G. Zinoviev

Report of the Executive Committee
of the Communist International

(November 1922)

Source: International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 106, 2 December 1922, pp. 855–865.
On-line Publication: Zinoviev Internet Archive, January 2021.
Transcription/Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Comrades, first of all I must report on the activity of our Executive during the period intervening between the III. and the IV. Congresses, and then discuss the future activity of the Communist International. Accordingly, I shall divide my report into two parts between which we may have an internal if necessary.

I have embodied the facts and figures concerning the activity of the Executive during the past 15 months in an article which has appeared in several languages. Therefore I will not refer again to these matters.

We have two questions to consider: firstly, whether our Executive has carried out the decisions of the III. Congress in the right way, and secondly whether these decisions themselves were correct. This is all the more necessary since much material has accumulated during the 15 months, which we had not at our disposal before.

Let us now consider the situation at the end of the III. Congress, which was a determining factor in our entire policy. Immediately after the III. Congress, it became evident that world capitalism had begun a well-organized and systematic offensive against the working class throughout the world. The working class was, so to speak, beating a retreat. A large number of very important strikes on a large scale took place throughout the world during the last 15 months of our activity. In examining somewhat closely the results of these strikes, we must admit that the majority of them ended in the defeat of the workers. These strikes were in the nature of a capitalist offensive. The economic organizations of the working class have become less numerous. There were in 1920, 25,000,000 members in the trade unions. In 1922 the trade unions had only 18,000,000 members, and I am not quite sure if even this figure is not exaggerated. This fact alone shows us the difficult position of the working class during the period covered by this report.

The position of Soviet Russia during this period must be taken into account. I need not remind you, that immediately after the conclusion of the III. Congress that famine on a large scale was beginning in Russia. This was not quite evident during the III. Congress, but immediately after its conclusion we had to address the workers of the whole world on behalf of the Executive of the Communist International asking support for the Russian proletariat during the famine year. This fact had enormous political consequences. You are aware that we have been accused of using the International as a weapon of the Russian Soviet Republic. There are even some “friends” who make this assertion. It is of course self-evident that there is and there ought and must be an interaction between the first proletarian republic and the Communist Party which is fighting against the bourgeoisie. From our communist viewpoint it is perfectly clear that the Communist International is of the greatest importance for Soviet Russia, and vice versa. It is utterly ridiculous to ask who is the exploited, who the subject and who the object. The Republic and the International are as the foundation and the roof of a building, they belong together.

The situation with which we were faced during the last year, was taken advantage of by our opponents, in order to fight against the idea of the proletarian dictatorship in general. The entire II. International endeavoured to use the Russian famine for a campaign against the Communist International.

A special feature of their campaign was the assertion that the Communist International was only a weapon of the Soviet Republic.

The Russian Soviet Republic is such a great international factor, that no one can possibly ignore it. It is only a question on which side of the barricade one takes up his position. Let us give you as an illustration from the recent events the letter of Clynes, the leader of the British Labor Party. I believe that most of you have read that letter. Mr. Clynes, one of the best known leaders of recent years, has addressed, a letter to the Soviet Republic which has now been published. In this letter Clynes proposes that the Soviet Republic should endorse as soon as possible the agreement with Mr. Urquhart (which you all know) in order that the Labor Party should have a better chance of success at the coming general election. Mr. Clynes assured us that he was speaking not for himself alone but on behalf of all his colleagues. Though Great Britain is a big capitalist imperialist power, nevertheless the general election in that country is closely connected with the situation of Soviet Russia. The Labor Party, one of the important Parties or rather the most important Party in the II. International, cannot ignore this situation in Russia and must take sides, but on whose behalf, on which barricade? The answer is – on the side of Mr. Urquhart, on the side of the bourgeoisie. Therefore, we think that when the II. International is accusing the III. International of being nothing but an appendix and a weapon of Soviet Russia we can justly say that neither can the II. International brush aside the Russian Soviet Republic, but must take it into account. The only difference is that the II. International is endeavouring to make use of the proletarian Soviet Republic for the benefit of the bourgeoisie and not for that of the proletariat.

As I said before, the famine in Soviet Russia served for the II. and 2½ Internationals as a starting point for an energetic campaign of all their parties against the III. International, and we are obliged to admit that this campaign was successful to a considerable extent. To the non-party workers, lacking in political training, to be faced with the fact that famine reigned in the first Soviet Republic and that the life of the Russian workers and peasants was one of suffering and hardship, amounted to a great disappointment in the revolution in general. One can be annoyed at this, but one cannot refuse to understand it. Considering the condition in which the working masses found themselves after the war, this was inevitable. It was certainly very dishonest on the part of our opponents to nuke use of our misfortunes, for they must have known the origin of the famine. They must have known that the traitors in the II. and the 2½ Internationals and the entire tactics of imperialism were the chief culprits. It was evident however from the start that the II. International would make use of this in the struggle which it has been carrying on against us, and it has indeed done so.

To recapitulate, the position of the Communist International, as well as that of the first Soviet Republic has been a very difficult one this year, and our unscrupulous opponents, the II. and 2½ Internationals, endeavoured to make use of it to our detriment, achieving a certain amount of success in this attempt.

As already stated, the strikes were in the nature of an offensive of the bourgeoisie. I do not want to tire you with too many tables and figures (this can be done in a pamphlet), but I will use as an illustration a country which is of the greatest importance to us in the question of the united front, I refer to France. The French comrades were the most-decided opponents of the united front tactics. Matters are different now. It seems to me, however, that should our French comrades, criticising so violently the Communist International, have taken into consideration the figures I am going to quote they would have certainly been obliged to express themselves in favour of the united front. The number of workers engaged in strikes in France which might be termed offensive strikes, i.e., strikes for raising the working class level of existence, for higher wages, etc., has been as follows: in 1915 that is during the war, only 8,000 workers in France participated in offensive strikes. In 1916 (still during the war) their number rose to 37,000, in 1918 to 131,000, in 1919 to 1,063,000, and in the first half of 1900 it dropped to 628,100. From that time the strike curve began to go down. In the second half of 1920 only 57,000 workers participated in offensive strikes and in 1921 the year under consideration now only 9,000 workers.

As against that we have in the first 8 months of 1921, 160,000 French workers participating in defensive strikes. This means that in the years 1921–22, the offensive of capitalism was most acute and compelled the French working class to confine itself to defensive strikes, being too weak for an offensive against the bourgeoisie which had then launched its attack all along the line.

I am of the opinion that this was the deciding factor in France, as well as in other countries in the question of the united front tactics. If our French friends had paid attention to these figures and had studied the development of the strike movement in their own country a little more closely, I am sure that they would, from the beginning have relinquished their opposition to the united front.

Such was the general situation from the beginning of our activity and all during the period covered by this report. The III. Congress for the first time sharply repudiated the tactics of the so-called left elements, such as the K.A.P. – the semi-anarchist groups on the one hand, and of the right groups on the other hand. I want to remind you of the Levi group to which we had to devote some attention at the III. Congress. Then there was the Italian Socialist Party figuring very prominently at the III. Congress. We realised then that the formation of truly communist parties had only just begun. The III. Congress left us the well known watchword “to the masses”, and in the resolution on tactics it set before us the task of winning over the majority of the working class and rousing and drawing into the struggle the most important social sections of the proletariat.

The slogan of the United Front first formulated by our Executive in December 1921 was the direct outcome of this general situation. I believe, comrades, that now, after two sessions of the Enlarged Executive – which were in reality small world congresses – we have progressed so far that even in France the Communists as well as the Syndicalists gave up the opposition to the united front, so that a lengthy discussion of the matter will not be necessary at this congress. It is dear that our Executive was right when, in December 1921, it issued the slogan: “To the Masses”, adopting the policy of the United Front All our strategy has been nothing but the practical application of the United Front to the concrete situation in each country. And I wish to state now that in my opinion this tactic will have to be adhered to during the coming year or coming years.

The United Front was really the first international campaign which the International attempted on a large scale. You know that we have insisted that the Communist International must be an International of action, an International of work, a centralized International Communist World Party, etc. This is an absolutely right principle, and we must abide by it. But we require years and years in order to carry it out thoroughly. It is comparatively easy to adopt a resolution to this effect but it is a much harder task when it comes to practical work. Even the attempt to carry out an international membership week – an undertaking which really differs very little from similar attempts by the Second International – failed because our Parties are still too heterogeneous, because our Parties are in many cases not yet communistic and have still much of the Social Democratic spirit in them, because their organization is deficient, because it is a hard task generally to organize international action. During the past year we have attempted several international campaigns, as the campaign for Famine Relief, the campaign in connection with the S.R. Trial. Among these the campaign for the United Front was of special important. And it must be frankly stated that this campaign did not proceed without much hindrance. We shall speak of this at greater length when we come to the special points of the agenda.

