Written: 20 July 1933.
Source: The Militant, Vol. VI No. 47, 14 October 1933, p. 3.
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A. – It is time to break with the caricature of an International which is in Moscow. It is impossible to bear even a shadow of political responsibility for the Stalinists. We have been very prudent and very patient with regard to the Comintern; but there is a limit to everything; now that, before the eyes of the entire world, Wels on the one hand, Stalin on the other, have placed Hitler in the saddle, now that the Comintern despite the catastrophe has proclaimed its policy infallible – no man of judgment will any longer hope that this clique can be “reformed”.
B. – The clique certainly not, but the Comintern taken as a whole?
A. – One must not be deceived by general phrases. The “Comintern as a whole” is an abstraction, not to say, an empty expression. The control is in the hands of the Stalinist clique. For six years now, there has been no Congress. Who has trampled the statutes underfoot? The clique. By what right? By the right of usurpation. Not one section, not one local organization, not one paper has dared to breathe a word about the necessity of an International Congress. This means that in fact, the fate of the “Comintern as a whole” lies in the hands of an irresponsible clique.
B. – That is incontestable, but isn’t that just how the matter stood a year ago, when we had not yet withdrawn the slogan of the reform of the Comintern?
A. – No. That is not how the matter stood. A year ago one could still hope to save the situation in Germany. We did everything in our power to throw light on the logic of the situation. If the Comintern were a responsible organization, its leadership could not have failed to hear the voice of events. It is absolutely impossible to expect a more powerful voice. And if the Comintern remained deaf this time, it means that it is a corpse. In still another respect a decisive change has taken place. Last year the German Communist party still existed. In the whirlpool of great events, it still had to reckon with the working masses. One was able to hope with a certain right – up to the hour of the verification – that the development of the struggle of the masses would not only make Thaelmann’s Central Committee turn about, but also the Praesidium of Stalin-Manuilsky. That did not take place. Of the German Communist Party nothing has remained but an apparatus which grows weaker every day and becomes increasingly alienated from the masses. The point has been reached where the Central Committee prohibits the illegal local organizations from publishing their own articles and appeals; the duty of the local committees is but to reprint the revelations of the Manuilskys and the Heckerts. Every movement of thought represents a mortal danger for these people. The victory of Hitler is not really a “defeat” for them; it has freed them from all control from below ... but now that the strongest party of the Comintern has left the stage there is decidedly no means, no channel and no lever, left by which to act upon the clique that rules the Comintern.
B. – Can the German Communist Party be spoken of as the strongest party of the Comintern? You seem to forget the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
A. – No, I have not forgotten. Even if one recognizes that the C.P.S.U. is a party (in reality, within the administrative cadres of the C.P.S.U., which change according to the will of the clique, several parties are conducting a covert struggle against each other), this party is, in any case, not an active section of the Comintern. The Soviet workers have no idea of what is happening to the proletarian movement in the west: nothing is communicated to them, or still worse they are ignobly deceived. Within the Political Bureau itself, with its present composition, there is not a single person who knows the life and the tendencies of the workers movement in the capitalist countries.
The slogan of the “reform” of the Comintern was, for us, never a hollow phrase. We counted on reform as on a reality. Developments followed the worst road. That is precisely why we are compelled to declare that the policy of reform is exhausted to the very end.
B. – Is it then possible for us to leave the centrist bureaucracy the banner of the Comintern?
A. – One should not be misled by ambiguous formula. What is understood by a banner? A program? But it is long, since we have rejected the program adopted by the VI Congress as a pernicious admixture of opportunism and adventurism. In the course of several years, basing ourselves on the lessons of events, we counted upon changing the program of the Comintern by internal means. Now this possibility has disappeared at the same time as the possibility of “reform”. To the miserable eclectic program of the Comintern, we must oppose our Marxian program.
