Zinoviev on the Work of the Executive
and the Tactics of the Comintern

(November 1922)

Radio to Inprecorr.
Source: International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 100, 16 November 1922, pp. 804–806 & 806–807.
On-line Publication: Zinoviev Internet Archive, January 2021.
Transcription/Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The First Day of the Congress

Moscow, 10 November

Morning Session

At 7 o’clock the session is opened by Kolarov. A number of commissions are appointed, for the French, Italian, Czecho-Slovakian, American, Yugoslavian, Spanish, and Negro questions.

Zinoviev then begins his speech, in which he reports on the work of the Executive during the past year, and draws broad outlines for the future tactics of the Comintern.

The III Congress was followed by a sharp offensive on the part of capitalism along the whole line. The workers suffered many defeats. Russia too had to undergo a terrible time of famine, a fact utilized by the Mensheviki for slandering the Soviet Government.

The Comintern has been accused of being a tool in the hands of Soviet Russia. The Second International is however the tool employed by the bourgeoisie against Soviet Russia, Clynes of the English Labor Party and of the General Labor Union, is with Urquart, and fights on the other side of the barricade.

The working class has taken up a defensive attitude. Therefore our tactics are: go to the masses. Hence the slogan of the united front. Our first great international campaign for the united front did not pass off without great disturbances on the part of various sections. The greater the masses that leave other parties to join ours, the more difficult is the process of clarification. Our tactics encountered difficulties in France, in part also in Italy. There is still a lack of proletariat discipline. If this is the case in preparatory actions, how will it be when days of real fighting come?

Last year the German party lived through a severe but has come through it well, thanks to the aid of the Comintern. Today the German party is one of the firmest and politically clearest sections. The German and Czecho-Slovakian parties have carried out the tactics of the united front best. They have perhaps not always shown the face of the Party openly enough, but they have maintained the freedom of communist agnation and criticism. The courses taken by the last railway strike and the shop steward movement in Germany are exemplary for the united front tactics. The German party emerges from this movement with renewed strength. Although the number of members has not increased to any great extent, it nevertheless possesses more members to-day than the Bolschewiki when they seized power ... Rapid revolutionary development is the case in Germany. Hence the importance of having a good party there in that country.

In France the Communist Party is passing through severe birth throes. The French proletariat is at present on the defensive. The French party does not yet understand how to lead the workers unitedly to battle. In France the struggle must be letter prepared. The French party is still of the opinion that economic struggles are no part of party work.

The 21 points are now being confirmed anew. Despite this, the French press is still very far from carrying out even the first of these 21 conditions. There are three tendencies in the French party: right, left, and centre. There are still reformist elements remaining in the centre These must disappear. The left has made many mistakes, but it is the only fraction which has really fought for the tactics of the Comintern. Our sympathy is with this fraction. There are good working elements in the centre and in the Renoult group. We are willing to meet these half way. The negotiations with all the tendencies justify the confident nope that the French party will retain its unity. We must however criticize its faults with all severity.

The events in the Italian labor movement constitute an educational example for the whole International. The conflict between the Italian Socialist Party and the Comintern did not arise out of the question of immediate seizure of power; all that was required of the Italian Socialists was to exclude the agents of the bourgeoisie from their ranks, and thus to set their hands free for carrying out revolutionary actions. The guilt of having cleared the path for Fascism lies at the door of the Italian Socialist Party. Our tactics at Leghorn have proved correct The workers belonging to the Italian Socialist Party will have to learn that when reformism is granted an inch, it takes a mile.

The Comintern has also had differences with the Communist Party of Italy. The Italian communists have saved the honor of the proletariat. Remains of anti-parliamentarism still exist in the party. The united front tactics have not been quite thoroughly earned out. The slogan of a workers government came too late. Candid criticism has to be exercised here too. The Communist Party of Italy is one of the best fighting troops of the International.

The United Communist Party in Czecho-Slovakia came into existence after the III. Congress, various fractions combining. The party has committed great sins of omission in trade union questions, and that at a time when it already had the support of the majority of organized labor. The united front tactics have been carried out in an exemplary manner. Successful result: the disintegration of the National Socialist fraction. The Czech party had differences with the Executive regarding the expulsion of the so-called left. The attitude of the Executive does not signify that it considers the left to be in the right, or that it intends to support the left politically. The Executive is however of the opinion that expulsion is too severe a punishment for the breach of discipline committed by these comrades. We condemn the breach of discipline, which is not to be compared with that of Levi. For the Czech opposition does not consist of traitors. It must however maintain discipline. Expulsion from the party is only permitted as a last resort. In our opinion it was resorted to too soon in this case. If the opposition cannot maintain discipline, there is of course no room for it in our ranks.