It has appeared that some groups in our Communist International are trying to bring too many of the customs of the Second International into the Third. I believe, comrades, that we cannot regard what happened in France without protest. At the time when the Communist International should have been a centralized world organization of the proletariat, when the International was starting a wide campaign against Amsterdam in connection with the United Front, at that time an iron discipline, or, at any rate ordinary proletarian discipline should have prevailed in our ranks which however was not the case I must say that what the French, and partly also the Italian parties have done was a hindrance to the International action which our organization had planned. We should see this clearly and adopt the necessary measures to meet the situation. This campaign was politically very important, but it was not such as would vitally affect hundreds of thousands of comrades. But when campaigns such as these meet with so many hindrances there is cause to fear that in times of greater crises similar disturbances may occur.

Comrades, I believe that it will be best if in my report on the activity of the Executive I take country by country. Allowed to preface this by the following general observation. The greater the portion of the old social-democratic movement which we had taken over into our ranks, the greater the remainder of centrism and social democratism we have had to contend with in our party. You will be able to see that clearly, from my review of the situation.

I begin with Germany. Germany stood in the centre of of debates at the Third World Congress. The situation of the German Party at the time of the Third World Congress was very difficult, as you know. Our enemies spoke of complete disintegration, too many of our friends were hypnotised by the temporarily difficult situation of the German Party. The Executive is proud that it has been able to render effective help to the German Party in the solution of its severe crisis. I believe that we can maintain in all truth and without exaggeration that our German Party is one of the strongest and best organized parties at this Congress (naturally, comparatively speaking) and has the dearest political outlook. This should give us encouragement today when so many of our larger parties find themselves in similar difficulties. The French Party is the object of the greatest pessimism for many of the members of this Congress. I believe, however, that the example of the German Party should suffice to quiet the fears of this Congress, and I can say that if this Congress acts judiciously, we will be able to render help to the French Party and strengthen its position. The political situation in Germany is revolutionary, and favorable to the very true revolutionary party in Germany, that is our Communist Party. The union of the Independent Socialist Party and the Socialist Party of Germany which we had predicted in Halle has become a fact I remember that in Halle after the well-known historical vote, when we took the occasion in the concluding speech to say that nothing remained for the Right but to join the Social Democracy, a great deal of indignation was aroused. Everybody said that this was brazen demagogy etc. One need not have been a prophet to predict this. It was quite clear that at this period of civil war he who would not pass over to Communism must join Social Democracy. This is just what has happened.

Comrade Lenin was right when he said in his telegram of greeting to the Congress that the union of the Second and Two-and-a-half Internationals marks an advance in the revolutionary movement. Less fiction, less lies, fewer illusions are better for the working class. I believe that in Germany we will soon realise that this union has actually been an advantage for our movement. We know that for such old time revolutionists as Lebedour in Germany there are but two ways: either to join the Communist or the social democrats. The German proletariat will be able to see in a few months which way it will choose.

When I ask myself, what Parties have best applied the policy of the United Front, I find they are the German and the Czecho-Slovak parties, – comparatively speaking of course. We have often seen that our German Party did not always emphasise sufficiently the independence of our line of action; for with us the insistence upon the independence of communist agitation is the main thing. It was not always successful in this. But in general, the German Party has well applied these tactics. Strikes, such as the railroad strike in Germany are a classical example of the right application of the policy of the United Front: this strike was also a proof that every economic strike usually grows into a political one. I have read an article of the German “International” stating that the Fourth Congress will have to say clearly what is coming in Germany next? Will it be a period of increasing economic conflicts or of political conflicts? To put the question this way is absolutely incorrect. The coming period will be one of increased economic conflicts, and also of increased political struggle. The railroad strike has clearly shown that almost every economic conflict may turn into a political conflict.

You have heard of the Shop Stewards Movement which has just begun and which will doubtless have a great future. The social democrats have accused our Party of intending to call a Congress of the Shop Stewards and then place Germany before an accomplished fact, as the Bolsheviki did in 1917 with the Congress of Soviets (the Bolsheviki however, had already wrenched the power from the bourgeoisie). I am sorry to say that the German Party does not merit this accusation, or rather this compliment. The Communist Party of Germany is not strong enough to be able to carry out what the Bolsheviki had done in 1917. But this campaign will be of the greatest importance far the consolidation of our ranks.

Our German Party has not grown very much numerically. It is one of the characteristic features of the movement this year that those parties whose influence upon the masses increased, did not grow numerically in the same proportion. There were various reasons for this, such as unemployment, the poverty of the proletarian who cannot afford to pay the minimum dues to the Party. There were also political causes which we may best observe in Germany. No one will deny that the influence of our German Party has considerably increased. Nevertheless its number has not grown very much. I once said at a meeting of the Russian Communist Party that Germany must advance the slogan of raising its membership to a million.

Second Sitting

But this will be no easy matter. I do not mean to say that the proletarian revolution should be postponed until we shall have attained those millions. In this connection I recollect that the Russian Party at the outbreak of the proletarian revolution had at most 250,000 members; the German Party is already stronger numerically than was the Russian Party in 1917. But you may rest assured that the break up of the German Social Democracy will go on at a more rapid pace than some of us anticipate. It is true that differences of opinion still prevail in our German Party, there are still many questions to be fought out, such as the question of the program, on which the list session of the Central Committee was not quite unanimous. But on comparing the movement now with what it was fourteen Months ago we maintain that the German Party has taken a gigantic step forward. If events are not entirely misleading, the path of the proletarian revolution in Russia leads through Germany. Thus the healing of all feuds in our Party in Germany is of first-class importance. In Germany we have only two Parties: as to the Ledebour group we prophesy that within a few months it will either go over to the Communists or disappear altogether. We can afford to wait for events to decide themselves. It is clear that in Germany we have only two parties of importance and the future shall belong to our Party.

Communication between the Executive and the German Party was of the best, if not ideal. There were many shortcomings, due in part to the fault of the Executive and partly to that of the German Party. However that may be, communications were fairly good, and practically no political event was allowed to pass without an exchange of views between the Executive and the German Party.

I now turn to France. We will yet have some special comment to make upon this subject. But I cannot pass on in my general report without touching upon it. A few months ago I wrote an article under the title of: The Birth of a Communist Party. In that article I stated that the birth of a Communist Party was quite a difficult matter. Yet, on considering, the course of events since the Party Congress in Paris, one must say that the birth of a Communist Party in France presents even greater difficulties than might have been anticipated. There you have the formula I have made: “the greater, the number of Social Democratic elements won over by us from the old Party, the greater are the difficulties that we have to overcome”, in the most concrete form. This you will have occasion to observe also in Norway, and perhaps also in some other countries. In France we suddenly won over to our side the majority of the old Party, and it now requires a good deal of time before we shall have overcome all the ailments arising out of this. The situation was closely watched by the Executive and its representatives, some of whom like Humbert-Droz, spent half a year in France. This observation goes to show – let us be quite frank about it – that we have to look for quite a lot of elements for a Communist Party in the ranks of the Syndicalists, in the ranks of the best part of the Syndicalists. This is strange, but true.

The tradition of the French movement is such that even now – in 1922, after 2 years of the existence of a Communist Party, – we have to state that we have in France a good number of Communists who will be the best elements of our future Communist Party and who are still outside the ranks of the Party, in the ranks of the Trade Unions. And I think it is one of the most important tasks of our Congress and of the French Commission to bring into our ranks these truly proletarian and truly revolutionary and Communist elements. The tradition in France is such that the Party is considered as a Party of “politicians”, and it must be regretfully admitted that such view is not held without reason.

At the Third Congress we did not adopt a sufficiently critical attitude towards the French Party. It was so young at the time, and the Congress had much other work in hand. Perhaps it was a blunder on the part of the Executive this might readily be admitted – nevertheless it is a fact that we applied too little criticism to the French Party at the Third Congress, and it proved a disadvantage to the French party.

As late as 3 or 4 months ago the leaders of the French Party maintained towards the Executive an attitude of criticism from the Left Wing. They criticised the tactics of the United Front as being opportunist. I do not know whether there were many members of the Communist International who were naive enough to imagine that the French Party was really criticising from a left point of view. I do not think so. It is a good thing at any rate that such times are gone.

The French Party had failed to apply the tactics of the Communist international in a country where it was particularly dictated by circumstances. I have already quoted some figures on the strikes in France. These figures go to show that when the Party understood the real movement of the masses, the real proletarian movement, it understood also the United Front, the tactics, the advocacy of which should be made the point of contact with the masses. The bourgeoisie in France is conducting a systematic campaign against the 8-hour day, and it must be frankly recognised that the Executive failed in its efforts to induce our Party to initiate a systematic counter-campaign. Our attempts to inaugurate a campaign in France for the 8-hour day in the spirit of the United Front has signally failed.

