J. V. Stalin

Speech Delivered in the German Commission
of the Sixth Enlarged Plenum of the E.C.C.I.

March 8, 1926

Source: Works, Vol. 8, January-November, 1926, pp. 115-122
Publisher: Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1954
First Published: The magazine Kommunistichesky Internatsional, No. 3 (52), March 1926
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
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.

Comrades, I have only a few remarks to make.

1. Some comrades are of the opinion that, if the interests of the U.S.S.R. were to demand it, it would be the duty of the Communist Parties of the West to adopt a Right-wing policy. I do not agree, comrades. I must say that this assumption is absolutely incompatible with the principles by which we Russian comrades are guided in our work. I cannot imagine a situation ever arising in which the interests of our Soviet Republic would require deviations to the Right on the part of our brother parties. For what does pursuing a Right-wing policy mean? It means betraying the interests of the working class in one way or another. I cannot imagine that the interests of the U.S.S.R. could require our brother parties to betray the interests of the working class, even for a single moment. I cannot imagine that the interests of our Republic, which is the base of the world-wide revolutionary proletarian movement, could require not the maximum revolutionary spirit and political activity of the workers of the West, but a diminution of their activity, a blunting of their revolutionary spirit. Such an assumption is insulting to us, to the Russian comrades. I therefore consider it my duty to dissociate myself wholly and completely from such an absurd and absolutely unacceptable assumption.

2. About the Central Committee of the German Communist Party. We hear the voices of certain intellectuals asserting that the Central Committee of the German Communist Party is weak, that its leadership is feeble, that the work is adversely affected by the absence of intellectual forces in the Central Committee, that the Central Committee does not exist, and so forth. That is all untrue, comrades. I consider such talk as the antics of intellectuals, unworthy of Communists. The present Central Committee of the German Communist Party did not take shape accidentally. It was born in the struggle against Right-wing errors. It gained strength in the struggle against “ultra-Left” errors. It is therefore neither Right, nor “ultra-Left.” It is a Leninist Central Committee. It is precisely that leading working-class group which the German Communist Party needs just now.

It is said that theoretical knowledge is not a strong point with the present Central Committee. What of it?—if the policy is correct, theoretical knowledge will come in due course. Knowledge is something acquirable; if you haven’t got it today, you may get it tomorrow. But a correct policy, such as the Central Committee of the German Communist Party is now pursuing, is not so easily mastered by certain conceited intellectuals. The strength of the present Central Committee lies in the fact that it is pursuing a correct Leninist policy, and that is something which the puny intellectuals who pride themselves on their “knowledge” refuse to recognise. In the opinion of certain comrades, it is enough for an intellectual to have read some two or three books, or to have written a couple of pamphlets, for him to lay claim to the right of leading the Party. That is wrong, comrades. It is ridiculously wrong. You may have written whole tomes on philosophy, but if you have not mastered the correct policy of the Central Committee of the German Communist Party, you cannot be allowed at the helm of the Party.

Comrade Thälmann, use the services of these intellectuals if they really want to serve the cause of the working class, or send them to the devil if they are determined to command at all costs. . . . The fact that workers predominate in the present Central Committee is a big asset for the German Communist Party.

What is the task of the German Communist Party? It is to find a path to the masses of workers with a Social-Democratic outlook who have gone astray in the wilderness of Social-Democratic confusion, and thus win over the majority of the working class to the side of the Communist Party. Its task is to help its brothers who have gone astray to find the right road and link up with the Communist Party. There are two possible methods of approach to the working-class masses. One, which is characteristic of the intellectuals, is the method of lashing out at the workers, of “winning over” the workers whip in hand, so to speak. It does not need proof that this method has nothing in common with the communist method, because it only repels the workers instead of attracting them. The other method lies in finding a common language with our brothers who have gone astray and who have landed in the camp of the Social-Democrats, helping them to extricate themselves from the Social-Democratic wilderness, and making it easier for them to come over to the side of communism. This method of work is the only communist one. That the present Central Committee is of proletarian composition is a fact which greatly facilitates the application of this latter method in Germany. It is to this that must be attributed those successes in forming a united front which the present Central Committee of the German Communist Party undoubtedly has to its credit.

3. About Meyer. I listened attentively to Meyer’s sensible speech. But I must say that there was one point in it with which I cannot agree. It follows from what Meyer says that it was not he that came over to the Central Committee of the German Communist Party but, on the contrary, it was the Central Committee that came over to him. That is not true, comrades. He did not say so explicitly, but that idea was implicit in his whole speech. It is not true, it is a profound mistake. The present Central Committee was born in the struggle against the Rights, in whose ranks Meyer was active until recently. The Central Committee cannot become Right-wing, if it does not want to go against its very nature, if it does not want to turn back the wheel of the history of the German Communist Party. If, nevertheless, Meyer has begun to come closer to this Central Committee, it follows from this that he has begun to move to the Left, has begun to realise the errors of the Rights, has begun to turn away from the Rights. Consequently, it is not the Central Committee that is moving towards Meyer, but, on the contrary, it is Meyer that is moving towards the Central Committee. He is moving towards the Central Committee, but he has not reached it yet. He has still to take another two or three steps away from the Rights towards the Central Committee fully to arrive at the position of the present leadership of the German Communist Party. I am far from regarding Meyer as a leper, I am not recommending that he should be kept at a distance; all I am saying is that he has to take another two or three steps forward if he wants to identify himself completely with the position of the present Central Committee of the German Communist Party.

