Minutes of the Second Congress of the Communist International
Milkic: I had not intended to take the floor on this question. I wanted to confine myself to voting.
But I think that it is my duty to declare from the rostrum, as a reply to what Comrade Zinoviev said here, that the Yugoslav party is not an opportunist party.
Zinoviev: That is true.
Milkic: I am glad to hear that Comrade Zinoviev confirms what I say. In 1905 the Yugoslav Socialist Party expelled some of its leaders who were in favour of class collaboration. It did the same in 1912.
Certainly many will say: ‘It was once a courageous party, but it has ceased to be so.’ Comrades, that is a mistake.
Today Comrade Zinoviev gave me some Serbian newspapers and in them I read that the Yugoslav Socialist party has changed its name and from now on calls itself the Communist Party. And the first act of the party centre was to publish a spirited appeal in favour of the Hungarian communists.
After taking note of all the documents on their activity, I can say without exaggeration that the Communist Party of Yugoslavia can serve as an example to all other Communist Parties. I am firmly confident that their tactics in the future will produce good results.
Our comrades have distributed a manifesto among the peasants in which they call upon them to free themselves from the yoke of the landlords. The government has used this occasion to persecute the authors of the manifesto.
I end this short statement by saying that the Communist Party of Yugoslavia is a party of which the Communist International can be proud. It does not deserve what Comrade Zinoviev said about it. He no doubt said it in order to console the German Independents, who are one of the parties which he criticised just as he criticised the South Slavs.
Bombacci: I do not believe that it can be particularly useful to go deeply into a subject that only concerns us as a theoretical question.
Does the adoption of this or that point correspond to the interests of the Communist International? That is the question. It is a difficult one when we are dealing with parties that have a history of thirty years of reformist habits behind them that does not permit them to adopt the spirit of the revolutionary epoch. The Italian Socialist Party joined the Communist International; but since the Bologna Congress, where, in contrast to Comrade Bordiga, I opposed the expulsion of the reformists and the change of the Party’s name, nothing has changed there.
Unfortunately, this fact proves that there are in it elements that are not capable of being really true to the Communist International. It would not be sufficient to expel Turati since Modigliani and fifty or sixty others lead the reformist tendency. The whole party would have to be split, without stopping at the old chiefs of reformism.
I am even more opposed to the acceptance of the French Socialist Party and the German Independents into the Communist International, since these parties cannot adopt a revolutionary communist mode of thought.
With reference to this subject I shall propose an amendment to the Theses we have discussed. It would deal with setting up an inquiry among the mass of members of the parties in question and giving the Executive Committee the right to expel various parties and their individual members who obviously cannot be tolerated in communist organisations. With this big reservation I would be, strictly speaking, in favour of the acceptance of those parties which in principle I condemn. I think that it is impermissible for any communist to be a member of the Freemasons, that purely bourgeois movement. [Applause.]
Polano: I am speaking today on behalf of the Italian Socialist Youth and in order to report to you on its activities. This organisation has existed since 1907. In general its line is in complete agreement with the Italian Socialist Party, which, however, it has constantly pushed to the left. We have never ceased to demand that the Italian Socialist Party should be purged of its reformist elements, and we hope that the Communist International will help us. The International must seek
closer links with the Italian Socialist Party, which will come about through a clear understanding of its historical mission. Its most important task is preparing the revolution. This work is delayed by the struggle inside the ‘party between the two ideologies, between social democracy on the one hand and the communist elements on the other. There does not exist the slightest possibility of uniting these two tendencies. How is it possible that the Marxist elements of the Socialist Party have not yet noticed this contradiction? How could they not grasp the importance, not take measures in order to remove from the party all those elements which obstruct it in action when, after all, it has the duty of leading the masses?
The Italian Socialist Party affiliated to the Communist International en bloc. Nevertheless there are still in its midst men like Modigliani who have never ceased to carry out the most energetic propaganda against the Communist International and the dictatorship of the proletariat. It was Modigliani himself who demanded not so long ago that close links should be created between the Socialist Party and petty-bourgeois elements. Turati, who also, as you know, belongs to the Italian Socialist Party, similarly declared recently that communist tactics were childishness and stupidity.
A real communist party cannot be formed from such contradictory elements. The Communist International must come to the aid of the socialist youth in its work of purging. Permit me to draw the attention of the Congress to paragraph 7 of the Theses which says that all the parties that wish to join the Communist International must immediately break with the opportunist and centrist elements. I would also like to remind the Congress of paragraph 18, which says that all parties that affiliate to the Communist International must adopt the name ‘Communist Party’. I cherish the firm hope that the Italian Socialist Party will consider the Theses that we have discussed and that it will soon present itself as a real communist party. But we must be helped to achieve this task. This must not be forgotten. The Communist International will now, however, be able to help the socialist youth and the Italian Socialist Party in its work if it lets in such groups as the French Socialist Party and the USPD. For it is in fact impossible on the one hand to purge the Italian Socialist Party of its opportunist elements and on the other hand to let such elements once more into the Communist International.
Rakosi: The question with which the Communist International is faced resembles in many respects the question we were faced with about sixteen months ago when in our country all the groupings in the social democracy, including those parts that had a dangerous similarity to the USPD, saw their complete bankruptcy and, under the pressure of the masses, were forced to give up their programme and base themselves completely on the dictatorship of the proletariat and the Communist International. It then emerged that these people had given way to this pressure solely in order to remain in power, and not because they had seen that their previous views were wrong. We have had the saddest experiences with these left social democrats, and I would like to warn the comrades against repeating these examples now on a far larger scale. I must warn you energetically because I can see at every step in the speeches of Comrades Crispien and Dittmann the characteristics of our social democrats. They recognised the dictatorship of the proletariat without any further ado, but, like Däumig they spoke out against terror and demanded a ‘mild form’ of the dictatorship at a time when the experiences of the Finnish, Ukrainian and other atrocities of the White Guards were known.
If after three years of revolution, after they have seen the murder of tens of thousands of Independents and communists, Comrades Dittmann or Crispien can come quite calmly to Moscow to speak against terror, this means that these people are not capable of understanding this system. Even in their own soviet dictatorship they will speak against terror and wait until the white terror teaches them a correct understanding of terror. I can see from the examples of Comrades Crispien and Dittmann that their minds run along the same lines as those of our Hungarian comrades, and that they drink from the same spring. Our comrades investigated the Russian experience carefully, not, indeed, to avoid mistakes, but in order to find out from it ways of justifying their own behaviour. The Hungarian social democrats made every effort to justify themselves wherever they were sloppy. Apart from a complete inability to understand the proletarian dictatorship, the right wing Independents have a very dangerous routine, which they showed by being able to force the other left-wing comrades to present a scandalous USPD resolution against the Executive Committee of the Communist International as if it was the general opinion of the USPD.
Dittmann: Where did you get that pearl of wisdom from?
Rakosi: From you and Comrade Däumig. I know quite well how such things are done. I have warned against this because I can see from the example of the Hungarian proletariat that people who do not know what terror and dictatorship are after three years of revolution are not going to become any wiser in the next few years, and that they will make exactly the same mistakes, which the German proletariat will then have to pay for with its blood. When the dictatorship fell our social democrats did not become any wiser at all, although they should have seen that they were wrong. I do not know whether Comrade Dittmann knows that part of the Hungarian Social Democratic Party calls itself ‘Independent, and that one of its leaders is the worst enemy of the dictatorship who has done the greatest damage to the proletariat. He is the Vienna correspondent of Freiheit and writes whole columns in the spirit of Kautsky on conditions in Eastern Europe. These articles pass unnoticed because they fit in with the spirit of Freiheit. I should like to say that I am in favour of the proposal to link acceptance of the USPD to a new condition not yet mentioned in the Theses, and I would like to support all those conditions that limit the indiscriminate acceptance of the USPD and other such centrists into the Communist International, because I know from experience that these people only change in words and give themselves the appearance of fighting for the dictatorship, while in reality they do what they are doing now in Germany and what they did during – the dictatorship in Hungary.
