G. Zinoviev

Reply on Question of Workers’ Government

(December 1922)

Source: International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 107, 5 December 1922, pp. 876–880.
On-line Publication: Zinoviev Internet Archive, January 2021.
Transcription/Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Comrades, you will allow me to discuss in some detail the question of Workers’ Government. It is not yet quite clear to me whether there are serious differences of opinion with regard to this question, whether this question has been completely ventilated, or whether a good deal of our differences were caused by variations in terminology. In the course of the Congress, and during the working out of the resolution on tactical questions, with which we shall deal after the question of the Russian Revolution, this will become clear. I think, comrades, that the question will be made clear if I express myself as follows: it is clear to us that every bourgeois government is a capitalist government. It is hard to imagine a bourgeois government – the mule of the bourgeois class – which is not at the same time a capitalist government. But I fear that one cannot reverse that saying. Every working class government is not a proletarian government; not every workers’ government is a socialist government.

This contrast is radical. It reveals the fact that the bourgeoisie have their outposts within our class, but that workers have not their outposts within the capitalist class. It is impossible for us to have our outposts in the camp of the bourgeoisie.

Every bourgeois Government is a capitalist Government, and even many Workers’ governments can be bourgeois Governments according to their social composition. I think that the main point is: there are Workers’ Governments and Workers’ Governments. I believe that one can imagine four kinds of Workers’ Governments, and even then we will not have exhausted the possibilities. You can have a Workers’ Government which, according to its composition, would be a Liberal Workers’ Government, for example, the Australian Labour Government; and several of our Australian comrades say that the term Workers’ Government is incorrect because in Australia we have had such Workers’ Governments of a bourgeois nature. These were really Workers’ Governments, but their composition was of a purely Liberal character. They were bourgeois Workers’ Governments, if one may so term them.

Let us take this example. The general elections are taking place in England. It is not probable, but one may well accept in theory, as a possibility, that a Workers’ Government will be elected, which will be similar to the Australian Labour Government, and will be of Liberal composition. This Liberal Workers’ Government in England can, under certain circumstances, constitute the starting point of revolutionizing the situation. That could well happen. But by itself, it is nothing more than a Liberal Workers’ Government. We, the Communists, now vote in England for the Labor Party. That is the same as voting for a Liberal Workers’ Government. These are absolutely the right tactics. Why? Because this objective would be a step forward; because a Liberal government in England would disturb the equilibrium, and would extend the bankruptcy of capitalism. We have seen in Russia during the Kerensky regime how the position of capitalism was smashed, despite the fact that the Liberals were the agents of capitalism. Plekhanov, in the period from February to October 1917, called the Mensheviks semi-Bolsheviks. We said that this was an exaggeration; they are not semi-Bolsheviks, but just quarter-Bolsheviks. We said this because we were at war with them, and because we saw their treachery to the proletariat. Objectively, Plekhanov was right. Objectively, the menshevik government was best adapted to make a hash of capitalism, by making its position impossible. Our Party, which was then fighting the mensheviks, would not and could not see this. The parties stood arrayed for conflict. Under such conditions, we can only see that they are traitors to the working class. They are not opponents of the bourgeoisie, but when, for a period, they hold the weapons of the bourgeoisie in their hands, they make certain steps which are objectively against the bourgeois state. Therefore, in England, we support the Liberal Workers’ Government and the Labor Party. The English bourgeoisie are right when they say that the workers’ government will start with Clynes and finish in the hands of the Left Wing.

That is the first type of a possible Workers’ Government The second type is that of a Socialist Government One can imagine that the United Social Democratic Party, in Germany, forms a purely socialist government. That would also be a Workers’ Government, a Socialist Government – with the word – Socialist – of course in inverted commas. One can easily imagine a situation where we would give such a government certain conditional credit, a certain conditional support. One can imagine a Socialist government as being a first step in the revolutionizing of the situation.

A third type is the so-called Coalition government; that is, a government in which Social-Democrats, Trade Union leaders and even perhaps Communists, take part. One can imagine such a possibility. Such a government is not yet the dictatorship of the proletariat, but it is perhaps a starting point for the dictatorship, When all goes right, we can kick one social-democrat after another out of the government until the power is in the hands of the Communists. This is a historical possibility.

