Minutes of the Second Congress of the Communist International
The session is opened at 11 am with Comrade Zinoviev as Chairman. The debate on the national and colonial question is continued.
Sultan-Zade (Persia): At most of its Congresses the Second International studied the colonial question and drew up choice resolutions on it which could never be put into practice. Very often these questions were debated and decisions taken without the participation of representatives of backward countries. What is more, when the first Persian revolution was suppressed by the Russian and English hangmen and the Persian Social Democracy turned for help to the European working class, which was at that time represented by the Second International, it was not even given the right to vote on a resolution on that question. Today at the Second Congress of the Communist International is the first time that this question has been dealt with thoroughly and moreover with the representatives of almost all the colonised or semi-colonised countries of the Orient and of America. The resolution adopted by our Commission completely fulfils the expectations of the labouring masses of the oppressed peoples and serves especially to stimulate and encourage the soviet movement in these countries. At first glance it may seem peculiar to speak of a soviet movement in completely or partially dependent countries. However, if we pay full attention to the social position of these countries our doubts disappear. Comrade Lenin has already talked about the experiences of the Russian Communist Party in Turkestan, among the Bashkir and in Kirgizstan. If the soviet system is successfully ripening in these countries, the soviet movement must spread powerfully in India and Persia, that is to say in countries where the differentiation between the classes is proceeding with giant steps.
In 1870 all these countries were dominated by merchant capital. The position has only changed slightly. The colonial policies of the great powers turned these countries into markets and sources of raw materials for the great European centres by preventing the development of their national industries. The imports of European consumer goods into the colonies finished off native industry.
Although the rapid growth of capitalist industry quickly proletarianised the old mass of craft workers in the European countries and gave them a new ideology, this was not the case in the Orient, where conditions forced thousands of unfortunates to emigrate to Europe and America. In these colonised or semi-colonised countries there are also masses of peasants whose living conditions are almost impossible. The burden of taxes and dues falls mainly on this unfortunate part of the population throughout the Orient. Since the peasants are almost the only people who produce food, they have to feed the legions of merchants and exploiters, employers and tyrants. As a result of the oppression that bears down on them this suppressed class in the Orient has not been able to build a powerfully organised revolutionary party. A great diversity of demands can be observed among the ruling classes. The interests of the trading circles demand the continuation of the colonial policies of the great powers, while those of the bourgeoisie on the other hand are damaged by foreign intervention. While the priesthood protests against the import of goods from countries with different religious beliefs, the merchants on the other hand do not hesitate to ally themselves with those countries. There is no unity among the ruling classes, nor can there be.
These facts have created a revolutionary atmosphere, and the next storm of nationalism in these countries can quickly turn into a social revolution. That is in general the situation in the majority of Asian countries. Does it not follow from this that the fate of communism throughout the world depends on the victory of the social revolution in the East, as Comrade Roy assures you? Certainly not. Many comrades in Turkestan are caught up in this error. It is true that the behaviour of the capitalists in the colonies awakens a revolutionary spirit. But it is just as true to say that through capitalist exploitation in the centre a counter-revolutionary spirit is created among the labour aristocracy. Capitalism seeks consciously to hold up the revolution by trying to win small privileged layers of workers for itself. Let us assume that the communist revolution has begun in India. Will the workers of that country be able to withstand the attack by the bourgeoisie of the entire world without the help of a big revolutionary movement in England and Europe? Of course not. The suppression of the revolution in Persia and China is clear proof of the fact. If the revolutionaries in Turkey and Persia are now throwing down the gauntlet to omnipotent England, it is not because they themselves are now stronger, but because the imperialist bandits have become powerless. The revolution that has started in the West has also warmed the soil in Turkey and Persia and strengthened the revolutionaries. [Led by young officers, the Young Turk Revolution of 1908 forced the Sultan to grant a constitution and initiated a process of modernisation and secularisation. It was a strongly nationalist movement. In Persia in 1908 the parliament granted by the Shah two years earlier was suppressed with the aid of the Persian Cossack Brigade. This ushered in a period of social and political upheaval in which the masses took part.] The epoch of the world revolution has begun.
The point in the Theses that provides for the support of the bourgeois-democratic movement in the backward countries can, it seems to me, only have reference to those countries in which this movement is in its very early stages. If one were to try to proceed according to the Theses in countries which already have ten or more years of experience, or in those where the movement has already had power, it would mean driving the masses into the arms of the counter-revolution. The task is to create and maintain a purely communist movement in opposition to the bourgeois-democratic one. Any other judgement of the facts could lead to regrettable results.
Graziadei (Italy): I should like to remark first of all that I shall only represent my own personal views.
After the latest amendments made to Comrade Lenin’s Theses in their final form, after the improvements and explanations carried out by the Commission, particularly with respect to the second Thesis, which created many difficulties for me in its original form, I can announce that I am prepared to sign everything that Comrade Lenin proposes.
If I have understood it correctly, Comrade Lenin poses the question in the following way: just as in every nation there are exploiters and exploited, so too in international relations there are nations that are exploited by other nations. The petty-bourgeois conception and abstract idea of human rights adopted by the Second International had the role of masking the class struggle; the idea of the equality of nations amounts to covering over the economic and moral opposition that exists between the imperialist and the oppressed nations. Previously two opposite errors used to be made. The Second International tended to take the national problem as it was presented by the bourgeoisie. On the other hand another group of socialists who fought against this first and fatal error thought they could free themselves from this important problem by simply ignoring it. Comrade Lenin however has tried to look at this problem realistically and as a Marxist. I say ‘Marxist’ in the sense that Comrade Lenin remains true to the only part of Marxism that is inviolable: the method. In fact Comrade Lenin’s critical and materialist conception corresponds to the situation before the war and even more to the situation that exists at the end of the imperialist war.
There is no contradiction between Comrade Lenin’s Theses and our definition of the war in 1914. The war, which we called an imperialist war, was not imperialist in the same degree for every nation. This distinction must be drawn since the smaller nations and especially the colonies were drawn into the war together with the great powers and were rather the victims of imperialism.
Only the richest and strongest nations could draw any advantage from such a long and destructive war; it cost the smaller nations the greater or lesser extent of economic independence they previously had. Even where their earlier territorial frontiers have remained the same, their position has become exceptionally difficult.
Two facts that emerge from this predominate at the moment: on the one hand the struggle of the great imperialist powers against Soviet Russia, against whom the smaller nations (Poland, Rumania, etc..) are sent into the field, and on the other hand the possibility that Soviet Russia can forge in the revolts of the smaller nations, and of the colonies against the exploitative imperialism of the capitalist countries, a mighty weapon against imperialism.
However true all this is, I should still like to comment that one cannot, it seems to me, separate the Communist International from the Soviet government. The victory of the latter alone made the foundation and success of the Communist International possible, just as the fall of the Paris Commune brought with it the collapse of the First International. It cannot however be denied that the work that our Russian comrades have performed with such heroism and talent in the face of a crowd of enemies could, under the pressure of necessity and against their will, lead to a left opportunism that an organisation like the Communist International should try to avoid. A very strict definition of principles is also necessary. It is important to emphasise that action in countries where true imperialist capitalism exists should be distinguished from that in backward countries and colonies. The local parties should moreover be given certain guarantees. That is all that I propose to add to Comrade Lenin’s Theses. In doing so I would like to say that I insist on the spirit of these additions rather than the word.
I propose to start the 11th Thesis as follows:
‘In those countries where the position of the ruling class permits them to carry out a national imperialist policy, and where as a consequence there is a sufficiently strong industrial proletariat, the Communist Parties must start an open and inexorable struggle.’ The text will then continue: ‘in relation to’, etc.
Further on in the 11th Thesis, section 1 line 1, instead of ‘the necessity to support’, read: ‘the duty of an active interest.'
Lines 3-4 instead of ‘the duty of supporting them’, ‘the duty of an active interest’.
Section 5 line 5, instead of ‘should not support them’, read: ‘should not take an interest in’.
Line 13, instead of ‘must make temporary contacts’, read: ‘must maintain temporary relations’.
Instead of the Commission’s amendment ‘and the form must be discussed with the Communist Party in question,’ read: ‘The interest of the Communist International in such a movement is determined at any given time by the fact that the Communist Party in question have discussed the nature of their activity and that the following conditions are fulfilled, as well as all the other conditions dictated by the situation and by experience.'
In the 12th Thesis the last part of the penultimate sentence, from the words ‘and the duty’ to the words ‘of this distrust’, must be left out.
The conception of the word ‘support’ which is used in the Theses is narrower than that of the term ‘active interest’. The necessity of (active interest’ describes the ‘support’, but only as one among many possibilities. It would be better if nationalist movements were quickly used everywhere to create a revolutionary movement. The same can be said of ‘contacts’. They are only individual cases, and by no means the most desirable.
Lao Hsiu-Tao (China): The end of 1918 found China embroiled in a civil war. The South was under the temporary rule of a provisional revolutionary government whose chief purpose was the most bitter struggle with the Pekin government. At the head of the southern government there stood at first the famous leader of the first Chinese revolution, Sun Yat-Sen, who meanwhile soon withdrew from the government as a result of the conflicts that broke out between him and the representatives of the old bureaucracy who had remained within the southern government. Since then he has not officially participated in the business of government. The southern government is still carrying on the struggle against the Pekin government. This struggle proceeds under the slogans proclaimed by the Sun Yat-Sen group, whose basic principle is the restoration of the rights of the old parliament and the old President and the forced resignation of the Pekin government. This struggle is being carried out with varying success, but the southern government has undeniably more prospects of a successful outcome than the northern, although the latter has a better right to expect it with its strong financial position. In the last few days we have been informed that the southern government’s troops have occupied Hunan, that is, one of the central provinces bordering on Pekin. When the old reactionary Pekin government first entered with the allies in the coalition against Germany in 1917, they promised the country the most varied advantages from participation in the war. The revolutionary parties protested in vain; war was declared. The Chinese people however had some faith in these promises, and until the calling of the Versailles conference they nourished hopes. How great then was their disappointment when Versailles gave nothing to China, but on the contrary assured to Japan the rights and territorial conquests she had won during the war at China’s expense. After the return of the delegation from Versailles a movement began against the government and against the Japanese which must not be underestimated. Students organised in associations whose centre was in Shanghai placed themselves at the head of this movement. The students started a widespread agitation with mass meetings, strikes, manifestos, etc. They also agitated for a boycott of Japanese goods. The results of this movement were extremely small; they were forcibly suppressed. In a few cases demonstrators were even shot. Nevertheless the movement played a significant role in that it awoke a feeling of outrage against the government in the masses.
Recently, since they have realised that they can achieve nothing on their own, the students have begun to draw the mass of workers along with them. The Chinese workers too have begun to show what they are capable of, and that as the representatives of an industrial working class that is still very young. Thus in the course of the past year we have experienced in Shanghai a series of strikes, although admittedly with purely economic aims. The Socialist Party of Shanghai is winning more and more popularity among the workers. This party is Marxist. From the weekly newspaper it publishes it can be seen that this movement is to be taken seriously. In its issue of the first of May we find the slogans: ‘Those who do not work should not eat’, and: ‘The whole world should belong to the proletariat’. This newspaper uninterruptedly propagates the idea of socialism in opposition to nationalism. It insists on a fraternal alliance with Soviet Russia. It protests against last year’s Sino-Japanese Treaty whose aim was conquest of Siberia. In all its articles the newspaper defends the point of view that the proletariat should fight the bourgeoisie and that the principle of nationalism and state independence should give way to the principle of internationalism. This newspaper is extremely popular. Thus we see here the beginnings of an organisation that embraces not only the industrial proletariat but also the craftsmen. The crisis of European industry also found an echo in China. China is flooded with an extraordinary amount of foreign goods. Chinese industry does not develop and the Chinese proletariat is in a pitiable position. Put briefly, China’s intellectuals, the students and the working class possess rich material for revolutionary agitation. Although there are no great landed properties in China, we can nonetheless already see how, where the peasantry is concerned, the richer peasants are gradually buying up the land, which has as a result the growth in the number of poor peasants. It goes without saying that this part of the population readily follow the urban proletariat in the revolutionary movement.
