Minutes of the Second Congress of the Communist International
Zinoviev: The session is open.
It was precisely a year ago today that the Hungarian Soviet Republic fell. During this year we have, as you know, lost thousands and thousands of our best comrades in Hungary. It was also a year ago that one of our best friends, Comrade Tibor Szamuely, fell as the first victim of the Hungarian counter-revolution. I ask the Congress to rise in this comrade’s honour, and I express the hope that the time is no longer far off when we will once more have a soviet republic in Hungary. The soviet republic fell last year. Long live the Soviet Republic of Hungary!
Dittmann: On behalf of Comrade Crispien, who cannot attend the Congress because of illness, I have read the following declaration:
‘In the session of the Congress of July 30, 1920, in which I unfortunately could not take part because of illness, the reporter in his winding-up described me as a social-pacifist, that is he represented me as a man who dreams of the reconciliation of the classes or believes that class contradictions can be abolished peacefully.
‘In my more than 25 years of activity in the workers’ movement I have never represented social-pacifist ideas. I reject them decisively.
‘I am convinced that capitalist class society can only be overcome by the ruthless independent class struggle of the proletariat, by the conquest of political power by the working class and by the dictatorship of the proletariat.'
Wijnkoop: I already said during the last session that a further vote must take place. The chairman Serrati did not carry this out then. I therefore propose that a vote now take place on the question of whether the Executive be given a mandate to continue to negotiate with the USPD and the French Socialist Party in the way that is happening now or not. This mandate must be voted on, and I propose that we take this vote now. But I also propose, together with the delegates from Bulgaria and Mexico, that we do not take this vote in the way that has been done up until now, but that every country casts a vote here.
Radek: One could have hoped that, having had time on Saturday and Sunday to sleep on this question, Comrade Wijnkoop would not have put it, as it has already been decided. That is to say that we have passed a resolution calling on the Executive Committee to decide, after the parties in question have accepted our conditions at their congresses and it has been shown in practice whether or not they are going to carry them out, whether the parties will be accepted into the Communist International or not. If we give the Executive the right to decide whether or not a party will be accepted, then we cannot deny it the right to continue negotiations with that party. The motion cannot be discussed, it has already been decided, and I propose that we carry on with the agenda without any further discussion.
Zinoviev: It is proposed to close the debate. I shall first of all take a vote on this question. [Vote.] The Bureau’s proposal is accepted. Now we come to the material vote. All those in favour of Comrade Wijnkoop’s proposal please raise their hands. [Vote.] The motion is rejected.
I propose to use the English language now instead of the French language for the following reasons. Six or seven more comrades have come who do not understand French. We have held half of the Congress in French. We must now save time, and since the question of the trades unions and of parliament is now particularly being discussed we must speak English.
The next point on the agenda is Comrade Bukharin’s report.
Bukharin: Comrades! First of all I ask your forgiveness for my German. It will not be the German language at all, but a substitute language. We have shared the work in the following way: First of all I shall report on the principal questions raised and the appropriate solution of these questions: secondly Comrade Wolfstein will report on the work of our Commission, and then comes the report by Comrade Bordiga, who believes that in this epoch of the destruction of the world capitalist system in general we cannot take part in any parliaments at all.
And now to the matter in hand. We must, whenever we pose any problem, always start from the concrete epoch. And here we have a principal difference between the previous epoch of peaceful development and the present one, which is the epoch of the collapse of the capitalist system, the epoch of the class war, civil war and the proletarian dictatorship. The ‘peaceful’ epoch – and even this epoch, it must be said, was not peaceful if we take the colonies into account can be characterised as the epoch of a certain community of interest between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. This community of interest rested, particularly with the proletariat of the highly developed capitalist countries, on the fact that the big capitalist countries followed terrible imperialist policies. For that reason the capitalist classes of the countries in question were in a position to make super-profits and from these super-profits to pay out higher wages to the proletariat of their own countries. What in his day Kautsky said, that imperialist policies were of no advantage at all to the working class, is in principle incorrect. If we were to regard the matter from the standpoint of the temporary interests of the working class, one could claim that imperialist policies brought a certain advantage, and that was the higher wages of the workers which could be paid out of the capitalists’ super-profits.
If we can regard this epoch as the epoch of a certain community of interest between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, then we are thus given a second characteristic of this epoch, that is to say that it was also the epoch of the growing over of the workers’ organisations into the bourgeois state apparatus. What the reformists described as the growth of socialism was the growing over of the working class and also of the workers’ organisations into the bourgeois state apparatus. This phenomenon emerged particularly blatantly in the period of state capitalism, when in fact practically all the workers’ organisations and quite large workers’ organisations – appeared as components of the state-capitalist state apparatus. If we consider the great political parties of the working class, the yellow social democracy and the trades unions during the war, we can find that all these mass organisations at that time became components of the capitalist state. They were nationalised in a bourgeois way. The starting point of this development lay already in the period before the war. It was implicit in the process of growing over into capitalism just as before the war almost all the organisations of the working class were in this process of growing over. Thus we can also claim that the parliamentary representatives of the working class and the factions of the workers’ parties grew over into the bourgeois parliament. Instead of being something that was directed against the system as a whole in general and against the bourgeois parliament, they became a component of the parliamentary apparatus as such. That was the earlier epoch of peaceful capitalism. We also see such phenomena at the beginning of the war.
Then came the new epoch of the collapse of capitalism and the civil war. As far as the working class as a class is concerned it has , in this process, lost its earlier, rather imperialist ideology. This ideology, which reached its highest point in the slogan of ‘national defence’, collapsed and all the phenomena consequent upon it collapsed with it. Instead of being components of the capitalist system, the workers’ organisations gradually became instruments of the class struggle. Thus, from being tools upon which the capitalist system rested, they became instruments of its destruction. Parallel with this occurred the transformation of the parliamentary factions which, from being a component of the whole parliamentary apparatus, became instruments of its destruction. And thus the new parliamentarism arose, whose supporters we Communists can and must be.
Comrades, I shall not by any means comment on all the paragraphs of our Theses, which are very detailed. I shall select a few main points and speak about them. And then we can solve the disputed questions.
If we have before us these two epochs of completely different character, then we can already say a priori that the process of transition from one epoch to the other, from the old parliamentarism to the new, must be regarded as a process which will bring with it at every concrete moment various remnants of earlier conceptions among the working class. The more this process develops, the more these remnants will disappear. But now we can see these left-overs of earlier conceptions in many parties very clearly, even in those that are already to be found in the Communist International. In general, opportunism and the vacillating parties are still present in the working class, the ideology of collaboration with the bourgeoisie still exists in part, and that is reflected in the presence of the earlier parliamentarism.
Let us consider first the whole picture of the parliamentary activity of the working class. Let us take the composition of the various parliamentary factions, and we will gain a peculiar picture. For example the USPD: This party now has 82 members in parliament. But if, in the framework of this party, which of itself is already rather moderate and opportunist, we were to consider the composition of its parliamentary faction, we would obtain more or less the following figures: of these 82 members of the parliamentary faction 20 belong more or less directly to the right, about 40 to the ‘swamp’, and more or less 20 to the left USPD. Let us take the Italian Party and its parliamentary faction. This party belongs to us and is in the Communist International: If we were to divide the members of this parliamentary faction into three, that is to say into the supporters of Turati and Lazzari, those of Serrati, and the so-called Bombaccists, then we would have the following figures: 30 per cent of the whole faction belong to the Turati tendency, 55 per cent to the centre and 15 per cent to the left.
