Executive Committee of the Communist International
Source: The Communist Review, May 1921, Vol. 1, No. 1.
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2006). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
Moscow, 9th, 10th, and 14th January, 1920.
Plenary sessions of the Executive Committee of, the Communist International took place on the above dates, with Comrade Zinovieff in the chair. The order of business was as follows:
1. The International Congress of Trade Unions.
2. The situation in Austria.
3. The situation in Italy.
4. The Congress of the French Socialist Party at Tours.
5. The Communist movement in Denmark.
6. The United Communist Party of Germany (U.K.P.D.) and the Communist Labour Party of Germany (K.A.P.D.).
7. Report on the situation in Georgia.
9. The Eastern question.
10. The economic boycott of Spain.
Comrade Zinovieff, introducing the first question of the order of the day, pointed out that the Congress of the Italian Socialist Party marks the close of a period in which the principal decisions of the Second Congress of the Communist International, with regard to political parties, have been carried out. “At present,” said Zinovieff, ”we must concentrate our attention on the conquest of the Trade Unions; they are the last bulwark of the opportunists, who are the most dangerous enemies of the working class.” A few practical motions introduced by Comrade Zinovieff on this point were adopted after a brief discussion. With reference to the International Council of Trade Unions, the Executive Committee adopted the following suggestions:
(a) The International Council of Trade Unions is to call an international conference at Moscow on May 1st, 1921.
(b) Invitations to participate in the conference should be sent to all the Trade Unions, and similar organisations and branches, which are opposed to the Yellow Amsterdam International, and favour the unity of the revolutionary Trade Unions.
The Agenda proposed for the conference is as follows: (1) Reports; (2) The role of Trade Unions during the transition period; (3) Trade Unions, factory committees, and Councils of Workers' Deputies; (4) Trade socialisation; (s) Trade Unions and the Communist International; (6) Organisation questions: (a) International strike fund; (b) Federalism and centralism in the Labour movement; (c) International federations of separate Unions; (7) Elections.
The discussions brought out with particular emphasis the fact that it is necessary to have all shades of the revolutionary Labour movement represented at the conference.
Comrade Steinhardt, of the Communist Party of Austria, made a report on the situation in that country, referring mainly to the recent Parliamentary elections.
The Communist Party of Austria had been carrying on an agitation in favour of boycotting the elections, and it only abandoned that policy at the very last moment, submitting to the decisions of the Second Congress of the Communist International. As a result of this the Party only received 30,000 votes and did not win a single seat. At the election to the Councils of Workers’ Deputies, which took place immediately afterwards, the Party also suffered considerable losses, receiving only one-twelfth of the total number of seats, as against the one-fifth it had before. One must remember, however, that the Austrian comrades are fighting under unusually difficult conditions against the combined forces of the bourgeoisie and the social traitors. The “Workers’ Association of Revolutionary Social-Democrats,” with a membership of 4,000 to 6,000 men, has now broken away from the Social-Democratic Party and is preparing to join the ranks of the Communist Party of Austria. It is significant that this breach in the Social-Democratic Party was caused by differences of policy with regard to the Councils of Workers’ Deputies.
The discussion following the report was supplemented by interesting information supplied, by Comrade N., who had just arrived from abroad. Comrade Varga pointed out the abnormality of the situation in which the relation between the Party and the masses is wholly determined by such a secondary question as that of Parliamentarism. Comrade Bukharin spoke of the phase which Austria is going through to-day as one of decay and disintegration. The process of economic collapse has given rise to despair and panic among all classes of Austrian society, and this mood has to some extent taken hold of our Austrian comrades. The Party must shake off its pessimism and regain its self-confidence. In the midst of general dismay it must instil into the working class a new faith in revolution, and show clearly the happier possibilities of the future.
It was decided to address an appeal to the Austrian proletariat and the Communist Party of Austria, expressing these views as the opinion of the International on the situation in Austria and on the immediate tasks of the Austrian Communist Party.
