Rosa Luxemburg had no confidence in Lenin; she feared that the Communists of Western Europe might become prisoners of Moscow. [18] This state of mind survived among her spiritual heirs, who, at this period were led by Leo Jogiches (Tychko). Their delegate, Hugo Eberlein, arrived in Moscow with a clear and unequivocal mandate: the Spartakus group was against the creation of a new International. [19] Its leaders started from the premise that there did not exist in the West Communist parties worthy of the name, they had first to be created. Later, Paul Levi [20] confided to me (after having broken with the Communist International) that Jogiches had explained to him why he had favoured Eberlein as their delegate: he had the reputation of being narrow minded, even obtuse, but obstinate and tenacious. So Jogiches was sure that he would not be turned in Moscow. This was so. Eberlein turned out to be very tough. As soon as he arrived he told Lenin he had come only as an observer. In no circumstance would he associate himself with the founding of a new International. Everyone tried to move him, Lenin as well as Trotsky, not to mention less important people. Their arguments came up against a stone wall.

He was lodged with Marchlewsky’s wife [21] at the First House of Soviets (the National Hotel), and she and Balabanova were advised how to handle him and make him see reason. With great difficulty, the most that could be agreed was that Eberlein would state that, having studied the situation at first hand, he had personally come to the conclusion that Moscow’s proposals were acceptable, but that he could not vote for the founding of the Communist International, as his mandate was binding. No insistence or entreaties could move him. When the decisive vote on the setting up of the Communist International was taken, unanimity was only obtained through a subterfuge, of which I will talk later.

In order to allay the impression that the whole of the German Communist Party was opposed to the formation of the Communist International, a second delegate, Klinger, a German from the Volga region, who had never had any connection with the German Communist Party, was held in reserve. Eberlein’s acquiescence having been secured, Klinger did not intervene as a representative of the German Communist Party, but was given the mandate of Communists originating from the German settlements on the Volga.

No preparations were made for the conference: no preliminary meetings, no reports, no discussions. The only thing that was done was to seek out among former Russian émigrés people who had some connection, however tenuous, with the working-class movements of the countries in which they had lived, and who could, with some semblance of justification, be called ‘delegates’. This was how Boris Reinstein [22] came to figure among the delegates of the American Socialist Party.

At the same time great care was taken to ensure that the delegations from the various countries should not consist of men endowed with any minds of their own. I recall what happened among the Swiss. Fritz Platten had arrived from Switzerland, a man reputed to be sound. But word got around that he had his own opinions. As a result the three organisers had a visit from Chicherin, who asked to see comrade Kascher. She was somewhat of an adventurer who had played at opposition within the women’s movement in Switzerland and who had arrived in Russia with Platten, needless to say without any mandate. Moreover, she had a bad reputation. Platten was scandalised, but in vain. Lenin insisted, and Kascher was admitted to the conference. [23]

The most picturesque person at the conference was Rutgers [24], a Dutch engineer who wore thigh boots. Coming from the Dutch colonies, he had reached Moscow via Japan and Siberia.

The opening of the conference was postponed, and the arrival of Guilbeaux [25] was awaited so that at least one Frenchman should be present. Finally, it was decided to proceed without him, and the conference was opened. Suddenly a telegraph message in morse arrived from Minsk. Joffe [26], who had been waiting there to be called to Berlin at any moment, announced that Guilbeaux had just arrived. Lenin’s spirits rose. Despite his experience, he much overrated Guilbeaux. The railways were in a critical condition, but a locomotive, burning wood, was dispatched to bring in Guilbeaux and his wife (a nonentity of a Frenchwoman, and a stranger to all that was going on).

In the midst of the preparations for the conference, a rumour spread that a delegation of Western Socialists, led by Karl Kautsky was coming to Russia. This created a sensation. Lenin had just completed his book The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky, and had handed me the manuscript for translation into German. I passed this job on to Frida Rubiner. As soon as he heard of Kautsky’s imminent arrival, Lenin hurried things along. He insisted that as soon as Kautsky crossed the frontier a copy of the pamphlet should be handed to him. Lenin was also concerned about the reception and lodging of this delegation, and he put Karakhan in charge of all the arrangements. Lenin insisted that they should receive the best possible welcome. In the conditions existing at the time this was no easy task. Karakhan found a suitable house, the former town house of a wealthy sugar merchant on Sophia Quay (I think it was Tereshchenko’s). The catering was even more difficult. I remember that Karakhan was congratulating himself on having been able to procure a bag of rice and some chickens … [27] As we know, Kautsky’s delegation never came. The rice and chickens went to the ‘delegates’ of the future Communist International.

The conference itself was of little interest. It was held in a small hall in the Palace of Justice in the Kremlin. The agenda and other documents can be easily consulted in the minutes. The report on the White and Red Terrors was given by Chicherin, under an assumed name. There were no discussions or meetings of the various tendencies. Lenin’s theses were not even available for preliminary examination. The manifesto was drawn up by Trotsky, who installed himself in a small side room during the sessions. He wrote it directly in German and read it to the conference immediately without previously showing it to anybody. It was approved without discussion.

The only problem that preoccupied everybody was Eberlein’s presence (he attended the conference under the pseudonym ‘Albert’); how could a vote be taken on the resolutions without bringing to light the disagreement of the German Communists? Eberlein was, in fact, the only delegate from Western Europe representing a real group.

The proceedings at the conference were somewhat dull. The arrival of the Austrian Gruber-Steinhardt [28] enlivened it. His appearance on the platform was picturesque and well stage-managed. In the middle of a boring speech the door was flung open; preceded by an attendant, a man in Austrian military uniform made his entry. With a shaggy beard, and a soldier’s cap in shreds, he went straight to the rostrum: ‘I’m the delegate of the Austrian Communists!’ He produced a knife and cut open his cap, from which he withdrew a mandate. He began speaking, describing, almost in tears, what he had endured crossing the lines on the Ukrainian front. It made everyone tremble. Then, as he was about to finish, someone on the platform whispered to him: ‘Shout: “Long Live the Congress of the Communist International!”’ This the Austrian did on the spot. Thus were the words ‘Congress of the Communist International’ uttered for the first time.

Balabanova then reported on the work of the Zimmerwald Committee. Following this, she proposed, seconded by Rakovsky, that the Zimmerwald group be dissolved. At this stage someone – Lenin or Zinoviev – proposed that the Communist International be founded, and that the conference be considered its first Congress. Forewarned, a section of the delegates instantly acclaimed this. Standing, all those present raised their hands and sang the International. Eberlein was moved by the atmosphere, and he too raised his hand. The Chairman took the opportunity to declare that the proposition had been unanimously adopted. Very disconcerted, Eberlein was unable to protest.

We then came to the election of the Executive Committee. This was the only issue which gave rise to anything resembling a caucus meeting, which, more or less by chance, was attended by Lenin, Zinoviev, Bukharin, Rakovsky and me. Vorovsky [29] was proposed as Secretary. Then the problem of Balabanova came up. What must we do? Pushing her aside would be embarrassing, as she had behaved herself. But Zinoviev declared categorically that it was impossible to work with her. Rakovsky proposed she be sent to Ukraine, where she would be given a responsible post. Someone suggested that this could be combined with Communist International activity. This suggestion was accepted right away. It was therefore decided to set up a Southern Bureau presided over by Balabanova and responsible for contacts with the Balkans and neighbouring countries.

The bureau of the Communist International was made up as follows: Zinoviev, President; Vorovsky, titular Secretary, but as he was ill, he was not very active; Berzin-Winter, Assistant Secretary; Klinger, Administrative Secretary; Bukharin, Liubarsky (‘Carlo’) and I. [30] We were given a big town house, previously occupied by Mirbach [31], in which we were at a loss what to do.

Working for the Communist International

I soon left for Petrograd, where I busied myself printing the first issue of the review Communist International. I took two sacks of bread to distribute to the printers. Having received this bread they worked fast, or, at least, relatively fast. Nevertheless, this work took some time. I lodged at the Astoria. Zinoviev wrote the lead article: the revolution is on the march, and in a year America and the undeveloped countries will be the only places where the Socialist revolution will not be an accomplished fact. My article on the situation in Germany was written in the same spirit … Some months later, when reprinting this number in Germany, I suppressed my article, the optimism of which embarrassed me. [32]

After the printing of the first number of Communist International, I returned to Moscow. This was in the spring, no doubt at the beginning of May. The services of the secretariat of the Communist International were set up, but were idling; they had neither external contacts, nor correspondence, or information from abroad. The delegates to the Congress had left, and nothing more was heard of them. In general, nothing was being done. Hardly anyone remained. All the important activists had been assigned to other posts; there remained only those of secondary importance who wandered empty-handed among the empty rooms of Mirbach’s former residence. Russia was going through the troubled period of April–May 1919. In Ukraine, the soviet power was literally bogged down in the marsh of peasant revolts. Odessa and the Crimea were held by the French warships whose crews were eventually to mutiny. Denikin had assumed the offensive in the Donbas. Yudenich was marching on Petrograd. Kolchak was approaching Samara … [33]

I tried to obtain material for the second and subsequent numbers of Communist International, but articles were not easy to get. It was evidently necessary to involve first class writers so as to raise the prestige of the new International, but these writers, in so far as they were Russian, were up to their eyes in work. Needless to say, morale was not marvellous. It was at this time that Lenin summoned me in the night and told me: ‘You must go to Germany.’ I didn’t agree immediately. I was, in any case, arriving at this conclusion myself, but had not yet confirmed this in my own mind. The activity of the Communist International had to be organised in the West, and particularly in Germany. This could not be done without the assistance of veteran activists trained in clandestine work. They had to be sent from Moscow.

Lenin’s instructions were brief: ‘Take as much money as you can with you; send reports and, if possible, publications. In general do what the situation allows. But do it.’

There and then he drafted two notes, one for Ganetsky, the other for Dzerzhinsky. [34] At the same time he phoned Ganetsky, who at the time controlled the party funds, not the official funds relating to the Central Committee, nor the governmental funds appertaining to official services, but the secret funds which Lenin used as he saw fit without having to account to anyone. Ganetsky was the man to whom Lenin had entrusted its safeguarding and ‘servicing’.