In Norway the trade unions form the basis of the party. No individual membership exists here.

The name of the central organ is still the Social Democrat. Articles against us may be found in this paper. Vestiges of syndicalism are still to be found among many communist workmen. Time must be left for evolution, but the social democratic residues must be finally swept way.

In Poland the party is illegal, but at the same time a mass party. Here there have also been differences between the party and the Executive, on the subject of the agrarian and nationality questions. The Comintern is in favor of the neutralization of the peasantry. The Polish party is not yet sufficiently elastic.

In Roumania the party holds faithfully to the International, despite much persecution. In Jugoslavia the party is also exposed to great difficulties through persecution. The labor movement however shows signs of revival.

In England development is slow. England is not a country of great political organizations. The lack of revolutionary experience in England is a cause of great difficulty to our party there.

In Austria the party is making progress.

In Hungary the party movement is suffering greatly through fraction quarrels. The IV. Congress must put an end to these. This is of special importance, as the labor movement is increasing its influence in Hungary.

In Japan a communist party has been formed.

In India we have successes to record.

We have also groups in Egypt, Persia, China. This is of the greatest importance for our fight against world imperialism.

The Profintern also reports good results, and these will be even better in the near future. The Amsterdam fraction contemplates a split. We must use our influence towards creating unity in the trade union movement. We must however take measures against the expulsions. When the Amsterdam fraction causes splits, we must issue the slogan of unity.

The Cooperative movement also shows favourable progress.

The Communist Youth movement requires new methods if it is to make greater advances.

This is the report on our activity. We have made many mistakes, and await severe criticism. But then united action! We must become a centralized world organization!

(Session adjourned at 10:30)

Afternoon Session

The session is resumed at half past eleven.

Zinoviev delivers the second part of his speech on the tactics of the Communist International. He points out that:

Taken as a whole, the economic world situation since the Third Congress confirms our theses of last year. A temporary economic improvement may be noted in America, Japan, England. France and other countries. This does not in the least alter the actual fact of the decay of capitalism in Europe. The crises nowadays are not merely periodical. There is no salvation for capitalism.

The objective position is revolutionary. In international politics the contentions become more and more acute. The Entente is falling to pieces with increasing rapidity. The Versailles peace treaty is on the road to dissolution. Bourgeois pacifism is bankrupt. The English general election is being carried on with an incredible lack of ideas. The struggle of the colonized countries has reached a high level; the liberation movement makes progress, despite the repressive measures taken by the imperialist governments. This movement is not communist, but now the less it is an influential factor in the proletarian struggle for freedom.

Bourgeois democracy is in the process of decay. In Italy we see this demonstrated by facts. The blow struck by the Fascist! is not only against the Italian monarchy, but again! the whole regime of bourgeois democracy This is not merely a local phenomenon. We find analogies in other places, as for instance in Germany, where the movement has perhaps adopted other forms. Its essence is however the same. Austria’s position is also a blow against bourgeois democracy. In Czecho-Slovakia the prospects are similar.

These are however transition periods. It is the duty of the communist parties to prepare the illegal period. Such periods are no sign of a standstill in the world revolution. On the contrary, the effect is objectively most revolutionizing. The path described by the world revolution is not a straight line.

What is characteristic for the present situation is the general and increasing acuteness. Small events may possibly form the starting point for great decisions.

In the Near East a repetition of the world war has been tangibly near. Perhaps war may not result, but coming events cast their shadows before, if the proletariat does not prevent it, there will be a world war.

On the other hand we see Soviet Russia strong as never before. The new economic policy is much more than a mere episode. It has not been caused merely by the economic weakness of Russia and the political weakness of the world proletariat, but is founded on important relations of forces between the Russian proletariat and the peasantry and petty bourgeoisie. Other countries, even those farthest on the road of evolution, will have to adopt similar measures for neutralizing the small farmer and the petty bourgeois, the capitalist equilibrium is destroyed. The colonies are in the midst of wars of liberation. In the Near East the crisis is within view. But at the same moment the star of Soviet Russia rises higher and higher.

