Minutes of the Second Congress of the Communist International
Zinoviev: I declare the session open. We will now discuss the issue of the role of the Communist Party. Whether we need a discussion, or whether we can simply put it to the vote, is open to question. I feel that we can simply put it to the vote, but the Congress should decide. The Theses read as follows:
Theses on the Role of the Communist Party in the Proletarian Revolution
The international proletariat faces decisive struggles. The epoch in which we now live is the epoch of open civil war. The decisive hour is approaching. In almost every country in which there is a workers’ movement of any importance, the working class faces a series of bitter struggles, arms in hand.
More than ever before the working class requires strict organisation. It must prepare itself untiringly for this struggle now, without wasting a single hour of valuable time.
If the working class had possessed a disciplined Communist Party, even a small one, at the time of the Paris Commune of 1871, the first heroic uprising of the French proletariat would have been much more powerful and many mistakes and weaknesses could have been avoided.
The struggles that the proletariat now face in a different historical situation will be far more fateful than those of 1871. The Second Congress of the Communist International therefore draws the attention of the revolutionary working class throughout the world to the following:
1. The Communist Party is a part of the working class, and moreover its most advanced, most class-conscious and therefore its most revolutionary part. The Communist Party is created by the method of the natural selection of the best, the most class-conscious, the most self-sacrificing, and the most far-sighted workers. The Communist Party has no interests that differ from the interests of the whole working class. The Communist Party differs from the whole working class because it has an overall view of the whole historical road of the working class in its totality and because at every turn in this road it strives to defend not just the interests of a single group or a single trade, but the interests of the working class in its totality. The Communist Party is the organisational and political lever with whose help the advanced part of the working class can steer the whole mass of the proletariat and the semi-proletariat on to the correct road.
2. Until the time when state power has been conquered by the proletariat, and the proletariat has established its rule once and for all and secured it from bourgeois restoration, until that time the Communist Party will only have the minority of the working class organised in its ranks. Until the seizure of power and during the period of transition the Communist Party is able, under favourable conditions, to exercise undivided mental and political influence over all the proletarian and half-proletarian layers of the population, but is not able to unite them organisationally in its ranks. Only after the proletarian dictatorship has wrested out of the hands of the bourgeoisie such powerful media of influence as the press, education, parliament, the church, the administrative machine and so on, only after the defeat of the bourgeois order has become clear for all to see, only then will all or almost all workers start to enter the ranks of the Communist Party.
3. The concept of the party and that of the class must be kept strictly separate. The members of the ‘Christian’ and liberal trades unions of Germany, England and other countries are undoubtedly part of the working class. The more or less significant sections of workers who still stand behind Scheidemann, Gompers and company are undoubtedly part of the working class. It is very possible that, under certain historical circumstances, the working class can become interspersed with numerous reactionary layers. The task of communism does not lie in accommodating to these backward parts of the working class, but in raising the whole of the working class to the level of the communist vanguard. The confusion of these two concepts party and class can lead to the greatest mistakes and confusion. Thus it is clear, for example, that during the imperialist war, despite the moods and prejudices of a certain section of the working class, the workers’ party had to oppose these moods and prejudices at any cost and represent the historical interests of the working class, which demanded that the proletarian party declared war on war.
Thus, at the beginning of the imperialist war in 1914, the parties of the social traitors in every country, in supporting their ‘own’ bourgeoisie, could point to corresponding expressions of the will of the working class. But in the process they forgot that, even if that was the case, the duty of the proletarian party in such a state of affairs would have to be to oppose the mood of the majority and to represent, despite everything, the historical interests of the proletariat. In the same way at the beginning of the twentieth century the Russian Mensheviks of the day (the so-called Economists) rejected the open political struggle against Tsarism with the argument that the working class as a whole had not yet ripened to an understanding of the political struggle.
[At the 1903 Second Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, a split took place on Rule 1 of the constitution. Lenin’s group won a majority over that of Martov, advocating a looser type of organisation. The two factions were thereafter known as ‘Bolshevik’ and ‘Menshevik’, from the Russian words for majority and minority. In the course of the 1905 Revolution, the breach widened, and in 1912 two separate parties were formed. In 1917, some of the left-wing Mensheviks joined the Bolshevik Party, and the right wing became open enemies of the Soviet state. In exile, they organised, first in the centrist Two-and-a-Half International, and then in the Second.]