Fourthly we have a Workers’ Government which is really a workers’ goverment – that is a Communist Workers’ Government, which is the true Workers’ Government. I believe that this fourth possibility is a pseudonym for dictatorship of the proletariat, that it is truly a Workers’ Government in the true sense of the word. But this by no means exhausts the question. There can be a fifth or sixth type, and they can all be excellent starting points for a broader revolutionizing of the situation.

I fear that in seeking for a strictly scientific definition, we overlook the political significance of the term. I do not care for hair splitting about a scientific definition, but I am concerned about not confusing the revolutionary definition. The bourgeoisie will not give up its power voluntarily; it will resist with all its might. The question is to consider all eventualities within the perspective of the world revolution and civil war. One should never forget that, outside the Labor parties, there stands a bourgeoisie which for hundreds of years has been in power, and which will exert every effort to retain this power.

Therefore, in order to construct a Workers’ Government in the revolutionary sense, one must overthrew the bourgeoisie; and that is the most important. We must not forget that we have here to distinguish between two things:

  1. Our methods of agitation; how we can best speak to the simple workers, how we can enable them best to understand the position. For that purpose, I believe the slogan of a “Workers’ Government” is best adapted.
  2. How will events develop historically, in what concrete forms will the revolution manifest itself? And all rambling discussions over slogans are worth nothing. We will now slightly raise the curtain of history.

How will the revolution proceed? We will attempt all ways: through the workers’ government, through a coalition government, and through a civil war. But all prophesies are out of place here. The revolution will probably come quite differently from the way we imagine it. We have already seen this in the Russian Revolution. Five years ago it was believed that the blockade, the famine etc., would force us to surrender. We foresaw all sorts of eventualities, except the eventuality of the new economic policy, except the victory of the revolution. The situation varies in each country. The revolution will probably come quite differently in Germany and in England. This does not mean that, as conscious revolutionists, we should not try to peep behind the curtain. We are thinking beings, the leaders of the working class. We must look at the question from all sides. It is nevertheless difficult to make any prediction. If we now look at the slogan of the workers’ government from this new standpoint, as a concrete road to the realization of the proletarian revolution, we may doubt whether the world revolution must necessarily pass through the stage of the workers’ government. Our friend Radek said yesterday that the workers’ government is a possible intermediary step to the dictatorship of the proletariat. I agree, it is a possibility, or more exactly an exceptional possibility. This does not mean that the slogan of the workers’ government is not good. It is a good instrument of agitation where the relation of forces makes it possible. But if we put this question: is the workers’ government a necessary step towards the revolution? I must answer that this is not a question that we can solve here. It is a way, but the least probable of all. In countries with a highly developed bourgeois class, the proletariat can conquer power by force alone, through civil war. In such a case an intermediary step is not to be thought of. It might take place, but it is useless to argue here about it. All that is necessary is that we see clearly all the possible ways towards the revolution. The workers’ government may be nothing more than a liberal labor government, as it might be in England and in Australia. Such a workers’ government can also be useful to the working class. The agitation for a workers’ government is wise, we may gain many advantages therefrom. But in no case must we forget our revolutionary prospects. I have here a beautiful article by the Czecho-Slovak minister Benisch. I will read you a passage.

The Tschas, orgau of minister Benisch, writes, on September 18:

“The Communist Party is building the United Front of the workers on a slogan of a fight against unemployment.

“We cannot deny that the communists are clever. They know how to present to the workers the same thing under different forms. For instance, some time ago, the communists began a campaign for the formation of Soviets. When they saw that this campaign was unsuccessful, they stopped their agitation, but resumed it a year and a half later under the mask of United Front committees. The United Front of the proletariat might become a tremendous force.”

This bourgeois is right, I believe. We communists who deal with the masses intellectually enslaved by the bourgeoisie, must make all efforts to enlighten our class. I have said that a workers’ government might be in reality a bourgeois government; but there might appear a workers’ government with real revolutionary tendencies. It is our duty to enlighten in all ways the more receptive sections of the working class. But the contents of our declaration must always remain the same.

Another thing, comrades, Soviet Government does not always mean dictatorship of the proletariat. Far from it. A soviet government existed for eight months in Russia parallel with the Kerensky government, but this was not a dictatorship of the proletariat. Nevertheless, we defended the slogan of the Soviet Government; and we only gave it up for a very short time.