Serrati: I see in the Russian evening paper a statement made by Dugoni, a member of the Italian delegation, on his visit to Russia.
I must admit that I do not know whether these statements by Dugoni are authentic, but I can state in any case that no member of the Italian delegation has empowered Dugoni to make these statements. We have sent the Avanti radio messages and information on our stay in Russia. In them we have expressed our views very clearly. All other statements ascribed to us are completely false. I heard something of this this morning and entrusted Comrade d'Aragona, who departed for Italy today, with the task of finding out from the party leadership whether the statements published in the Italian press which are ascribed to Dugoni actually come from him.
Should the answer be in the affirmative I shall demand his immediate expulsion from the party.
Meyer: Comrades, if we are here concerned with the question of the acceptance of the USPD into the Communist International, then this concern has shown once again how extremely difficult it is to form a clear all-round picture of the character of the USPD. To every objection, to every criticism its representatives reply by pointing to other phrases, other statements by other members, and all in all the picture we see is that the USPD is not something homogeneous or clear, but that in all its parts it cannot show a clearly outlined attitude. Typical of the character of the USPD, which has indeed been manifest since its foundation, is its behaviour towards the Communist International. The Party Conference at Leipzig did, it is true, decide to affiliate to the Communist International. If however this decision is examined carefully it will emerge that it is not a decision to affiliate, but a resolution demanding first of all negotiations with so-called social-revolutionary parties in order to reach an agreement with them, and contact with Moscow only if these negotiations break down. In the declaration that Comrade Crispien made on this in Leipzig he explicitly established that the decision did not mean straightforward affiliation to Moscow but first of all negotiations. This decision is unclear, and when we inquire as to its execution, then we really are groping in the dark. What have the Independents done since the Leipzig conference to carry out the decision? Why have they sent their representatives here? It is not clear from the behaviour of the delegation here what they want. The delegation has not brought a message or an application saying that the USPD now wants to join the Communist International. When we asked them in the Commission whether they want to negotiate on entry with the Communist International – a similar question was put at the Executive – we did not receive a clear answer, but the following statement: ‘These negotiations do not mean that we set special conditions for our entry to the Communist International, but our negotiations have the purpose of clearing away the lumber of misunderstandings that obviously exists in Moscow and in the Communist International about us.’ But these alleged misunderstandings need not prevent anyone from saying whether he agrees with the Communist International or not.
The latest letter from the headquarters of the USPD similarly casts no light on the attitude of the USPD to Moscow. In it the attempt is made to refute certain sentences in the Executive’s letter, but nothing is said about what they think, in what form and under what conditions they are prepared to carry out affiliation to the Communist International, and why this affiliation has not yet been carried out. The answer to that, however, is given by the arguments that have taken place within the USPD between the left wing and the right wing. It is quite clear that elements like Kautsky, Hilferding and Ströbel, who even today within the USPD are looking out of the corner of their eyes at the Second International, would much prefer to go to Basle or Geneva instead of Moscow, and that only because the masses have barred the road to Lucerne do they grope their way slowly towards Moscow, in order to correspond to the wishes of the masses for affiliation to the Communist International. For there can be no doubt that the broad masses of the USPD want direct affiliation with Moscow. When Moscow’s answer to the USPD was published by the KPD and discussed at public meetings, the members of the USPD said almost everywhere: ‘It is wrong that our headquarters has taken the road of mere negotiations and has not published this letter.’
Many of the USPD leaders are still looking out of the corner of their eyes at the Second International, and that is why they do not want to come straight away to the Communist International. This section has been afraid and is still afraid to declare its solidarity with Russia and the Communist International. The headquarters’ reply to the Moscow Executive finds fault in all sorts of ways with Moscow’s behaviour, not only with their letter but also with the politics that are pursued here. The Executive is reproached with trying to impose Moscow methods quite schematically on to other conditions. That means nothing other than rejecting solidarity with Russia, criticising – however timidly – the behaviour of the communists, and refusing to apply so-called purely Russian methods to Germany, and therefore rejecting pure communist tactics in general and trying to tread an opportunist path which basically means the negation of communism. The thing which most of all holds the Independents back from going to Moscow is the demand, clearly expressed and posed by the whole International, for the expulsion of the reformist elements in the USPD. They do not want this split within the USPD which is necessary. Through its headquarters t he USPD replied to Moscow that they would not allow this split to be imposed on them, that they regarded the demand for it as interference in relations within the German party and that they valued the unity of the party higher than purely communist tactics. This is pretty clearly expressed in the reply.
It follows from this that we have in the USPD a left wing and a right-wing; a right wing that is still based on bourgeois democracy and has only made certain verbal concessions to the dictatorship of the proletariat and a left wing that is, indeed, based on the dictatorship of the proletariat, but Which in practice makes continual concessions to the right wing, to bourgeois democracy. At the Leipzig conference even representatives of the left wing spoke out quite clearly against carrying the dictatorship of the proletariat to its logical conclusion. This also emerges from those parts of the letter that deal with the use of terror. Here too that contrast between force and terror is once again emphasised, a contrast which in reality does not exist and which is only posed artificially in order to be able to express in veiled terms the rejection of the Russian Party and the Communist International, in order not to declare solidarity with the revolution and the Communist International. When Comrade Radek says in his speech today that he hopes that the left will finally decide to adopt clear policies and reject the ideology of bourgeois democracy, then I must admit I do not share this hope. The left wing has adapted in practice to the policies of the right. We have an example of this at this Congress itself, for the speakers were not the representatives of the left but of the right Comrades Dittmann and Crispien. We have, it is true, heard that many sharp conflicts have occurred between the left and the right, but none of this is made public; the left wing renounces an open conflict in front of the broad masses. Even here at the Congress the representatives of the left have declared that they do not want a split in the party, and the same thing is expressed in the reply signed by Däumig and Stöcker.
If we put forward here the point of view that we put forward in Germany, that is to say that, in order to be communist, the USPD must split from the opportunist elements, then we do not do this for reason of party interests. The criticisms that are made within our party show that we do not flinch from speaking out ourselves about what we do wrong in order to correct it. If we criticise another party in the same way, then that does not happen in order to destroy the party as such, but in order to advance the revolutionary movement and to set the whole mass of the workers on the right road. The left wing that neglected to publish the Moscow Executive’s letter to the workers itself signed the reply to Moscow and hushed it up from the public. A certain arrogance speaks out of this letter, based on the electoral successes, on the great number of votes, and perhaps also on a certain fear of radical changes within the party if Moscow speaks directly to the masses of the USPD.
This is typical: the USPD does not lead the revolution, it runs after the masses. In 1918 the Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils demanded collaboration with the Scheidemanns. The USPD obeyed and followed these immature sections of the masses. When in Moscow circles the coupling of the Councils with parliament was criticised, there too the USPD had an excuse: in that situation there was a danger that the Councils would be completely swept aside, and that was why such a compromise was necessary.
It is not possible, in the framework of a short speech, to go into every question in detail. But it is sufficient to point out a few details in order to see that we will have to be very careful over accepting this party. The condition for accepting the USPD is that it carries out a purely communist practice and does not flinch from expelling the reformists and opportunists. We in the KPD have no confidence that this practice can be achieved by the path of negotiations, but we are of the opinion that the masses of the USPD will find the road to Moscow on their own, and that from here we must enter into direct contact with the masses, more or less in the same way as happened with the Executive’s first letter. Nor do we think that the negotiations here will lead to any particular conclusion, but we want the Executive to turn directly to the masses of the Independents and tell them what we think of the USPD and that we expect not the committees of the USPD but the workers of the USPD to impose their will, that is to say, to tread the same path as communists all over the world, as the Russian communists, as Soviet Russia.