B. – And the first four congresses of the Comintern?
A. – Naturally, we do not abandon them. All the more so as the Stalinists have long since renounced them and given them over to us. Our program we will build up on the foundations established by the first four congresses; it is an irreproachable Marxian foundation, it is our foundation. The lessons of the recent years – only the Left Opposition has translated them into The language of Marxism. Our International Pre-Conference has drawn the balance of these lessons in its eleven points. There is, however, a gap in this balance. The Pre-Conference met on the eve of the decisive examination to which history submitted the Comintern. The complete and conclusive collapse of the Comintern is not recorded in the decisions of the Pre-Conference. It must be done by the Conference. As far as everything else goes, the decisions of the Pre-Conference retain all their force. The principal documents of the first four congresses plus the “eleven points” of the Left Opposition – these are the fundamental elements of the true program of the Communist International.
B. – The opponents will, in spite of everything, say that we are renouncing the banner of Lenin.
A. – The opponents have been shouting that for some time, and all the more loudly, the more they trample in the mud the heritage of Bolshevism. As for us, we shall say to the workers of the entire world that we are taking upon ourselves the defense of the banner of Marx and of Lenin, the continuation and the development of their work in the intransigent struggle not only against the reformist traitors – that goes without saying – but also .against the centrist falsifications of Bolshevism. The usurpers of the banner of Lenin, organizers of the defeats and the capitulations, the corrupters of the proletarian vanguard, the Stalinists.
B. – Then what is to be done about the C.P.S.U.? What is to be done about the U.S.S.R.? The opponents, will they not say that we consider as lost the achievements of the workers’ state and that we are preparing the armed insurrection against the Soviet Government?
A. – Certainly they will say it. They have been saying it for some time now. What else can they say to justify their ignoble persecutions of the Bolshevik-Leninists? But we are guided not by the calumny of the opponents, but by the actual course of the class struggle. The October Revolution, with the Bolshevik party at its head, created the workers’ state. Now the Bolshevik party no longer exists. But the fundamental social content of the October revolution is still alive. The bureaucratic dictatorship, in spite of the technical successes acquired under its reign (against itself), enormously facilitates the possibility of the capitalist restoration. But luckily, the point of a restoration has not yet been reached. With favorable internal, and above all international, conditions, the edifice of the workers’ state can be regenerated on the foundations of the Soviet state, without a new revolution. For a long time we have reckoned that we would succeed in reforming the C.P.S.U. itself, and through it as intermediary, in regenerating the Soviet regime. But the present official party now bears much less of a resemblance to a party than two or even one year ago. The party congress has not taken place for more than three years and nobody talks about it. The Stalinist clique is now whittling down and reconstructing its “party”, as if it were a disciplinary battalion. The aim of the purging and of the expulsions was first of all to disorganize the party, terrorize it, to deprive it of the possibility of thinking and of acting; now the repressions have as their aim to prevent the reorganization of the party. Yet the proletarian party is indispensable if the Soviet state is not to perish. There are many elements for it, but it is only in the struggle against the Stalinist bureaucracy that they can be brought to the surface and united. To speak now of the reform of the C.P.S.U. would mean to look backward and not forward, to assuage one’s own mind with empty formulae. In the U.S.S.R. It is necessary to build a Bolshevik party again.
B. – But isn’t that the road of civil war?
A. – The Stalinist bureaucracy conducted the struggle against the Left Opposition even in the period when we were quite sincerely and with conviction for the reform of the C.P.S.U. The arrests the deportations, the fusillades – what are these if not the civil war, at least in embryo? In the struggle against the Left Opposition, the Stalinist bureaucracy was an instrument of the counter-revolutionary forces and by that fact, it isolated itself from the masses. Now the civil war is placed on the order of the day along another line, between the counter-revolution going over to the offensive, and the Stalinist bureaucracy on the defensive. In the struggle with the counter-revolution the Bolshevik-Leninists will obviously be the left flank of the Soviet front. The fighting bloc in coalition with the Stalinists will flow here from the whole situation. It should not, however, be thought that in this struggle the Stalinist bureaucracy will be unanimous. At the decisive moment, it will break up into fragments and its component elements will meet again in the two opposing camps.