Let me recall to your mind the last general strike that took place in France. In this respect also we must freely speak our minds. It was our usual experience in France in the course of 1918 to see a declaration of a strike on the Sunday and Monday of every week. But nobody took any notice of it. Those were in the worst days of Syndicalism, and I believe it should be one of the most important tasks of our Party to eradicate this tradition. Unfortunately, our Party has perpetuated this unwholesome tradition. The general strike to which the French workers were called a few weeks ago was forced by a very small group of anarchists. Our newspaper Humanité, the biggest Labor newspaper in France was made use of to urge the working class to declare the strike at a time when our Party was totally unprepared. We must draw the proper conclusions from the incident, and never again allow repetition. The working class finds itself in a very tragic position. There is really no excuse for a Party which is a section of our Communist International allowing such a strike, incurring grave responsibility upon itself and upon the International, to take place.

The French Party has again at its last Congress confirmed the 21 conditions. I had somewhat forgotten these 21 conditions, and today I had occasion to read them over once more. The first of these 21 conditions stipulates that the Press should be truly Communistic. I must dedare it openly that this first of the 21 conditions has not been carried out in France. Humanité strives to be a Communist newspaper, but it is still far from being such. It has a very large circulation and has rendered brilliant services in many respects – this should be admitted – but it is not yet a Communist newspaper, and the Fourth Congress should begin by enforcing this first of the 21 conditions, and I hope it will succeed.

In France, as you know, we now have three tendencies and two minor tendencies. I am not going to describe these tendencies in detail. Taken as a whole they amount to centrism, or as we have already said: it is a centre without centrists. This we have both said and written. Perhaps this is a little too complimentary to the French. They are not perfectly centrist, although a pretty good background of Centrism is there plainly enough. Thus we have both a centre and centrism. We must now attempt to retain the centre while ejecting centrism, it is mostly the leaders who came over to our side from the old Party, who, while rendering great service to the Communist International have not yet got rid of the old Adam of social democracy. On reading Comrade Marcel Cachin’s latest articles on the Trade Unions one must say that these articles are not written any better than the article of Verfeuil whom we expelled at the Paris Congress.

The second tendency pursues a middle course; I refer to the Renoult Group. Here we must say that we find among them some very good proletarians, of whom many have criticised the tactics of the United Front from a sincere Left Wing point of view, but who eventually became convinced of the correctness of our tactics and will come back to us.

The third tendency is really Communist. We will accept everything that they have done, although at the Paris Congress they committed big mistakes.

Personally I regard the resignation of our responsible comrades of the Left as a big mistake, but we must say that this group deserves the moral support of the Communist International, and we will not deny it to them. This group began the fight for the United Front; they have made many mistakes, but they were the only ones who really defended the Marxist policy of the United Front in France and brought it to victory.

I must tell you comrades that from our first conferences with our comrades we became convinced that a split was avoidable, and the Comintern will naturally do all in its power to prevent a split. But this example shows us clearly how difficult is the birth of the Communist Party. Just think of this comrades: the French Party has not yet carried out a single mass action, think of what will happen when they attempt one. I remind you of the fact that the first real conflict of the German Communist Party came after an action had been attempted. Whether the action was good or bad makes no difference, the fact remains that a real conflict began with a mass action. The action was a cure for the Party, it saved it; it was also the beginning of a new conflict within the Party. Prophesies are out of place, but when it comes to a real movement, to a real mass action, when it becomes a question of life and death, then we will see a real crisis in the French, Party, then will we see who actually belongs to the Communist Party and who does not.

It is not the task of the Congress to my mind, to spare anybody as the Third Congress did, but to recognize facts and to give moral support to those comrades who are true Communists. This does not mean that we will expel the other comrades from the International, but we must make clear to them what they lack, we must show them clearly what a real Communist is.

I now come to Italy. The example of the Italian Party should be a classical example of the policy of the Communist Parties and the Communist International. If ever a true A.B.C. of the tactics of the Communist Parties is to be written, the most important chapter, the most important example, would be furnished by Italy. It is not the classical land for a Communist movement, but nevertheless we see much happening there with classical inevitability. From that we see that Italy is on the eve of revolution. In the fall of 1920 Italy presented the most advanced Communist movement. Our conflict with Italy at that time was not that we told the Italian comrades to make a revolution immediately. The Communist International has never demanded this of the Italian Party. Theoretically speaking it is possible that if our party had won power in the fall of 1920 the case of Hungary might have repeated itself. I doubt it, but it is not impossible. It may be that if the workers had seized power in 1920, Italy would have gone the way of Hungary. We have never demanded from the Italian comrades that they must make a revolution. Perhaps it was true that the time was not ripe for the seizure of power. If the majority accepted this standpoint, we would not have been, justified in treating with the Italian Socialist Party on that account.

The cause of the break was not that they did not want to seize power. Our standpoint was, that the situation was revolutionary, and that we must be prepared for all eventualities; the reformists had to be eliminated as a preliminary to the building up of a real revolutionary party. This is why we demanded the expulsion of those who sabotaged the resolution; but the Communist International did not in the fall of 1920 demand that the Italian working class rise and seize power. Another claim is historically false. You know that D’Arragona has openly confessed that the reformists remained in the Party to prevent the revolution. That is why they had to be expelled. It was only a question of preparing the Party for a possible revolution, but not of making an immediate revolution.

As you know, the majority of the Italian Party refused to fulfil the demand of the International. They did not wish to build a revolutionary party or to break with these agents of the bourgeoisie. These words “agents of the bourgeoisie” have caused much excitement; our friends in Italy shed tears of blood over tactlessness because in a telegram I sent I called the reformists “agents of the bourgeoisie”, but after D’Arragona’s confession I believe that this will be too mild an expression to describe these gentlemen. I can think of no more diplomatic way of describing them. The reformists, these agents of the bourgeoisie, remained in the Italian Party and did all in their power to prevent a Revolution and to deliver the working class to the counter-revolution.

Our Italian comrades do not agree among themselves as to whether what has recently happened in Italy is a coup d’etat, or a comedy. It might be both. Historically, if is a comedy, in a few months this will turn to the advantage of the Italian working class, but for the time being it is quite a serious change, an actual counter-revolutionary act. The fault of our Italian comrades is not, that they did not make a revolution in 1920, but that they have, permitted accomplices of the bourgeoisie to remain in the Party and betray the working class into the hands of the Fascisti.

You know the policy of the Executive. You know that the question of whether the Party had acted rightly or not at Leghorn has been much debated at different congresses. I believe that it is clear now that we acted properly at Leghorn and in the following year. Our Italian Communist Party has often acted against the policy of the Executive on the Italian question. I believe, however, comrades, that we were justified, that at the moment it was necessary to break definitely with the Italian Socialist Party, for if we had not done so the Communist International would have been lost. But from the moment we saw that the members of the Italian Socialist Party recognized their faults and wished to rectify them, we could not but do everything to facilitate their return to the Communist International. It is quite clear that whatever happens the majority of the workers will leave the Maximalists and join the Communists in the coming months. And since they will belong to our Party, it is our duty to make it easy for them to return to the International. It is the function of the Communist International, which, having seen its error, wishes to return to our fold. Of course we must demand guarantees, and we will do so. The things that have happened in the Italy must never happen again. we must have sufficient guarantees to that effect. Nevertheless we must do everything to reunite with these comrades.

I hear that many comrades in France believe that it might not be such a dangerous act to break with the Communist International. “They may abuse us a little, they say”, but they are sure to invite us again to the Fifth or the Sixth Congress and to reunite with us. The comrades are thinking of the case of Italy. What shall we say to this? Those who speak so, forget that during this time the Italian Party has been deployed and the Italian working class delivered into the hands of the Fascisti. These comrades see things only from the personal standpoint. They think: we shall be expelled today, but tomorrow or after a year we will be able to return and begin our work again. The fact that in the meantime the Party and the working class may be destroyed, is a minor point for them. I believe that this is the conception of only a few isolated persons. The majority of the French Party is incapable of holding such ideas.

The lesson of the Italian Communist Party does not consist in that one or another of its leaders had fought us for two years, and then came back to Moscow; that is a secondary matter. The lesson lies much deeper. The lesson is that if you give a finger to the reformists they will take the whole hand. Those who commit such errors must lead their party to destruction and cause the greatest harm to. the working class of their country. We are certain to have differences not only with the Maximalists, but also with Italian Communists. In certain questions we are not of the same opinion. They have adopted a program which is not Marxist. We have criticised and rejected it Yet these conceptions are still deep-rooted in the Italian Party, it is still tinged with absenteeism. Our friend Bordiga has won great merits in the Italian movement. The comrades have fought bravely. Under most difficult circumstances they did everything possible to keep the banner of the Communist International flying. We must acknowledge these merits, especially of comrade Bordiga; nevertheless we must say that our opinions differ very much from theirs. The tinge of absenteeism still remains. Bordiga no longer advocates anti-parliamentarianism, he has given up these views, but the spirit of anti-parliamentarianism still remains. We see it in the manner in which the party conducted the united front tactic.

The tactic of the United Front was conducted by the Italian Party from the standpoint that it was admissible only on the economic field, but not on the political. We consider this a mistake. The tactic applies to both fields. We were too late in applying the United Front tactic in Italy, and we were also late in raising the slogan of the Labor Government. I personally erred in not conceding to comrade Bordiga’s request to allow the discussion of the Italian question at the last meeting of the Enlaged Executive Committee. That was a mistake. There ought to have been an open discussion.

