Minutes of the Second Congress of the Communist International
Serrati opens the session. The discussion is on the conditions for entry into the Communist International. Zinoviev gives the report.
Zinoviev: We come now to one of the most important questions on the agenda, the question that is to decide what we, the Communist International, actually are and what we want to be.
First of all a short formal report on the work of the Commission. The Commission was, as you know, extended to include the representatives of the USPD and of the Socialist Party of France. Both delegations participated in the meetings and took an active part in the discussions. Much has been changed in the Theses but the main content remains as it was. We will of course present them to you with the changes, and you will have the opportunity to judge them for yourselves. In those cases where we were able to take the advice of the comrades in question into account, we have of course met them half way and accepted it. Paragraph 2 of the French edition is missing in the German edition. It reads:
‘Every organisation that wishes to affiliate to the Communist International must, in a regular and planned manner, remove all reformists and centrists from all posts of any responsibility in the labour movement (party organisations, editorial boards, trades unions, parliamentary factions, co-operatives and local government) and replace them with reliable communists, without baulking at the fact that, especially at first, ordinary workers from the masses will replace “experienced” opportunists.’
Then an important amendment has been made in the 7th Thesis, which previously read:
‘The Communist International will not tolerate notorious reformists like Turati, Modigliani and others having the right to pass as members of the Communist International.’
The Commission did not think it right merely to name Italian opportunists, for we are after all a Communist International, and we must therefore also brand reformists of other countries for what they are. It therefore decided to name at least one of these people from every country. Instead of ‘Turati, Modigliani and others,’ the list therefore reads ‘Turati, Modigliani, Kautsky, Hilferding, Longuet, MacDonald, Hillquit and others.’ [Interjection: ‘Grimm’.] The list is incomplete, I must agree. Perhaps the Congress can complete it.
Then paragraphs 18 and 19 have been added. They read:
‘Paragraph 18. All the leading press organs of the parties of every country have an obligation to reprint all the important official documents of the Executive Committee of the Communist International.
‘Paragraph 19. All parties that belong to the Communist International or have applied to join must call a special congress to check all these conditions as soon as possible and at the latest four months after the Second Congress of the Communist International. In doing this, the Central Committees must make sure that the local organisations are acquainted with the decisions of the Second Congress.’
Comrade Lenin then moved a personal motion.
This motion was discussed in the Commission and adopted by five votes to three with two abstentions. I must state however on behalf of the Russian delegation that we are inclined to withdraw it in its previous form and only to express it as a wish, not as a condition and a directive. We are of the opinion that it is sufficient for the Congress to express such a wish.
Then some amendments of a stylistic nature were undertaken, particularly in the part where we talk of legal and illegal work. These will be laid before you in good time.
I come now to the reasons for these Theses. Page 79 previously read: ‘Under certain circumstances the Communist International can be threatened by the danger of being watered down by inconstant and half-hearted elements which have still not finally cast aside the ideology of the Second International.’
The Commission changed that and decided to be much more categorical here. It decided to say not ‘under certain circumstances’ but ‘communism now runs the danger of being watered down’, and it was right to do so. It really is correct that the Communist International already runs the danger of being watered down by parties that until quite recently belonged to the Second International and come to us under the pressure of the masses – come to us out of necessity. They cannot lay aside the old Adam of their bourgeois and petty-bourgeois background so easily, even if they wanted to. When we held our founding Congress we were also threatened with a number of dangers. The danger however of being watered down and having to take in too many diverse elements did not exist then. Fifteen months ago we were still a small group that people tried to laugh off by saying: ‘Your whole Communist International can be seated on ten chairs; it has no influence. The big old parties are staying in the Second International.’ Now things are different. Now the old parties want to join the Communist International. To the extent that the masses of workers have developed towards communism we must accept them. We must not however forget that they come to us with all the old baggage, that is to say with the old leadership, which waged an obstinate fight against communism during and also after the war.
What was the Communist International when it was founded in March 1919? At that time it was nothing more than a propaganda society. That is what it has remained during the whole year of its existence. That is no small thing, to be a propaganda society on a world scale at a time when the working class is seeking a path after the terrible, destructive war Europe has been through. But I must say openly that at that time it was only a propaganda society organised on a large scale that tried to take the ideas of communism to the working class. Now we want to become something greater and something different. Now we do not want to be a propaganda society, now we want to become a fighting organisation of the international proletariat. We want to organise ourselves as a fighting organisation that not only propagates communism but also wants to turn it into deeds, and to create an international organisation for the purpose.
I have just read an article by Paul Louis in which he states that the First International collapsed because it could not prevent the war of 1870-1871. The same is supposed to have happened with the Second International. The World War broke out, it could not be prevented, and that was why it collapsed. The First International is supposed to have been in the same position in its day as the Second International is today.
That is no less a social-patriotic lie for the fact that it is probably only half-conscious. The First International tried to prevent the war. It fought, and fell in struggle. The Second International tried to avoid this struggle and did avoid it. The First International fell heroically; its best fighters were murdered during the Paris Commune in the fight against the bourgeoisie. The Second International collapsed shamefully. We must say that loud and clear to the working class; that is why we must brand this comparison for what it is, for it tends to support social patriotism and Kautskyism.
The First International was a strictly centralised organisation. It even tried to lead every big economic strike from a central point. And to a certain extent it succeeded in doing that because the movement was still young and weak. Today we cannot have such a centre that can directly lead every big economic strike. We now have economic strikes day by day, hour by hour, and we do not even know that they have taken place. There can be no question of such a centre as far as we are concerned, precisely because the movement has grown so enormous.
The Second International was not a central body. At the most it was a point of concentration. The First and the Second Internationals were a sort of thesis and antithesis. Now that we can set conditions for new relations we come to the synthesis in the social sense. We must recognise that clearly if we want to discuss the conditions for entry.
A large number of leading comrades who until recently still belonged to the Second International are of the opinion that membership of the Communist International will not place any great obligations upon them at all. I have a press-cutting from the Berner Tagwacht (Robert Grimm’s paper) which contains an article by Grimm. He declares that the Second International and its Executive was merely a letter-box. Quite correct. But what does the author of this article propose to the Communist International? The Communist International must, indeed, become something different. It must organise ‘big actions’ for different countries, that is to say it must arrange to form an information service, it must make arrangements so that ‘parliamentary action’ can be ‘synchronised’. Well you can see that it amounts to the same thing. A letter-box that will be a little deeper and more capacious, but still a letter-box.
We need an information service; I have no objection to that. Our information service is very bad, we must organise it better. In relation to parliamentary action too it would be good if we could synchronise it in the various countries and for example all brand the League of Nations as a robber band at the same time, or formulate a motion against the reformists. But that is very far from being a fighting organisation on a world-wide scale. Even financial support is not the most important thing now. The conception of the Communist International held by Grimm and his co-thinkers is basically exactly the same as that of the Second International: a letter box, bigger and better equipped, and painted red. That the Communist International must never become!
I have also read some remarks by various ‘left’ reformists, like for example Claude Trèves, in the French comrades’ Revue. Trèves is in favour of immediate entry into the Communist International, but on condition that nobody is tied down and no political slogans are issued for the individual countries. What they mean is they want to join immediately, but only without tying themselves down and with a degree of ‘autonomy’ that permits these people to carry on in the way they have up until now. Mr. Modigliani, a self-appointed Italian socialist, expressed this most crudely. Formally speaking he is now a member of the Communist International, but he is no comrade of ours. Recently he was in Paris and he tried to persuade Longuet to join the Communist International with the following arguments: ‘Why not join the Communist International? It does not place us under any obligation. All that has to be done is to send the Executive a postcard once a fortnight. That is all. Why do we not do this?’
Those who know him and his opportunist cynicism will recognise the whole Modigliani in these words. These gentlemen from the camp of the reformists think that they can come into the Communist International as if it were a public house. Our whole past, our short but significant fifteen months of past history, has shown every serious politician that there is no room in the Communist International for people who come and continue to do just as they please. We want to build an international of deeds. We are not of the same opinion as Kautsky that the International is merely an ‘instrument of peace’. No, it is to be an instrument of struggle, during peacetime, during the insurrection, before and after the insurrection, a rallying point, a fighting organisation of that part of the international proletariat that is conscious of its goal and wants to fight for its goal.
The question is often posed as if there was some sort of contradiction between the ‘West’ and the ‘East’. The attempt has been made to din into the workers that the Communist International is an organisation of the working class of the East, and that that of the West stands aloof from it. The French leaders and the literati of the USPD have tried to present the matter thus: ‘We (the centrists) do not wish to join the Communist International immediately on our own, but we must first bring the whole working class of the West in with us.’ There is another contradiction, the contradiction between communism and reformism, between social patriotism and communism; but the contradiction between East and West has been plucked out of thin air. We have the same division of the movement into three in every country: 1) an outright opportunist right wing, which is now the main support of the bourgeoisie, 2) a more or less pronounced middle section, the swamp, the centre, which is also a support of the bourgeoisie, 3) a left wing which is more or less clearly communist or at least tends towards communism. It is clear that the western working class, let us say for example in Britain, knows quite well what is happening in Moscow. It knows what the Soviet government means. Every demonstration shows that the British working class is clear on this question. It is high time to abolish from the world the legend about the abyss between ‘East’ and ‘West’ and to stop preaching to the German working class that they should wait for the ‘West’.