B. So the civil war is inevitable?
A. Right at the present moment it is taking place. By maintaining the present course, it can only become more acute. With the further impotence of the Comintern, with the paralysis of the international proletarian vanguard and under the conditions of the inevitable growth of world fascism the victory of the counter-revolution in the U.S.S.R. would be inevitable. Naturally, the Bolshevik-Leninists will continue their work in the U.S.S.R. regardless of the conditions. But the saving of the workers’ state can be effected only by the intermediary of the world revolutionary movement. In all of human history, the objective conditions for the regeneration and its rise have never been so favorable as now. What is lacking is the revolutionary party. The Stalinist clique can rule only by destroying the party, in the U.S.S.R. as in the rest of the world. One can tear himself away from this vicious circle only by breaking with the Stalinist bureaucracy. It is necessary to build a party on a fresh spot, under a clean banner.
B. And how will the revolutionary parties of the capitalist world be able to act upon the Stalinist bureaucracy in the U.S.S.R.?
A. The whole question lies in the genuine strength. We have seen how the Stalinist bureaucracy crawled before the Kuo Min Tang, before the British trade unions. We have seen how it is crawling now, even before petty bourgeois pacifists. Strong revolutionary parties, truly capable of fighting against imperialism, and consequently of defending the U.S.S.R. will compel the Stalinist bureaucracy to reckon with them. Much more important is the fact that these organizations will acquire an enormous authority in the eyes of the Soviet workers and will thus finally create favorable conditions for the rebirth of a genuine Bolshevik party. It is only on this road that the reform of the Soviet state is possible without a new proletarian revolution.
B. So then: we abandon the slogan of the reform of the C.P.S.U. and we build up the new party as the instrument for the reform of the Soviet Union.
A. Perfectly correct.
B. Is this tremendous task commensurate with our forces?
A. The question is put erroneously. First of all, it is necessary to formulate clearly and courageously the historical task and then to assemble the forces for its resolution. Certainly we are still weak today, but that does not at all signify that history will grant us a delay. One of the psychological sources of opportunism is the fear of great tasks, that is, the lack of faith in revolutionary possibilities. However, great tasks do not fall from the sky; they emerge from the course of the class struggle. It is in these same conditions that we must seek the forces for the resolution of the great tasks.
B. But doesn’t the overestimation of one’s own forces often lead to adventurism?
A. That is absolutely correct. It would be pure adventurism if we were to “proclaim” that our present organization is the Communist International or if, under this name, we were to unite ourselves mechanically with the various other opposition organizations. The new international cannot be “proclaimed”: it still bus to be built. But one can, and one should, from today onward, proclaim the necessity to create a new International.
Ferdinand Lasalle, who was no stranger to opportunism, nor to adventurism, nevertheless expressed the fundamental requirements of revolutionary politics: “Every great action begins by the assertion of what is.” Before replying practically to the questions: How is a new international be built, what methods are to be applied, what delays are to be fixed – it is necessary to assert openly what is: The Comintern is dead for the revolution.
B. On this point, in your opinion, there can be no longer be any doubts?
A. Not a shadow. The whole course of the struggle against National Socialism, the conclusion of this struggle and the lessons of this conclusion – equally indicate not only the complete revolutionary absence of the Comintern but also its organic incapacity to learn, to mend its ways, that is, “to reform” itself. The German lesson would not be so crushing and so unimpeachable, if it were not the crowning piece of ten years of the history of centrist blundering, of pernicious errors, of ever more frightful defeats, of increasingly fruitless sacrifices and losses, and, in connection with that – of a complete theoretical devastation, of a bureaucratic degeneration, of Psittacism, of demoralization, of duping the masses, of interrupted falsifications, of the banishment of revolutionists, of the selection of functionaries, mercenaries and pure lackies. The present Comintern is an expensive apparatus for the weakening of the proletarian vanguard. That is all! It is not capable of doing more.
