Saturday, March 05, 2011

*From The Pages Of The Communist International-In Honor Of The 92nd Anniversary Of Its Founding (March 1919) And The 91st Anniversary Of The Historic Second World Congress (1920)-John Reed And The American Negro Question In The National And Colonial Commission

Honor The 92nd Anniversary Of The Founding Of The Communist International (March, 1919)- Honor The 91st Anniversary Of The Historic Second World Congress (The 21 Conditions Congress) Of The CI (July-August 1920)

Markin comment:

Some anniversaries, like those marking the publication of a book, play or poem, are worthy of remembrance every five, ten, or twenty-five years. Other more world historic events like the remembrance of the Paris Commune of 1871, the Bolshevik Russian Revolution of 1917, and, as here, the founding of the Communist International (also known as the Third International, Comintern, and CI) in 1919 are worthy of yearly attention. Why is that so in the case of the long departed (1943, by Stalin fiat) and, at the end unlamented, Comintern? That is what this year’s remembrance, through CI documentation and other commentary, will attempt to impart on those leftist militants who are serious about studying the lessons of our revolutionary, our communist revolutionary past.

No question that the old injunction of Marx and Engels as early as the Communist Manifesto that the workers of the world needed to unite would have been hollow, and reduced to hortatory holiday speechifying (there was enough of that, as it was) without an organization expression. And they, Marx and Engels, fitfully made their efforts with the all-encompassing pan-working class First International. Later the less all encompassing but still party of the whole class-oriented socialist Second International made important, if limited, contributions to fulfilling that slogan before the advent of world imperialism left its outlook wanting, very wanting.

The Third International thus was created, as mentioned in one of the commentaries in this series, to pick up the fallen banner of international socialism after the betrayals of the Second International. More importantly, it was the first international organization that took upon itself in its early, heroic revolutionary days, at least, the strategic question of how to make, and win, a revolution in the age of world imperialism. The Trotsky-led effort of creating a Fourth International in the 1930s, somewhat stillborn as it turned out to be, nevertheless based itself, correctly, on those early days of the Comintern. So in some of the specific details of the posts in this year’s series, highlighting the 90th anniversary of the Third World Congress this is “just” history, but right underneath, and not far underneath at that, are rich lessons for us to ponder today.
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Markin comment on this post:

As noted in my commentary on the Manifesto of the Second World Congress of the Communist International (1920), reposted below since it also applies to these theses, such documents give the political movement it is addressed to its marching order. In a general sense, at least. These theses codify those general propositions outlined in the manifesto. Note here that this Second Congress took place as the international working class movement was going through a regroupment process right after World War I between the reformist socialists, the emerging communist vanguard, and the bewildered anarchists. Note also the difference in approaches to the more hardened reformist-led socialist parties, and to the ill-formed but more revolutionary-spirited anarchist formations, especially the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, Wobblies) here in America in their good days.


A manifesto, particularly a political manifesto, and especially a revolutionary communist manifesto like the one that issued out of the historic Second World Congress of the Communist International in 1920 should give a cogent analysis of the world political situation. It should also describe the nature of the period (revolutionary, non-revolutionary, heading toward or away from either, an estimation of the enemy’s capacities, and the obstacles in the way both inside and outside the workers movement (out side the treachery of the liberals and inside the perfidy of the labor bureaucracy resting on the labor bureaucracy). In short, give the international proletariat its marching orders. The Manifesto of the Second World Congress does just those things at a time when the fledgling Communist International was trying to consolidate its vanguard position in the world working class movement. The Communist International then, and for some time after, did yeoman’s work in that regard, not always perfectly but from a revolutionary perspective. Even as it degenerated politically toward the middle and late 1920s there were, as the Leon Trotsky-led International Left Opposition held, reasons, good reasons to adhere to its tenets. Only with the debacle around Hitler’s coming to power in Germany did Trotsky throw in the towel. That seemed right then, and now. I would argue that the Seventh (and last) World Congress in 1935 unquestionably put paid to that notion. We did not need a vanguard national party, or a vanguard revolutionary international party for that matter, to give the lead in the political struggle to the liberal bourgeoisie as the popular frontist politics of the CI proclaimed from that time onward (with a few “left” turns). There was an international for that “strategy”, or rather a mail-drop address, it was (is) called the Second International.
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Reed: In America there live ten million Negroes who are concentrated mainly in the South. In recent years however many thousands of them have moved to the North. The Negroes in the North are employed in industry while in the South the majority are farm labourers or small farmers. The position of the Negroes is terrible, particularly in the Southern states. Paragraph 16 of the Constitution of the United States grants the Negroes full civil rights. Nevertheless most Southern states deny the Negroes these rights. In other states, where by law the Negroes possess the right to vote, they are killed if they dare to exercise this right.

