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New Expulsions in the Comintern

“Traitors” and Scapegoats in the Bureaucracy

(December 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 51, 31 December 1932, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

In Germany, another pillar of the apparatus has – if not fallen, then at least been rudely disturbed. Out of a clear blue sky, the official party press in Germany has announced that Heinz Neumann was all along engaged in clandestine factional work against the Leninist Central Committee, its line and its leadership. What is more, the shortcomings, defects and errors made in the past (it appears that, after all, there were some made!), are to be ascribed to the work of Neumann.

The usual offensive has been opened up all along the line, not only in the German but in the international party press. The current issue of the Communist International (No. 17–18) contains an article by Piatnitsky which gives some idea of how heavy is the burden which the infallible bureaucracy is now shifting on to the shoulders of the latest scapegoat. The “line” in Germany for the last three or more years was held to be irreproachably “Leninist”, as were the leaders who conceived it and those who carried it into effect. The criticisms directed against the party policy in Germany by the Left Opposition – criticisms which each new day confirmed with telling accuracy – were denounced in unmeasured terms as “counter-revolutionary”. The theory of “social Fascism” ruled supreme, in all its worst aspects. But the accumulation of the terrific consequences of this policy has reached a height that can no longer be ignored. We now learn, therefore, that while the “general line” was correct, it was carried out in practise erroneously, from start to finish, and that the fault lies exclusively with yesterday’s aide-de-camp of Stalin, Heinz Neumann.

Who Is Heinz Neumann?

Neumann occupies a rather sinister place in the history of the last decade of the Comintern. He not only adjusted himself with bland ease to every leadership chosen by or imposed upon the party – Brandler, Fischer, Ewert, Thaelmann – but was himself the actual political leader of the German party since the Sixth World Congress of the Comintern. An adventurer out of nowhere, of that peculiar stripe represented by John Pepper, he was known in informed circles as the direct representative of Stalin in Western Europe. In fact, he was, together with Lominadze, the principal organizer of that notorious “Corridor Congress” during the Sixth C.I. Congress in 1928 which corralled the majority of the delegates for Stalin from under the very nose of the official leader, Bucharin.

A few weeks ago, without the faintest preliminary warning, Neumann – a Neumann group, in fact! – was suddenly attacked in the open by the central organ of the German party. It is discovered at a single blow that the “Bolshevik Central Committee” has had differences of opinion with Neumann on a series of fundamental questions for a period of close to four years now.

The “differences” concern no small questions. Neumann, reads the bill of particulars, sought to replace the slogan of the “Red United Front” with that of the “Red workers’ front” – although the indictment skips over the interesting question of wherein lay the distinction between the two. Further, Neumann is accused of “a lack of understanding of the importance of inner-trade union opposition work” – with the implication (entirely unwarranted, to be sure!) that the rest of the party leaders were not lacking in such an understanding. Moreover, he “coined the false formulation back in December 1930 concerning the Bruening government, according to which the Fascist dictatorship was already here”. That it was the Left Opposition which first ridiculed this preposterous identification of Bruening with Fascism, is of course not even whispered by the Central Committee which has all the time been engaged in denouncing (together with Neumann!) the Opposition as “social Fascist” for its standpoint. That Neumann’s contentions were idiotic is perfectly obvious – today, apparently, even to the Central Committee. But does the fact that the latter advanced the identical contentions in every one of its pronouncements, exempt it from the same charge?

Finally, Neumann is taxed with having sought to “replace the main strategic slogan of the conquest of the majority of the working class with the slogan of the people’s revolution”. Unluckily for the Central Committee and its Stalinist commanders, it is impossible to burn up the mountain of documents on this score which have been written in the last two years. The nationalist degeneration of the party was the common work of Neumann, Thaelmann, Manuilsky and Stalin. They jointly demanded the “national emancipation of Germany”; they jointly participated in the infamous Fascist referendum in Prussia; they were jointly responsible for the nationalist-anti-Semitic fraternization with the Lieutenant Scheringers, and more of the same.

The simple, incontestable fact is that Neumann is being made the goat for the second time: it happened once in 1927–1928, when he was made responsible for the made-to-order-in-Moscow putsch in Canton. The second time is now, when his narrow shoulders are being weighed down with all the crimes, blunders and stupidities of the central Stalinist apparatus in Germany which have set back the revolutionary movement in so dreadful a manner.

Whole Spanish Leadership Expelled

Neumann was given a comparatively light sentence. His character, or rather lack of it, makes it possible for him to adapt himself to the new circumstances. A shrug of the shoulders, a cynical grin, a statement of guilt – and a place is opened for him again in the apparatus. But the Neumanns of the Spanish party have not been let off so easily. No mere denunciation here. In this case we have the out-of-hand expulsion of nothing less than the whole party leadership!

The whole group in charge of the Spanish party from the days before the republican uprising down to yesterday, has been summarily expelled. In the text of the excommunication from Moscow, the ECCI declares that all four of the party’s most prominent leaders, Bullejos, Adame, Trilla and Vega, are “traitors to the Spanish revolution, to the Spanish Communist Party and to the Communist International”. As may be seen from these choice terms, it is a trifling matter ...