Above all, we should not forget the lessons of the Hungarian Soviet Republic. The Hungarian comrade has already spoken about the role of the party on this question. It is a question of great historical importance. Remember how it was. The Communist Party of Hungary made it very easy for the Social Democrats to be affiliated. It was done in a hand’s turn. When we were discussing the affiliation in the Commission, some of the Hungarian comrades said that they felt that many parties from the Second International would now accept our conditions as easily as was the case in the Hungarian Soviet Republic.
The Hungarian party called itself ‘Socialist-Communist’. At first it seemed simply to be an argument about the name. The Hungarians were in a struggle and we did not want to stab them in the back. Our Executive was guilty of weakness and agreed to the fusion of the parties. We told each other that it did not matter what they called themselves but it turned out later that it was a question of historical importance and the fact that the communists unfortunately took the greater part of the old social democrats into their own house, and that these gentlemen went over to the bourgeoisie at the decisive hour, perhaps determined fifty per cent of the development of the Soviet Republic in Hungary.
Some of our Italian comrades said that at the next congress they would propose to call their party, which is now called Socialist, Socialist-Communist also. But let us not forget the Hungarian example. This is not a question of verbal hair-splitting but of whether we can have confidence in these old socialist gentlemen who do not want to break with the old ideology and would like to patch it up. This lesson has cost the working class of Hungary and of the whole world enough sacrifice in order to know that if you give reformism a little finger it will take your whole hand and later your head and in the end it will destroy you completely.
The question is that we must have an unambiguously communist International. We must fight for communism; it will not be won in a month but only after many struggles through an organisation that is as centralised as possible and has clear and definite tactics. We will show the door to the gentlemen who think that a post-card is enough before they can come.
There is a real danger that the Communist International will become the fashion once the Second International has shamefully collapsed. Today the Second International is only a stinking swamp, a corpse that is rotting. It goes without saying that the parts are splitting off and trying to turn the Communist International into the same thing but with slightly different words. Many of them only do it half-consciously but objectively it is so.
This danger exists and we must take quite decisive steps against it. Today I received an article from the Freiheit of July 13. It is entitled ‘The Problem of the International’. The Freiheit is of the opinion that if we stand by our open letter to the USPD of February 5, 1920 (which I signed) an agreement is impossible.
[On February 5, 1920, the Executive Committee of the Comintern sent a letter to the USPD, drafted by Lenin and Zinoviev. Perhaps because it had been delayed by Levi for his own reasons, the letter did not reach the USPD leadership until April. While it expressed communist criticism of the USPD in the sharpest way, and condemned the attempts to form a middle of the road ‘International’, the letter ended with a call for negotiations with the Third International, which eventually led to the USPD delegation coming to Moscow.]
Now I can state quite decisively and quite officially, and I hope the Congress will agree with me, that by and large we will set today the same conditions that we set in the letter of February 5, and I can say quite categorically that we reject any collaboration with the leaders of the right wing such as Kautsky, Hilferding and Longuet. The French tell us that Longuet may now be of a different opinion, that he may change his mind. If he agrees with us now so much the better; we will greet him if he is being honest and serious. I say the same thing to the German comrades who will perhaps change.
We declare however quite officially that we do not wish to collaborate with this right wing and its leaders. I should also like to declare, not as the reporter from the Commission, but as the representative of the Russian delegation, that should the case occur that our Italian or other comrades say that they demand a fusion with these right-wing elements, then our party would sooner be prepared to remain completely alone than to fuse with such elements. which we regard as bourgeois elements. I should like to make this statement on behalf of our party.
I should like to consider concretely the situation in the parties that want to affiliate to the Communist International and are courting it as well as the position in those parties that already belong to it. I shall try to do this separately country by country.
First of ail then the parties that did not belong to us previously but now wish to do so. I have gathered extensive material on the French party. I cannot place it all before you; I shall only show the most important. I should like to state in advance that we do not wish to turn anybody’s past remarks into a noose around his neck. It is obvious that anybody can make a mistake and later repent. We only want to quote matters of principle and confine ourselves to the most important points.
There can be no doubt at all as to the personal uprightness of Cachin. Everybody who knows his past knows that he has erred, but that he is an upright fighter. I have his article of January 7, 1920 on the League of Nations. In January he was still calling Wilson the ‘last great bourgeois of our times’. He further stated that ‘American democracy’ had done everything in its power to prevent what had happened. It goes without saying that for a communist that is an explicitly social pacifist remark. And social pacifism is not socialism. That is the spirit of the dead leader, Jaurès, who unfortunately was also only a social pacifist. We must say that, for all the respect we have for his great merits. His tradition lives on in France and other countries. This pacifism and Wilsonism is a very obstinate phenomenon which even many communists are not spared. We had the following example at our previous Congress: Fritz Platten, a left comrade from Switzerland brought a printed shorthand report of a speech he had made in parliament in which he stated that Wilson was, after all, an honourable man who would like to solve the problems of the war peacefully.
Thus even our own people, professed communists, are still often led into temptation by this social pacifism, because great masters have trained us in it for decades. We have not fought against it sufficiently. We must put an end to it and tell our French friends quite clearly: it is very much easier to accept the formal conditions for entry into the Communist International than it is to get a real grip on social pacifism. Social patriotism is a dangerous bourgeois ideology that impedes us in our fight. You can adopt 18 or even 18,000 conditions, but if you stay a social pacifist you are simply not a communist and you do not belong in the Communist International. You must therefore honestly state whether you are finally willing to finish with it or not.
I have a few more things to say about the French comrades. There is an article by Frossard on relations with the Communist International which was written on February 13, 1920. In it Frossard declares: ‘as far as our party’s policies are concerned it is very probable that even after entry into the Communist International they will remain the same. The elections are coming and the Communist International can on no account stop us from forming pacts with other parties.’
So you see, he is of the opinion that the Communist International is a nice public house where the representatives of different countries sing the Internationale and compliment each other. Then they all disperse and carry on with the old practice. We will never tolerate this
damnable practice of the Second International.
I shall make do with these quotations on the French comrades’ practice although I could quote from a whole number of other sources. There is with reference to the lead articles in the Humanité a kind of proportional system, as Cachin and Frossard explained to me. The centrists are allowed 8 lead articles in the week, the Lefts 4 and Renaudel and Co. 2 or 3. You understand that such a system is quite impossible. It is a kind of chemical mixture: 8 drops of distilled water, 3 drops of poison and then, to counteract the poison, 3 drops of milk. [Applause.] This cannot go on. This practice can perhaps be explained from the history of the French movement: but this old tradition must simply be cancelled. Frossard declared before his departure from Paris: ‘I would gladly go to Moscow without Renaudel. We will have a difficult discussion with the Russian comrades. It is better if he stays at home.’ But in the letter in question Mr. Renaudel is called ‘our friend’ by Frossard. We must abolish these French manners. They are not even entirely French. Modigliani also writes ‘my friend’ to
Serrati, and Serrati to Prampolini. This French and Italian method cannot be our method. I hope that you will give the Executive the task of demanding a monthly report from each party so that it has a mirror in which it can see what is happening.
I come now to the German Independents.
I shall do no more than to quote to you some extracts from the last official answer from the USPD Central Committee that was brought to us by the USPD representatives. Their first reproof reads:
‘It is peculiar that the Executive Committee of the Communist International, which, if only in consideration of its position, should be conscious of the duty to treat the workers’ organisations that enter into negotiations with it with all due loyalty, bases its reply to us on the thesis that “the workers who belong to the USPD have a very different temper from ‘the right wing of their leaders’,” a sentence that runs like a red thread through the whole reply.’
It is true that this sentence runs like a red thread through the whole of our declaration of principles. If at the present moment of comparative political calm some 10,000 members of the USPD find themselves in gaol, then I have full respect for these comrades. I say that they are serious fighters and serious workers in addition. We must try to get together with these workers. That does not however contradict my statement that there exists a right wing led by Kautsky, Hilferding and Ströbel. Crispien was at Lucerne with Hilferding and did not want to leave the Second International. There is a right wing.
People say to us: ‘Who bothers about Kautsky now? Nobody.’ To that I reply: That is not true. Kautskyism is an international phenomenon, and many of the leaders of the USPD centre who think that they have freed themselves from Kautsky are in fact repeating the policies that Kautsky carried out. The best we could do was to take into account that there are workers in the ranks of the USPD who seriously fight and stand in contradiction to the right wing leadership who have sabotaged the revolutionary struggle and have until now given the best service to the bourgeoisie. It is said that there are no right-wing leaders in Germany. It is disloyal on the part of the Executive, we are told, to undertake such a partition into left- and right-wing leaders. We should have the greatest loyalty towards our brothers in other countries who are really fighting against the bourgeoisie, bat loyalty towards people like Kautsky, Hilferding and Ströbel would be synonymous with treachery to the working class, and we shall not cultivate such loyalty. There is an abyss between Hilferding, who is able to negotiate in a comradely manner with high-ranking English officers, and us. The red thread that runs through our letter is precisely this difference between the workers who fight alongside us and the right-wing leaders who sabotage the struggle. The USPD Central Committee goes on: ‘What basis the reproof is supposed to have that the “right-wing leaders” of the USPD are “orientated towards the Entente” is a complete mystery to us. Previously it has been mainly the right-wing parties that have reproached us with this. Last year particularly, when we had to wage a fight for the signature of the treaty against all the nationalist agitation and military machinations, we were reproached, especially by the reactionary bourgeois parties, with being “agents of the Entente governments”. The further course of events fully justified our attitude, just as previously it had proved that the attitude on the peace question of the Russian Communists, who as we know were reproached with having allied themselves with German Imperial militarism as a result of that attitude, was dictated by harsh necessity.’