The report on the situation in Italy was made by Comrade Zinovieff, who said that the Italian Socialist Party, which was to convene its Congress on January 16th, was divided into three main factions. There was the Communist faction headed by Bombacci and Bordiga, the Serrati faction, which in spite of its revolutionary phraseology continually tends to the Right, and is backed by the Reformists, who put all their hopes on Serrati. There is another small faction headed by Graciadei, which takes its stand between the pure Communists and the Serrati Centrists. This faction will probably vote with the Communists at the Congress. How the vote will go of the Congress on the question of our policy is rather difficult to judge from afar. It is, possible that we shall be in the minority, although Serrati, who calls himself a Communist and writes friendly letters to Moscow, has nevertheless come out on the side of the Reformists, and has spread absurd rumours in his paper, such as that of a quarrel between Radek and Lenin, etc. Recently he has moved more and more down hill. The draft of a letter to the Italian comrades read by Comrade Zinovieff was unanimously adopted.
The session of January 10th opened with a report by Comrade Rosmer on the recent Congress of the French Socialist Party at Tours. Comrade Rosmer stated that he was not yet in possession of any official communications from the party itself. “The majority that we gained at Tours,” said Comrade Rosmer, “proved to be even larger than we anticipated from the voting in the various federations. Analysing the situation, we find the following facts of particular interest: first, considerable contingents from the peasant regions of France, whose population the Social-Democratic press declared to be in opposition to Soviet Russia voted for the Communist International; and second, the industrial regions (the Seine, Pas de Calais) and others voted unanimously for adherence to the Communist International. Thus, the split cleared the Party of all the conservative elements. Longuet passed over to his friends of the Right Wing in spite of all the efforts to get him to side with the Left. As was to be expected, the majority of the Parliamentary faction also went over to the Right camp. The appearance of Klara Zetkin at the Congress, in defiance of all the precautions of the police, produced a great sensation.” The Executive Committee decided to send its greetings to the Communist Party of France, and to express its appreciation of the courageous act of Klara Zetkin at the Congress.
The report on the Communist movement in Denmark was made by Comrade U., of the Communist Party of Denmark, and Comrade E., of the Syndicalist opposition faction in the Danish Trade Unions.
The Danish Communist Party was formed in November, 1919, out of three groups, the Socialist Labour Party, the Independent Social-Democratic Party, and the Socialist League of Youth. The Party has a membership of about 3,000, and publishes a daily paper, “Arbejdet.” At the last Parliamentary elections the Party received 5,200 votes. The Trade Union opposition has only seven hundred members, but its paper, “Solidaritet,” started in 1911, has a circulation of 7,000 to 8,000 copies. The Syndicalist tendencies formerly predominating in the opposition are gradually disappearing. One of the most prominent leaders of the Syndicalists, Chr. Christensen, recently wrote a series of articles in the “Solidaritet” on the “Twenty-one Points,” in which he declared his absolute adherence to the Communist International. At present attempts are being made to bring about a Union, on a federative basis, between the Centrist elements of the Party and the opposition. The gist of the agreement is as follows: Both organisations are to form a “Communist Federation of Denmark” and are to have a common paper, edited in full accord with all the resolutions of the Second World Congress of the Communist International. Both organisations temporarily preserve their platforms; the “Arbejdet” and the “Solidaritet” cease publication. The Trade Union opposition immediately joins the International Council of Revolutionary Trade Unions.
Supplementing the report of the Danish comrades, Comrade Kobetsky informed the session that he is in receipt of a letter from Martin Andersen-Nekse, the famous Danish writer and proletarian poet, sending his hearty greetings to the Executive Committee of the Communist International, and asking the Executive Committee to aid in uniting the Danish comrades on the basis of the agreement drawn up by him.