This is why I believe that we can adopt the policy of the workers’ government with a peaceful heart, under the only condition that we do not forget what it really amounts to. Woe to us if we ever allow the suggestion to creep up in our propaganda that the workers’ government is a necessary step, to be. achieved peacefully as a period of semi-organic construction which may take the place of the civil war, etc. If such views exist among us, we must combat them ruthlessly; we must educate the working class by way of telling them: Yes, dear friends, to establish a workers’ government the bourgeoisie must be first overthrown and defeated.

This is the most important part of the slogan. We will say to the workers: Do you want a workers’ government, if so, well and good, we are ready to come to an agreement even with the social-democrats, though we warn you that they are going to betray you; we favor a workers’ government, but under the one condition that you be ready to fight with us against the bourgeoisie. If this is your wish, then we will take up the fight against the bourgeoisie; and if the workers government results from the struggle, it will stand on sound principles, and will be a real beginning to the dictatorship of the proletariat. There is no question here of the word pseudonym, I leave this word to Comrade Meyer; but we must draw a sharp line in this question. It is no way a strategic move likely to replace civil war. The International must adopt the right tactics, but there are no tactics by means of which we could outwit the bourgeoisie and glide smoothly into the realm of a workers’ government The important thing is that we overthrow the bourgeoisie, after which various forms of the workers’ government may be established.

In England in the given situation, a government may have revolutionary effects, and therefore we will support it even if it be of a limited, menshevik-liberal nature. But in doing so we by no means avoid civil war. As a matter of fact it would be civil war only in another form which may become even more cruel than any other. The existence of such a workers’ government does not mean the avoidance of civil war. We know that just such a menshevik-liberal government may oppose us more cruelly than a bourgeois government; Noske and our own mensheviks have given sufficient proof of this. This is why I say that this slogan may be a good means of agitation when we understand well its revolutionary possibilities: for instance, take the slogan advanced by Blum and Frossard in France. The Executive is responsible for this. We had proposed this slogan in the course of our discussions. But it was premature in France ... Why? Because, on account of the traditions of the Party, the slogan was understood as a pure parliamentary combination. Some have said: Yes, Blum-Frossard’s slogan was a good thing. Others have said: yes, but it is not easily achieved. The Executive was theoretically right when it said that the slogan of the workers’ government must not be rejected. It was a possibility, it contained revolutionary prospects, but in France, under the circumstances, it was premature. If we had based our united action on the eight-hour day, we might have had better results. As it was, some comrades at once grew suspicious, and rumors were soon set afloat of the unification of the parties, etc. We must take the facts as they are. Some of our friends of the Left have perhaps been guilty of exaggeration. If I am not mistaken, it was Comrade Souvarine who said that there was a time in Russia when a Lenin-Martov Government was contemplated. This is not true. Such possibility never came up in Russia. We must not forget that with the fall of Czarism, the overthrow of the bourgeoisie was also half accomplished. The February Revolution, indeed, was a bourgeois revolution; but it was not wholly bourgeois, it was already then a great popular revolution which contained the seed of the October Revolution. Soldiers’ Soviets had been organized from the very first day; soviets which were not to be disbanded after a few months as Noske had done in Germany, but such as began the fight against Kerensky from the very beginning.

At such a time when the menscheviks formed a kind of secondary government, the slogan of a workers’ government was in place. As we know this led to no positive results. The civil war was not avoided. We did not form an alliance with Martow, but with the Left wing Social-Revolutionaries who represented the revolutionary peasantry. In this sense, the slogan was justified. But to attempt the same thing in France, and to say that this was the same as a Martov-Lenin government, was a wrong appreciation of the situation.

Even our best comrades have made mistakes in the application of this policy. I do not believe that this Congress, after the work of the commissions has been accomplished will reject the slogan of the workers’ government. This slogan is indisputably correct as a means to approach the masses. It is only a question of knowing how to apply it. It contains the same dangers as the United Front. When one speaks of government, one naturally thinks of Parliamentary combinations, with a distribution of cabinet seats, etc. We shall meet even greater difficulties here than in the application of the United Front. But this is no reason why we should reject it, as our French comrades have proposed. They say: “Our Party is too weak, we can do nothing with it”. If your Party is too weak, you must strengthen it. If you cannot swim, jump into the water, and you will learn quickly enough. We point out the dangers of the policy so that we may be able to meet them. In this period of apathy through which we are passing the danger of opportunist infection is great. Comrade Radek was right when he said that the danger now threatens from the Right; the six sessions which we have already held must have convinced you of this.