China consists at present of a series of almost autonomous provinces headed by Governors with full powers. All these Governors are, like the members of the government, members of the Anfu military party, that is to say the party of the bureaucrats, most of whom had important posts under the monarchy. All of these Governors are almost completely independent of the Pekin government, and if they stay in the fight against the South then they do so for their own interests. The fiscal system is entirely in the hands of the Governors, who determine the income of the central government as they think fit. As a result the government’s means are of course extremely slender, so that it is forced to raise loans, which it does mainly in Japan. Since this kind of service is naturally not performed for nothing, Japan is winning more and more privileges and material advantages in China in return. In a whole series of Chinese provinces Japan is all-powerful, as if it were conquered territory. On the other hand the autocracy of governors we have described and the existence of an undisciplined and corrupt army of two million, offer a picture of complete anarchy. When we taken this into consideration, the opposition and the continual revolutionary ferment among the masses also become comprehensible.
At present the whole opposition against the two existing governments in China is to be found in Shanghai in the persons of its main representatives. Sun Yat-Sen is to be found there with the supporters of the first revolution. The Central Federation of Students, the workers’ unions and the Socialist Party are also to be found there. In the fight against Japan, against the Chinese government and against the bourgeoisie, all these groups are permeated with a uniform revolutionary consciousness.
To summarise what I have said it must once more be emphasised that there is at present in China a wide field for revolutionary propaganda. The Congress of the Communist International must pay great attention to this circumstance. Support for the Chinese revolution is of importance not only for China but for the revolutionary movement throughout the world, for at the moment there is only one single factor to oppose the avaricious Japanese imperialism that has taken firm root in Asia. This single factor is a strong and mighty Chinese revolutionary movement among the working masses of China.
Pak Chin-Sun (Korea): At the present moment we are discussing the colonial questions under conditions that are quite different from those at the time of the foundation of the Second International thirty years ago. The whole task of the Communist International in the colonial question consists in correcting the mistakes made by the leaders of the Second International. The whole history of the ignominious collapse of the Second International has shown that the western European proletariat cannot win the fight against its bourgeoisie as long as the bourgeoisie has a source of strength in the colonies.
The official leaders realised this; however, these ideologists of parliamentarism stood aloof from the heroic struggles of the colonial peoples, and whenever they approached the problem of the East, the problem of the colonial peoples, they trembled no less than the ideologists of the bourgeoisie. But here, at our Congress, the work of the Commission has already shown that all the delegates from the East as well as those of the western European proletariat are conscious of the fact that the happy day – the day of the triumph of the Communist International, the day of the social revolution – will only dawn when all the colonial peoples rise in revolt, when the western European proletariat deliver the death blow to their bourgeoisie, when the colonial peoples strike the bourgeoisie of the West to the heart. The consciousness of the necessity of a common struggle grew more and more, and Russia, the link between the whole proletarian West and the revolutionary East, has now really given us the opportunity to discuss the sore point that was the origin of opportunism, the origin of the indecision of the Second International. I hope that our Congress will now take decisions on the colonial question which will speed the revolutionary ferment, the revolution, in the East.
I should now like to say something about the revolutionary movement that is in the process of fulfilment in our country, in Korea. We have already decided some questions. I should just like to spend a short time on the practical realisation of some of the questions that have been raised here, since the revolutionary movement has already posed us with questions that have also been brought up here. Ten years ago the Korean people were completely apathetic towards the annexation of Korea. They were equally apathetic towards the fiery speeches about democracy, the independence of Korea and a free and happy life. And now, all at once, it has been fighting for eighteen months and showing exemplary dedication and self-sacrifice. We cannot say that the general cultural level of the Korean people has improved so significantly in the course of ten years. In these ten years, the Japanese were not only unable to raise the class consciousness of the Korean masses, they were unable to raise the national consciousness of the masses either. If our teachers here have said that the revolution is the locomotive of history, then we must say that the fuel that drives the locomotive along the track of history is economics.
And at present, what with the occupation, Korea is the most unhappy country. Let us take the peasantry. They are laden with taxes that are 300 to 350 per cent higher than they were before annexation. Naturally that ruins the peasantry, and the policy of the Japanese Agrarian Bank, which wants a forced emigration from Japan proper to Korea, annoys the majority of the peasants, particularly the middle peasants. Moreover the Japanese do not give the Koreans the opportunity to achieve an education that is any use in life and do not permit young students to go to institutions of higher education that train engineers and good military instructors. That is why not only a section of the intellectuals but also the whole of the students are opposed to the Japanese occupation. Let us now look at the bourgeoisie. Through its colonial policy of treating Korea as a colony, the Japanese rob the Korean bourgeoisie of the possibility of building factories and works in Korea. That is also one of the reasons why the Korean bourgeoisie is hostile to Japan. Thanks to these reasons the Korean bourgeoisie has fought in alliance with the working masses and in the last two or three years we have been unable to draw a boundary between the two. And as long as economic circumstances make this impossible we will be unable to do it. Our party will however take pains to carry out this class differentiation and to lead the revolutionary movement, which in Korea bears the stamp of an agrarian movement. Every landlord and every landed proprietor in Korea now knows what the national liberation movement is in Korea. It is a movement that is not only directed against Japanese imperialism but also against their own bourgeoisie, which in Korea consists mainly of big landed proprietors. Finally, when the time comes for Korea to shake off the national yoke, perhaps two or three years will be sufficient for the bourgeoisie to grasp that an independent Korea cannot bring them the happiness that they expected. It knows that an independent Korea means the withdrawal of all their material advantages, and therefore they are against the Korean revolution and tie their fate to that of Japanese imperialism.
The Versailles Conference formed the centre of the differences of opinion among revolutionaries in the last year. The right wing, in which are united all the nationalists, the great political parties, which form a united national bloc and the unions of petty-bourgeois organisations, who were all in favour of the League of Nations and expected that Wilson, that supposed saviour, would bring freedom to the enslaved peoples of the East, all insisted on sending a delegation to the peace conference. We knew very well that under no circumstances would the imperialists of America, Japan and England be so generous as to give up advantages their colonies gave them. Therefore we posed the question: Paris or Moscow? Our historical evaluation proved to be correct. Our Korean delegation had no success at the Versailles Conference and our influence among the masses began to grow and is still growing. Our party is now one of the big parties and has a significant influence on the masses. And I hope they will accept the Theses adopted by the present Congress as their guidelines. Our party, which always marches under the banner of the Communist International, has now linked its fate indissolubly with the revolutionary movement of the proletariat throughout the world and will do its duty. United with the revolutionary proletariat throughout the world it will march to the final goal – the construction of communism. Our party will be one of the main forces that will turn enslaved Korea into a part of the federated World Soviet Republic.
Connolly (Ireland): Comrade Lenin’s Theses have sketched the basic features of the general tactics of the Communist International towards the national revolutionary movement in the oppressed countries. In order actually to apply these Theses, the Communist International must be correctly informed about the economic and historical movement in these countries and moreover have the opportunity to be able to assess the revolutionary significance of the various forces at work in the countries in question. Therefore we would like, without discussing the Theses as a whole, to give a detailed report on the situation in Ireland.
The Irish question can be considered as a question of national oppression from three standpoints: from the standpoint of the national revolutionary movement, from the standpoint of the petty-bourgeois social democrats and liberals, and from the standpoint of the Communist International. The first tendency considers Ireland as a separate national unit economically and politically oppressed by England over the last seven hundred years and sees the solution to the question purely and simply in the complete independence of Ireland from Great Britain. For that purpose however a bourgeois-democratic Irish state must be set up after the pattern of the democratic republics of western Europe. In no other case could Ireland ever succeed in developing fully in the economic and cultural respect.
From the standpoint of the liberals, which is shared with slight differences by the petty-bourgeois social-democrats, Ireland is already economically and politically a part of Great Britain. Therefore it is sufficient to satisfy national demands by means of sensible political concessions within the framework of limited self-government.
Meanwhile this independence must be prevented from becoming a danger to the realm.
From the standpoint of the Communist International the position is very different. In the last phase of capitalism the position of all national minorities and colonies is exceptionally complicated. Among the majority of these oppressed peoples and races there is a revolutionary movement directed against imperialism. Even if the struggle of the Communist International is proceeding in another direction, it cannot simply turn its back on these revolutionary uprisings, whose purpose also is to free themselves from imperialism. It must rather support every movement that can contribute to the advancement of the world revolution. The Communist International must encourage and support every movement that strives to weaken the imperialist powers and to advance the growing world revolution. The Communist International must strengthen and unite all communist groups involved in such struggles. Such policies would lead to the formation of a Communist Party in which, under the pressure of the military dictatorship of imperialism, a strict centralisation and a good discipline develop, and which thus will be rendered capable of carrying on a bitter struggle for power against its own national bourgeoisie, after liberating itself from the imperialist yoke. Taking these circumstances into account we demand the support of national revolutionary movements by the Communist International. The only means which promises success is the active support of national movements with the help of the communist groups in the countries in question, however weak they may be. This is especially true of Ireland, where support for the national movement by the Communist International and its British section, without the inclusion of communist groups, would only weaken the latter. Support by the Communist International is the only means that permits them, even in the very first stages of revolutionary struggle, to play a significant role. In their struggle against British imperialism the Irish nationalists will use any means, and if the struggle of the Communist International is only carried out through the mediation of the little communist groups I have mentioned, the nationalists will be forced to remain neutral towards the communists, who will meanwhile be able to develop and attract new forces. Indeed, they may perhaps have to support these communist groups actively, thus unconsciously making their propaganda easier.
If there was no communist movement in Ireland, the direct result, regardless of whether it remained subject to the military dictatorship ruling it at the moment or formed a bourgeois state, would be that it would be turned into the basis for the counter-revolutionary attack on the coming social revolution in Britain. And here we must pay particular attention to the fact that in the British struggles the fleet would play no small role, and that Ireland possesses splendid harbours and submarine bases for a white fleet destined to blockade Britain. This takes us back to the first part of our report which considered Ireland’s strategic position in its importance for communism. If we consider the international situation as a bitter struggle between the centre of the world revolution, Soviet Russia, with the small states grouped around Russia on the one hand, and the League of Nations led by British imperialism on the other, then Ireland, that constant hearth of revolution in the heart of the empire, which keeps an English army of 200,000 men permanently occupied, is of great importance for the international revolutionary movement. On the other hand we must strain every nerve to prevent Ireland from being converted into a kind of basis for the hangmen of the English revolution in the sense that we mentioned above.
As far as the Irishmen are concerned who live in America and scattered throughout the British Empire, everybody knows of the lively interest that they take in the political development of their homeland, as well as of the speed with which they react to events there.
This being so, the tendency of Irish politics towards communism will draw with it the masses of Irishmen living in British possessions and in the United States, strengthen the communist movement in these countries, and lend power to the international proletarian movement in general.
Comrade Connolly then reads the report that is published unabridged in issue 12 of the ‘Communist International’.
MacAlpine: I would like to draw the attention of the Congress to the 12th Thesis:
‘The centuries of oppression of the colonial population and of the weaker nationalities by the imperialist powers has awoken not only hostility in the labouring masses of the oppressed countries but also distrust of their oppressors in general, including the proletariat of those nations.'