And in the same way the right-wing Independents in Germany in all their half-measures point to the fact that ‘the masses wish it’, without understanding that the party is there for the purpose of going in advance of the masses and showing them the way.
4. The Communist International remains firmly convinced that the collapse of the old ‘social democratic’ parties of the Second International can under no circumstances be portrayed as the collapse of the proletarian party type of organisation in general. The epoch of the direct struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat brings a new party of the proletariat into the world: the Communist Party.
5. The Communist International rejects most decisively the view that the proletariat can carry out its revolution without having an independent political party. Every class struggle is a political struggle. The aim of this struggle, which inevitably turns into civil war, is the conquest of political power. Political power can only be seized, organised and led by a political party, and in no other way. Only when the proletariat has as a leader an organised and tested party with well marked aims and with a tangible, worked-out programme for the next measures to be taken not only at home but also in foreign policy, will the conquest of political power not appear as an accidental episode but serve as the starting point for the permanent communist construction of society by the proletariat.
The same class struggle demands in the same way the centralisation and common leadership of the different forms of the proletarian movement (trades unions, co-operatives, works committees, cultural work, elections and so forth). Only a political party can be such a unifying and leading centre. To renounce the creation and strengthening of such a party, to renounce subordinating oneself to it, is to renounce unity in the leadership of the individual battle units of the proletariat who are advancing on the different battlefields. The class struggle of the proletariat demands a concerted agitation that illuminates the different stages of the struggle from a uniform point of view and at every given moment directs the attention of the proletariat towards specific tasks common to the whole class. That cannot be done without a centralised political apparatus, that is to say outside of a political party. The propaganda carried out by the revolutionary syndicalists and the Industrial Workers of the World against the necessity of such a party therefore contributes and has contributed objectively only to the support of the bourgeoisie and the counter-revolutionary ‘social democrats’. In their propaganda against a Communist Party, which they wish to replace exclusively by trades unions or some formless ‘general’ workers’ unions, the syndicalists and industrialists rub shoulders with open opportunists. For several years after the defeat of the 1905 revolution the Russian Mensheviks preached the idea of the so-called Workers’ Congress, which was supposed to replace the revolutionary party of the working class. The ‘yellow Labourites’ of every kind in Britain and America preach to the workers the creation of formless workers’ organisations or vague, merely parliamentary associations instead of the political party and at the same time put completely bourgeois policies into deeds. The revolutionary syndicalists and industrialists want to fight against the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, but do not know how. They do not see that without an independent political party the working class is a rump without a head.
Revolutionary syndicalism and industrialism mean a step forward only in comparison with the old, musty, counter-revolutionary ideology of the Second International. In comparison however with revolutionary Marxism, that is to say with communism, syndicalism and industrialism mean a step backwards. The declaration by the ‘left’ Communist Workers’ Party of Germany (KAPD) at its founding conference in April that it is founding a party, but ‘not a party in the traditional sense’ means an ideological capitulation to those views of syndicalism and industrialism that are reactionary.
With the general strike alone, with the tactic of folded arms, the working class cannot achieve victory over the bourgeoisie. The proletariat must take on the armed uprising. Whoever understands that will also have to grasp that an organised political party is necessary and that formless workers’ unions are not sufficient.
The revolutionary syndicalists often talk about the great role of the determined revolutionary minority. Well, a truly determined minority of the working class, a minority that is Communist, that wishes to act, that has a programme and wishes to organise the struggle of the masses, is precisely the Communist Party.
6. The most important task of a truly Communist Party consists in always remaining in the closest contact with the broadest layers of the proletariat.
In order to achieve this, the Communists can and should work in those associations that are non-party but nonetheless embrace big layers of the proletariat, such as for example the organisations of war invalids in the various countries, the ‘Hands off Russia’ Committees in Britain, proletarian tenants’ associations, etc. The Russian example of conferences of so-called ‘non-party’ workers and peasants is particularly important. Such conferences are organised in almost every town, in every workers’ district and also in the countryside. The broadest masses even of the backward workers take part in the elections to these conferences. The most important current questions are placed on the agenda: the food question, the housing question, military questions, education, the political tasks of the day, etc. The Communists influence these ‘non-party’ conferences most zealously – and with great success for the party.
