XLVI. ISOLATION AND COLLAPSE (CONTINUED)
HAVING faced the world communist movement with a mass of accomplished facts, in 1935 the Russian leaders finally convened the Seventh World Congress. In the days of Lenin, the Comintern had met annually; under Stalin it did not meet for seven years, from 1928 to 1935. During that time there had occurred the Peasants' War and soviets in China, the Spanish and Cuban revolutions, the rise of fascism in Europe and its victory in Germany, Austria, and Central Europe, the adventure of Japan in Manchuria and China, the Italo-Ethiopian conflict as a prelude to a world war, the accomplishments and failures of the Five-Year Plan in Russia, and the change of front in American social and political life, not to speak of the development of the deepest economic crisis that the world had ever seen, bringing in its wake untold misery and revolutionary possibilities. None of these questions had been discussed by a gathering of Communist Parties assembled in International Congress.
The Seventh Congress was entirely perfunctory and rubber stamped. It met only for three weeks. The deadly unanimity was striking. The Congress failed to touch on the perspectives of the crisis; it made no analysis of the reasons for the obvious failure of the Stalinist Parties throughout the world. All it could do was to approve actions already past. Such questions as the Franco-Soviet pact were not even discussed.
The Seventh Congress not only completely wiped out the decisions of the Sixth Congress of 1928 --- although in each particular case the Executive Committee held itself up as an infallible revolutionary center --- but actually prepared for the dissolution of the International as a workers' force. This liquidatory policy could be seen in every phase of its work. The Congress stated plainly that no longer was the proletarian revolution involved, but merely the struggle against fascism; the fight was not of workers against capitalists, but of bourgeois democracy against fascism; it was the duty of communists to support democracy not only at home but abroad. "Today the proletariat in most capitalist countries are not confronted with the alternative of bourgeois democracy or proletarian democracy; they are confronted with the alternative of bourgeois democracy or fascism." (*1)
The head of the International plainly declared that all the key problems of the proletarian movement of the world, all its tactical maneuvers revolved around the central axis, the reinforcement of the Soviet Union as the base of the world proletarian revolution. (*2) The main policy of the world proletariat in case of war was not the defeat of its own capitalist class, as Lenin would have had it. This task had now become secondary to another. "Today the defense of the U.S.S.R. determines the main line of policy of the world proletariat in relation to war." (*3) Nothing could be clearer.
The unprecedented decisions of the Seventh Congress may be summed up as follows: First, communists were to unite with democratic capitalists to form People's Fronts against fascism. In pursuit of this aim, communists could join People's Fronts governments and help build up capitalist armies for the defense of democracy. Second, in foreign policies, the Stalinists in time of war must support the democratic countries against the fascist countries. Third, in regard to the situation within the ranks of labor, the communist unions were to liquidate and to join the reformist unions under any conditions. The Red International of Labor Unions thus would disappear. Fourth, the Communist Parties themselves must form close united fronts with the Socialist Parties in such a way as to pave the way for organic unity later, even though this would mean that the Communist International in certain countries would have no official section. In order better to accomplish this last task, each party was to be given organizational independence.
The People's Front was a universal extension of the policy that had proved so disastrous in China, the policy of servile unity with elements of the capitalist class, sections that posed as democratic and liberal. In the People's Fronts there were three factors, the communists, the socialists, and the bourgeois radicals. Of course this alliance could be maintained only if the communists were to agree not to jeopardize the interests of those capitalists who were part of the People's Front. Evidently it was called "People's" front because capitalists were admitted. The handful of capitalists gave it the character of belonging to the entire people beyond a doubt.
The bourgeois radicals, of course would not participate in a movement that permitted strikes in their plants; they could not favor the reduction of the democratic army and navy, nor could they look on passively while Reds carried on anti-militarist propaganda in the ranks of the armed forces. These capitalist radicals could not permit themselves to become part of a movement that caused pain to democracy by staging riots, demonstrations, and other manifestations of a dangerous character. By forming such an alliance, the communists bound themselves to collaborate with the employers of the country, which they called democratic. Thus the communists decided to pursue a policy of rewarding friends and punishing enemies, some of the capitalists being good and some bad (the good capitalists being none other than those who had signed pacts with Russia). Such a policy must lead to the intensification of nationalism and militarism in all the countries and, eventually, to the victory of fascism itself.
Of course it was understood clearly in communist circles that those countries which could still afford democracy were those which were the most prosperous, where the employers were most secure. The democratic countries were those, in the main, which had suffered least from the War, which had the largest colonial empires, which, in short, formed the reservoir of world capitalism. In this way the Communist Parties of the world rallied to the defense of the most secure sections of the capitalist class, apparently believing that these capitalists would risk their fortunes eventually on behalf of the Workers' State in the Soviet Union.
If bourgeois democracy was to be defended with the lives of the workers, then, the workers must not overthrow the capitalist State. If the democratic capitalists were good revolutionary fighters against reaction, then it was possible to persuade them of the justice of the workers' cause, at least to such an extent that civil war between democratic capitalists and revolutionary proletarians would become out of the question. In democratic countries the revolution was postponed. Democratic capitalism in an era of imperialism was still able to play a progressive role, according to the Stalinists, and the difference between bourgeois democracy and fascism was not a difference in degree and form of capitalist rule but a fundamental difference in kind. This is to abandon materialism for idealism; it is to assume that the struggles of the different layers of capitalists against each other are superior to their joint struggles against the workers as one class against another.
Incidentally, within the democratic countries themselves, Fascism rapidly was growing, although naturally the turn to fascism did not affect all sections of the capitalist classes with the same speed and directness. The heavy trustified industry was the first to turn to fascism; the light, competitive, older capitalist layers retained their democratic tendencies longer. But precisely these latter elements no longer exerted the decisive weight in capitalist affairs, but yielded to the trusts. Hence, within the democratic countries, on these secondary capitalists, who possessed little independent force in critical moments, the Stalinists had to rely; these relatively petty elements are the ones who, the Stalinists believed would stand firm for the proletariat. Nothing could better illustrate the petty bourgeois character of the Third International today.
Furthermore, the Stalinists went much farther than the mere formation of a People's Front; and they also declared their willingness to become part of a People's Front Government and, like MacDonald for the Labour Party of Great Britain, take the responsibility and leadership of the criminal actions of the capitalist State. The Seventh Congress reviewed the situation in various countries throughout the world and came to the following specific conclusions: In Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Belgium, where the socialists were in the government, the communists were to support the socialists and the State. In Czecho-Slovakia, the communists must become more patriotic and nationalist. "The biggest mistake of the Czecho-Slovak communists is their insufficient consideration for the national feelings of the masses in their struggle against the Fascist Home Front." (*4) In England, the Communists were to work for the Labour Party and for a Labour Government. Whereas, in the days of Lenin the entrance of communists into the Labor Party was in order to fight the reformists more effectively, with the understanding that, if the Labor Party won the elections, the communists would break from it and attack it as a capitalist agency, today communists are to be the vanguard agitating for such a Labor Party capitalist government. In Rumania, Poland, Jugo-Slavia, and similar countries the Communists were to include in their People's Front the reactionary peasants' parties headed by the big capitalist agrarians. Inasmuch as these countries are predominantly agrarian, this policy internally meant a united front with the agrarian capitalists objectively to prevent the organization of the revolutionary agricultural workers. In Mexico the Communist Party was to support President Cardenas against Calles; in Cuba, they were to unite with the forces of Grau San Martin.