I had known Ganetsky for some years, and he greeted me like an old comrade. He handed me a million roubles in German and Swedish currency. Then he took me to the strongroom in which the secret funds were kept. It was in the basement of the same Palace of Justice in which the Congress of the Communist International had taken place. Lighting our way with torches, we passed through a labyrinth of underground passages. Ganetsky needed several keys to open the heavy door. We entered a dimly lit and windowless underground chamber. I was not able to take in everything straightaway: in the walls were pigeon holes full of I know not what, and on the floor all sorts of boxes and trunks. Gold and gems were everywhere, precious stones were piled on the floor. Someone had tried to put them in some order, but had given up. A box near the door was full of rings. Others were full of gold ornaments from which the jewels had been removed. Ganetsky, flashing his torch around and smiling, said: ‘Choose!’ He subsequently exclaimed that all this jewellery had been taken from individuals on Lenin’s orders. Dzerzhinsky had had them deposited there for the secret needs of the party. Lenin had said: ‘All this was acquired by the capitalists by exploiting the people; now it must be used to expropriate the expropriators.’

I found it difficult to choose; how was I to estimate the value of these things? I knew nothing about precious stones. ‘And do you think I know any better than you?’, Ganetsky replied. ‘Only those trusted by Lenin come here. Choose what you will at sight. Ilyich has said that you should take as much as possible.’

I had nothing in which to carry the stuff. Ganetsky picked up a small suitcase covered in fine leather, with a damaged lock which could, however, still be closed. He tipped out its contents and handed it to me. I began to fill it with what I had chosen. Ganetsky kept on saying: ‘Take more’, while advising me that, once in Germany, I should not sell everything at once but little by little according to my needs. Indeed, I did space out my sales over a period of years.

I put gems in the suitcase; I left the gold as it was too bulky. I was not asked to make out a list of the gems, but of course I made out a receipt for the currency … [35]

The journey was not easy; the front was everywhere. It was necessary to prepare good documents. I had the help of the best experts. I was given a ‘foolproof’ passport; I was made out to be a commercial attaché of the Mexican consulate. But I had to wait for six to eight weeks. I left when Denikin’s offensive was at its height. This offensive created panic in Moscow. [36] There was talk of a withdrawal to the Volga or into the Urals. Hiding places and caches were being set up in Moscow. Gold, foreign currency and precious stones were put in safe locations. Karpov, a chemist, who died two years later, was put in charge of this task. He had several talks with me. In the event of a collapse in Moscow, my work in Germany would be very much increased. To assist my journey I was accompanied by M—, a Ukrainian diplomat who had come over to us. [37] The Chekists had briefed him, thinking he would help me in crossing the frontier. In fact it was I, on the contrary, who had to intervene on his behalf in Berlin. I was allowed to cross the Latvian, Lithuanian and German frontiers, but he, with the strange Ukrainian stamps on his passport, was detained.

Arriving in Germany

I arrived in Berlin at the end of the autumn of 1919. There was no Communist organisation worthy of the name. The arrests had disorganised everything. [38] At each step one came up against the police; at the same time the decomposition of the state apparatus was evident. Everyone was corruptible, everyone had his price …

Radek was already out of jail and was under ‘house arrest’ in the home of a police commissioner, called Müller, I think. [39] An inspector from the Polizei-Präsidium came to check on him daily, but all the policemen, starting with Müller, had been bought and only put in their report whatever Radek had dictated. This was done quite openly. Each evening the inspector would, before leaving, ask Radek which of his visitors he should mention in his report. And Radek would dictate: I received Professor Hetsch, Philips Price, von Reibnitz, von Hintze, etc. Radek had real ‘at home’ days. Political men of all sorts came to confer with him, especially men of the right who were beginning to dream of revenge against ‘the West’ with the help of Bolshevik Russia. They were named in the reports. On the other hand, the visits from Communists and left-wingers were not reported.

Naturally, I got in touch with Radek, whom I already knew well. I told him in detail of everything that had happened in Moscow after his departure; on his part, he told me of the events he had lived through. He had arrived in Berlin shortly before the insurrection of January 1919, and he had tried with all his might to prevent it. He had written at length to Rosa Luxemburg begging her to abandon her plans, and reminding her of the July 1917 uprising in Petrograd. Rosa had received his letter. To the courier who brought the letter and waited for a reply she said: ‘He [Radek] will read the answer tomorrow in the Rote Fahne.’ In this issue there appeared Rosa’s article calling for insurrection.

When Radek was arrested soon after, his secretary’s notebook was found; in it was an entry indicating that she had typed a letter to Rosa dictated by Radek. The examining magistrate questioned Radek as to its contents. According to Radek, he refused to answer. The original of this letter was passed to me by Radek at this time. It must be among my archives in Germany. [40]

In the course of his discussions with me, Radek showed himself to be a determined opponent of any putsch or adventure. I was constantly conferring with him, and my political line coincided essentially with his.

I was quickly able to organise a bureau and editorial service in Hamburg, which began to publish the Communist International in German (the first number came out soon after my arrival). [41] I soon managed to organise a first conference of Western European groups and parties favourable to the Communist International. Not only parties, but also groups and even individuals were invited to this conference. It was held at Frankfurt-am-Main. Clara Zetkin (for the German party), Bronsky (for the Poles), Valeriu Marcu (for the Rumanians), Karl Frank (for the Austrians) and Sylvia Pankhurst (for the English) took part. The Frenchman Fernand Loriot and some others were detained at Wiesbaden, which was then in the French-occupied zone, and were unable to get to Frankfurt. [42]

I gave the main report, which concentrated first on organisational problems. I announced that a bureau of the Communist International for Western Europe was set up with its headquarters in Berlin, and, also, that the printing of the review Communist International in German, French and English was ready to proceed, and that the first issue could be provided in the quantities required. I proposed to all the organisations in contact that they send in regular reports every month, and mentioned possible material assistance. The theses of the Western European bureau of the Communist International, drafted by Thalheimer, were discussed and adopted (subsequently approved by Moscow, they were published in Communist International as theses of the Western European bureau). [43] A resolution on Russia and an address of solidarity to Lenin were also adopted. Support for Russia was the essential issue for the conference, as it was for the activity of the bureau for Western Europe.

At the conference there was no doctrinal debate nor discussion on the activities of the Communists in other countries, even though the delegates had presented their reports. I remember handing a sum of money (several thousand marks) to Sylvia Pankhurst for the publication of a journal.

The Western European bureau was not elected at the conference. In agreement with Radek, I had previously picked its members as follows: Radek (so long as he remained in Germany), Paul Levi, Thalheimer, Bronsky, Willi Münzenberg and Ed Fuchs (Treasurer). [44]

The organisation of liaison with Moscow took me a lot of time and energy – particularly at the beginning. Everything had to be sent via couriers, and this nearly always entailed my acquiring false papers. It was necessary to make use of corruption. In this work Slivkin [45] proved an invaluable assistant. He acquired a reputation for his undeniable talent for distributing bribes. He had in his pocket all the necessary people, from ordinary inspectors to police chiefs. I remember that once, when I was in Stettin on the way back from Moscow, the local police chief himself boarded the ship I was on, and, after having stamped my (false) passport, asked if I had any more I wanted stamping!

I even chartered two planes to assure liaison with Moscow. The first passenger was Enver Pasha. After escaping from Constantinople, he arrived in Berlin at the end of 1919, sought me out, and told me he absolutely had to get to Moscow. I informed Moscow, who instructed me to send him by the quickest route. It would have been dangerous to send him by the usual route. If he had been arrested in Poland or in the Baltic states, he would have been handed over to the Entente and condemned to death as a war criminal. He therefore went by plane, but had no luck; over Lithuania his plane was machine-gunned and forced to land. All of its occupants were arrested. We had to send over people capable of getting them out of this situation. We feared Enver would be recognised. It cost us a lot, but he was freed. He returned to Germany from where he reached Moscow by another route. A little later he made a speech at the Congress of Peoples of the Orient, in Baku. [46]

I had sent a long report by the plane which carried Enver. In it I had said that in future I would write under the name of ‘Thomas’. This report was found, but it was in code, and the Lithuanians were unable to decipher it. Fed up with the hostilities, they passed it on to England. In 1933 or 1934, I saw it reproduced in an illustrated review appearing in Paris. [47]

At the time of the Kapp Putsch in 1920 [48], the Soviet representatives in Berlin were being hunted. Kopp had to go into hiding. A price (of 20,000 marks) was on his head. Raich and — saved him. [49] One finds no reference to any agreement between the organisers of the putsch and the Bolsheviks for joint action against Poland and the Versailles Treaty. Assuming that such talks did take place, they no doubt were simply suggestions exchanged between Radek and some of his right-wing contacts. In any case, Radek was elsewhere, in Moscow, at the time of the putsch.

I regularly attended the meetings of the Central Committee of the German Communist Party as ‘the eye of Moscow’, that is, in my capacity as delegate of the Executive Committee of the Communist International and of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party. The tendencies there were as follows: Bronsky was in favour of a policy of loyal opposition to the Social Democrats; Paul Levi agreed with him. Könen [50] was opposed to them. I regularly sent reports to the Central Committee in which I frankly explained the situation in the German Communist Party, at the same time reporting on the characteristics of the various members. I was not happy with the composition of the German Central Committee. Politically, Paul Levi was superior to the others, but he was an individualist as well as a dilettante. When in disagreement with the majority at meetings of the Central Committee, he would often declare that if they did not go along with what he thought necessary he would return to Frankfort and resume his work as a lawyer. This attitude of Levi’s showed itself very harshly during the discussion with —. [51] Put in a minority he declared: ‘Dann gehe ich nicht mit. Macht Ihr drei allein.’ [I’m not doing it, you three do it without me.’] This attitude of the leader made a very bad impression on the members of the Central Committee.

Needless to say, I could not avoid mentioning this in my reports to Moscow. These reports were considered very secret. Sight of them was restricted to Lenin, Zinoviev and members of the small (restricted) bureau of the Communist International. I felt that I had not only the right but the duty to speak frankly without hiding anything. This was, in any case, why I attended the meetings of the Central Committee as delegate of the Communist International and the Russian Communist Party; controlling the activities of the various Communist parties was a structural feature of the Communist International. A serious conflict arose as a result of my reports, of which I will speak later.