As an example of this one can quote the attitude towards the English proletariat of the working masses of Ireland, who often make no distinction between the ruling class of England and the English workers. This attitude on the part of the Irish workers also explains the fact that the English labour movement has up to now failed to understand the problems raised by Ireland.
Most of the Polish revolutionaries I have talked to about current conditions in Ireland are amazed by the similarity with conditions in Poland in 1905. The similarity is striking, and while the revolutionary times are favourable to us we cannot afford to ignore the possibility that Ireland’s national claims can be exploited by the English bourgeoisie during a social crisis. The attitude of the British revolutionary movement towards Ireland has up to now neither been distinguished by tolerance nor has it adopted the attitude of the social democrats, who support the demands of the Irish nationalists in words. The fact that Ireland is an important weapon against British imperialism and that on the other hand it can be turned into a dangerous tool against the social revolution seems to have been forgotten. It seems that the shop stewards’ movement is the first to give fun recognition to the importance of the Irish question and its relationship to the British revolutionary movement. The discussions that took place at its Conference in London at the beginning of the year, and its resolutions, aroused the interest of Irish workers in this movement and contributed to creating better relations between the proletariat of the two countries.
It is extremely important that the British communists actively support Ireland, that they agitate among the British troops in Ireland and that they prevent troops and munitions from being shipped to Ireland. It is interesting to note that the result of the activity of the British labour movement on this question was the withdrawal of the Irish railwaymen from the National Union of Railwaymen, and that in the last few months the engineering workers in the southern part of Ireland have left the Amalgamated Engineering Union.
Nevertheless, no direct links can be permitted between the English communists and the Irish nationalist movement except through the mediation of the Irish communists or after consultation with them. Equally important is the condition that, while the English communists support the national struggle, they nevertheless distinguish strictly between the national and the communist revolution. They must point out that their attitude towards Ireland is no bourgeois humanitarian reaction to oppression but the result of common class interests between the proletariat and the peasantry of the two countries.
Hermann Gorter recently said that the attitude of the English workers towards Ireland is the barometer of revolutionary socialist feeling in Great Britain, and we could add that the attitude of the British communists towards Ireland is the measure of the clarity of the communist mode of thought in Britain. In relation to the claim made in the Commission that English workers would regard support for the revolutionary struggle of the colonies against British imperialism as treason, it must be said that the faster English workers learn to commit such treason against the bourgeois state the better it will be for the revolutionary movement. Such support is very necessary, even if it is only limited to the education of the English working masses.
I protest violently against our Italian Comrade Graziadei’s proposal to put ‘show active interest’ in place of ‘give support’ in number 11 of the Theses. That is a Wilsonian phrase and meaningless, like all that gentleman’s phrases. It is an underhand way of abolishing this point completely, and is reminiscent of the methods applied by the Second International towards the smaller nationalities.
I wanted to touch upon various other points, but since I have very little time available I will only mention them briefly. The position in Ulster or at least in the northern part of that province is different from that in the other parts of Ireland. In many respects it offers the communists a less complicated problem than is the case in the other parts of Ireland.
The majority of the inhabitants of this part of Ireland consists of anti-nationalists and of opponents of the other part of Ireland. Even if at first glance this makes the situation more complicated, the necessity of class struggle is thus clearer here. Political oppression is not confused with economic oppression by the workers. The circumstance that Ulster is the industrial centre of Ireland and that it thinks itself to be an equal component of the United Kingdom means that it is on an equal footing with the great industrial centres of England.
I would gladly also speak about the question of the co-operative which is developing to be an important part of Irish economic life, but I cannot do so because of lack of time. The growth of co-operatives in the countryside is neutralising that ideology of private property, which creates so many problems for communists, especially when it is present among the peasantry. The co-operatives are developing the idea of a whole range of production on a communist basis and are combating the land hunger of the rural labourers and the semi-proletarians.
We support the Theses including the additions proposed by Comrade Roy.
Ismael Hakki-Pasha (Turkey): I would like to talk about Comrade Lenin’s Theses, particularly the part that deals with Islam. This is precisely a question which demands that one should become more closely acquainted with it. From the time when the Turkish Sultans conquered Syria and Assyria, when the road to the holy places of Islam fell into their hands, from that time on those in power in Turkey have striven to unite all those peoples living in the East, Africa and other countries who are followers of Islam. From the time when the holy places and particularly the railway fell into the hands of the Sultans, from the time when the heart of Islam fell into their hands, the Turkish Sultans have preached every kind of Panislamism and have tried to unite around Turkey all the Muslim peoples and countries in the East and in Africa.
When however the Young Turk revolt broke out in 1908, power passed into the hands of the Young Turks. The liberal bourgeoisie which took power into its hands began to seek new ways to unite all these peoples. At the same time, in Russia, the Tartars, the Turkestanis, the Bashkirs and a whole series of other peoples were groaning under the Tsarist knout, and here at the same time the idea of Panturkism emerged, which was opposed to Panislamism. Panislamism was unable to unite all the different nationalities with their different languages. The idea of Panturkism which the Young Turks later took over, this idea strove to fuse all the Turkish peoples from Kazan to Turkestan and to the Caucasus with the whole of Turkey and a part of Persia. The endeavour of the Young Turks was to unify this huge territory. But all these dreams were condemned to remain on paper.
After the Russian Revolution and the partition of Turkey by the European imperialists, when the Janus face of the English and French capitalists showed itself openly to the Turkish people, a new movement began in Turkey, a liberation movement. The Anatolian movement, which is now led by the Democratic Party, is the best answer to the ruthless exploitation to which Turkey was subjected by the countries of the Entente. The occupation of Constantinople particularly poured oil on the flames and the movement grew even faster. Now the revolutionary state in Anatolia, which is gathering around itself all the forces hostile to the Entente which are driven by a century-old hatred of imperialism, is preparing for the struggle against European imperialism. The toilers of Turkey will not permit themselves to be enslaved once more by the Entente, and thanks to the Russian revolution, which is the best friend of toiling Turkey, the Turkish people will very shortly achieve complete freedom and, together with the toilers of every country, take up the struggle against imperialism throughout the world.
Serrati: It is proposed to close the list. There are still 12 comrades on the list. Are there any other proposals?
Walcher: There is still a lot to say on the subject under discussion. I do not think, however, that one can arrive at a positive outcome through this kind of discussion. For that reason I propose that we close the debate.
Maring: I must warn you strongly against accepting Walcher’s motion. It is absolutely senseless. We have just decided to give the representatives of the backward countries the opportunity to speak their minds to the Congress. I would like to point out that the representatives of all the colonies have spoken apart from Java, and that this is the major colony after British India, that only on Java is there a Marxist experience and has the work been carried out in a Marxist spirit, and I should like to hope that the German delegation is just slightly interested in hearing about conditions about which we know nothing.
I ask the Congress to give the representatives of the colonial peoples this opportunity, as was agreed last night.
Serrati: Comrade Frumkina moves that we give the floor to those who have proposed any motion.
Wijnkoop: I am against the floor Being given to those who have proposed a motion. We have already heard important motions which have not been discussed at all. We must have the opportunity of discussing the most important motions. I think that the floor must be given to all speakers.
Serrati: I should like to note that nobody has said that the speakers whose names are on the list should not be given the floor.
Lozovsky: I propose that the floor is only given to the representatives of those countries that have not yet spoken.
Serrati: But a general proposal has been made, that is to say the closure of the debate. All those in favour of the proposal to close the debate please raise their hands’. The majority is against. We will take the vote on Comrade Lozovsky’s proposal. It is carried by a large majority of votes.
Comrade Maring has the floor.
Maring (Dutch East Indies): Comrades, the question of the Dutch East Indies is one of the most important questions. I would like to talk about three points here. In the first place I would like to tell you of some of the experiences of the movement in the East Indies, secondly to make some comments on principle on the Theses and thirdly to make some practical suggestions for the work in the colonies. I hope that some Javanese and Malayans will be present at the next Congress in order to be able to take part in the debates. Nevertheless, since in the last seven years my work has been as closely bound up as possible with the movement in the East Indies, I hope the Congress will be interested in the experiences that I have had as a revolutionary Marxist in those countries. In my opinion there is not a single question on the agenda that is as important for the further development of the world revolution as the national and colonial question. The other questions are only controversies which are always cropping up again and again in the labour movement when the revolution stagnates. There is no time at all for such discussions when the revolution starts to march forward.
The Dutch colonies are the most important after British India. They are among the richest colonies in the world. Their population is larger than that of Japan and almost as large as that of Germany. Of the 50 million inhabitants the majority live on the four main islands – Java, Sumatra, Bali and Lombok – with 40 million inhabitants. Of the 300 years of colonial exploitation in these countries it is the recent period which is most important for us. Since 1870 there has been a capitalist development there. In contradiction to what the Italian comrade said, since 1905 an imperialist period has begun in Holland which has developed very markedly. Within ten years the Dutch rule over a great part of Sumatra, over Borneo, Celebes and New Guinea was consolidated. What Comrade Rosa Luxemburg said on this matter in her Accumulation of Capital and what Comrade H. Roland-Holst established is exactly right here, that is to say that capitalism’s hunger for booty is boundless, that it stirs as soon as it hears of new goldfields, oil wells, etc. that are not being exploited, that it incites the government to mount new expeditions, and that it never thinks that enough money and men are being used to plunder the world and to suppress the tribes and the peoples of the backward areas.
Since 1905 the development of capitalism in these Asian countries has been very rapid. One only needs to emphasise the fact that 1,500 million – a third of the whole of Holland’s capitalist property – has been invested in the colonies. When one realises that in 1917 at least £25 million sterling flowed from the colonies into Holland, that besides Dutch capital, American, Japanese and English capital is making money out of the sugar, cocoa, coffee and other plantations, one can imagine the importance for the whole reconstruction of world capitalism of the new capital in the Far East. I should like to point out that the most respectable Dutch capitalist newspaper has said that, even if it were possible to nationalise all the firms in Europe, if we were to abolish private property here, there are new possibilities in the colonies, richer and greater than in Europe, for the whole capitalist class.
To finish this short sketch I would like to say a few words on the position of the population. 150,000 Europeans are the brigands of the Far East, and what Rudyard Kipling says of their daily practice is true, that is to say that, east of the Suez Canal, the ten commandments cease to apply. Apart from the Europeans there are also a million Chinese and a number of Japanese who are now bringing about a development of large-scale industry on Java. One only needs to hear the one statistic, that on Java alone there are now 200 large sugar refineries with a big proletariat, in order to understand that the Orient too is important for the revolution. The position of the peasants who make up the majority of the population – on Java alone there are 25 million including families – is such that they have a yearly budget of 110 Dutch florins taxed at a rate of 20 per cent, and that for the upkeep of their homes they can spend only six florins a year and for their agricultural implements only three florins. The peasants have possession of their land, but in reality they are thoroughly proletarianised as they must lease part of their land to European capital and are completely exploited by the privileged classes of Java, so that they cannot live as peasants and must go into the sugar refineries. When one considers that in Java now there is a proletariat of over a million with an average income of half a florin a day, when one knows that Java is also caught up in the price increases and that the Javanese for the greater part do not even have their rice each day all the year round, one can form an idea of how ripe the soil is here for revolutionary propaganda. When one knows that illiteracy is so widespread that out of a’ thousand grown men only 15 can read or write, and that of the children not even 10 per cent go to school, one can perhaps understand how a Marxist feels who sees what mighty work is being done in Russia in the field of education and how his heart yearns to see the people of the East also taking part in this cultural work.
