Anton Ciliga

Describes Wrecking of Jugoslav C.P.;
Tells of Opposition Struggle in the Soviet Union

(February 1936)

Source: New Militant, Vol. II No. 6, 8 February 1936, p. 3.
Transcription/Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

1. Pages from Internal Life in Jugoslavia

In the years from 1926 to 1929 a strong colony of Jugoslavia Communists (about 120) gathered gradually in Moscow. In most cases they were responsible party activists; men with considerable revolutionary record, experienced and tempered in underground activity. These were not émigrés (with few exceptions) but in their overwhelming majority men who had been temporarily ordered to Moscow for party work. They arrived in Moscow from their active work in the Jugoslav party and were to return there. In the overwhelming number of cases they were workers.

Among these activists a sharp factional struggle was waged between the supporters of the Right and Left groups of the Jugoslav Communist party. From 1926 to 1928, Moscow “entrusted” the leadership of the Jugoslav C.P. to the Right group (S. Markovitch) but in view of the fact that the more revolutionary elements predominated among those who came to Moscow, the Lefts were always very strong. During the above mentioned period the Right party leadership (the Political Bureau) had managed to compromise itself to such a degree that the irate plenum of the C.E.C. of the party (winter 1927–28) removed the old Political Bureau and elected another, a Left Bureau (or, rather, a semi-left). But the C.E.C. was reckoning without its host. The host at that time was – Bukharin, Gorkich, Manuilsky, and they annulled the decision of the C.E.C., dissolved the so-called Left Bureau, and since it was utterly impossible to restore the old Right leadership, they did some-thing much worse.

The triumvirate of Bukharin-Gorkich-Manuilsky recruited some sort of a crew that had never had anything in common with the Jugoslav movement, some adventurists from all the five continents, and sent them as fully empowered emissaries (“mandatories”) into the country. In order to complete this mockery of the Jugoslav party, this gang was entitled a “workers’ leadership”; as a matter of fact, a couple of honest workers were included to serve only as props and victims (e.g. comrade Djuro Djakovitch-Bosnich who was later murdered by the Jugoslav reaction). In order to facilitate the conquest of the Jugoslav flock by these Magi from the East, nobody from the Moscow party activists was permitted to leave for Jugoslavia. They did more than that. Anybody who was in the least “suspect” in Jugoslavia itself was shipped to Moscow under various pretexts.

In short, the “mandatories functioned.” They already envisaged themselves as complete victors and – what is more important – within a month or so, or a half-year, or a year they, who were people without any background in any sort of a movement, would soon be in possession of a record so necessary for underground activity. And a career a world career in the Comintern, would be open to them. Everything would have gone smoothly had their fate depended upon Moscow alone. But, sad to say, Belgrade also has a word or two to say in Jugoslavia.

And in Belgrade a military-Fascist overturn took place on January 6, 1929, and there ensued a bloody Balkan extirpation of every sort of opposition. A genuine underground activity now became necessary and the need was for men capable of going to their doom without the flicker of an eye. The “mandatories” were panic-stricken, terrified. They, like all adventurers, had estimated much too lightly their chances of success and of a career. Now what was in question were not their careers but their heads.

And then there occurred an unheard of and a most infamous catastrophe. At this critical moment “the best section” of the mandatories left the party, the Y.C.L. And the workers’ movement in general to their fate and fled as fast as legs, railways, and airplanes could carry them from Jugoslavia to Moscow. This squad of deserters was headed by the ideologist of the entire “course” – Gorkich. That is the way the “best of them” behaved. Those who were a little worse remained in Jugoslavia and passed into the service of the police. And the worse ones, it turned out, had been provocateurs all the time; they had insured themselves from both sides at the very outset.

Among them was the chief “mandatory” – one Brezovich. It is worthwhile to dwell a little on him, because Brezovich is not an accidental figure in the present day Comintern. Brezovich, as is well-known, had also been a member of the Political Bureaus of the Chinese, Japanese, French, and many other parties. At a given moment, the bureaucratic degeneration facilitates the passage to provocateurs. The spirit of bureaucratic Byzantism reigning throughout the entire Comintern makes it easy for the provocateurs to worm their way to the tops. Brezovich never took any part in the Jugoslav workers’ movement. During the world war he was captured by the Russian troops. During the N.E.P. he turned up in the Communist party, and after the annihilation of the Zinoviev opposition he made a career in Leningrad, becoming a district agitprop (in charge of agitation and propaganda). From there Gorkich-Bukharin-Manuilsky shipped him to Jugoslavia, placing in his hands the entire organizational and technical apparatus of the party. And in 1928 at the Sixth World Congress he was promoted to the Senior Convent (the ranking members) of the Congress despite the fact that in accordance with the decision of the plenum of the C.E.C. of the Jugoslav C.P. an old worker had been slated for the post. In order to prepare completely for their machination, Gorkich-Bukharin-Manuilsky organized the matter in such a way as to delay the arrival of this worker to the Congress (he spent days waiting in one of the border cities for permission to depart) while the scoundrel Brezovich appeared in Moscow even prior to the Congress, and in this way, as if of necessity, he was elected to the Convent. As we see, Brezovich’s progress indicates a very characteristic lawfulness ...

