Leslie Goonewardene

Rise And Fall Of The Comintern

The Comintern And The Imperialist War

Chapter Nine

The first organisational attempt of the Communist Party of Great Britain to introduce the Popular Front in Great Britain was the “Unity Campaign” of the Communist Party, the Socialist League and the Independent Labour Party, commenced at the end of 1936 with the ostensible aim of bringing about unity with the Labour Party and of pushing that organisation left. But the Labour Party leaders were able easily to disrupt the campaign which fizzled out after a few months. This was possible principally because the campaign was not one for raising support for a series of class demands as a basis of struggle but a thinly veiled manoeuvre of the Communists for obtaining support for an Anglo-Soviet Pact. In 1937 the Popular Front idea was openly extended by the Communists to the international plane. The British workers were told that not only Mosley but Hitler was their enemy. The agitation for a “Peace Alliance” of the Soviet Union with the democratic imperialisms against Germany commenced. The Communists declared their preparedness to take in Liberals into their “anti-Fascists front”. After the Munich Pact of September 1938 the main agitation of the C.P. of Great Britain was centered round the demand for the “Peace Alliance” against Hitler. Their opposition now was only to the “Pro-Nazi” Chamberlain, and they even declared their willingness to support a government led by Churchill.

It was perhaps the Communist Party of the U.S.A., however, that outdid all other sections of the Comintern in the manner it grovelled before its own bourgeoisie in the attempt to win them over to a pact with the Soviet Union. It became the most jingoist of jingos and the staunch defender of the American Constitution. Earl Browder, leader of the American Communist Party, declared “America has seen the Communist Party as the most consistent fighter for democracy, for the enforcement of the democratic provisions of our Constitution, for the defence of our flag, and the revival of its glorious revolutionary tradition. America has seen that Communism is twentieth-century Americanism”. (Daily Worker , New York, Nov. 3, 1936). But not satisfied with promising all support to American imperialism if it sided with the Soviet Union against Germany, the shameless Browder publicly declared before the senatorial investigating committee that in the event of a war between the U.S.A. and the Soviet Union, he and his party would be on the side of their own democratic fatherland! Such is the mental baseness induced by the foul disease of Stalinism.


Suddenly, and without any warning to the Popular Fronters, Stalin made a volte face in his foreign policy, and signed a pact with Hitler on August 20, 1939. On September 3rd began the war against Hitler, but without the Soviet Union. The Russo-German Non-Aggression Pact came as a bolt from the blue to Stalin’s agents abroad. They failed to realise what it meant. The Stalinist bureaucrats in Britain and France, their intellects dulled through a long period of slavishly carrying out orders, were unable to see what was required of them. For a month, the Communist Parties of Britain and France still following the line of popular front days, supported the war as one of democracy against fascism. Perhaps Stalin fuming in the Kremlin at their dull-wittedness, remembered even now Lenin’s warning in 1921 to Bukarin and Zinoviev that if they demanded nothing but approbation in the International they would surround themselves exclusively with “obedient fools”! The leader of the British C.P., Harry Pollitt, in his enthusiasm even published a booklet entitled “How to Win the War,” a feat which, in the Soviet Union, would have qualified him for a G.P.U. prison.

However, before long the obedient, if foolish agents of Stalin in Britain and France were acquainted of the error of their ways and forthwith changed the party line. The war against fascism transformed itself without difficulty into an imperialist war in the interests of Soviet foreign policy. The responsibility for the war was placed that on Britain and France, and the demand was put forward that peace be made with Hitler on the basis of the Russo-German terms. And thus the Comintern demonstrated in open and unashamed fashion that it was nothing but an instrument in the hands of the Soviet bureaucrats to be used for the purposes of their foreign policy. And in the meantime, it had done the war propaganda of the Anglo-French imperialists much more effectively than those gentlemen could ever have done it themselves, and thus helped the imperialists to drag the workers of Britain and. France into the war.

The Russo-German Pact was not merely one of non-aggression, but one in which Stalin promised to supply Hitler with raw materials needed by Germany. The Soviet attitude towards Germany at war was one of benevolent neutrality, if not active sympathy. The Comintern policy in Germany accordingly underwent a change. At the 7th Congress Dimitrov had called fascism the dictatorship of the most reactionary elements of finance capital, and German Fascism the most reactionary variety of Fascism. Now British finance capital became the most reactionary in the world. Walter Ulbricht, since 1935 the leader of the General Executive Committee of C.P. of Germany, writing in the official German Communists paper Die Welt , stated “The German Government declares itself willing to take up friendly relations with the Soviet Union, whereas the Anglo-French militarist bloc desire a war against the Socialist Soviet Union. The Soviet people and the German working class have therefore an interest in checking the war plans of the British ... This war policy is all the more criminal since the Power which ‘according to Hilferding’ is to determine the future fate of Germany at the outcome of the war is the most reactionary Power in the world . British Imperialism displays its completely reactionary nature anew by turning down the proposal for a termination of the war which—Germany has made with the support of the Soviet Union”.