At the beginning of 1920, I managed to publish Russische Korrespondenz, a review which gave detailed information on life in Soviet Russia, especially in the economic field. [52]

I must mention that the first large-scale financial transaction belongs to this period. After long negotiations, I had handed a large sum (I recall $30,000 was involved) to an American Communist to finance the publication of a weekly in the United States. Louis Fraina – that was his name – had written a good book on the Russian Revolution. On his return to America he announced that he had been robbed of the money. He provided no proof of this, and he distanced himself from the Communist movement. [53]

The Second Congress of the Communist International

Moscow began to prepare the Second Congress of the Communist International in the spring of 1920. More importance was attached to it than to the first. It was to draw up a balance sheet of the tasks accomplished, and to provide some idea of the repercussions of the Soviet revolution in the West. Instructions from Moscow insisted that everything had to be done to ensure the greatest possible number of delegations. In fact, great efforts were made. Normal travel to Moscow was very difficult at this time. Many delegates travelled via Berlin. I specially chartered a ship to take them to Reval. This voyage had a marvellous effect; delegates representing the most varied tendencies found themselves face to face. From Germany alone, there were the old Spartakists, independent Communists, and members of the Communist Workers’ Party. All arrived safely.

Paul Levi was already opposed to the leadership of the Communist International, and against the Russians in general. ‘Mit den Russen kann man nicht arbeiten’, he would say. I have the impression, today, that at the time he was not fully conscious of his true feelings, and that he fought the ‘Russian methods’ when the mood took him. He was saying that ‘the Russians’ constantly employed ‘subjective methods’. In this he was merely repeating the views of Rosa Luxemburg and Leo Jogiches, who, as I was told by people who had known them well, were from the beginning very hostile to ‘Moscow’, to ‘the Russian methods’, to ‘prefabricated revolutions’, to Moscow’s ‘emissaries’, to the money which was beginning to flow from there, and to the splits and differences which Moscow was artificially encouraging. I got the impression that he was particularly irritated by the invitation to the Second Congress of delegates from the German Communist Workers’ Party, as this semi-Syndicalist party opposed the official German Communist Party. [54] As a matter of fact, the bureau of the Communist International had invited them with an ulterior motive. Levi was opposed to the splitting tactics that the Communist International was applying everywhere, and he was in particular completely opposed to the split in Italy, and defended Serrati’s internal policies. Moscow was very discontented with the position taken by Levi on this question, and the invitation to the Communist Workers Party was a warning: Moscow was indicating to Levi that they could do without him if he refused to change his attitude. Levi was unaware that I was opposed to this flirting with the Communist Workers Party, and that Radek was also against it.

On the occasion of the Second Congress, a series of events occurred in Moscow that were to have serious consequences for the activity of the Communist International in Germany.

I only remained in Moscow for a few days. I had to return hastily to Germany where various tasks called me. Before leaving I made a long report to the small bureau of the Presidium of the Communist International. I don’t remember anything in particular about this report, except that it was unanimously accepted. On the other hand I, remember better the report I made to Lenin. He questioned me in detail, particularly on the situation in Germany and our activity there: on the organisation of the German Communist Party, the people placed in the leadership of the party, the activists in the provinces, the members of the editorial boards, and, in general, the party’s writers. He was interested in everything, and examined all the problems. He was convinced that we were rapidly approaching the social revolution in Germany. He wanted to know how people lived, and how corrupt the police was. He attached much importance to this. He asked me how I had organised my clandestine life. He insisted I buy a house and become a houseowner, assuring me that this would provide me with the solid base I required. This house could be turned into the headquarters of a general staff.

I then called on Trotsky. He, too, insisted on seeing me. I was struck by the differences in the questions posed by both. Trotsky was, above all, a writer, a publicist. He questioned me on recent publications. He was particularly concerned that his writings and pamphlets be translated into German and other languages …

Subsequently, when I was back in Germany, I learnt of what took place with Levi in Moscow. He found himself at the headquarters of the Communist International in Radek’s office, the latter having become one of the secretaries of the Third International. I never found out what they talked about, I know only that Radek opened a drawer and said it contained my secret reports on the German Communist Party. I think that Radek read him an extract from one of them. Left alone in the office, Levi picked up the reports and started to read them. Among them were those which characterised the members of the Central Committee, and Levi in particular; reports which had specially interested Lenin and which he asked me to continue sending.

Why had Radek acted thus? I still don’t understand it. I was on the best of terms with him, and our personal relationship was friendly. Politically, I was rather in agreement with him; in any case I was closer to him than to anyone else. The only explanation I can think of is this: assuming it was not pure and simple mischievousness (manipulating one person against another just to see what happened was one of young Radek’s habits), it was possible he wanted to use my reports to have a go at Zinoviev. In any case, Radek could not fail to understand that Levi would not keep quiet about my characterisation of the German Central Committee, whom I described, at best, as an assembly of schoolmasters and scribblers.

It was only later that I learnt of Radek’s trick. At the first meeting of the Central Committee of the German Communist Party [after the Congress], Levi gave a detailed report of his trip to Moscow, adding that he must round off his report with a personal item. He quoted from my reports, demagogically picking out certain sentences in which he was personally criticised, and presenting the whole thing as if it was part of an intrigue against him. He concluded by demanding that I be censured, and that a message be sent to the Communist International and to the Russian Central Committee asking for my recall to Moscow. Levi’s summing up was that he had always thought they could do without third parties; in future they would send reports themselves. This naturally provoked a hue and cry. Brandler [55] shouted about ‘Chekist methods’ transplanted to Berlin from Moscow. Others were just as vehement.

I replied that I attended meetings of the Central Committee of the German Communist Party not as a member of the committee but as the delegate of Moscow. Everybody knew this, just as they knew that I wrote reports; this was the reason I attended the meetings. The Central Committee, therefore, had no right to condemn me, nor to prevent me from attending. Naturally, the Central Committee had the right to write whatever it liked to Moscow, but as I said: ‘I will continue to attend your meetings; as for you, you must, as before, come to see me to resolve all matters between us so long as Moscow has not recalled me.’

You can easily imagine the atmosphere at the end of the meeting. Naturally, the Central Committee and I both sent detailed reports of this meeting to Moscow. I learnt that Lenin was indignant and made a scene; he wanted to know who had shown Levi my reports. Radek’s role was revealed, but his motives remained unexplained. Later, everyone claimed that an intrigue against Zinoviev was involved. Radek wriggled out of trouble. Notably, he wrote a long letter to Clara Zetkin defending me. After this, Clara took my side, even though she was closely linked to Paul Levi.

The small bureau of the Presidium of the Communist International and the Central Committee of the Russian party pronounced in my favour, and could not do otherwise, since they were constantly urging me to report frankly in the greatest possible detail. What was involved was no more nor less than the right of Moscow to exercise its control over the German Communist Party, a control which was precisely the essential feature of the Communist International’s structure. Moscow gave considerable aid to the national Communist parties on the condition that it exercised a control over their activities from within.

This affair had its outcome – provisional, certainly – when Zinoviev travelled to Germany for the Halle Congress of the Independent Socialist Party (USPD). [56] I had a long talk with Zinoviev, my personal relations with him never having been of the best. The conversation began with the following exchange.

Zinoviev: ‘You know everyone is against you. What is to be done?’

Me: ‘And what does the Russian Central Committee think?’

Zinoviev: ‘They are completely with you …’

I already knew this. I knew that basically all the entreaties of the Germans were being rejected, my powers were being enlarged, and my stand was being entirely approved. A way had to be found to appease the Germans, and particularly Levi. This was the purpose of my talk with Zinoviev. Needless to say, I was in favour of calming the conflict. Zinoviev had several talks with the Germans, who finally understood that they could do nothing about it. The Central Committee then met with Zinoviev and myself in attendance. It was decided that the Central Committee itself would forward the minutes of its meetings and whatever reports they felt useful, but that I would continue, as before, to attend its meetings as an observer – ‘Moscow’s eye’ – and write whatever I thought necessary.

Financial Management in the Communist International

In the final analysis, the German Communist Party could not rebel. It depended completely on Moscow as far as material resources were concerned. This dependence was the whole problem.

After the Second Congress of the Communist International, and especially after the end of the Soviet-Polish war, relations with the West became stabilised up to a point, and liaison with Moscow became nearly normal. Parallel to this, relations between Moscow and the foreign Communists were regularised. Before, it had been a real shambles. Many things went through the Commissariat for Foreign Affairs. One also tried to send important sums via specially recruited emissaries. I’m not sure that I was kept informed of all these attempts, but I knew of quite a few of them. I also was not unaware that there had been several disagreeable surprises. I would not claim that everything I did went as well as I might have wished. We must not forget that at that period currency exchange rates fluctuated violently. On the whole, however, I managed things fairly well. Despite relative mishaps, things went better with me than elsewhere. For this reason, an increasing number of confidential operations of the Communist International and of the Russian Central Committee were routed through me.

I must add that the development of the Foreign Affairs Commissariat’s functions also added to my work. Litvinov’s role in foreign affairs grew, and earlier and more consistently than anyone else, he insisted on a strict delimitation between his commissariat and the Communist International, notably that the commissariat be relieved of any obligation to lend itself to the secret operations of the Communist International. Litvinov had defended this policy well before the conclusion of peace with Poland, but after the signing of the Treaty of Riga [57] he redoubled his insistence and finally obtained Lenin’s and the Central Committee’s support. Litvinov generally was for giving up ‘illegal work’ abroad. In 1921 he was telling me in Riga that this activity was harmful, that he didn’t think the Communist International counted for much, and he was advising me to transfer to the Foreign Affairs Commissariat. Litvinov has continued following this line, and, as far as I know, has always kept aloof from the activities of the Communist International.

It was otherwise with Krasin [58], who was more inclined to clandestine operations. During each of his trips to Germany he conferred with me in the apartment (on the Moabit) specially set up for these meetings with Soviet people passing through Berlin, and he questioned me in detail on everything.