As for China, "I declare from this world platform that the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the Soviet Government of China are prepared to form a government of all who are unwilling to be colonial slaves, on the basis of a universally acceptable program for armed resistance against Japan regardless of divergent opinions on other important problems." (*5) So the Chinese Communist Party no longer was to fight all imperialism, since French, British, and American were now considered friendly and democratic, but only Japanese imperialism. Again the Chinese Communist Party called for a bloc of four classes, not to win communism but merely for a struggle against Japan. (*6)
As we have seen above, this whole program of idealization of democracy was intimately connected with the war program of Russia. Having dropped their disarmament proposals, the Stalinists turned to the slogan of making the world safe for democracy and were taking the place of Wilsonian liberalism of 1917. The workers of the world were called upon unhesitatingly to defend the democratic countries against the fascist countries and to urge that their government declare war in defense of democracy. Thus the People's Front became merely a transition to the National Front or Union Sacr’ee in which the French and other workers during the War joined hands with their capitalists for the unified execution of war aims and policies.
The most developed form of the People's Front has been established in France. From the capitalist point of view, several considerations prompted a section of them, members of the Radical Socialist Party, to join. First, there was the danger of German fascism and the need of national unity to resist German invasion. Second, there was the Franco-Soviet pact and the need of proletarian support for this arrangement. Third, the French working class was moving dangerously to the Left, and it was thought possible to curb them by joining forces with them.
From the workers point of view, one lesson had been ingrained from the German defeat, and that was the fatal outcome of splitting ranks, the crying need for unity in the struggle. To the genuine revolutionists, in spite of the fact that the People's Front meant a powerfully coordinated bureaucracy to curb the masses, it also enabled the workers to establish a far more fraternal connection with each other than before, mutually to exchange ideas, and to break down old barriers. Through the People's Front, the masses strengthened their power to act more than the united bureaucracy could increase its force to restrain the struggle.
Ever since the February, 1934, riots in which the situation was rapidly mounting to revolution, the masses had united their forces in street fighting, in spite of the bureaucracies of both the socialists and the communists. In a vast general strike of over four million workers they had demonstrated their tremendous power and revolutionary energy and had compelled the officials of both Parties to come together. From that time on there had been formed, not a united front between these two Parties, but rather what was called a Common Front. The difference between the two was that, in a united front each organization would send delegates to a conference limited to a specific subject, time, and place. Each organization would have the right to act independently and to criticize the other factors of the united front. In the Common Front, the membership of both Parties would meet jointly; the leadership of both organizations would agree not to criticize each other, but to support each other before the working class. This, of course, was all to the advantage of the reformists who had always been willing to unite with the communists if the latter would give up their attempts to agitate for the revolution and to discredit them. The Common Front, then, meant a blurring of all organizational distinctions and the laying of the basis for a fusion of socialists and Stalinists into one centrist reformist organization. (*7)
In this way the Communist Party forged a double set of chains around the revolutionary element. First was the Common Front wherein the revolutionists were in effect fused with the reformists in an organization in which the reformists took the lead and worked out the principal features of the common policy without criticism from the other side. Second, there was the People's Front wherein the entire working class was bound to the support of French nationalism in the coming war.
That the stage has been set for a renewal of the Union Sacr’ee can be seen from the following quotations from leaders of the Communist Party of France. "If the workers, to take Marx's words, have no fatherland, they, the internationalists, have something to defend from now on, it is the cultural inheritance of France, it is the spiritual wealth accumulated through all that her artists, her artisans, her workers and thinkers have produced." (*8) Thus the workers are to fight for the defense of the French spirit. And again: "Here, I shall answer a question which has been put to me: in such a war launched by Hitler against the U.S.S.R. would you apply the slogan: transformation of the imperialist war into a civil war? . . . No, because in such a war, it is not a question of an imperialist war, a war between imperialists, it is a question of a war against the Soviet Union." (*9)
How far matters have advanced can be seen by comparing the Seventh Congress, wherein it had been declared that the French communists were to vote against military credits and military measures of the bourgeoisie, (*10) with the statement "Long Live the Republican Army" made on armistice day of that year. (*11) By May, 1936, the communists had decided under certain conditions to vote for all military appropriations. "So far, the vote for military appropriations indisputably meant the support of militarist ends. We do not know if tomorrow the situation will not be such that the vote for military credits can have a different meaning. . . . In any case, anxious as we are to assure the freedom and independence of our country, while we are fighting the domestic Hitlerites, we could not be indifferent to the threats which the foreign Hitlerites are bringing to bear on our country." (*12) And another leader affirmed: "The vote for the budget under the conditions of a collaboration with other parties, even though we are not taking part in the ministry, is a political question which can only be solved within the frame of a general domestic and foreign policy of France. If the changes we pointed out take place, the communists could be brought to vote for the budget." (*13)
The liquidation of the independent position of the Communist Party in the Common Front naturally went hand in hand with the liquidation of the French Red Trade Union Center. Ever since the 1928 "Third Period" frenzy, the independent unions controlled by the communists had been reduced to mere shells, and, with the end of the German unions, the Red international was on the verge of dissolution as an international body. In France the Unitarian Confederation of Labor, which at one time had had the majority of the organized workers behind it, had fallen far behind the opportunist regular Confederation. Now, in the name of suddenly discovered unity, the Red Unions of France disbanded. The Stalinist unions agreed to the conditions imposed upon them by the opportunists; they condemned all fractional work inside the reformist federation, agreed to support all decisions of the League of Nations in the economic field, and, finally, ratified the utopian plan for peaceful reformation of society into socialism.
During the events of February, 1934, when France was on the brink of civil war, the Communist Party, still living in the "Third Period" had marched in a separate demonstration demanding the downfall of parliament, just as the fascists were demanding it. At the same time the socialists were defending Parliament and the republic. The Prussian Landtag experiment of 1930 was to be repeated in Paris. But this time the Stalinists did not reckon with the initiative of the masses, who flocked into the streets and joined forces against the fascist menace. The Common Front was the result of this joint action of the workers themselves, but the Front had the purpose of stifling rather than stimulating the civil war. A great strike broke out in the arsenals of Toulon, Brest, and elsewhere, which could easily have assumed a revolutionary character. But the united forces of the socialists and communists, with their specious arguments that strikes in the armed forces of the state would play into the hands of Hitler, not only prevented the strike from spreading but compelled its speedy termination. The strike was a sign, however, that the workers could no longer be restrained by the old methods; new methods must be tried. The French government was turned over to the People's Front in 1936. The socialist Leon Blum became Premier, and bourgeois radicals were given the most important posts in the Cabinet, the ministries of the State, of War, and similar posts. The communists, while supporting the government, decided not to be part of it for the time being. The fact that the government is now a People's Front does not mean, however, that the great army of functionaries or the powerful body of reactionary officers in the army has been affected in the slightest. So far as the State apparatus is concerned, there has been simply another change in administration.