We must adopt a rigid line of conduct in this question. We must say to our comrades: “Yes, Workers’ Governments are all well and good, but first of all we must overthrow the bourgeoisie”; for that purpose, we need weapons, we must be organized, we must have the majority of the working class. We must see clearly that we have a hard fight before us, that victory cannot be achieved without such a fight. With this I believe I may bring this part of my closing speech to an end.

I shall now dwell upon the most important parties, following the same order as in my first speech.

Accordingly, I shall begin with Germany. Comrade Fischer, who after all appeared much less terrible than some would have imagined reproached us by saying that the Third Congress had not had a wholly good influence upon the German Party. This accusation she should have advanced against the Third, but not the Fourth Congress. However, we are the successors of the Third Congress, and we stand ready to render account, I do not believe that the reproach was justified. We do not need to exaggerate and say that we have saved the German Party. It is not we who have saved it, but the German proletariat itself. Some say that the Levi question was not correctly handled. Permit me to say that this is not so. Do not forget that during the Third Congress even the best militants were doubtful on this question.

This same doubt prevailed among our Russian delegates. Some of them thought that after all Levi is a clever fellow. Perhaps he can settle the question better than we can. It appeared however that this task and the duty of the Third Congress was to see that Levi be the only one to pass over to Noske, or at least that he go in very small company. Geyer and company are not of much, importance. We let him have them willingly, and a few more with them. But the danger existed that he could take away with him part of our Party. In this matter the Third Congress has given a certain amount of assistance to our Parties and has enabled them to take up the right attitude and to save the best elements for the revolution. Thus, in this respect comrade Ruth Fischer was somewhat in the wrong.

As to the Rathenau affair, Comrade Radek already emphasized that we regard this part of her criticism as justifies. At the time of the Rathenau assassination, we sent a confidential communication to the German Party when the action had already begun, expressing to our Central Organization in Germany our opinion on this matter.

With your permission, I will put before you a few quotations from this letter. The letter is dated June 18th, and was therefore written when the fight was at its height:

”As to the attitude of the Party, we have followed as much as possible all that is going on in Germany. We have read your report very carefully and are grateful to you for the details which it contains. The tactics of the first days, as described in the Rote Fahne are, in our opinion weak. One should not adopt as a slogan: the republic! the republic! in a situation such as this. One should on the contrary put evident proof before the masses from the very first that the present Germany is a republic without republicans. One should show to the wide working masses, which are less concerned about the republic than about their economic interests that the bourgeois republic, far from being a guarantee for the class interest of the proletariat, is on the contrary the best weapon for the oppression of the working masses in the present situation. We must not blow the horn together with the Social Democrats and the U.S.P. The Independence of our agitation work should never, never, never, be sacrificed to the United Front policy. This is for you a condition sine qua non. We are willing to negotiate with the S.P.D. and the U.S.P., but not as poor relations, but as an independent power, retaining its own character and putting before the masses the full program of the Party”.

I believe that this question is a sufficient proof that we warned our German Party in good time against this weak point of the Rathenau campaign. We went even further than that, for we asked if the German Party could not take up a more energetic attitude. Of course, it did not behove us to tell the German Party that if should at once begin an action, declare a strike etc. This kind of thing must be decided upon by the Party itself. We did however, raise the question of the possibility of an immediate, independent and energetic action by our Party. I am convinced, as far as I can judge the situation, that there was no possibility for such action; it would have resulted in nothing but bloodshed. The Central Committee did not commit such a mistake, and in spite of many shortcomings, it made the best of the situation.

A few more words about the Berlin organization. I forgot to mention in my first report that we had during this period a little disagreement with the Berlin organization, which to a certain extent found some expression in the press. Comrades, I am sure that I am expressing the mind of the entire Executive by saying that this conflict was a very painful incident, and that we are anxious to avoid even the shadow of a conflict. The Executive is well aware of the weak points of some of our local organizations. The Berlin, the Paris, and even the Petrograd, Moscow and many other organizations have their weak points. It cannot be said that the Circus Busch campaign was a brilliant feature of the activity of our Berlin organization. However, we know that it is a proletarian organization, and we did not want to have it interpreted as if there was cause for continuous friction. As far as we are able to judge this matter, no serious difference of opinion exists, and if there is any difference, it is very slight and likely to occur in any organization. At the time we invited the Berlin comrades to come here, in order to settle this little matter as quickly as possible. We did not succeed in this. I cannot help emphasizing this at the Congress, in order to get rid of this incident once and for all. We are convinced that the Berlin organization will be generally of the greatest use to the Party.