Following a motion by Comrade Bela Kun, the E.C. elected a commission of three members charged to investigate this question. The Commission reported its findings to the session of January 14th. The Danish comrades participated in the work of the Commission, which accepted unanimously the draft of the agreement, introducing some amendments to it. The most important amendment formulated by the Committee was as follows: temporarily (the federation has a temporary character) all the Communist factions in the Trade Unions, consisting of members of both organisations, join the Trade Union Organisation. But the Party members are obliged to abide by the instructions of the Central Committee of the Party.
The next subject for discussion was the question of the Communist Labour Party of Germany (K.A.P.D.). This question was brought up again on account of letter from the Central Committee of the United Communist Party of Germany, protesting against the acceptance of the K.A.P.D. into the Communist International as a “sympathetic” party. The Central Committee bases its protest on the following considerations: (1) The K.A.P.D. is not a revolutionary party, for where the immediate aim of the struggle of the working class is Communism, every non-Communist party is a non-revolutionary party; (2) The K.A.P.D. is dying out as a party, and is now only being artificially kept alive by the decision of the Executive Committee of the Communist International; (3) The Communists of Germany, being unable to refer to the authority of the Executive Committee of the Communist International, are thereby deprived of their strongest weapon in the struggle against the erroneous tactics of the Communist Labour Party of Germany.
This protest was the cause of a very lively discussion. Comrade Steinhardt reposed that the Communist Labour Party of Germany be asked not to overstep the bounds of comradely decorum in their controversy with the United Communist Party of Germany. Comrades Marchlesky and Shablin insisted upon the necessity of examining the Press of the Communist Labour Party of Germany during the period that has elapsed since their admission to the Communist International before taking any steps in the matter. Comrade Zinovieff as in favour of adhering to the original decision. He regarded the protest of the United Communist Party of Germany as altogether unfounded. In accepting the Communist Labour Party of Germany into the Communist international as a sympathising party, the Executive Committee acted in accordance with the decision of the Second Congress. “While definitely drawing the line at the sight reformist elements,” said Zinovieff, “we must exercise the greatest tolerance towards those labour organisations which regard themselves as more radical than we are, and have not yet freed themselves from Anarcho-Syndicalist fallacies. The backbone of the Communist Party of Germany consists of bona fide revolutionary workers. That party made a considerable advance along the road towards Communism by excluding from their ranks such men as Laufenberg, Wolheim, and Otto Ruhle. That the Communist Labour Party of Germany criticises our German comrades is not such a bad thing after all. The Communist Party of Germany is far from being faultless. Even during the Kapp uprising, and the last strike of the Berlin electrical workers, their actions showed weakness. In our resolution we said, clearly and definitely, that we regard the United Communist Party of Germany as the only authoritative section of the Communist International, and proposed that the members of the Communist Labour Party of Germany proceed forthwith to join it. We stated that we regarded the tactics of the Communist Labour Party of Germany, particularly in regard to Trade Unions and Parliamentarism, as erroneous. We accepted this Party into our ranks in order to clear the way for its amalgamation with the United Communist Party. Italy to-day confirms the correctness of our tactics with regard to the Left and Right wings. While D’Aragona, whose exclusion from the Party we have always demanded, works on joint commissions to put brake on the revolutionary movement, the Syndicalist Armando Borgi, who was accepted by us into the Communist International, is in prison and the workers are making revolutionary demonstrations at the prison gates.”
After the discussion Comrade Zinovieff’s motion was accepted by the majority with one vote against and one abstention. This motion provides for a special letter to the United Communist Party re-affirming the original decision to the K.A.P.D. Comrade Bela Kun’s proposal to publish a stenographic report of the sessions of the Executive Committee, November 24th and 28th, dealing with the question of the Communist Labour Party of Germany and its acceptance into the Communist International, was also adopted.
At this point a telegram of greeting from the Esthonian Communist Parliamentary faction to the Executive Committee of the Communist International is read. It was unanimously decided to send a hearty reply to the Esthonian comrades.
The telegram of the Esthonian comrades was as follows:
“Greetings to the Third Communist International.