But if the socialist-communist combination did not act in a revolutionary manner, repeatedly affirming that the task was no longer a struggle for socialism but only a struggle against fascism, the workers themselves took matters again into their own hands. As soon as it was certain that the People's Front Government had been elected, a tremendous strike wave burst forth throughout the country which developed in such a way as to show that France was on the verge of revolution. Instead of marching out of the factories into their meeting halls, the workers decided to remain in the factories and to drive the employers and their henchmen out until their demands for a 15 per cent increase in wages, a forty-hour week, and other improvements were won. The masses did not wait for the socialists and communists to act in parliament; they decided to force the hands of these parliamentarians by direct action. The socialist Blum government faced a dilemma; it was impossible for the incoming People's Front regime to make its debut by the use of soldiers against the workers.
The stay-in strikes in France were manifestations that the workers were getting ready to establish workers' control over production. The shop committees that were formed were signs of a growing unity for struggle on the part of the proletariat. That the workers could stage such a strike peacefully was due to the fact that soldiers could not be used against them. Had there been fighting, the masses would have been forced to quit the factories for action in the streets. This, however, would have led to barricade fighting and the re-entrance into the factories, this time not as workers but as masters.
The parties to the People's Front did their best to terminate the strike movement. The Communist Press asserted no revolutionary situation existed in France and there could be none; Thorez, the head of the Party, declared the workers must know when to end strikes as well as when to begin them. But if the Blum regime could not send the workers back to work without their having won their demands, it knew how to make the victory valueless after the strike was over. This it did by taking the initiative to devaluate the franc. Automatically prices would rise far higher than the wages had increased, leaving the workers with a reduced standard of living and lower real wages. For a long time all the bourgeois parties had evaded the problem of inflation, fearing the unpopularity of such a move in a country of small investors whose savings already had been liquidated 80 per cent by the stabilization of the franc at four cents instead of twenty after the War. It remained to the People's Front regime to put over this measure which reduced the position of the masses of workers and petty bourgeoisie to the point of desperation.
In its foreign policy, the People's Front regime outshone itself in enforcing strict neutrality in the Spanish Rebellion at a time when the fascist countries of Europe were aiding the fascist-monarchist rebels with all the means at their command. Had any other government been in power it would have been extremely difficult to have restrained the French workers from aiding their Spanish comrades under the circumstances. The People's Front regime proved invaluable in this respect.
The People's Front government can be only a transition regime, either to the victory of the proletariat or of fascism. (*14) However, for the proletariat to win, it is necessary for them to create an entirely new party. They have a chance to do so by breaking out in open, prolonged rebellion for the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. It is probable, however, that the masses will be unable to hurdle all the barriers placed in their way, and that neither communism nor the People's Front, but reaction, will be at the helm when the next war breaks out.
In Spain the People's Front established in 1936 rapidly crumbled in the fires of the fascist-monarchist rebellion. Under pressure of the masses, the socialist Cabellero, supported by the Stalinists, had to take the helm. The activities of these government leaders consisted not merely in defending bourgeois democracy from the attacks of the reactionaries but, above all, in preventing the masses from carrying on the revolution to the end and establishing a socialistic rule, the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.
The collapse of the Third International meant of course a collapse of the Communist Party within Russia, a collapse marked by the insistent demand for the abolition of the Dictatorship, the termination of the soviets and the institution instead of pure democracy. This latter move culminated in the new Russian Constitution. In this counterposing of pure democracy to the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, the Russians adopted in fact the arguments of the socialists. They entirely ignored the Marxist solutions to the questions whether any State could exist that was not the dictatorship of a class, whether democracy also was not a form of dictatorship, or whether the dictatorship of the proletariat could exist without democracy. Forgotten was the claim that the soviets had made possible the greatest democracy that had ever existed since the beginning of the class struggle.
We already have taken the occasion to point out that dictatorship and democracy are not necessarily antithetical, but that indeed democracy is a type of State through which the dictatorship of a class is expressed. Further, even dictatorship as a form or State may be so closely connected with a democratic mechanism that a Bonaparte and a Hitler may use the plebiscite to come into power. Just as a capitalist State may have different forms varying from open dictatorship, with or without democratic trappings, to broad democracy, and still remain the expression of capitalist class dictatorship, similarly, the working class may dictate its will through a worker's State which may also assume different forms. These may include the democratic-dictatorship of workers and peasants, the dictatorship of the workers in alliance with the poorest peasantry, or the dictatorship of a bureaucracy still following the interests of the proletariat. So long, however, as the social produce of the working class returns to that class, so long as there does not exist private ownership of the means of production, private profits, and so on, there remains a Workers State and, in that sense, a Dictatorship of the Proletariat. (*15)
We have also pointed out that a ruling class may dictate its will, not directly through members of its own class, but through members of another and even hostile class. For example, there is no question but that Germany in 1914 was a capitalist State, i.e., expressed the interests of the capitalists. Yet the capitalists themselves had little power in the government. The dictatorship of capital was expressed through the apparatus of the Junker aristocracy headed by the Kaiser. So it is today in Japan. On the other hand, in Germany after the War, capitalism was saved by the socialists, supposedly enemies of the employers and representatives of the proletarians.
This paradox may also be found where the working class rules. The proletariat can rule directly through its own open dictatorship, where the workers alone can vote (or where they have the decisive vote) and man the state apparatus-Case I; or it can rule through an alliance with other classes, such as the peasantry and other petty bourgeois elements not capable of ruling either themselves or the proletariat and who are content to allow the working class to lead in their mutual interests-Case II; or it can rule through a bureaucracy which still carries out the will of the working class-Case III. Infinite varieties and combinations of these three categories can be concretely realized.
In the first case, the direct open dictatorship of the proletariat, we have the widest development of the democracy of the workers, where the proletariat dictates its will directly and unrestrictedly through the members of its own class in power.
In the second case, we have a limitation of the democracy of the workers where they are a minority of the population in a backward country. Here the workers restrict their interests in favor of the petty bourgeoisie and peasantry, and dictate their will only through the permission of the small property holders. This mutual alliance of the workers and peasantry may take the form either of a democratic dictatorship of workers and peasants, in which these two elements crush all other sections of the population, refusing to permit them to vote or to express their interests, or it may take the form of a broad extension of democracy in which all layers of the population, generals, landlords, capitalists, and so forth, are allowed to vote, although it is the interests of the broad masses that are actually carried out for the moment. In this later event we have a popular democracy, not a democratic dictatorship.
In the third case, the workers' State or the workers' and peasants' State is expressed and carried out through the dictatorship of the bureaucracy. We can say, if we will, that the dictatorship of the proletariat is being administered by a dictatorship of the bureaucracy. But in all cases, whether the proletariat rules immediately and directly, or even indirectly, through the mediation of this or that group, so long as the forms of property created by the October Revolution are not overthrown, the proletariat remains the ruling class and the State is still a Workers State.