The capitalist offensive is an international phenomenon. The workers are beginning to counter this offensive with increasing energy. One of the most important events within the labor movement is the union of the 2 and 2½. Internationals. In actuality this signifies that the 2½ International is completely swallowed up in the Second International. Even Martov confirms this. A united reformist International means two things: first the preparation of the white terror against the communist parties; secondly an unheard-of splitting up of the proletarian forces. It is not by accident that in capitalist states leading positions are held by one-time Social Democrats of the Second International: Mussolini, Pilsudski, Ebert.

We are fighting for the unity of the trade unions. Regarded historically, reformism is losing the ground from beneath its feet. The influence of Communism increases more and more in the trade unions. Before the reformists leave the trade unions, they shatter these to pieces. Their conduct is such that we might think they were acting on the orders of the bourgeoisie. They are determined that we find the trade unions in ruins. The workers have established their great organizations at the cost of great struggles. The trade unions are the sole effective weapon possessed by the proletariat. The ‘reformists destroy this weapon. Schisms in the trade unions signify an immense weakening for the workers struggling for freedom. In the present situation the division of the trade unions is a crime; perhaps a greater crime than treason in war. The reformists have become professional splitters. In this situation the united front is no mere measure of strategy, it is rather a measure against division, for unity.

The slogan of the Third Congress was: to win the majority of the working class. This goal has not yet been reached. The united front tactics are the best means to this end. The united front is no episode in our struggle, but an epoch. In the present situation the II. International is the sole support of the bourgeoisie. To win the majority of the proletariat is to decide our victory. Many are the successes already to be ascribed to the united front. It was necessary to create communist parties, even at the price of division. We must win the majority. It is our task to save the trade unions. In our own ranks the united front tactics encounter no difficulties The one-time opponents of the united front tactics now reply: “We join the united front”. Those who want to help the workers must bring about a united front in political and economic actions alike.

The united front does not signify the creation or maintenance of election blocs; neither does it mean amalgamation with Social Democratic organizations. We should rather cut off our right hands than lend such an interpretation to the slogan of the united front.

The right formula for the united front is: to show the way to the working masses in their daily struggles. We must fight side by side with all workers, regardless of tendency, for more bread, and to save the eight hour day. It is part of the bargain that we have to sit at the same table as the treacherous leaders. We fight against reformism, but for the partial demands of the workers. This is the only way to win the workers for the revolution. The united front tactics are being agitated for in almost every country.

The question of a workers’ government only comes in question in countries where the comparative forces permit of the government being taken over. The workers’ government is the concrete application of the united front; it will only be possible to realize it in exceptional cases. The workers’ government is not an essential organic period of transition; it does not displace the dictatorship and cannot avoid the sufferings of civil war. The communist groups in the factories and workshops, and among the shop stewards, constitute the criterion for the influence of the Communist Party. A party which does not know how to bring about a shop steward movement does not know how to actuate great mass movements either. Under present conditions we have to demand unqualified discipline. Renoults theses on discipline contain golden words; his former actions are however far from being in harmony. It would have been better if he had substituted these golden words by actual deeds of discipline. We have severe struggles before us. Iron discipline is necessary. Russia’s material position has much improved. The example set by the Russian people should spur on other countries to revolution. Revolutions however, are not only made by following examples, but when circumstances urge revolution The Russian workers have suffered much. Other workers will have an easier task; they will meet with the support of the sixth part of the globe. We must never forget to emphasize that the way to victory leads through suffering. (Enthusiastic applause.)

Concluding Words of Zinoviev

There are several kinds of Labor Governments. Every bourgeois Government is a capitalist bourgeois government, but not every labor government is a proletarian socialist government The bourgeoisie has outposts in the working class but unfortunately the working class does not have them in the bourgeoisie.

One can distinguish four main types of labor governments. In Australia there was for a king time a liberal labor government. We find a similar grouping in England. Under the given circumstances such a government could not carry on a pure bourgeois policy. The Communists must support such a government from time to tune.

A second type of labor government is the Social Democratic Government which must eventually be supported by us provisionally.