Wijnkoop: Many of the remarks that I wanted to make have already been made. I must say that if the vote had to be taken now the Executive’s proposal would be overwhelmingly defeated. We have heard people here who have put all the good arguments against the Executive’s proposal. At least, their arguments spoke against it; whether or not they themselves drew the necessary conclusions from them I do not of course know. No doubt we will now be told that if I and others vote against the Executive’s proposal it is because we are reckoning on the past and not on the masses. In this matter, however, I agree with what Comrade Radek said. He said that it was a fact that the masses of the USPD are moving towards revolution, that they are becoming more and more revolutionary. I agree with that. Comrade Meyer has explained very well that it is not true that the left-wing leaders of the USPD are leading the revolution or revolutionising the movement, but that they are running after the masses. This raises the question of how the work of revolutionising the masses is to be carried out, and on this I think that the road the Executive is taking is wrong. This way the work of revolutionising the masses that stand behind the USPD in Germany and the masses in other countries is not advanced but pushed back. That is my opinion. You should not tell me that I am not taking into consideration the masses that in fact stand behind this party. I am taking them into consideration, but I tell you that if the Executive of the Communist International gives fresh support to the bourgeois leaders of the German Independents and the French Socialists, these masses will be disillusioned once more in what the great revolution and the Communist International has already taught them. That is what our opposition is based on.
Other comrades have already spoken of the fact that the leaders in all these countries are applying the brake, always applying the brake. Only if we fight these gentlemen ruthlessly in every situation will we be able to defeat them. Then the masses will be freed for the revolutionary struggle. If concessions are made to them, in whatever way it may be, that will strengthen their own false conception and they will go back and carry on their work more boldly than before. Comrade Bombacci has told us of his experiences in Italy. He regrets his earlier weaknesses in this matter. He well knows that at that time he was too mild, but now he feels that he acted wrongly then, for as a result of his softness the party in Italy is not more but less revolutionary, and he feels that he must now tread the path that he did not then want to tread. He has judged correctly, and we in the International should learn from it.
The Swiss comrades have confirmed this experience. What is a piece of paper to an opportunist? He will sign it if he has to, and he will still do what he wants to do. He is always two-faced and speaks with two tongues. This is how they operate, these gentlemen in Switzerland, the Troelstras in Holland, the Cachins, the Crispiens and all the rest of them. To retain their influence on the masses they will sign anything and then carry on as they think fit. Of course I know the Executive will say to itself: ‘As the Executive we have a different power over them than the left leaders at home. Once they have signed we will be able to force them to keep to their pledges.’ That is a mistake. I agree completely with the Executive of the Communist International that much more discipline must be introduced, that the Executive must have more influence, that this must come and will come. But I am of the opinion that the Executive does not possess this influence today, and that simply by its willingness to make concessions it shows these gentlemen that it is not capable of really forcing them to take the path that, as revolutionaries, they must take. I must say that if we look at the results that have been achieved up to now we must realise how mistaken these tactics are.
This morning the French were severely criticised and the Independent gentlemen less severely, although they are worse. There is naturally no great difference between them, but the latter suffered only mild, and the Cachins much sharper, criticism. This is a result of the attitude of the Executive who have created a situation where the criticism of the KAPD against the KPD could not be heard here. We ought to have heard it here, but we have not heard it. The USPD say that we should also make friendly criticism of the Communist Parties. That is the best way to teach the masses what they have to do to their opportunist leaders, that is to say: chase them out. By concentrating all the criticism here on the USPD, on a reformist party, we have avoided hearing the criticism, not, it must be admitted, friendly, but good criticism of the KPD by the KAPD. Has the KPD always been in front of the masses? That is the question that must be posed and answered here. Now, however, in the presence of the USPD, it would be no good. We are not on our own, we are together with the socialist gentlemen who are in a government. But we should be on our own, and tell the truth. The Executive’s moves have prevented that.
This morning Comrade Serrati gave a good answer to the question why Turati remains in the Italian Party: because in this way he can make propaganda on his own behalf. And if we ask why these opportunists have come here now and let us pose questions to them, then Comrade Meyer has already emphasised that we get no clear answers from them. They are more shameless here than they are in Germany. That is precisely the reason why these gentlemen enter into negotiations here with the Communist International, because they want to make propaganda on their own behalf in the big Communist Party that must and will grow in Germany. As has been very well said by Comrade Meyer, we must go over the heads of these leaders to the masses to whom the reformist gentlemen want to go in order to spread among them their propaganda, which is so harmful to the revolution. They cannot say so. openly, but it is the truth. If they said so openly we would reply to them: ‘Thank you kindly, please go.’ That is why they must speak diplomatically.
This morning Comrade Zinoviev said something else that was very correct. He characterised the whole machinery of these Independents as philistine. It is precisely this philistine machine that we are trying to take over here. That will not do. We must stand on the principle that Comrade Radek has laid down. We should go to the masses. But then we cannot sort the matter out with the leaders in this way. I must point out that these gentlemen from the USPD and also Cachin and Frossard have been given a special position here. That is wrong, and something that will take its own revenge. Altogether two questions have been confused here. The question in general has been dealt with here as to what the conditions for entry to the Communist International should be like. That should be in the Theses, and in general I think that there are many good things in the Theses. It may be of course that something will yet be changed by this or that amendment. And there is the further question of what we want those parties to be like that already belong to the Communist International. People expect decisions on that from us communists, and these gentlemen should have no part in them. And nevertheless these gentlemen take part in the Commission to draw up these Theses!
The other main question that is up for discussion here is whether we continue to negotiate in this way with these gentlemen, yes or no. These questions have become confused. I have already said that the Executive has given these gentlemen a special position. I have already protested over this in the Commission, but it did no good. These gentlemen are together with us communists, they are here. I have nothing against individuals, but I have something against bourgeois leaders because history has shown us that these people can never shake off their old weaknesses. They can only be forced into a change of front by the masses; but that is achieved by means that are very different from those that are being tried here.
To wind up: this kind of behaviour by the Communist International will have a bad effect not only on Germany and France but all over the world. It will make a very bad impression on England and America. It will also make a very bad impression because it will be felt that the Communist International has here adopted a rightward orientation with the leaders of the Independents. There is no difference between Hilferding and Crispien, and although Hilferding has been attacked here, Crispien has not. How can the masses be revolutionised in all these countries? Only by refusing to stretch out a hand to treacherous parliamentarians, and that is what is being done here with the Independents and also Cachin. When Cachin returns to France, the masses, who have just learnt that parliamentary matters must be approached differently from the way the social democratic gentlemen previously approached them, will see that this new International is once more reaching compromises with the old leaders. The treacherous old parliamentarism will in this way become strong again, and the masses will feel that and turn away from us. It is wrong just to go by the numbers of the masses who nominally stand behind a party but who, in reality, have already come to us through the experience of the Communist International. I therefore hope that the negotiations with the leaders of these parliamentary parties will be broken off, that the Congress will not ratify the present tactics of the Executive, that all the means that we previously had in mind will be applied and a direct address made to the masses in France and Germany. This way, in any case, one of the next goals, the splitting off of the revolutionary sections of the old parties, will come about much more quickly.
Münzenberg: Comrades, I cannot understand how Comrade Wijnkoop can raise here as a reproach against the Executive the fact that the KAPD is pot represented. If it is not represented then that is solely the fault of its delegation. It was decided to allow them into the Congress with an advisory vote, and they were even given the prospect of presenting a minority report on all the points at issue. They did not take the opportunity, they did not appear at the Congress, they left the battlefield before the battle. I do not know what the members of the KAPD think of this, but by far the largest percentage of the German proletariat will be united in their condemnation of such a procedure, and the two comrades who have acted in this irresponsible manner have, in my mind, put themselves beyond the pale in the revolutionary movement in Germany.