[In the struggles inside the Italian Socialist Party, Turati and Treves led the right-wing reformists, Serrati represented the ‘maximalist’ majority, Bombacci favoured adhesion to the Communist International and became a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. Later moved to the right, was expelled in 1928 and became a leading supporter of Mussolini; shot by partisans in 1945.]
Comrade Serrati has given me a few other figures. In his opinion the reformists count 41 seats. That is an official figure given by Comrade Serrati and represents a very big percentage within the Communist Party. If we consider the French Party we have the following figures: 68 parliamentarians, among them 40 explicit reformists within a party which is already opportunist, and 26 in the centre – not in our sense of the word, here the word means the centre of the French Party, which means the centre to the power 4! As for the Communists, they have perhaps two seats. In the Norwegian Party, which is quite a good party, the parliamentary faction has 19 members. Of these, approximately 11 are right wingers, 6 centrists and 2 are Communists. The Swedish parliamentary faction has quite a few comrades who cannot be called Communists in any sense. To sum up then, a rather sad picture. The composition of the parliamentary factions is below any criticism. And if we consider the cause of this phenomenon, then it is given in the fact that these parties even as parties are not sufficiently clearly communist, because quite a large number of opportunists are to be found within them.
I shall now proceed from the composition of the parties to the politics, that is to say their parliamentary policies, and here we can justifiably claim that these policies ‘are as far from revolutionary parliamentarism as heaven is from earth. I shall take the USPD as a model. During the war, when the thing to do was to call on the peoples to subdue the war, they appealed to the government. I remember a conversation with Comrade Haase. He wanted to prove to us, when we were in Berlin, that he was carrying out a really revolutionary parliamentarism. As the best proof of this he quoted one of his speeches in which he claimed that the German government had committed an abuse in sending German troops to Finland. These troops could be misused. Thus, if these troops are sent to the French front that is not an abuse, only sending them to Finland is an abuse. That is a proof not of revolutionary but of opportunist parliamentarism.
Let us take everything that has been written and said in the German parliament about the question of nationalisation. It is laughable. If we look at these speeches we see no trace of a revolutionary point of view. And as late as 1920, as I know, Comrade Däumig represented this opportunist way of posing the question in writing on the plans for nationalisation. Or, for example, the speech on the Constitution by Oscar Colin, the USPI) representative. This speech is rather long, but it contains not a trace of the revolutionary way of posing the question. Here we hear that the Constitution is sick. Not a word on Noske. That is the method of Kautsky. For when he discusses the question of bourgeois democracy he talks about apes and wild men. The speech by Comrade Oscar Cohn is just the same. Here our principled point of view could be developed in quite a revolutionary way. Let us take for example the story of the Commission of Inquiry into those who were responsible for the war. The Independents want to investigate the question of guilt in a parliamentary way through this pure farce, which was carried out on the basis of the material supplied by the German Foreign Office. In this, however, there is not the slightest trace of any sort of revolutionary activity at all.
Let us take Comrade Oscar Cohns’s motion in the German parliament on the abolition of the law of protective custody. This law applied only to political prisoners. We have everything possible here except the revolutionary standpoint of the revolutionary Communist. Let us take what we have heard here in this room from the comrades of the USPD. When they were excusing themselves for not having sent us an answer in time, Comrade Dittmann, or another representative, if I am not mistaken, said: ‘We had elections at the time, and because we had such a big thing as the elections, we could not immediately compose an answer’. That is a crying example that kills the comrades who quote it. If they have the elections on the one hand and the cause of the whole International on the other, then it is clear to every revolutionary that he must fight the elections under the watchword of the International. To set up a contradiction between the International and the elections is anything you like but nothing that has anything to do with membership of the Communist International. We can follow through the whole parliamentary activity of the USPD comrades without ever finding clear, conscious activity in the sense that we mean.
If we look at the French Socialist Party or other parties we will find the same sad picture. I shall not draw your attention to this since it suffices to quote one example in order to reconstruct the whole position. In all these phenomena, not only in the composition of the parliamentary factions but also in their tactics, remnants of the earlier parliamentarism show themselves which we must literally root out, for as long as we have this practice and these methods and such a composition of the parliamentary factions, we will not be able to develop revolutionary activity. To go into revolutionary struggle with such rubbish is absolutely out of the question.
Now we come to another question, that is to say the question of anti-parliamentarism in principle. This anti-parliamentarism is the legitimate child of the opportunism described above and the earlier parliamentary activity with all its sins. We much prefer this anti-parliamentarism on principle to opportunist parliamentarism. We can, I think, distinguish two main groups among the supporters of anti-parliamentarism: One group which really denies any participation in parliamentary activity, and the second group, which is against parliamentarism because of a special and specific assessment of the possibilities of parliamentary activity. In our epoch we can characterise the American IWW as the representatives of the first tendency. Comrade Bordiga will speak here today as the representative of the second tendency.
As far as anti-parliamentarism on principle is concerned, it can be claimed of the first group that these theories or these tactics, if they are followed theoretically, are based on a complete confusion of the basic concepts of political life. The IWW for example has no clear concept at all of what the political struggle really is. They do not think that to have a general strike of an economic nature, which in fact is directed against the bourgeois state, is a political struggle, if it is not led by the political party but by the trades unions. Thus they absolutely do not understand what political struggle really means. They confuse the political struggle with parliamentary activity. They think that by the political struggle can be understood only parliamentary activity or the activity of parliamentary parties.
It is quite clear that this negative attitude towards parliamentarism rests on various errors of a principled nature, above all on the false concept of what political struggle really is. Looked at historically, American parliamentarism displays so much vileness and corruption that many honest elements pass over to the camp of anti-parliamentarism in principle. The worker does not think abstractly at all, he is a rather crude empiricist, and if it cannot be proved to him empirically that revolutionary parliamentarism is possible, he simply rejects the whole thing. Such elements who have only seen the vileness go over to the camp of anti-parliamentarism on principle on a very large scale.
I come now to the second group, which is represented here in this room by Bordiga. He tells us that his standpoint is on no account to be confused with the standpoint of anti-parliamentarism on principle and I must say that, looked at formally, his standpoint has all the theoretical starting-points, but that’s all. Comrade Bordiga claims that precisely from the standpoint of the present epoch of the mass struggles of the proletariat, from the standpoint of the assessment of this epoch as an epoch of civil wars, only from this specific historical standpoint, one cannot enter parliament. That is what he thinks. But I think that there is a bridge in principle between the tactics of Comrade Bordiga and the tactics of those who are against it in principle. Comrade Bordiga has worked out his own Theses, and in them we read for example:
‘It is necessary to break with the bourgeois lie once and for all, the lie that tries to make people believe that every clash of the hostile parties, every struggle for the conquest of power, must be played out in the framework of the democratic mechanism, in election campaigns and parliamentary debates. It will not be possible to achieve this goal without renouncing completely the traditional method of calling on the workers to participate in the elections, where they work side by side with the bourgeois class, without putting an end to the spectacle of the delegates of the proletariat appearing on the same parliamentary ground as its exploiters.'