Nevertheless we regard the Italian Communist Party as one of the best and bravest in the Communist International. It is precisely at this most difficult moment that the party will show of what it is capable. Today I read an illegal manifesto issued by the Italian Communist Party, and I have also received the first illegal manifesto of the central organ of our party. This proves that the Italian party has not laid down its arms even in the most difficult moment.

We have appointed an Italian Commission. It will have to deal with two matters: 1) the unification of the party, and 2) organization of our forces during this epoch of Fascism. We do not know how long this epoch will last, but we must prepare tor the worst.

Now about Czecho-Slovakia. In Czecho-Slovakia the Executive, of course with the help of the Party as a whole, has successfully achieved unity. At the time of the Third Congress we had two parties and several groups in Czecho-Slovakia. It was somewhat doubtful as to whether unity could be organized in this country, where national problems play such an important part. But we have succeeded. We neglected certain opportunities in the Trade Unions. Nevertheless our party has succeeded in rallying the largest section of the trade unions under the red flag. We must say, that the united front tactic has been most brilliantly applied by the Czecho-Slovakian Party.

If you study the bourgeois press and follow the development of affairs in the opposition Press you will admit that our party has manoeuvred skilfully and has succeeded in attracting the majority of the workers away from enemy organizations.

We hope, therefore, that the practical application of the United Front tactic will be as brilliantly continued in this country.

As you know there is one point on which we disagree with the Czecho-Slovakian Party. (Perhaps this applies to other parties too, that we shall see later.) It is the exclusion of the so-called Opposition.

We have set up a Commission which will examine this question. Nevertheless I cannot refrain from giving our point of view on this matter now.

Our fraternal Czecho-Slovakian party at its last congress, expelled 7 members of the Central Committee, including its former president Sturk, on account of breach of discipline. This came quite unexpectedly for the Executive which had not been consulted in the matter. The Executive deemed it its duty immediately to annul the decision. This does not mean that the opposition had been found in the right The Executive abides by the standpoint of the majority of the party. We do not wish to describe the opposition as the Left opposition, neither do we wish to back it politically but we do say that the expulsion was hasty and that all the other means had not been exhausted. In the heat of the fight the guilt of this group was compared to that of Levi. Their guilt consists in having published an appeal in spite of the Central Committee’s veto. It was certainly a step that could not be approved from the point of view of Communist Party discipline. But to compare this breach of discipline with that of Paul Levi is altogether irrelevant. Levi had betrayed the working class at a moment when our brothers were being shot down. At that juncture he wrote a pamphlet to the order of the German Attorney-General. This was an act of treason to the working class, to which there was but one answer, expulsion. On the other hand the action of the Czecho-Slovakian comrades, although a grave breach of discipline, would not be in any way described as treason. We should do all possible to retain this group within the ranks of the party, on condition of course that there should be no further breach of discipline, and that the decisions that have been, adopted shall also be carried out. We must have a disciplined party, but we cannot afford to expel members so readily, however small a group it may be, before all other means have been tried. And this has not been done in the present case. We hope that these comrades will understand quite clearly that the Executive did not invite them here in order to pet them on the back and say: You may tread discipline under foot. Nothing of the kind! They have been invited in order that we may try to bring them back to the party and convince them that party discipline is a necessary and admirable thing. Should it be shown that these comrades are unable to observe proletarian discipline, then there is nothing to be done for them. The decision of the congress must be law in this case.

The situation is aggravated by the fact that in Czechoslovakia we have already some 600,000 unemployed. The misery and depair of the working class is extreme. The masses are in an angry mood. Now it is easy enough to form a Syndicalist group, then a K.A.P. or a K.A.P.C.-S. (Communist Labor Party or Communist Labor Party of Czecho-Slovakia) just now. These Comrades should therefore understand quite clearly that they are not to form any such groups which at best might last perhaps for six months, to the detriment of the working class. We have to see the situation as it is. In a country like Czechoslovakia, with such a huge number of unemployed, we must do everything possible to prevent the formation of a separate K.A.P. group. The Communist International must do everything to avoid it, and I hope we shall succeed.

I now come to the Norwegian question. I have already said that the more elements we get from the old movement the more difficult is the birth of a truly Communist Party. In Norway we have got the bulk of the old party, with the result that we are experiencing great difficulties there, which I do not intend to conceal. The question is similar to that of France. Of course there is some difference, but the source of the trouble is the same. In France we have received a legacy of the old party traditions. In Norway there is a strong Federalist tradition and a peculiar method of organization. The party was hitherto built upon the trade union organization. At Halle we had a conversation with comrade Kirre Grep, the leader of the Norwegian party, and with other comrades who then promised to re-organize the party. So far this has not been done. Even the name of the central organ has not been changed. The Norwegian newspaper still carries the old name Social Democrat: The provincial newspapers are also called Socialdemokraten. As you see, it is also high time to take action in Norway so that the demands of the Communist International may be complied with.

We must not be afraid to admit that we are a Communist Party, Yet we have some parties which have not yet got rid of social democratic labels. To be sure, we were born in the lap of the II. International, and we have inherited some of its traditions, which cannot be outlived overnight. But when this night has lasted a couple of years, we must demand an acceleration of the process, in our Norwegian newspapers for instance you could read articles, which lend support to the Scheidemannites against the German Communists. At the same time we have survivals there which are syndicalist in the worst sense of the word. Comrade Trannael used to be in the I.W.W. and still retains some of the Syndicalist tradition. He cannot understand discipline. In an article he writes: “Discipline, discipline, I can’t stand the word! It is something degrading to the dignity of a free man”. And this is said by a comrade who is by no means an unregenerate highbrow, but an honest and sincere working class fighter, but, here tradition sways the man. Tradition is so strong that it causes confusion in the mind of one of our best Norwegian comrades. There is also in Norway a band of intellectuals, similar to the Clarté group publishing a magazine which advocates practically the same principles as those of the Levi group. And our party tolerates this without taking action. This year we must act with determination. We have a delegation of the minority of the Norwegian party here, and I am sure we shall succeed in solving our problems. Norwegian comrades! You most clearly understand that the Communist International will not countenance such conditions as those which have prevailed. We are well aware of the good qualities of the Norwegian movement, and we appreciate them. The Norwegian movement is at one with the working masses. It has comrades who are absolutely devoted to the proletarian revolution. But it must, once for all, shake off the trammels of Social Democracy. It must understand that it will not become a real Communist Party unless it makes short shift of such evils.

I now turn to Poland. In Poland we have an illegal mass party. The policy of co-ordinating the legal with the illegal is a very important one, and the experience of the past year has shown, to my way of thinking, that this co-ordination is not quite as simple as we had imagined. The Russian Communists have the experience of 1905–1906. We were then of the opinion that when a legal movement is impossible, there should be coordination of the legal with the illegal, with the leadership in the hands of the legal organization. Now we have to reckon with the experience of various countries, which goes to show that such co-ordination is not quite so simple. It was possible in Poland, and it was practiced there. We have an illegal party there which at the same time is a mass party. We have almost no legal movement there, but just a very slight fringe of legality. In Poland this is possible, because the Polish Party has already gone through a revolution, because in 1905 it led the working class, because the illegal leadership has already fought in the front ranks of the working class. The party is universally acknowledged. It has proved its reliability through its activities during the revolution. Therefore in Poland this method succeeds, while in other countries, e.g., in America, it is much more difficult, because the legal party there has not yet had occasion to work in the open, before the entire working class, in a leading capacity; because the leaders there are not so well-known. There the coordination between legal and illegal is of a quite different kind.

As I have already said, in Poland we have an illegal mass party, an old party with a glorious past behind it Yet there are also important points in which the Executive of the Polish Party had certain differences of opinion, such as the agrarian question, the question of nationalities, and partly the question of the United Front. The agrarian question we shall discuss with our Polish comrades specially. Among our Polish comrades a conception of the agrarian question has prevailed for a long time, which in my opinion is out of date and almost social-democratic. I must recall the stand that was taken by the II. Congress upon this question. At that Congress we adopted a platform wherein we proposed, in order to win over the peasantry, to include a statement of the problem of a redistribution of land.

We also met with some opposition from the Italian Socialists. The Fascisti have shown that they are able to make use of such a program for their own demagogic purposes. This mistake of our Italian comrades has cost us much, and the same error may harm us in Poland and other countries. Fortunately the policy of the Polish Party appears to be changing and we hope that we may be able to come to an agreement with them on the agrarian question and devise a program of action which will draw the peasantry to the party, the Communist Party is a working class party: this does got mean, however, that we represent only the demands of the industrial proletariat; we represent the working class, but we must know how to draw into our ranks all the oppressed classes fighting against the bourgeoisie.

We also had a difference of opinion with the Polish comrades on the question of nationalities. We hope that we have also disposed of this disagreement.