“After a long and difficult struggle the proletariat of Esthonia has succeeded getting its representatives elected to the bourgeois Parliament, in order to make the bourgeois prattlers listen to representatives of the working class, and to prepare the working class through Parliament for a conscious class struggle. On this occasion the Communist faction of the Esthonian Parliament hails the Third Communist International as the only representative of the organised proletariat of the world.
“Revel, January 1st, 1921.”
“The Executive Committee of the Communist International sends its fraternal greeting to the revolutionary workers of Esthonia and to its Communist faction in Parliament. Communism has won a great moral victory in your country, which is being ruled by a handful of representatives of the bourgeoisie, backed by the Yellow Social Democrats.
“Long live the Communists of Esthonia.
“The Executive Committee of the Communist International.”
At the opening of the session, January 14th, Comrade Skhakaia briefly described the situation in Georgia. This Socialist Republic, of which the leaders of the Second International boast so much, is on the eve of utter economic ruin: there is no production, widespread famine has up till now only just been avoided, thanks to remnants of old crops. At present everything has been eaten up, and hunger is already being experienced in some places. The Government has managed to remain in power only because the Communist Party has not yet got a sufficiently solid apparatus. The Communist Party of Georgia has not yet recovered from the blow caused by its violent separation from the Russian Communist Party, consequent upon the peace treaty between Soviet Russia and Georgia. The Social-Democratic Government is conducting a furious campaign against the Communist movement, arresting and exiling our comrades, closing newspaper offices, and so forth. Nevertheless, the number of our adherents in Georgia is growing every day. Congresses of the Party and of the Printers’ Trade Union have recently been held at Tiflis. At the latter, in spite of the police support of the Government, the Mensheviks received a majority of only one vote (263 against 262), and 7 Communists, 6 Mensheviks, and 2 representatives of other parties were elected to the Committee. The Railway Workers’ Union, the strongest of all the unions, is likewise “infected” by Bolshevism. Comrade Skhakaia, finished his report with an appeal for aid to the Georgian Communists. The Executive, upon Comrade Zinovieff’s motion, voted unanimously a resolution of fraternal greetings to the Georgian comrades, branding with shame the Menshevist Government of Georgia and the leaders of the Second International who support it.
The resolution accepted by the Executive of the Communist International reads as follows:
“Having heard the report of Comrade Skhakaia, representing the Communist Party of Georgia, the Executive of the Communist International sends its fraternal greetings to the Georgian comrades languishing by the hundreds in the prisons of the Yellow Georgian Social Democratic Republic. At the head of this republic, which the Social-Democrats laud as a democratic paradise, are the Mensheviks, belonging to the Second International. Behind the Menshevist hangman government there are, apart from the direct agents of the Entente, the most prominent leaders of the Second International, headed by Vandervelde, Renaudel, and Kautsky. The workers of the world must know that there is no crime against the workers and peasants which the adherents of the Second International are not ready to commit in the interests of the bourgeoisie.”
Comrade Zinovieff spoke on the second item of the agenda, the organising work of the Executive, and the consolidation of the big Communist parties in Germany, France, and Italy. “A new, epoch is beginning,” said Comrade Zinovieff. “Our attention now must be directed to the organisational side of our work. We must see to it that he Executive represents all the parties belonging to the Communist International, that these representatives keep in constant touch with their organisations and furnish the Executive with all the information received by them; that the Small Bureau is in constant communication with the Central Committees of all parties, and does not confine itself to issuing appeals; finally, we must work out in detail separate clauses of our programme in the light of the experience of the growing revolution the world over.” Comrade Zinovieff therefore proposed: (1) that all parties be requested to send representatives to the Executive; (2) that the Small Bureau be extended, and its personnel increased to seven members, by electing Comrades Bela Kun and Rosmer on to it, in addition to the fours members which it already has; the seventh member to be a delegate from the United Communist Party of Germany; (3) that two committees be elected to elaborate in detail separate clauses of the programme on the Agrarian and National Questions.