Now on the question of the conditions of entry to the Communist International. The political events of the last year have brilliantly proved that the programme and the tactical guidelines of the First Congress of the Communist International in Moscow were correct, those tactics of which the Manifesto said: ‘If the First International predicted the development of the future and tried to find the paths it would take, and if the Second International rallied and organised the proletariat, then the Communist International is the International of open mass action, the International of revolutionary realisation, of the deed.’
Comrades, this method of revolutionary propaganda, of appealing directly to the revolutionary working masses themselves, ignoring the official party channels and institutions, mercilessly criticising every mistake the labour movement makes, has contributed enormously to the awakening and development of the subjective forces of the proletarian revolution in Western Europe. In my opinion the success of the Communist International in the last year lies not so much in today’s Congress as in the fact that, despite the pitiful organisation of the Communist Parties in the last year, and despite the firm boundary drawn on the right – the line was not drawn, as it is today, at Turati, Kautsky, Longuet and Grimm, but at Däumig and Nobs – hundreds of thousands of workers in Germany, Hungary and other states have, in the past year, fought and bled with weapons in their hands for the aims of the Communist International. That is the great practical success of revolutionary propaganda, and it is far more valuable for the proletarian revolution than the issue of a thousand new party cards. The influence of the Communist International on the German workers was so strong that, even when they were called out onto the streets by the USPD, it did not demonstrate in favour of the ideological content of that party, but in favour of the Communist International. The cry constantly rang out: ‘Long live Soviet Russia, Long live the Communist International, Long live the Proletarian Revolution!’
The same thing is expressed in the attitude of the workers in England, France and America. Even if it has not yet been possible to bring the masses to the point where, going over to the final revolutionary struggle, they have overthrown the bourgeoisie in these countries, they have nevertheless been morally so elevated that they will under any circumstances prevent a military invasion of Soviet Russia by their governments. The decisions recently taken by the most varied organisations who are striving for the rejection of the production and transport of munitions to Poland also testify to this. Admittedly, this is not all that the comrades there must demand, but it is the beginning of practical international solidarity. And it is important for that very reason, because the coming epoch of the proletarian revolution will be characterised by a series of revolutionary wars. The Polish war is only one link in the chain of military attacks that is being developed by the Entente and the nations that assist it on Soviet Russia.
Comrades, if we look over the past year of the development of communism, we have no reason to change our tactics and to put a question mark against the winning of great masses for living revolutionary actions for the sake of possible gains of party groups.
It has been said at a session of the Executive that the foundation of the Communist International was premature. I do not share this view, but I think that its boundaries have been extended prematurely. Comrade Zinoviev has already referred in his report to the various opportunist manifestations in the Italian Party, the Swedish, Norwegian, Danish and Yugoslav Parties. There has been talk of the enemy within.
There is in addition the fact that in England, America and France there do not yet exist firm, strong and disciplined parties. The Socialist Party of Spain has now declared itself in favour of affiliation to the Communist International. Similarly the Swiss Party is trying to smuggle itself into the Communist International. If we take in addition the French Socialist Party and the USPD in their present composition, then I cannot get rid of the feeling that the Communist International faces a big danger, the danger that our revolutionary propaganda and action will run aground and be weakened. [Lenin: ‘Who wants to accept the USPD?'] The negotiations in the Executive show that. The fact that comrades who only a few weeks or even a few days ago were fighting the Communist International with every means at their disposal can today say that they are prepared to sign any conditions they are set is surely proof that the conditions are not severely and sharply enough formulated. At the present point in the revolutionary struggle it cannot only be a question of making propaganda for communism and founding communist parties, but of directly initiating revolutionary mass actions, thus contributing a rapid politicisation of the masses, their revolutionary education and the development of all the subjective revolutionary forces and, at the same time, piling up difficulties for moribund imperialism, sharpening the conflicts and thus working for a more rapid accomplishment of the proletarian revolution. It is this above all that must be demanded of those parties and organisations that want to become members of the Communist International. How important it is to follow the method of revolutionary mass action also emerges clearly from the report of the Executive Committee. It was the Executive Committee that stated in one of its manifestos that more thousands of Petrograd workers had to bleed because of the collapse of the international mass actions planned on July 21, 1919. The international actions planned for November 7, 1919 and on the anniversary of the death of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg failed in the same way. It is therefore absolutely necessary that strict conditions are laid down for all parties precisely in this respect.
The demands that have been laid down in relation to military preparations are also completely unsatisfactory. It is not enough to carry out propaganda in the bourgeois armies and form agitational cells. On the contrary the present situation of the bourgeoisie imperiously demands that everywhere, in every country, we go over to making the organisational and technical military arrangements for the last conflict with the bourgeoisie. I hand over to the Presidium two proposed amendments that correspond to this.
Lozovsky: The question of the acceptance of the centrist parties is one of the most serious questions facing the Congress. If we take the French Socialist Party as being typical of the parties that are at present developing towards communism, then we can see that this party is a very peculiar combination of different tendencies.
When Comrades Cachin and Frossard introduced themselves to the Executive Committee a series of questions was put to them. In particular they were asked what they would do with Albert Thomas, who is at present director of the Labour Office of the League of Nations, and whether they did not think it impossible to bring socialists of this ‘kind into the Communist International. Comrade Frossard officially answered that the case of Albert Thomas would be dealt with at the next party conference of the French Socialist Party.
The French Socialist Party includes centrist elements like Cachin and Frossard as well as bitter enemies of socialism, members of the League of Nations, in short, people who, in the course of the last few years, have fought every workers’ movement, revolutionary or trade union.
The French Socialist Party suffers from a disease that is not only opportunism, but which one can call ‘unity at any price’ regardless of with whom.
When in the Executive Committee Cachin and Frossard were posed the question of national defence, they avoided tying themselves down in the future. They would only give an ambiguous answer. This question is however essential; it is the pillar, the meaning of every communist movement, the foundation of the Communist International. It is obvious that even after the purge [Goldenburg: ‘They will not carry it out ‘I that will be carried out at the next Congress they will not join the Communist International. But it is on the French workers that the duty falls of coming to the Communist International on their own and leaving those leaders who cannot make up. their minds to do what is necessary outside the door.]
I should like to direct your attention to another essential point. If you read the Humanité you will see how they have fought (as Cachin says) against the Treaty of Versailles. It is a peculiar fight altogether and is all too reminiscent of a children’s game. It is true that the socialist members of parliament voted against the Treaty of Versailles. But you should know how. They confined themselves to protesting against certain articles in the Treaty and not against the Treaty of Versailles in its entirety.
There is another fact that we must establish. Here this morning Cachin read out a new declaration that bears no resemblance at all to the one he made a few days ago. Since he knows that this declaration will be published in France he has chosen words that are much less clear than those in the declaration he made eight days ago, when he was not faced with an immediate return to France.
This declaration, which avoids all the awkward questions, openly proves that the majority of the French Socialist Party, from the standpoint of ideas as much as from the standpoint of action, is incapable of working inside – the Communist International. In his declaration Cachin says not a word on the future tactics of the party. He passed over the question of the class struggle and the overthrow of capitalism in silence – a mere nothing, of course.
Among the Socialist Parties that have affiliated to the Communist International there has been much said from this rostrum about the Italian Socialist Party. I must emphasise that in this party Bolshevism and Menshevism rub shoulders.