The Russian Revolution evolved a number of State forms. In the period from February, 1917 to October, 1917, there existed a capitalist State managed by a provisional government that ruled with the passive permission of the masses organized in soviets. The bourgeoisie dominated through the Social-Revolutionary and Menshevik Parties. The capitalist State was forced to express itself through a broad democracy.
In the second period of the Russian Revolution, from October 1917 to the autumn of 1918, the capitalist State, that is the dictatorship of the capitalist class, expressed through a broad democracy and through a dual power, gave way to a dictatorship of the proletarians who, however, for the moment limited themselves to carrying out not only their own interests but also the interests of small property holders, especially the peasantry. As Trotsky put it, "Not only up to the Brest-Litovsk Peace, but even up to autumn of 1918, the social content of the revolution was restricted to a petty-bourgeois agrarian overturn and workers' control over production. This means that the revolution in its actions had not yet passed the boundaries of bourgeois society. During this first period, soldiers' soviets ruled side by side with workers' soviets, and often elbowed them aside. Only toward the autumn of 1918, did the petty-bourgeois soldier-agrarian elemental wave recede a little to its shores, and the workers went forward with the nationalization of the means of production. Only from this time can one speak of the inception of a real dictatorship of the proletariat." (*16) Thus in the second period, we had a form of the democratic-dictatorship carried out under the leadership of the proletariat itself.
The third period of the Russian Revolution was the stage from 1918 to 1921, when the New Economic Policy was introduced. In this period there existed the outright dictatorship of the proletariat in alliance with the poor peasantry. Industry was nationalized, the kulak and the capitalist were attacked. Broad democracy no longer prevailed; the proletariat took to itself as many votes as it needed to gain full control of the State; the peasants were subordinated to the proletariat; peasant democracy was restricted, proletarian democracy expanded to the maximum. This was the period of stern civil war and war communism. The Communist Party here rose to heroic heights.
The fourth stage was ushered in with the New Economic Policy of Lenin and lasted to 1924. This period witnessed certain concessions made to capitalism and the political growth of a bureaucracy.
The fifth phase lasted from 1924 to 1933 and was marked by the gradual strangulation of the democracy of the proletariat. The rule of the workers was carried out through the uncontrolled bureaucracy. Up to then the peasants still had no equal power with the proletariat and the capitalists had not dared to raise their heads politically.
The next period, delineated by the victory of fascism in Central Europe and the destruction of the communist and revolutionary working class organizations there, witnessed great changes. The bureaucracy in pursuit of its own aims had to weaken the exclusive monopoly of the workers and to extend the democracy of the peasant property holders. Their secret aim was to form a united front of the bureaucracy and peasant against the proletariat if necessary in critical moments. The peasantry itself could not form its own party to defeat the proletariat of Russia. The bureaucracy by itself could not restore capitalism. However, if a juncture could be effected between both groups they might yet be able to dominate at decisive moments.
Thus in 1935 the vote was given to the peasants equally with the workers. Simultaneously the kulaks, now thoroughly entrenched in the collectives, were informed they also could return to vote in the soviets. The Stalinists defended their course on the ground that so secure was the socialist State of Russia and so close were they to the liquidation of all classes that they no longer had to fear the kulak, despite the danger of war and the rise of fascism outside of Russia. The further argument was made that the peasant on the collective was now a worker just like the agricultural laborer on the State farms. With these Left arguments that classes no longer existed, that there was no danger from the kulak, that democracy must be made broader, etc., the dictatorship of the proletariat was weakened by extension of democracy to alien classes, notably the peasantry. From then on, since the Soviet Union is overwhelmingly peasant, if the workers wanted to vote a socialistic policy they would have to do so with the consent of the peasantry. However, this as yet was not an insuperable difficulty since, for a long time, the peasantry had been taught to follow the proletariat, and the instrument of collaboration between the two classes was still the soviet mechanism of class war for socialism.
To make it easier for the peasantry and other alien classes to separate themselves from the influence of the proletariat, the secret ballot was introduced, and complete freedom was promised for groups to put forward their own candidates. But even this was not sufficient. It was necessary to revise the constitution and to wipe out the soviets. The end of 1936 witnessed the adoption of an entirely different constitutional set-up than before.
As a prelude to the adoption of this Constitution the Stalinist apparatus conducted a reign of terror against the old revolutionary fighters, the Bolsheviks of Lenin's day. We have already analyzed the methods by which the internationalist wing of the Comintern was destroyed. But there were large numbers of old fighters who were still closely attached to the Party. There was the old Bolshevik secret police, the OGPU, there was the Society of Old Bolsheviks who had gone through the revolution as communists, and similar bodies. It was necessary to liquidate these. The OGPU was dissolved and a new body organized in its place; the Society of Old Bolsheviks was disbanded. The old time fighters were steadily driven out from all the auxiliary organizations outside the Party itself.
Naturally, reactionary social changes also were effected. The army was gradually reorganized. Instead of short term service for the masses, instead of the rifle's being tied firmly to the shoulder of the worker, the guns were removed from the barracks of the factories, the military training of the ordinary worker decreased, the professional army rose in numbers, the old Czarist ranks were re-introduced within the army, and a large corps of officers, whose permanent career was the military one, was formed.
The Soviet coins dropped the word "For World Revolution"; Christmas trees were set up for children; the Society for Militant Atheism gave up its activist agitation. The educational system abandoned its experimental work with vast numbers of children and returned to the beaten track of bourgeois educational methods. There was even talk that the history text books were too prosaic and did not give the ancien regime sufficient credit, that these revolutionary text books must be revised.
Reactionary tendencies invaded the life of the home as well. Divorce became more difficult. The motto "sanctity of the home" was revived. The youth were "put in their place"; they were to interfere less with politics and to play a greater part in home building. Fashion styles were introduced with a great flourish, and fashion parades were held. American jazz, cosmetics, and bourgeois ideals were introduced, together with American machinery and American experts. By itself, each of these items was not important; collectively, they indicated definitely which way the wind was blowing.
On the basis of this steady trend away from the October revolution, the Stalinist apparatus resorted to open executions of the former revolutionary members of the Party. The assassination of Kirov gave the pretext for a regular Stalinist Bartholomew's Night. At first the press despatches declared that the assassination of this leader of the Communist Party was the act of a White-Guard Ring. But soon it was announced that Nicoleiev, the assassin, had been a Zinovievist in 1926, whereupon wholesale arrests were made of persons who had been active revolutionists all their lives and who had even played a glorious role in October. A hasty secret trial was given to some of the alleged conspirators; one hundred and seventeen were executed. Many of those executed had absolutely nothing to do with the particular ring that may have been involved in the killing of Kirov. Indeed, some of them, like Lazar Shatzkin, who was one of the founders of the Young Communist International, had been arrested for expressing opinions against Stalinism and were in jail long before the assassination had been planned. It was simply a case of the Stalinists' using the assassination of Kirov as a pretext to wipe out their dangerous political opponents. It was the old amalgam method.