Wherever the conditions of bourgeois democracy open up a certain space, the Stalinists, thanks to the apparatus and the cast box, simulate u political activity. Muenzenberg has now become a symbolical figure of the Comintern. But who is Muenzenberg? He is an Oustric  on the “proletarian” arena. Empty slogans, which engage one to nothing, a little bit of Bolshevism, a little bit of liberalism, a stock exchange of journalists, literary drawing rooms where friendship for the U.S.S.R. has its price, a theatrical hostility towards the reformists, changing easily into a friendship for them (Barbusse) and, what is important, a well-adorned cash box, independent of the working masses, – that is what Muenzenberg is. Living politically on the alms of the bourgeois democracy, the Stalinists still demand of it the crowning point – that is strike down the Bolshevik-Leninists. Can one sink lower? ... Yet, let but the bourgeoisie seriously lift the fascist, or the simple police, fist, and Stalinism draws its tail between its legs and retires docilely into the void. The Comintern in agony can give nothing to the world proletariat, absolutely nothing, save evil.
B. That the Comintern, as the central apparatus, has become a brake on the revolutionary movement, it is impossible not to acknowledge, just as it must be agreed that a reform of the apparatus, independent of the masses, is absolutely unrealizable. But what about the national sections? Are all of them in the same stage of degeneration and decadence?
A. After the German catastrophe, we have seen, in Austria as well as in Bulgaria, how the Stalinist parties were liquidated without resistance on the part of the masses. If the situation is more favorable in some countries than in others, the difference, despite everything is not very great. But let us even admit that one section of the Comintern or another is conquered by the Left Opposition: the morning after this fact, if not on the eve, it will be expelled from the Comintern and it will have to seek for itself a new international (something of that sort happened in Chile). Cases of that sort took place also during the appearance of the Third International: thus, the French Socialist Party, transformed itself officially into the Communist Party. But that did not change the general direction of our policy with regard to the Second International.
B. – Don’t you think that thousands of “Stalinists” sympathetic to us will move away from us in fright when they learn that we are breaking finally with the Comintern?
A. It is possible. It is even absolutely likely. But it is with all the greater decision that they will join with us at the following stage. It must not be forgotten, on the other hand, that in every country there are thousands of revolutionists who have abandoned the official party, or who were expelled from it, and who did not join us in large measure because, in their eyes, we were only a faction of that same party with which they were disgusted. An even greater number of workers are right now separating from reformism and seeking a revolutionary leadership. Finally, in this situation of putrefaction of the Social Democracy and the collapse of Stalinism, a young generation of worker’s is rising for whom a stainless banner is needed. The Bolshevik-Leninists can and should form the axis of crystallization of all these numerous elements. Then all that is of a living nature in the Stalinist “International” will shake off its last doubts and will join us.
B. Are you not afraid that the new orientation will encounter an opposition within our own ranks?
A. In the first stage, it is absolutely inevitable. In many countries, the Left Opposition is linked up by all its work, more than anything else, if not exclusively, to the official party. It has penetrated very little into the trade unions and had hardly interested itself at all in what is happening in the ranks of Social Democracy. It is high time an end were put to narrow propagandism! The turn should be preceded by a broad and serious discussion. It is necessary that each member of our organization reflect to the very bottom of the problem. The events will help: every day will bring irrefutable arguments on the necessity of the new international. I do not doubt that the turn, realized together and with decision, will open up before us a broad historical perspective.
July 20, 1933
1. Oustric: Notorious French financier, industrialist, shady stock speculator, trust magnate, intimate of politicians in all camps swindler. Finally brought to trial and condemned – Trans.
Last updated on: 5 January 2016