Here Comrade Bordiga says that if the delegate of the working class is to be found physically in the same room as a bourgeois, he is, ipso facto, working side by side with the bourgeois class. That is a naive idea that is typical of the IWW.
At the end of the 9th Thesis we read: ‘Therefore the Communist Parties will never achieve any great success with the propaganda of the revolutionary Marxist method if they do not base their work directly on the dictatorship of the proletariat and the workers’ councils and abandon any contact with bourgeois democracy.'
So physical contact in a room is in itself original sin, and then the whole thing goes wrong. I think, however, that this mistake will become even bigger because we do not always have the workers’ councils. Comrade Bordiga agrees with us that we cannot organise the workers’ councils straight away in every country. The councils are fighting organisations of the proletariat. If no conditions exist to carry out this direct struggle there is no sense in setting up these councils. Then they are transformed into cultural appendages of other institutions which become absolutely reformist, and the great danger exists that the workers’ councils will then so to speak be organised after the French pattern, where a couple of people come together and a humanitarian-pacifist organisation is formed. And none of these organisations yet exists at all, they are not yet given realities. But the bourgeois parliament is a given reality.
We say in our Theses that we must have our revolutionary agents here in these institutions, here our proletarian scouts must work side by side with the bourgeois class. Here a completely negative notion is given which is not logically worked out, but which is comprehensible from the emotional point of view. From the standpoint of revolutionary logic and expediency the decisive factor in the whole question is that we Communists claim that there is a possibility of going into the bourgeois parliaments to try to blow them up from inside. Earlier, when the parliamentary factions grew over into parliamentary institutions, they became parts of the system as such. We, however, want to develop our activity in such a way that an ever-sharper contradiction arises between the parliamentary system and our faction. We do not need to say that what is primary for us is that our parliamentary activity must be co-ordinated with the masses of the working class. Let us follow Comrade Bordiga’s Theses further.
First of all a small comment. I claim that anti-parliamentarism on principle exists in some comrades because they are afraid to emerge as revolutionary parliamentarians, as this ground is too dangerous for their liking and because they try in every possible way to run away from this most difficult revolutionary task. Big parties are quoted in order to prove that this activity is completely impossible. I do not say this of Comrade Bordiga; but in his faction there are such elements and when he comes to us and says in his 12th Thesis:
‘The actual character of the debates that take place in parliament and in other democratic organs excludes any possibility of moving on from a criticism of the opposing parties to propaganda against the principle of parliamentarism, to action that exceeds the limits of the parliamentary constitution.'
Comrade Bordiga says that it is technically impossible to exploit parliament; but that has to be proved. Nobody would say that we had better conditions under Tsarism in our Duma than today in the Italian Chamber of Deputies. Nobody has tried to talk like that, as you know. Why have you already claimed a priori that it is impossible? Try it first; have a few scandals; get yourselves arrested; have a political trial in the grand style. You have done none of this. This tactic must be developed to an increasing degree. And I claim that this is possible. French comrades, for example Comrade Lefebvre, claim that it is impossible to say a sharp word against Clémenceau in the French Chamber. Nobody has tried it, nobody has made the attempt. I think there is simple fear here. People say: yes, that is too dangerous. We can only carry out purely legal work in propaganda. You have unmasked yourselves here. Because this ground is too dangerous you want to run away from this difficult task. Comrade Bordiga, in paragraph 10, as an argument against parliamentary election, says the following:
‘The excessively great importance ascribed in practice to the election campaigns and their results, the fact that the Party dedicates all its forces and human, press and economic resources to them for quite a long period of time, means on the one hand that, despite all the speeches at meetings and all the theoretical statements to the contrary, the conviction is strengthened that this really is the main action for the achievement of communist goals. On the other hand it leads to an almost complete renunciation of any work of revolutionary organisation and preparation by giving the party organisation a technical character that stands in complete contradiction to the requirements of legal and illegal revolutionary work.'
Perhaps something like that exists in Italy, but you must prove to us why that is logically necessary. If you adopt Comrade Dittmann’s point of view and say: ‘The election campaign is an opposite to the question of the International’, then you are right. But our standpoint consists in developing the whole election campaign from the revolutionary point of view. Then there can be no such opposite. It is not a logical contradiction when we say that we must develop the whole election campaign under the sharpest revolutionary slogans in order to go to the villages and to work where there is no political interest and in order to weld the people together as a mass organisation, to keep all these campaigns of various kinds in contact. ‘Yes,’ you say, ‘that is precisely to kill off revolutionary work.’ Comrade Bordiga wrote that because he has seen very little of really revolutionary election campaigning, just as the comrades of the IWW have never seen revolutionary parliamentarism. That is why Comrade Bordiga raises such claims, but he at least ought to substantiate them.
Nevertheless, I think that there are many empirical proofs of revolutionary parliamentarism. I shall repeat them, the names are known to us. There was the activity of Liebknecht, the activity of Höglund, then there were the Bulgarian comrades and ourselves. We had revolutionary parliamentarism under the most varied historical conditions, for example during the second Duma, during Kerensky’s Pre-parliament and during the Constituent Assembly. We were not afraid to put ourselves alongside the bourgeoisie, the Socialist Revolutionaries or the Cadets because we had a firm revolutionary tactic and completely clear tactical lines. For that reason this whole question, that is to say the question of the Party, is now the cardinal question. If you have a really Communist Party then you need not be afraid of sending one of your people into the bourgeois parliament, for he will act as a revolutionary must act. But if you have in the Party ‘a mish-mash where 40 per cent are pure opportunists, then of course precisely these gentlemen will sneak into the parliamentary faction, to the places that suit them best. That is why they are almost all members of the parliamentary factions. Then they cannot carry out their parliamentary duties as revolutionary communists. That is a Party question.
I repeat, if we have among the parties of the Communist International really Communist Parties that do not shelter any opportunists or reformists in their bosoms, if we have already carried out this purge, then we have the guarantee that we will not have the old parliamentarism but a really revolutionary parliamentarism and a reliable method of destroying the bourgeoisie, the whole bourgeois state apparatus and the bourgeois system.
Wolfstein: Comrades, let me briefly say the following on the work of the Commission on Parliament: Instead of paragraph 1 on page 60 an exhaustive historical introduction to the question of parliamentarism, written by Comrade Trotsky, has been decided upon. The main heading of the Theses now reads ‘The Communist Parties and Parliamentarism’. The first paragraph, in place of the former paragraph 1, ‘The New Epoch and the New Parliamentarism’, reads:
‘The attitude of the socialist parties towards parliamentarism was in the beginning, in the period of the First International, that of using bourgeois parliaments for the purpose of agitation. Participation in parliament was considered from the point of view of the development of class consciousness, i.e. of awakening the class hostility of the proletariat to the ruling class. This relationship was transformed, not through the influence of theory, but under the influence of Political development. Through the uninterrupted increase of the productive forces and the constant extension of the area of capitalist exploitation, capitalism, and with it the parliamentary states, became firmer and more permanent.