If we were, however, to ask our Italian comrades whether Bolshevism and Menshevism can be united, they would surely answer in the negative. They would perhaps add that Italy has not yet entered its revolutionary period. But it was not the revolution that divided us from the Mensheviks in Russia. The abyss between us and them had been dug long before. And we, who have been through these experiences, can tell our Italian comrades: ‘Take good care! You will feel the blows of your opportunism during the revolutionary movement, at a vital moment, when the masses are already on the street.’
I remember on this occasion an unforgettable event that took place in Petrograd during the October Revolution. Negotiations were taking place between the Bolsheviks, the Mensheviks and the Social Revolutionaries with a view to common participation in the action. Do you know what the Mensheviks officially proposed to us? To disarm the workers and march the Cossacks into the workers’ districts! I know all about this because I took part in the negotiations. At that time I myself was an eager compromiser, and I was raging about the implacability of our comrades on the Central Committee. They, the Mensheviks, said to us: ‘If you disarm the workers we will guarantee that the workers will not be murdered.’ That is what our opportunists proposed!
And comrades, on the basis of our revolutionary experience, we are afraid that one day, during the decisive struggle that you will have to withstand, the opportunists in your own country will propose something similar to you.
Crispien: Comrades, we would like to answer briefly the question of why we are in Moscow and what we want here. I must, to be sure, say that this question appears really somewhat strange to me. We did not, of course, come to Moscow to see the town but, as we informed the Executive Committee quite officially, as a result of an invitation in the course of the written correspondence that we had with the Executive Committee in order, in accordance with the decision of our party conference, to negotiate here in Moscow with the Communist International about unification with our party. I shall also explain in my remarks why, in my opinion, we had to choose the path of negotiations.
Allow me first of all to say a few words about our party.
From everything that has been said here I can hear that the comrades from abroad are informed neither about German conditions in general nor about party conditions in particular. It is known that the German Social Democracy too simply abdicated at the outbreak of the war. It may however be less well known that from that hour onwards there were also comrades present within the old Social Democracy who, unswervingly and unhesitatingly, immediately made a front against the old party and against the war, not only through protests, not only through resolutions, but also through very difficult practical work during the four war years. Please just imagine: A mighty party that for decades had drawn into its sphere of influence the most advanced part of the German working class – there were a million members in the old Social Democracy, 2 1/2 million members in the trades unions – and in addition the great mass of indifferent workers caught up in the war fever, in addition the military dictatorship, then you can form a picture of what it meant, and how difficult it was, to hold high the flag of socialism in this situation. It was a small handful which then, by the distribution of illegal literature and Spartakus Letters ... [Cry from Fuchs: ‘Who?']
[The Spartakus Letters were issued from December, 1914 by the left wing of German Social Democracy which opposed the war. At first duplicated, they were later printed and appeared regularly under the title ‘Politische Briefe (Spartakus). Leo Jogiches was in charge of production and the principal contributors were Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Liebknecht, Franz Mehring and Julian Karsky. On New Year’s Day, 1916, the group formed its own organisation, the Spartacus League, which was to become the basis for the German Communist Party (KPD) in 1919. Spartacus was the leader of a Roman slave revolt.]
We were there too. The comrades will confirm that I for example was also involved in that. [Cry from Walcher: ‘You were not in favour of the Working Group then!'] I am talking now about the start of the war, and ask whether you can deny that I did my duty as a revolutionary socialist. [Walcher agrees.]
Even during the war we staged mass actions against the war. It was not only the masses that bled and made sacrifices, but also the ‘notorious traitors’, the ‘rascals’, the leaders, who are sitting among you today, who also took part in the mass actions and had to pay for it, like all the other proletarians, against whom all the well-known punishments to which capitalism condemns every revolutionary proletarian were used. An opposition rallied more and more around this little handful of social democrats who fought against the war, and it is understandable that in the process elements came into the opposition that did not fundamentally reject war in general and oppose national defence, but were opposed to the war for some other reason. This was natural and understandable, and in this difficult struggle we had neither the time nor the opportunity to show the workers the correct path in big meetings to clarify the issue. We were not even allowed to meet, we were persecuted, had to work underground and could not approach the masses. Those comrades in parliament who had at first submitted to party discipline came out in writing in favour of the class struggle even during the war. Then came the collapse of the war. That gave us the opportunity to come out into the open. [Fuchs: ‘You came out against Liebknecht.’ Dittmann: ‘I shall refute that.'] Comrade Dittman, who was in parliament, says that he will answer that.
When the war was ended by the uprising of workers and soldiers, the German proletariat was suddenly faced with an enormous task.
That it was not solved in a socialist sense by the proletariat is because, in the first place, it was not possible to shape and drive on the great action of the workers and soldiers to a conscious proletarian and revolutionary action. That is one of the main reasons. You should not make the question so simple and think that some leaders betrayed the cause, and that was why it collapsed. [Interjection: ‘You were against the dictatorship’.] The dictatorship of the proletariat is not some new discovery by the Communist International, it was already in the programme of the old socialist party. It said there that the conquest of political power by the working class is the precondition for the realisation of socialism. That is an old Marxist principle. Whether it was followed in practice by the Social Democracy is another matter. As social democrats, we too were in favour of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The fact that it could not be introduced immediately after the end of the war was because no force existed upon which it could be based. The Soldiers’ Councils offered it no basis, the majority of them were not revolutionary socialists. They were not so far advanced, for it was only at the outbreak of the revolution that we were able to approach the masses. And then the process of clarification, of orientation, began, for our party as well. At the party conference in March we took up an attitude towards the situation, and even then we quite clearly articulated and formulated the dictatorship of the proletariat in our programme. [Interjection: ‘Institutionalisation of the Council system.']
[During the German Revolution of 1918-19 Councils of Workers, Soldiers, Sailors and in some areas Peasants were set up. Taking over certain governmental functions in the post-war breakdown they were embryonic organs of dual power. Owing to the lack of leadership and the betrayals of the Social-Democrats, who fought to restore the bourgeois state in co-operation with the army, the Councils became increasingly ineffective and in the course of 1919 they disappeared or were dissolved. However, in the discussions at Weimar, preceding the drawing up of the new Constitution, there was talk of representation of producers through the institution of Industrial Workers’ and Employees’ Councils and in the final document provision was made for such bodies. In practice these councils proved to be harmless organs of class collaboration concerned mainly with social welfare.]
As early as then we too were emphasising that parliament does not bring us socialism, that it is only a weapon that the proletariat needs in its struggle. In the midst of the great confusion of historical development no single party has ever stepped onto the stage as pure as an angel, and moved without guilt and error. I should like to say to you that he who stands in the middle of the white heat of the political struggle can always be criticised. It is very easy. The criticisms of the communists towards us are repeated towards the communists in Germany by the KAPD in full measure. In your eyes we are traitors, in the eyes of the KAPD you are traitors to the working class. You cannot deny that our party developed between March and Leipzig, and that at Leipzig it undertook a clearer formulation of our programme, and I should like to draw your attention to the fact that this took place under the guidance of precisely those ‘infamous leaders’. These leaders put the programme forward. It was not forced on us by the masses, but submitted to the conference and defended by the then party leadership. We in the party leadership acted honestly and honourably in accordance with the party’s decisions. We have had mass actions in Germany, in many cases in common with the German communists. If we are accused of vacillation in our policies and tactics, I would like to say that we can direct the same accusation against the German communists, who once spoke out against parliamentarism and are now in favour of it. The KPD has vacillated on many questions, and if you were to look into your own eyes you would see beams enough there.
