J. V. Stalin
Speech: Delivered at a Meeting of the Polish Commission of the Comintern, July 3, 1924;
First Published: Bolshevik, No. 11, September 20, 1924;
Source: J. V. Stalin, Works, Vol. 6, pp. 276-84, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow 1953.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive. 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.
Comrades, I have not sufficient material at my disposal to enable me to speak as emphatically as some of those who have spoken here. Nevertheless, on the basis of the material that I did, after all, manage to obtain, and on the basis of the debate that has taken place here, I have formed a definite opinion, which I would like to share with you.
Undoubtedly, the Polish Communist Party is in an abnormal state. That there is a crisis in the Polish Party is a fact. It was admitted by Walecki; you have all admitted it, and it was clearly revealed here, for it was noted that there is discord in the Central Committee of the Polish Party between practical workers who are members of the C.C. and the leaders of the C.C. Moreover, the Central Committee of the Polish Party itself, at its plenums of December last year and March this year, admitted in its resolutions that a number of its actions had been of an opportunist character and it condemned them without mincing words. That seems to be proof enough. I repeat, all this goes to show that there is undoubtedly a crisis in the Communist Party of Poland.
What is the cause of this crisis?
The cause lies in certain opportunist transgressions committed in their practical work by the official leaders of the Communist Party of Poland.
Permit me to quote a few examples confirming this statement.
The "Russian" question. Some Polish comrades say that this is a question of external policy and, as such, is of no great importance for the Polish Party. That is wrong. The "Russian" question is of decisive importance for the entire revolutionary movement, in the West as well as in the East. Why? Because Soviet power in Russia is the base, the bulwark, the haven of the revolutionary movement all over the world. If in this base, i.e., in Russia, the Party and the government begin to waver, it must cause very grave harm to the entire revolutionary movement throughout the world.
During the discussion in our R.C.P.(B.) wavering began in the Party. By its struggle against the Party, the opposition, which is essentially opportunist, tended to shake, to weaken the Party, and hence, to weaken the Soviet power itself; for our Party is the ruling party and the chief guiding factor in the state. It is natural that wavering within the R.C.P.(B.) could eventually lead to the wavering, the weakening of the Soviet power itself; and the wavering of the Soviet power would mean harm to the revolutionary movement all over the world. Precisely for this reason, disagreements within the R.C.P.(B.), and the fate of the R.C.P.(B.) in general, cannot but directly affect the fate of the revolutionary movement in other countries. That is why the "Russian" question, although an external question for Poland, is one of prime importance for all the Communist Parties, including the Polish Communist Party.
Well, what was the attitude of the leaders of the Polish Party towards the "Russian" question? Whom did they support: the opportunist opposition or the revolutionary majority in the R.C.P.(B.)? It is clear to me that in the first period of the struggle within the R.C.P.(B.), the struggle against the opportunist opposition, the leaders of the Polish Party unambiguously supported that opposition. I shall not delve into the minds of Warski or Walecki; what Warski was thinking when he wrote the well-known resolution of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Poland in support of the opposition in the R.C.P.(B.) is of no importance for me. It is not people's intentions, but the objective results of that resolution that are of primary importance for me. And the objective results of that resolution are that it brings grist to the opposition's mill. That resolution supported the opportunist wing of the R.C.P.(B.). That is the whole point. At the time when the Central Committee of the Polish Party adopted that resolution and sent it to the Central Committee of the R.C.P.(B.) it represented the Polish branch of the opportunist opposition within the R.C.P.(B.). If we regard the opposition within the R.C.P.(B.) as a sort of business firm having branches in different countries, we can say that at that time the Communist Party of Poland was the Polish branch of that firm. That is the essence of the opportunist transgressions on the "Russian" question committed by the leaders of the Polish Party. It is sad, but, unfortunately, it is a fact.
The German question. Next to the "Russian" question, this one is of the greatest importance, firstly, because Germany is more pregnant with revolution than any other country in Europe; and secondly, because a revolutionary victory in Germany would be victory in the whole of Europe. If a revolutionary upheaval commences anywhere in Europe it will be in Germany. Only Germany can take the initiative in this matter, and the victory of the revolution in Germany will ensure the victory of the international revolution.