‘Hence there arose the adaptation of the parliamentary tactics of the socialist parties to the “organic” legislative work of the bourgeois parliament, and hence was derived the ever greater importance of the struggle for reforms within the framework of capitalism. The result was the dominance of the so-called minimum programme of social democracy and the transformation of the maximum programme into a debating formula for an exceedingly distant ‘final goal’. On this basis then developed the phenomena of parliamentary careerism, of corruption and of the open and concealed betrayal of the most elementary interests of the working class.
‘The attitude of the Communist International towards parliamentarism is determined, not by a new doctrine, but by the change in the role of parliamentarism itself. In the previous epoch parliament performed to a certain degree a historically progressive task as a tool of developing capitalism. Under the present conditions of unbridled imperialism, however, parliament has turned into a tool for lies, deception, violence and enervating chatter. In the face of imperialist devastation, plundering, rape, banditry and destruction, parliamentary reforms, robbed of any system, permanence and method, lose any practical significance for the toiling masses.
‘Like the whole of bourgeois society, parliamentarism too is losing its stability. The sudden transition from the organic epoch to the critical creates the basis for a new tactic of the proletariat in the field of parliamentarism. Thus the Russian Labour Party (the Bolsheviks) had already worked out the nature of revolutionary parliamentarism in the previous period, because since 1905 capitalist Russia had been shaken from its political and social equilibrium and had entered the period of storms and shocks.
‘To the extent that some socialists, who tend towards communism, point out that the moment for the revolution has not yet come in their countries and refuse to split from the parliamentary opportunists, they proceed, in the essence of the matter, from the conscious estimate that their country is still in an epoch of the relative stability of imperialist society, and assume that on this basis a coalition with the Turatis and Longuets can bear practical results in the struggle for reforms.
‘Theoretically clear communism, on the other hand, will correctly estimate the character of the present epoch. (Highest point of capitalism; imperialist self-negation and self-destruction; uninterrupted growth of civil war, etc.) The forms of political relations and groupings can be different in different countries. The essence however remains everywhere one and the same; what is at stake for us is the immediate political and technical preparations for the insurrection of the proletariat, the destruction of the bourgeois power and the establishment of the new proletarian power.
‘At present, parliament, for communists, cannot at all become the arena for the struggle for reforms, for the amelioration of the position of the working class within the capitalist economic mode, as was the case at certain times in the previous period. The centre of gravity of political life has at present been removed finally and completely beyond the bounds of parliament. On the other hand the bourgeoisie is forced, not only by reason of its relations to the toiling masses, but also by reason of the complex mutual relations within the bourgeois class, to carry out part of its measures one way or another in parliament, where the various cliques haggle for power, reveal their strong sides, betray their weak sides , expose themselves, etc.
‘Therefore it is the historical task of the working class to wrest this apparatus from the hands of the ruling class, to smash it, to destroy it and replace it with new proletarian organs of power. At the same time however, the revolutionary general staff of the working class has a strong interest in having its scouts in the parliamentary institutions of the bourgeoisie in order to make this task of destruction easier. Thus is demonstrated quite clearly the basic difference between the tactics of the communist, who enters parliament with revolutionary aims, and the tactics of the socialist parliamentarian. The latter proceeds from the assumption of the relative stability and the indeterminate duration of the existing rule. He makes it his task to achieve reforms by every means, and he is interested in seeing to it that every achievement is suitably assessed by the masses as a merit of parliamentary socialism. (Turati, Longuet and Co.).
‘In the place of the old adaptation to parliamentarism the new parliamentarism emerges as a tool for the annihilation of parliamentarism in general. The disgusting traditions of the old parliamentary tactics have, however, repelled a few revolutionary elements into the camp of the opponents of parliamentarianism on principle (IWW) and of the revolutionary syndicalists (KAPD). The Second Congress therefore adopts the following Theses:'
Thereafter various things are changed in all the paragraphs.
After amendment by the Commission, paragraph 1 reads:
‘Parliamentarism as a state system has become a “democratic” form of the rule of the bourgeoisie which at a certain stage of development requires the fiction of popular representation, which appears externally to be the organisation of a “popular will” that stands outside of the classes, but which, in reality, is a machine for oppression and subjugation in the hands of the rule of capital.'
In paragraph 4 line 3 is added: ‘can as such not be conquered in the long run’.
Further paragraph 9 line 4: ‘Mass actions will be organised and led by the revolutionary mass organisations (trades unions, party, workers’ councils) of the proletariat under the general leadership of a unified, disciplined, centralised Communist Party.'
Paragraph 11 line 8 now says: ‘But from inside Parliament to help the masses to smash the state machine and parliament itself by action.'
In paragraph 12 there must be added to line 5: ‘Caught up in democratic illusions, look towards the parliamentary tribunal.'
Then paragraph 13 has been completely taken out in its previous form and replaced with a new paragraph on behaviour in local government institutions, should a majority be won there:
‘Should the communists have the majority in local government institutions, they should: a) carry out revolutionary opposition to the bourgeois central power; b) do everything to be of service to the poorer population (economic measures, introduction or attempted introduction of an armed workers’ militia, etc.); c) at every opportunity show the limitations placed on really big changes by the bourgeois state power; d) on this basis develop the sharpest revolutionary propaganda without fearing the conflict with the power of the state; e) under certain circumstances replace the local administration by local workers’ councils. The whole activity of the communists in the local administration must therefore be part of the general work of disrupting the capitalist system.'
In the last sentence of paragraph 15 Höglund’s name has been deleted because Höglund only developed this revolutionary activity in parliament for a certain time. Today he is no longer active in this sense.
Section 3 is now called ‘Revolutionary Parliamentarism’. Only unimportant, more editorial alterations have been undertaken in it.
The main work of the Commission, which, with two votes against, was in agreement with the contents of the Theses, consisted mainly in producing a good German, French and English text. That was definitely a more difficult task than disposing of Bordiga’s Theses, for which only two votes were cast in the Commission. The results of the other votes were: Trotsky’s introduction adopted with 2 votes against; paragraphs 1-6 unanimous; paragraphs 7 and 10 with 2 votes against; 8-9 unanimous; 11-18 with one vote against; 19 unanimous. Section 3 paragraphs 1-4 with 1 vote against, paragraph 5 with 2 votes against, paragraphs 6-7 unanimous, the remaining paragraphs with 1 abstention. The two votes cast against the Theses in principle were the representatives of Switzerland and of the IWW. The representative of the IWW was not present at the last session of the Commission as a result of illness.
Bordiga: The left faction of the Italian Socialist Party is antiparliamentarian in its views, and that for reasons which are not valid for Italy alone but which have a general character.
Are we dealing here only with a question of principle? Certainly not. In principle we are all, after all, opponents of parliamentarism, because we reject it as a means of liberating the proletariat and as a political form of the proletarian state. The anarchists are antiparliamentarian on principle since they declare themselves to be against any agency of power. The syndicalist opponents of the political action of the Party, who have a completely different conception of the process of the liberation of the proletariat, are also against it. As far as we are concerned, our anti-parliamentarism is based on the Marxist critique of bourgeois democracy. I shall not repeat here the arguments of critical communism, which unmask the bourgeois lie of political equality as a means to blur economic inequality and the class struggle. This conception is based on the idea of a historic process in which the liberation of the proletariat is achieved after a violent class struggle which is supported by the dictatorship of the proletariat.