When we in Russia were faced with the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, the situation was very clear. The working class had the power in its hands in our country. It was starving, but it fought on. German imperialism got a grip on us and the German working class was too weak to come to our assistance. We said to ourselves that, in order to win a breathing space – great emphasis was laid on this at the time – in order to gain time, we would have to reach a temporary pact with these robbers. But what was the situation in Germany in 1918-1919? Power was in the hands of the bourgeoisie, or in the hands of Scheidemann, which amounts to the same thing. What happened in Germany was not the same as what happened in Russia. The sly fox Scheidemann said: ‘I shall wash my hands in innocence; I am against the signing of the Versailles Treaty’. He carried out the most artful deception of the heroic German working class. It was put about that Scheidemann was against the Versailles Treaty. Then along came the USPD and set to work to help Scheidemann. It shouted in every key: ‘Peace must be signed!’ And now you say that the position in Germany was the same as the position in Russia at the time of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk! You Germans overlooked the slight difference that in Russia the working class was in power and the bourgeoisie was on the ground, while in Germany the bourgeoisie was in power and the working class, sold out a thousand times over, was on the ground.
Where does this ‘slight’ confusion come from? It comes from the fact that in March 1919 many right-wing leaders of the USPD pictured the situation like this: ‘Scheidemann or us, it makes no great difference. [Applause.] We are both part of the same working class. It is the same old Social Democracy.’ It was this unconscious state of mind within the USPD that led to the fact that a claim of such crying injustice could be made and that a situation where the working class was in power could be confused with a situation where the bourgeoisie was in power, where the Hindenburgs and the Scheidemanns were grinding the working class under their boots and oppressing them. We are often told: ‘We have no great differences with you. Kautsky has no great significance in our party.’ Does not the whole spirit of Kautsky speak in this letter that was brought to us by the delegates of the USPD?
‘As it is with the question of the dictatorship, so it is with the question of terror and the civil war. Here too the specifically Russian form of the dictatorship has been elevated to the level of a principle for the international proletariat. In this, the form stifles the content and renders the course of the revolution more difficult by failing to give sufficient consideration to the conditions which, where there is a different sociological content, could also make a different form of the revolution necessary. In examining the problem of force we must take into account the fact that we must distinguish between force and terror. Unable as the dictatorship of the proletariat is, like any other dictatorship, even if it cloaks itself in a democratic robe, to renounce the use of force, the extent of its use still depends on the resistance of the counter-revolution. Terrorism as a political method means setting up a reign of terror, means the use of state force even against the innocent, in order to break any intended resistance by intimidation and deterrence. It must be said in opposition that international Social Democracy has rejected such terror on the grounds not only of humanity and justice but also of expedience. If it can be said of force that it is only the midwife of every old society that is pregnant with the new, and that it cannot bring the new society into the light of day until it has ripened in the womb of the old, then we must say of terror and history has proved this one hundred fold – that its application does not express the strength of a movement but much rather its inner weakness. Our party is therefore in harmony with the teachings of Marxism and the experiences of history when it rejects the glorification of terror. The fact that we stand by this principle does not signify, as the reply of the Executive Committee reproaches us, the “demoralization of the revolutionary consciousness of the workers”. It signifies much rather the securing the lasting interests of socialism.’
This is written after the January uprising in Berlin, after the bourgeoisie has robbed the working class of its most valuable possessions.
[January uprising in Berlin – sparked off when on 4 January the government sacked the Berlin police chief, the Independent Social-Democrat Emil Eichhorn. A general strike was called and for a few days the workers were masters of the streets. However, without clear leadership or preparation for an insurrection the movement was soon crushed by the army and in the repression which followed Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht were hunted down and murdered.]
This is written after everything that we know about the civil war in Russia, Finland, Georgia, Hungary and so forth! A petty-bourgeois machine has written this, and not the heart of a revolutionary! I think that ‘the lasting interests of the bourgeoisie’ should have been written in place of ‘the lasting interests of socialism’. This statement stands foursquare on the basis of Kautskyism. If Kautsky, as Dittmann and Crispien declared here, is no longer of any importance, then why have they copied in this reply all the platitudes, stupidities and counter-revolutionary rubbish that Kautsky ever scribbled?
When we asked the left-wing USPD representatives here in Moscow whether they had signed this, they were not in a position to say that they had not signed it. They said that they had had no time, that it had been done ‘at a gallop’. These are completely non-political reasons. That such questions should be settled at a gallop at the USPD headquarters is bad in itself. We can see how the dead Kautsky is dragging the living Däumig deep into the water by the hair, instead of the active Däumig shoving old Kautsky to one side with all his counter-revolutionary filth.
So much for the USPD.
Let us proceed! We must set the same standard whether a party already belongs to us or not. The fact that it already belongs to us should not free it from criticism. We must make criticisms and say what is.
I come next to the Italian Party. We have always emphasised, and we emphasise now: It is one of the best of the parties that left the Second International. The Italian working class is a heroic working class which we all love because it is serious about the revolution and communism. However, we cannot, unfortunately, say the same thing about its leaders. ‘You are always talking about Turati’, Comrade Serrati tells us, ‘it becomes boring’. Yes, Comrade Serrati, we will not cease so long as people like Turati are still our members. At the moment, in fact, Turati is a member of the Communist International because he is a member of the Italian Party. Is that not a scandal? If we had a card for every member of the Communist International, Turati and Modigliani too would have membership cards of the Communist International. And these people after all are carrying out counter-revolutionary propaganda in Italy. In the last few days Turati has stood up in the Italian parliament and made the kind of big speech of which he has already made a few in his life. Turati made the following speech: ‘You bourgeois gentlemen see that you are in a difficult position, just like the working class. So we should help each other. In the agrarian question, in the housing question and in the question of food, I propose to you a consistently semi-bourgeois programme.’ The Avanti does not report how the Italian bourgeoisie reacted to that. The Italian party has since then instituted legal action against Turati. When you have such conditions within the party nobody can say that it is a serious party. If it was, it would have better things to do than instituting legal action against people who have been saying the same thing for thirty years because they are consistent reformists.
I have at hand a collection of some 200 to 300 quotations on the Italian Party. I am not in a position to put them all forward. We will publish a red book on the Italians and other countries. Comrade Serrati will receive a copy of this book from me. A bouquet of sweet-smelling quotations, and he will enjoy this book thoroughly. When Turati was asked why he stayed in the Party he replied that this way he could exercise an influence on the working class. Turati has nothing to hide; he openly states that he belongs to the party because he can present himself as a reformist with the halo of a socialist, as a member of the Party in parliament and at meetings. He can tend his affairs bette r inside the party. Why should he go away? We advise our friends to pay attention to what Turati himself has said. These gentlemen should not be allowed to remain in our party and sabotage our fight. We have too many open enemies to allow our concealed enemies into our party.
After a speech made by Bombacci as the representative of the party at a chemical industry trades union conference, in front of a meeting of trades unionists from all over the country, Turati was the next speaker, and babbled his reformist rubbish. The Italian communist Bombacci reacted rather mildly. I ask: Why is Turati allowed to come into a meeting of trades unionists and make a reformist speech to the workers, to which Bombacci replies in a very mild way? As long as Turati is a party, member, Comrade Bombacci of course cannot say that he is our class enemy. We have better things to do than give these gentlemen the opportunity to propagate reformist views in our name in front of ordinary workers.
I come now to the Swedish Party. Comrade Höglund and the others who were with us at the foundation of the Communist International are unfortunately not here. In this matter too, however, we must say what is. Up to now the Swedish left has refused to call itself communist, and it is now clear that that was no accident. The comrades publish a theoretical journal that they call Zimmerwald. It seems they got no further than Zimmerwald. In this journal are printed articles by right-wing German Independents. And that too is no accident, because there are mutual sympathies. The most important thing is that there are out and out reformists in the Swedish left. I do not want to talk about Lindhagen, although he is still a member of the party. On March 12, 1920 he quite openly proposed that Sweden should join the League of Nations, and he carefully proposed 5 amendments to the statutes of the League of Nations.
The Party has, it is true, disavowed one of Mr. Lindhagen’s articles, but Lindhagen remains nonetheless in the Party and is thus formally speaking a member of the Communist International.