I shall not now go into more detail on the position of the population. I have handed in to the Secretariat a written report which will be published in the Communist International. I have only given these facts here because I have the impression that, with a few exceptions, even this Congress of the Communist International has not fully understood the significance of the oriental question. I would like to say something about the movement in Java which arose in 1907 as a nationalist movement and was at the beginning a revolutionary movement. An Indian Zubatov changed its character, and one can say that the influence of the really revolutionary nationalist movement in the Dutch East Indies is very slight. Much more important than this movement is the mass movement which has about 1 1/2 million members and since 1912 has united workers and peasants in one association and has made rapid progress. This organisation, although its name – Sarekat-Islam – is religious, has taken on a class character. When one sees that in the programme of this movement stands the fight against the evils of capitalism, that the struggle is not only directed against the government but also against the Javanese nobility, one can judge that it is a duty for the socialist revolutionary movement to knit firm links with this mass organisation, with the Sarekat-Islam. In 1916 the government tried to interest this movement in its military propaganda, but the result was that a strong opposition developed on the part of young members from Samarang.
When the European socialists finally decided to do their duty in the Far East and develop a movement there, they succeeded in forming links with the local Sarekat-Islam associations. A significant part of this mass organisation is not consciously socialist, but they are nevertheless revolutionary in the sense that Comrade Roy established for British India.
In the Commission yesterday, I heard from an English comrade that mass action in India can only lead to failure and bloodshed because the masses are not yet ripe. I am of the opinion that a really socialist movement of mass resistance can only be organised through mass action, that this is the only way that a real force can be opposed to capitalism.
We found in Java that the middle class had no success in its attempts to interest the masses in the national question. However, when we went to the workers in the towns and in the sugar districts and talked about the low wages and the mortality figures, the heavy taxes and so forth, a degree of confidence was won in the revolutionary socialist movement. The feeling exists in the masses. They are very sensitive to our propaganda. In every Malayan newspaper in Java one can read of the progress that the ideas of Soviet Russia are making in the world. That has a great significance for a Congress such as this. While the socialist movement has for years been neglecting the colonies, the capitalists have assessed the significance the colonies have far better than has been the case on the part of many a revolutionary socialist. The capitalists grasped what oriental development can bring to capitalism.
In 1917 a strong movement among the revolutionary socialists developed in such a way that they said of our friends: these men are bringing us exactly the same misfortune as Trotsky and Lenin brought in Russia. When one hears that in 1918 there was not a single mass meeting in the towns and in the area of the sugar industry where there were not 3,000 to 4,000 workers present, one can understand that there has awoken in these brown people a new spirit that is of the greatest importance for our whole movement.
We have also of course, as is proper for revolutionaries, worked among the sailors of the colonial fleet and the soldiers. At the end of this year a strong reaction emerged. The leaders of the soldiers and the sailors and myself were hunted out of the East Indies by the government, and several friends were arrested and sentenced. The 13 members of a soldiers’ council were given 90 years in prison. Since then we have had proof that this movement has developed further, not through the will of trouble-makers, but because the economic conditions have developed to the point where a mass movement is possible and the basis is there for revolutionary agitation and propaganda.
On the second point I would like to say that I can see no difference between Comrade Lenin’s Theses and those of Comrade Roy. They are at one with another in their meaning. The difficulty consists only in finding the correct attitude towards the relations between the revolutionary nationalist and the socialist movements in the backward countries and the colonies. In practice this difficulty does not exist. There is the necessity of working together with the revolutionary nationalist elements, and we are only doing half the job if we deny this movement and play at being doctrinaire Marxists. We must not now adopt the so-called Marxism of Cunow for the colonies, but we must grasp that the capitalist development can be by-passed in the colonies. Just as Comrade Radek showed that the development of Japan was different from that in Europe, so too the colonies can develop in a different way. I was especially delighted that Comrade Radek made it clear to the Congress last night that we do not go to India to exploit but to bring them the best achievements of the proletariat, the hope of a new fife and of cultural and economic freedom, and that he pointed out their duty to the English working class, that he showed that the English working class must not forget the colonies in their political and trades union agitation, and that if they do not support the revolutionary struggle in the colonies they are only the handmaidens of the capitalists. And I say that, until the English workers understand that, they may be able to win a lot of votes at the elections but they have done no work of any real revolutionary significance. We cannot be satisfied with passing long resolutions, we must perform some practical service to the Far East.
I have shown what possibilities exist for agitation. We are shortly going to the Congress in Baku. [Called by the Communist International the Baku Congress of the Peoples of the East, it was attended by 1,891 delegates the majority of whom were not Communists. It was presided over by Zinoviev and passed two manifestos and several resolutions calling for a struggle against foreign and domestic oppressors and for the establishment of Soviet government. The Congress set up a Council for Propaganda and Action of the Peoples of the East.] But we do not have any illusions that this Congress will have any great significance for the Far East. That is impossible. I would like to propose that the Theses adopted here should be published in a number of oriental languages by the Communist International and distributed particularly among Chinese and Indian revolutionaries. I would like further to propose that a propaganda bureau of the Communist International should be set up for the Far East too and also for the Middle East. Since the movement is so important now it would be very useful to unify the work that already exists there and to carry on concentrated propaganda which cannot be led satisfactorily from Moscow.
To finish I have one more request. Comrade Reed said yesterday that the Negroes must come here to see conditions in Russia for themselves. I propose that the Communist International gives the Far Eastern leaders the opportunity to live here for six months and study some courses on communism so that they understand correctly what is happening here and can carry out the ideas of the Theses, so that they can achieve the soviet type of organisation in practice and perform communist work in the colonies. I demand this because Moscow and Petrograd form a new Mecca for the East and the capitalist governments will all try to prevent our communist hadjis [one who has made the pilgrimage to Mecca] from travelling to Moscow and Petrograd. We must give oriental revolutionaries the opportunity of training themselves theoretically here in Russia so that the Far East can become a living member of the Communist International.
Frumkina: I think that the national minorities, that is to say minorities who occupy a specific territory, must also be taken into account. I am amazed to see repeated here the error which the Second International permitted itself to make. Territorial autonomy is talked about and national minorities are not taken into account. I think that the national minorities in different countries ought to be taken into account. I propose to make an addendum to point 9. Before that however I think that the experience of the Communist Party and of the soviet order in Russia ought to be remembered. The organisations of the Communist Party of Russia and the soviet institutions possess special departments for national minorities which are concerned with the national minorities and everything to do with for example the Jewish question, etc. I propose the following addendum on page 43 at the end of the Thesis, before point 10:
‘At the same time the Communist Parties in every country must carry out a decisive struggle, not only in their propaganda but also in their general policies, against the bourgeois concept of the exclusive right of this or that national majority to possess the territory they inhabit and against the concept held by national socialists who consider the national majority as absolute rulers and treat extra-territorial national minorities of workers who live on their territories as foreigners (Poland, the Ukraine).
‘Unless the categorical demand of the practical exercise of the rights of the national minorities living in various countries is assured (rights which can only be absolutely guaranteed by the dictatorship of the proletariat), the unconditional support of the revolutionary tendencies in oppressed countries with variegated populations could turn the previously oppressed petty-bourgeois masses into oppressors.
‘The experience of the soviet power and of the Communist Party of Russia, which gives the working masses of all nations the true opportunity to develop intellectually, thanks to the great ramification of the organs of state (sections for the education of national minorities, Commissariats for National Affairs, etc.), whereby a truly fraternal co-existence between all nations is achieved, must form the basis of the national programme valid for all Communist Parties.'
One is tempted to regard all extra-territorial minorities as foreigners. That is what it is like in Poland and the Ukraine. It is important for every country to take as its example the Communist Party of Russia, which gives all the toiling minorities of every nationality the opportunity to develop culturally by placing the necessary organisations at their disposal, such as for example organisations for the enlightenment of national minorities and Commissariats to defend the interests of national minorities.
This example must be taken into consideration by every Communist Party during the discussion of the national question.
I also propose to add in the same 11th Thesis, page 46, under the heading (g) section 6 after the words ‘in these countries’ the following words: ‘as also in those where a struggle by the national minorities to extend their rights is taking place’.
Section 6 after the words ‘the backward countries’ add: ‘and nations’.
After section 6 the following comment:
‘An example will show what lies the working masses of an oppressed nationality have had to fall victim to, lies which are great assets to the Entente and to the bourgeoisie of the nations in question. This is the case of the Zionists in Palestine who, under the pretext of founding an independent Jewish state, suppress the working population and the Arabs who live in Palestine under the British yoke, although the. Jews are still the minority there.
‘This unparalleled lie must be combated, and in a very energetic way, since the Zionists in every country work by approaching all the backward masses of Jewish workers and trying to create groups of workers with Zionist tendencies (Poale Zion), which have recently been striving to adopt a Communist turn of phrase.
[Poale Zion – The Socialist Labour Party of Palestine, although it applied to join the Communist International, was permeated with bourgeois nationalism and Zionist tendencies. The Poale Zion World Federation, however, rejected the conditions of admission and after the Third Communist International Congress the ECCI called on Poale Zion to call a congress and dissolve itself. This it refused to do and Communist members later left the organisation and joined their national Communist Parties, while in Poale Zion, Zionist and reformist tendencies became dominant.]
I would like to quote here one of the most striking examples of the Zionist movement.
In Palestine we are not dealing with a population whose majority is Jewish. We are dealing with a mere minority which is trying to subjugate the majority of the workers in the country to the capital of the Entente.
We must combat these efforts in the most energetic way. The Zionists are seeking to win supporters in every country, and through their agitation and their propaganda serve the interests of the capitalist class. The Communist International must combat this movement in the most energetic way.
Murphy: Since we were forced to leave the hall we were not able to take part in the vote on the election of the representatives of the individual nations who were to speak on the colonial question. I ask you to allow the British delegation to choose two of its comrades, that is to say a representative of each of the two tendencies represented here.
Serrati: Does the Congress agree to re-open the vote and to grant the British delegation’s request? [Signs of agreement. The British comrades are asked to choose two delegates.]
McLaine: I shall not waste any time over the question of which of the British revolutionary movements has done more to fight British imperialism and to support the oppressed colonial people.
The British revolutionary movement is not a strong one and has done little in this direction. Nevertheless I must protest against Comrade Radek’s claim that the British did nothing to prevent England’s attacks on Russia apart from passing a few resolutions on the question. To that we can answer what General Golovin said to Sasanov in a secret report, in which he reported an interview with Churchill and regretted that he could not give more support to Kolchak and his friends, and that the help Great Britain had sent to the Whites had to be set in motion secretly because of the opposition of the British working class.
A false construction has been placed upon the words of Comrade Quelch, who said in a session of the Commission that a great revolutionary uprising in India could be thought of as treason to Great Britain and could give the British government the opportunity, through the control of the press, to incite the British people against Indian workers. Comrade Quelch did not mean that we should therefore give up our revolutionary activity, but that we should keep sight of the facts and avoid events like those at Amritsar.
The task of the Communist International consists in establishing guidelines for the activity and the principles that lead to the world revolution. The biggest obstacle to the world revolution is imperialist capitalism, and the biggest capitalist state is Great Britain.
Therefore the colonial question consists to a great extent of the question of how best to attack British capitalism. British capitalism is powerful by virtue of the exploitation of workers at home and the exploitation of the colonial population. When British capitalism began, it needed support itself, but now the whole world must pay tribute to it. All the oppressed peoples are exploited by the parasitical capitalism of Britain.
Imports are now far larger than exports – a proof of the fact that England is a parasite’ . In future, British capitalism will try to measure workers’ wages by the full value of the work that they do, but only on condition that they cast their votes for the exploitation of the oppressed peoples.
Therefore it is our duty to take part in the revolutionary struggle at home and to support all truly revolutionary movements. Every national revolutionary movement that fights for liberation from Great Britain contributes to the development of the world revolution, since it fights against imperialist reaction. All such movements must be supported.