This theoretical conception, which is elucidated in the Communist Manifesto, found its first historical realisation in the Russian revolution. Between these two facts there is a long time-span. During this the development of the capitalist world has advanced a long way. The Marxist movement has been debased into a social-democratic one, and has created a field of common work for the petty interests of the collaboration of individual groups of workers and bourgeois democracy. The same phenomenon is to be observed in the trades unions and in the socialist parties.
The Marxist task of the Marxist party, which ought to have spoken on behalf of the whole working class and remembered its old historical tasks, has therefore been almost completely forgotten. A new ideology has been fabricated which has nothing in common with Marxism, which rejects violent measures and ignores the dictatorship of the proletariat in order to put in its place the illusion of a social development on peaceful and democratic paths.
The Russian revolution has realised Marxist theory in an admirable manner by proving the necessity of a violent struggle and the introduction of the dictatorship of the proletariat. But the historical conditions under which the Russian revolution developed are different from the conditions for the proletarian revolution in the countries of Western Europe and America. The position in Russia could perhaps be compared with the position in Germany in 1848, where two revolutions broke out one after the other, one bourgeois-democratic and one proletarian.
The tactical experiences of the Russian revolution cannot be transferred to other countries where bourgeois democracy has already long since been introduced and where the revolutionary crisis will consist of a direct transition from this order to the dictatorship of the proletariat.
The Marxist significance of the Russian revolution lies in this, that in its final phase (the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly and the seizure of power by the soviets) it was built up on a Marxist basis and prepared the ground for the development of every new movement, the development of the Communist International, which has finally broken with the social democrats who, be it said to their shame, completely failed during the war.
The revolutionary problem demands, above all in Western Europe, an abandonment of the ground of bourgeois democracy, the proof that the bourgeoisie’s demand that every political struggle should only be carried out through the mechanism of parliament is false, and that the struggle for the conquest of power must be carried out in a new way, through direct revolutionary activity.
The Party needs a new technical organisation, that is to say a new historical formation. This is realised through the Communist Party which, as the Executive Committee’s Theses on the question of the role of the party say, was born ‘in the epoch of the direct struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat’. (Thesis 4.)
The first mechanism of the bourgeoisie that must be destroyed before one can move on to the economic construction of communism and create the new mechanism of the proletarian state that is to represent the government apparatus, is parliament.
Bourgeois democracy works among the masses with indirect means of defence, while the state apparatus stands ready to apply direct means of violence which are set into activity as soon as the last attempts to draw the proletariat onto the ground of legal democratic politics have failed.
It is therefore of extreme importance to unmask this ploy of the bourgeoisie and to show the masses the whole deception of bourgeois parliamentarism.
Even before the world war the practice of the traditional Socialist Parties had brought about an anti-parliamentarian reaction in the ranks of the proletariat: the anarcho-syndicalist reaction that denied the value of ‘any political activity in order to concentrate the activity of the proletariat in the field of economic organisation and which thus spread the false idea that there is no political activity outside of electoral and parliamentary activity. This idea must be fought, as must social democratic illusions. This conception is far removed from the true revolutionary method and leads the proletariat on a false road in its struggle for liberation.
Great clarity is needed in propaganda; the masses need a clear and simple mode of expression.
Starting from Marxist principles, we propose that, in countries where the democratic order has long since developed, the agitation for the dictatorship of the proletariat should be built up on the spreading of the boycott of the elections and of the bourgeois democratic organs.
The great importance that is ascribed to electoral activity in practice contains a double danger: on the one hand it gives the impression that that is the main activity, and on the other it absorbs all the party’s forces, which paralyses the work of all the other branches of the Party. The social democrats are not the only ones who ascribe a great importance to the elections. Even the Theses proposed by the Executive say that it is important to use all means of agitation in the election campaigns. (Thesis 15).
The organisation of the Party which carries out electoral activity, develops a quite special technical character which is sharply different from the character of the organisation which corresponds to legal or illegal revolutionary needs. The Party divides into a number of election committees which are solely concerned with the preparation and mobilisation of the electors. If the Party in question is an old social democratic party that has affiliated to the Communist movement, there is a great danger in the carrying out of parliamentary action as it was previously practised. We have numerous proofs of this.
As far as the Theses proposed and defended by the speakers are concerned, they are preceded by a historical introduction with the first part of which I am in almost complete agreement. It says there that the First International used parliamentarism for the purposes of agitation, criticism and propaganda. Later, in the Second International, there emerged the harmful effects of parliamentarism, which led to reformism and class collaboration (the ‘Burgfrieden'). In the Introduction the conclusion is drawn from this that the Communist International should return to the parliamentary tactic for the purpose of destroying parliament from the inside. The Communist International must, however, if it adopts the same doctrine as the First International, take the completely different historical circumstances into account and develop a completely different activity, that is to say, not collaborate with bourgeois democracy.
The first part of the Theses that follow do not stand in any way in contradiction to the ideas I support either. The difference only begins where it is a question of the use of the election campaign and the parliamentary tribune for mass actions. But they cannot be used in the same way as the press, the freedom of association, etc. Here it is a question of a means of action, there of a bourgeois institution which must be replaced by proletarian institutions, by workers’ soviets. We are not thinking of giving up the use of the press, of propaganda, etc. after the revolution; but we do strive before all else to destroy the democratic apparatus and to set up the dictatorship of the proletariat in its place. We do not put forward that argument any more than we do the one about the ‘leaders’ of the movement. There can be no question at all that leaders can be abolished.
We know very well, and we have told the anarchists since the beginning of the war, that it is not correct to reject parliamentarism in order to abolish leaders. We will always need them as propagandists, journalists, etc.
Certainly in a revolution a centralised party that leads the activity of the working class is necessary. Naturally this party also needs leaders. But the role of the party, the role of the leaders, is completely different from what it was with the social democrats. The party leads the activity of the proletariat in the sense that it carries out the most dangerous work which demands the greatest sacrifice. The leaders of the party are not only the leaders of the victorious revolution, they are also the first to fall under the enemy’s blows in a defeat. Their position is quite different from the position of the parliamentary leaders, who occupy the most advantageous posts in bourgeois society.
We are told: ‘One can also carry out propaganda from the rostrum of parliament.’ I would like to answer that with a somewhat childish argument: What one says on the rostrum of parliament is repeated in the press. If it is the bourgeois press, everything will be distorted, and if it is our press, then it is a waste of time to say from the rostrum what will later be printed.
The evidence quoted by the speaker will not harm our Theses. Liebknecht worked in the Reichstag at a time when we recognised the possibility of parliamentary activity, all the more so for the fact that it was not then a matter of sanctioning parliamentarism itself, but of criticising bourgeois power.
But if we weigh Liebknecht, Höglund, and the few other cases of revolutionary activity in parliament, against the whole mass of the treachery of the social democrats, then the result will be thoroughly unfavourable to revolutionary parliamentarism.
The parliamentary activities of the Bolsheviks in the Duma, in Kerensky’s Pre-parliament and in the Constituent Assembly were carried out under conditions completely different from those under which we propose to abandon the parliamentary tactic. I shall not come back to the difference there is between the development of the revolution and the revolution in the other bourgeois countries.