I should like to say just a few more words in connection with Comrade Fischer’s speech. Comrade Fischer, your speech (if you will allow me to say so) was conspicuous for having combined many correct statements with a number of incorrect ones. This is, of course, not very serious, and it can, so to speak, happen in the best families. You said for instance that the S.P.D. captured the U.S.P. through the United Front illusion. This is not so; you flatter the U.S.P. The latter was not captured, it rather wished to be captured. And this is precisely what we must tell the German workers. The fact that the U.S.P. wanted to be captured, is a nutter of political importance. It looked for the right moment to be captured, in fact it threw itself into the embrace of the S.P.D. this fact is very important, and will assist us in bringing back the workers of the U.S.P. into the right fold. You were also guilty of exaggerations when you said that weeks were wasted in negotiations with the other leading organizations. It is true the negotiations were rather protracted, but they certainly did not last as long as that. If I am not mistaken, they only took up one week of our time. However, it is easy to make mistakes in such small matters, but not much harm was done.

The German comrades, particularly in private conversation, told me that I had painted the situation of the German Party in too roseate colours, whereas not everything there was really so bright. Now, Comrades, since many other delegates have reproached me in the opposite sense, it is reasonable to assume that it was not so bad if I depicted the situation of a Party in too favourable terms. It is nevertheless a fact that it takes other Parties many months’ discussion to solve such problems as have already been solved by the German Party. After the affair of the March days, after the Rathenau campaign, after the discussion which we have had in the German Party, it may be stated without exaggeration that the Party in Germany has triumphed over the greatest difficulties and is on the way to becoming a real and earnest Communist Party fully capable of monoeuvring, which will soon bring about decisive events in Germany, perhaps much sooner than many of us and of our German comrades themselves imagine. This I say not by way of compliment, but because I am fully convinced of it.

Now I turn to our French comrades. I regret to observe that not all shades of opinion in the Communist International have found full expression in the debate. Many remained silent, and this was not praiseworthy. Comrade Duret was perfectly right when he said that whenever the boys of the Left Wing have something on their minds, they promptly say it openly, and at times with excessive candour. This is a good trait of the Left, but the other comrades who sit a little further to the Right are persistently silent, and this is bad. On considering what has been said in this hall one cannot help seeing that a Centrist semi-democratic mood is present in the ranks of the Communist International, or at least in its close vicinity.

Comrade Duret said that the masses in Germany are organized and in France they are not, that the United Front is applicable to Germany, but not to France. Comrade Duret should be told that be entirely ignores the real significance of the idea of winning over the majority of the workers. It is certainly a loose mass, like the sand on the sea-shore. This is our handicap. We must combine this loose mass and mould it, and this is much easier to do in France, just because the movement there has no traditions. In Germany, the worker, in order to change his membership card, has to undergo quite a big internal struggle. That is not the case in France. At the very beginning of the Communist International we said that the Social Democracy is the greatest obstacle to the revolution. It can be argued that the stronger the Social Democracy, the more difficult it is to organize the United Front. You in France are lucky that social-democracy has not been so strong It is for this very reason that you will succeed more readily, if you will but prosecute a truly revolutionary policy, if you will build up a truly Communist Party. It was further said, that in France the United Front was immediately interpreted as an electoral combination for political purposes. Perhaps, that is so. But why did you not start in the sphere of trade unionism, why not in the economic field? In both of these fields there is no possibility of opposition in principle. The only opposition in principle comes from comrade Bordiga, but he is wrong. Why did you not take up the question of the eight-hour day? Now you come and tell us that your Party is too weak, etc. You are too weak because you have misconstrued this question.