On the question of the United Front, it appears that a minority – and, I believe, a small minority of the Polish Party – was against the United Front. However, it is very grave that such an opposition should have appeared in one of our oldest parties. We are convinced that the Polish Party itself will be able to reconcile these differences of opinion and has probably already done so. But this difference of opinion did exist, and it proves how difficult the practical application of the United Front is.

There is not much to say of the Balkans. I must say, however, that our Balkan Federation is functioning poorly. The Balkan Federation is practically non-existent. There are no regular meetings; I believe that we must insist that the Balkan Federation be strengthened, and that the Bulgarian Party give more attention to this question. A few words on Roumania: we wish to tell the Congress that they have fulfilled their duty in spite of all persecution. You know that the whole Congress of the Roumanian Comrades numbering several hundred, were taken, directly from the Congress to prison. Many of them have been shot; many are still in prison. The Social Democrats have shamelessly co-operated with the bourgeoisie in their crushing of the Communist Party. The merit of our Roumanian comrades is all the greater, that they have remained true to the Communist International under the most trying circumstances and have fulfilled their duty in spite of all.

The Yougo-Slavian movement has just gone through a crisis. The question of legal or illegal activity has appeared.

This problem has not yet been solved. The party has had great difficulties. Yugoslavia is again progressing however. A new movement among the trade unions has begun and we hope that our party will soon regain its power. A Commission will deal with internal conflicts in the Yugoslavian Party.

In England, a most important country for the development of our organization we are growing very slowly. In no other country perhaps does the Communist movement make such slow progress. The problem of the adhesion of the Party to the Labor Party has been finally solved. The Party has decided to affiliate to the Labor Party. It will be one of the special tasks of the coming Executive, I believe, to give more attention to England. We do not know as yet the causes of this slow development. England is not a country of a large mass organization. You know that the Communist Party there has not a large membership. We have no organization there which corresponds to that of the German Party. This is owing to the peculiar traditions. If we take into consideration the great amount of unemployment and the suffering of the English proletariat, the slow development of Communism in England is remarkable It is practically stagnant, and we must pay more attention to the English movement than we have done heretofore.

We were able to send a delegate to America who remained there for some time. The greatest difficulty with which the American movement has been confronted was the problem of combining legal and illegal work. The situation is quite different from that in Poland, Yugoslavia, Finland or Latvia, where we have already had a revolution and the leaders of the working class have already gained the recognition of the proletariat. In America we have quite a different situation; there is a comparatively large trade union movement, and a Communist Party with violent factional strife. Therefore, America is one of our most difficult problems, and must be studied carefully.

In Austria, in spite of all difficulties, our Party has made great progress.

In Hungary, on the contrary, the situation is pitiful. I see many comrades here who have taken part energetically in factional strife and have contributed not a little to make the situation worse. You must permit me to criticize these comrades before the forum of the Communist International The Executive has made an energetic attempt to surmount these difficulties. I do not wish to speak here of the political emigration. History teaches us that our cause owes much to such emigrés. Perhaps the Italian Party will have an emigration in the near future. We have sometimes thought that political emigration was a necessity. But there are emigrations and emigrations. There are emigrés who have suffered greatly after an unsuccessful revolution, but our Hungarian comrades have emigrated so much that it has become too much. I hope that the Fourth Congress will tell them energetically enough that we do not wish nor shall we allow a repetition of what we have seen. In a single day, a few weeks ago, 170 communists were arrested in Hungary. In spite of the fact that the Communist movement is gaining among the masses, the situation of our party is as bad as can be. It is our duty, at a time when the working class movement is growing and the bourgeoisie is arresting hundreds of our comrades, to conquer the differences of opinion among emigrants and build up a real underground party.

One may say that the combination of legal and illegal work in Hungary will be easy, because the Communists there have an old tradition behind them.

In Japan we have a small party which, with the help of the Executive, has united with the best syndicalist elements. It is a young party, but it is an important nucleus, and the Japanese Party should now issue a program. The Congress of the Parties and the peoples of the Far East, which met here in Moscow, had great importance, especially for Japan, because, for the first time, it introduced the important question of the Japanese movement.

We have had valuable results in India. I can communicate to the Congress that the work of our comrades during the past few months has been crowned with success. Comrade Roy, with a group of friends, is issuing a periodical, whose task it is to smoothen our way in India. Our comrades have been able to gather together the Communist elements in India. They have found entrance into the newspapers; they have entered the trade unions. I believe that this is a great step forward.

This year we have built more or less strong nuclei of our party in Turkey, China and Egypt. We should have no illusions in this regard; they are very small groups, but nevertheless it is a step forward, and we must help our comrades there to accomplish a double task, first to increase these proletarian nuclei, and secondly to become the vanguard of the whole movement against the bourgeoisie.

Important work has also been started in Australia and other countries.

I will now speak of the Profintern. As you know, comrades, the Profintern has met with opposition, even in one of the best parties – the German Party. The German Party discussed quite seriously whether the Profintern was not a premature organization, whether it should not be totally liquidated, etc. This took place under the influence of the Levi group, but it was not only the Levites who fell into this error. This was a most dangerous period for the Profintern. The Executive naturally held it its duty to fight against this liquidating tendency, it was our opinion that the Profintern was in no way premature.

The entire anti-Profintern movement has now been defeated in Germany, and I hope in other countries, and the Profintern is on the high road to success. We can prophesy that the Profintern will experience a great growth in the coming years if not even in the next few months. The Amsterdamers wish to bring about a split They have accomplished this split in France, and have begun it in Czechoslovakia. In Germany we face a possible split of the trade unions. We believe it to be our task and that of the Profintern to combat this splitting. We want a united working class movement; the Amsterdamers want splits. The more influence we gain in the trade unions, the greater will be the desire of the Amsterdamers to split them, ana the more energetic must be our fight against this tactic. We must organize and prepare suitable measures for this purpose. Our campaign will be the subject of a special discussion. With regard to the independent unions which they have forced us to organize in France and Czechoslovakia, and which we are now being compelled to organize in Germany and other countries, we must proclaim that the new anions, products of the splits, are bora with the cry for unity upon their lips. The slogan of these new unions, produced by mass expulsions must be: Trade Union Unity!

When the Czech-German and other comrades are compelled to establish a general, or even a craft union, they must issue the watchword: Unity! Struggle for the unity of the trade union movement. I will deal with this question in greater detail in the second part of my speech.

Our movement made considerable progress in the question of co-operation, and the organization of the young people. I should like to make special mention of the Y.C.I. The transfer of the Y.C.I. to Moscow has proved successful, and all fears in connection with this have proved groundless, the Y.C.I. has done good work. We must, however, admit in some countries the movement has become rather slack The young communist movement in Germany and in other countries has also gone through a difficult period. This is a feature of the general situation of the working class. Nevertheless, the Y.C.I. and the Young Communist movement have remained a vanguard of the Communist International. A Young Communist Congress will be held after our Congress, to which we must pay the greatest attention. We must, however, endeavour to become an overwhelming majority. The amalgamation of the 2 and 2½ Internationals will be of great harm to the social-democrats in connection with the young peoples movement. New methods are required in order to influence the young proletarian masses which have become rather indifferent. We hope to be able to do this.

This closes the survey of our activities during the last 15 months. We have of course committed many errors, and you must criticize us on that account. We shall discuss frankly whether and say if we want to retain the 21 points. Our French comrades have, for instance, criticised § 9 on the basis of which Fabre was expelled. I do not think that any comrade would say that we were wrong in acting thus. The expulsion was absolutely necessary. However, some of our French comrades have objected to it, saying that we had no right to act in this manner, and that we had given a too wide interpretation to § 9. It will be for the Congress to say if we exceeded our authority in making use of § 9 in the way we did.

There is still another point. The Executive has resolved that the National Congresses of the Communist Parties should as a rule be held after the World Congress. Exception of course may be made. I am not going to enquire whether this was absolutely necessary. But what, indeed, was the meaning of this decision? It means that we were determined to be a centralized world party, a party directed from one centre. We want the World Congress to be the leading organ for all the Parties. We do not want the Communist International to be merely a meeting ground for all parties. This point of view has been violently criticized in France.

But what has the French example taught us? What would have been achieved if this Congress had met sooner? As I said before, I am not going to oppose any proposal to modify this decision and would be quite ready to accept any modifications. At any rate the decision means that we must remain a centralized world organization. We have been too lax in carrying out the 21 points. You will be quite right in wanting to punish us for it. The 21 points must be more strictly applied henceforth. This does not mean that we have not done anything until now. The Communist International has been in existence only 3½ years. Comrades, this is too short a period in which to organize our communist parties on a world scale. The greatest evil was not in our negligence but in the fact that we locked upon the 21 points as a scrap of paper. However, I am of the opinion that the Congress will say that it is here in order to carry out the 21 points. We must see to it that we become a realy International World Party. Hitherto we were in favor of this in principle, but it is necessary that this principle should be put into practice.

This is my report on the activity of the Executive during the last 15 months. I shall deal with our future tactics later on.

The first questions we have to consider are the international economic situation, the international political situation and the position within the labor movement.