Wijnkoop: I said yesterday that the question discussed here is a very important one, and that is now evident. We should think about the fact that imperialism and the world war have made it downright impossible for the industrial countries to continue to send the necessary machines and finished products to the agrarian countries and that, vice-versa, the political phenomena of the world war have also prevented agricultural products from reaching the mass of the proletariat in the industrial countries. If we think it through seriously, then we know that this problem goes much further than all the other problems on the agenda. Now we must keep clearly in sight what we actually decide upon in Comrade Lenin’s and Comrade Roy’s Theses. The Theses were agreed upon jointly through discussion, and now these Theses actually say that we have not to work in the colonial countries for national rule, as the bourgeoisie preaches, but for the soviets of workers and peasants, and it is established that in order to achieve this goal we must support the revolutionary movements. The word ‘support’ is used materially, because we really mean it, we really want to support. We want to support the revolutionary action of these masses, even if it is not a socialist movement, through the mediation of whatever Communist Parties there are in the colonies. With this tactic we start from the fact that it is not necessary for foreign imperialism to bring capitalism into non-capitalist countries as an inevitable stage in the transition to communism. On the contrary, we want, whenever possible, to prevent this by our tactics and by support of the revolutionary movement. We are therefore fighting not only against the political rule of foreign imperialism but also against the growth of national capitalism. If we do that, then I think that the support of the revolutionary nationalist mass movements, and the fight against the conviction that the penetration of capitalism into the colonies is a necessary precondition for the transition to socialism, are the main things in the Theses of Comrades Lenin and Roy.
If we look at the matter in this way we cannot agree with Comrade Graziadei’s amendment, for if I have understood him correctly he is proposing not to apply these Theses to Italy, so that the rising nationalist movement will receive no support on the part of the communists. He is afraid that we are perhaps counting Italy in with those backward countries, and for this reason he thinks that his amendment is necessary. I, however, think it is superfluous, since it seems to me that nobody here could assume that the paragraphs listed here under section 11 could apply to a country like Italy. These only refer to those states and nations that have a backward character, so that a country like Italy cannot at all be brought under this heading. We also considered in the Commission whether it would not be to the purpose to describe in greater detail what we mean by a backward country. The question was answered in the negative. If we were to accept Comrade Graziadei’s proposal there would immediately be new difficulties with, for example, Bulgaria and Greece. Such questions will always arise and they can only be solved practically by the Communist Parties of the individual countries with the help of the Theses and of the guidelines that the Communist International will give here. It would therefore not be wise to accept Comrade Graziadei’s addendum here, although I think that his practical aim is good. It is the same with the other special amendments that he proposes. The Irish comrade has already polemicised against his proposal to amend ‘active support’ to ‘active interest’. Perhaps this speaker did not understand Comrade Graziadei but if this construction can be placed on these words then it is a misconstruction. We must oppose it. We want the workers to have an active interest in the struggles of the communists. We want them also to support revolutionary nationalist movements. Comrade Graziadei wants the same thing but he thinks it is expressed better in the words he uses.
We say in the Theses that there must be support. I do not think therefore that it would be good to accept Comrade Graziadei’s wording. I agree with what Comrade Frumkina said. I do not know whether the motion is good. If it does not fit some country or other we must deal with the question in the Commission.
Comrade Maring said so much about Java that we do not need to say any more here. I associate myself completely with him. In order to show that there is really a capitalist development there with all its characteristics it is sufficient to say that the two hundred sugar refineries of which Comrade Maring spoke are in the hands of three trusts which are also expanding into other firms and industries. That is the phenomenon of the highest stage of capitalism. The proletarians must fight it and that is what they are doing.
Now to talk about Comrade Radek’s remarks. I am glad that Comrade Radek said that English imperialism cannot be beaten in London but in the colonies. I really believe that many English comrades do not understand this. Comrade Radek understands it very well but it must be understood in general and not in a petty manner. When Comrade Radek asks how many of the English comrades have been to jail for agitating in the colonies, then I say that the English comrades do not need to answer such a question. We do not ask whether comrades have been to jail or not. We ask whether comrades have done their duty and Comrade McLaine has answered that to a certain extent. In this respect Comrade Radek has in my opinion exaggerated the role of parliamentarism. He thinks that if a comrade
speaks out against imperialism in parliament Reuters will report it. In fact Reuters does not carry such reports. We in Holland did not learn until much later and from different sources that some women held a demonstration in parliament. Reuters does not report such things. [Interjection from Walcher: ‘Comrade Radek did not say that at all'].
And now I would like to finish off with one more question. They say that we must go to the colonies. That is of course not the most important thing for the Communist Parties in the various countries. We cannot all send our agitators to the colonial countries. We must create the necessary preconditions so that every colonial country can develop its own revolutionary movement. Admittedly we need agitators for this but it is not a question of us sending our agitators into the colonies. If you take the work in the colonies as the barometer of a party’s revolutionary significance, then precisely the Dutch party has done everything in its power. It had comrades in the colonies who support and developed the revolutionary movements of the natives. The Tribunites and the Dutch communists were the most active at this and for that reason it is wrong to speak about their party in the way people already have done. It was precisely the Dutch party which showed what a close connection existed between this question and the revolutionary struggle. If we are hated and persecuted in Holland this does not happen because we can start a revolution in this country for in fact we cannot do it without uniting with England or Germany – but because we create problems for Messrs the capitalists in their colonial affairs.
Mereshin: The Jewish sections of the Communist Party of Russia are in complete agreement with the judgement of Zionism and of the Jewish Communist Party Poale Zion expressed in Comrade Frumkina’s speech and I do not wish to repeat the same thing. I would like now to deal with another question, the question of the defence of the rights of national minorities living in territories with a mixed population. The parties of the Second International found a way of defending these rights through national personal autonomy (the theory of Otto Bauer and Renner). In the Ukraine, in White Russia and in Lithuania, the attempt has been made to put this theory into practice. There under the Central Rada and other petty-bourgeois governments a national personal autonomy was created.
[The Ukrainian Central Council, or Rada, was first set up in Kiev in March 1917, under bourgeois nationalist control and became the effective government at the time of the Kerensky Provisional Government. The Bolsheviks entered the Rada but with the downfall of Kerensky a conflict broke out and an all-Ukrainian Congress of Soviets was called for December, 1917. It fell into the hands of the nationalists and the Bolsheviks walked out and joined another Congress of Soviets meeting in Kharkov which proclaimed the Rada an ‘enemy of the people’. A civil war followed, the Red Army entered Kiev and the leaders of the Rada fled. They returned when German troops marched into the Ukraine and took Kiev. In April, 1918 the Rada was dispersed by German troops and a puppet government was set up for the Ukraine.]
This attempt must be taken into account and evaluated. We must establish that the attempt has proved that national personal autonomy does not work.
The transfer of power from the big bourgeoisie to the petty bourgeoisie, to the democratic republican government, has in no way lessened the national pressure. The social traitors who had come to power while in words granting national personal autonomy in fact performed more cruelties in the fight against the dictatorship of the proletariat than even Tsarism. A forcible naturalisation was irresistibly introduced despite the official proclamation of national personal autonomy. But what are we to say about naturalisation when the same petty-bourgeois parties who had on paper declared themselves ready to recognise national personal autonomy even went so far as to introduce physical annihilation of the national minority, particularly through the so-called ‘Ukrainian People’s Directory’ and the governments of Pilsudsky, Moraczevsky, etc., etc. (the cruellest pogroms, raids, etc.).
However we must make a further comment. It must be established that in and of itself, national personal autonomy worsens the position of the proletariat of the national minorities. This comes from the fact that the petty bourgeoisie of the national minorities is predominantly urban, and that this urban petty bourgeoisie is significantly less revolutionary than the petty bourgeoisie of the national majorities. For in the national majorities the petty bourgeoisie, particularly in Eastern Europe, consists predominantly of peasants who are revolutionised in the struggle with the landlords. In fact the proletariat of the national minorities have frequently had to appeal to ‘foreigners’ against the national personal autonomy ‘granted’ to them. In the face of its own bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie it was isolated and in a worse position than if it had never possessed national personal autonomy.
For the reasons that I have mentioned I propose to add the following Thesis after the third Thesis:
‘The experience of the mutual relations between the majority and minority nationalities in territories with a mixed population (in the Ukraine, in Poland and in White Russia) hag shown that the transfer of power from the hands of the big bourgeoisie into the hands of petty-bourgeois groups forming democratic republican states, does not reduce national tensions but on the contrary sharpens them in the extreme. The republican democracy, which is forced, in the struggle against the working class, to confuse the class struggle with national war, is quickly permeated with national exclusiveness and easily adapts itself to the experience of older teachers of national oppression. This experience is eagerly repeated in the area of the incitement of one mass of people against another and in the area of the organisation, with the help of the state apparatus, of mass national violence for the purpose of fighting against the dictatorship of the proletariat. There is the example of the growth of anti-semitism in the Ukrainian ‘democracy’ at the end of 1917 and the beginning of 1918 under the Central Rada, the vicious race riots organised at the end of 1918 and in the first half of 1919 that were organised by the organs of the “Ukrainian People’s Directory”, and the pogrom movement in the “Polish Democratic Republic”, not only under the mixed regime (Pilsudsky-Skuisky) but also under the rule of the party of the Second International (PPS – the Moraczevsky government). The same experience has shown that there are no “democratic’ forms (and that includes the national personal autonomy defended by the Austrian Social Democracy) that can secure the rights and the cultural interests of the national minorities in areas of mixed population in the republican-democratic order, and guarantee true equality and equal influence on the course of the business of state. National personal autonomy, based on universal suffrage, leads not only to the division of the proletariat into national groups, but also to the complete cessation of the revolutionary struggle and even to the worsening of the cultural position of the working class in the national minority. This arises because within every national minority the national petty bourgeoisie, which is larger and stronger than the proletariat and consists predominantly of town dwellers, is significantly more reactionary than the petty-bourgeois majority of the nation, which consists of peasants revolutionised by the fight against the landlords.'
I would like also to touch on the special problem of pogroms.
The Jewish section of the Communist Party of Russia propose the following resolution on this question:
‘1. In its bloody campaign against the dictatorship of the proletariat the world counter-revolution falls with especial cruelty on the poorest Jewish population of Russia, the Ukraine, Poland, Hungary, Palestine, etc.
‘2.. Through its oppression of the poorest Jewish inhabitants, beside which the atrocities not only of Tsarism but also of the medieval inquisition pale into insignificance, the world counter-revolution is striving to introduce splits and disagreements into the ranks of the workers of different nationalities in order to distract their attention from the immediate struggle against the bourgeois order.
‘The Second Congress of the Communist International establishes in front of the whole world:
‘1. That responsibility for all the pogroms against the Jews in recent times in the Ukraine, Poland, Rumania, Hungary, Palestine, etc. falls fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the Entente, which heads all counter-revolutionary enterprises against the Communist Revolution.
‘2. That the Entente, who supply every species of White Guard, who cover the territory they occupy with hundreds of thousands of innocent victims with every possible means of destruction, and justify them morally, do not move a finger to check the instigators of the pogroms and do not pay the slightest attention to the protests of the toiling masses against the pogroms.
‘Indeed the agents of the Entente whom we find in the counter-revolutionary armies of Russia, the Ukraine, Poland, Hungary and other countries, take a direct part in these pogroms. We saw this most clearly in the pogrom in Jerusalem in April of this year, which was organised by the agents of the English government.