The Communists think that one of their most important tasks is the work of organisation and education within these broad workers’ organisations. But precisely in order to organise this work successfully, to prevent the enemies of the revolutionary proletariat from taking over these broad workers’ movements, the advanced Communist workers must form their own, independent, closed Communist Party, which always proceeds in an organised fashion and is able to perceive the general interests of communism at every turn of events and in all forms of the movement.
7. Communists by no means avoid non-party mass organisations of workers. Under certain conditions they do not hold back from participating in them and using them even if they are of an emphatically reactionary character (yellow unions, Christian unions, etc.) The Communist Party constantly carries out its propaganda within these organisations and tirelessly convinces the workers that the idea of not joining a party on principle is consciously encouraged among the workers by the bourgeoisie and their assistants to divert the proletarians from the organised struggle for socialism.
8. The old ‘classical’ division of the workers’ movement into three forms – the party, the trades unions and the co-operatives – has obviously been overtaken. The proletarian revolution in Russia has created the basic form of the proletarian dictatorship – the soviets. The new division that we are everywhere encountering is (1) the party, (2) the soviet, (3) the productive association (the trade union). But the workers’ councils too, as well as the revolutionary production associations, must constantly and systematically be led by the party of the proletariat, that is to say by the Communist Party. The organised vanguard of the working class, the Communist Party, which must lead the struggle of the whole working class to the same extent in the economic and political and also in the cultural field, must be the guiding spirit not only of the producers’ associations and of the workers’ councils, but also in all the other forms of proletarian organisation.
The rise of the soviets as the basic historical form of the dictatorship by no means decreases the leading role of the Communist Party in the proletarian revolution. If the ‘left’ Communists of Germany (cf. their appeal to the German proletariat of April 14, 1920 signed ‘Communist Workers’ Party of Germany') declare: ‘That the Party too adapts more and more to the idea of Soviets, and takes on a proletarian character’ (Kommunistische Arbeiterzeitung, no. 54), then this is a confused expression of the idea that the Communist Party must dissolve itself into the soviets, that the soviets can replace the Communist Party.
This idea is fundamentally false and reactionary.
In the history of the Russian revolution we experienced a whole period in which the soviets marched against the proletarian party and supported the policies of the agents of the bourgeoisie. The same thing could be observed in Germany. The same thing is also possible in other countries.
On the contrary, the existence of a powerful Communist Party is necessary in order to enable the soviets to do justice to their historic tasks, a party that does not simply ‘adapt itself’ to the soviets, but is in a position to make them renounce ‘adaptations’ of their own to the bourgeoisie and White Guard social democracy, a party which, by means of the Communist factions in the soviets, is in a position to take the soviets under the leadership of the Communist Party.
Whoever suggests to the Communist Party that it should ‘adapt’ to the soviets, whoever sees a strengthening of the Party’s ‘proletarian character’ in such an adaptation, is doing the Party and the soviets a highly questionable favour, and understands the significance neither of the soviets nor of the Party. The ‘soviet idea’ will be all the sooner victorious, the stronger are the parties that we create in every country. Many ‘Independents’ and even right-wing socialists announce their support for the ‘soviet idea’ in words now. We will only be able to prevent these elements from distorting the soviet idea if we have a strong Communist Party that is in a position to influence decisively the policies of the soviets.
9. The working class does not only need the Communist Party before and during the conquest of power, but also after the transfer of power into the hands of the working class. The history of the Communist Party of Russia, which has been in power for almost three years, shows that the importance of the Communist Party does not diminish after the conquest of power by the working class, but on the contrary grows extraordinarily.