Although Zinoviev and Kamenev were arrested immediately after the events in February, 1935, they were released on the ground, as the T.A.S.S. (Soviet Union Telegraphic Agency) despatch admitted, that they really had no connection with the affair. (*17) At this time Trotsky himself was not mentioned as being in touch with any band of terrorists within the Soviet Union, and the official indictment did not contain the names of Zinoviev and Kamenev.
In the true amalgam method made famous by Stalinism, the prosecution then alleged that Nicoleiev and his band of former Party members were in touch with the consul of a foreign country who had given the terrorists some money and had demanded that they give him a letter to Trotsky. The consul was not named, nor was any attempt made to prove that Trotsky was part of this alleged scheme. Instead, it was proved that the secret police knew of the proposed assassination before it occurred and yet had done nothing. The question was raised whether the police was not involved in the job itself, as it had been involved in the former White-Guard episode in connection with the former Left Opposition.
A year and a half later, however, the apparatus struck again and arrested the former partners of Lenin, Zinoviev, Kamenev, and others, and executed them. (*18) At the same time Trotsky was denounced as the real leader of the gang of terrorists who wanted to restore capitalism in Russia in the form of fascism and who were acting as agents of Hitler's secret police. There was no evidence given in the second trial except the confessions of those indicted and shot. However, it is absolutely impossible to believe that men who had embraced Bolshevism for thirty years could have resorted to the method of individual terror, have adopted the aim of the restoration of capitalism, and to this end have become agents of German fascism. Such conclusions are as fantastic as the charges of the Entente that Lenin was a German agent of the Kaiser, sent to destroy Russia.
It was not enough that the Left was destroyed; Bucharin, Tomsky, Rykov, and others were named as having been in the plot. Tomsky suddenly "committed suicide"; others were removed from their posts and faced indictments. It was clear that the Stalinists were aiming at the complete extermination of the Old Guard. Stalin was now fulfilling his Robespierrean role. (*19)
The reasons for these wholesale executions of old members of the Party are not hard to find. There was first the necessity of establishing the new Constitution; the reign of terror operated to crush all opposition. Second, the demands of the Franco-Soviet pact and similar alliances with world capitalism made it imperative that the firebrands be wiped out in Russia and the country made "safe for democracy." Third, there was the fact that the Spanish and French revolutionary forces were moving rapidly to the Left, adopting an internationalist point of view in which the enemies of Stalinism, such as Trotsky and even Zinoviev, became symbols of the world revolution.
The Russian leaders had to give guarantees that, if war should start, the Red Army would be entirely controlled and would not turn into a revolutionary army. It was in the imminent period of war, when the strain on the bureaucracy was the greatest, and the workers were armed and fighting for their lives, that Trotsky, Zinoviev, and similar agitators could play a most dangerous role in Russia. The wholesale executions of the world leaders of Leninism left Stalin absolutely alone. The killings signified that the heroic period of the bureaucracy was coming to a close and that the enlightened absolutism of the Stalinist variety had exhausted its internal resources. Henceforth, only two things were permissible: to glorify the Great Leader, the Beloved Chief, and to prove that every opponent of Stalinism was promoting fascism as its paid agent.
The new Constitution of the Soviet Union is the culmination of the process to destroy the Dictatorship of the Proletariat from within. It is now declared that so far has socialism advanced in the Soviet Union that there is no longer any need for soviets, but that forms of pure democracy will replace the instruments of the class struggle. These phrases are meant to cover the fact that, in effect, the Constitution enormously extends the democracy of classes alien to the proletariat and limits the power of the working class.
To the Marxist-Leninist, a "Free People's State" is an irreconcilable contradiction. Under no State can the people as a whole be free. "One can only speak of class democracy (one may remark in passing that 'pure democracy' is not only an ignorant phrase showing lack of understanding both of the struggle of classes and of the nature of the State, but also a hollow phrase, since in communist society democracy will gradually become a habit and finally wither away but never will be 'pure democracy')." (*20) If democracy be extended for the peasantry so that it can overwhelm the proletariat, then democracy is really restricted for the proletariat. Democracy must always have a class basis and a class objective.
That the new Constitution was really expressing the interests of a new class hostile to the proletariat and not a general classlessness can be seen by the provisions of the document itself. The Constitution provides for two houses to replace the former single body, the Soviet Congress. Despite the claims of pure democracy made by the Stalinists, all history shows that popular revolutions are led by single chambered bodies, and only when the people's revolution is definitely checked is the double chamber reconstituted. Furthermore, the two-house system is the inevitable expression of the class struggle between two or more classes.
In English history, we find that the two houses of the English parliament were based on estates, that is, on classes. During the course of the English Civil Wars, the rising class found it had no use for the double chamber, and so, in 1649, the Second Chamber was abolished under the pressure of the plebeian forces of the rebellion. When Cromwell had stopped the revolution from going too far, the ruling Puritan elements which Cromwell represented tried their best to reinstitute a double chamber. The most reactionary portion of Cromwell's forces pressed for the formation of a select senate to be formed entirely of appointees of the Protector. (*21)
When the English House of Lords was re-instituted after the Restoration, it was a new body which recognized the fact that the House of Commons really represented the people. Gradually the power was taken away from the Upper House. Today the House of Lords has lost most of its legislative functions, has little control of money bills, and can only delay, but not permanently thwart, the will of the House of Commons.
In the French Revolution, no sooner had the people triumphed than they abolished the two-house system introduced by the Liberal bourgeoisie, and formed a single chamber Convention which reflected the will of the masses more closely. It was argued even by petty bourgeois democrats that the two-chamber system was entirely reactionary. Only when the petty bourgeois Jacobins were put down after the Paris Commune, were the two houses restored. But even when the Second House was firmly re-established under the Third Republic, it did not have the same power as the House of Deputies which alone had the right to initiate money bills.
In the American Revolution there was formed a Continental Congress of one chamber which lasted all during the time the revolution was in progress. Only when the fighting was over and the rebellious will of the people had to be thwarted was the Constitution formulated providing for a second chamber, with division of powers of government, an arrangement which allowed the minority of wealth to control. But even in the United States, the Senate did not acquire equal power. Finance bills must originate in the House of Representatives, although the Senate may amend these bills. The Lower House controls the all-important purse strings. So well known is the conservative character of the Upper House that everywhere liberals and radicals long have been urging the abolition of the Upper House so that the Legislature as a whole can get closer to the people. "The conclusions to which these arguments lead is that the danger that the popular House will seriously misrepresent those on whom it depends for election, is not great enough to justify a Second Chamber which adds to the cumbersomeness of the Constitution." (*22)
But now the Stalinists in Russia, in the name of pure democracy and classlessness, introduce the two chambered parliamentary system with such accompaniments that it becomes less democratic than even the parliamentary system in capitalist countries. In the United States, there is now a direct election of Senators and in France an indirect election on a population basis. In Russia, the Upper House or Council of Nationalities is not elected at all but selected by the Supreme Councils of the National Republics connected with the Soviet Union. (*23) And what is equally important, this Upper House has equal power with the Lower House elected by the people. In reality, the Upper House will be more than equal in the every day workings of the State apparatus. The situation now created in Russia finds no parallel in capitalist democratic countries; the nearest comparison being the Bundesrath under the Kaiser.