In this connection I would like to say a word or two in regard to Comrade Rosmer, in order to conclude with the French question. This morning he quoted my words to the effect that a party that was not active in the trade unions was not to be taken seriously and that a party which did not understand the trade union movement as a revolutionary movement is also not to be taken seriously. Rosmer said he agreed with the first proposition but he did not agree with the second one. He thought we should take into consideration the objective difficulties which were quite insurmountable. Nevertheless I must insist that it is a very important question; the trade union movement is the present time movement. No doubt, there are objective difficulties which should by no means be under-estimated. For instance, the Shop Stewards Movement in England has in many places gone io sleep, which goes to show that a revolutionary mass movement had not arisen in that country. But we must see quite clearly that when there is a real revolutionary party it is bound To bring about such a movement in a short time. I am firmly convinced that when our Party in Germany will become sound it will within six months achieve the beginning of a serious trade union movement. Strikes take place; we have the strikes at Le Havre, which wave lasted for three or four months. At Le Havre the masses were almost unorganized. The Party did nothing in the beginning. In the face of such strikes as these it is quite possible for a Party like ours, having a central organ with 200,000 subscribers, to initiate a trade union movement in a short space of time. I therefore think we should fight shy of such weak-kneed elements who always say: Alas, it is difficult, there are obstacles. Of course there are obstacles, but a great deal depends on ourselves. Therefore I think that I ought to insist on my second proposition.

There is yet another thing I would like to emphasize in the speech of Comrade Duret. He said that after the split of the Centre there was a danger of some of them coming over to us and swamping us. In this he was right. It is because of this that we rejected them when they wanted to join us. But they joined among themselves and declared: We are forming our own International. That was the 2½ International. First there was a split, now there is a junction of the majority of these elements with the 2nd International, but a part of these gentlemen will knock at our door, and we will then have to be careful to keep the door shut tight and flourish the 21 conditions once more before their noses. We may even have to say then: These 21 conditions do not suffice for these fellows! We may have to present to them 42 conditions. Otherwise all these fellows will sneak in, and tomorrow we shall have the same crisis over again.

I now come to the situation in Italy.

This in particular has been the painful side of the whole of our discussion. One feels convinced that the Party led by Bordiga is at bottom a sound workers’ Party, a revolutionary workers’ Party which has accomplished a great deal of good, and yet one is often constrained to combat them theoretically and politically. This is the painful side. But Party duty compels us to tackle this painful matter. Comrade Bordiga started by arguing against our thesis of winning the majority of the working class. He said that it was a vague formula, that one could not understand what is really meant by it, and he demanded that we strike out of the resolution all reference to winning a majority of the working class.

This was the subject of the first fight between Comrade Lenin and Comrade Terracini. I must confess to having felt a sort of pity for Terracini at the time, it seemed to me that Comrade Lenin had handled him somewhat too roughly. It seemed impossible that these people could really be in opposition to the majority. Meanwhile the Fascisti have been victorious; the Italian Socialist Party is broken up, and a multitude of other events of world importance have taken place. Yet even now Comrade Bordiga gets up on the platform and says: the majority is a vague formula. I must now confess that Lenin was right. These people were apparently afraid of the majority. Bordiga quite seriously put the question: how shall the majority be counted? In our resolution it was stated that we should bring the majority of the working class under the influence of the communists. How shall we know that we have won the majority? We will not call in a chartered accountant for the purpose, we will not even ask Comrade Bordiga to find for us a suitable Italian notary or a witness furnished by Mussolini to certify that Communism has the majority in Italy. I believe that the trade unions should be the first standard to go by; also other standards would be found to indicate to us when we have won the majority. This does not mean to say that we should postpone our fighting until we have organized the majority of the workers. This is considered by Bordiga as a sort of bargain-hunting. He labors under the impression, that today the Executive faces towards the Right, and tomorrow towards the Left. This I must say is an error which should be eradicated. If this is not done, the Party is simply lost. How can the Party start work without possessing the requisite energy, without being conscious of its principal aims? This is surely not a vague formula. Bordiga takes exception to my statement that some Parties have increased their influence, although remaining weak numerically. Nevertheless it is a fact. The whole thing lies in the question of influence. To organize the majority of the workers immediately is a matter of impossibility; it will be possible only after the conquest of power by the proletariat. Even in Russia, only now, in the fifth year of the revolution do we claim to have organized the majority. In other countries it cannot yet be thought of. But the Communist Party can secure influence over the majority now. Yes, there are parties which are backward numerically, although they have lengthened their influence. I will quote to you an instance of a distant country, New South Wales, there we had a Party which numbered 500 members. After we had accepted it into the Communist International, it increased its membership to somewhere between 900 and 1000. But this small Party has brought the trade unions of that country – a quarter of a million workers – completely into the Profintern, with great discipline and with great enthusiasm. This is a good example. We will not say; please organize the majority. We know too well how to value the initiative of the minority. It is certainly a splendid group of 500 workers that has managed io influence 250,000 workers.