The whys and wherefores of the case, the Stalinist center contemptuously refrains from specifying. That Bullejos and Co. are guilty of many things is beyond dispute. But in our eyes, their greatest crime consists in having followed slavishly and without dissent the disastrous instructions of Stalin, Manuilsky, Kun and Co. At every stage in the development of the Spanish revolution, the Comintern laid the basis for the tragedy of errors of Communism in Spain. In this sense the loyalty of Bullejos cannot be questioned.

(By the way, the “traitor” Bullejos, like Celor in France, Neumann in Germany, Varski in Poland, was in the forefront of the struggle against the Left Opposition. He not only wrote a pamphlet several months ago to prove that the “Trotskyists” were the agents of counter-revolution, but on more than one occasion he threatened to exterminate the Spanish Opposition center with the aid of “strong” and “piercing” arguments ...)

If there is any doubt that the newly-expelled are simply scapegoats for Stalin, who must find some explanation for the calamity in Spain, it is enough to read the resolution of the Comintern published last May in the central theoretical organ of the Spanish party: “This leadership (i. e., the “traitors” Bullejos and Trilla) which has given numerous proofs of heroism in the revolutionary struggle, holds our confidence.” And again, in a resolution against the Right wing Maurin group, the Comintern expressed itself with regards to the Bullejos leadership in the following unmistakable terms: “The ECCI unreservedly approves the policy followed by the leadership of the Communist Party of Spain.” Unreservedly! Ah, what a supreme contempt the bureaucrats have for the mental faculties of the workers in the ranks, of their powers of memory, that they can denounce today as traitors whom they have fought all along, those very people whom they supported without reservations only yesterday!

The fate of Bullejos is shared by a product of that stinking swamp which bears the name of Communism in Austria and from which so many thousands of Austrian workers have recoiled into the arms of Austro-Marxism. The victim in this instance is none other than the party leader of yesterday, Karl Toman. Unfortunately, we know very little about his case, even less than about Bullejos’, but the reports inform us that while in Moscow, Toman was also expelled as a traitor. The thick wall of obscurity behind which these apparatus machinations take place is part and parcel of the whole Stalinist system.

“Traitors” and Scapegoats

In the best days of the Comintern, there were many traitors and turncoats to the revolution in the leadership of various parties. There was even the case of Dr. Paul Levi, for whom Lenin had such a high respect when he stood at the head of the German Communist Party. During the “March Action” in 1921, Levi stabbed the party and the embattled workers in the back. His action caused surprise and confusion to most of the Communists, although he had been slipping away from the Comintern prior to that event. But the settlement of accounts with Levi took place in the open, before the eyes of all, with the material available for study and decision. Levi parted with the Comintern because his views did not harmonize with those of the latter, because he refused to follow the path of Lenin with regard to Centrism in Italy or the situation in Germany.

Nowadays, the Stalinist system consists in finding “traitors” to serve as scapegoats for its own crimes and errors. It is not so much because they disagreed with Stalin that they are expelled or removed, but usually because they did not agree with the policy, did execute it as best those policies can be executed, or else because the confusion sewed in their own minds by the fantastic theories of Stalinism, disabled them from a sufficiently speedy re-orientation along a suddenly presented “new general line”.

The latter is the case, on the whole, with Varski, Kostrzeva, Brand and their group, who have just been expelled from the leadership of the Polish party and constituted a Right wing opposition. Varski felt more than at home during the whole period of the Right-Center bloc in the Comintern, the rule of Stalin-Bucharin from 1923 to 1928. He was the political genius who in 1927 greeted the reactionary Pilsudski coup d’état in Poland as the beginnings of – the “democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry”! The Stalinist swing to ultra-Leftism in 1929 left this Right wing group quite disoriented. It continued to cling for some time to the apparatus. The constant turns of the apparatus wheel finally threw it off at an angle, in the direction to which it was always inclined: the Right opposition.

At the same time, if we are to believe the report of the Warsaw organ of the Bund, a Left Opposition group has been formed with considerable support throughout the industrial centers of Poland and with strong roots in the Left wing trade union movement. The lateness of the appearance of an Opposition group in Poland may serve to bring it on the political scene in much stronger form than in many other countries. But on this score, we must await more authoritative details from our comrades abroad.

The recent expulsions in the Comintern are inseparably associated with the just concluded 12th Plenum. In virtually every case, those removed were most prominently associated with yesterday’s ultra-Leftist and sectarian course. Their removal symbolizes the half-hearted turn to the Right which the 12th Plenum foreshadowed. We are apparently on the eve of one of those prolonged zigzags to the Right which will make more ludicrous than ever the superficial Brandlerist standpoint that the essence of Stalin is “Leftism” It is neither that nor is it “Rightism” as such. As the sum of its two principal periods – from 1923 to 1928 and from 1929 to date – indicate, Stalinism represents the politically parasitic faction of bureaucratic Centrism, with a system of inner-party management all its own. The recent expulsions are eloquent in their significance.

* * * *

We cannot refrain from adding a note on the recent expulsions in the Italian party over questions of policy which are clothed in total darkness, so far as the Stalinist press is concerned. Six comrades, Brightenti, Barioni, Drago, Sansane, La Camera and Gilodi, have been expelled from the party. In the Stalinist press, the names of the comrades are printed, together with the city each lives in and his home address! If this unprecedented act has any significance at all, it means that the comrades are being delivered into the hands of the police. That too is not in contradiction to the Stalinist system ...

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