One of the Swedish Party’s members of Parliament, Einberg, declared in an article that raised the social-patriotic demand for disarmament that the War Office. could quite easily be wound up, that is to say with the agreement of the government. He then went on to say that he hoped that the right social democrats, that is to say, Branting, would largely support him on this question. There is further the well known member of parliament or leading party comrade, the Swede Ivar Vennerström, who made such approaches that Branting stated: ‘It looks as if the Left Social Democratic Party want to marry us.’ To that Höglund replied that he personally would not like to marry the ageing Branting. But it was declared in the Left’s party press that there were conditions under which such a match could be discussed.
We must recognise the services that the Swedish Left Social Democracy has rendered. It is a movement that arose out of the youth movement. We know that we have there a number of people who are really revolutionary. We must however tell them clearly that we must have a really communist party that will not discuss marriage with Branting and will have had to have thrown disarmament overboard long ago, and that it is not our job to improve the statutes of the League of Nations, but to bury the League of Nations.
The draft programme of the Danish Left states that the Party ascertains that the abolition of militarism raises the prospects of a bloodless revolution. Yes, certainly. Should bourgeois militarism be abolished, then we have a better prospect for a bloodless revolution. But the whole question is how we are to abolish militarism without shedding our own blood and that of the bourgeoisie.
I come now to the Norwegian Party. The party headquarters tolerates a right wing within the party. Scheflo stated in the Commission that part of their membership was anti-socialist. How does this happen? Because they accept entire trades unions in the party. This is no good. We can have good relations with the trades unions. We can form communist factions in the trades unions, but to accept entire trades unions with 10 per cent Christian Socialists and other anti-socialist elements is a mistake. We must draw our Norwegian Party’s attention to that.
The Yugoslav Party now calls itself a Communist Party. We have however read a whole series of reformist articles in our Yugoslav comrades’ central organ. The party opposes it, it is true. But these are conditions that nobody can or should tolerate. We must draw our Yugoslav Party’s attention to the fact that it is impossible to have out-and-out reformists in the party, to place the press at their disposal, and so forth. In everything else the Communist Party of Yugoslavia is splendid.
It is possible that other parties will also have something to tell us Russians. It goes without saying that every party that belongs to the Communist International must tell our Russian Party when it commits a sin. That is its international duty. We should regard ourselves as a single international party with its branches in every country, and every branch should have the right to ‘intervene’ and say what is. We have Communist Parties that are really Communist and form the nucleus of the Communist International. Unfortunately however we also have a number of parties that give the reformists the opportunity to deceive the working class and to steal from us part of the confidence the working class has in us. It is obvious: As a member of the Senate, Trèves daily robs us of part of the confidence of the masses, and Bombacci and Serrati are robbed of the confidence of the masses by Turati and Modigliani.
We have sections of big old parties that want to come to us. Part of the workers in these parties are for us, for the setting up of the dictatorship, and part is still hesitating. We do not propose to accept the French Party and the USPD immediately, but to give the Executive full authority to negotiate further and to examine whether the conditions will be fulfilled, to study the press from day to day and after some time to reach a decision. The French comrades have stated to us in the Commission that they are by and large in agreement with our conditions. The representatives of the USPD have stated more or less the same thing. We will do everything possible to make a rapprochement easier. The most important thing is to study carefully and conscientiously all the articles that are published and for the Congress to give us official authorisation to follow through on its behalf for a specific period the question of whether these conditions will be fulfilled. It is possible to accept 18,000 conditions and still remain a Kautskyite. What matter are deeds. We have put forward these conditions in order to have a standard so that we can have the opportunity of an objective examination of what the Congress wants. I hope in any case that the Congress will clarify things and give us a point of reference, so that every worker can clearly see what the Communist International wants. I can say one thing with complete certainty: whatever the attitude of the USPD headquarters, whatever the attitude of the leadership of the French Socialist Party, the hearts of the workers of every country still belong to us. They will belong to us more each day, because the last hour of the bourgeoisie and of the half bourgeois Second International has struck. The time for a real fight for socialism has come.
Sooner or later all workers will understand that. They will come to us over the heads of their vacillating leaders, and a real fighting organisation of the revolutionary working class will be formed.
Great and prolonged applause.
Balabanova: The following motion has been proposed: ‘The parties that belong to the Communist International are ordered to exclude from their ranks all members of the Freemasons as members of a petty-bourgeois organisation, that is to say that comrades belonging to the Communist International, particularly in the West, have no right to belong to the Freemasons.’ This motion was put by Comrade Serrati. The question will be discussed later. We put it forward here so that comrades know that it will be put forward for discussion here.
Radek: After the meeting of the Commission to negotiate on the conditions of entry into the Communist International, after the French and German comrades had expressed their agreement with these conditions, almost all of us who were in the Commission remembered the words that Béla Kun spoke after unification with the Hungarian Social Democracy. He said he had the impression that it had all been too easy. At that moment we too had that feeling, and none of us can get rid of it.
Those who have judged the French Party and USPD on the basis of more than a few articles in their press will understand why I cannot adopt the point of view that what is past is past, and why here, at this Congress, I would like to call to mind how we regard the development of the USPD. It is impossible for a party to change its character from one day to the next by signing a piece of paper, by signing conditions. We have to take two facts into account. The first fact is the lasting radicalisation of the German working class, a fact that urges and forces us and gives us the obligation to put out feelers towards the Independents and to see in them our comrades in struggle. After the first few months of the Ebert-Scheidemann government the Independent workers took up the struggle against this government. When I arrived in Germany, my first impression was that nine tenths of the working class were participating in the struggle against the government. In the struggles of January and March the Independent workers stood shoulder to shoulder with the communist workers and fought with them, where necessary with arms in hands. Wherever our comrades were in prison they were alongside Independent workers. At the same time, however, we can see that the majority of the USPD leaders, those leaders who, seen from the outside, appear to be the decisive factor in the party, were not only not a progressive factor in this development, but they were a factor that held it back, that they only went forwards because they were pushed by the actual working class, and that at every step forwards they tried to confuse the workers.
A few extracts from the USPD’s letter have already been quoted by Zinoviev. I should like to establish a few things as briefly as possible. The letter denies the fact that the USPD broke solidarity with Russia and that it shares responsibility for the breaking of diplomatic relations expressed in the expulsion of the Russian Embassy. It was the Scheidemann government under Prince Max that first brought about the breach. But the USPD was already in the government when the Russian mission was in Borissov under the muzzles of German machine guns, and despite the mission’s numerous telegrams and despite the negotiations with their leaders they did not move a finger. They said that Joffe would first of all have to return to Russia, that first of all it would have to be checked whether or not he had insulted His Majesty’s throne, and then a resumption of relations could be discussed. I need only quote the following. Here are the minutes of the session of the Council of People’s Commissars of November 19, 1918. In these minutes it says: ‘Continuation of the discussions on Germany’s relations with the Soviet Republic. Haase advises dilatory progress... Kautsky joins with Haase; the decision would have to be postponed. The Soviet Government would not last much longer, but would be finished in a few weeks...’
These are the official minutes of the sessions of the government, and these minutes are confirmed in the memoirs of an Independent, Barth, who sat in the government together with Dittmann and Haase. When we reproach the Independents with having collaborated in guiding the German revolution into Entente channels this is confirmed by the following fact: when the Soviet government, as a symbolic act, informed the then Peoples’ Commissars that it was sending two trainloads of corn, not that we were claiming that we could send two train-loads of corn every day, but that it was necessary to link the fate of the two peoples, an answer arrived from Haase in which he said that the American government had pledged itself to supply corn to Germany, that he was very grateful for the shipment, but that it should be used to relieve the hunger of the suffering people of Russia. As we stood by the telegraph and received this answer we could feel how the bonds that had continued to exist despite the criticisms of Zimmerwald and Stockholm were cut through and snapped. We were being given to understand: ‘You are starving; therefore we are setting our hopes on the mighty of the earth, on American capitalism.’
We will come together with the Independent workers of Germany, but at the same time there are things in the history of a workers’ party that cannot be forgotten. We want to have nothing to do with the leaders who, together with Haase, are responsible for the policies of November 1918. There are some things that a revolutionary does not do, however misled he may be, and one of those is a breach of solidarity with a working class that offers its help. If the USPD says that it is against the League of Nations, then we reply that to be against the League of Nations nowadays is nothing very special. After the Versailles Treaty, when Hilferding, Dittmann and Longuet met in Lucerne, they even proposed a revision of the Treaty. What does that mean? It means calling for the world revolution without giving up hope that Wilson, Lloyd George and Clémenceau will condescend to talk to you. At that time the character of the USPD emerged very clearly. We must not forget that, while the cannon were still thundering Noske’s mercy, the USPD adopted the fight for the dictatorship in its programme. And where the workers fought for the dictatorship the USPD placed itself at their head to confuse them. We have a duty to be careful and to say to the workers of the USPD: Always be prepared, always be careful, for in your party there are people in the leadership who can put the train on the wrong track at the decisive moment, who are capable of betraying your trust out of lack of revolutionary insight or lack of revolutionary will.
