J. V. Stalin

A Letter to Comrade Me—rt

February 28, 1925

Source : Works, Vol. 7, 1925
Publisher : Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1954
Transcription/Markup : Salil Sen for MIA, 2008
Public Domain : Marxists Internet Archive (2008). 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.

Dear Comrade Me—rt,

I have received your letter of February 20. First of all, accept my greetings. And now to the matter in hand.

1) You (and not only you) are making too much of my interview with Herzog. I could not, and will not, kick him out, not only because he is a member of the Party, but also because he came to me with a letter from Comrade Geschke, who begged me to give him an interview. I am sending you a copy of that letter. I have already sent the German original to the Central Committee of the C.P.G. On the basis of the mere fact that, on Comrade Geschke's written request, I gave Herzog an interview, to draw the conclusion that the Central Committee of the R.C.P.(B.) is turning, or intends to turn, towards Brandler, means making a mountain not even out of a molehill, but out of nothing, and being altogether wide of the mark. If the Central Committee of the R.C.P.(B.) were to learn that you, or other members of the Central Committee of the C.P.G., suspect the C.C. of the R.C.P.(B.) of having sympathies towards Brandler-Thalheimer,1 and of turning from the Lefts to the Rights, they would split their sides with laughter.

2) You are quite right in saying that the Communist Party of Germany has achieved enormous successes. There is no doubt that Brandler and Thalheimer belong to the category of the old type of leaders who have outlived their time and are being pushed into the background by leaders of a new type. Here in Russia, too, the process of the dying-out of a number of old guiding functionaries from the world of letters and old "leaders" has taken place. That process was more rapid in periods of revolutionary crises and slower in periods when we were accumulating forces, but it went on all the time. The Lunacharskys, Pokrovskys, Rozhkovs, Goldenbergs, Bogdanovs, Krassins, etc.—such are the first specimens that come to my mind of former Bolshevik leaders who later dropped into secondary roles. It is a necessary process of renewal of the leading cadres of a live and developing party. Incidentally, the difference between the Brandlers and Thalheimers and the comrades I have mentioned is that, in addition to everything else, the Brandlers and Thalheimers are burdened with the old Social-Democratic baggage, whereas the above-mentioned Russian comrades were free from such a burden. This difference, as you see, speaks not in favour of but against Brandler and Thalheimer. The fact that the C.P.G. has succeeded in pushing the Brandlers and Thalheimers aside, in pushing them off the stage, is in itself evidence that the C.P.G. is growing, advancing and prospering. That is apart from the undoubted successes of the C.P.G. which you quite rightly mention in your letter. To think now that there are people in the Central Committee of the R.C.P.(B.) who are planning to turn back the wheel of the German Communist Party's development means having a very bad opinion of the Central Committee of the R.C.P.(B.). Be more careful, Comrade Me—rt. . . .

3) You speak about the line of the C.P.G. It is beyond doubt that its line—I mean its political line—is correct. That indeed explains the close, friendly (and not merely comradely) relations between the R.C.P.(B.) and the C.P.G. that you yourself refer to in your letter. But does that mean that we must slur over individual mistakes in the political work of the C.P.G. or of the R.C.P.(B.)? Of course not. Can it be asserted that the Central Committee of the C.P.G., or the Central Committee of the R.C.P.(B.), are free from individual mistakes? Can it be asserted that criticism of part of the activities of the Central Committee of the C.P.G. (inadequate exploitation of the Barmat case,2 the well-known voting of the Communist group in the Prussian parliament in the election of the Speaker of that parliament, the question of taxation in connection with the Dawes Plan, etc.) is incompatible with complete solidarity with the general line of the Central Committee of the C.P.G.? Obviously not. What will become of our Parties if, when meeting one another, in the Executive Committee of the Comintern, say, we shut our eyes to individual mistakes committed by our Parties, content ourselves with parading our "complete harmony" and "well-being," and become yesmen to one another? I think that such parties could never become revolutionary. They would not be revolutionary parties, but mummies. It seems to me that some German comrades are occasionally inclined to demand that we should become complete yesmen to the Central Committee of the C.P.G. and are ready on their part to become complete yesmen to the Central Committee of the R.C.P.(B.). I am emphatically opposed to this mutual yesmenship. Judging by your letter, you are also opposed to it. All the better for the C.P.G.