You know that last year a struggle flared up within the Communist Party of Germany between its revolutionary majority and opportunist minority. You know how greatly a victory of the Left or of the Right wing of the German Communist Party would affect the whole course of the international revolution. Well, whom did the leaders of the Central Committee of the Polish Communist Party support in that struggle? They supported the Brandler group2 against the revolutionary majority of the German Communist Party. That is now admitted by all, both friends and foes. The same thing happened as on the "Russian" question. If we assume that there is in Germany a sort of business firm in the shape of the opportunist opposition in the Communist Party, then the Polish leaders were the Polish branch of that firm. This, too, is sad, but you cannot go against facts; facts must be admitted.
The method of fighting the opportunist opposition. Kostrzewa said that they, i.e., the leaders of the Polish Central Committee, in essence support the Russian Central Committee and, perhaps, the present German Central Committee, but disagree with those bodies on the methods of fighting the Opposition. They, you see, demand mild methods of fighting the opposition. They are in favour of war against the opposition, but they want a war that will involve no casualties. Walecki even went so far as to shout out: But we are in favour of the "three"! I must say that nobody demands that Walecki should say ditto to the Russian Central Committee in everything. Besides, I don't know who these "three" are about whom Walecki is so enthusiastic. He has forgotten that nobody is obliged to say ditto to the Russian Central Committee in everything (Walecki, from his seat: "I am not obliged to, but I can.") Of course, you can, but one ought to realise that such conduct places both Walecki and the Russian Central Committee in an awkward position. It is not at all a matter of saying ditto. The point is that in Russia, under the conditions of the NEP, a new bourgeoisie has arisen which, being unable to come into the political arena openly, is trying to breach the communist front from within and is looking for champions among the leaders of the R.C.P.(B.). Well, this circumstance is giving rise to oppositionist sentiments within the R.C.P.(B.) and is creating the ground for an opportunist deviation. Hence, the point is that our fraternal parties must define their attitude towards this circumstance and take a definite stand. The point lies in that, I repeat, and not in saying ditto to the Russian Central Committee.
As for Kostrzewa's mild method, I must say that it does not stand the slightest criticism. Kostrzewa is in favour of fighting the opportunist opposition, but in such a way as not to lead to discrediting the leaders of the opposition. But firstly, history knows no struggle that has not involved some casualties. Secondly, we cannot defeat the opposition and disregard the fact that our victory will result in undermining the prestige of the leaders of the opposition, otherwise we would have to abandon all idea of fighting the opposition. Thirdly, complete victory over the opposition is the sole guarantee against a split. Party practice knows of no other guarantee. The entire history of the R.C.P.(B.) proves this.
Before the war, when German Social-Democracy was orthodox, it fought opportunism by the same mild method that Kostrzewa spoke of here. But the result it achieved by that was that opportunism proved to be the victor and a split became inevitable.
The R.C.P.(B.) fought opportunism by the tried and tested method of resolutely isolating the opportunist leaders. And the result it achieved was that revolutionary Marxism triumphed and the Party acquired exceptional unity.
I think that the experience of the R.C.P.(B.) should serve as a lesson for us. The method of fighting recommended by Kostrzewa is a hang-over from Social-Democratic opportunism. It is fraught with the danger of a split in the Party.
Lastly, the question of leadership of the Party. What is the characteristic feature of the development of the Communist Parties in the West at the present time? It is that the parties have come right up against the question of reorganising their practical activities on new, revolutionary lines. It is not a matter of adopting a communist programme or of proclaiming revolutionary slogans. It is a matter of reorganising the parties' everyday work, their practical activities, along such a line that every step and every action they take should naturally lead to the revolutionary education of the masses, to preparation for revolution. That is now the essence of the matter and not the adoption of revolutionary directives.