‘3. That the parties of the yellow Second International in power, in the shape of the ‘Ukrainian Peoples’ Directory’ in the Ukraine and of the Pilsudski government in Poland, are moral and physical participants in the pogroms which have had the extermination of hundreds of thousands of women and children as a result. In their struggle against the dictatorship of the proletariat they have drowned the Ukraine and Poland in floods of innocent blood.
‘The Second Congress of the Communist International, which expresses the will of the revolutionary proletariat of the world, therefore raises the most decisive protest against the pogroms against the Jews, which are the work of the international counter-revolution. It calls on the workers of every country to fight against them actively in word and deed in order to unmask the hypocritical diplomats of the ‘League of Nations’, reveal their true shameful role and to set up everywhere the dictatorship of the proletariat which alone is able to put an end to all pogroms, to do away with all national prejudices, to tear down all the barriers that divide nations and to bring about the true fraternity of nations all over the globe.
‘In particular the Second Congress of the Communist International addresses itself to the workers of all the enslaved nations with the call to form up more closely around the banner of the Communist International, which brings to all of mankind the final liberation from the injustices of the capitalist order.'
Murphy: I cannot say everything that I wanted to say because the English delegation has not been given the opportunity of deepening the discussion to a sufficient degree.
I shall content myself with drawing the attention of the Congress to the close links that exist between the revolutionary movements in Europe and those in the colonies. The movement in Egypt is one of the most serious revolutionary movements. The struggle in India is assuming significant proportions. The Communist International has the duty of supporting these movements. It is a question of grouping them together so that all together they produce a mighty international movement in which national interests are subordinated to international interests. The Communist International must build sections in every country so that it is able to bring the different revolutionary movements into harmony and transform them into an international communist movement.
Cohn-Eber: As a result of some of the speakers who have intervened in it unexpectedly, the debate has taken a turn with which nobody can be in agreement who knows the exigencies of a communist policy towards the nationalities. I would like to make one remark before I deal with the motions of Comrades Frumkina and Mereshin, who have brought this turn into the discussion. The main emphasis in the Theses is on peoples living in territorial concentrations, that is to say on oppressed nationalities who are ruled by a foreign power. There is no talk in general of minorities living in mixed populations. Only the 9th Thesis talks about guaranteeing the rights of national minorities. In the Commission I had moved an addendum to this Thesis, to the second sentence of the paragraph following the words ‘united in struggle with the bourgeoisie’, to read as follows: ‘secondly to fight for social institutions which make possible the satisfaction of the cultural and socio-economic needs of the toiling masses of the minorities.’ It is necessary to create quite specific organisational preconditions which the Communist Parties in the individual countries should encourage and defend. The Commission agreed, however, that the 9th Thesis expresses quite clearly, although only in general, the defence of the rights of the national minorities and the creation of the social institutions that are to realise these rights, and that they should avoid adopting detailed demands in the Theses. For that reason I was prepared to withdraw my addendum. Faced with the danger however that for lack of opposition Mereshin’s motion may perhaps be passed, I am readopting the motion I read out and submitting it to the Congress. This Thesis corresponds exactly to the demands of the party I represent, the Poale Zion. The Jewish proletariat is completely satisfied to be granted social institutions that make an answer to their cultural and socio-political needs possible, insofar as this can be carried out within the framework of the Soviet Constitution and does not contradict the needs of the soviets in struggle.
Comrade Mereshin’s resolution on national personal autonomy is based on an incorrect view of the facts and above all on incorrect conclusions. When he says that the attempts to introduce national personal autonomy in the Ukraine had damaging results, in that as a result the majority in the institutions of national autonomy fell into the hands of the Jewish bourgeoisie, which is reactionary, he forgets that this happened at a time when there was a democratic government, that a general suffrage had just been introduced into these institutions and that these results could not have been a surprise for any communist. If on the other hand institutions are set up to satisfy the cultural and socio-economic needs of the national minorities with specific, sharply delineated autonomy under the control of the soviet power and under the leadership of the communist proletariat of the nation in question, then no higher degree of damaging results are to be expected than would be the case from any other social institution. I do not think anyway that either Comrade Frumkina’s motion or my own need to be put explicitly, since the soviet power, driven by the needs of the proletariat and on the basis of their own constitution, will have to grant the opportunity for self-government to the national minorities as well. I would also like briefly to point out that Comrade Mereshin, has fallen victim to a misunderstanding which is, it must be said, characteristic. He says that Renner and Otto Bauer theoretically demanded national personal autonomy. That is a mistake. These two leaders of the Austrian opportunists only developed the theory of the national autonomy of the majorities, and merely demanded legal guarantees for the minorities.
As far as Comrade Mereshin’s resolution on anti-semitism is concerned, I must merely point out the passage that was added to the 10th Thesis by the Commission and sufficiently emphasises the necessity of combating this reactionary phenomenon. Comrade Mereshin’s long resolution would only give the impression that we are trying to use the Congress to mount a campaign on the role of the Entente on this question too among the representatives of the Jewish proletariat. I think that the Congress has more important things to worry about.
What has to be said on the phenomenon of national hatred and xenophobia and the pogroms created by the reactionary powers is said clearly enough in the Thesis I have mentioned.
Partly for the same reason I would like to speak out in the most decisive way possible against Comrade Frumkina’s resolution. We are of course in agreement with the content of the first part. Bourgeois Zionism, which needs must enter the service of British imperialism if it does not wish to condemn itself to being utopian from the very start, this bourgeois movement must of course be fought as sharply as possible under all circumstances. And it is precisely the communist Poale Zion movement which is the most energetic in this fight. But what the Congress and the whole of the Communist International has to say about this has already been expressed *in Thesis 11, paragraph 6. Comrade Frumkina’s resolution is therefore completely superfluous and not at all inspired by the intention to fight bourgeois Zionism. Otherwise we could have the Congress passing long-winded resolutions on other bourgeois nationalist so-called liberation movements in the service of individual Entente powers. The real aim of this resolution can be seen in the second part. You have here an absolute model of the kind of evil squabbling that has for years poisoned the political life of Jewish workers. Comrade Frumkina’s party, the Communist Bund, is simply trying to use the opportunity to start a petty fight between parties at the Congress. Comrade Frumkina, the representative of a party which only yesterday supported all the counter-revolutionary governments in Russia, whose leaders Dan and Lieber were among the most important figures in the Menshevik counterrevolution, claims that we – Poale Zion – are hiding our activities under a communist veil. She says that about us, who were the first of the Jewish parties in Russia to take the side of the Bolsheviks in the fight against the counter-revolution and who took up the struggle for the world revolution in all the other countries too before all the other tendencies in the Jewish working class.
[The General Jewish Workers’ Union in Russia and Poland. Founded in Vilna in 1897 by russified Jewish intellectuals as a Social-Democratic movement but demanding national cultural autonomy for the Jews. Condemned by the Second Congress of the RS MP in 1903 it continued to attract many Jewish workers until the Russian Revolution. After 1917, the left wing of the Bund joined the Bolsheviks, as Communist Bundists.]
She justified her resolution with some general statements that show no knowledge of the territories in question. I shall give some information on this as we are dealing with countries that have not been discussed today although they come within the sphere of British imperialism and will in the future play a role that will be important in every respect. I am talking about the countries of Arabian Asia: Mesopotamia, Syria and Arabia. Frumkina would like to pass off the movement which seized the Arabian Orient during the world war as a national liberation movement. What we are in fact dealing with is the attempt by the nomad tribes of the Arabian desert, mainly the Hadji, under the influence of their religious leaders to impose on the settled population of these countries the oldest kind of slavery, that is to say the feudal organisation of the rule of the tribal leaders over the peasants. The Communist International supports this movement and its leader the King of the Hadji, the Emir of Fezan and similar ‘liberation fighters’ – a remarkable beginning!
What is the real situation in the Arabian Orient? The great mass of the population consists of Arab fellahin who have remained in the most primitive economic conditions through the heavy pressure of the Turkish government. But there was one favourable circumstance which seemed to prevent complete impoverishment, and that was the existence of a kind of common ownership of the land and of property which seemed to be based on certain primitive communist regulations in the law of Islam. The Bedouins who are leading the allegedly $national’ movement are striving to set in motion the worst exploitation of the working population by expropriating the fellahin’s land. They are completely supported in this by English imperialism. The English bourgeoisie after all started off by ‘liberating’ the peasant population from the land in the most radical manner, as we read in Volume I of Capital on primitive accumulation. Comrade Frumkina would like to see the Communist International encourage this ‘liberation’ carried out by the Bedouin chiefs under the protection of the English bourgeoisie.
How do we stand, then, the Communist Poale Zion, in relation to Palestine? First of all we do not want to set up a state, least of all with the support of British imperialism, but we are convinced that in the process of rendering the Jewish masses productive, of attracting them to useful and socially necessary work, a certain number of Jews will emigrate from the countries in which they at present live in their masses, such as, for example, the Ukraine, Lithuania and especially Poland. Some of these emigrants will also go to Palestine and there be attracted to agriculture. The only thing that follows from that as far as we are concerned is the demand for the opportunity to emigrate and to colonise this country as long as it is m the hands of the British or any other bourgeoisie. We only raise this demand in order to regulate the emigration and the colonising activity of the Jewish and every other proletariat with the support and the fraternal help of the Communist International and in the sharpest struggle with the Jewish and the world bourgeoisie, to the extent that such activity is at all possible for the working class under the capitalist order. If in the development of the social revolution Palestine becomes a soviet state that joins the federation of other soviet states, then the question of the Jewish colonisation of this country will become part of the question of the attraction of the Jewish masses to productive work, of their participation in the construction of the free society of working people. The solution of this question occurs in the framework of the rational use of the natural resources in the lightly populated colonial countries and the appropriate application of the hitherto unused or very badly used human labour power in industry.
But these views of ours have nothing to do with the thought of a bourgeois state. On the contrary our movement, which has arisen in every country out of the needs of the Jewish proletariat, is everywhere in the front rank of the struggle against imperialism. In Palestine, indeed all over Arabian Asia, it is the socialist party of Palestine (Poale Zion) affiliated to us which is the only proletarian communist group that fights British imperialism under the most difficult conditions and has the task of leading the working masses of the Arabian Orient in this struggle. [The chairman interrupts the speaker.] The proposed resolution also ignores the most important social facts and tries to lay the Congress open to ridicule. It is namely a fact that, just as the Jewish bourgeoisie was the first to introduce modern capitalist economic forms of exploitation into the country (forms which, moreover, if we were to be given a choice between the various forms of exploitation as the Communist Bund wishes, we would still prefer to the feudal forms that Comrade Frumkina recommends), so too the Jewish immigrant workers are the only modern, truly propertyless proletariat which is for that reason filled with class consciousness and inspired by the revolutionary will to fight. The Arab masses who work on the estates of Jewish landlords and Arab effendis usually possess their own land and can only be characterised as semi-proletarians. Their natural champion which has to draw them into the revolutionary struggle and fill them with proletarian consciousness is our party there which, true to the principles of the Communist International, has carried out very lively revolutionary propaganda among them.
The speaker is called upon to wind up his remarks.
Comrade Frumkina’s resolution contradicts not only all the given facts but also the spirit and the letter of the Theses, which demand support of the proletarian communist groups against the efforts of the bourgeois national revolutionaries wherever the former exist. It would do extraordinary damage to the communist movement of the Jewish proletariat all over the world and to the communist movement in the Arabian Orient in particular. I therefore ask the Congress not to permit itself to be used for the purposes of the worst sectarian squabbling and to reject this resolution in whose favour I have not a single polite word to say.
Frumkina: I protest against the accusation that has been raised against the Bund. It has always stood on the side of the soviet power, even when it was not in the ranks of the Communist Party.