It all amounts to a real determination by Communists to gain influence over the majority. Bordiga wanted to know, for what purpose we were to win the majority for the Communist program.

We are also in favor of winning them over for the revolution. However, if Comrade Domsky thinks that all the 230,000 workers in South Wales have read Bukharin’s program, and will read all the projects of Comrades Thalheimer and Kabakchiev he is very much mistaken. The workers know very well what they want. They want to overcome the bourgeoisie, and that is enough for them for the present.

Just a few words more about the Italian trade unions. I read lately an article which was probably written by Comrade Terracini. He deals with the Fascist trade union movement. The Fascisti are establishing all over Italy their own trade unions, – a new and very important phenomenon. I hey want to become a mass organization. As to the attitude of the workers, in can be illustrated by the following example. In one large factory the owner dismissed all the workers and declared that henceforth he will take none but Fascist workers. Alter a little consideration the workers obtained Fascisti cards and were taken on again. Soon after, an election of the factory committee took place in this factory, with the result that the Fascisti obtained one per cent of the votes, while an overwhelming majority of those elected were Communists. This was a very clever move on the part of the working masses, who had a very good idea of what really was at stake. They said to themselves, we will procure the cards in order to avoid brutal treatment, but we will nevertheless remain revolutionary. But we must consider what we must do while the Fascisti are capturing or organizing trade unions. It goes without saying that we must penetrate into Fascisti trade unions in order to win them over to our side. And yet what do we see? Our comrade publishes an article in which he explains the nature of Fascism, syndicalism, and the dictatorship of the proletariat. The article is full of very clever arguments, only one thing is missing: the soul, the live masses, the only things which we should say and bring into the trade unions in order to overcome the bourgeoisie. The only necessary idea was missing in this article, and therefore the watchword was stillborn. This is just an illustration of what is really wrong with our otherwise splendid and brave Italian Communist Party.

I am coming now to the Poles and to the speech of our Comrade Domsky. I cannot quite forgive Comrade Domsky that he committed a grave political error already before the Third Congress. It was Domsky who during the Russo-Polish war wrote an article which contained the following passage: “To bring the Red Army and the bayonets of the Soviet Government to Poland is not a communist policy.” He adopted, at first in a letter and subsequently in the Rote Fahne, an attitude which we termed at the time as the most genuine of nationalism. Every proletarian with any common sense will admit that in the event of the bourgeoisie of one country holding down the proletariat with bayonets, the latter will be only too glad if a red army, be it a Hungarian, Italian or even French red army came to its assistance. This would be the opinion of every worker. Of course Comrade Domsky is not a nationalist. This was only a small remnant of the past which many a comrade of ours imbibed with his mother’s milk, it is a remnant of the P.P.S. ideology. The Polish intellectuals as a whole are afflicted with nationalism, even some of our best comrades are tinged with it. Comrade Domsky committed this error fifteen months ago. I am not saying this in order, so to speak, to demand his head. If he has something to teach us today, we are quite willing to learn, but nevertheless we will bear in mind that he has been guilty of the political error.

Now I am coming to the lesson which he taught us today. I have already discussed what Comrade Domsky said about the majority. We are perfectly aware that we have not yet the majority in Poland. We cannot take the elections, recently conducted by Pilsudsky as a criterion. We know that Pilsudsky is an opponent and that the bourgeoisie has falsified the election. We are perfectly aware of all this, but we also know that we are not very, far from a majority. We have not got it yet, but we shall probably have it in the very near future.

He also said that the United Front was alright in all the other countries, but not in Poland. This is the same kind of ideology of which we had an example to-day.