The two-chambered parliamentary system now introduced in the Soviet Union makes an end to the entire soviet system. Far from being an expression of classlessness, it is a recognition that classes do exist and that certain classes are clamoring to overwhelm the proletariat. Were this not the case, why should it be necessary to change the soviet system? It would be possible to retain the soviets and yet to give everyone the vote. As Lenin declared: "As I have pointed out already, the disfranchisement of the bourgeoisie does not constitute a necessary element of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Nor did the Bolsheviks in Russia, when putting forward the demand for such a Dictatorship, long before the November revolution, say anything in advance about the disfranchisement of the exploiters. This particular element of the Dictatorship was not born according to a plan conceived by some party but grew up spontaneously in the course of the fight." (*24)
The fact of the matter is, however, that within the soviets the peasants could not be separated from the workers and united firmly with the bureaucracy. An entirely new framework of the State was necessary. The Upper House established, composed almost entirely of bureaucrats and peasants, will have the decisive voice in the selection of the Presidium that governs between meetings and in the functioning of the apparatus.
The great powers given to the Council of Nationalities and the fact that it was proposed to have it selected by the various Supreme Councils of the Republics make it necessary to look more closely into its composition. The deputies of this Upper House are apportioned not according to population but according to the formal status of the republic. Each Union Republic is entitled to ten delegates, each Autonomous Republic five, and each Autonomous Province, two. Thus the great Ukraine obtains only fifteen delegates, while little Azerbaijan has seventeen. Important White Russia gets ten, but the camel drivers of Tajikistan are entitled to twelve and Georgia is favored with twenty-two. Furthermore, to insure that the backward regions will predominate over the proletarian ones in this Upper House, three relatively unimportant regions, Kazakhistan, Kirghizistan, and Tajikistan, were raised into the dignity of full Republics so as to increase their voting power accordingly. More than that, even though Russia, White Russia, and Ukrainia have been given only one hundred thirty-two delegates out of two hundred forty-eight, (*25) the votes of these regions are so apportioned that the industrialized regions obtain only a very small percentage of the total number allotted to these republics.
Lenin had always stressed the superiority of soviets as a form of democracy for the workers and peasants. It was Stalin who had refused to break with the Pre-parliament of the Mensheviks and Social-Revolutionaries, it will be recalled. Under Lenin, the soviets were to embrace the widest strata of the toilers, initiating them into the intricacies of the State preparatory to the withering away of the State. The soviet delegates were elected frequently, and there was easy recall. Every effort was made to wipe out specialists and bureaucracy. Under the new Constitution, the Supreme Council and the Presidium elected by the Council will hold office for four years unless dissolved because both houses cannot agree. Even the lowest State organs in the villages will now retain office for two years. The Supreme Court, not elected by the people, but selected by the Supreme Council, keeps office for five years, as do the territorial courts. The People's Courts are elected by secret ballot for three years. The Prosecutor of the U.S.S.R., who appoints all other prosecutors for five-year terms, himself is appointed by the Supreme Council for seven years.
Thus the soviets have been buried formally by Stalinism. They were killed when the right to strike was taken from the unions, when the secret police drove out the internationalist wing of communists from the meetings, when the bureaucracy took uncontrolled power into its own hands. Now the corpse formally is interred. A new parliamentarism arises. Instead of Lenin's ideal of the humblest scrubwoman's taking part in the government, there is now a parliamentary regime of professionals, of political experts.
In formally destroying the soviets, Stalinism has destroyed the traditional instrument which the masses used to get into power. Now the State apparatus and elections of functionaries will have nothing to do with the stirring days of 1917. The peasants no longer will be confined by the traditions and framework of the revolution to follow the proletariat. Here we can see patently that Stalinism is prepared to show world capitalism that Russia will be safe in the coming war and that the permanent revolution will be buried once and for all. Strictly speaking, it is no longer possible for the workers to declare they must defend the Soviet Union, since the soviets themselves are now no more. And if the workers are to take back political power there will have to be raised again the slogan: "All Power to the Soviets." Just as this battle-cry meant the end of the Kerenskys and the centrists of 1917, so will it spell finis for the Stalinist bureaucracy as well.
The new Constitution marks a complete capitulation to capitalism in admitting that parliaments are more democratic than soviets. Evidently, Russia is not only Americanizing herself industrially, but aping America politically, except for this difference, that Stalinism takes on not the most progressive features of capitalist democracy but its most outworn characteristics.
We fittingly conclude by pointing out the method of amending the Constitution that Russia has now adopted. In the United States, the Constitution can be amended, if need be, by the people themselves, if conventions are held in three-quarters of the States or if two-thirds of the State Legislatures act. In Russia, under the new democratic Constitution, there is no way for the people themselves to amend the Constitution. The only way amendments can be carried is by a two-thirds vote of both houses --- and one of the houses was proposed to be not even elective!
This new Constitution marks the final great step in the preparation of the counter-revolution from within. The next step will have to coincide with the fascist and militarist attacks from without.
The collapse of the Third International and the rise of fascism have produced a unique phenomenon in the ranks of the revolutionary movement, namely, the rise and dominance of centrism. Heretofore, centrism had been a secondary development subordinate to open reformism; now it has become the principal aspect of the movement.
"Speaking formally and descriptively, Centrism is composed of all those trends within the proletariat and on its periphery which are distributed between reformism and Marxism and which most often represent various stages of' evolution from reformism to Marxism --- and vice-versa. Both Marxism and reformism have a solid social support underlying them. Marxism expresses the historical interests of the proletariat. Reformism speaks for the privileged position of proletarian bureaucracy and aristocracy within the capitalist State. Centrism, as we have known it in the past, did not have and could not have an independent social foundation. Different layers of the proletariat develop in the revolutionary direction in different ways and at different times. In periods of prolonged industrial uplift or in the periods of political ebb-tide, after defeats, different layers of the proletariat shift politically from left to right, clashing with other layers who are just beginning to evolve to the Left. Different groups are delayed on separate stages of their evolution; they find their temporary leaders and they create their programs and organizations. Small wonder then that such a diversity of trends is embraced in the comprehension of 'Centrism'! Depending upon their origin, their social composition, and the direction of their evolution, different groupings may be engaged in the most savage warfare with one another, without losing thereby their character of being a variety of Centrism" (*26)
The victory of fascism had made reform impossible. Those workers' organizations such as the Socialist Parties which had been based on reform were now smashed to pieces. The Second International was broken up. Some groups capitulated to fascism, adopting a theory that the new social order would come through fascism; others began to fight against fascism and for the restoration of their old reforms. Had there been a great revolutionary movement based upon the unskilled masses of the industrialized world, these former bribed workers and skilled sections would have followed it. But in the absence of such a movement to carry them in its wake, all that the Socialist Parties of reformist workers could do was to mouth militant phrases against fascism and to talk of the necessity of fighting physically against the fascist menace. Thus these Socialist Parties, especially after the Austrian events of 1934, began to drop their ideas of the peaceful and gradual transformation of capitalism into socialism and to advocate militant struggle. Such Parties began to take on the appearance of being revolutionary and could be designated as socialist-centrist groups.