As regards the international economic situation, I think it would be superfluous at the Fourth Congress to recapitulate all that we decided at the Third Congress. In my own thesis I propose that the Fourth Congress shall simply confirm the theses concerning the economic situation of the world presented to the Third Congress by Comrades Trotzky and Varga. We cannot fail to recognize that the course of events during the last fifteen months has substantially confirmed these theses. There has, indeed, been a transient improvement in the United States, Britain, Japan and France, and perhaps in other countries as well, but it is quite clear that there has been no permanent change for the better, and Comrade Varga was perfectly right when, in his last pamphlet, he characterized the existing state of affairs as appropriate to the declining phase of capitalism. What we are now living through is something more than one of the periodical crises of capitalism; it is The crisis of capitalism; it is the twilight, the collapse of capitalism.

The economic position of the world remains, therefore, the same, despite improvements here and there in various countries. Capitalism cannot find a way out of this situation. The only salvation for mankind, the only way of restoring the forces of production, is to be found in the socialist revolution. In this sense our diagnosis is unaltered, and we can unhesitatingly repeat what was affirmed at the Third Congress, that the objective situation remains revolutionary. Within its own framework capitalism can find no energies that will provide an escape from the definitive crisis of the entire capitalist world.

Next we come to the international political situation, its character, likewise, is such as to entitle us to affirm that the antagonisms are being intensified day by day, and that the international situation remains objectively revolutionary. During the last fifteen months the decay of the Entente has advanced with giant strides. What we nave been witnessing has been tantamount to a liquidation of the Peace of Versailles, and this decay of the Peace of Versailles is still proceeding. Bourgeois pacifism, whose most notable leader is Lloyd George, is utterly bankrupt. The Genoa Conference and the Hague Conference have affixed the seals to the bankruptcy of bourgeois pacifism. The electoral struggle now proceeding in Britain bears witness to an unprecedented poverty of ideas among the capitalist parties. The nature of the fight between the classic bourgeois parties in the land which was the pioneer in capitalist development shows that no trace of principle is left to either party. We note an absolute spiritual collapse. The struggle is one between coteries, one which merely serves to underline what was already plain enough, that bourgeois pacifism is bankrupt, and that the capitalist parties are no longer in a position to fight one another on broad grounds of principle.

The colonial and semi-colonial countries which constitute one of the most important factors of the process we denote by the name of the world revolution, have during this period raised their combat to a very high level. We see that in quite a number of oppressed countries, despite all the efforts of the imperialist governments, the liberationist movement makes continual progress. I think that among the communists no one today will contest the assertion that this struggle, although is is neither socialist nor communist, is nevertheless, objectively considered, a struggle against the capitalist regime. The great movements which we have been watching in India and in the colonial and semi-colonial countries are by no means communistic, but dispassionately considered, they rate as an important factor in the fight against capitalism.

Bourgeois democracy, whose decline we have been witnessing for several years, is now perishing more obviously month by month. What is the meaning of the events in Italy? Are they not an unprecedented attack on bourgeois democracy? Italy was one of the countries where bourgeois democracy was most hallowed. The Fascist onslaught is an attack, not only upon the monarchical ideal, but also upon the ideal of bourgeois democracy. Not merely has the King of Italy lost prestige because a band of desperadoes has thrust him aside politically, but the prestige of the whole regime of bourgeois democracy has been lowered. We must keep clearly before our minds that the happenings in Italy are not simply local phenomena. Other countries will inevitably experience what Italy is experiencing, though perhaps in a modified form. If the Fascisti maintain power in Italy (and it seems probable that they will do so during the immediate future), there can be little doubt that similar occurrences will take place in Germany, and perhaps throughout Italy. In substance, the two would be identical. Again, what is now happening in Austria is closely akin to the Italian situation. It too, is a blow directed against bourgeois democracy, which in Austria has hitherto been defended, not only by the capitalist parties and the Second International, but also by the Two antl-a-Half International.

In Czecho-Slovakia we see the preliminaries to such a counter-revolutionary transformation. Of Hungary it is needless to speak. The Fascisti learned their lesson from Hungary. In the Balkan States, and especially in Yugoslavia there are indications that things are taking the same turn as in Italy.

We must look facts in the face. This is essential during a period that will not last very long, but will be a time of trial for our Communist Parties. It is perhaps inevitable that we should pass through an epoch of more or less perfectly developed Fascism throughout Central Europe, and this will necessarily involve that for a considerable period in these regions our Parties will be forced underground, will become illegal Parties. The Executive sent special envoys a few months ago to some of our most important Parties, warning them of the need to prepare for a period of illegal action, just as in Italy today. The political situation at the present time, when we are holding our Fourth Congress, unfortunately confirms these anticipations. We must make it perfectly clear to ourselves that this is not to imply an arrest of the world revolution. It is part of the process of revolution, for the revolutionary movement does not proceed along a straight line. Various episodes may intervene. What we are witnessing in Italy is a counter-revolutionary movement. But when we take a broad view, we see that it is only an episodic intensification, a stage in the maturing of the proletarian revolution in Italy. The same thing may be said of the proletarian movement in quite a number of important countries.

In general terms, then, the international political situation has grown more acute during the last fifteen months. The Third Congress was right in declaring that no equilibrium has been secured in capitalist Europe; and it was also right in pointing out that events of great importance, such as parliamentary conflicts, extensive strikes, etc., might readily lead to revolutionary struggles. The foregoing sketch of the position will have shown that the diagnosis of the Third Congress was sound. Recent events in the Balkan peninsula testify to the growing acuteness of the political situation, in connection with the Greco-Turkish War, the spectre of a new great war loomed ominously for a brief space. We seemed to be witnessing a rehearsal of the coming war. At this very time when I am speaking to you there are renewed complications in the situation, such as might readily lead to disaster. My own estimate of the situation is that war is not yet imminent, but the Balkan flurry was a foreshadowing of what cannot fail to come unless the social revolution breaks out first, thus depriving the capitalist States of the possibility of organizing a new war.

The future, therefore, remains uncertain, but the collapse of the capitalist system is also in sight when we confine our attention to the complications in the political field. Simultaneously we note an unprecedented strengthening of the political position of Russia, the only revolutionary State which has been able to maintain itself for five years.

It will be necessary to discuss the new economic policy in detail when we come to consider the Russian question. I shall, therefore, not anticipate, but will content myself with recapitulating what I said in my introductory remarks. We have come to the conclusion that the new policy was no chance matter. It was not something forced upon us by the weakness of many of our Communist Parties. It was something greater than this. You are right in saying, with many of the best friends of Soviet Russia, that if Russia found it necessary to adopt a new economic policy, this was because the German, French, and British workers were too weak to overthrow the bourgeoisie in their respective lands. This is true enough, but it is not the whole truth. We have come to the conclusion that the necessity for the new policy

is not something peculiar to our own land, in which the peasants form so large a majority of the population. We now believe that all, or nearly ail, countries, even those with great proletarian masses, will have to pass through some such political phase. The new economic policy is something more than a result of our weakness, or of the weakness of the world proletariat – it is based upon an accurate recognition of the balance of power between the workers on the one hand and the peasants and petty bourgeoisie on the other.

Of course the peasantry in such a country as Russia differs from the German peasantry. Nevertheless, alike in Germany and in the other countries where capitalist development is far advanced and where there is a very numerous industrial proletariat, at the decisive moment the working class will have to adopt a whole system of measures to neutralize the trend of the most influential part of the peasantry. The workers, in fact, will have to use just such methods as we have used in Russia. We shall return to their consideration in connection with the Russian problem.

In a survey of the political world situation, we must not fail to take into account the Soviet Republic as a factor of primary importance. At a moment when the Entente is collapsing, when the colonial and semi-colonial nations are engaging in intensified struggles, when the war spectre hovers over the Balkan peninsula, and when the equilibrium of the capitalist world is trembling – at this very time the position of Soviet Russia is being rendered increasingly stable by the adoption of new economic methods. Thereby Soviet Russia has become a titanic factor in world politics. The star of the first proletarian. Republic rises ever higher. The general upshot is a revolutionary situation.

The capitalist offensive is an international phenomenon, and is one of the factors making for revolution. The working class has not yet been able to arrest that offensive. There are, however, numerous indications, in France and elsewhere, that in the near future a change in this respect may be anticipated. The workers are closing their ranks for defense, and will repel the capitalist offensive.

I now turn to the situation within the labor mover it. In this domain the most notable phenomenon is the amalgamation of the Second and the Two-and-a-Half Internationals, an amalgamation that will be effected very soon. In Germany the matter has already been settled, and yesterday came the news of a similar settlement in Sweden. Branting has accepted the Left Social Democrats into his party. The same thing is taking place elsewhere. In point of organization, the union is not yet complete; but politically it is an accomplished fact, and it is a fact of great historical importance. The Second International is the enemy of the working class. No detailed proof need be offered in support of the assertion that the Two-and-a-Half International is being absorbed into the Second International; the process is not the other way about. Suffice it to quote the words of Martoff, one of the spiritual leaders of the Two-and-a-Half International, and in many respects the intellectual superior of his associates. He writes as follows in an article in his newspaper Der sozialistische Bote dealing with the problem of the Second International:

“Let us harbour no illusions. Under present conditions, the mechanical amalgamation of the two Internationals signifies the return to the Second International of the parties that detached themselves from that body in the hope of founding a very different International. The return is a defeat of these parties.”