In all the other countries the Executive may assume the role of a dictator and may apply the United Front tactics, but in my country it is a different matter, the conditions are different, and so is the working class and the Party. To this I say that the United Front tactics are most suitable in a country like Poland, I notice in the Central Organ of the P.P.S. in Warsaw a daily column with the heading: “Long live the Workers and Peasants’ Government”. What does this mean? It means that the watchword of the workers’ government finds an echo in all the sections of the masses. You said that we carry on this demagogy because this watchword promises to be successful with working masses. Comrade Domsky says we must be against the workers if these watchwords are already so popular with the masses that even the social traitors are having them continually on their lips, – it is all the more reason for us to insist on the watchword of the United Front. We must keep the watchword continuously before the masses. We know that the Polish workers and peasants are not in favor of a bourgeois government, but that they are in favor of a workers’ government. Therefore, although you are their representatives, we propose to work for a workers’ government and a United Front. This shall be the slogan in the agitational campaign. The situation in Poland has certain features of its own, but it is precisely for this reason that we want to apply the United Front tactics there more than anywhere else.

Now a few words about Norway.

I said that there were twelve papers in Norway that call themselves Social Democratic, and Comrade Haakon-Meyer told me quite maliciously that there were forty such papers. Probably they all bear the title Socialdemokrat. Our Party in Norway is strong, and therefore much is expected of it. When we heard the short statement by the young academician, we said at once to ourselves that the Comrades were mistaken. One section of the Mot-Dae group is good, but the other is not under the control of the Party. It comprises yonug academicians of whom it may be said that up to 25 years, they are rabid revolutionaries, at 26 they begin to change, and at 30 they are well established barristers and opponents of the working class. We are afraid of these academicians. Those who have really learned something, should accept the Party discipline and should go to the workers in order to help them in their struggle for emancipation. It cannot be tolerated that after having been eighteen months in the movement, they declare the Communist International not to be sufficiently independent. We must insist on coming to a very definite conclusion on the Norwegian question, and I trust that we shall succeed in this.

Now a few more words about Comrade Varga’s speech. He showed very conclusively that it is better to eat one’s fill than to be hungry, that bread is better than hunger and that the legend about the hunger must be done away with.

But this is not the question, for firstly it was not a legend. It was a severe famine, so we had to tell the working class. Things are now somewhat improved; and naturally we shall tell the working masses that the Russian toilers are no longer starving – I am in agreement with Comrade Varga on this matter. We shall tell them that the position of the Russian worker is improving daily. We shall not rejoice overmuch, until it has become a definite tact. We shall go to the workers with facts and figures. Step by step, we shall ameliorate the condition of our workers; and then tell the workers of other lands of this. But this is not the matter in dispute, but something quite different. There is no longer famine in Russia. But we must admit that, in other countries, the dictatorship of the proletariat may cause a famine. Shall we refuse to tell the workers this bitter truth? We cannot avoid it. We must tell the workers just how the matter stands. In Russia we had five terrible years; in other countries the period might be shorter. The dictatorship does not necessarily imply famine; this depends upon various factors. But in many lands it would be probably accompanied by a famine. It would be opportunism and cowardice not to say this to the workers. We can’t say to the workers, “To morrow everything will be fine; you will have meat and. a good home”, This would be laying ourselves open to attack by the reformists. The question is not whether I should tell the workers of other countries that there is no more famine in Russia; it is whether they will be visited by famine. They must be told this fearlessly. And the worker knows what life is, he knows the advance guard of the working class must tell him this quite frankly.

With this, comrades, I am practically at the end of my reply. I would just like to put one more question. Yesterday, Comrade Radek said that danger threatened us from the Right and not from the Left. I would like to emphasize these words, and express myself in full agreement with them. It is not a matter of the goodwill to the various comrades and groups, but it concerns the objective situation. We must see this clearly. Still worse times could come and so we shall strengthen the Communist International and maintain it as the advance guard of the proletariat; only in so far as we have a genuine international organization which will fight every trace of opportunism, not merely with words but with deeds. Today, I said in a commission: – sometimes we hear from our friends that in principle, they are in agreement with all that the Executive does. – That is how it always begins, so I quoted a few words from Bismark, who once said: “Whenever we old diplomats say we are for a thing in principle, we are against it in reality.” We do not need this sort of thing in the Communist International. Whoever is against the tactics of the Communist International should now say so clearly. Whoever is for them, should be so with all his heart and soul. Then we shall build up a real International, that will light up the obscurity of the world, such an International as will at the first opportunity lead the working class to battle and to victory.

Last updated on 7 January 2021