The question has been put: ‘Why did the comrades not go to the Communist International when they withdrew from the government and became a revolutionary party?’ I have before me the discussions at the national conference of the USPD on September 10, 1919 according to the September 11, 1919 issue of Freiheit. In these discussions Hilferding, of whom one cannot say that he died for the party, like Kautsky, for he is the spiritus rector, the guiding spirit of the party, said that on the question of affiliation to the Moscow International the fact must be taken into account that perhaps they were tying their skiff to a sinking ship; for Russian Bolshevism was the Communist International. At the very moment when the armies of the counter-revolution, especially those of Denikin and Kolchak, were waging their campaign against Soviet Russia, when it was clear to every worker who with his feelings, with his soul, stood on the side of the revolution that at the present hour it was necessary to rush to the assistance of Soviet Russia with every available means, at that very moment the man who leads the USPD stands up and says: ‘This ship is threatened by storms, let us for God’s sake not tie our skiff to it, we could go under.’
The Congress has not pledged itself to draw up a list of those comrades whose expulsion we demand. It has however pledged to demand of the workers that they shall not have as their leader a speculator on the revolution who dares to tell the German workers: ‘Do not join the Russian workers, for they are in danger’. We tell the German workers: ‘If you rely on the written conditions and leave people in the leadership who act like that in the moment of danger, then you are sold out and betrayed. We do not know when the hour of danger will strike but we know very well how these speculators on the revolution will act. However, we still count on the independence of the party. It must keep its own house clean. Clean your house, not with a broom, but with red-hot iron, for it is not simply a matter of expelling Hilferding from the party, but of driving the pettiness of spirit, the weakness of revolutionary spirit out of the party with red-hot iron.’ If the USPD does not do that the expulsion will only be a gesture and we will only have won dead souls for the Communist International.
I have the firm conviction that the workers of the USPD and the left wing will act differently from the way they have acted previously. We must say openly that it is not as if there was on the one hand the right wing of the USPD and on the other hand the masses tested in struggle. If until now the left wing has avoided fighting for its rights publicly, then this is because it counted on forcing the USPD right wing out of the party by some kind of manoeuvre. If you do not fight shoulder to shoulder with the Communists against the party’s past, which consists of calling for revolution and still not believing in it and in saying ‘now it’s here’, just like something that drops on your head – if you do not fight against this past your affiliation to the Communist International will be purely verbal. It is not a matter of Stöcker being theoretically in favour of communism or of Däumig writing articles on the dictatorship of the soviets, but of pursuing your own policies against the leaders when the leaders want to hold the party back. In the Commission the leaders have spoken unconditionally in favour of affiliation to the Communist International. However, Crispien stated in the second edition of his pamphlet ‘that the formation of the Communist International was a premature attempt’. And further on: ‘How easy the solution of the question of the Communist International seems to many people: “To Moscow! Let’s go to Moscow!” But this road does not lead to a solution, unless we want to commit suicide as a revolutionary socialist party.’ (p.36)
There are many living corpses in the International. Crispien is our guest, and we are very glad to see him alive here. The fact that he came here is a result of the pressure of the workers. Crispien further stated at the party conference: ‘The Muscovites themselves have closed the road to Moscow to us through their decisions and their basis against the Independents. On the basis of these decisions we could only get into the Kremlin by blindly subordinating ourselves to the communists and be absorbed into the inter national communist-syndicalist organisation.’ (Crispien in Die Internationale, p. 39). The USPD was forced to go to Moscow under pressure from the workers. It came to us, without any objections to our policies and tactics, after it had learnt that the French delegates had already been sent here. The workers should draw some conclusions from this and change the conditions they work under, for, with the USPD representatives, it is not a question of us, but of the revolutionary workers beating the leaders as bad leaders of the German working class. We see in the USPD a good revolutionary party as far as its worker masses are concerned. The task of the German workers is to carry this work to a conclusion and to turn the USPD into a revolutionary party that does not let its principles remain on paper but carries them out in practice every day.
Cachin: Comrades, I shall confine myself to reading to you the declaration signed by Comrade Frossard and myself. It reads:
Comrades, since Comrade Frossard and I were sent to you here for the specific and exclusive purpose of a mutual exchange of information, we can – as you will understand, comrades – only make a short statement in our own names.
We have read the Theses on the conditions of entry submitted to the competent Commission on behalf of the Executive Committee with the greatest attention and discussed them with many comrades who speak with authority. We have just heard Comrade Zinoviev’s remarks. We are not authorised to discuss them in detail. We shall therefore take from all these sources of information only the most important guiding thoughts. You demand that the parties that wish to affiliate to you should, in word and in deed, in their press and in their propaganda, renounce reformist and opportunist ideas. You wish them to show the nullity of these ideas, oppose their dissemination in every field and advance the necessity of revolutionary deeds in every form. We are in complete and total agreement with this.
These important demands will have practical consequences with which the parties that wish to affiliate to you will have to reckon.
In the first place every party member will have to make a choice and finally decide in favour of reformism or revolution. This is not a matter of individuals, and you are completely correct to insist on a thorough purge of the party. Under the present historical conditions those who still seek to collaborate with bourgeois society at a time when the decisive social fight is bursting out everywhere do not belong in the ranks of the party of the working class.
We are prepared to demand of all our comrades that they proceed in the trades unions and the party as true socialists. We are prepared to collaborate fraternally with all active revolutionaries in the syndicalist organisations who concede the necessity of political action.
Further, propaganda against the imperialist ideology and its adherents and supporters must be carried on with greater energy than ever.
For the last two years now our socialist group in parliament has voted against the approval of credits and against the budget in general. It has condemned in the most decisive terms any participation in the government. It has done that since the conclusion of peace. Should the World War break out again one day, then the present criminal imperialist policy of the French bourgeoisie will bear the main responsibility.
We will refuse to support this policy in the slightest, be it in the form of approving credits or of participating in ministries. We will be able to remember that, under conditions where national interests are confused with the interests of the plutocracy, the highest duty of the proletariat is to its own class.
The programme of our party must be examined and brought into harmony with the programme of the Communist International. Greater centralisation, strict control of parliamentary activity and of the press, strict discipline for all members – these seem to us to be the fundamental conditions for the kind of renewed action that the present time demands.
You call on us to support the Soviet Republic unconditionally in its struggle against the counter-revolution. We shall clarify to the workers with greater energy than before the necessity of refusing to transport munitions and equipment for the counter-revolution. We will agitate with every means at our disposal against intervention among the troops sent to fight the Soviet Republic.
Comrades, these are the statements that we are able to make within the narrow frame of reference of our mission. We are convinced that if our friend Longuet could be here he would, after some consideration, be of the same opinion as ourselves. We shall take your conditions back with us to France and faithfully lay them before our party with the whole literature of the Communist International. At the same time
we will wage a zealous campaign to depict the position of the Russian Revolution.
When all the sections of the party have been put in possession of the facts and have seriously discussed them, a Congress will, within a very few weeks, be held. Frossard and I will speak in favour of affiliation to the Communist International. Until then it would be superfluous to repeat our assurances and promises. We will therefore break finally with the past and proceed with determination to deeds, the judgement of which we will leave to the Communist International.
Lefebvre: Comrades, at the Strasbourg Congress the Socialist Party decided to make contact with several socialist parties in order, as the majority of the French Party expressed it, to reconstruct the International. A visit was also planned to the Communist International, and it seems that during this visit, Comrades Frossard and Cachin, dazzled by the achievements of the Russian revolution, have completely changed their standpoint. Indeed recently our Comrade Cachin said: ‘Reconstruction – what a senseless word.’ That is a simple and brutal condemnation of an entire past. In fact, comrades, since the Strasbourg Congress, the French Socialist Party – I am speaking here of the majority – has mechanically developed continually to the left. Since the left faction, which has declared itself to be the faction of the Communist International, the Loriot faction, as people call it, has grown more and more and continues to grow even now, and since on the other hand the old faction, the faction of Renaudel, has shrunk in the same proportion, so that for practical purposes it no longer counts in our party, at least among militants (in the parliamentary group and in local government it still retains an absolute majority), it was natural that the active majority of the party turned against those whose increasing influence disturbed them. We saw in Strasbourg the marriage of Renaudel and Paul Faure and we were present when the right-wing faction and the centre applauded Paul Faure who, in order to call the bluff of the revolutionaries, turned ironically to the supporters of the Communist International with the words: ‘You talk all the time about the revolution of the masses. You do not know what a revolution is, you do not know what is necessary in order to call forth a revolutionary movement in the French masses that are conservatively minded, as was shown on November 10, and who are afraid of you (for electoral affairs have for the French Socialist Party an almost religious significance). The masses will not follow you in your demagogic evolution. You imagine that you are carrying out propaganda because you have the old traditional assemblies in your hands, where the same people make the same agitational speeches again and again. But call on the working class to perform a mighty and clear action to prevent the expedition against Russia, or even to take power, and you will see what a small following you have.’
Pressemane, who spoke particularly about the French peasants, used analogous arguments. He contrasted those of the masses who in France are still called the ‘extreme left’ with the old militants as some kind of madmen, as some kind of epileptics who do not know what a political organisation is. Pressemane forgot to add that, true to their demagogic traditions, he and his friends only gave the masses the minimum of information about the revolution necessary to win their applause, without meanwhile doing anything that could take them to victory.