10. On the day the working class conquers power its party nevertheless remains as before only a part of the working class. It is precisely that part of the working class that organised the victory. For two decades in Russia and for a number of years in Germany the Communist Party has carried out its fight not only against the bourgeoisie but also against those ‘socialists’ who are the bearers of the bourgeois influence in the working class. It took into its ranks the most steadfast, far-sighted and advanced fighters in the working class. Only the existence of such a close organisation of the elite of the working class makes it possible to overcome all the difficulties that place themselves in the path of the workers’ dictatorship on the day following the victory. In the organisation of a new proletarian Red Army, in the actual liquidation of the bourgeois state apparatus and its replacement by the nucleus of a new proletarian state apparatus, in the fight against the craft tendencies of individual groups of workers, in the fight against local and regional ‘patriotism’ and in opening up paths to the creation of a new work discipline – in all of these areas the decisive word of the Communist Party belongs. Its members must fire and lead the majority of the working class by their own example.
11. The need for a political party of the proletariat will only disappear with the complete dissolution of the classes. On the way to the final victory of communism it is possible that the historical significance of the three fundamental forms of proletarian organisation of the present (party, soviets, production associations) will change, and that the uniform type of the workers’ organisation will gradually crystallise out. The Communist Party will not however completely dissolve into the working class until communism has ceased to be an object of struggle and the whole of the working class has become communist.
12. The Second Congress of the Communist International not only confirms the historical tasks of the Communist Party in general, but tells the international proletariat, if only in general outline, what kind of Communist Party we require.
13. The Communist International is of the opinion that, particularly in the period of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the Communist Party must be built on the basis of an iron proletarian centralism. To lead the working class successfully in the long and hard civil wars that have broken out, the Communist Party must create an iron military order in its own ranks. The experiences of the Communist Party that led the working class during three years of the Russian civil war have shown that, without the strictest discipline, complete centralism and full comradely confidence of all the party organisations in the leading party centre, the victory of the workers is impossible.
14. The Communist Party must be built up on the basis of democratic centralism. The chief principle of democratic centralism is the election of the higher party cells by the lower, the unconditional and indispensable binding authority of all of the instructions of the higher bodies for the lower and the existence of a strong party centre whose authority is generally recognised for all leading party comrades in the period from one party conference to another.
15. A series of Communist Parties in Europe and America have been forced as a result of the state of emergency declared against the Communists by the bourgeoisie, to lead an illegal existence. It must be remembered that in such a state of affairs one is from time to time obliged to abandon the strict observance of the principle of election and to permit the leading party institutions the right of co-option, as was the case in Russia on occasion. Under a state of emergency the Communist Party is not able to use a democratic referendum to solve every serious question, but is rather forced to give its leading centre the right whenever necessary to make important decisions for every party member.
16. The spreading of a broad ‘autonomy’ for the individual local party branches at present only weakens the ranks of the Communist Party, undermines its ability to act and favours the petty-bourgeois, anarchist, liquidationist tendencies.
17. In the countries in which the bourgeoisie or counter-revolutionary social democracy is still in power, the Communist Parties must learn to link the illegal work with the legal in a planned manner. In the process the legal work must constantly be under the actual control of the illegal party. The Communist parliamentary factions, not only in the central (national), but also in the local (regional and local council) institutions of the state, must be subordinate to the control of the whole party – regardless of whether the whole party is legal or illegal at any given moment. Those members of parliament who refuse in any shape or form to subordinate themselves to the party must be expelled from the ranks of the Communist Party.
The legal press (newspapers and publishing) must be subordinated totally and unconditionally to the whole party and its Central Committee.
18. The basis of the organisational activity of the Communist Party must everywhere be the creation of a Communist cell, however small the number of proletarians and semi-proletarians involved may be from time to time. In every soviet, in every trade union, in every factory, in every co-operative society, in every residents’ committee (tenants’ association), wherever there are even only three people who fight for communism a Communist cell must be formed immediately. Only the unity of the Communists gives the vanguard of the proletariat the possibility of leading the whole working class. An Communist Party cells that work in non-party organisations are unconditionally subordinated to the whole party organisation, completely irrespective of whether the Party is working legally or illegally at that given moment. The Communist cells of every kind must be subordinated the one to the other on the basis of the strictest order of precedence according to the most precise system possible.
19. The Communist Party arises almost everywhere as an urban party, as a party of industrial workers who for the main part live in towns. For the easiest and quickest possible victory of the working class it is necessary for the Communist Party to become not only the party of the towns but also the party of the villages. The Communist Party must develop its propaganda and its organisational activity among rural workers and the small and middle peasants. The Communist Party must work with especial care on the organisation of Communist cells in the countryside.
