Written: Spring 1933.
Source: The Militant, Vol. VI No. 31, 17 June 1933, p. 3.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan for the Trotsky Internet Archive.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2015. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.
Number 5 of Gegen den Strom, the organ of the Brandler-Thalheimer group, now appearing in Strassburg, contains theses on the struggle against Fascism and other programmatic declarations. This number is very important in the determination of the physiognomy of the group. What have the Brandlerites learned from the catastrophe? Have they moved forward? Let it be said right at the outset: the theses contain a number of quite indubitable fundamentals, principally in the domain of criticism of the party regime, of the policy of the “united front only from below,” and the theory of social Fascism. But apart from these critical ideas (which, despite their elementary character, must be insistently repeated), Gegen den Strom remains a document of opportunism, as much by what this publication says, as by what it fails to say.
1. The theses justly accuse the Stalinist bureaucracy of deliberately minimizing the importance of the defeat. But from their own evaluation of the catastrophe, the Brandlerites do not draw the necessary conclusions with regard to the party. As in the past, they express the desire to return to the party, that is, they act as if no catastrophe had taken place. In this manner, the Brandlerites helo the Stalinists politically to cover up the significance and the dimensions of the defeat.
2. “It is not Communism that has been beaten,” they write, “it is the ultra-Leftist tactic that has been beaten, the bureaucratic regime that has been beaten, the method of leadership pursued up to now that has been beaten” ... The question is not put politically but in doctrinary fashion, as if the struggle was between abstract principles and not between living political forces. Communism as a doctrine has, of course, not been beaten; what has however been beaten is that party in Germany which had a false tactic, a bureaucratic regime and which pushed the proletariat to the catastrophe.
3. The “ultra-Leftist course” has been shipwrecked. Whence does it come? What is its social content? Who is its bearer? On this score, just as in the past, we do not hear a single word. Yet the Brandlerites acknowledge that the false policy of the Communist International, which led to its ruins, has lasted for ten years. Whence comes this unprecedented perseverance in a disembodied “ultra-Leftist course?”
4. Is it true, however, that the course of the epigone Comintern has always been “ultra-Leftist?” Was the five-year long subjection of the Chinese Communist Party to the Kuo Min Tang ultra-Leftist? How shall we characterize the policy of the Anglo-Russian Committee which ruined the very promising Minority Movement in the British Trade unions? Was the policy of the Comintern ultra-Leftist in India? In Japan? (”Workers and Peasants’ Parties”). Isn’t it obvious that the program of “national emancipation” was and remains a gross opportunistic adaptation to the chauvinist psychology of the German petty bourgeois? Can one regard as ultra-Leftist the present-day policy of blocs with bourgeois pacifists, with individual democrats, etc.: the Anti-War Congress, the Anti-Fascist Congress, the Anti-Imperialist League, and in general all the work directed by Muenzenberg’s department for masquerades and charlatanry? Can one tax with “ultra-Leftism” the declaration of the Comintern on March 5th, which proclaims its readiness to refrain from criticism of the social democracy all during the period of the united front?
5. The theses declare that the ultra-Leftist policy of all the foreign sections is executed at the command of the Political Bureau of the Soviet Union. And what about the policy in the USSR itself? Doesn’t the ultra-Leftist course have its orgies there as well? Are not the one hundred percent collectivization and the exaggerated industrialization expressions of an ultra-Leftist course? And on the other hand: Can it be denied that the period of economic adventurism in the USSR was preceded by years of economic opportunism?
6. The Political Bureau of the C.P.S.U., according to the theses, is not in a position to give direct leadership to the policy of several dozen countries. In and by itself, this is incontestable, but it does not explain at all the character of the disease which is ravaging the Comintern. Were it simply a question of the remoteness of the Political Bureau, of the lack of time, of the lack of information, of the lack of knowledge of the situation in the various countries, then the mistakes would be of the most diversified character. But it is not a question of isolated empirical mistakes, but a radically false tendency. What is the essence of it? What determines its persistency and its comparative constancy?
7. What is the meaning of the system itself of commanding several dozen parties by the secretariat of the Political Bureau? Is this accidental, or an aberration of the mind? The Brandlerites talk a great deal about bureaucratism; but they do not clearly understand the meaning of the term. Bureaucratism, to the extent that it is a question not of isolated accidental aberrations but of a mighty system, is the manner of thinking and of acting of a bureaucracy, that is, of a special social stratum which may and does come into conflict with the proletarian vanguard. Who is the principal bearer of bureaucratism in the Comintern if not the Soviet bureaucracy?
8. The Brandlerites are compelled to evade this central question because, by their whole character and spirit, they are only a proscribed, insulted little detachment of this same bureaucracy. They fight against “ultra-Leftism,” but they say nothing about the opportunism of the bureaucracy, for they themselves shared, and still share, in all its Rightist mistakes.
9. The theses declare that the beginning of the false policy of the Comintern coincides roughly with the withdrawal of Lenin from work. But don’t the Brandlerites know that the shifting of the general line – to the Right and to the Left of Marxism – was accomplished with the aid of one single ideological lever: the struggle against Trotskyism? If one pushes aside the personal details, the falsifications, the baiting campaign, etc., and grasps the essence of the matter, the revision of the methodology of Marx and Lenin took place under the aegis of the struggle against Trotskyism. The Brandlerites have not understood this to the present day. They think that the struggle against Trotskyism was “in and by itself” correct, but that under cover of this struggle which constituted the principal content of the party’s ideology for many years past, some miracle or other caused a backsliding from the line of Leninism to the line of the “ultra-Leftist” course (in actuality, to the line of bureaucratic Centrism).
10. Were the Brandlerites Marxists, internationalists, they would be unable to declare the policy of the Centrist bureaucracy in the USSR inviolate and demand the same inviolability for themselves in Germany. It is not at all a question here of the autonomy of the national sections (we fully acknowledge the necessity of such an autonomy), but of a false evaluation of the international groupings within the ranks of Communism.
11. The theses declare that outside of the Brandler organization, no forces exist that are able to reconstruct the German party and the Comintern. Even if one were to recognize this inordinate claim with regard to Germany (we are, as everything we have said shows, far from such a recognition), then what about the Communist International? The Brandlerites are right in saying that for the last ten years the Comintern has been systematically decomposing. But why has the International of the Brandlerites themselves decomposed in the last two or three years? In 1929 they represented an appreciable force, but today all that is left of them is fragments. The reason for it is that in the epoch of imperialism, an opportunistic current is not capable of creating any sort of virile international organization and consequently is equally incapable of regenerating the Communist International.
The theses contain a number of erroneous or ambiguous tactical considerations to which we may still have the occasion to refer. For the moment, we wished only to demonstrate that the German catastrophe has unfortunately taught the Brandlerites nothing. In the domain of tactical questions they are right only insofar as it is a question of the fight against ultra-Leftist zigzags; but they share all or almost all the mistakes of the Right wing zigzags of Stalinism and, what is much worse, they are incapable of raising themselves from the questions of tactics to the questions of strategy. The policy of the International is to them a sum of national policies. Even now they are incapable of understanding the fundamental currents in the world labor movement and to take their place among them. That’s why the current of the Brandlerites has no future.
Last updated on: 3 September 2015