Of course, Lenin did not go as far as Litvinov. He never intended giving up the Communist International, but he admitted that it was necessary to separate its activities from those of Soviet diplomacy. It was on his instructions that the Central Committee decided to set up a secret fund of 50 million gold marks. I was informed of this decision, but it was not mentioned in the minutes of the Central Committee. It was taken immediately after the Riga Treaty, under the impact of Kamenev’s misadventure in London. [59] This fund was to be managed by the Politbureau, which set up for this purpose a commission to which Lenin, Zinoviev and Trotsky belonged. Krumin’s sister, the ex-wife of Lomov [60], was appointed its secretary. I was given the responsibility of managing the fund abroad. Foreseeing difficulties, I insisted that someone else be nominated. I proposed Stasova. [61] Moscow rejected my proposal, and management of the fund devolved on me.

I sent my accounts to Zinoviev, knowing that he would pass them on to the ‘committee of three’ composed of Lenin, Zinoviev and Trotsky. Thus the whole of the financing of the Communist International’s activities abroad was centralised by me. The procedure was as follows: each Communist party had to submit a budget accompanied by detailed explanations giving the reasons why the money was needed and the total amount. I had these budgets checked by experts, and forwarded them to the Communist International in Moscow with my observations. Basing itself on my information, Moscow then worked out its overall budget, and, after having fixed the amounts, passed it on to the Russian Central Committee, which made the final decisions.

The amounts allotted to each country varied enormously. The Germans were the most favoured. The largest annual subsidy they got was, as far as I remember, seven million gold marks, which was during the period of preparation for the 1923 putsch. The other countries’ Communist sections received far less, but nevertheless several thousand, and even hundreds of thousands of gold marks, were distributed to them. A large proportion was given in kind by the Communist International itself in the form of propaganda materials. Some of this was produced in Russia under Zinoviev’s control in Petrograd, another part under the control of our Western European bureau in Hamburg or Vienna, where a sizeable group of Hungarian Communists had settled. Much friction resulted. The material published by these centres was not acceptable to the Communist parties, which rejected it, and since the cost of these publications was included in the subsidy, they demanded money in lieu and the right to publish what they wanted… They rarely got their own way. They didn’t have the necessary clout…

It usually fell to me to settle disputes, but within the guidelines from Moscow. When asked to give money to certain people, I often decided, after making enquiries, either to reduce the amount or to give nothing at all, and Moscow would eventually back me up. But it often happened the other way. Moscow promised funds and then instructed me to refuse to hand them over under various pretexts. They had promised the money to avoid embarrassment.

Despite taking precautions, I could not avoid problems. The biggest were connected with the financial catastrophe in Germany in 1923. The situation was complicated by the political differences that had arisen within the party, and because Piatnitsky was now (1922) in charge of financial affairs in Moscow. Piatnitsky had fallen down on the job as the Secretary of the Moscow Committee. [62] Krestinsky [63] told me that Piatnitsky was impossible, and that no one could work with him. It was apparently because of this that he was directed to the Communist International and given the thorniest job: the management of its finances. In this job one had to deal with all sorts of different people, and one had to know how to put up with them. That was the only reason for his nomination to the job.

My friction with Piatnitsky started straightaway. It amounted to this: I was in the habit of acting on my own responsibility according to the situation, and reporting to the Communist International after the event. Piatnitsky began by insisting that I seek Moscow’s advice in advance. I refused, and Moscow backed me. Piatnitsky then raised the question of funds. He protested at the payments I had made to the Polish Communists. There again he failed. He then brought up the question of the management of the funds from the financial point of view. The money at my disposal was in German currency, whose exchange rate soon dropped. I hastened to change some of it, but only some, into other currencies. I kept the remainder in German currency, thinking that its devaluation would not be great, and that eventually the mark would appreciate again. Piatnitsky calculated the amount that would have been saved if I had switched all the funds into dollars. Of course, it amounted to a lot. I argued that no one could have predicted what happened. The advice of an expert from the State Bank, called Levine, was sought. He bore witness that the bank itself had not believed the devaluation would be so severe, and that it too had made considerable losses on the mark. A special commission was set up, at first in Moscow, on which sat Bukharin, Radek, Clara Zetkin, Remmele [64], Litvinov and Kochteva (a Polish woman). The matter was then transferred to Berlin, where Krestinsky was made head of the commission. There was a meeting. We had some tea, then the discussion started. I explained that over two and a half months I had exchanged 25 million worth of marks, and I gave the reasons which prevented me changing all the marks at once. I felt that something was wrong with Krestinsky, but didn’t understand what. At the end, when we were alone, Krestinsky said: ‘We can settle this matter quickly. You are certainly right. The State Bank itself did not anticipate what happened. But, between us, you must say you had confidential instructions from Zinoviev, so that an official decision can be taken.’

I then understood that this affair had become mixed up with a base intrigue. I had no sympathy for Zinoviev, but thought that he should not be made responsible. I refused to play along. The matter was again referred to Moscow. The Central Committee ruled against Piatnitsky in vague terms. Thereupon I offered my resignation. It was rejected, but this time my demand that someone be appointed to manage the funds was accepted. The commission chose Stasova, whom I had already proposed in 1921. Piatnitsky remained at the Communist International, but I refused to have any contact with him. The matter was taken up by the Central Committee, which judged my attitude unacceptable. Nevertheless, I remained adamant, and my contacts were limited to Stasova.

The March Action

The incident of the funds has made me anticipate. This incident was brought to a close in 1924–25, after the series of putsch attempts of which the history of the Communist movement in Germany is full. I still don’t know to this day where the theory originated that in Germany the masses were ready for revolution but that the leadership was the obstacle. I have come to believe that Lenin had verbally and in the absence of witnesses given Béla Kun a blank cheque to attempt an uprising. [65] I can confirm that Radek was not involved, because I constantly received from him letters with advice in an altogether different vein. Even during the Soviet-Polish war his instructions were always prudent, and his analyses of the situation were tinged with scepticism. True, Radek too urged that all propaganda efforts be focused on aid for Soviet Russia, and on preventing French war material from reaching Poland. It was in this direction that all our energies were concentrated, even in the months which followed the end of the war, as we were convinced that it would restart at any moment. Our trusted men were in contact with the sailors of Stettin and Hamburg. We blew up some aeroplane motors in Danzig, and a French train full of ammunition in Stuttgart. Many other similar coups were being prepared.

This was the situation when Béla Kun arrived in Berlin as special representative of the Communist International. As a member of the Presidium, he had more authority than I, who was merely a delegate of this Presidium. He immediately got busy, spoke under the pseudonym Spanior, and made direct contact with German Communists. By the tone of his utterances, I very quickly realised that he was about to attempt something big. It smelt of provocation. He did not confide his real plans to me, but their general sense was clear. I proposed to him that he meet with me and two other Communists, whom I described to him as veteran Polish comrades with a long experience of political problems, and that we study the situation together. These old comrades were Warski and Łapiński. [66] Béla Kun agreed. The meeting took place at Charlottenburg. It lasted several hours, and then degenerated into a stormy argument. There again Béla Kun did not divulge his plans, but their nature was only too clear. Both Warski and Łapiński categorically declared themselves opposed to any uprising and against all adventurism in general. At the end Béla Kun had harsh words: ‘Sie haben Ihr Hertz in den Hosen’, he said, ‘You are not analysing the situation in a Bolshevik manner.’ He knew better: the workers are ready to rise, the leaders are preventing them from doing so …

The meeting ended on a sour note. I lost Béla Kun’s sympathy. He felt (and openly said) that I had lacked loyalty towards him in involving him in a meeting with Warski and Łapiński: ‘Them … Bolsheviks?’

Kun got to work ‘in the Russian way’, ‘following the old methods’, trying to convince certain members of the Central Committee, Thalheimer, Eberlein and others. Then we heard: ‘The Central Committee has decided’, ‘We will respond to the bourgeoisie’s provocations arms in hand.’

The line-up in the new German Central Committee, as it was constituted after the fusion with the Independents, favoured Béla Kun. The members of this party were more inclined to adventurism than the old Spartakists. These had a better Marxist training. Former members of the Independents such as Däumig [67] became fervent supporters of insurrection. Whenever anyone spoke at the Central Committee of taking up arms, it was always an ex-Independent.

Levi fought with all his might in the Central Committee, and when the issue was decided against him he left for Vienna and awaited events. When the putsch failed he published his first pamphlet. It was certain he had started writing it beforehand. Clara Zetkin supported Levi. Béla Kun imposed party discipline on them: the decision had been taken, and it had to be carried out. Hugo Eberlein was given the task of creating the required mood in Central Germany by provocations. The bombs were there, and he found the pretext …

The uprising had not been seriously organised from a military angle. Central Germany was chosen because it had large working-class centres. At one time I considered locking Eberlein in his flat for a week or two. Of course, I informed Moscow, protested forcefully, and demanded Béla Kun’s recall. I pointed out that the preconditions for an uprising did not exist. Moscow remained silent. One had the impression that, over there, they were waiting. If the uprising succeeded, they would take the credit; if it failed, they would disavow it.

That is what happened. The uprising was soon aborted. Béla Kun went to ground in the Berlin suburbs, taking with him Thalheimer and Paul Frölich. With them he set himself to draft The Theory of the Offensive. [68] He wrote a thick pamphlet which the Central Committee published. At that point, a message from Lenin arrived, recalling Béla Kun. He left for Moscow by plane. There was a right bother. Kun had an interview with Lenin. I don’t know the details, but I know that Lenin was raging. Kun had a heart attack, and after his meeting with Lenin he collapsed in the street. He was carried home and put to bed. Moscow demanded explanations. All those involved in the adventure were summoned. The order was given to destroy the pamphlet on the tactic of the ‘offensive’. I carried out this order with pleasure; 20 or 30 copies at most escaped destruction.

But, as was customary in such cases, Levi was also attacked. Radek wrote a pamphlet castigating Levi’s criticisms. [69] Clara Zetkin heard of this. Thinking that I would be against the transmission of her protests, she went to the embassy for her protest to be sent in code. The telegram was sent, its general content being: ‘I am informed that Thomas is publishing a pamphlet by Radek against Levi, and that one chapter is entitled Levi the Renegade. I insist that instructions be issued forbidding the publication of this pamphlet.’