Ulbricht goes on, “The workers of Germany are fighting heroically against the oppression and exploitation of the working class by the present regime in Germany because such terroristic rule injures the German people and discredits Germany in. the eyes of the world, and because it thereby weakens the resistance of the German people, and enables reactionary forces in England and France to use chauvinist arguments to mask their true war aims.” That is to say, the German Communist “opposed” the Hitler regime in the period of the Russo-German Pact is much the same way that the Indian Communists “opposed” imperialist repression in 1942—because “such terroristic rule” “weakens the resistance” of the Indian people to the Japanese in the war against Japan. In other words, in this period of Soviet-German Collaboration, the C.P. of Germany tacitly supported their own bourgeoisie in the imperialist war. The arch enemy of the Communists was no longer the Hitler regime but the opponents of the Russo-German Pact.

No one was surprised when, after the treacherous German attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941, the Communist Parties in the democratic countries came out for unconditional support of the war. With the entry of the Soviet Union into the war, it became transformed overnight into a “People’s War” against Fascism, deserving the support of the proletariat of all countries. Revolutionists opposing the war as imperialist were branded as “fifth columnists” and agents of Tokyo or Berlin. The agents of the counter revolutionary Comintern, after a short lapse, again became the staunchest defenders of bourgeois democracy. They used the sympathy of the masses for the Soviet Union in order to win support for the democratic imperialisms. It little mattered to these cynical betrayers that in October 1917 the Russian workers made their proletarian revolution by overthrowing the “democratic” government of Kerensky, which together with the democracies of England, France and America were then fighting another “war for democracy” against the autocratic monarchy of the German Kaiser. In the words of Trotsky, “The memory of the first victorious uprising of the proletariat against bourgeois democracy serves in the hands of the usurpers to save bourgeois democracy from the proletarian uprising.” (New International , October, 1938).


In June 1942 Stalin signed the Anglo-Russian treaty whereby the Soviet Union pledged “non-interference in the internal affairs of other states.” But the high water mark of collaboration between the Soviet Union and its Anglo-American allies was reached in May 1943 with the announcement by the Presidium of the Comintern of its resolution to dissolve the Comintern. The Comintern was bureaucratically wound up a month later.

As usual the resolution attempted to cover up the real reasons for dissolution with specious references to “increasing complications in the internal as well as international relations of the various countries.” The first article of the Statutes of the Communist International, adopted at its Second World Congress in 1920, had stated: “The New International Association of Workers is founded for the purpose of organising a joint action of the proletariat of different countries, aiming at a single and identical goal, viz., the overthrow of capitalism, the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat and of an international republic of soviets which will make it possible completely to abolish classes and bring about socialism, the first stage of communist society.” The Third International had been founded precisely because the international revolution demanded an international strategy and an international General Staff. Setting itself against this principle, the Stalinist resolution of dissolution declared that “any sort of international. centre was bound to encounter insuperable obstacles in attempting a solution of the problems facing the working class movement in each particular country” because of “deep differences in the historic paths of development in various countries of the world, differences of character and even of contradictions in their social orders, differences in the level and tempo of the economic and political development, and finally differences in the degree of consciousness of their workers.” These differences existed also in 1919. Therefore, if we are to accept the arguments of the Presidium resolution, the Comintern should never have been founded!

The truth, however, is quite otherwise. Never have the workers of the world needed an International more than they do today. “The world is not only ripe but over-ripe for the transition to socialism. All the objective conditions indicated by Marx and Lenin exist for the socialist revolution; the only thing that has been lacking is precisely the International which Stalin asserts the workers do not need.”

Not all the arguments that Stalin’s hired professors could muster can hide the fact that the dissolution of the Comintern was a concession to the Anglo-American imperialists. True, it had ceased to be a revolutionary instrument long ago. But in the eyes of the imperialists the Comintern still represented a threat to capitalism. For the Comintern remained an organisation which—even though nominally—still embodied in its programme the objective “to organise under the banner of the proletarian dictatorship the revolution against imperialism in the so-called civilised states” and “to support every movement against imperialist violence in the colonies, semi-colonies and dependencies.” It is not unnatural that Anglo-American imperialism should see the desirability of “releasing the various sections from obligations ensuing from the constitution and decisions of the Comintern Congress.”

The dissolution of the Comintern marked the final and logical culmination of that process of degeneration which had commenced with the acceptance of the theory of socialism in a single country and against which Trotsky and the Left Opposition had warned and fought nearly twenty years earlier.