The international organisation of the proletariat can only be strong if the views on the role of the Communist Party formulated above take root in every country in which Communists live and fight. The Communist International has invited to its Congress every trade union that recognises the principles of the Communist International and is prepared to break with the yellow international. The Communist International will organise an international section of red trades unions standing on the foundation of communism. The Communist International will not refuse to work with any non-party workers’ organisation that wishes to carry out a serious revolutionary fight against the bourgeoisie. In the process, however, the Communist International will make the following points to the proletarians, of the whole world:
1. The Communist Party is the main and fundamental weapon for the liberation of the working class. In every country we must have not just groups or currents, but a Communist Party.
2. In every country there should exist only one single unified Communist Party.
3. The Communist Party should be built up on the principle of the strictest centralisation, and in the epoch of the civil war it should have military discipline reigning in its ranks.
4. Wherever there are only a dozen proletarians or semi-proletarians the Communist Party must have an organised cell.
5. There must be – in every non-party institution a Communist Party cell subordinate to the whole party.
6. Firmly and persistently defending the programme and revolutionary tactics of communism, the Communist Party must constantly be linked as closely as possible with the broad workers’ organisations and avoid sectarianism as much as opportunism.
Serrati: What proposals are there? Does anyone propose a discussion? That does not seem to be the case. We will therefore vote immediately. All those in favour of the Theses with the amendments that have been reported here are asked to raise their hands. All those against please raise their hands. Are there any abstentions, perhaps? The Theses are adopted unanimously. We propose a break of half an hour or so so that the delegations can immediately nominate their candidates for the Commissions. The Bureau will then check the lists and place a final list before the Congress.
Balabanova: We will now vote on the Bureau’s proposal. All those in favour raise their hands. Who is against? The proposal is accepted unanimously. [A half-hour break. ]
Serrati reads the Commission lists.
Shatskin: I have an amendment to propose on the Organisation Commission. I would like to propose that representatives of the Youth International should be sent into the Commission, which is also discussing the question of the international youth movement. The youth have put forward Theses that will be discussed on this Commission; they must therefore have the right to defend them. It is strange that the authors of these Theses have not been taken on to the Commission despite their proposal.
Zinoviev: The Presidium has provided for the election of two sub-committees for the women’s question and the youth question. Not one or two but several youth, and not one but several representatives of the women’s movement are to participate in these subcommittees. This is how we see it: the organisational question, the Statutes of the Communist International, is very important. Then there are still other questions. Therefore the Presidium has decided to form two sub-committees of the Organisation Commission: for the women’s movement and the youth question. I believe it is most appropriate that way. The Congress should agree.
The vote is taken. The Bureau’s proposal is adopted unanimously without amendment.
Zinoviev: We have elected a Commission to work out the conditions of acceptance into the Communist International. It is proposed on behalf of the Congress to invite the representatives of the Independent Socialist Party of Germany (USPD) and of the French Socialist Party into this Commission also. It is a question of their parties, and their presence during the discussion of these questions would be very desirable.
Wijnkoop: If I understand the proposal correctly, comrades, the USPD and the French Socialist Party are to be invited to our Commission on affiliation to the Communist International. I must say that I cannot understand it, and that on behalf of my party I declare myself against.
We have already proposed on the Executive that these two parties should not be allowed into the Congress at all, because they are not Communist Parties. My party is of the opinion that we should not negotiate at all with the USPD, with a party that is now sitting in the Presidium of the Reichstag, that is to say, with a governing party. In our opinion one cannot at all negotiate with such a party.
Things are somewhat different with the French party, not much, but a little better.
I do not need to tell you how we stand in relation to accepting these parties into the Communist International. I shall speak on that later. I can understand that the question of accepting such a party into the Communist International can be raised, but that it can only be dealt with if the party has made an official application to be let into the Communist International. At the moment I know nothing of any such application, and we will speak about it if it comes. In the same way such parties and their delegates should not be given the right to take part in the Congress unless they have sought affiliation to the Communist International.
At the moment we do not know whether applications from one or the other of these parties to join the Communist International have been sent to us. Should one come, however, from the USPD, it would have to be rejected out of hand. One cannot negotiate with a government party.