Lenin, through me, replied to Clara Zetkin: ‘The contents of Radek’s pamphlet are correct. The chapter Levi the Renegade does not exist.’ Lenin was playing on the fact that at the last moment the title of the chapter on Levi was altered: Levi the Renegade was changed to The Levi Case. At about the same time a letter arrived from Lenin addressed to Levi. For my part, I wrote to Clara Zetkin. At that point Levi published another pamphlet, and announced his resignation from the Central Committee. Clara Zetkin was hesitantvv… [70]

The problem that faced me was: what should I do with Lenin’s letter to Levi? Should I pass it on to the person for whom it was intended? I asked Wilhelm Könen, a member of the Central Committee to see me. I showed him the letter and asked his advice. ‘I don’t know’, he said. I insisted on an answer: ‘Is your decision that the letter not be passed on?’ ‘I don’t know’, he repeated. I sent a telegram to Moscow, and risked opening the letter. Its tenor was typical. I give it from memory:

The Central Committee has acted stupidly, and you have acted even more stupidly because you have broken away when you should have fought. I beg you to come immediately to Moscow so that we can discuss all these questions.

Lenin replied to me by telegram: ‘Give the letter to its addressee.’ [71] Naturally I did so, not directly but via Clara Zetkin. She copied it, and passed it on … Several days later the letter appeared in Vorwärts. [72] Levi had ‘lost’ it in the corridors of the Reichstag, certainly on purpose, so that it should fall into the hands of the Social Democratic deputies …

I must add that I was basically in agreement with Levi, but of course I did not approve of his resignation. The conditions for engaging in a struggle were very favourable. Levi could have formed a faction, and become the real leader of the Central Committee. Moreover, it was possible to form a delegation, lead it, and go to Moscow to once and for all end the control not only of Béla Kun, but also of Zinoviev.

I must say that I do not consider Zinoviev the only one responsible for this affair. Zinoviev never decided for himself even the least important matters. He always asked Lenin’s advice. He telephoned him over trifles. I happened to be present (during the last days of December 1920) when Zinoviev received from the printers the proofs of a thesis on the trade unions. He was phoning Lenin about the slightest correction. In general, Zinoviev was a pathological coward, both physically and morally. I have heard a number of specific facts about him. For example, during Yudenich’s offensive, Chatov, at the time ‘Polizeimeister’ of Petrograd had to restrain him by force to prevent him from running away.

by Boris Nicolaevsky

BEFORE being sent to the printers, ‘Comrade Thomas’’ account was submitted to two people who had belonged to the Communist International in its early period, for verification of its accuracy, Angelica Balabanova and Boris Souvarine, who knew better than others of the events of this period, and who had been able to observe from the inside the life and doings of the leaders of the Communist International. Although these persons were not privy to many secrets, they were obviously the most competent in this respect. Both approved of the printing of this account, even though they had not only noticed a certain number of inaccuracies, but also expressed reservations on the manner in general in which ‘Comrade Thomas’ highlighted many aspects of the activity of the Communist International in this period. Despite all its defects, ‘Comrade Thomas’’ account is nonetheless a document of the greatest importance on the ‘mist-enshrouded early years’ of the Communist International …

Boris Souvarine’s remarks on points of detail have been used in the explanatory notes. As for Angelica Balabanova, for whom ‘Comrade Thomas’’ story has lifted a veil on certain aspects of the Communist International’s activities, aspects of which she had not been informed, even though she was formally its Secretary, she has written, in place of comments on various errors of detail, an article calling attention to a cardinal point: Lenin’s personal role, the goals which he assigned to the Communist International, and the means he thought it possible to use. Angelica Balabanova’s comments on these points correct, to a certain extent, ‘Comrade Thomas’’ story, but above all they complement it and allow us to understand better Lenin’s motives. As a supplement, we also give her comments. [73]


1. General Kurt von Schleicher (1882–1934) was the Chief of Staff of the Reichswehr in the late 1920s, and became Chancellor in December 1932. General Ferdinand von Bredow (?–1934) was Schleicher’s assistant. Both perished in the ‘Night of the Long Knives’ in June 1934. In the aftermath of the First World War and the Versailles Treaty, and especially after the Treaty of Rapallo in 1922, economic and military collaboration developed between Germany and the Soviet Union, as both countries attempted to deal with their being ostracised by other European states. [Editor’s note]

2. After the signing of the Brest-Litovsk treaty, Switzerland recognised the Soviet government and accepted a plenipotentiary mission lead by J.A. Berzin and A. Balabanova: it thus became the only Western European country in which Soviet diplomats enjoyed all their state prerogatives. Taking advantage of this, the Soviet mission in Bern engaged in a vast publishing activity. It published an information bulletin in French and German entitled Russische Nachrichten, as well as a large number of pamphlets, making Switzerland a centre of Soviet propaganda for Western Europe.

3. The revolutionary mood that developed in Switzerland during the war years manifested itself in the autumn of 1918 in a general strike. The strikers demanded an eight-hour day, proportional representation in the legislative elections, etc. The expression of these revolutionary sentiments was due less to the personal activities of the Russian émigrés won over to Bolshevism than to the general awareness of events in Russia. The left-wing Social Democrats led the strike. In the middle of the strike all the heads of the Soviet mission (holders of diplomatic passports) were arrested and immediately deported. A little later all the other members of the mission were also arrested. The press announced that they would be tried in court, but they, too, ended by being expelled.

4. Franz Welti was an old Social Democrat from Basle. He joined the Social Democratic left, and participated actively in the November 1918 strike, but did not join the Communists.

5. Minsk never fell to Petliura’s troops. The Red Army occupied it on 11 December 1918, and it remained under Soviet control until August 1919. But during all this time fighting took place around the town against various anti-Soviet partisan corps (at the beginning of 1919, against Boris Savinkov’s partisans, commanded by Boulak-Balakhovich). It is apparently to these battles that ‘Comrade Thomas’ was referring. [Symon Petliura (1877–1926) was the right-wing leader of the Ukrainian Social Democratic Party, led the Kiev Directory in 1918–19 until its dispersal by the Bolsheviks, and was assassinated in Paris. Boris Savinkov (1879–1925) was a leading Socialist Revolutionary terrorist. An active anti-Bolshevik, he was captured inside the Soviet Union in 1924, and committed suicide in prison. Editor’s note]

6. Boris Litvinov (1876-–1951) was an Old Bolshevik and a prominent Soviet diplomat. A supporter of ‘collective security’ against Nazi Germany, he was sacked in 1939 in the run-up to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. M.L. Karakhan (1889–1937) joined the Bolsheviks with Trotsky’s group in 1917, became a Soviet diplomat, and was a victim of the purges. [Editor’s note]

7. Georgi Chicherin (1872-–1936) was originally a Menshevik, joined the Bolsheviks in 1918, and was the Soviet Foreign Minister until 1930. [Editor’s note]

8. Yakov Sverdlov (1885–1919) combined, at the time, his job as Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party with that of President of the All-Russian Executive Committee of the Soviets. Formally, the Propaganda Section was an organ of the Presidium of the Executive Committee, but in practice it functioned as the Foreign Section of the party’s Central Committee.

9. Karl Radek (1885–1941) left for Germany immediately after the revolution in Berlin. He was part of the Soviet delegation sent to the Congress of the German Workers’ Councils, but he only managed to get to Berlin at the end of December (cf. his memoir, November, Krasnaya Nov, October 1926). [Formerly a left-wing Polish Social Democrat, he sided with the Left Opposition, capitulated in 1929, became a hack for Stalin, and was a defendant in the 1937 Moscow Trial. Editor’s note]

10. N. Ossinsky (Valerian Valerianovich Obolensky, 1887–1938); his autobiography reveals that ‘after Radek’s departure for Germany’, he worked ‘in the Propaganda Section attached to the Central Executive Committee, and reported on the international situation to the First Congress of the Communist International’, etc. (Dictionnaire Encyclopedique, Granat, special supplement, Politicians of the USSR and of the October Revolution, pp. 96–7). Ossinsky’s report is not mentioned in the first editions of the minutes of the First Congress of the Communist International. It only appeared in the 1933 edition, pp. 149–59. [An Old Bolshevik, he sided first with the Left Opposition, then with Bukharin, and perished during the purges. Editor’s note]

11. I. Liubarsky (writer, pseudonym I. Larsky) was a Socialist in Plekhanov’s tendency, became a Leninist during the war whilst an émigré in Geneva, and collaborated on Zviesda, Sovremennyi Mir, etc. He joined the diplomatic service in 1918, and became a victim of the Yezhov purge in 1937, dying at Vorkuta.

12. As already mentioned in the introduction, ‘Comrade Thomas’ does not give a complete and entirely correct account of the historical period that preceded the foundation of the Communist International (that is, of certain feelers put out before his arrival in Moscow; it is possible he was not kept informed of everything). The first steps towards the setting up of the Communist International were taken at the end of 1918 at Lenin’s instigation, but the preparation of the Congress was spread out over a much longer period. The decision to hurry the convocation of the Congress and fix the date for the beginning of March 1919 had nothing to do with Balabanova’s return from Stockholm. The real reason for this haste was Lenin’s desire to step up at all costs the struggle against the Western Socialists who had held an international conference in Bern on 9–10 February, which decided to reconstitute the Socialist International. [Angelica Balabanova (1878–1965) was the Secretary of the International Socialist Commission (formed at the anti-war Zimmerwald conference in September 1915, and dissolved at the First Congress of the Communist International). She joined the Bolsheviks in 1917, was the Secretary of the Communist International in 1919–20, split from the Communist movement after leaving the Soviet Union in 1922, and became a member of the right-wing pro-Nato split from the Italian Socialist Party after the Second World War. Cf. her My Life as a Rebel, London 1938, and Impressions of Lenin, Ann Arbor 1964. Editor’s note]

13. Gregory Zinoviev (1883–1936) was an Old Bolshevik, and the President of the Communist International until 1926, when he joined with Trotsky to form the Joint Opposition. He capitulated to Stalin in 1928, and was a defendant in the 1936 Moscow Trial. [Editor’s note]

14. Karl Moor (1852–1932) was a Swiss Socialist who played an important, though controversial, role, the real importance of which is only beginning to be understood thanks to the publication of documents from German secret archives. The study of these archives is by no means completed, and Moor’s biography still has many obscure pages which need to be deciphered. But we can, here and now, consider as proven that Moor was during those years in contact with the German counter-espionage services, and that they looked upon him as a trusted agent (Vertrauensmann) and entrusted him with specially delicate missions. During the First World War and the period that followed it, Moor ‘worked’ under the control of Dr Walter Nasse, joint military attaché at the German legation in Bern. In the latter’s secret correspondence, Moor is referred to under the assumed name of ‘Beier’ or ‘Baier’. This fact is established on the basis of documents by Herr Otto-Ernst Schuddekopf (Archiv für Sozialgeschichte, Hanover, Volume 3, 1963) which reproduce a secret report by Moor dated 1 August 1918, describing his confidential meetings with Joffe, the Soviet ambassador in Berlin, and other leading Soviet people. Herr Otto-Ernst Schuddekopf footnoted a letter addressed to Secretary of State von Hintze providing proof that Moor and the Vertrauensmann Baier are one and the same person (p. 236, n31).