4) I am emphatically opposed to the policy of kicking out all dissenting comrades. I am opposed to such a policy not because I am sorry for the dissenters, but because such a policy gives rise in the Party to a regime of intimidation, a regime of bullying, which kills the spirit of self-criticism and initiative. It is not good when leaders of the Party are feared but not respected. Party leaders can be real leaders only if they are not merely feared but respected in the Party, when their authority is recognised. It is difficult to produce such leaders, it is a long and arduous process, but it is absolutely essential, otherwise the Party cannot be called a real Bolshevik Party, and the discipline of the Party cannot be conscious discipline. I think that the German comrades are acting contrary to this self-evident truth. To disavow Trotsky and his supporters, we Russian Bolsheviks carried out an intense campaign based on an explanation of principles in support of the foundations of Bolshevism as against the foundations of Trotskyism, although, considering the strength and prestige of the Central Committee of the R.C.P.(B.), we could have dispensed with such a campaign. Was that campaign needed? Certainly it was, for by means of it we educated hundreds of thousands of new Party members (and also people who are not Party members) in the spirit of Bolshevism. It is very sad that our German comrades do not feel it necessary that repressive measures against the opposition should be preceded or supplemented by a wide campaign based on an explanation of principles, and are thus hindering the education of the Party members and Party cadres in the spirit of Bolshevism. To expel Brandler and Thalheimer is an easy matter, but the task of overcoming Brandlerism is a difficult and serious one. In this matter, repressive measures alone can only cause harm; here the soil must be deeply ploughed, minds must be greatly enlightened. The R.C.P.(B.) always developed through contradictions, i.e., in the struggle against non-communist trends, and only in that struggle did it gain strength and forge real cadres. The same path of development through contradictions, through a real, serious and lengthy struggle against non-communist trends, especially against Social-Democratic traditions, Brandlerism, etc., lies before the C.P.G. But repressive measures alone are not enough in such a struggle. That is why I think that the inner-Party policy of the Central Committee of the C.P.G. must be made more flexible. I have no doubt that the C.P.G. will be able to rectify the defects in this sphere.

5) You are quite right about work in the trade unions. The role of the trade unions in Germany is different from that of the trade unions in Russia. In Russia, the trade unions arose after the Party and, in essence, they were the Party's auxiliary organs. That is not the case in Germany, or in Europe generally. There, the Party arose from the trade unions; the latter successfully competed with the Party in influencing the masses, and often acted as a heavy fetter on the Party. If the broad masses in Germany, or in Europe generally, were asked which organisation they regarded as nearer to them, the Party or the trade unions, they would undoubtedly answer that the trade unions were nearer to them than the Party. Whether good or bad, it is a fact that the non-Party workers in Europe regard the trade unions as their principal strongholds, which help them in their struggle against the capitalists (wages, hours, insurance, etc.), whereas they regard the Party as something auxiliary, secondary, although necessary. That explains the fact that the broad masses of the workers regard the direct struggle waged against the present trade unions from outside by the "ultra-Lefts" as a struggle against their principal strongholds, which took them decades to build, and which the "Communists" now want to destroy. Failure to take this specific feature into account means wrecking the entire communist movement in the West. But from this two conclusions follow : firstly, that in the West the vast working-class masses cannot be won over unless the trade unions are won over, and, secondly, that the trade unions cannot be won over unless we work inside them and strengthen our influence there.

That is why special attention must be paid to the work of our comrades in the trade unions.

That is all for the time being. Don't scold me for being straightforward and blunt.

J. Stalin




1.Brandler and Thalheimer—leaders of the Right-opportunist group, who in 1922-23 stood at the head of the Communist Party of Germany. The treacherous policy pursued by Brandler and Thalheimer led to the defeat of the working class of Germany during the revolutionary events in 1923. In April 1924, at the Frankfurt Congress of the Communist Party of Germany, Brandler and Thalheimer were removed from the Party leadership. The Fifth Congress of the Comintern (1924) condemned the de- featist line of the Brandler-Thalheimer group. In 1929, Brandler and Thalheimer were expelled from the Communist Party on account of factional, anti-Party activity.

2.This refers to the trial of the "Barmat Brothers Concern" at the beginning of 1925. During that trial it was revealed that prominent leaders of the Social-Democratic Party of Germany, headed by Weis, had received heavy bribes from this concern, and also that they had used funds obtained from this concern and banks connected with it to fight the Communist Party of Germany during the Reichstag elections in December 1924.