As far as the French Party is concerned, the application will first of all have to be to hand. If it is not to hand, we cannot permit these parties which do not belong to us, which are not revolutionary and not communist, into the Commission in which we are to consider the proposals for the future conditions of entry. I do not want to say any more. I have made other proposals to the Executive and they were rejected. Now I propose we should not let these parties into our Commission.
Radek: Comrades, the Dutch delegate’s motion first of all contradicts the entire healthy line of thought of the Congress. The delegates of the USPD were admitted in an advisory capacity by the Credentials Commission. If someone has the right to consult, he also has the right to learn under what conditions he can join an international association. But irrespective of the formal side the motion is against healthy logic. Every one of us knows that we are involved in negotiations with the USPD over the question of their entry into the Communist International. Everybody knows that millions of German workers who support this party have fought in the most energetic manner for its entry into the Communist International. If these great masses of workers send their delegates to us here so that they can discuss the conditions of entry into the Communist International with us, to adopt Comrade Wijnkoop’s motion would not only be an act of discourtesy towards those delegates, but it would be an act – I shall not describe it in greater detail – towards the German workers. It goes without saying that the USPD must have the opportunity not only to find out what they want but also to find out what we want. Entry into the Communist International does not take place in the way Comrade Wijnkoop imagines: ‘Prisoner at the bar, what do you have to say in your defence?’ It is an act of negotiation between parties who wish to amalgamate. For this reason I propose Comrade Wijnkoop’s motion be rejected without any further ado.
Van Leuven: Comrades, my fellow delegate Comrade Wijnkoop said that, on behalf of the Dutch Party, he was against the proposal to let the USPD and also the French party into the Commission. Perhaps, or rather probably, he is right. But it must be established that the question has not been discussed in our party. We could not know that we were going to encounter this situation. So perhaps he is right. Personally, I have a slightly different opinion on the matter. I think that for example the delegates of the USPD have come here under pressure from the left wing of the party, the worker masses. But when Comrade Wijnkoop speaks against letting them in here I agree with him. We have had the opportunity in the Executive of putting questions to these German delegates. Radek put nine questions and the others also put a number. I too put some questions there, that is to say those that are raised on page 107 of Comrade Lenin’s Theses. The conditions for full unification are quoted there. As I have mentioned, other comrades such as for example Comrade Levi put questions as I did. Now it seems extraordinary to me that you want to let these men in here without receiving the answer to these questions, that is to say without testing the correctness of their journey here. It seems extraordinary and strange to me. If Comrade Radek says that Comrade Wijnkoop’s remarks contradict healthy logic, then I ask him if it is logical to let these people in here without having had an answer to the questions that have been put.
Guilbeaux: I am of the opinion that the representatives of the USPD and the French party should not be let in because they have made no formal application to join the Communist International. The representatives of the French party have been in Moscow for some time and have had the opportunity to answer the questions that have been put. Meanwhile the French party has sent letters and telegrams to Moscow that were calculated to increase the confusion and make our job more difficult. I therefore move that we should not permit particularly the representatives of the French party to participate in any common work.
Radek: Comrades, when you admit a delegation of a big party in an advisory capacity, you should know what this advisory capacity means and not carry out a discussion about it. But since the two Dutch comrades and Comrade Guilbeaux have given serious reasons why the ‘advisory capacity’ should consist of a muzzle, I permit myself to go into the question once more.
Comrade Van Leuven said the Executive had put a whole series of questions to the representatives of the USPD, and that they had not yet answered these questions. As Secretary of the Executive I must state that they have not yet answered the questions because as yet the subsequent session has not taken place, and because we asked the comrades to wait before giving their answers in order to orientate themselves on the questions in front of the Congress. But if you put a question you should wait for an answer.
Comrade Van Leuven’s best hope of gazing into the soul of the USPD is precisely to let them participate in the Commission that is to discuss affiliation to the Communist International.