Working for German counter-espionage did not at all preclude Moor from establishing as extensive contacts as possible with the Socialist émigrés living in Switzerland. It is even very probable that German counter-espionage encouraged him to do so. These were especially important with the Russian Bolsheviks, to whom Moor gave all sorts of help. According to Radek’s memoirs, it was Moor who approached the Swiss authorities and personally vouchsafed for Lenin and Zinoviev when they were expelled from Austria into Switzerland at the beginning of the 1914 war (Radek, op. cit., p. 163). Moor also extended a little material aid to some of them, which enabled him later to claim a relatively large sum from the Soviet government in reimbursement.

After the Bolshevik victory, Moor made frequent trips to Russia, and settled there permanently after the German revolution until 1927; there a new period in his biography begins.

As far as I know, the references by ‘Comrade Thomas’ to Moor’s participation in the proceedings of the First Congress of the Communist International are the only ones. Moor is mentioned neither in the official minutes, nor in writings about this Congress, nor in the literature of the Communist International. At the time of the First Congress, Moor had to all intents and purposes been in Moscow since August 1918. He stayed there until the end of the Congress. He appeared in Stockholm on 7 March 1919, and went from there to Berlin. ‘Comrade Thomas’’ statements on Moor’s participation in various meetings around the Congress are without doubt true. In the difficult circumstances of this period, Lenin could not dispense with the services of Moor, among others. But he used him for other ends; he made use of Moor’s contacts with right-wing German circles to push the idea of an alliance between the German nationalists and the Soviet government in those circles, in order to make a breach in the Versailles Treaty … Moor’s role turned out to be very important.

15. Christian Rakovsky (1873–1941) was a leading left-wing Romanian Socialist. He joined the Bolsheviks in 1918, was expelled as a Left Oppositionist in 1927, and was a defendant in the 1938 Moscow Trial. [Editor’s note]

16. Fernand Loriot (1870–1932) was a left-wing member of the French Socialist Party, and a leading member of the French Communist Party (PCF). He left it in 1926, and became a left-wing opponent of Leninism. Boris Souvarine (1895–1984) was a founder member of the PCF. Expelled in 1924, he drifted to the right, writing in the late 1930s the first worthwhile biography of Stalin. Edmondo Peluso (1882–1942) was a left-wing Italian Socialist, represented the Portuguese left at the Kienthal conference in 1916, was a member of the Spartakusbund and German Communist Party (KPD), went to the Soviet Union, and was a victim of the purges. Giacinto Serrati (1872–1926) was a leader of the Maximalists of the Italian Socialist Party (PSI), and called for the PSI to join the Communist International. He did not join the Italian Communist Party when the PSI split in 1921, but brought his faction into it in 1924. Francesco Misiano (1884–1936) was a left-wing member of the PSI, was in Switzerland during the First World War, took part in the German revolution, joined the PCI on his return to Italy, and was in the Soviet Union after 1924. Franz Koritschoner (1891–1942) was a founding member of the Austrian Communist Party (CPÖ). Having moved to the Soviet Union in 1929, he was handed over to the Gestapo after the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in 1939. Dimitar Blagoev (1856–1924) was a founder of the Bulgarian Social Democratic Party in 1891, and led the left-wing faction, the Tesniaki, which became the Bulgarian Communist Party in 1919. Joseph Strasser (1871–1933) was a left-wing Austrian Social Democrat, and then a leader of the CPÖ, which he left in 1930. Gyula Alpári (1882–1944) was a left-wing Hungarian Socialist, a member of the Hungarian Communist Party, Béla Kun’s assistant in the Hungarian Soviet Republic, carried out work for the Communist International right across Europe, was arrested by the Gestapo in 1940, and died in Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Iliya Milkić (1882–1968) was a prominent Serbian Social Democrat, and was a leading member of the Yugoslav Communist Party until the mid-1920s. [Editor’s note]

17. Heinrich Laufenberg (1872–1932), the President of Hamburg’s workers’ and soldiers’ councils, was expelled from the KPD in 1919, and joined the ultra-leftist Communist Workers Party of Germany (KAPD). The theory of ‘National Bolshevism’, that the German Communists should ally with the army and the extreme right against the French, was first advocated in 1919 by Laufenberg and Fritz Wolffheim (?–1936). It was taken up again by the KPD during the French occupation of the Ruhr in 1923, and during the last years of the Weimar Republic prior to Hitler’s victory in 1933. Zaks-Gladniev became an emissary for the Communist International, but sided with the Left Communists. [Editor’s note]

18. Heinrich Brandler told Isaac Deutscher that Luxemburg said that the Communist International would be a ‘Russian shop’ with which they would be unable to cope (I. Deutscher, Dialogue with Heinrich Brandler, Marxism, Wars and Revolutions, London 1984, p. 134). [Editor’s note]

19. Leo Jogiches (1867–1919) was a founder of Polish Social Democracy, a leading member of the Spartakusbund and the KPD, and was shot during the uprising of March 1919. Hugo Eberlein (1887–1944) joined the German Social Democratic Party in 1906, was a Central Committee member of the Spartakusbund and the KPD, fled to the Soviet Union in 1933, and would have been sent back to Germany after the 1939 pact had he not been too ill to travel. [Editor’s note]

20. For Paul Levi, cf. the introduction to Levi’s article in this issue of Revolutionary History.

21. Julian Marchlewsky (1866–1925) was a Polish left-wing Socialist active in Germany after 1907. No details could be found about his wife.

22. Boris Reinstein (1866–1947) was a member of one of the last circles of the Narodnaya Volya in Vilna, which was in contact with the circle of the same name in St. Petersburg and which in March 1887 organised the murder attempt against Alexander III (known as the ‘affair of the second First of March’ [the assassination of Alexander II having taken place on 1 March 1881 – ed.]). Having emigrated to the USA, Reinstein joined the American Socialist Party. He returned to Russia in 1917 without any mandate. [Reinstein was a member of the Socialist Labor Party in the USA, and was won over to the Bolsheviks when he was in Stockholm attending a Socialist conference. Editor’s note]

23. She was included in the list of delegates to the First Congress of the Communist International as a delegate of the Swiss Communist Group (with no other details: cf. minutes, 1933 edition, p. 251). [Fritz Platten (1883–1942) was a left-wing Swiss Socialist. He attended the Zimmerwald conference, and founded the Swiss Communist Party. He spent much time in the Soviet Union, and was a victim of the purges. Leonie Kascher (1890–?) was a radical Swiss student, who dropped out of political activity on her return to Switzerland in 1921. Editor’s note]

24. See the memoirs of S. Rutgers, Meetings with Lenin; Istorik Marksist, 1935, nos. 2–3, pp. 85–96. [Sebald Rutgers (1879–1961) was a member of the left-wing Tribune group in the Dutch Social Democratic Party. Active in the USA during the First World War, he represented the Socialist Propaganda League at the First Congress of the Communist International. Editor’s note]

25. Guilbeaux later went over to the Nazis. [Henri Guilbeaux (1885–1938) was a French Anarcho-Syndicalist. He attended the Zimmerwald conference, and later moved to the extreme right. Editor’s note]

26. Adolf Joffe (1883–1927) joined the Bolsheviks with Trotsky’s group in 1917, and was a prominent Soviet diplomat. He sided with the Left Opposition, and committed suicide in 1927. [Editor’s note]

27. The decision to send a Socialist delegation to Moscow was taken at the international conference in Bern (9–10 February 1919). The matter was raised by P.B. Axelrod. Karl Kautsky, Jean Longuet, Ramsay MacDonald, etc. – that is, the most representative Socialist leaders – were named as members of this delegation, but it never went to Russia. When asked by the author of these lines why this trip was cancelled, Kautsky replied: ‘I can’t exactly recall the pretext, but the real reason was that a Western Socialist did not want to know the truth about the events in Russia.’ (I quote from memory, Kautsky’s letter having, no doubt, been lost.) [Karl Kautsky (1854–1938) was the leading theoretician of the Second International. In 1919 he stood on the right wing of the Independent Social Democratic Party (USPD), and was heavily criticised by Lenin. He returned to the SPD in 1922 after the bulk of the USPD joined the German Communist Party. Frida Rubiner (1879–1952) was in the SPD, a member of the Zimmerwald Left during the First World War, and a founding member of the KPD. She translated Lenin’s State and Revolution and Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, plus many other major works into German. She was one of Ruth Fischer’s (cf. n5, p. 69) informants for intrigue and gossip. Mikhail Tereshchenko (1886–1956) was a millionaire sugar magnate and a minister in the Provisional Government in 1917. Editor’s note]

28. Karl Steinhardt (1875–1963) was expelled from the Austrian Social Democratic Party in 1916 for his anti-militarist stance, and became the General Secretary of the Austrian Communist Party in 1919. [Editor’s note]

29. V.V. Vorovsky (1871–1923) was an Old Bolshevik and became a Soviet diplomat. He was assassinated in Italy in 1923 by a Russian White Guard émigré. [Editor’s note]