Gorkich saved his hide. He had managed, together with Manuilsky, to pass in time to the service of Stalin. A few others also saved themselves. In their case, the matter was settled without a catastrophe: their careers were not broken off. But, in return, the Jugoslav workers’ movement was betrayed into the hands of bestial reaction, it was disarmed and disorganized. In order to cover up their desertion, Gorkich and other leaders of the Comintern afterwards calmly sent tens and hundreds of men to their doom. In 1929–1933 the same thing was repeated in Jugoslavia which had occurred previously, but on a much larger scale, in China, and that which was perpetrated earlier and later in a number of other countries. When the working class will finally call the guilty to an accounting, it will be the day of dreadful judgment – a judgment not so much of the Gorkiches, Manuilskys and Co. – for they are only pitiable flunkeys – as of the true masters, the true organizers and inspirers of all the extirpations and defeats of the international revolutionary movement from 1922–23 on: the Political Bureau of the C.P.S.U., the Bureau of the chief bureaucracy.

The unprecedented cowardice and vileness of the “Comintern leadership” after January 6, 1929 aroused a fearful indignation among the Moscow Jugoslav activists, especially among the Left group which numbered over 50. Among them, and at their head were the Trotskyist Opposition group numbering about 10, and working semi-illegally among the “national left.” The Jugoslav national left, which arose back in 1921 on the basis of the demand for underground organization and activity and which grew in strength somewhat on the national and peasant questions, was and is still distinguished by its complete “national narrowness.”

It is unable and it refuses (fundamentally) to tie up its own questions and struggle with the questions and struggles of other left groups of the former Comintern. The Jugoslav “Lefts” delude themselves with thinking that by such conduct they do not ruin themselves to impotence; and that by pursuing this “tactic” they do not give the trump cards to the Rights but prepare their own coming to party power with the assistance of and through the Comintern.

The Opposition group of Bolshevik-Leninists was formed only in 1928 in Moscow after the experience of the kulak bread strike, after becoming disillusioned with the Stalinist “self-criticism” and disagreeing with the struggle “on two fronts.” This opposition group, as has been said, headed the dissatisfaction which flared up sharply and elementally against the conduct of the “Comintern leadership,”and at a general meeting in February 1928, a resolution condemning this conduct received more than 90 votes as against five who voted for the leadership and who defended the leadership of this representative and reporter of the Comintern, this petty Bessarabian “son of a noble” who took refuge on Soviet shores ...

After such a demonstrative condemnation of the Comintern “leadership,” the latter assumed a counter-offensive through the medium of a Commission of the “C.E.C. Of the C.P.S.U. and of the Comintern” (headed by the notorious former Menshevik, Popov). Forty were censured; twenty were sent into “party” exile; three were expelled for “one year” from the party. A section of our opposition group remained in Moscow (Haeberling, Zankov, Glybovski and others); another section (Draguich, Dadich and myself) went to Leningrad; a third section elsewhere. This took place in the summer and autumn of 1929.

2. The Struggle for the Right to Depart

In May 1930, a sort of conference of our group took place in Moscow. I came from Leningrad to this conference in Moscow. At the conference we worked out theses and outlined our work. In its views, in all its internal shadings, our group belonged to the extreme left wing of the Bolshevik-Leninists, and on some questions drew close to the Democratic Centralist group. These theses spoke of the necessity of advancing the slogan of a new party after the 16th Congress (in the summer of 1930) which rejected the appeal of the Opposition; of the task of “reform” by revolutionary methods; of the turn from “propaganda to agitation”; of the propaganda and preparation of economic strikes (because the industrialization is being effected at the cost of terrible exploitation of the proletariat); in event of the economic strikes taking place, to advance, subsequently, political slogans as well (the return of the Opposition from exile, and of L.D. Trotsky from abroad).

A few Russian comrades were members of our group (Glybovski, Zankov and others) and we had some contacts with factories and a small apparatus. The group consisted of a live center; of members who did not participate in the center and of candidates; and then there were also sympathizers, “liberals” who helped the group in various ways. At that time I had prospects of sending certain important Comintern material to comrade Trotsky abroad.

Immediately after the conference our group (the center) was arrested. It was established that an individual who served as the contact between our group and the district and the Moscow center had for some time been a provocateur (obviously, in order to escape exile). Members who did not participate in the center and candidates remained untouched because the provocateur did not know them but, instead, a number of innocent by-standers were arrested (several Jugoslavs and one girl, a Swedish Y.C.L.’er). They were under suspicion because of some sort of external clue, i.e., they looked suspicious. Instead of a meeting with the representative of the Moscow center, the provocateur organized an interview for me with another agent of the G.P.U. I discussed our theses with him, and certain aspects of transmitting the above-mentioned material to comrade Trotsky.

Immediately before the arrest we were seized by alarm, sensing the danger. One of us, comrade Draguich worked as a lathe-man at the “Elektrosila” plant and was on night shift at the time and therefore escaped arrest that evening; he went into hiding and was arrested only three months later. During this time he managed to take a trip to Moscow and contact, among others, the Spanish comrade Nin and to inform him about the arrest of our group. But we had no previous contacts with comrade Nin, nor, indeed, did we keep up contacts with several others (out of cautiousness); soon thereafter comrade Nin himself was deported from the U.S.S.R. and comrade Draguich was arrested (during his arrest at night, on a street in Leningrad, the agents of the G.P.U. fired at comrade Draguich when he attempted to flee from them). As for myself, although at that time I did think it necessary to demand permission to leave, I did not strive energetically enough for it. So many things were still unclear to me: both what is and whither things were heading; how reaction would take shape in the future,and how it had originally come about and what were the laws governing the Russian revolution ...

A. Ciliga

(Subsequent issues will carry the continuation of comrade Ciliga’s article.)


Last updated on: 20 March 2018