Martoff makes no secret of his opinion. It is true that at the close he finds some consolation for the members of the Two-and-a-Half International, saying: “Within the Second International we shall defend Marxism.” But, none the less, he admits that the Two-and-a-Half International is returning into the bosom of the Second International, and that the former has sustained a defeat.

There will, then, be a union of the reformist Internationals. This union will greatly quicken the process of splitting the working class into two camps. We on our side must also say: “Let us harbour no illusions!” The union of the Second and the Two-and-a-Half Internationals means the preparation of the White Terror against the communists. The Fascist coup is connected with the world political situation, and so is the coup that aims at bringing governments à la Stinnes to the front. The union of the Second and the Two-and-a-Half Internationals is the preliminary to an unprecedented splitting up of the working class with a view to its weakening. I need not waste time in insisting that this union really foreshadows a period of White Terror directed against the communists. Not by chance is Mussolini, a renegade from the Second International, a one-time social-democrat, now at the head of the counter-revolutionary movement in Italy; not by chance are such as Ebert and Noake at the head of the government in Germany, or such as Pilsudsky at the head of the government in Poland. Nor is it a chance matter that the Second International should be playing a decisive role in such countries as Britain and Germany. In such a land as Germany, the situation is radically altered when the trade unions form a solid front with the mass of workers. No illusions then! The union of the two Internationals foreshadows the inauguration of the White Terror against the Communist Parties.

In the second place, this union will involve the splitting of the Working Class. We communists are now advocating the unity of the trade unions. There is good reason for this course. The reformists see plainly enough that this ground is being cut from beneath their feet. Historically speaking, this is inevitable. It is inevitable that the trade unions (should evolution take a normal course) will pass under the control of the communists. The reformists have a keen scent. They realize what is coming. They see that the influence of the communists over the working class, the general influence of the revolutionary movement, is growing. Feeling this instinctively, they try to avert it. They behave as if they had been directly commissioned by the bourgeoisie to shatter the trade unions. They are trying to destroy them before they are themselves driven out. I do not wish to suggest that they are directly commissioned to pursue such a policy. We all know that political life is less simple than this would imply. Of course, Stinnes does not issue direct written orders to the trade union leaders as his henchmen. In the general political sense of the term, however, the socialist leaders are commissioned by the bourgeoisie to shatter the trade unions before leaving them. As they go out, they want to slam the doors so violently that all the track union windows may be broken. This is their real aim..

No one can tell whether these developments will take months or years, but they are an historical necessity, and the “gods of the Second International” realize it. That is why the same phenomenon is manifest everywhere a deliberate preparation for a split at the moment when they feel that large masses of the trade unionists are about to come over to our side. They wish to weaken the working dass, to pulverize the trade unions, so that when we come into power in the unions we shall find nothing but fragments. That is what they are commissioned by the bourgeoisie to do, and it will be an act of unexampled treachery, in comparison therewith, even the treason of 1914 was perhaps a minor matter. A deliberate act of treachery is now being prepared. They want to disintegrate the working class, so that when the time comes for the workers to form a united front against the bourgeoisie, the workers will find themselves weak, disorganized, and utterly disintegrated. Such is the policy that finds expression in the union of the Second and the Two-and-a-Half Internationals.

This split in the labor movement is something more than a petty episode, something more than a trifle; it is a tremendous problem. Despite all its errors and defeats, despite the treachery of its leaders, the working class has fought tor and achieved a huge organization in the form of the trade unions, whose members are numbered by millions. At the given moment, this organization must play a decisive part in the struggle. today, when the momentous hour approaches, the Second International joins with the Amsterdamers in an act of the utmost treachery against the working class. Their aim is to shatter to fragments this great organization, this last refuge of the working class, in order that when we get rid of the Social Democrats, we may find that there is nothing left to take over, that we have no labor organizations that are of any account. That is the most important fact with which we have to reckon. The Social Democrats and the Amsterdamers are foredoomed to become the professional disintegrators of the working class, not merely to betray the workers, not merely to interfere with the policy of the working weapons, the labor organizations. This will be the policy of the reunited Second and Two-and-a-Half Internationals during the immediate future, and it is a fact with which we have to reckon.

It follows, comrades, that our tactics of the united front must be regarded as something more than a strategical move against our enemies. The policy of the united front, however, is dictated by the historical situation as a whole, by the general position of capitalist alike in the economic and in the political spheres and by the state of affairs within the working class. If I am right in my view of the policy of the Second and the Two-and-a-Half Internationals, if I am right in believing that the tactics of the deliberate splitting of the trade unions and of the working class will be adopted in the near future, then our tactics of the united front are an inevitable and logical consequence. There are many reasons why we must deliberately work against this plan of the Second International. We must do so by our tactics of the united front.

At the Third Congress we accepted the task of winning over the majority of the workers. Has this task been fulfilled? No, not yet. We must state the fact boldly. In many countries, the influence of our Party has considerably increased. Nevertheless, we could not say at the Third Congress that the majority of the workers were on our side, nor can we say at the Fourth Congress that they are on our side. There is much still to be done. In such circumstances, the tactics of the united front are the most important means of winning over the majority of the workers. We must be perfectly clear on the matter. The tactics of the united front denote something more than an episode in our struggle; they denote a period, perhaps an entire epoch. As circumstances change, we may perhaps find it necessary to modify these tactics. In the main, however, inasmuch as the Second International is our chief enemy and is the main prop of the bourgeoisie, we shall have to hold fast to these tactics.

From the economic outlook, capitalism is ripe for the transformation to Socialism. The world political situation is one that may be characterized as revolutionary. The Second International is the main prop of the bourgeoisie. Without the help of the Second International and the Amsterdam International, the bourgeoisie cannot hold its ground. It follows that our relationship with the Second International is something more than a question of party tactics; it is part of the problem of the world revolution, of the tactics of our class as a whole. Inasmuch as the united Second International will for years to come work directly towards a split, we shall be enabled to win over the masses of the workers by purposely counteracting by our tactics of the united front, the efforts towards disintegrating the workers. Let me repeat, we are not dealing with an episode, but with an epoch.

The tactics of the united front have already proved advantageous to us in many ways. I do not mean that they have enabled us to win over the majority of the workers. Were that so, the game would already be in our hands. Still, we have gained a great deal. We have gained this, that the working class is coming to realize that the Communist Parties are not the disintegrators, and that it is the opponents of the communists who are working for disintegration. Until recently, the workers held another view, and perhaps they had some reason for doing so. At one time, in our efforts to defend the interests of the workers as a whole, we had to split the old Social Democratic Party. We should have betrayed the working class had we failed to take this course. It was essential to secure a rallying point for a genuine liberating movement of the working class, and this could only be done by the creation of a Communist Party. At this period we had to accept the role of scissionists, for only by splitting the old social democratic parties could we forge the instrument for the liberation of the working class.

Now, however, we have entered a new historical phase. We have finished the task of the previous phase. There now exist Communist Parties, which do indeed contain vestiges of social democracy, which do indeed suffer from the diseases incidental to childhood, which are troubled with growing pains, and which must be freed from these disorders. But our main problem now concerns the winning over of the majority of the workers, in order to save and win over the trade unions, the chief weapons at the disposal of the world proletariat. That is why we have adopted the tactics of the United Front. I do not anticipate any serious disputes about the matter at this Congress. In France, the last of the Mohicans, those who had still fought against the tactics of the United Front have laid down their arms, and, it is an important fact that not only the French communists but also most of the syndicalists have now accepted the tactics of the United Front. Yesterday we had a brief talk with our friends in the United General Confederation of Labor. When we asked: “Are you still opposed to the United Front?” they answered laconically: “We have formed a United Front.” Whoever follows the situation in France is well aware that in that country both the centralists and the United General Confederation of Labor have deliberately adopted a United Front, for they could not help themselves. The needs of the daily struggle of the proletariat have forced the adoption of the tactics of the United Front, both in the industrial and in the political field upon all who wish to defend the interests of the working class. The winning over of the opponents of the United Front in France has been a great triumph, and it shows that we are closing our ranks and that we snail be able to pursue tactics carefully thought out in advance.