I am also not in favour of the idea that elections for bourgeois local government institutions must be used. But I cannot pass over a very important problem in silence. I mean using the election campaign for the purposes of agitation and propaganda for the communist revolution. But this agitation will be all the more effective, the more powerfully we preach the boycott of bourgeois elections to the masses.
It is moreover impossible to foresee what the disruptive activity that the communists could carry out in parliament is to consist of. The reporter proposed to us the draft of a rule concerning the activity of communists in bourgeois parliaments. That is, so to speak, the purest utopia. It will never develop a parliamentary activity that contradicts the principles of parliamentarism and goes beyond the bounds of parliamentary rules.
Now a few words on the arguments quoted by Comrade Lenin in his pamphlet on ‘left’ communism.
I do not think that one can take our anti-parliamentary tendency to be one that demands withdrawal from the trades unions.
However rotten, the trade union is still a workers’ milieu. To withdraw from the social democratic trades unions would be to share the conception of the syndicalists, who wish to unite themselves in revolutionary fighting organs of a different economic type.
From the Marxist standpoint that is a mistake that has nothing to do with the argument on which our anti-parliamentarism rests.
The Theses, however, say that the question of parliamentarism is only secondary for the communist revolution; but with the question of the trades unions, matters stand differently.
I do not think that one can pass a final judgement on individual comrades or Communist Parties on the basis of opposition to parliamentary activity. In his interesting work, Comrade Lenin describes a communist tactic, by deciding his very broad activity, on the basis of a very attentive analysis of the situation in the bourgeois world, and he proposes that the experience of the Russian revolution should be applied in this analysis in the capitalist countries.
He also emphasises the necessity of taking account of the differences between the various countries.
I shall not here undertake a discussion of this method.
I would only like to note that a Marxist movement in the democratic Western countries requires a much more direct tactic than the tactic that was applied during the Russian revolution.
Comrade Lenin accuses us of trying to avoid the problem of communist action in parliament because his slogan seems too difficult to us and because the anti-parliamentarian tactic costs the least effort.
We completely agree that the tasks of the proletarian revolution are very great and difficult. We are convinced that if, after dealing with the problem of parliamentary action, we go on to discuss and decide on the other, far more important, problems, we will still not have made any progress, and that their solution will not be as simple as we think.
Therefore we intend to use the main forces of the communist movement in fields that are more important than parliament.
We do not flinch in the face of any difficulties. We only note that the opportunist parliamentarians, who also chose an easy tactic, are not for that reason any the less burdened with work by their parliamentary activity.
From that we conclude that we will need enormous effort and tireless activity for the solution of the problems of communist parliamentarism according to the proposed Theses (if we adopt this solution), and that then little energy and few resources will remain for really revolutionary activity.
In the bourgeois world, one cannot go through those stages in the political field that will have to be fought out only after the revolution, through the economic transformation of capitalism into communism.
The transfer of power from the exploiters to the exploited brings behind it a change in the apparatus of representation. Bourgeois parliamentarism must be replaced by the soviet system. The old democratic mask of the class struggle must be torn up so that direct revolutionary action can be introduced.
That is our standpoint on parliamentarism, a standpoint that is in complete harmony with the revolutionary Marxist method.
I can close with a view that we share with Comrade Bukharin. This question can and must not lead to a split in the Marxist movement.
If the Communist International wishes to take on itself the creation of a communist parliamentarism, we will submit to its decision. We do not think that this plan will succeed; but we declare that we will do nothing to disrupt this work.
I hope that the next congress of the Communist International will not need to debate the results of parliamentary action, but will much
rather examine the victory of the communist revolution in a great number of countries.
Should that not be possible, then I wish for Comrade Bukharin’s sake that he will be able to present us with a less dreary picture of communist parliamentarism than that with which he had to begin his introduction this time.
Comrade Bordiga thereupon reads the following Theses:
Theses on parliamentarism, drawn up by Comrade Bordiga on behalf of the communist abstentionist faction of the Socialist Party of Italy.
1. Parliamentarism is the form of political representation peculiar to the capitalist order. The principled criticism by revolutionary Marxists of parliamentarism and bourgeois democracy leads in general to the conclusion that the franchise granted to all citizens of all social classes in the elections to the representative bodies of the state cannot prevent every government apparatus of the state from becoming the committee for the defence of the interests of the ruling capitalist class, and the state from organising itself as the historical organ of the struggle of the bourgeoisie against the proletarian revolution.
2. Communists deny the possibility that the working class will ever conquer power through a majority of parliamentary seats. The armed revolutionary struggle alone will take it to its goal. The conquest of power by the proletariat, which forms the starting point of communist economic construction, leads to the violent and careful abolition of the democratic organs and their replacement by organs of proletarian power – by workers’ councils. The exploiting class is in this way robbed of all political rights and the dictatorship of the proletariat, i.e. a government system with class representation, is set up. The abolition of parliamentarism becomes a historical task of the communist movement. Even more, representative democracy is precisely the first form of bourgeois society that must be brought down, and moreover even before capitalist property, even before the bureaucratic state machinery.
3. The same must happen with local government institutions, which should not be theoretically posed as an opposite to the state organs. In reality their apparatus is identical with the state mechanism of the bourgeoisie. They must similarly be destroyed by the revolutionary proletariat and replaced by local soviets of workers’ deputies.
4. At the present moment, the task of the communists in mentally and materially driving forward the revolution is to free the proletariat above all from the illusions and prejudices that were spread in the muses by the treachery of the old social democratic leaders. In those countries which have been ruled for a longer time by a democratic order which is rooted in the habits and thoughts of the masses, and also in the old socialist parties, this task is of special importance, and assumes the first place among the problems of the preparation of the revolution.
5. Participation in elections and in parliamentary activity at a time when the thought of the conquest of power by the proletariat was still far distant and when there was not yet any question of direct preparations for the revolution and of the realisation of the dictatorship of the proletariat could offer great possibilities for propaganda, agitation and criticism. On the other hand, in those countries where a bourgeois revolution has as yet only started and is creating new institutions, the entry of communists into the representative bodies, which are still in the formative stage, can have a big influence on the development of events in order to bring about a favourable outcome of the revolution and the final victory of the proletariat.
6. In the present historical epoch, which has opened with the end of the world war and its consequences for the social organisation of the bourgeoisie – with the Russian revolution as the first realisation of the idea of the conquest of power by the working class, and the formation of the new International in opposition to the traitors of the social democracy – and in the countries where the democratic order was introduced a long time ago, there is no possibility of exploiting parliamentarism for the revolutionary cause of communism. Clarity of propaganda no less than preparation of the final struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat demand that communists carry out propaganda for a boycott of the elections on the part of the workers.
7. Under these historical conditions, under which the revolutionary conquest of power by the proletariat has become the main problem of the movement, every political activity of the Party must be dedicated to this goal. It is necessary to break with the bourgeois lie once and for all, with the lie that tries to make people believe that every clash of the hostile parties, every struggle for the conquest of power, must be played out in the framework of the democratic mechanism, in election campaigns and parliamentary debates. It will not be possible to achieve this goal without renouncing completely the traditional method of calling on workers to participate in the elections, where they work side by side with the bourgeois class, without putting an end to the spectacle of the delegates of the proletariat appearing on the same parliamentary ground as its exploiters.