It is said that the masses are different from the leaders, the traitors, that we have here. All we need now is for Wijnkoop to call us police agents. You are making a big mistake if you think that the tactic of blackening the leaders here at the Congress in the hope of turning the masses from us is going to make any impression in Germany. You have to go to the masses with facts in Germany. The German comrades and workers have known us for decades, and they would not elect us to responsible positions again and again if we were traitors. In your opinion the masses of the Independents are communist, and it was these communist USPD masses that elected themselves the leaders whom you are trying to tear down. Something must be wrong with your calculations. If you think you are going to play off the masses against the leaders of the party, your tactics will not lead to success. We discuss this in Germany, and we have no fear of coming off the worst in Germany.
And now your excitement about our letter. Why are you suddenly as sensitive as a virgin? We received a sharp letter from the Executive. We did not weep and say that we would turn the other cheek, but we answered it clearly and set down what we thought without beating around the bush. We did not say, as Comrade Zinoviev thinks, that only the right wing leaders were in conflict with the masses. In its letter to us the Executive says that the whole leadership stands in contradiction to the masses, and the politics of the masses are determined by the right-wing leaders of the USPD. To my surprise I find that here I am counted in with the right-wing leaders. You can say that here in Moscow, but you could not say so in Germany. The policies of our party are determined by the party conference and the decisions are taken by the party comrades. Those who do not want to carry out the decisions cannot join the party leadership; they are not elected. Radek says that in Lucerne I spoke in favour of the League of Nations. That is an error. I spoke against the League of Nations in Lucerne. [Interjection from Radek.] Comrade Radek, I do not know if you have a copy of the text of my speech. I spoke against the League of Nations there. As early as the winter of 1918 I wrote in our paper that the League of Nations was not a league of nations but an instrument of the capitalist government for the oppression of nations. I said it then and I stand by this point of view now. I protested against the League of Nations. We went to Lucerne because we thought it important to unmask the right-wing German socialists in front of the international proletariat. It was surely not a crime for us to assume that German conditions were not sufficiently well known abroad, and that the right-wing socialists could easily have made capital out of it in order to capture other nations for their ideas. We declared that the Second International cannot be resurrected and that historically speaking it is finished.
If I wrote in my pamphlet that the foundation of the Moscow International was premature then I say that I am still convinced of this today. Comrade Radek should have read on to see why I said that the Moscow International had been founded too early. I explained in my pamphlet that the foundation of a new International must be preceded by a clarification of the workers in every country. The workers must be clear on the concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat and on the international class struggle, and when they have become clear in their own country they can play an international role. Comrade Zinoviev’s speech proves that that is not such a bad thing at all. Who, anyway, is called and chosen for the Communist International? The Russian Communists are the only ones who were not criticised. Apart from them there was not a single affiliated party that escaped criticism. And the same leaders of those very parties that were criticised here are trying to outlaw the evil Independents in Germany. They completely overlook the fact that we split from the right-wing socialists, that we did not baulk at the split when it was historically inevitable.
But splits are not something to undertake lightly. I can imagine a situation where a split is necessary. The proof of that is the USPD in Germany. But that is a bitter necessity. Before splitting, one should try to win the workers for a fundamentally clear attitude. For that one needs time and patience. It is much easier to split the workers than it is to win them and hold them together for the revolution in Germany. It is one of the greatest tragedies that in Germany the whole left wing of the workers is split into three or four parties, the USPD, the KPD, the KAPD and the Workers’ Union that there has been propaganda for recently. That is very damaging for the German movement, for the world proletarian revolution and particularly for the International. What we need is an International that is capable of acting, and that requires that we must organise the workers in a firmly united way. Otherwise we will not be able to carry out any international action at all. It all depends on holding the masses together and bringing them onto the basis of the proletarian revolution, if they do not stand on it already.
It is true that at Leipzig I opposed immediate affiliation to Moscow. Why? Well, comrades, at the First Congress in Moscow it was decided to annihilate the USPD, to destroy it, to wear it down, to abolish it from the world. You will be able to understand that a representative of a party that is to be annihilated may wish first of all to have a discussion with the comrades that want to do that in the hope of bringing about a negotiated unification. We were not against unification, but we were in favour of first of all abolishing the hostile decisions against us. You cannot beat somebody and then expect him to say: ‘I am your friend because you have beat me.’ These are all things that you must understand and grasp. [Interjections.] As far as signing the peace treaty is concerned, the masses in Germany stood foursquare behind our party on this question. At that time it was the struggle against chauvinism in Germany, and we were glad that for once nationalism was forced back. The German nationalists wanted to turn the question of peace into a nationalist and chauvinist witches’ sabbath. [Interjection from Walcher: ‘You helped them out of their difficulty.'] That is nonsense. Germany had been so weakened by the war that if the blockade had been reimposed the impoverishment of the masses in Germany would have been even more fearful. We thought that the question was to make the masses better able to fight, to bring them up to the highest possible standard of living in a continual fight against the tendency of capitalism towards impoverishment. It is not the completely impoverished layers down to the lumpenproletariat who stand in the front rank, they will not make the revolution, but those layers of workers who can keep their standard of living relatively high. Thus the accusations against us concerning the signing of the peace treaty are also unjustified.
Now the question of force and terror. We are of the opinion that these are two different things. We cannot renounce force if we wish to fight for the dictatorship. Where force is applied it will under some circumstances happen that here and there people are hurt who should have been spared if we had been able to examine carefully their guilt or their innocence. But to say now, before we have the power, that we must apply terror as a political principle, we must set up a reign of terror, is different from saying that we cannot renounce the use of force. Our standard for the use of force is what we are forced to do under the circumstances obtaining at the time.
I can say that we have never slandered the Bolsheviks; even more, I can say that I have always felt myself to be in solidarity with the Russian comrades. When the communists in Nuremberg were accused of taking money from the Russians, I stated that I would be proud to do so as it would have been an act of international solidarity. We have always fought for the Bolsheviks and explained that they must carry out a hard fight, and we have no right to disparage them. [Interjection: ‘Kautsky.'] Kautsky, certainly, he criticised you, but he does not determine the party leadership. That is a big mistake. [Interjection: ‘Ledebour.'] Ledebour never disparaged the Bolsheviks either. You are wrong. Ledebour fought openly for the party without regard for his life. He thinks that you cannot establish terror as a political principle.
I should just like to say here that our friends in Russia are also opportunist sinners, that accuse us of not supporting their demands in the agrarian question. On this question we said the following in our reply:
‘As far as the agrarian question is concerned we find that to our amazement the Executive Committee recommends to the revolutionary proletariat of Germany methods that signify a relapse into petty-bourgeois ways of thinking that have long since been overtaken. Thus we are recommended to make it clear to the small peasants that the proletariat, immediately after the seizure of power, will improve their situation at the expense of the expropriated big landlords, liberate them from the yoke of the big landlords, give the big estates to them as a class, free them from debt, etc. This proposal means nothing other than the rejection of our Marxist conception according to which the big estates should immediately be socialised and worked m common. Instead of that the small peasants are now to be told that they can keep the big estates, that they will be freed from debt, etc. That means the abandonment of the interests of the proletariat in favour of the peasants. It means willy-nilly transferring conditions in Russia, where the land has been given to the peasants, to Germany, whose social and economic development could be most seriously prejudiced by such a measure.’
Do you think that it would be revolutionary for Germany if we gave the land to the small peasants? [Walcher: ‘In order to bring the small peasants to our side.'] You will not bring them to our side by opportunist means. The big landowners must be expropriated and the estates must be farmed on a co-operative basis, and not divided among the rural labourers and small peasants. We must make them ripe for the co-operative farming of the land for society.
Comrade Meyer has asked what we have done in order to bring about unification. I believe that Comrade Meyer has read our official report on this subject. What have we done? We have worked tirelessly to get together with Moscow. Finally, after four months, we received an answer when we were in the middle of preventing a military putsch, we were in an election campaign, and immediately afterwards went to Moscow. That we come together with other parties was the decision that the party conference gave us to take with us, and we have to carry out decisions the party has taken. We avoided holding an international conference with other parties. We wanted to give Moscow the first chance.