A third type is the coalition government of Social Democrats, Trade Unions and Communists. This can become the starting point for the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The fourth type, the real Labor Government, is only a pseudonym tor the dictatorship.

Every labor government can become the transition point for the dictatorship. It is not the form but the political content that counts. The most important thing is: the bourgeoisie will not willingly resign its privileges. Therefore the overthrow of the bourgeoisie must be first brought about.

With the election of the labor government two things are to be distinguished: First, – it is a means of approaching the workers, secondly, – the historical possibility exists tor it We have in enslaved working-class which is still spiritually dependent upon the bourgeoisie. The process of enlightenment must proceed in different ways. Zinoviev then refers to the tactics of the united front.

Whether a labor government will actually come is very questionable; perhaps its possibility is only an exception. The chief content of the labor government is the struggle against the bourgeoisie.

We must combat every illusion that the labor government signifies a peaceful and painless transition. The labor government is no substitute for the dictatorship or for the civil war.

The opportunist danger is very great.

Ruth Fischer complains that the 3rd Congress failed tn deal with the Levi group as it deserved. But at the time some of the first elements of the German Communist Party were in this group. It was necessary to isolate Levi in order to save these elements of his group for the party. This has been done. The Executive had also criticized trie errors of the Rathenau action. The united front without the possibility of independent propaganda is suicidal. It was right to fight the monarchists but not to awaken illusions regarding the bourgeois republic. We must not permit the party to be treated like “poor relations”. Ruth Fischer greatly exaggerates when she says the slogan of the united front has driven the German Independent Social Democratic Party to the Social Democratic Party and has made the Independent Party the prisoner of the Social Democratic Party. Inwardly the Independents differed in no way from the Social Democrats and therefore very readily became “their prisoners”. Apart from this there was no variance between the Berlin organization and the Communist International.

Bukharin was too strict towards Duret. If Duret has erred and wishes to atone tor his mistakes, so much the better. His argument that the tactics of the united front are only possible in Germany where we are confronted with strong Social Democratic Parties is not correct It is much easier to unfold the movement among large unorganized masses, where the revolutionary initiative has greater success. Duret was right when he pointed out the danger of a split. A portion will come to us. We shall submit to them not twenty one but forty two conditions.

Bordiga asks what criterion there is for testing whether the majority is with us. There are many criteria. It is not a question of embracing the majority in the party organization but of gaining the influence over the majority. The small Communist Party of New South Wales has succeeded in bringing 200,000 trade union members into the R.I.L.U.

The attitude of the Italian Party in regard to the trade union question is still narrow-minded. It detaches itself from the masses instead of going to them.

The successes of the united front tactics in Spain are certainly very important.

Vajtauers program is very bad. This will not solve the problem of the Czech opposition. The Executive has acted rightly in the question of expulsions. The International must everywhere strive to retain good working elements. The opposition must either submit or it will have the whole International against it Domski claims that the tactics of the united front are not correct for Poland. But it is precisely in Poland where the Polish Socialist Party displays the sign-board of a labor government that the united front tactics have good prospects of success. At the time when the Red Army was marching on Warsaw, Domski was against military assistance. That was nationalism in disguise. If the bourgeoisie mutually assist each other with arms, the workers can also do the same. It makes no difference whether it is the Hungarian. Polish, Italian, German, French or Russian Red Army that brings aid. (Stormy applause from the whole congress)

The Norwegian group shall remain in the Party and not form a separate group.

In controversy with Varga, Zinoviev remarks that the workers must be told that the way to the dictatorship is thorny, and is eventually bound up with hunger.

The greater danger at present in the Communist International, comes from the Right and not from die Left which is grounded in the objective conditions. Opportunism is being combatted. Bad times of world reaction will come, yet the Communist International at the given time will lead the working class to the offensive. (Sustained applause)

Before the vote on the resolutions, Duret, Souvarine and Dornoy, in the name of the fractions, declare that they will vote for the resolution of the Executive to prove their loyalty to the Communist International.

The resolution expresses full approval of the actions of the Executive and declares the decisions of the Executive, reached m the interval between the 3rd and 4th Congresses to be binding, and their infringement a breach of discipline. The strict execution of the 21 points is demanded.

The resolution is adopted by the Congress, the Italian majority abstaining from voting.

Last updated on 7 January 2021