At the same time, with the degeneration of the Third International, the communists also moved from Marxism and came closer to the socialists, forming another variety of centrism. The basis of the communist centrism was the peculiar equilibrium in which the Workers' State of the Soviet Union had to compromise with the capitalist world, leading to the situation whereby a bureaucracy of several million, trained in communism and traditionally bound to the revolution, was yet adopting nationalist and reformist measures. So long as this situation could endure, so long could the centrism of the Third International have a stable basis and plenty of funds for support. Thus both from the Right side and from the Left, centrism became the dominant characteristic of the movement.
Naturally, efforts were now made for the fusion of these groups into one body. Some of the Socialist Parties formally broke from the Second International and joined the modern variety of the Vienna Union, known as the London Bureau; others retained their formal affiliation to the Socialist International although also affiliating to this Bureau. Some communist groups which had broken from the Third International also adhered to this Bureau, as did certain Trotskyist elements who were in favor of the Fourth International.
Thus, within the London Bureau and without, there were efforts made to coalesce forces. Some advocated the unity of the Second and Third Internationals; others urged the fusion of the Socialist and Communist Parties within certain countries, still others wanted all the groups to come together into a new International which in effect would be but another Vienna Union on a larger scale; a fourth opinion insisted all must join the London Bureau, nor was there any lack of adherents for a policy of all joining the Second International to reform it, or of all becoming members of the Third.
Only a small internationalist group denounced both socialists and communists of the Third International as bankrupt and demanded the formation of a Fourth International, completely breaking from the old ones, with especially sharp struggles against every variety of centrism.
The characteristics of centrism have been well summed up as follows:
"(a) In the sphere of theory, centrism is imprecise and eclectic. It shelters itself as much as possible from obligations in the matter of theory and is inclined (in words) to give preference to 'revolutionary practice' over theory; without understanding that only Marxist theory can give to practice a revolutionary direction.
"(b) In the sphere of ideology, centrism leads a parasitic existence: against revolutionary Marxists it repeats the old Menshevik arguments (those of Martov, Axelrod, and Plekanhov) generally without re-valuing them: on the other hand it borrows its principal arguments against the 'rights' from the Marxists, that is, above all, from the Bolshevik-Leninists, suppressing, however, the point of the criticisms, subtracting the practical conclusions and so robbing criticism of all object. "(c) Centrism voluntarily proclaims its hostility to reformism but it is silent about centrism: more than that it thinks the very idea of centrism ‘obscure,' 'arbitrary,' etc.: in other words centrism dislikes being called centrism.
"(d) The centrist never sure of his position and his methods, regards with detestation the revolutionary principle: state that which is; he inclines to substituting, in the place of political principles, personal combinations and petty organizational diplomacy.
"(e) The centrist always remains in spiritual dependence upon right groupings, is induced to court the goodwill of the most moderate, to keep silent about their opportunist faults and to regild their actions before the workers.
(f) It is not a rare thing for the centrist to hide his own hybrid nature by calling out about the dangers of 'sectarianism'; but by sectarianism he understands not a passivity of abstract propaganda (as is the way with the Bordiguists) but the anxious care for principle, the clarity of position, political consistency, definiteness in organization.
"(g) Between the opportunist and the Marxists, the centrist occupies a position which is, up to a certain point, analogous to that occupied by the petty bourgeoisie between the capitalist and the proletariat; he courts the approbation of the first and despises the second.
"(h) On the international field, the centrist distinguishes himself, if not by his blindness, at least by his shortsightedness. He does not understand that one cannot build in the present period a national revolutionary party save as part of an international party; in the choice of his international allies the centrist is even less particular than in his own country.
"(i) The centrist sees as outstanding in the policy of the C.I. (Communist International) only the 'ultra left' deviation; the adventurism, the putchism, and is in absolute ignorance of the opportunist right zig-zags. (Kuomintang, Anglo-Russian Committee, pacifist foreign policy, anti-fascist bloc, etc.)
"(j) The centrist swears by the policy of the united front as he empties it of its revolutionary content and transforms it from a tactical method into a highest principle.
"(k) The centrist gladly appeals to pathetic moral lessons to hide his ideological emptiness, but he does not understand that revolutionary morals can rest only on the ground of revolutionary doctrine and revolutionary policy.
"(1) Under the pressure of circumstances, the eclectic centrist is capable of accepting even extreme conclusions but only to repudiate them later in deed. Recognizing the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, he leaves plenty of room for opportunist interpreters: proclaiming the need for a fourth international, he works for the creation of the two-and-a-half international." (*27)
The Left Opposition to the centrists had come principally from the Trotskyists. Ever since 1928, when he had been exiled and then deported to Turkey, Trotsky had made efforts to organize his forces internationally. However, even Trotsky and the groups mobilized by him proved inadequate to withstand the strain, and ultimately capitulated to centrism.
Although sharply critical of Stalinist methods, Trotsky made no effort to build his international grouping upon the principal of democratic centralism. While he denounced Stalin's refusal to call international congresses, Trotsky himself repeatedly rejected the demand for an international congress of those adhering to the Left Opposition, wherein a collective program and responsibility could be worked out. The adherents of Trotsky followed his innumerable essays and articles, but they could work out little for themselves. If ever there was a one-man movement, it was the Left Opposition built up by Trotsky after 1928.
In this way, the Left Opposition never was prepared to stand the strain of serious struggle. It could be negative and critical, but could do very little constructive work. It could rally to itself Jewish students from various countries, but could not build up an international proletarian movement. Wherever strong groups did rally to Trotsky's point of view, sooner or later they were bound to break organizational relations with him; repeatedly Trotsky had to denounce those with whom he had worked the closest as "intriguants," "disloyal phrasemongers," etc. In short, when it came to questions of organization, Trotsky showed clearly he was no Lenin.
Unable to stand on its own feet, the Left Opposition soon collapsed. Under the direct guidance of Trotsky, the Left Opposition groups entered the Socialist Parties. In France, this was done with the argument that the Left Opposition group was so weak and small that it could not do independent work. In the United States, the group was told that the Socialist Party was shaky and vacillating, while the Trotskyists were mature and strong and could easily capture the organization for their point of view. In either case, the conclusion was the same, liquidation of an independent press, forms of organization, leadership, and policy, and entrance into the Socialist Parties. The only factor that could have possibly changed the correlation of forces within the labor movement and built a new international, gave up the ghost.