Zinoviev: I propose that we take a vote for and against the Theses and send the proposals to the Commission. I hope that in its evaluation the Commission will reach a unanimous verdict. Should differences of opinion arise, they will be put before the Congress.
Serrati: Actually I wanted to speak on this question further, but I prefer now to limit myself to making a statement about the way I shall vote.
In the Theses proposed to the Congress by Comrades Lenin and Roy on the national and colonial question I find not only several contradictions but also a great danger for the position of the Communist proletariat in the advanced countries, which must reject any kind of class collaboration particularly in the period leading up to the revolution.
The definition of the ‘backward’ countries is too indefinite and too imprecise for it not to be open to various chauvinist interpretations.
In general national liberation action undertaken by bourgeois-democratic groups is not revolutionary action even if it adopts the methods of insurrection.
It is undertaken in the interests of a developing national imperialism or in the struggle of the capitalist imperialism of a new state against the previous ruling state. National liberation can never be revolutionary if the working class does not participate in it. Even in the so-called backward countries the class struggle can only proceed if the independence of the working class is preserved from all its exploiters, even from the bourgeois democrats who call themselves ‘revolutionary nationalists’.
The true liberation of the enslaved peoples can only be carried out through the proletarian revolution and the soviet order, and not by a temporary and accidental alliance between the Communist Parties and the nominally revolutionary bourgeois parties.
On the contrary, such alliances can only lead to the weakening of proletarian class consciousness, particularly in those countries that are less accustomed to the struggle against capitalism.
The Theses’ lack of clarity conceals within itself the danger of giving weapons to the pseudo-revolutionary chauvinism of Western Europe against truly communist international action.
I therefore declare that I shall not cast my vote.
Wijnkoop: This is fantastic. If Comrade Serrati is going to abstain then that of course is his own affair. But he has not contributed at any point in the discussion and brought his arguments forward, which he could have done and which he had a duty to do. Instead of that he stands up now and says that these very well-prepared Theses are counter-revolutionary. That has got to be discussed. By waiting until now to bring his claims forward he robs us of the opportunity of speaking against him. And the comrade who does this is very well known. The bourgeoisie and the workers who stand to the right and to the left of us will come along and say that all our policies on the colonial question are counter-revolutionary.
If the Congress has any self-respect it must force Comrade Serrati to discuss this matter here, and I therefore propose to start a discussion on the content of this protest and abstention here and now.
Serrati: I do not know if Comrade Wijnkoop has as much respect for me as Comrade Levi claims to have for him. I have never given reactionaries a pretext to attack my party. MY activity in the international communist movement is so clear that none of my declarations can be used as a weapon by our opponents. I have never deviated from my revolutionary standpoint, I have never made statements in favour of Germany or France in order to collect votes in an election, as Comrade Wijnkoop is accused of doing. I have always been very independent, and that is – why my statements have had weight in the international movement. I have duties towards this movement which I shall fulfil. I do not care what the bourgeoisie think of me or whether they think I am a ‘traitor’. The reason why I made this statement here and did not join the discussion are quite different. I think it is quite obvious that the Theses read out here can and must be adopted as such by the Congress. I however am in a completely different position. For six years I have struggled against the nationalist movement in my country, and if I were to vote for such a resolution it would give grounds for the claim that there was a contradiction between my attitude in Italy and the resolution that I vote for here.
Zinoviev: I would like to declare on behalf of the Russian delegation that we find Comrade Serrati’s statement very uncomradely. Comrade Serrati had every opportunity to take part in the discussion in the Commission and raise his objections. That is what discussions are for.
The International Congress has met to test individual experiences and draw the balance. It is incomprehensible why the Congress should be put in such a position. We cannot force anybody to discuss, but if Comrade Serrati has made an official statement against us then we must make an official statement in reply. He is trying to make out that we say that we want to support bourgeois revolutionary movements.
That is not what we want. What has been said here is that the communists support every revolutionary movement. I do not know what particular struggles have come up in Italy. We have experience in a number of countries and we think that, as communists, we must support each and every revolutionary movement. I repeat, we have no choice b ut to make a counter-statement. We cannot understand why Comrade Serrati did not wish to voice his objections in the Commission. We cannot start a new discussion. Let the Italian workers judge who is right and who is wrong, and I believe that out of 100 Italian workers, 99 will say that the Congress was right, and not Comrade Serrati.
Roy: Serrati has called my Theses and Comrade Lenin’s counter-revolutionary.
Serrati: No, no!
Roy: I am firmly convinced that no proletariat in any country can see support for reaction in the support of oppressed peoples in the fight against their oppressors. In the backward countries the national revolution is a step forwards. It would be unscientific to distinguish between different kinds of revolution. All revolutions are various stages of the social revolution. The population of the exploited countries whose economic and political evolution cannot proceed, have to pass through different revolutionary phases from the European peoples. Whoever thinks that it is reactionary to help these peoples in their national struggle is reactionary himself and speaks the language of imperialism.
I protest against Comrade Serrati’s declaration and ask for it to be struck from the minutes.
Wijnkoop: No representative of the revolutionary movement has the right to say that kind of thing. Serrati has boasted that he has never made a statement in favour of France or Germany. In my opinion that is an innuendo. I propose to speak against the arrangements that have been made here. I ask for an inquiry to be set up into this matter. I ask for Comrade Serrati’s statement to be struck from the minutes since it was not made in the Congress. Comrade Serrati will be quite free to submit all his ideas to the next Congress of the Italian Party.
Serrati: I can see nothing improper in an investigation being set up into the allegations that have been made against the Dutch Party. I did not make the accusations. I merely called to mind what Comrade Levi said. That is something completely different. I would remind you, since the comrade offers me the opportunity to do so, that one does not need to speak on, a declaration on how a vote is to be cast. I have not raised this question because I do not want a discussion, but I think it strange that the comrades allow de to speak when in fact they do not have the right to discuss my declaration on how I am going to vote. I find it even stranger that a comrade claims that my declaration should be struck from the minutes. I could have proposed that all the stupid things that have been said here should be struck from the minutes. I could have proposed that the accusation Comrade Levi hurled at Comrade Wijnkoop should not be mentioned in the minutes. It is much more serious than the specific, clear and precise statement that I made and which I ask to be included in the minutes.
Comrade Roy did not understand my statement. I say that he did not understand it because I think I have expressed myself with sufficient clarity. I was trying to say that in the form proposed the Theses are not clear enough and could give rise to chauvinist and nationalist interpretations. If I had thought, my dear Comrade Roy, that it was a question of adopting counter-revolutionary Theses, then I am honest and open enough to vote against them, and there would have been nothing wrong with somebody voting against an already formulated proposal at a communist Congress.
Comrade Roy said that every revolution has a social character, but that means that during the war we would have had to serve as the agents and servants of the bourgeoisie. They told us that revolutionary war is social war, and that we must participate in it. And we answer no, we will not participate in it.
Comrade Zinoviev made a statement on behalf of the Communist Party of Russia in which he calls on me to speak clearly and simply. I have always done so. But I have also said quite clearly that I feel incapable of discussing this question which cannot be debated in the form in which it is put.
I had intended to propose a motion, and I did not do so because I thought that it would not be possible to keep to a certain objective discussion.
I wanted to propose the following motion: ‘The Congress sends warm fraternal greetings to all those peoples suffering under the oppression of imperialist states. It expresses its full and active sympathy for their struggle directed against all exploiters, and declares that, in its struggle against the oppression of capital, the working class has the right to use national uprisings in order in the end to transform them into the social revolution.’ The thought behind this is very simple. Instead of saying that, in specific cases under specific circumstances and with specific guarantees the Communist Party and the working class can unite with the petty-bourgeois movement, I say: No, the working class can use a petty-bourgeois revolutionary movement for the purposes of a social revolution. But it may not support the bourgeoisie, particularly in backward countries, since it would otherwise run the danger of losing its class position and its class orientation, and the masses in backward countries that are more advanced since the proletariat there does not yet have a firm class consciousness and often follows its leaders blindly.
Comrade Zinoviev declared that the workers must judge the behaviour of their representatives at the International Congress. It goes without saying that on their return the delegates will have to give an account of themselves to those who sent them. And the masses will judge our behaviour. I have always adopted an implacable attitude towards the petty bourgeoisie. I also maintained this attitude at the national congress in Florence, and the congress approved of my attitude.
Wijnkoop: Comrade Serrati has tried to cast suspicion on our Party and he has tried to cast suspicion on me, and that because I have already spoken once. But he wants to speak twice. I scarcely think that Comrade Serrati, who himself moved the closure of the discussion, will be given the right to speak a second time in his own defence. I would like to propose that I am at least given the right to speak.
Zinoviev: I propose that we take a vote on the motion to close the debate. It is useless to continue these personal attacks. Comrade Serrati has the right to insist that the declaration he has made should be included in the minutes. [Interjection from Wijnkoop.] The minutes reflect what has taken place, and for that reason it must go down in the minutes. We propose that all resolutions and motions be referred to the Commission.
Wijnkoop: Not without a discussion.
Levi: We will take the vote on the closure of the debate.
The motion to close the debate is passed with 5 votes against
Wijnkoop: I have moved that it is completely impossible to close the discussion.
Levi: Who is in favour of Comrade Wijnkoop’s motion? Who is in favour of opening the debate when it has just been closed?
Comrade Wijnkoop’s proposal is rejected, with 8 votes in favour.
Levi: Comrade Wijnkoop’s motion has been rejected by an overwhelming majority. We come now to the vote on the Theses in general. The vote on the Theses is to take place now. All amendments will be referred to the Commission. If differences of opinion arise in the Commission it will make a second report to the Congress.
A vote takes place on whether all outstanding questions should be referred to the Commission, This is passed unanimously.
Frumkina: It has been said that the Bund participated in the counter-revolutionary agitation of the Second International. The Bund never participated in the agitation against the socialist revolution, but on the contrary applied all its energies to the defence of the Soviet government even before the Bund was communist. If the question of the Second International arises, then somebody ought to remind Comrade Cohn that the Poale Zion Party in Palestine turned to the Second International for support and got it. The Executive rejected Poale Zion’s request to have their representative admitted.
Serrati: Comrade Wijnkoop said that he would like to institute an inquiry into the allegations I made against the Dutch Party. I must emphasise that I did not make any allegations but merely repeated what Comrade Levi said without any refutation on the part of Comrade Wijnkoop and what the comrades on the Executive also said without arousing any protest.
Bombacci: I declare that I do not share the opinions expressed in Comrade Serrati’s declaration.
Wijnkoop: I did not ask for the right to speak for personal reasons, but in order to make a proposal. Now that I have the floor, however, I must state that everything that Comrade Serrati has said in this connection about our Party bears no relation to the truth. Whether or not he leans on Comrade Levi in spreading these untruths is no affair of mine. They are and remain untruths, so much must be established. The comrades on the Executive did not say the same as Comrade Serrati. The Amsterdam Bureau is not identical with the Dutch Party, and our Party has nothing to do with the allegations that Comrade Serrati was free to bring against it because I criticised him. I propose that Comrade Serrati’s protest should be struck from the minutes because it has not been discussed here.
Pestaña: Since I represent not a political party but a syndicalist organisation and cannot assume any responsibilities that I not sure I can fulfil, I shall abstain.
Graziadei: My attitude is known from the statement that I have already made here. I shall vote for the Theses including the amendments I proposed.
Zinoviev: We have a motion from Comrade Wijnkoop to strike Comrade Serrati’s statement from the minutes. We are of the opinion, and I ask comrades to support the Bureau’s opinion, that such a vote is impossible. All those who agree with this opinion please raise your hands. Who is against? There seems to be no one against. The Congress now proposes to take the vote on the Theses and close the debate.
The proposal is passed.