I would like to ask the permission of the Congress to make the accusations I am expressing here clearer with a short example out of the internal life of the French Party. The activity of the French Socialist Party is defined in the eyes of the masses by the activity of the parliamentary group. But what takes place inside the party is known only to the members themselves, or can be discovered during their propaganda trips. But the people who do not go to meetings and do not read revolutionary newspapers, the man in the street, as he is called in England, know only the parliamentary group and its debates, which for them embodies socialism. I do not exaggerate when I say that the French Socialist group in parliament is as conservative as all the other bourgeois groups m this assembly. In my opinion their manner of speaking lacks the vengeful passion of men who are constantly fighting a hostile faction. If I had sufficient time I would try to give you a series of short biographies of such people as Paul Boncour, Varenne and Albert Thomas, who is the undisputed leader of the socialist parliamentary group. Does the International really know the full extent of Varenne’s activities, the journalistic activity of this publisher of a series of bourgeois newspapers, that appear and disappear one after the other but for all that never lack a supply of funds? Albert Thomas is an intimate friend of Jouhaux, a member of the staff of Information Ouvriere et Sociale, which is maintained by M. Dulot, the editor of Temps, the official organ of the French bourgeoisie. Each one of these men, finally, has found his way into parliament, and that, thanks to a peculiar electoral system, not through the general will of socialist workers but at the whim of some anti-clerical members of the bourgeoisie.
That is why even people like Léon Blum ascribe such great importance to the question, in itself unimportant, of relations with the Vatican. I would like to quote a series of individual examples to you but I shall not have sufficient time for that. As a typical example I shall tell you of the case of the member of parliament Aubry, a young teacher from the ranks of the extreme left of the French Socialist Party, who was so far affected by the infectious treachery of this group in the course of a few weeks that, shortly after he was elected, he signed an appeal in favour of a national loan together with General de Boissoudy and the Archbishop of Rennes, which is a completely normal phenomenon in the socialist group that is customary there and surprises nobody. A strange case that shows the uprightness of the revolutionary outlook of a socialist member of parliament happened recently. The examining magistrate of Rouen demanded the prosecution of a member of parliament from the Pas-de-Calais region, Barthélemy, who had staged a public meeting with our comrade Meric in Sotteville. Barthélemy was accused of having said that, should there be a revolution, he would place himself in the front rank on the barricades and that he would die at the head of the proletarian troops. The member of parliament Barthélemy immediately went to the rostrum. ‘What’, he cried, ‘a French socialist member of parliament dares to say things like that, dares to talk about placing himself at the head of the revolutionaries and letting himself be killed? Such words have never passed my lips.’ And parliament immediately believed him, so solid is the conservative reputation of the socialist group. I repeat that phenomena of this sort are to be observed daily. Some time ago when our comrade Maurin of the left wing of the ‘reconstruction’ faction was talking in the party’s Administrative Commission about the ways and means that would have to be used to carry out propaganda in France, he declared with an honesty that was nothing short of cynical that propaganda must be allowed so that comrades who were already elected could be re-elected and in order to prepare the election of comrades who had not yet been elected. Before every speech therefore the speaker would have to ask the local powers that be who the party’s petty bureaucrats were in the area. The speaker would have to say something opportunistic, something that assisted the immediate material interests of the electoral situation.
But there are more important things than the parliamentary life of a group that has been discredited in the eyes of the masses. Nowadays members of parliament, with very few exceptions, are thought of as traitors or as people who simply do not count. The French parliament is completely discredited in the eyes of the masses. Perhaps that is the best result of the treachery of the socialist group in parliament. The municipalities are more important. The French Socialist Party had great success in the elections. We dominate the largest part of the local administration of the greatest cities in France. We run between 1,500 and 1,800 local councils, which represents an imposing total. On the day of my departure from France a Congress opened in Boulogne the main purpose of which was to unify the activities of the local councils. At it several questions were raised. It was decided above all, instead of allowing concessionary companies to go bankrupt, to burden the workers living in the local council areas with new and larger taxes. The demand that these concessionary companies should be allowed to collapse was declared to be revolutionary and immediately rejected. When the question came up – I am obliged to quote examples chosen at random which will enable the Communist International to judge what sort of gift people are trying to give it – as I was saying when the attempt was made to forbid these local councils from taking part in the chauvinist celebrations of July 14, the proposal was withdrawn. And Mistral, the representative of the present majority, refused to submit this motion to the National Council (Conseil National). As far as the majority of the assembly of councils was concerned, they were decisively opposed to this proposal, and it was not so long ago – shortly after the May strike, when the government was fighting the active comrades most energetically – that a local councillor was found, the honourable Delory, an old party worker whom you all know, who himself asked for the great honour of being allowed to receive in the town of Lille, of which he is the Mayor, two ministers who were to invest the town with a military decoration. This is how business is conducted in the local councils run by the French Socialist Party.
Finally, comrades, is it not strange that, after the best elements in the party have turned away from if in disgust, we, the supporters of the Communist International, are accused at every Congress of trying to destroy unity? To that we have always replied that you cannot destroy what does not exist, and that unity does not exist. It, does not exist because there are people in the party who ought not to the there and because people who ought to be there are not in the party. Unity will only emerge when there has been a thorough purge of the party (a purge which has long since been promised by the party majority but for which we are still waiting). Is it not strange also that, in a Communist Party that is finally pure, with a strict discipline, the revolutionary syndicalists, who today still stray to the side of anarcho-syndicalism, direct their work according to the Theses of communism worked out here? I would like to tell you what happened during our May strike, what the results of this strike (which were, moreover, immeasurable) were, and what lessons we have had to draw from it. One thing at least you should know, that those people lied who said at Strasbourg that the masses would not move. They moved, fundamentally and in great numbers, and the only cause of their defeat was the lack of revolutionary will among the leaders. That is why one can also say that the only conclusion that one can draw from this bloody experience is the necessity of the creation of a Communist Party.
The conversion of our comrades Cachin and Frossard is only a personal fact. They will return to France and pronounce their declaration to an attentively listening crowd. It is to be feared that, under the influence of a long opportunist past and their peculiar school of thought – in saying this I am casting no doubt on the personal uprightness of our comrades – it is greatly to be feared, I say, that in driving the party towards the Communist International they will lumber it with a minimum programme that will have the disadvantage for you that the treacherous spirit of the Second International will penetrate into your ranks. I claim that the atmosphere in France is unbearable. That must be changed. Changing the minds of two individuals can have no influence. We must remain intransigent, and I assure you that the masses in France will follow you unflinchingly if you yourselves remain firm. The French hypothesis from the Palais Bourbon must not be allowed to be stuck onto the Marxist Theses worked out in Moscow. The application of these Theses would merely be laughable, because we are trusting people who for six years have compromised the word ‘socialism’ and have thus made the proclamation of communism necessary.
Graziadei: I have asked for the right to speak in order to touch on a question that Comrade Serrati has raised. Since however in the form Comrade Serrati has given it a discussion is impossible, I insist on proposing the addition of the following Thesis to the Theses before the Congress:
‘No party that wishes to join the Communist International may under any circumstances permit its members to belong to the sect of Freemasons.’ – The Freemasons do in fact in various countries form political organisations which, through their abstract, formalist and petty-bourgeois conception of social relations and through their whole composition serve the interests of the national and international bourgeois system. Its influence is all the more dangerous for the fact that the Freemason sect is a secret organisation.
A mere glance at the writings of the Freemasons is sufficient to justify my motion. The question is of little interest for the Russians. All the greater however is its importance for the Latin countries, for England and for America. Freemasonry exercises quite a big influence in those countries. It is a political organisation that strives for the conquest and the retention of power. It gathers civil servants, academics and businessmen around itself. The teachings upon which it is based are directly opposed to Marxist socialist conceptions. It endeavours to veil national and class differences under an abstract and formalist conception of theoretical rights. Moreover it is a secret organisation and since, in many countries, we do not yet have secret organisations, we are in their opinion in an inferior position to them.
The comrades who are members of the Freemason sect can check up on us but we for our part have no opportunity to check their organisation. We have had an interesting experience in this matter in Italy. At the Party Congress in Ancona before August 1914, we laid down that membership of the party and of the Freemasons were incompatible. After a few months the war broke out. We were then able to convince ourselves that without the decision I have mentioned our party would never have been able to take up the hostile attitude to the war that it did. In any case it would have split at this most difficult moment. One of the main causes of the present crisis in the French Party is the circumstance that there are in their ranks a great number of Freemasons. I therefore ask the Congress to take Comrade Serrati’s motion and my addendum into account and to add the latter to the Theses proposed by the commission as a supplementary Thesis. The Congress must take up a firm attitude on this question which is in the highest degree important for many countries.
Guilbeaux: The first year of existence of the Communist International was a year of the formation and the setting up of communist parties and groups. I believe that we have now entered into a new phase in the development of the Communist International, the phase of the struggle of the different tendencies within the framework of the Communist International. The debates we have participated in since the start of the Congress are proof of this struggle between left and right. I see in this a sign of the great vitality of communism. But I believe that I note a tendency among the right wing that can grow extensively and which consequently must be fought unhesitatingly by the leaders of the left wing.