Yesterday, Pruchniak read here a whole string of revolutionary resolutions adopted by the leaders of the Polish Central Committee. He read those resolutions with a triumphant air, believing that leadership of the Party consists solely in drafting resolutions. He has no inkling that drafting resolutions is only the first step, the beginning of leadership of the Party. He does not realise that, at bottom, leadership consists not in drafting resolutions, but in the implementation of them, in putting them into effect. As a consequence, in his long speech he forgot to tell us what became of those resolutions; he did not deem it necessary to tell us whether the Communist Party of Poland has carried out those resolutions, and to what extent. And yet, the essence of Party leadership consists precisely in the implementation of resolutions and directives. Looking at him, I was reminded of the typical Soviet bureaucrat called to "report" to an inspection commission. "Has such and such a directive been carried out?" the inspection commission asks. "Measures have been taken," answers the bureaucrat. "What measures?" the inspection commission asks. "Orders have been issued," the bureaucrat answers. The inspection commission calls for the document. With a triumphant air the bureaucrat presents a copy of the orders. The inspection commission asks: "What has become of these orders? Were they carried out and if so, when?" The bureaucrat looks blank, and says "We have received no information." Of course, the inspection commission calls such a bureaucrat to account. It was precisely such a Soviet bureaucrat that Pruchniak reminded me of when he, with a triumphant air, read the revolutionary resolutions, concerning the implementation of which he has "no information." That is not leadership of the Party; it is a mockery of all leadership.
What are the conclusions? The conclusions can be summed up as follows.
Firstly. In the forthcoming Party discussion in Poland, I am emphatically opposed to any dividing line being drawn between the former Polish Socialist Party and the former Social-Democracy. That would be dangerous for the Party. The former P.S.P. and P.S.D. have long been merged in a single party and are jointly fighting the Polish landlords and bourgeoisie. To divide them now retrospectively into two parts would be a profound error. The fight must not be waged along the old line as between the P.S.P. and P.S.D., but along the new line of isolating the opportunist wing of the Communist Party of Poland. Complete victory over the opportunist wing — that is the guarantee against a split and the guarantee of the Party's unity.
Secondly. I am emphatically opposed to the so-called amputation method, i.e., to the removal of certain members of the Central Committee from that body. In general, I am opposed to the reorganisation of the Central Committee from above. It must be borne in mind that surgical operations carried out when there is no imperative need for them leave a bad aftermath in the Party. Let the Communist Party of Poland itself reorganise its Central Committee at the forthcoming congress or conference. It is inconceivable that a growing party should not promote new leaders.
Thirdly. I think that the practical proposals put forward by Unszlicht are quite correct. It would be quite rational to set up in place of the present Organising Bureau and Political Bureau, which have become divorced from each other, a single political and practical centre consisting of members of the present Polish Central Committee.
Doubts have been expressed here about the theoretical knowledge and party experience of the new leaders who have come to the fore in the revolutionary struggle in Poland. I think that this circumstance is not of decisive importance. There have been cases in the life of the R.C.P.(B.) when workers with inadequate theoretical and political knowledge became the heads of huge regional organisations. But those workers proved to be better leaders than many intellectuals who lack the necessary revolutionary intuition. It is quite possible that at first things will not run quite smoothly with the new leaders, but there will be no harm in that. They will stumble once or twice, but eventually they will learn to lead the revolutionary movement. Trained leaders never fall from the skies. They grow up only in the course of the struggle.
1. The Polish commission was set up at the Fifth Congress of the Comintern, held in Moscow from June 17 to July 8, 1924. J. V. Stalin was a member of the most important commissions of this congress and was chairman of the Polish commission. The resolution on the Polish question proposed by the commission was unanimously adopted at the first sitting of the enlarged plenum of the Executive Committee of the Comintern held on July 12, 1924.
2. The Brandler group—a Right-wing opportunist group in the Communist Party of Germany. Without regard to principles, the Brandlerites entered into collaboration with the leaders of German Social-Democracy and helped to cause the defeat of the German working class at the time of the revolutionary events in 1923. The Fifth Congress of the Comintern (1924) condemned the capitulatory policy of the Brandler group. The fifth enlarged plenum of the Executive Committee of the Comintern, held on April 4, 1925, passed a decision prohibiting the Brandler group from interfering in the affairs of the Communist Party of Germany and from taking part in the work of the Comintern. In 1929, Brandler was expelled from the Communist Party on account of factional activities.