Zinoviev: The next item on the agenda is the Theses on the colonial and national question, which read as follows:
1. An abstract or formal conception of the question of equality in general and national equality in particular is characteristic of the bourgeoisie by its very nature. Under the pretence of the equality of the human person in general, bourgeois democracy proclaims the formal legal equality of the proprietor and the proletarian, of the exploiter and the exploited, and thus deceives the oppressed classes in the highest degree. The idea of equality, which is itself a reflection of the relations of commodity production, is transformed by the bourgeoisie, under the pretext of the absolute equality of the human person, into a tool in the struggle against the abolition of classes. The true significance of the demand of equality lies only in the demand for the abolition of classes.
2. As the conscious expression of the proletarian class struggle to throw off the yoke of the bourgeoisie, and in accordance with its main task, which is the fight against bourgeois democracy and the unmasking of its lies and hypocrisy, the Communist Party should not place the main emphasis in the national question on abstract and formal principles, but in the first place on an exact evaluation of the historically given and above all economic milieu. Secondly it should emphasise the explicit separation of the interests of the oppressed classes, of the toilers, of the exploited, from the general concept of the national interest, which means the interests of the ruling class. Thirdly it must emphasise the equally clear division of the oppressed, dependent nations which do not enjoy equal rights from the oppressing, exploiting, privileged nations, as a counter to the bourgeois democratic lie which covers over the colonial and financial enslavement of the vast majority of the world’s total population, by a tiny minority of the richest and most advanced capitalist countries, that is characteristic of the epoch of finance capital and imperialism.
3. The imperialist war of 1914 has shown all the enslaved nations and oppressed classes throughout the world with particular clarity the mendacity of bourgeois-democratic phraseology. Justified on both sides by phraseology about peoples’ liberation and the right of nations to self determination, the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk and Bucharest on the one side and the Treaty of Versailles and St. Germain on the other have shown that the victorious bourgeoisie determines even ‘national’ frontiers to suit its economic interests. Even ‘national’ frontiers are merely objects of trade for the bourgeoisie. The so-called ‘League of Nations’ is merely the insurance policy by which the victors in this war mutually guarantee their booty. The strivings to re-establish national unity, for ‘reunification with ceded territories’ are for the bourgeoisie nothing other than the attempts by the vanquished to gather strength for new wars. The reunification of nations that have been artificially torn apart also corresponds to the interests of the proletariat. The proletariat can however only achieve real national freedom and unity by the path of revolutionary struggle and over the body of the defeated bourgeoisie. The League of Nations and the whole post-war policy of the imperialist states reveal this truth even more clearly and sharply, everywhere strengthen the revolutionary fight not only of the proletariat of the advanced countries but also of the toiling masses of the colonies and the dependent countries, and hasten the collapse of petty-bourgeois illusions in the possibility of peaceful coexistence and the equality of nations under capitalism.
4. From the principles set forth it follows that the whole policy of the Communist International on the national and colonial question must be based mainly on the union of the workers and toiling masses of all nations and countries in the common revolutionary struggle for the overthrow of the landlords and of the bourgeoisie. For only such a union can secure victory over capitalism, without which the destruction of national oppression and inequality is impossible.
5. The international political situation has now placed the dictatorship of the proletariat on the order of the day, and all the events in international politics are concentrated inevitably around one single central point, around the struggle of the international bourgeoisie against the Russian Soviet Republic. The latter rallies around itself, on the one hand, the soviet movements of the vanguard of the working class in every country and, on the other hand, all the national liberation movements of the colonies and the oppressed nationalities who have been convinced by bitter experience that for them there is no salvation outside an alliance with the revolutionary proletariat and the victory of soviet power over world imperialism.
6. Consequently it is impermissible today to limit oneself to mere recognition or proclamation of sympathy with the toilers of various nations, but it is necessary to pursue a policy of bringing about the closest possible alliance between all the national and colonial liberation movements with Soviet Russia. The forms of this alliance will be determined by the stage of development of the communist movement among the proletariat of every country, or of the revolutionary liberation movement in the backward countries and among the backward nationalities.
7. Federation is a transitional form on the way to the complete unification of the toilers of all nations. Federation has already showed its expediency in practice, not only in the relations between the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic and the other Soviet Republics (the Hungarian, Finnish and Latvian in the past, those of Aserbaijan and the Ukraine at present), but also within the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic, even in relation to nationalities who possessed neither political existence nor self-government (for example the Bashkir and Tartar Republics in the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic, which were set up in 1919 and 1920).
8. The task of the Communist International in this respect consists not only in the further development of this federation based on the soviet order and the soviet movement, but also in its study and the testing of our experiences with it. Recognising that Federation is a form in the transition to complete unification, we must strive for an ever closer federal link. What must be taken into consideration is first the impossibility for the Soviet Republics, surrounded as they are by the militarily significantly stronger imperialist states of the whole world, of continuing to exist without closer links with other Soviet Republics; secondly the necessity of a close economic alliance between the Soviet Republics, without which it is impossible to restore the productive forces destroyed by capitalism and assure the welfare of the toilers; and thirdly the efforts to create a unified world economy according to a common plan regulated by the proletariat of all nations. This tendency has already emerged quite openly under capitalism and insistently seeks its further development and completion under socialism.
9. In the sphere of relations within states the national policy of the Communist International cannot confine itself to the bare formal recognition of the equality of nations, expressed only in words and entailing no practical obligations, to which the bourgeois democracies confine themselves, even those that call themselves ‘socialist’.
It is not sufficient for the Communist Parties to expose unflinchingly in their propaganda and agitation both on the parliamentary tribune and elsewhere the continually repeated offences in every capitalist state, in spite of all the ‘democratic’ constitutions, against the equality of nations and the guaranteed rights of national minorities. It is also necessary first to clarify constantly the point that only the soviet order is capable of assuring nations true equality by uniting first the proletariat and then the whole mass of the toilers in the fight against the bourgeoisie, and secondly to give direct support to the revolutionary movements in dependent nations and those deprived of their rights, through the Communist Parties of the countries in question.
Without the last particularly important condition the struggle against the oppression of the dependent nations and the colonies and the recognition of their right to a separate political existence remains the kind of mendacious hypocrisy that we see in the parties of the Second International.
10. Recognising internationalism in words alone and watering it down in practice with petty-bourgeois nationalism and pacifism is a common phenomenon not only among the parties of the Second International but also among those that have left the International. This phenomenon is frequently seen even in those parties that now call themselves Communist. The fight against this evil, against the most deeply-rooted petty-bourgeois nationalist prejudices, which appear in every possible form such as racial hatred, the baiting of minorities and anti-semitism, must be brought all the more into the foreground the more burning becomes the question of transforming the dictatorship of the proletariat from a national dictatorship (i.e. a dictatorship existing only in one country and incapable of pursuing an independent international policy) into an international dictatorship of the proletariat in at least a few advanced countries which is capable of exercising a decisive influence on international politics). What petty-bourgeois nationalism means by internationalism is the mere recognition of the equality of nations (irrespective of the fact that such recognition is granted in words alone) which leaves national egoism untouched. Proletarian internationalism on the other hand demands: 1) the subordination of the interests of the proletarian struggle of the one country to the interests of this struggle on a world scale, and 2) the ability and the readiness on the part of the nation that carries out its victory over the bourgeoisie to make the greatest national sacrifice in order to overthrow international capitalism.
Therefore the first and most important task in those countries that are already completely capitalist and have workers’ parties that really do represent a vanguard of the proletariat, is to combat the petty-bourgeois pacifist distortions of the conceptions and policies of internationalism.
11. In relation to those states that have a more backward, predominantly feudal, patriarchal or peasant patriarchal character, special attention must be paid to the following points:
a) All Communist Parties must support the revolutionary liberation movements in these countries by their deeds. The form the support should take must be discussed with the Communist Party of the country in question, should such a party exist. This obligation to offer active assistance affects – in the first place the workers of those countries on which the backward countries are in a position of colonial or financial dependence.
b) An unconditional struggle must be carried out against the reactionary and medieval influence of the clergy, the Christian missions and similar elements.
c) A struggle is necessary against Panislamism, the Panasiatic movement and similar currents which try to tie the liberation struggle against European and American imperialism to the strengthening of the power of Turkish and Japanese imperialism, the nobility, the big landlords, the clergy, etc.
d) Support for the peasant movement in the backward countries against the landowners and every form and remnant of feudalism is particularly necessary. What must be striven for above all is to give the peasant movement as revolutionary a character as possible and wherever possible to organise the peasants and all victims of exploitation in soviets and thus bring about as close a link as possible between the Western European communist proletariat and the revolutionary movement of peasants in the East, in the colonies and in the backward countries.
e) A determined fight is necessary against the attempt to put a communist cloak around revolutionary liberation movements that are not really communist in the backward countries. The Communist International has the duty to support the revolutionary movement in the colonies only for the purpose of gathering the components of the future proletarian parties – communist in fact and not just in name in all the backward countries and training them to be conscious of their special tasks, the special tasks, that is to say, of fighting against the bourgeois-democratic tendencies within their own nation. The Communist International should accompany the revolutionary movement in the colonies and the backward countries for part of the way, should even make an alliance with it; it may not, however, fuse with it, but must unconditionally maintain the independent character of the proletarian movement, be it only in embryo.
f) It is necessary continually to lay bare and to explain among the broadest masses of all, but in particular of the backward, countries the deception committed by the imperialist powers with the help of the privileged classes in the oppressed countries when, under the mask of politically independent states, they bring into being state structures that are economically, financially and militarily completely dependent on them. The Zionists’ Palestine affair can be characterised as a gross example of the deception of the working classes of that oppressed nation by Entente imperialism and the bourgeoisie of the country in question pooling their efforts (in the same way that Zionism in general actually delivers the Arab working population of Palestine, where Jewish workers only form a minority, to exploitation by England, under the cloak of the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine). In today’s economic conditions there is no salvation for the weak and dependent nations outside of an alliance with Soviet Republics.
12. The centuries of enslavement that the weak and colonial nationalities have suffered at the hands of the great imperialist powers has left in the toiling masses of the enslaved countries not only a feeling of combativity, but also a feeling of mistrust towards the nations that have exploited them in general, including the proletariat of those nations. The base betrayal of socialism by the majority of the official leaders of that Proletariat between 1914 and 1919, when the social patriots masked the defence of ‘their’ bourgeoisie’s ‘rights’ to enslave and plunder the financially dependent countries under ‘defence of the Fatherland’ – this betrayal could only strengthen that completely justified mistrust. Since this mistrust and national prejudices can only be rooted out after the destruction of imperialism in the advanced countries and the radical transformation of the whole basis of economic life in the backward countries, the removal of these prejudices will only be able to proceed very slowly. This means that the class conscious communist proletariat of every country has the duty of giving special care and attention to national feelings, in themselves outdated, in those long-enslaved countries and nationalities, and at the same time the obligation to make concessions in order to overcome this mistrust and these prejudices all the more rapidly. Without the voluntary alliance of the proletariat and with them the toiling masses of every country and nation in the world united as one, the victory over capitalism cannot be drawn to a completely successful conclusion.
The Congress proceeds to the vote. The Theses are unanimously accepted with 3 abstentions. Applause.
Zinoviev: All outstanding questions will be referred to the Commission. If the Commission is unanimous in its decisions they are to be reported to the Congress, otherwise they will have to be submitted to the decision of the Congress. I will put this motion to the vote. [The motion is carried.]
Zinoviev: There will be a full session tomorrow at 11 o'clock. The question of the conditions of entry into the Communist International will be up for discussion. This discussion must be speeded up as the French delegation will leave Moscow tomorrow.
The session is closed at 5 o'clock.