It is not true that Koenen in Switzerland said that we are forming a new International. We said that if Moscow rejects us then we must consider what is to happen next. Should we allow ourselves to be excluded from international politics? Do you think it possible for so big a movement as the USPD represents not to be active internationally? To be sure, you communists from Germany have called us dead ever since we were born as a party. Your hopes that we will soon be dead do not worry us any more.
I should like also to say that, in general, I feel the lack of any thinking about historical development in the discussions. Many comrades think that Marxism came into the world all of a sudden with the Communist International, and that now something quite new is present. That is not correct. The First International that was founded in the faith that the proletarian revolution would follow on immediately after the bourgeois revolution, that was attuned to the immediate realisation of socialism, ceased to exist for the reasons that Comrade Zinoviev indicated. What emerged, and what Marx said, was that at that time the proletariat itself lacked the preconditions for the taking and the holding of political power, and that the first thing that came into question was to organise the proletariat and develop in the proletariat the abilities necessary for the fight for the conquest of political power. Those were the historical tasks of that epoch that was dominated by the Second International. Today, the preconditions for the fight for the conquest and maintenance of power are also present in the working class, just as today the conditions for socialism are present in capitalist society. We are now in the epoch when what counts is the seizure of political power. In Russia it has already been seized. I hope that it will very soon be possible to seize it in other countries also. Thus it is necessary to appreciate the development through which the working class has passed in order to see that the Communist International is building on where their predecessors in previous epochs have stopped. If then the parties that are still rightwing socialist today have not recognised their tasks, they will have to pay for that with their collapse and destruction. We have recognised that, we are acting in accordance with it, and in Germany we are carrying out revolutionary policies. I make this claim with complete emphasis, and we can also back it up at any time from the documents.
Formulate your answer as you will, we are striving honestly, we desire honestly, to set up a common front with the Communist International. You cannot deny us our revolutionary convictions, conceptions and activity. We still remain revolutionaries, however much we are suspected of being opportunists. judge as you will; we will not cease to apply all the forces at our disposal in Germany in the future for the proletarian world revolution. But if you give us an answer that the German proletariat that stands in our ranks will receive with joy, then so much the better for the setting up of an international proletarian front.
Dittmann: Comrades, pure coincidence gives me the floor immediately after my friend Crispien. I beg you not to draw from that the conclusion, as has been insinuated by Comrade Wijnkoop, that we intend to act even more impudently here than we do in Germany.
[Amusement.] It really is a pure coincidence that we follow one another on the list of speakers.
We have been accused, particularly Crispien and myself, with not having fought for immediate, direct affiliation to the Communist International. The same people that have accused us of this have also recounted a whole register of sins that they think they have to reproach us with in order to prove that we are not worthy to be accepted into the Communist International. I think that there is a great contradiction here, and it does justify the decision our party took in Leipzig to negotiate with the Communist International in order to find out whether unification or a unified common front is possible or not. It was for this purpose that we have come here now, and we were given the Action Programme on which our Leipzig party conference decided as the basis for our negotiations. This Action Programme – I assume you are familiar with it – has taken as its basis the conquest of political power by the proletariat, the dictatorship of the proletariat and of the soviet system, clearly and frankly, and I do not think that many of the parties whose representatives here have criticised us Independents can show a programme that is so clear and unambiguous on precisely these decisive points as ours is.
Comrades, after what my friend Crispien has explained here I do not want to go any further into these general questions. I asked for the right to speak above all in order to reject some of the accusations that have been made by some of the speakers in the course of the debate.
I must concern myself particularly with Comrade Radek. He raised above all two accusations against the Independents whose representatives belonged to Germany’s first revolutionary government. He has accused the USPD that its representatives at that time rejected the symbolic action of the Russian proletariat in offering two train-loads of corn. And he further criticised the fact that the USPD at that time prevented diplomatic relations between the Germany of the first weeks of the revolution of November 1918 and Soviet Russia from being restored. I know that Comrade Radek is among those foreign comrades who know conditions in Germany better than any other foreign comrades. But nevertheless it very often shows that he does not know conditions in Germany thoroughly enough to be able to give a really authoritative verdict.. I do not say that as a reproach here, but in order to establish the facts. Nor do I know a single person in this room who has mastered conditions in every country with such a universal spirit that he would be able, in any given situation, to establish the necessary political guidelines according to which the proletariat has to march at each point in each country in order to serve the revolution best. That is beyond any human power. That is why I do not say what I say as a reproach. He who wants to judge the conditions that obtained in Germany in November and December 1918 cannot be satisfied with being given a variety of facts by some of the comrades when he comes to Germany. He cannot believe that he can reach an absolutely accurate verdict on the basis of these facts.
What was it like? When Germany suffered a military collapse on the battlefield there was also an economic collapse inside the country. The people had collapsed physically and morally. It was immediately faced with the acute danger of actual starvation. That was what the situation was like in Germany. Despite everything that had happened, the German militarists would not have given up the game for lost in October 1918 had it not been declared from a responsible source that our corn supplies would only last until the beginning of January 1919. That was the end; after that the people would starve.
That was what it was like, and the government which at that time took the reins in its hands had to keep in mind that it had to take care to prevent the people from dying of acute starvation and that, by the time all the supplies at hand had been consumed, corn would have to be obtained from no matter where, even the moon. Nobody could have assumed responsibility for carrying out a policy that would have exposed the whole people to starvation. It was in this situation that the telephone conversation between Radek and Haase on the Hughes Apparatus came. What was Comrade Haase’s reply? I could have wished that Radek had given Haase’s full answer. He declared: ‘We see in this offer an act of solidarity of the Russian with the German proletariat. We see international solidarity symbolised in it. But we know that Russia is also suffering from starvation, and insofar as the supplying of Germany comes into question, America has already agreed to supply enough corn to Germany to make it possible to continue the present level of rations until the new harvest.’ This is what Comrade Haase stated at the time to Comrade Radek on the telegraph. And I would like to ask: where is the abandonment of the international solidarity of the proletariat here?
Comrade Haase acted completely correctly when he stated that we knew that you needed corn yourselves and that, on the other hand, we knew that we would be supplied with corn. So you could keep the corn for yourselves. Did the value of the offer fie in the fact that the trains actually set out? The offer’s value lay in the fact that it was made. That was enough to prove solidarity, and if Haase said that we saw in that an act of solidarity and that we were grateful for it, then that was appropriate in the given situation, and I do not see how Comrade Radek can accuse us for this action of having fallen victim to Wilsonism because we as a government accepted corn from America.
From whom else then should we in Germany have received corn in order to protect our people from starvation, if not from the only country in the world that was then in a position to supply corn to our half-starved people? We can think what we like about America, but America supplied the corn, and not only corn, but other food as well.