In the manifesto of the first, founding Congress of the Communist International, it said that it was necessary to fight centrism, which was correctly held to be the most dangerous tendency in the socialist movement. This manifesto demanded a complete break with centrism and the formation of purely communist groups and parties in every country. It is in my opinion characteristic that the Second Congress of the Communist International adopts a different standpoint on how to approach the centre. The very fact that the possibility is conceded of accepting certain centrist elements into the Communist International marks the beginning of negotiations with the reformists and the centrists.
In the proposed Theses the right wing of the Italian Socialist Party, whose representative is Turati, is condemned on the one hand, but on the other hand a turn is made towards centrist parties such as for example the USPD and the French Socialist Party. In this I see a contradiction. The difference that exists between Cachin and Turati is not big, but it does exist. The attitude the Italian Socialist Party took up during the war was far worthier of a socialist party than that taken up by the French Socialist Party, which was guilty of the basest treachery.
I do not find particular cause for joy in the fact that, under the influence of the revolutionary atmosphere in which they suddenly find themselves in Moscow, the representatives of certain centrist parties profess their communism. I have no doubt as to their honesty, but I ask myself whether, when they return to Paris and the tainted atmosphere of the Socialist Party or the Chamber of Deputies, they will not fall back into their old mistakes. Think about the fact that the preparations for the formation of the Second International, which was set up in 1889, took several years. The comrades who are now negotiating with the socialist parties think that an organisation and a press that can serve the purposes of the revolution can be created from one day to the next. They are sinning against the limitations of possibility. We must first organise the cadre of a strong Communist Party. We must draw the masses into this cadre organisation, but we cannot graft them to it artificially. I insist upon one fact that Comrade Lefebvre has already mentioned. The French Socialist Party is in general a parliamentary party which we should in no case admit, despite its representatives’ statements. The split that should happen has unfortunately not yet happened. Only when it has really come about will there be in France a Communist Party that Comrade Loriot’s supporters and the syndicalists represented by Rosmer and Monatte will join. Then we will have the masses on our side as well. We will however never be able to bring the French masses over to us if we try to transform the French Socialist Party artificially into a Communist Party. If after a trial period of six months or a year we want to accept parties that have for many years betrayed us and gone astray, then I am afraid that in the end they will perhaps be a majority in the Communist International, and that they will replace the red banner of the Communist International with another that is very similar to that of the Second International. We cannot carry on negotiations with parties which, despite their statements, offer no guarantees at all for the future.
Herzog (Switzerland): In this discussion it is also necessary to go briefly into party conditions in Switzerland. As you know the last conference of the Swiss Party decided to leave the Second International and join the Communist International. At the same time however a motion was passed whereby that decision would first of all have to be laid before all the members of the Social Democratic Party in a ballot. In the ballot it was decided to leave the Second International but not, however, to join the Communist International, but on the contrary to give the party leadership the authority and the duty to make contact with all revolutionary parties in order to bring together a big revolutionary international, a Fourth International. The party leadership did everything possible to comply with this decision. Discussions took place with the French Socialists in Berne. The party leadership also sent comrades to Germany to start negotiations with the USPD. When we communists exposed this manoeuvre the Basler Vorwärts in particular tried, to whitewash it. They covered up for the party leadership in this matter. Social Democracy in Switzerland has constantly carried out this policy of hesitation in recent times, this policy of rushing hither and thither that we have seen during the
withdrawal from the Second International. As you know, it decided to associate itself with Kienthal and Zimmerwald, and when we revolutionary workers insisted that these decisions should be put into practice, that association with Kienthal and Zimmerwald did not exhaust the matter, but that the programme also had to be carried out, and that the attempt would have to be made to carry out revolutionary actions, that the army would have to be approached with propaganda, that the soldiers would have to be revolutionised, the party did everything it could to make our activity impossible. We were forced to bring the revolutionary workers together in separate groups within the party. We tried to form communist groups in all the larger localities. We extended these into a central organisation and gave ourselves a programme. We did not stand still at that. We said that we had to start on actions and propaganda in the army, in accordance with the Theses proposed at Zimmerwald, that we would have to say to the workers that they had to carry out great mass actions and, if the party leaders did not want it, against their will. This is the basis of the conflict and of the expulsion of the communists from the Swiss Social Democratic Party. We carried out this propaganda systematically; we distributed tens of thousands of leaflets to the army, which was only our duty as revolutionary communists. That is the reason why we were thrown out.
There was a big general strike in Zurich. I said that the general strike must be carried out, and when we said that in our propaganda we were expelled from the party. The whole organisation of the old revolutionary groups was expelled. We were forced to take the step of founding the Communist Party in order to stay politically alive. We were able by intensive work to set up communist sections in every major locality. We succeeded in winning the sympathies of larger masses of workers. The centre of the party now fears that the great mass of workers will go over to us. That was the reason for the manoeuvre of calling together in Olten a party conference of left socialists and the centre where it was decided to send two representatives to Moscow so that the Communist International would accept Switzerland. Then these people can say: ‘We are in the Communist International, we are revolutionary communists.’ They think that by affiliating to the Communist International they will keep the mass of workers with them. The task of the Congress is to tell these people from the Swiss Social Democracy also: ‘You must prove in practice that you really want to fight in a revolutionary way. Only when you have proved that can you be accepted into the Communist International. This danger must be fought most energetically, and we must apply to the Swiss Social Democratic Party the principle we apply to the Independents and to the French Party. Only by sifting these elements strictly can we prevent the germs of disruption from coming into the Communist International and prevent the revolutionary activity that is present in the masses from being weakened in the next few years.
Goldenberg: For my part I shall not vote for Comrade Zinoviev’s Theses because it seems to me that they contain a great error in method. I shall try to portray this false method briefly.
When we supporters of the Communist International are asked why we do not remain in the Socialist Party, we reply: ‘The war has split the international proletariat into two opposed camps, into the counter-revolutionary camp on the one hand, which is represented by the labour aristocracy, by the layer of the proletariat which, through the development of capitalism, has come closer and closer to the lower layers of the bourgeoisie, and into the revolutionary camp on the other. These two factions also existed before the war within the framework of the individual national parties. The war has shown that there is no possibility of bringing about a reconciliation of these two factions. If in those days, before the war, this contradiction was expressed in strife about the direction to be taken within the framework of the socialist parties of the various nations, it is expressed now, after the war, no longer in factional strife but in a struggle that is waged weapons in hand. In Comrade Lenin’s words, the weapon of criticism has made way for criticism by weapons. One of these two opposed factions has made common cause with the bourgeoisie, the other has shown itself to be the real representative of the revolutionary proletariat. We stand by the latter.’
What standpoint the Communist International, the international organisation of the revolutionary proletariat, will take up towards the socialist parties, or in the split between social reformists and counter-revolutionaries and revolutionary socialists and communists, has not yet been decided. That is a question that we have to answer today.
The Theses proposed by Comrade Zinoviev enumerate a series of conditions the fulfilment of which will enable the socialist parties, the so-called ‘centrists’, to enter the Communist International. I cannot state my agreement with this mode of procedure.
The Communist International, an international organisation of the revolutionary proletariat, which is supposed to consist solely and alone of representatives of the revolutionary proletariat of every country, cannot tolerate in its midst non-communist elements who have proved themselves to be counter-revolutionary elements, the agents of the bourgeoisie.
The conditions that have been laid down for the centrist parties have been posed in a form that permits the French Socialist Party, the USPD, the Norwegian Socialist Party and so forth to join the Communist International if only they declare themselves to be prepared to fulfil the conditions or start to apply communist tactics.
I declare that this way of proceeding will only increase the confusion that already reigns in these parties. I should like to speak here particularly about the French Socialist Party, which I know better than the others. The French Socialist Party more or less as a whole represents that special layer of the labour aristocracy which proved during the war to be completely reactionary. During the war all the leaders of the French Socialist Party without exception placed themselves on the side of the bourgeoisie against the international working class. They voted for war credits right up to the end of the war and even several months after the armistice. We have here a representative of this parliamentary faction who voted for the war credits. We also have here a French member of parliament who declared last year in the French chamber that he refused to vote for the tax rate of three twelfths demanded in the provisional budget by the government, but that he was prepared to vote for a provisional rate of two twelfths. Part of these credits was destined for the counter-revolutionary expeditions of Kolchak and Denikin. While the Russian proletariat was fighting desperately against these international robbers, the representatives of the French Socialist Party were voting in the chamber for war credits for the support of counter-revolutionary armies.
What position has the French Socialist Party adopted since the war? Comrade Lefebvre has just said that a step backwards was to be observed at the Strasbourg Congress. I say, however, that there was no step backwards to be observed, but that this Congress merely showed what the French Socialist Party really is. The leaders of the French Socialist Party had adopted a revolutionary phraseology in order to deceive the masses. They had declared themselves in favour of the dictatorship of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie. They said that they were supporters of historical materialism; however, when they were posed with the problem of national defence, it became clear that there was nothing incredible about the link between Paul Faure and Renaudel, but that it reflected the true outlook of those who had grouped themselves whether on the right, in the centre or even on the left of the party. The French Socialist Party is a rotten party of petty bourgeois reformists. Its affiliation to the Communist International will have the consequence that this rottenness will also be dragged into the Communist International. Comrade Zinoviev’s Theses contain at the beginning a series of conditions for entry. You can see how readily these Theses have been accepted even by those who only yesterday were their most determined opponents.