We have raised a great number of accusations against the USPD and I think I have done as much in combating the USPD in the Communist International as Van Leuven and Wijnkoop together. But if the USPD representatives think that a part of these accusations are factually incorrect, they must be given the opportunity to defend and prove their point of view. As far as the French party is concerned, it has also been said here that neither party had made an application for affiliation. If that is true, why have we given them the right to speak in an advisory capacity? Why are we negotiating with them? I do not think that this is a discussion that can contribute to clarification, but the expression of a radicalism in words that is not backed up by the will to deeds.
Däumig: I do not intend to go into the material content of the questions now occupying the Congress. Let the Congress decide as it sees fit on the question of letting us in. I have also no occasion to go into Comrade Wijnkoop’s remarks, unencumbered as they are by any knowledge of the facts. You should accept the word of an old politician that he knows that the USPD is not a government party, that is not a ruling party, but that it is in opposition to the government. I protest most decisively against the characterisation of my party as not being a revolutionary party. My party numbers thousands of casualties who have given their blood, thousands of dead and wounded, thousands in prison and in front of the courts. I oppose the characterisation of our party as a non-revolutionary party. We will talk on all the other issues when the Commission meets.
Wijnkoop: I think it is shameful that even at the Congress Däumig tries his demagogy. As far as I know I must state that this Däumig was the man, even during the Kapp putsch, who told the workers that they should not arm themselves. And this man turns up here in Russia, where everybody knows that the victory can only come through the civil war. But Comrade Radek said here that we were carrying on a radicalism of words. [Interjection from Radek: ‘Stupid man.’] He thinks I am a stupid man ... he takes it back. I say that because you can see how Radek is always dragging down the level of the discussion. But the comrades here do not seem to know what it means in Western European countries when men like Däumig, politicians like Cachin are put on the same footing here at the Communist International as Communist and revolutionary parties that have already been involved in the work for a long time. I warn you against it. I hope that the comrades will give these people here nothing more than they deserve, and that is, in the case of the USPD, nothing, and in the case of the French socialists, if they apply to be let in, whatever confidence they have a right to.
Zinoviev: Comrades, I do not even have to say that we fight against the vacillations and indecision of the right wing of the USPD and will continue to fight. But what Comrade Wijnkoop has said here is simply laughable, and does not compromise our Congress but Wijnkoop and the party that sent him here. It is clear that we have and should have the greatest respect for the 10,000 or 11,000 members who are now in gaol. They are fighters and proletarians who fight for the cause of socialism. I do not know how many members of Wijnkoop’s party are in gaol now, and how many times Wijnkoop has personally faced a bourgeois court, and how many times he has been in prison for the cause of the proletariat. We will argue with the comrades of the USPD and cross swords with them twenty times over. But we must not forget this, that thousands of independent workers have been shot by the bourgeoisie and the capitalist scum, and we will not forget that in all these struggles the members of the USPD were at the centre of the fight. I say clearly that – for the Communist International the objective revolutionary role of 800,000 workers, badly led as they are, with vacillation and indecision, will weigh more heavily in favour of the proletarian revolution on the scales of history than a couple of thousand Dutch Tribunites together with the Christian Socialists.
[The journal De Tribune had been founded in Holland in 1907 by Wijnkoop, Corter and Van Ravestyn. This group had been the basis for the formation of the Dutch Social Democratic Workers Party, which split from the Social Democratic Party in 1909, and then the Communist Party in 1918. It was then a centre for ‘Leftism’.]
We have said and will repeat that we will negotiate with every mass party, even though it makes mistakes, that wants to fight with us for the cause of the proletariat, and we will seek to come to terms with it. We will deal with the revolutionary workers in the USPD just as we deal with the workers from the shop stewards’ movement, although they are not communists. If we were to make concessions to the rotten ideology of Kautsky you would be right, but we have not done so. It would be laughable, and Comrade Wijnkoop is laughable, speaking on behalf of a party that has only 1,500 members after fifteen years of activity, to reject the representatives of a party in whose ranks are organised hundreds of thousands of ordinary workers who always fight shoulder to shoulder with the Communists, honest and revolutionary, as workers always are. Therefore I insist on my motion that we invite these comrades in, talk with them openly and tell them our conditions, and we are convinced that two months later the great majority of the workers from the USPD will be organised not only morally but also formally in the Communist International.