30. The resolution published after the First Congress mentioned a ‘bureau of five’, though the names were not given (minutes, 1933 edition, p. 169). [Zinoviev was President until 1926, when he was replaced in this post by Nikolai Bukharin (1888–1938). Bukharin was removed from this post in 1929 when he fell foul of Stalin, and he was a defendant in the 1938 Moscow Trial. Jan Berzin (1881–1941) was a leading Latvian Social Democrat, who after 1917 worked in various posts in Soviet diplomacy and the Communist International, and perished in the purges. Gustav Klinger (1876–?) was a Volga German who joined the Bolsheviks in 1917, and held various Soviet government posts. Editor’s note]

31. Count Mirbach, the German Ambassador to Moscow, was assassinated by Left Socialist Revolutionaries in July 1918.

32. Zinoviev declared in his article:

The victory of Communism in the whole of Germany is inescapable … And this in the months, perhaps the weeks, to come. The movement is spreading at such a staggering speed that one can say with certainty that within one year we shall already be forgetting that in Europe we had to fight for Communism, for in one year the whole of Europe will be Communist. And from that moment the struggle for Communism will be taken to America, even perhaps to Asia itself and to all other parts of the world. (p. 42)

The article by ‘Comrade Thomas’, signed ‘James Gordon’, was entitled Latest News from Germany. This article gave an analysis which obviously did not differ at all from that of Zinoviev. We have been unable to find a copy of the first issue in German of Communist International, from which ‘James Gordon’ deleted his article.

33. A Soviet government in Ukraine had been established in February 1919, but the defection from the Bolsheviks in March of peasant leaders Nestor Makhno and Mattvi Hrihoriiv, plus the widespread opposition of the peasants to grain requisitioning, led to its collapse in August. Admiral Alexander Kolchak (1873–1920) posed as the ‘Supreme Ruler’ of Russia, and commanded White Guard forces in Siberia, which were repulsed in late 1919. General Nikolai Yudenich (1862–1933) commanded White Guard forces based in Estonia, which advanced to the outskirts of Petrograd in the autumn of 1919, but were driven back into Estonia. General A.I. Denikin (1872–1947) was the commander of the White Guard forces in the south of Russia. [Editor’s note]

34. Jakub Ganetski (or Hanecki, real name Fürstenberg) (1879-–1937) was a Polish Social Democrat and a Bolshevik after 1911. He held various Soviet diplomatic posts, and was a victim of the purges. Felix Dzerzhinsky (1877–1926) was a Polish Social Democrat and a Bolshevik after 1907. He held various Soviet posts, including Chairman of the Cheka. [Editor’s note]

35. We know of other instances of large handouts from the secret hoard. Angelica Balabanova tells of one in her recent book on Lenin [Impressions of Lenin, Ann Arbor 1964], and according to her story the person who received this loot appropriated it for himself and opened a jeweller’s shop in Vienna.

36. During the summer and autumn of 1919, Denikin’s forces had taken much of Ukraine and Southern Russia, and by October had closed in on Tula, about 150 miles from Moscow, before they were driven back. [Editor’s note]

37. It has not been possible for us to verify the truth of this statement; therefore we do not name this ‘Ukrainian diplomat’.

38. ‘Comrade Thomas’ is referring to the effects of the crushing of the uprising of March 1919, which Paul Levi said had led to ‘the shattering of the party’s organisation’. The party was further diminished by the departure of the ultra-lefts in October. [Editor’s note]

39. On this point ‘Comrade Thomas’’ account differs a little from that of Karl Radek. The latter claims in his memoirs that ‘Thomas’ introduced himself while he was still in prison (Radek, op. cit., p. 168). O.E. Schuddekopf gives the real names of the people with whom Radek lodged on leaving prison in his article Karl Radek in Berlin, Archiv für Sozialgeschichte, Hanover 1962, Volume 2, pp. 98–9.

40. ‘Comrade Thomas’ was a great collector of historical documents, and often spoke to the author of these lines of the valuable contents of his very important archives in Berlin, intent on showing how vital it was to do everything possible to put them in a safe place. Unfortunately, this was too risky. It proved impossible to organise the transport out of Germany of these now lost archives. Fanny Ezerskaya, the secretary to whom Radek dictated his letter to Rosa Luxemburg, had previously been one of her secretaries (she was also secretary to ‘Comrade Thomas’ in 1919–20). She died in the United States during the Second World War.

41. This publishing house was called Verlag Kommunistischer Internationale; its first catalogue was published in 1920. In addition, ‘Comrade Thomas’ organised publishing houses in Leipzig from 1920 (Westliches Sekretariat der Kommunistischen Internationale, Kommissions Verlag, Franne Verlag), and in Vienna (this one was managed by a group of Hungarian Communist émigrés). [Ben Fowkes, in his Communism in Germany Under the Weimar Republic (London 1984, p. 36), says that the first German issue of Communist International was published in May 1919, that is prior to Thomas’ arrival in Germany. Was this issue printed in the Soviet Union? Editor’s note]

42. Boris Souvarine was the other French delegate. At the time of the conference he and Fernand Loriot were not in Wiesbaden, but in Berlin. Some misunderstanding prevented them getting to Frankfurt on time. [Clara Zetkin (1857–1933) was a leading left-wing German Social Democrat, a leader of the Spartakusbund and the KPD, and was elected to the ECCI in 1921. Miecyzsław Bronsky (1882–1941) was a Polish Social Democrat who joined the Bolsheviks in 1917, was active in Germany in 1919–21, and became a victim of the purges. Valeriu Marcu (1900–?) joined the Swiss Socialist Youth during the First World War, joined the KPD after the war, and left the party with Paul Levi. Karl Frank (1893–1969) was a member of the Austrian Communist Party in 1919, joined the KPD when he moved to Berlin in 1920, was a leader of the KPD (Opposition) after 1929, joined the SAP in 1933, worked with the New Beginnings group, and emigrated to the USA. Sylvia Pankhurst (1882–1960) published the anti-war Workers Dreadnought during the First World War, formed the Workers Socialist Federation in 1919, was criticised by Lenin for her ultra-leftism, and was expelled from the Communist Party of Great Britain. Editor’s note]

43. The Manifesto of the Western European Secretariat of the Communist International was published in Communist International (Russian edition), nos. 7–8, November–December 1919. [For August Thalheimer, cf. the introduction to Thalheimer’s article in this issue of Revolutionary History.]

44. Ed Fuchs (1870–1940) was a well-known German lawyer, the author of important works on the history of political caricature, the history of customs and morals, etc. [Fuchs joined the SPD in 1886, was a founding member of the Spartakusbund, was sent by Luxemburg to negotiate with Lenin over the formation of the Third International, and sided with the KPO. Willi Münzenberg (1889–1940) was the leader of the Swiss Socialist Youth Movement during the First World War, and one of the founders of the International of Communist Youth. He specialised in appeals to the ‘fellow travellers’. He disappeared in mysterious circumstances when the Germans invaded France during the Second World War, probably assassinated by the GPU. Editor’s note]

45. This Slivkin was Commissar for Supplies appointed by the Council of Peoples’ Commissars of the Lithuanian-Byelorussian Republic (Vilna). The Proletarskaya Revolyutsya, the official organ of the History Section of the party, had this to say about his doings at that period:

Slivkin was an odious person among the many who managed to worm their way into the Soviet apparatus and the party … A typical paunchy, ruddy faced, sly looking petit-bourgeois, from the first he created a repulsive impression. But the times were rough, and there was no time to check on individuals. Once appointed commissar, Slivkin did not wait for trading to be nationalised, he began to ‘requisition’ the best shops, search homes, and stop people in the streets, taking anything of value; and when he had amassed a large fortune in gold he left for Germany. (S. Ginsburg-Guirinis, The Twilight of Soviet Rule in Lithuania, Proletarskaya Revolyutsya, no. 8, 1922, p. 84)

A decision was taken to try Slivkin, but he took refuge in Berlin, and put himself at the disposal of the Communist International’s Western European Secretariat.

46. Enver Pasha was the head of the Turkish government that had dragged Turkey into the First World War, and then the inspirer of its war policy. More than anyone else, he bears the moral and political responsibility for the extermination of the Armenian population in Turkey. On his arrival in Russia, Enver (who had an interview with Lenin) proposed to him a plan for turning the nationalist feelings of the Muslim peoples of Central Asia against England. Lenin, perfectly aware of Enver’s activities during the war, nevertheless accepted his proposal. In order to realise this plan, a so-called Congress of the Peoples of the East, at which Enver was to speak, was convened at Baku (1–8 September 1920). The speech was not made, for Enver’s presence had triggered a flood of conflicts between Turks and Armenians behind the scenes. Some clues lead us to believe that an attempt on Enver’s life was narrowly avoided. After confidential talks, it was decided that Enver would abstain from addressing the congress itself, but that he would speak at a meeting restricted to ‘Muslim workers’, which was held in the Baku theatre under the slogan ‘Death to Imperialism’. After this speech, Enver went to Bokhara, where there was then a local government formally independent of the Bolsheviks, and he was given the task of making Bokhara the centre of operations from which the political and military offensive against India would start … However, having weighed up the situation on the spot, Enver changed his plans, and, with the support of some members of the Bokhara government, decided first to eliminate Soviet power in Turkestan. His plot discovered, Enver took refuge in the mountains and proclaimed a holy war against the Bolsheviks, during which he was killed. There exists an abundance of literature on these doings of Enver; the most complete Soviet version of these events is to be found in the works of G. Agabekov, The GPU: Notes of a Chekist, Berlin 1930, pp. 46–7, and of J.V. Melgunov, The Turkestanis, Army edition, Moscow 1960. [For the minutes of the Baku conference cf. J. Riddell (ed.), To See the Dawn: The First Congress of the Peoples of the East, Baku, 1920, New York 1993. Editor’s note]

47. It has not been possible to trace the review in which the facsimile of this letter appeared.

48. For the Kapp Putsch, cf. the article by Arthur Rosenberg in this issue of Revolutionary History.

49. Viktor Kopp (1880–1930) was an ex-Menshevik, and then a follower of Trotsky. In 1919-20 he belonged to the Soviet Red Cross responsible for the exchange of prisoners. Kopp played an important role in establishing links between the Soviet government and right-wing German military circles, particularly with K. Haushofer Raikh, an old member of the Bund, a friend of Kopp with whom he was linked well before the revolution. It has not been possible to discover the name of the other friend who hid Kopp during the Kapp putsch.