Negroes are not allowed to travel in the same railway carriages as whites, visit the same saloons and restaurants, or live in the same districts. There exist special, and worse, schools for Negroes and similarly special churches. This separation of the Negroes is called the ‘Jim Crow system’, and the clergy in the Southern churches preach about paradise on the ‘Jim Crow system’. Negroes are used as unskilled workers in industry. Until recently they were excluded from most of the unions that belong to the American Federation of Labour. The IWW of course organised the Negroes, the old Socialist Party however undertook no serious attempt to organise them. In some states the Negroes were not accepted into the party at all, in others they were separated off into special sections, and in general the party statutes banned the use of Party resources for propaganda among Negroes.

In the South the Negro has no rights at all and does not even enjoy the protection of the law. Usually one can kill Negroes without being punished. One terrible white institution is the lynching of Negroes. This happens in the following manner., The Negro is covered with oil and strung up on a telegraph pole. The whole of the town, men, women and children, run up to watch the show and take home a piece of the clothing or the skin of the Negro they have tortured to death ‘as a souvenir’.

I have too little time to explain the historical background to the Negro question in the United States. The descendants of the slave population, who were liberated during the Civil War, when politically and economically they were still completely underdeveloped, were later given full political rights in order to unleash a bitter class struggle in the South which was intended to hold up Southern capitalism until the capitalists in the North were able to bring together all the country’s resources into their own. possession.

Until recently the Negroes did not show any aggressive class consciousness at all. The first awakening of the Negroes took place after the Spanish-American War, in which the black troops had fought with extraordinary courage and from which they returned with the feeling that as men they were equal to the white troops. Until then the only movement that existed among the Negroes was a semi-philanthropic educational association led by Booker T. Washington and supported by the white capitalists. This movement found its expression in the organisation of schools in which the Negroes were brought up to be good servants of industry. As intellectual nourishment they were presented with the good advice to resign themselves to the fate of an oppressed people. During the Spanish War an aggressive reform movement arose among the Negroes which demanded social and political equality with the whites. With the beginning of the European war half a million Negroes who had joined the US Army were sent to France, where they were billeted with French troop detachments and suddenly made the discovery that they were treated as equals socially and in every other respect. The American General Staff approached the French High Command and asked them to forbid Negroes to visit places used by whites and to treat them as second-class people. After the war the Negroes, many of whom had received medals for bravery from the English and French governments, returned to their Southern villages where they were subjected to lynch law because they dared to wear their uniforms and their decorations on the street.

At the same time a strong movement arose among the Negroes who had stayed behind. Thousands of them moved to the North, began to work in the war industries and came into contact with the surging current of the labour movement. High as they were, their wage rates trailed behind the incredible increases in the prices of the most important necessities. Moreover the Negroes were outraged by the way all their strength was sucked out and the terrible exertions demanded by the work much more than were the white workers who had grown used to the terrible exploitation in the course of many years.

The Negroes went on strike alongside the white workers and quickly joined the industrial proletariat. They proved very ready to accept revolutionary propaganda. At that time the newspaper Messenger was founded, published by a young Negro, the socialist Randolf, and pursuing revolutionary propagandist aims. This paper united socialist propaganda with an appeal to the racial consciousness of the Negroes and with the call to organise self-defence against the brutal attacks of the whites. At the same time the paper insisted on the closest links with the white workers, regardless of the fact that the latter often took part in Negro-baiting, and emphasised that the enmity between the white and black races was supported by the capitalists in their own interests.