The representatives of the French Socialist Party who are participating in this Congress are among those who strove most zealously, with all the means at their disposal, to discredit the Communist International. Even if they are here among us in person, their hearts are not with us, and for this very reason, that they feel that the Communist International is the only revolutionary force in the world and that no other organisation can stand up to it.
They have done everything they could to create a diverging organisation, in opposition to this Communist International, which was to accept all those elements that wished to affiliate to it. The only condition was that they declared themselves to be opposed to the principles of the Communist International. They searched the whole of Europe for parties that could be led into the field against the Communist International.
I still remember their conduct in the party and in the socialist press. They tried not only to sully the ideas of the Communist International but also to blacken the names of the best-known militants of the French Socialist Party. I am thinking of the campaign of slander that was led against those who defended the Communist International in France. Should we now ask these people to join the Communist International because they declare that they wish to accept the principles of the Communist International and to be in agreement with these principles? I have no intention of checking the sincerity of Cachin and Frossard. I want to keep off that issue. I simply wish to state that people who have shown themselves, despite their revolutionary talk, to be determined counter-revolutionaries, cannot have become communists in the course of a few weeks. The tone of the declaration that has just been read out shows the true extent of what Cachin and Frossard conceive to be acceptance of the principles of communism.
When they return to France, how will they behave towards those who have long been defending the principles of the Communist International there? There is in France a committee dedicated to spreading the ideas of the Communist International among the masses and in the party itself. What attitude will Cachin and Frossard adopt towards this committee and the party comrades of whom it is composed, Cachin and Frossard, who were previously their most zealous opponents? I ask you, how are we to behave when Cachin and Frossard come back to France and say: ‘We are in complete agreement with the leaders of the Communist International. We have discussed with them. In reality nothing separates us from them.’ I have just read a few copies of Humanité which report on Cachin and Frossard’s visit to Russia, how marvellously they were received by our Russian friends, how they had attended a session of the Moscow Soviet and how a friendly exchange of views had taken place without any difference of opinions being perceptible. That is the opinion of Humanité, and Cachin and Frossard will also represent this opinion when they return from Russia. They will repeat the claim they made before their departure from France, that if Comrade Lenin was in France he would agree with them and not with us.
I protest against this artificial way of accepting into the Communist International elements that are not even in favour of it. In the name of my comrades languishing in gaol, in the name of the true interests of the French proletariat, I declare that I am not in agreement with this way of proceeding. There is for the revolutionary French proletariat only one means of waging the fight against the Second International, and that is the setting up of a well-organised Communist Party in France that only contains communist elements. What is tragic about the situation in France is the circumstance that up until now it has been impossible to approach this task. We were forced to confine ourselves to the faction struggle within the party. We were unable to take up the task of organisation and training through which alone it is possible to create a well organised party.
The standpoint that I am defending here is that the French Socialist Party cannot be told: ‘Under these conditions you will be allowed to join the Communist International.’ Instead we want to adopt an attitude that forces the revolutionary and reformist elements of the party to break from each other, which could not previously happen. Only thus will it be possible to create a Communist Party that will consist only of left socialists. This will make possible the communist work of organisation and training which alone can create a powerful and successful element, not only for the Communist International, but for the whole proletarian revolution.
Bordiga: I should like to submit to you some observations that I propose to use as an introduction to the Theses proposed by the Commission, and also a further concrete condition which reads as follows: ‘Those parties which have until now maintained their old social-democratic programme have the obligation to subject the latter to immediate revision and to work out a new communist programme that corresponds to conditions in their countries in the spirit of the Communist International. It is a rule that the programmes of the parties that join the Communist International must be ratified by the International Congress or by the Executive Committee. Should the latter withhold its approval from a party, the party shall have the right to appeal to the Congress of the Communist International.’
This Congress has an extraordinary importance. It has to confirm and defend the eternal principles of the Communist International. When Comrade Lenin, I think it was in April 1917, returned to Russia and submitted a short draft of the new programme of the Communist Party, he too spoke of the revitalisation of the International. He said that this work would have to rest on eternal foundations, that on the one hand the social patriots and on the other hand the social democrats would have to be removed, these supporters of the Second International who think it is possible to achieve the liberation of the proletariat without armed class struggle, without the necessity of introducing the dictatorship of the proletariat after the victory, at the time of the insurrection.
The foundation of the Communist International in Russia led us back to Marxism. The revolutionary movement that was saved from the ruins of the Second International made itself known with its programme, and the work that now began led to the formation of a new state organism on the basis of the official constitution. I believe that we find ourselves in a situation that is not created by accident but much rather determined by the course of history. I believe that we are threatened by the danger of right-wing and centrist elements penetrating into our midst.
When the watchword ‘Soviet Order’ was flung to the Russian and the international proletariat at the end of the war the revolutionary waves rose and the proletariat was set in motion all over the world. A natural selection took place in the old socialist parties all over the world. Communist parties arose that took up the fight with the bourgeoisie.
The following period was a time of standstill, since the revolution was suppressed in Germany, Bavaria, and Hungary by the bourgeoisie.
The war is now over. The problem of war and the question of national defence are no longer of immediate interest. It is very easy to say that, in a new war, one would not fall into the same errors, that is to say the mistakes of the ‘union sacrée’ and national defence. ‘The revolution is still far off,’ our opponents say, ‘it is not an immediate problem for us,’ and they will accept all the Theses of the Communist International: the power of the soviets, the dictatorship of the proletariat, the red terror.
We would therefore be in great danger if we made the mistake of accepting these people in our ranks.
The Communist International cannot speed up the course of history. It can neither create the revolution nor bring it about by force. It only stands in our power to prepare the working class. But our movement must remember the lessons of the war and the Russian Revolution. In my opinion we must pay great attention to them.
The right-wing elements accept our Theses, but in an unsatisfactory manner and with certain reservations. We communists must demand that this acceptance is complete and without restrictions for the future.
We have seen the first application of the Marxist method and theory in Russia, that is to say in a country where the development of the classes has not yet reached a very high level. This method must therefore be applied with greater clarity and consistency in Western Europe, where capitalism is better developed.
There is talk here about the difference between the reformists and the revolutionaries. That is an outmoded expression. There cannot be any more reformists, even if, as supporters of socialism, they admit the class struggle, but at the same time hope that the form this struggle takes will be different from what it is in Russia. I am of the opinion, comrades, that the Communist International is standing fast, that it is holding its revolutionary political character upright without flinching.
We must put up insurmountable barricades against the reformists.
These parties must be forced to make an exact declaration of their principles. A common programme ought to be introduced for every party in the world, which is unfortunately not possible at the moment. The Communist International possesses no means of convincing itself that these people follow the communist programme.
Where the 16th Thesis says: ‘Parties that previously have retained their old social-democratic programme have the duty of changing this programme in the shortest possible time and working out a new programme in harmony with the decisions of the Communist International according to the particular circumstances in their countries’, the following words after ‘and working out a new programme’ should be struck out: ‘In harmony with the decisions of the Communist International according to the particular circumstances of their countries’. They should be replaced with the words: ‘In which the principles of the Communist International are established in a manner that is unambiguous and in complete agreement with the resolutions of the International Congresses. The minority of the party that declares itself to be in opposition to this programme must be expelled from the party organisation. The parties that have changed their programme and joined the Communist International and have not fulfilled this condition must immediately call an extraordinary congress to reach agreement on it.’
This condition, about which the representatives of the French Socialist Party have expressed no opinion, and have not said that they are going to expel Renaudel and others from their party, must be posed clearly and distinctly.
All those who vote against the new programme must be expelled from the party. As far as the programme is concerned there is no disciplinary problem: either it is accepted or it is not accepted. Those who do not accept it leave the party. The programme is something that is common to all. It is not something drawn up by the majority of party militants. It is what is laid before those parties that wish to be accepted into the Communist International. It must be the difference between the wish to join the Communist International and the fact of being accepted by it.
I think that, after the Congress, the Executive Committee must be given time to find out whether all the obligations that have been laid upon the parties by the Communist International have been fulfilled. After this time, after the so-called organisation period, the door must he closed.
The aim of my proposal is to bring back Comrade Lenin’s condition that was withdrawn, the condition, that is to say, that in those parties that wished to be accepted a certain number of communists should take over the running of the party organs. I would prefer them all to be communists.
Opportunism must be fought everywhere. But we will find this task very difficult if, at the very moment that we are taking steps to purge the Communist International, the door is opened to let those who are standing outside come in.
I have spoken on behalf of the Italian delegation. We undertake to fight the opportunists in Italy. We do not, however, wish them to go away from us merely to be accepted into the Communist International in some other way. We say to you, after we have worked with you we want to go back to our country and form a united front against all the enemies of the communist revolution.
Serrati: We would like to announce that the International Communist Women’s Conference will open tomorrow, Friday, in the Great Theatre at 6 o'clock. We ask you to attend the opening.
The session will be continued tonight at 8.30 pm.
The session is closed.