50. Wilhelm Könen (1886–1963) joined the KPD from the USPD in 1920. He shifted from support for Brandler to leftism, and was always found in the loyal body of Moscow yes-men. He was in Britain during the Second World War, where he was the KPD’s leader, and he subsequently held important posts in the DDR. He was ‘Comrade Thomas’’ main informant in the KPD’s leadership, and was considered by Eberlein as ‘an appalling careerist’, whose reports were ‘undoubtedly the most thorough and the most dangerous’. [Editor’s note]

51. I have not been able to decipher the name of the Communist with whom Levi polemicised from my written notes taken during my interview with ‘Comrade Thomas’; nor does the written material dealing with this polemic (firstly, Paul Levi’s two pamphlets, Unser Weg and Was ist das Verbrechen) enable us to ascertain his identity. My written notes seem to give ‘Lange’; there was a Communist of that name at the time, but no trace has remained of a polemic with him.

52. Russische Korrespondenz was a weekly review published from the beginning of 1920 in 80- to 120-page issues.

53. Louis Fraina was the editor of the review Revolutionary Age, organ of the Lettish Workers Club of Roxbury, Massachusetts, and author of the article The Situation in America, published in the Communist International, no. 18, 8 October 1921 (Russian edition). After this financial scandal, Louis Fraina ended his Communist activities and gave up all political activity; under another name he obtained a position as professor in a provincial university in the United States. Deceased about two years ago. [He subsequently wrote under the name of Lewis Corey, and died in 1953. Editor’s note]

54. In order better to understand the discussions within the German Communist Party about the German Communist Workers Party, one should be aware of an important factor: the negative attitude of the leaders of this party towards a rapprochement with the nationalist military and conservative circles with a view to a common struggle against the Entente.

55. Heinrich Brandler (1881–1967) was a left-wing Social Democrat, who joined the Spartakusbund and became the leader of the KPD after Levi’s departure. Scapegoated for his role in the failed uprising of 1923, he was removed from the leadership of the party. With Thalheimer, he led an oppositional group within the KPD which was expelled in 1929, and which became the Communist Party (Opposition) (KPO), supporting Bukharin’s ‘Right’ Opposition in the Soviet Union. He moved to Paris after Hitler’s victory, and then to Cuba, and lived in West Germany after the Second World War. [Editor’s note]

56. The USPD held a congress at Halle in October 1920, at which the majority of delegates (237 to 156) voted to fuse with the KPD. The right wing kept much of the party machinery and press and 300,000 members, whilst 400,000 moved into the KPD. [Editor’s note]

57. The Treaty of Riga, signed on 18 March 1921, confirmed the armistice of October 1920 between Poland and the Soviet Union. It resulted in considerable areas of Byelorussian and Ukrainian territory being incorporated into Poland. [Editor’s note]

58. Leonid Krasin (1870–1926) was an Old Bolshevik who held various Soviet economic and diplomatic posts. [Editor’s note]

59. Lev Kamenev (1883–1936) was a prominent Old Bolshevik and a holder of many important Soviet posts. He allied with Trotsky in the Joint Opposition, capitulated to Stalin in 1928, and was a defendant in the 1936 Moscow Trial. When he was in London in August 1920, he was variously accused of misleading the British Prime Minister, Lloyd George, attempting to sell off the Russian crown jewels, subsidising the Daily Herald, and making links with councils of action, and he was asked to leave the country. [Editor’s note]

60. Jan Krumin (1894–1938) was a leader of the Latvian Communist Party. Georgi Lomov (1888–1938) was an Old Bolshevik, later mainly involved in economic work. Both were victims of the purges. No details could be found about Krumin’s sister. [Editor’s note]

61. Yelena Stasova (1873–1966) was an Old Bolshevik who generally specialised in organisational work, and from 1921 spent five years in Germany as an operative for the Communist International. [Editor’s note]

62. Iosif Piatnitsky (1882–1939) was nominated to the Communist International not in 1922, but on 1 August 1921. Though never sympathetic to Trotsky, during his period as Secretary of the Moscow Committee of the Soviet Communist Party from 1920 to 1921, Piatnitsky became known for his rigid application of the party’s decisions relating to the statification of the trade unions, a policy attributed to Trotsky. Relieved of his functions on the Moscow Committee, Piatnitsky was seconded to the Communist International to bring some order to the latter’s finances, a task all the leaders of the Central Committee of the party judged indispensable. Piatnitsky was able to remain in this job until 1939, when he was shot during the Yezhov purges.

63. Nikolai Krestinsky (1883–1938) was an Old Bolshevik who held various diplomatic and economic posts (including Soviet ambassador in Germany 1921–30), and was a defendant in the 1938 Moscow Trial. [Editor’s note]

64. Hermann Remmele (1880–1938) was in the SPD, then the USPD, and joined the KPD in 1920. He was a Reichstag deputy for the KPD during 1920–33. Remmele was called to Moscow on account of his eleventh hour opposition to Thälmann and Stalin shortly after the Nazi takeover. In 1933 he apparently recognised that a defeat had occurred, an idea which was unacceptable to the Stalinists. He refused to sign a text admitting responsibility for the defeat of 1933 as the Russians wanted, and he was liquidated in the purges. In DDR historiography he is blamed for the party’s ultra-leftism. There is little documentation at present about this little revolt in the apparatus.

65. The views of ‘Comrade Thomas’ on Lenin’s position on the March 1921 insurrection are contested by a number of people who were more or less privy to the secrets of the Communist International at the time. According to them, Béla Kun’s plans for this action were supported by Zinoviev, and perhaps emanated from him. Whose hypothesis is correct? The question cannot be resolved here. Elucidating it will be the task of future historians of the Communist International. I would only mention that I drew ‘Comrade Thomas’’ attention to this question during my talks with him. He replied that he had heard this anti-Zinoviev version at the time, but having thought long about it, he had concluded that Zinoviev would never have embarked on such an adventure without Lenin’s assent. ‘Comrade Thomas’ mentioned a number of things about Zinoviev which characterised his attitude to Lenin, but, unfortunately I did not take notes of them … Anyway, I report Thomas’ view as he put it to me at the time. [In March 1921 the KPD issued a call for an insurrection after the Social Democratic administration in Central Germany had clamped down upon workers’ activity. A dismal failure, the actions initiated by the KPD were not supported by the bulk of the working class, and the KPD lost much of its credibility, and about half of its members. Béla Kun (1886–1939), the former head of the Hungarian Soviet Republic and later purge victim, was heavily involved in this affair. Editor’s note]

66. Adolf Warski (real name Warszawski) (1868–1937) was a Polish Social Democrat from the 1890s, a friend of Rosa Luxemburg and Leo Jogiches (Tychko), and one of the founders of Polish Social Democracy. He died in a Soviet prison during the ‘Yezhov Terror’, and was posthumously rehabilitated. Paweł Łapiński (real name Levinson) (1879–1937) was an old Polish Socialist, a leader of the Marxist ‘Left’ in the Polish Socialist Party, in 1914–17 was with the Menshevik Internationalists, and was an intimate friend of Martov. After the fusion of the ‘Left’ with the Polish Social Democrats, he became one of the Communist leaders. He worked in the Commissariat for Foreign Affairs, died in the ‘Yezhov Terror’, and was posthumously rehabilitated.

67. Ernst Däumig (1868–1922) was a left-wing SPD member, took an anti-war stand, helped found the USPD, and was a member of the Executive Committee of the Berlin Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils. He opposed the formation of the KPD, but later joined it with the bulk of the USPD. He left the KPD with Levi after the March Action. [Editor’s note]

68. This requires some explanation. No pamphlet with the title Offensiv-Theorie is known. There does exist a pamphlet with a similar title, which is a collection of articles about the March 1921 insurrection. But this pamphlet does not attempt to explain the basis of the ‘theory of revolutionary offensive’. Arguments on this theme arose from the speeches of Frölich and Thalheimer at the Third Congress of the Communist International. No doubt both made use for their speeches of the work they undertook with Béla Kun in the spring of 1921. The author of these lines had the opportunity of meeting Frölich in Paris as an émigré on the eve of the Second World War, he belonged to the Communist Opposition. I tried to question him about the 1921 events, but he avoided any confidences, limiting himself to declaring that he had, in fact, written the pamphlet Offensiv-Theorie, but that he now disapproved of this tactic, had no copies of this pamphlet, and would deal in detail with this period in a book he intended to write. As far as I know he has not carried out this intention. [Paul Frölich (1894–1953) was a founding member of the KPD, became a leading member of the KPO, and then moved to the SAP. He had set about during the early 1920s collecting material for Luxemburg’s Collected Works, and in the late 1930s wrote a biography of her, an English edition of which was published by Gollancz in 1940. He moved to the USA, but returned to West Germany in 1949. Editor’s note]

69. This is the pamphlet by Radek entitled Die Lehren eines Putschversuches.

70. This letter does not appear in the English edition of Lenin’s Collected Works. Lenin did write a friendly letter to Zetkin and Levi on 16 April 1921 (that is, prior to his receiving Levi’s pamphlet, Unser Weg) in which he supported the KPD’s Open Letter of 8 January which proposed a united front with other working-class organisations, and said that due to pressure of work, he had not read the German press, and did not know any details about the ‘March Action’ (V.I. Lenin, To Clara Zetkin and Paul Levi, Collected Works, Volume 45, Moscow 1976, pp. 124–5). [Editor’s note]

71. Neither Lenin’s letter to Levi or his telegram to ‘Comrade Thomas’ appear in the English edition of his Collected Works. [Editor’s note]

72. Vorwärts was the daily paper of the SPD. [Editor’s note]

73. Due to lack of space, we have omitted these remarks. [Editor’s note]

Updated by ETOL: 20.9.2011