What do we mean and what do we not mean by the United Front? We certainly do not mean an electoral alliance. We have instituted au enquiry concerning the carrying out of the tactics of the United Front, and the enquiry has been fairly successful. Three hundred to four hundred answers have been

sent in, some of them by comrades who work among the masses. The details are now being elaborated, and will probably be issued in book form. The enquiry has shown that much confusion still prevails among the comrades as to the precise meaning of the United Front. I have already explained that it does not mean an electoral alliance. Nor does it mean an organizatory union with the social democrats. The answers we have received from the executive committees of the Italian and of the French Parties show that many of the comrades have made the latter mistake, but organizatory union with the social democrats would be the greatest crime we could commit. Everyone of us would rather have a hand cut off than enter into a union with these traitors to the working class, with those who are pre-eminently our enemies, with those who are the last prop of the bourgeoisie. The United Front implies nothing of that sort. The United Front means the leading of the working masses in the daily class war. It means that we are ready to march against capitalism side by side with all workers, be they anarchists, syndicalists, Christian socialists, social democrats, or whatever you please, to join forces with them in the daily struggle against the reduction of wages and against the loss of the 8-hour day. We accept the fact that we shall often have to sit at the same table with the treacherous leaders. The foregoing is what the united front means, and nothing else. I think that the problem is solved as far as the Comintern is concerned, and I think is has been solved even for the French Party, the one where the greatest confusion has hitherto prevailed in this matter.

We shall also fight for the partial demands of the working class. I was shown today an article written a little while ago by Comrade Gorter. I have not finished reading the article, but I will quote a passage from it. The passage runs as follows. “We must oppose every strike. You will perhaps ask why oppose every strike. I reply, because we must reserve all our energies for propaganda in favor of the revolution.” Further on he writes: “We are so few, the ranks of the KAPD are so thin, that we dare not dissipate our forces in strikes, but must keep them intact so as to concentrate upon the revolution.”

This manner of thinking is so confused that one stands speechless before the childishness of such a political thinker. He has no time to fight alongside the workers in their daily struggle against the bourgeoisie. He wants to help the whole revolution. He who feels for the working class, he who is not satisfied with a subjective attitude towards the masses, but who, on the contrary, understands something about the lives of the workers and who has labored in their ranks, will reject such childishness. For the very reason that we wish to fight on behalf of the proletarian revolution, we must participate in every strike, must go in advance of the working class, and must fight on behalf of every partial demand. We are revolutionists. But this does not mean that we ignore the fact that the position of the working class must be improved, were it only to enable the workers to buy a drop of milk for their children. We are opposed to reformism but we are not opposed to anything that may improve the lot of the working class. We know quite well that in the extant conditions of capitalism the possibilities for such improvement are extremely restricted; we know that nothing but the revolution will secure a real uplifting of the workers: but we also know that we shall never be able to organize the workers unless we fight on behalf of their partial demands. It is from this outlook that we defend the united front as a tactic which is not simply ephemeral, which is not simply episodic, but which in the existing circumstances of capitalism may last quite a while.

The watchword of the Labor Government has not yet been fully clarified. The tactics of the united front are almost universally applicable. It would be hard to find a country where the working class has attained notable proportions but where the tactics of the united front have not yet been inaugurated. They are equally applicable in America, in Bulgaria, in Italy, and in Germany. By no means can the same thing be said of the slogan of the Labor Government. This latter is far less universally applicable, and its significance is comparatively restricted. It can only be adopted in those countries where the relationships of power render its adoption opportune, where the problem of power, the problem of government both on the parliamentary and on the extra-parliamentary field, has come to the front. Of course even today in the United States good propaganda work can be done with the slogan of the Labor Government. We can explain to the workers: If you want to free yourselves, you must take power into your own hands. But we cannot say, in view of the present relationships of power in the United States, that the watchword of the Labor Government is applicable to an existing fight between two parties, as it has been in Czecho-Slovakia, as it will be perhaps in Germany, and as it was and may be again in Italy.

The watchword of the Labor Government, then, is not a general watchword like the tactics of the united front The watchword “Labor Government” is a particular concrete application of the tactics of the united front under certain specific conditions. It is quite easy to make mistakes in this matter. I think we have to beware of the danger that results from an attempt to regard the stage of Labor Government as a universally necessary one. In so far as it is safe to prophesy in such matters, I myself incline to the view that a Labor Government will only come into existence occasionally; in one country or another, where peculiar circumstances prevail. I think its occurrence will be exceptional. Besides, it is quite a mistake to suppose that the formation of a Labor Government will inaugurate a quasi-peaceful period, and that thereby we shall be saved from the burden of the struggle. A Labor Government can only be based upon the winning of parliamentary positions, and these are worth nothing when won. A Labor Government will be no more than a petty episode in the struggle, and will not suspend the civil war. Please do not interpret me as meaning that the watchword of the Labor Government is one to be rejected in existing circumstances. The working class must be made clearly to understand that a Labor Government can only be a transitional stage. We must say in plain terms that the Labor Government will not do away with the need for fighting, will not obviate the necessity for civil war. But as long as we recognize the dangers of this watchword, we need not hesitate to employ it.

The United Front has its dangers also, and the Executive referred to them in its December thesis. The dangers are especially great when the United Front takes the form of the Labor Government. In countries with old parliamentary traditions, in France, for instance, comrades seem to think that when we Marxists speak of the Labor Government we are referring to something altogether different from the dictatorship of the proletariat. But to us it seems that the Labor Government is only one application of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Even if a Labor Government should come, we cannot avoid the civil war. In certain circumstances the civil war will even be intensified by the existence of a Labor Government.

I cannot refrain from saying a few words concerning the industrial councils movement. I have devoted to this matter a special section of my thesis. In this I contend that a Party which has no communist organization in industrial life, which has no communist nuclei, is not to be taken seriously, cannot be regarded as a serious communist mass party. I contend that a labor movement which has not yet learned how to support and organize a mass movement within the domain of the industrial councils is not yet a serious revolutionary mass movement. The statement is applicable to almost all the great labor movements of our day. It is a sign of the times that in Germany, where important and decisive struggles are probably imminent, the whole vanguard of the movement is led by the industrial councils. Turning to other countries, we must advise our comrades to devote themselves first of all to founding communist nuclei within the industries, and then to supporting the industrial councils’ movement. Not until then shall we have a real mass movement. Many of our Parties have failed to carry out this advice. At the Third Congress we adopted an admirable resolution drafted by Comrade Kuusinen, to the effect that every Communist Party should devote itself to the formation of nuclei – whatever the general line of its activities might be. But it is futile to adopt excellent resolutions if nothing be done to carry them into effect. We must see to it that the nuclei are really founded. Then our movement will forge ahead.

I must also add a few words concerning international discipline. In the thesis concerning the tactics of the United Front, proposed by the Renoult group at the Paris Congress of the French Party, there was a section concerning international discipline. Golden words are here inscribed. The group gave a brilliant theoretical demonstration that nothing could be done without discipline, and that the International would perish unless good discipline were maintained. Golden words, I say. But this same group gave a practical demonstration how wide a gap there can sometimes be between words and deeds, The best proof of international discipline is provided in the realm of action.” Our tactics of the United Front are now extremely complex. There exists an International which is closely associated with the bourgeoisie, and which consistently works in opposition to us. If we are to resist its machinations successfully we must be strongly organized, and must have a genuine and rigidly disciplined International. It will be the task of the Fourth Congress to maintain this discipline and to carry it into effect.

Decisive struggles will be upon us in the near future. Many excellent comrades murmur when they hear me say this. They declare that the world revolution has been arrested for a time.

The dvance will not be resumed until the material position of the Russian workers has so greatly improved that they are better off than the average European and American worker. Then the example of the economic advantages of the Russian workers will arouse a revolutionary impetus, and there will be a renewed surge of revolution.

In my opinion, comrades, this is nothing better than a subtle form of opportunism, though such views are advanced by many who are revolutionarily minded and good soldiers of the International. I will confine myself to a word or two upon the subject. It is an undoubted fact that the position of the Russian workers is on the upgrade today. The upward trend in Russia is slow, but it is unmistakable. No doubt a day will come when the economic position of the Russian workers will be better than that of the European workers which is on the downgrade. The upward trend in Russia is slow, but it is unmistakable. But it is pure opportunism to say that it is impossible to lead a revolutionary struggle on the part of the workers of capitalist countries so long as Russian conditions remain difficult.

The real Revolution will not be made by the workers in various countries because of an example drawn from other lands; it will not be made in any country because the workers there envy those in some other country who have more meat. The revolution will occur because the workers will find themselves in difficulties from which there is no exit without the overthrow of the bourgeoisie. Consequently we must not allow those tones to become dominant in our agitation which imply that there is an arrest in the revolutionary movement. The Russian workers had far more numerous obstacles to overcome than those which impede the revolutionary progress of the workers in other lands. The revolutionary workers all over the world will have the support of the Russian workers. The Russian workers were the first to rise in revolt, and they were opposed by the entire capitalist world. It is unlikely that the working class of any other country will have such great difficulties to encounter. To the working class throughout the world we must present the picture of the Russian proletariat in its true colours, speaking of the blockade, of hunger, and of pestilence, and of the greatness which triumphed over all obstacles. We can now be satisfied that the Russian working class, despite all its sufferings, is past the worst, and that from hour to hour, day to day, and month to month, improvements are coming. Such must be our conception of the Russian revolution; this conception must be the basis of all our tactics.

Last updated on 7 January 2021