8. The ultra-parliamentary practice of the old socialist parties spread the dangerous conception that all political action consists only of election campaigns and parliamentary activity. On the other hand the proletariat’s aversion for this treachery has created a fertile soil for syndicalist and anarchist tendencies which deny that the political action and activity of the party have any value. Therefore the Communist Parties will never achieve great success in propagating the revolutionary Marxist method if they do not base their work directly on the dictatorship of the proletariat and on the workers’ councils, and abandon any contact with bourgeois democracy.
9. The excessively great importance ascribed in practice to the election campaigns and their results, the fact that the party dedicates to them all its forces and human, press and economic resources for quite a long period of time means on the one hand that despite all the speeches at meetings and all the theoretical statements to the contrary, the conviction is strengthened that this really is the main action for the achievement of communist goals. On the other hand it leads to an almost complete renunciation of any work of revolutionary organisation and preparation by giving the party organisation a technical character that stands in complete contradiction to the requirements of legal and illegal revolutionary work.
10. As far as those parties are concerned that have affiliated to the Communist International by a majority decision, further participation in election campaigns prevents the required sifting out of the social democratic elements, without whose removal the Communist International will not be able to carry out its historic role.
11. The actual character of the debates that take place in parliament and in other democratic organs excludes any possibility of moving on from a criticism of the opposing parties to propaganda against the principle of parliamentarism, to action that exceeds the limits of the parliamentary constitution. In exactly the same way it is impossible to obtain a mandate that gives the right to speak if one refuses to submit to all the formalities of the electoral process.
Success in the parliamentary fight can be achieved merely by skill in the use of the common weapon of the principles on which the institution bases itself and by using the nuances in the rules, just as success in the election campaign will be judged more and more according to the number of votes and seats obtained.
Every attempt by the Communist Parties to lend the practice of parliamentarism a totally different character will simply lead to a bankruptcy of the energies that will have to be sacrificed to this labour of Sisyphus. The cause of the communist revolution calls summarily for direct action against the capitalist system of the exploiters.
Zinoviev: I have the following proposal to submit to you on behalf of the Bureau . Nineteen speakers have asked for permission to speak. We think, however, that from today we should work somewhat more quickly, so that we can finish on Thursday. There are now two Draft Theses, and therefore we propose to nominate general speakers, for example three speakers for Bukharin’s Theses and three for Bordiga’s Theses, and to make do with that on this question.
Radek: I propose to let one speaker speak for and one against participation in parliament. People are sick and tired of this parliamentary business. The general arguments have already been sufficiently dilated upon. I propose that on this question we give the floor to one speaker in favour and one against, and then the two reporters. [Both proposals are voted upon. Zinoviev’s proposal is adopted.]
Zinoviev: We must now carry out a little research. I shall ask who is in favour of Bordiga’s Theses and who is in favour of Bukharin’s Theses.
Both groups should gather together and nominate their general speakers.
Gallacher: I am very sorry to have to say that the Communist International too is on the road to becoming opportunist. Instead of finding ways and means to bring the spirit of revolt into the masses, people here are thinking of how they are to participate in parliamentary elections. It is naive to think that, if unreliable elements come into parliament, they will fight in the direction of the Communist International and the revolution.
There are many examples of this in Britain. What is done there? The main consideration is how to participate legally in the elections. It has often been said that if one goes into parliament one can make speeches there and thus agitate. The result is, however, that the proletariat becomes accustomed to believing in the democratic institutions. One cannot demand agitation from those who enter parliament. The Communist Parties all over the world have now something other to do than wasting time on parliamentary elections. What is important now is to study revolutionary ways and means and tactics under the leadership of the Executive. And now instead of that you wish to divert attention from this goal. The Communist Party that is forming in Britain swears by its membership of the Communist International. But that is a fashion, just as it is also a fashion to speak out in favour of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
What are we to say? Are people prepared to work for the dictatorship of the proletariat? I say no. Liebknecht certainly did great things, but only in so far as he also worked among the masses outside parliament. If he had merely spoken in parliament, he would have stayed alive like MacDonald and many others too. As far as the Russian example is concerned, it has its own history, from which one cannot, however, generalise. The struggle and the experience of the Russian revolutionaries was forged by tears and blood. The attitude of the Bolsheviks in the Russian Duma is the result of many years of hard struggle by the mass of workers. There is now an alternative in front of the Communist International, as there is in front of the people of every country. There are two tactics; one that, through all kinds of democratic phrases, develops the feeling of submission in the people, and the other that consists in developing the revolutionary spirit in the masses. The example of the Member of Parliament, Maclean, who, in big election meetings, said he was a Bolshevik and would overthrow parliament, is typical. Since Maclean has been in parliament he has been a petty-bourgeois socialist who states that he is not a Bolshevik. Our energies must now be applied to sharpening the revolutionary struggle in the masses. The Communist International finds itself now faced with the alternative of taking either the road of submission or that of struggle.
Shablin: Comrades, the Bulgarian Communist Party has already had experiences in relation to parliamentarism which show that, where there still is a bourgeois parliament, Communist Parties can and must carry on the struggle of the revolutionary masses of workers hand in hand with the struggle in parliament. Even if the Theses Comrade Bordiga proposes to us proclaim a Marxist phraseology, it must be said that they have nothing in common with the really Marxist idea according to which the Communist Party must use every opportunity offered us by the bourgeoisie to come into contact with the oppressed masses and to help communist ideas to be victorious among them. These Theses only contain the remnants of the petty bourgeois prejudices that still exist in the labour movements of many countries. I think that the Bulgarian experiences are the best answer to Comrade Bordiga’s Theses, and I therefore ask you to pay some attention to my short introduction to this question, all the more so for the fact that it contains no empty, so-called Marxist phrases, but facts drawn from life itself.
The Bulgarian Communist Party fought energetically against the Balkan War of 1912-13, and, when this war ended with a defeat and a deep-going economic crisis for the country, the influence of the Party in the masses had grown so far that in the elections for the legislative bodies in 1914 it won 45,000 votes and 11 seats in parliament on the basis of a strictly principled agitation. The parliamentary group protested violently on several occasions against the decision of the Bulgarian government to participate in the European war, and voted each time demonstratively against war loans. With the help of pamphlets and illegal leaflets, through zealous agitation and propaganda, the Party carried out a violent struggle against the imperialist war once it had been declared, not only inside the country but also at the front.
This revolutionary activity brought about the persecution of the parliamentary group and the whole Party. Three Communist deputies, Lukanov, Dimitrov and Ziporanov, were condemned to 3 to 5 years in prison by field court martial during the war, imprisoned for a few months and then set free. Hundreds of comrades were condemned to the most varied punishments, and a number of communists were shot. The Army General Staff had forbidden the soldiers to read our Party organ, Raboinitscheski Vestnik, and the soldiers who broke the ban were arrested, persecuted and shot.
This bitter struggle against the war, the complete bankruptcy of the bourgeoisie’s policy of conquest and the serious crisis caused by the war gave the Communist Party the opportunity to extend its field of work and its influence among the masses and to become the strongest political party in our country. In the parliamentary elections of 1919 the Communist Party received 120,000 votes and entered parliament with 47 Communist deputies. The social-patriots, the ‘socialists’, could only muster 34 representatives, although the Ministry of the Interior was in the hands of one of the leaders of this party, in the hands of the Bulgarian Noske of sad memory, Pastuchov.