4. About Scholem. I shall not dwell at length on the German “ultra-Lefts” and on Scholem’s policy. Quite enough has been said about that here. I only want to focus attention on one passage in his speech and to examine it critically. Scholem is now in favour of inner-party democracy. He therefore proposes that a general discussion should be started—that Brandler and Radek and everybody, from the Rights to the “ultra-Lefts,” should be invited, a general amnesty declared and a general discussion opened. That would be wrong, comrades. We don’t want that. Previously, Scholem was opposed to inner-party democracy. Now he is running to the other extreme and declaring in favour of unlimited and absolutely unrestrained democracy. Heaven save us from such democracy! The Russians have an apt saying: “Tell a fool to kneel and pray, and he will split his forehead bowing.” (Laughter.) No, we don’t want that sort of democracy. The German Communist Party has already recovered from the disease of Rightism. There would be no sense now in infecting it with the disease artificially. What the German Communist Party is now suffering from is the disease of “ultra-Leftism.” There would be no sense in intensifying this disease—it has to be eradicated, not intensified. It is not just any kind of discussion or any kind of democracy that we need, but such discussion and such democracy as will be of benefit to the communist movement in Germany. I am therefore opposed to Scholem’s general amnesty.

5. About the Ruth Fischer group. So much has been said about this group here that it remains for me to say only a few words. I consider that of all the undesirable and objectionable groups in the German Communist Party, this group is the most undesirable and the most objectionable. One “ultra-Left” proletarian observed here that the workers are losing faith in the leaders. If that is true, it is very sad. For where there is no faith in the leaders there can be no real party. But who is to blame for that? The Ruth Fischer group is to blame, with its double-dealing in politics, its habit of saying one thing and doing another, and the eternal divergence between words and deeds that characterises the practice of this diplomatic group. The workers can have no faith in the leaders when the leaders have grown rotten from playing a diplomatic game, when their words are not backed by their deeds, when they say one thing and do another.

Why did the Russian workers have such unbounded faith in Lenin? Was it only because his policy was correct? No, it was not only because of that. They had faith in Lenin also because they knew that his words and his deeds were never at variance, that Lenin “will not let you down.” That, among other things, was the basis on which Lenin’s prestige was built. That was the method by which Lenin educated the workers, that was how he implanted in them faith in their leaders. The method of the Ruth Fischer group, the method of rotten diplomacy, is the direct opposite of Lenin’s method. I can respect and believe Bordiga, although I do not consider him a Leninist or a Marxist; I can believe him because he says what he thinks. I can even believe Scholem, who does not always say what he thinks (laughter), but who sometimes says more than he means to. (Laughter.) But with the best will in the world I cannot for a single moment believe Ruth Fischer, for she never says what she thinks. That is why I consider the Ruth Fischer group the most objectionable of all the objectionable groups in the German Communist Party.

6. About Urbahns. I have a great respect for Urbahns as a revolutionary. I am prepared to pay him homage for having conducted himself so well at the trial. But I must say that with these virtues of Urbahns’s alone one cannot get very far. Revolutionary spirit is a good thing. Staunchness is even better. But if these virtues are all you have to your credit, it is very little—dreadfully little, comrades. Such assets may last you a month or two, but then they will fail, will most certainly fail, if they are not reinforced by a correct policy. An implacable struggle is now being waged in the German Communist Party between the Central Committee and the Katz gang. Where does Urbahns stand? With the Katz gang or with the Central Committee? With the petty-bourgeois philosopher Korsch or with the Central Committee? He has got to choose. He cannot stick half-way between these contending forces. Urbahns must have the courage to say frankly and honestly where he stands: with the Central Committee or with its rabid opponents. Here the utmost definiteness is required. Urbahns’s misfortune is that he, apparently, still lacks this definiteness, that he suffers from political short-sightedness. Political short-sightedness may be forgiven once, it may be forgiven twice; but if short-sightedness becomes a policy, it borders on the criminal. That is why I consider that Urbahns must define his position frankly and honestly, if he does not want to forfeit the last vestiges of his influence in the Party. The working-class masses cannot live by remembering how well Urbahns conducted himself at the trial. The working-class masses need a correct policy. If Urbahns proves to have no clear and definite policy, then one does not have to be a prophet to foretell that of his prestige not even the memory will remain.