And now the expulsion of the Russian Embassy. I think it was on November 4 or 5, 1918 that the government of Prince Max of Baden, the last Imperial Chancellor of the Wilhelmine regime, decided to expel the Russian Embassy from Berlin, allegedly because Joffe was abusing his position as Ambassador by carrying out revolutionary propaganda in Germany. That is why the German Imperial government expelled him. When the German revolution broke out, Comrade Joffe was waiting on the German-Russian frontier. There were still some formalities to be finalised in relation to crossing the frontier; that is why he was waiting there. In this situation, telegrams were sent to Berlin by Comrade Joffe as soon as he knew that the revolution had broken out in Germany and that there were Independents in the government. He sent a telegram to Comrade Haase, and Haase immediately stated in the Council of Peoples Commissaries – that was the name of the government of the day, whose member I was together with Haase and Barth – that we Independents were all three of the opinion that Joffe should be called back immediately. That was the position that we adopted straight away, but the right-wing socialists, supported by the Foreign Minister, Solf, told us there could be no question of it. [Interjection from Walcher: ‘The minutes tell a different story.'] I am coming to the minutes. just let me explain things; I know more about it than anyone else here because I was one of those involved. Then Solf, and with him Landsberg, Scheidemann and Ebert, declared that it was immaterial whether Joffe had tried to support the revolution in Germany or whether he had carried out reactionary propaganda; as an Ambassador, they said, he had to avoid interference in the internal relations of the country under all circumstances. In vain we emphasised that this was a formalistic point of view, which we as revolutionaries, could not support; that Joffe had acted in the interests of the German and the world revolution, and that we felt ourselves to be in solidarity with him, and had to insist that he return as Ambassador. We fought this question out not just once but a number of times. [Interjection from Wolfstein: ‘Vote!'] The Council of Peoples’ Commissars was composed of three right-wing socialists and three Independents. Thus we could have prevented the right wingers from getting a decision through to expel Joffe from Berlin had that not already happened, but we lacked the majority to get through the positive motion to bring Joffe back. It was three against three, and it was impossible for us to have Joffe brought back to Germany. – You clapping there behind me on the platform doesn’t prove a thing. You can’t ask anybody to do more than fight for what he can get through. If you want to interrupt me in this way I shall wait, since it is difficult for me to make myself understood.
What could they ask of us in a situation like that? Only what we could achieve, and we went as far as was possible. We declared however that we would return to the matter, that it had not been settled as far as we were concerned, and we took it up again at every suitable opportunity. But this was rendered very difficult for us precisely by Comrade Radek’s behaviour. One day Comrade Haase said to me in great excitement: ‘You know Comrade Radek; can you imagine that such a clever man could do something so stupid. I have just had a call from Moscow on the Hughes apparatus’ – that is an apparatus that writes out the message simultaneously, so that it is impossible to hold a conversation free from eavesdropping on such an apparatus, a fact that Comrade Radek also doubtless knows, and ought to have made him be careful about what he was saying – ‘and Radek said that a delegation would come to Germany to the first Congress of Soviets, and that at the same time the delegation would bring with it people with foreign language skills who would have the job of going to the Prisoner of War Camps in Germany to carry on propaganda among the English and French prisoners.’ [Cries of ‘Bravo’. Interjection from Radek: ‘Terrible!’] I greet that as a revolutionary socialist, but it is a different matter to inform a government officially, and at the same time officials that are opposed to the revolution, that the intention exists to send agents into the prisoner of war camps to carry on revolutionary propaganda there. That means in other words informing the entire bourgeois world in Germany of the fact, and also taking care to inform the Entente, the same Entente with which the German government was forced to conclude a four week armistice. If the German government had approved of it, the Entente would obviously have interpreted this propaganda as a breach of the armistice. Therefore there was nothing else for Haase to do but to answer Radek on the machine that there could be no question of us agreeing to this offer. Radek thereupon stated that he renounced it. [Interjection from Levi and Radek: ‘And so?’] Your ‘and so’ proves nothing since the offer had been made, it was known in the Foreign
Ministry and it was known to Solf and the bourgeois officials we had to reckon with. [Interjection from Radek: ‘Why did you not throw them out?’] I am the last person to condemn the carrying out of revolutionary propaganda, but we must take some account of the circumstances and understand the situation as it existed. We do not need to fall out over what we want.
As a result of this a situation was created for us Independents in the cabinet that made extraordinarily difficult our efforts to have relations with Soviet Russia resumed, for Landsberg, Scheidemann and Ebert, not forgetting Solf, immediately told us: ‘There you can see what we are to expect if this embassy comes back. They will create the greatest complications with the Entente, they will create a breach of the armistice now, when our troops are being brought back from the left bank of the Rhine. The Entente will march in after them, and Germany will be occupied.’ That was a situation that nobody could conjure up at that time if he did not want to turn the whole mood of the country in Germany against himself, even among working class circles; you should be clear about that. And when Solf and the others repeated that there could be no question of Joffe returning there was nothing left for us to do but to shelve the matter for the time being. We did not want to let it drop. We still hoped we would have an opportunity to get it through despite everything, and it was from this situation that arose the minutes that Vorwärts published once. But the paper avoided publishing the other minutes, from which everything that I have explained here would have emerged very clearly. [Interjection from Walcher and Radek: ‘Barth has confirmed it.'] I was not so discourteous as to quote Barth. He expresses himself in very discourteous terms about you, my dear Comrade Radek. I assume you have seen an extract that was printed in Vorwärts. In his book on the other hand Barth says: ‘The right-wing socialists came with a cable from Radek in which he proclaimed a joint fight on the Rhine against the capitalist Entente. This stupid phrase was a great piece of stupidity and did the worst possible damage to the world revolution.’ That is how Barth expressed himself. You would have done better not to have quoted Barth. I can also read out the piece about Joffe, who is supposed to have given Haase and Barth money for the revolution. The book says about this: ‘I must say that Joffe’s cable was worse than stupid; if I too had named names, those comrades would now surely no longer be alive; the counter-revolution would have murdered them.’ With the greatest efforts on my part, I have been unable to find a single place in Barth’s entire pamphlet that has anything good to say about you, Comrade Radek. I only found the two extracts which I would not have quoted if you had not interrupted me.
Meanwhile we left the government and we are not responsible for what happened afterwards. We always came out publicly in favour of resumption not only of diplomatic but also of economic relations with Soviet Russia. just recently we proposed another motion of that kind in the Reichstag. Comrades Stöcker and Crispien have been entrusted with the task of proposing this motion in parliament. In it we adopt the point of view that of course relations between Soviet Russia and Germany have to be resumed. Quite recently, when the Polish imperialists began their campaign of robbery against Soviet Russia, our party staged a mighty demonstration under the slogan: ‘Hands off Russia! Restore peaceful relations with Russia!’ I do not know whether those comrades who are always receiving reports and information about the Independents, according to which we are hostile towards Soviet Russia, know all these things. I should like to think that they do not know these things. Otherwise they could not have reached the verdict on the Independents that has been expressed here.
A word in conclusion. A whole series of speakers have expressed the opinion that in their view, apart from some other parties, our party too should not be let into the Communist International as it is not revolutionary. My friend Crispien has shown in broad outline how false this accusation is, and if we had the opportunity to unfold the whole history of our party since the German revolution before you, many of you would surely change your verdict on our party. An honourable man would have to change it. Convince yourselves: 5 million people do not vote for a party against which the papers of the Communist Party raise the accusations that have been raised here and a hundred others unless they themselves have been able to form a judgement on whether these accusations are justified. We won our positions in the hardest fight against the majority socialists and the bourgeoisie. We can claim on our behalf that the masses of the revolutionary proletariat in Germany stand behind the Independent Party, and we have come to Moscow because we know that the world revolution is advancing and that it is necessary for the proletariat of every country to march in a unified common front and to try to defeat capitalism, and not, as you say, in response to the pressure of the masses. We ourselves are workers and proletarians, we are workers in our origins and our upbringing, we have been in the labour movement for more than a quarter of a century. Our whole existence is absorbed in the movement and we stood our ground in the darkest days of the war, flinched from no sacrifice, and even stood up against the executioners of the capitalist class state. If here one is put down as somebody who lacks all revolutionary feeling, one has a right to point out the scars one has received in the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat.
And if you want the same thing as us, to bring together the proletariat of Russia and of Germany, and beyond them the proletariat of the whole world, united and in closed ranks, then endeavour as seriously as we have endeavoured to find in the negotiations that are to come a way that will enable us to come together soon and carry on the common fight against capitalism to the benefit of the entire world proletariat.
Rosmer: It is 1.00 a.m. The session is closed.