The success of the Communist Party and its exploitation of the parliamentary rostrum for revolutionary purposes caused the alarmed bourgeoisie to dissolve the chamber. New elections were called which took place in March 1920. These elections, too, yielded a brilliant victory for the Communist Party, despite the terror directed exclusively against us by the government; thousands of comrades were arrested, hundreds maltreated and beaten in the prisons, and many killed; courts martial, the censorship, the gendarmerie, the regular army, the white army and the whole government machine of annihilation and oppression was directed against us.
The Party not only maintained the position it had won, but greatly strengthened it. It obtained 187,000 votes and 50 deputies, and the number of ‘socialist’ seats fell from 39 to 9. The government now found itself in the minority. In order to make a majority, nine Communist deputies were then deprived of their seats and thrown out of parliament. In this way the Communist parliamentary group was reduced to 41 deputies by the government. By this fact the bourgeoisie had to take off the mask of hypocritical loyalty. The basis of the legality of the democratic bourgeois parliament was thus destroyed in the eyes of the masses, and its influence on the toiling masses of the country impaired. The workers and peasants of the two constituencies of Philippopel (Plovdiv) and Vratsa, whose representatives had been driven out of parliament, gathered in great protest meetings, at which they struggled for the destruction of the bourgeois parliament to which the real representatives of the people have no access, and at which they declared themselves in favour of the creation of workers’ and peasants’ soviets.
The Communist Party carried out the election campaign on the basis of the communist programme adopted at the congress of May 1919; it openly declared that it did not defend any illusions with regard to parliament and that the conquest of power by the proletariat is only possible through the revolutionary action of the masses, which has to be taken as far as the armed uprising of the workers and peasants and the destruction of parliament and the bourgeois state itself.
The Communist Party is carrying out an unrelenting struggle in parliament against the left as against the right bourgeois parties. It subjects all the government’s draft laws to strict criticism and uses every opportunity to develop its principled standpoint and its slogans. In this way the Communist Party exploits the parliamentary rostrum in order to develop its agitation on the broadest basis among the masses. It shows the toilers the necessity of fighting for workers’ and peasants’ soviets, destroys the authority of and belief in the importance of parliament, and calls on the masses to put the dictatorship of the proletariat in the place of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.
The Bulgarian Communist Party fights simultaneously in parliament and among the masses. The parliamentary group participated in the most energetic way in the great strike of the transport workers, which lasted 53 days from December 1919 until February 1920. For this revolutionary activity the Communist deputies were robbed of their legal protection by the government, and several deputies were arrested. Comrades Stefan Dimitrov, the representative from Dubnitza, and Temelke Nenkov, the representative from Pernik, were sentenced, the first to 12, the second to 5 years imprisonment, because they had opposed the state power arms in hand. Both comrades are today languishing in jail. A third Communist deputy, Comrade Kesta Ziporanov, is being prosecuted by the military authorities for high treason. The members of the Central Committee, three members of parliament, were prosecuted because in parliament and in the masses they carried out an energetic struggle against the government, which was supporting Russian counter-revolutionaries. They were provisionally released from custody on a bail of 300,000 Leu, which was guaranteed and paid in in the course of two days by the proletariat of Sofia. All the Communist members’ speeches in the chamber against the bourgeoisie are of such violence that they frequently end in a great scandal, and the government majority and the Communist group come to blows.
The Communist parliamentary group is under the direct supervision of the Central Committee. The deputies work constantly among the masses and use their privileged position to play the most active part in all the struggles of the proletariat.
At the beginning of 1919 a weak current that was opposed to participation in the parliamentary elections arose in the Party. The representatives of this tendency demanded a boycott of the bourgeois parliament. But the national party congress that met in May 1919 in Sofia unanimously rejected this standpoint and adopted the standpoint of the Central Committee. It decided to exploit the elections for the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeois parliamentary system and for the workers’ and peasants’ soviets. After a short time this standpoint was confirmed by a circular of the Executive Committee of the Communist International, as well as by the results that we had achieved for the development of our political and trade union organisation in the elections for parliament and for local government bodies.
The election campaign, like the struggle in parliament, and in local government, have contributed greatly to developing and consolidating the Communist organisations and awakening the Communist self-consciousness of the proletarian masses. Today the Party numbers 40,000 members, the trade union federation 35,000 workers, and the Party’s daily organ prints 30,000 copies.
The Communist Party has also participated in the elections for the provincial and local government bodies. In the local government elections in December 1919 and in the provincial elections of January 1920 the Party received 140,000 votes and won the majority in local government in almost all the towns and in about a hundred villages. In many other town and village councils the Party is represented by large minorities. For local and provincial government bodies the Party possesses a programme for the organising of workers’ and peasants’ soviets in the towns and villages, the particular sections of which will substitute themselves for and take over the functions of the local and provincial government bodies at the moment of the revolution.
So far, in the councils in which it has possessed a majority, the Communist Party has fought for their autonomy; it calls on the workers and poorer peasants to support by mass action the budgets adopted by the Communist councils, by which the bourgeoisie is to be burdened with a progressive tax, which can be extended as far as the confiscation of their capital, and frees the working class from all taxes. Big sums can then be spent for public works, elementary schools, and other purposes that serve the interests solely of the working class and the poor, and the special interests of the minority of the bourgeoisie and of the capitalists go completely unheeded.
We use the struggle carried out in the Communist local government to make it comprehensible to the masses that their organisation of the central power alone is the way to inculcate respect for the decisions taken by the Communist councils on the question of food, housing and price increases, and on all the other immediate needs of the working population.
All the proposals of the Communist local government bodies are put before the local Party committee and then submitted to a general discussion in the meetings, in which the whole working population take part and can express their opinions. Disputed questions are then submitted to a vote. Communist members of the local government bodies in every district are led by a central commission which is based on Sofia and is under the supervision of the Central Committee of the Party.
It is understandable that the bourgeois central power cannot tolerate such activity by Communist local governments. It used ridiculous excuses to persecute the Communist assemblies in order to paralyse the revolutionary activity of our Party in these local governments. The government arrested the Communist majority in Philippopel and dissolved the town council. The government has persecuted and murdered several comrades from various Communist local councils. But through all these persecutions the mass of the workers and of the dissatisfied group themselves all the closer around the Communist Party.
In order to defend our ‘communes’ we call on the masses to support us with every means. We show them the necessity of extending the struggle to the conquest of the central power, which frustrates all the workers’ attempts to defend their interests in local government by decisions adopted by the majority. Through the struggle carried out by the masses for the defence of the Communist local councils, they themselves come to be convinced that the bourgeois state must be directly attacked, and that not simply with the ballot form, but above all through direct mass actions and armed insurrections.
In this way parliamentarism in the local councils is, in the hands of the Communist Party, transformed into a powerful means of setting the masses into motion, of organising them, of deepening their class-consciousness and uniting all their forces into one common revolutionary fighting front for the conquest of the central stronghold of bourgeois power, the capitalist state.
The experiences of our Party have shown that it is possible to unite revolutionary mass actions on the streets with the revolutionary struggle in parliament and in bourgeois local government. Our delegation therefore supports the Theses proposed to the Congress by the Executive Committee.
The session is closed at 5. 15.