Levi: Comrades, until this evening I believed that, ignorant as he was, Comrade Wijnkoop was one of those people who could at least be taught. Two days ago I was at great pains to explain to him that the Presidium of the German Reichstag is made up purely mechanically according to the numbers of votes of the parties, that the Presidium has no connection with government appointments and that you cannot argue any participation in the government from it, since the Presidium of the Reichstag has got nothing to do with the government. Two days ago it looked as if Comrade Wijnkoop had taken in at least something from this instruction. If therefore this evening he throws everything to the four winds and comes back with the phrase about the government party, he only proves that all he is interested in is phrases and nothing else. And he proves that by coming here and talking about German conditions like someone who has never even read a German newspaper. I tell you, you would not laugh so stupidly if you had experienced one tenth of the revolutionary struggles that we have experienced side by side with the Independents.
Yes, we have fought the USPD, we still fight them step by step, drive them before us and tell them to their faces where they go wrong. But when people come from Holland, people who have not yet stirred a finger for the German revolution and the world revolution, when they come and raise criticisms, then we must stand testimony for Hector and say that there are tens and hundreds of thousands of German workers who forced these comrades to come here. The whole intellectual and organisational apparatus of the party opposed the hundreds of thousands, and the hundreds of thousands forced the issue: they had to come to Moscow. And in Moscow there appears the man who was so ready to do great revolutionary deeds when it was a question of winning the Dutch mandate with the promise not to fight against the Entente, at the moment when Soviet Russia was in deadly danger. That is what I have to say to you, Comrade Wijnkoop. Yes indeed, you still have to justify yourself against this criticism. And I tell you if we have occasion to speak to these comrades from the USPD about their errors and tell them what we demand of them, then you, Comrade Wijnkoop, are the last person to appear in that role.
I want to remind you of something else. I want to remind you of the summer of last year, of the most difficult time of our period of illegality, when almost all our comrades were in prison. We turned then to your party for support, we asked your party comrades to come to us. We asked the party comrades on whose behalf you are becoming so indignant here to send us Gorter and Pannekoek. [Interjection from Wijnkoop and Van Leuven: ‘That is a big lie.’] I tell you, in that most difficult moment, when it was not even possible for us to staff our newspaper’s editorial board, when we demanded that the Dutch comrades should just send us some editors, not a single one came! [Interjection from Van Leuven: ‘Dittmann and Crispien are not in their graves yet.’] If the comrade who is so outraged says that Dittmann and Crispien are not yet in their graves, I would like to reply that I am not in my grave yet either, and you are in no danger of being there at all, comrade. You too had the opportunity to die in Germany, and hundreds and thousands of workers from the USPD did die, and you stayed behind on your coffee bags in Holland, and today you are a revolutionary. [Interjection from Radek: ‘Stockbroker.’]
Bukharin: I am not in favour of making a great din about the representatives of a party that is so greatly revolutionary that they supplied a member of a Christian priests’ organisation with a further mandate. I therefore suggest that we immediately break off any further discussion and proceed with the agenda.
The Bureau proposes to put Bukharin’s motion to the vote. The motion is carried by an overwhelming majority. Comrade Zinoviev takes the vote on whether the representatives of the USPD and the French Socialists should be invited to take part in the discussions. The motion is accepted by a large majority.
The sub-committees are elected.
The Bureau announces Comrade McLaine’s proposal that a special Commission should be appointed to study the question of the Labour Party in England. The vote is taken and the proposal accepted.
Zinoviev: I would like to suggest that we fix the times at which the Commissions are to meet. The Presidium proposes that the following Commissions should work tomorrow: (1) the National and Colonial Question at 12; (2) the Trades Unions, also at 12; (3) Parliamentarism also at 12, and (4) the Commission to discuss terms of entry into the Communist International at 5 pm. All four Commissions work here; two in the main hall and the two others, in the side rooms.
And then on Monday the other three Commissions. The Organisation Commission at 1I am; the Agrarian Commission at 1I am; the Commission that is concerned with the main tasks of the Congress at 1 pm. Should the Commissions not finish their work tomorrow they will also work on Monday. Then at 8 pm on Monday evening a full session, for which we hope that at least one or two of the Commissions will have completed their work.
Serrati: The session of the Congress is adjourned.