The following amendments were made: Comrade Bersin proposed that, instead of or parallel to the Committee on the Agrarian Question, a committee should be elected to investigate the economic conditions of life in the capitalist countries; Comrade Shatskin proposed that the Small Bureau should submit reports of its activity to the Executive.
Comrade Zinovieff’s motion, together with both amendments were accepted.
Further, the following letter, received by Comrade Zinovieff from the Bureau of the Amsterdam Trades Union International, was read aloud “Mr. Chairman,—Enclosed please find a copy of the resolutions, in French and German, accepted by the International Trades Union Congress which was held in London on November 22nd to 27th. As you probably will have learned from the newspapers, this resolution was accepted by a great majority: only Italy and Norway voted against it. This resolution establishes our attitude towards your International.
“You will see from the resolution that we do not intend to let your slanders about us go unrefuted; we are still going to represent the interests of nearly thirty million workers, as we have done hitherto, i.e., in the spirit which an independent trade union movement should work; and we are not going to submit to the command of a political party, as does the so-called Trade Union International founded by you.
“Should you, or other leaders of the trade union movement represented by you, be interested in the receipt of more exact information about our movement, thanks to which you may perhaps convince yourself that you are only harming your own cause and the cause of the proletariat by fighting us, we shall always be ready to supply you with such information, on the condition, however, that you will act towards us as we have done towards you, that you will act on the supposition that we, in any position we take up or any of our actions, are honest and are guided ony by one common aim—to be of use to the proletariat and help it in its distress. This basis along can, in our opinion, serve to clear up our common aims, and perhaps also bring about the affiliation of the Russian Trade Unions to our International. We hope that you will bring both our resolution and our letter before the members of the Board of the Third International.
“(Signed) L. JOUHAUX, E. FIMMEN, J.OUDEGEEST.”
The following motion with regard to this letter was unanimously accepted:—
“To request Messrs. Jouhaux and the others to obtain the consent of the Governments friendly to them to arrange a number of public meetings, of workers in all European centres, in London, Paris, and Amsterdam, for debates between Amsterdam and the Third International.”
Comrade Sokolnikoff, speaking of the tasks of the Communist International in the East first of all pointed out the fact that the sympathy towards Soviet Russia shown by the bourgeois and landed classes of the East is most precarious. It has evoked by their hatred of the Entente, but this hatred is been infinitely less than fear that they have of the toiling masses of their own countries; this explains why our military allies in the East, when occasion occurs, compromise with our military foes—the Allied Powers. Who are the true bearers of the Revolution in the East? We should first of all relinquish the idea that the East is a uniform entity. Capitalism, we know, introduces uniformity in the social relations of various countries; but the East has, as yet, practically not been touched by capitalism. Large scale industry has been developed only in India, where the leaders of the national-democratic revolution will undoubtedly be the proletariat. Regarding the other countries of the Near East, Persia, Bukhara, Afghanistan, etc., we can say in general that here the oppressed social class is the peasantry, and the Revolution must be agrarian. In our activity in the East, we should carefully study all the peculiarities of the social relations of each separate country, and avoid stereotyped forms.
The discussion of Comrade Sokolnikoff’s report was postponed until the next meeting of the Executive. Comrade Rosmer made a special announcement, on the economic boycott of Spain.
Comrade Rosmer announced that he had received from Spain an appeal issued by the Spanish Confederation of Labour, protesting against the Government Terror directed against the Labour organisations; the Labour Press is being closed down, the Labour Unions are being dissolved, meetings are dispersed, and hundreds and thousands of revolutionaries and rank and file workers arrested, simply because they are members of these organisations. The Confederation of Labour calls upon the workers of all countries, as a sign of to declare Spain under boycott from January 15th, and not to allow protest, any goods to be sent to or from Spain. Comrade Rosmer, in the name of the Executive of the Communist International and the Provisional Bureau of the International Trade Union Council, proposed a motion appealing to the workers of the whole world to carryout this boycott.
The motion was unanimously adopted.