To promote his new policy, Trotsky declared that the French situation was exceptional and that it was not impossible for the French Socialist Party to have a new Tours Congress. Thus he apparently believed that the Socialist Party suddenly could be reformed and become genuinely communist. To understand how much of a utopian conception this amounted to, we may pause to compare 1934 with the days when the Third International was formed. Under Lenin, it took five years for the Comintern to be organized, although aided by the experiences of war and revolution. Even then, most of the socialists could not qualify for the Communist International, and those that did sooner or later fell back to centrism.
But, in 1934, both objective and subjective conditions made it much harder to change Socialist Parties into genuine revolutionary organizations. There was neither war nor revolution, but fascism; there was neither a Lenin nor a great revolutionary Communist Party anywhere. Besides, the history of the movement itself must not be forgotten. The formation of the Comintern and the mutual struggles between the Socialist and the Communist Parties under Lenin periodically had eradicated the best revolutionary elements from the Socialist Parties. All that remained of the Socialist organization in many countries was a petty bourgeois shell. If workers followed the Socialist Party it was not in order to obtain socialism, but rather to secure social reform. To imagine that now the Socialist Parties could be conquered for revolutionary struggle was sheer idealism.
Afterwards, when it became plain that the French Socialist Party was as hopeless as a revolutionary force as any other socialist group, the Trotskyists implied that they had entered the Socialist Party in order to get close to the masses and later to be able to split with a large number of followers, instead of remaining the small sect that they were. They failed to realize that, if they followed a correct policy, revolutionary events in France would soon enough give them a proletarian audience. The Trotskyists did not want to believe that their entrance into the Socialist Party was really a short cut by which they were trying to dodge the hard and arduous tasks of revolutionary mass work and that, precisely because they had done little mass work, they would be totally unable to win over the best working class elements, either in or around the Socialist Party. All that the Trotskyists could do was further to cover up the policies of the reformists with their own phrases.
It is true that Lenin had urged the British communists to join the Labour Party, but that was precisely because the Labour Party was no real party at the time, but an integrated series of united fronts on the planks of its platform. Moreover, the Communist Party was to retain its independence. But the Trotskyists joined the socialists without the right to publish their own paper and to present their views to the workers. If they do present their policies, they must at the same time work to build up the Socialist Party, the majority of whose members are actively working against the realization of those policies.
In short, it is not enough to advocate abstractly correct ideas, but the organizational means must also be found to move the workers in the right direction. But the Trotskyist minority has placed itself within the discipline and framework of the Socialist Party to which they must repeatedly pledge their loyalty, thereby making it impossible for them to undertake any independent action or to help the workers along a revolutionary path.
Thus, in France, the Trotskyists simply aided the cause of Leon Blum. In Belgium they became part of a Socialist Party in office, giving loyal service to the King. Everywhere they gave up the opportunity to act in a revolutionary manner in the light of the great events now stirring Western Europe.
The collapse of Trotsky's International Secretariat marked the end of the last grouping of importance that could have ended the centrist deformation of the revolutionary movement. Looked at objectively, this collapse meant that a whole generation of communists had either been killed or had burnt itself out. It meant also that within Europe there was now no force able to prevent fascism and world war. The work would now have to be passed on to a new generation working in other countries.
From a broad historical viewpoint it may be stated that, even though the communist revolutionary movement temporarily has resulted only in centrism, this is a great advance from the stage before the War. Then, in spite of Marxist teachings, all that the working class could reach was the limited level of the skilled workers and the ideas of the reformist Second International. At least the working class of the world has now arrived at the plane of centrism. In the further development of the twentieth century, when the colonial peoples also rise to their full stature and when the unskilled workers in the industrial countries begin to take the leadership and swing the skilled workers behind them, the working class then will be able to move from centrism to genuine communism.
If the degeneration of all the forces of communism that showed such promise after the Russian Revolution is now proving that Europe is in the process of being burned out as a great historic factor leading the world, this only means that the proletariat of America will be called upon to take the lead. We do not agree with those European communists of recent date who believe that because Europe is passing up her leading role in world history, the end of the world has come and we must revert to barbarism. (*28)
On the contrary, the set-back of proletarian communism is only another illustration of the law of the uneven development of capitalism, and an indication that the proletarian revolution must operate, not as a process of a day, but as an action covering a generation or more, and that the course of the struggle is not in a straight line, but in a zig-zag direction which, however, is always approaching nearer to ultimate victory.
1. D. Z. Manuilsky: The Work of the Seventh Congress, p. 19.
2. See the same, p. 15.
3. The same, p. 23.
4. Report of speech of Koehler, Daily Worker, August 13, 1935.
5. Speech of Wan Min, reported Daily Worker, August 10, 1935.
6. Recent newspaper accounts seem to indicate that again the Communist Party of China is willing to join hands with Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomintang.
7. In Spain the Communist Party of Catalonia has fused with the Socialist Party.
8. Speech of Vaillant-Couturier given in L'Humanite, April 13, 1935.
9. Speech of M. Thorez of May 17, 1935, given in L'Humanite of May 34, 1935.
10. Compare S. Z. Manuilsky: The Work of the Seventh Congress, p. 27.
11. See L’Humanite of November 12, 1935.
12. Speech of M. Duclos given in L'Humanite, May 11, 1936.
13. Speech of M. Thorez: "L’Humaniti, May II, 1936.
14. A similar conclusion prevails for the People's Front government in Spain.
15. See introduction.
16. L. D. Trotsky: The Soviet Union and the Fourth International, pamphlet, pp. 9-10.
17. Compare L. D. Trotsky: The Kirov Assassination, p. 7.
18. According to the New York Times' full report of October 21, 1936, they were dragged through the toilet or wash house and killed under most shocking conditions.
19. Apparently another "trial" will soon be held involving Radek and others.
20. V. I. Lenin: The Proletarian Revolution and Kautsky the Renegade, p. 23. Compare also K. Marx: The Gotha Program on this point.
21. See J. A. R. Marriott: Second Chambers (first edition), p. 40.
22. H. B. Lees-Smith: Second Chambers in Theory and Practice, p. 44.
23. We learn, as this book goes to press, that this provision has been changed. Under pressure of the masses, Stalinism has graciously consented to have the Upper House also elected.
24. V. I. Lenin: work cited, p. 58.
25. Before the war the upper houses of England, France and Germany had more delegates singly than the one proposed for Russia, although the population of the latter country is greater than all the other three combined.
26. L. D. Trotsky: What Next? pp. 117-118.
27. Leon Trotsky: "Two Articles on Centrism," Class Struggle, Vol. IV, No. 8, pp. 9-10 (August 1934).
28. We refer to such as John Strachey who can write: "The essential use, then, of Marx's economic discoveries is to enable us to see the alternatives which face us. And these alternatives are, as he himself expressed it, barbarism or communism." (See J. Strachey: The Nature of Capitalist Crisis, p. 389.)
Marx never placed such alternatives before the workers, but constantly maintained that the victory of the proletariat was inevitable, or to put it another way, that the increasing contradictions of Capitalism and the growing burdens upon the people would compel the proletariat sooner or later to overthrow their masters and unleash the productive forces which now stifle humanity.