The return of the army from the front threw many millions of white workers on to the labour market all at once. The result was unemployment, and the demobilised soldiers’ impatience took such threatening proportions that the employers were forced to tell the soldiers that their jobs had been taken by Negroes in order thus to incite the whites to massacre the Negroes. The first of these outbreaks took place in Washington, where civil servants from the administration returning from the war found their jobs occupied by Negroes. The civil servants were in the main Southerners. They organised a night attack on the Negro district in order to terrorise the Negroes into giving up their jobs. To everybody’s amazement the Negroes came on to the streets fully armed. A fight developed and the Negroes fought so well that for every dead Negro there were three dead whites. Another revolt which lasted several days and left many dead on both sides broke out a few months later in Chicago. Later still a massacre took place in Omaha. In all these fights the Negroes showed for the first time in history that they are armed and splendidly organised and are not at all afraid of the whites. The results of the Negroes’ resistance were first of all a belated intervention by the government and secondly the acceptance of Negroes into the unions of the American Federation of Labour.

Racial consciousness grew among the Negroes themselves. At present there is among the Negroes a section which preaches the armed uprising of the Negroes against the whites. The Negroes who returned home from the war have set up associations everywhere for self-defence and to fight against the white supporters of lynch law. The circulation of the Messenger is growing constantly. At present it sells 180,000 copies monthly. At the same time, socialist ideas have taken root and are spreading rapidly among the Negroes employed in industry.

If we consider the Negroes as an enslaved and oppressed people, then they pose us with two tasks: on the one hand a strong racial movement and on the other a strong proletarian workers’ movement, whose class consciousness is quickly growing. The Negroes do not pose the demand of national independence. A movement that aims for a separate national existence, like for instance the ‘back to Africa’ movement that could be observed a few years ago, is never successful among the Negroes. They hold themselves above all to be Americans, they feel at home in the United States. That simplifies the tasks of the communists considerably.

The only correct policy for the American Communists towards the Negroes is to regard them above all as workers. The agricultural workers and the small farmers of the South pose, despite the backwardness of the Negroes, the same tasks as those we have in respect to the white rural proletariat. Communist propaganda can be carried out among the Negroes who are employed as industrial workers in the North. In both parts of the country we must strive to organise Negroes in the same unions as the whites. This is the best and quickest way to root out racial prejudice and awaken class solidarity.

The Communists must not stand aloof from the Negro movement which demands their social and political equality and at the moment, at a time of the rapid growth of racial consciousness, is spreading rapidly among Negroes. The Communists must use this movement to expose the lie of bourgeois equality and emphasise the necessity of the social revolution which will not only liberate all workers from servitude but is also the only way to free the enslaved Negro people.

Fraina: The last speaker talked about the Negroes as an oppressed people in the United States. We have at the same time two other kinds of oppressed people: the foreign workers and the colonial inhabitants. The terrible suppression of strikes and of the revolutionary movement in general is in no way a result of the war, it is much more a more forceful political expression of the earlier attitude towards the unorganised and unskilled workers. These workers’ strikes are suppressed violently. Why? Because these workers are in the main foreigners (they form 60 per cent of the industrial proletariat), who are in fact in the same position as a colonial population. After the Civil War (1861-1865) capitalism developed at a great pace. The West, which had been underdeveloped until then, was opened up by the construction of the overland railways. The investment capital for this development came from Europe and the Eastern states. The immigrants however were the human raw material who were developed by imperialist violence in exactly the same way as the inhabitants of backward colonial countries. The concentration and monopolisation of industry, all these typical preconditions of internal imperialism, grew up before the United States could develop its foreign imperialism. The terror that the colonial population had to face was no different from the terror that workers had to face who migrated to the United States. Thus in 1912 the coal miners in Ludlow went on strike. The miners were driven out of their homes with the help of soldiers and quartered in huts. One day, while the men were fighting the army some miles away, a troop of soldiers surrounded the huts and set light to them, and hundreds of women and children perished in the flames. Under these conditions the class struggle in the United States often becomes a racial struggle. And just as a Negro revolt can be the signal fir a bourgeois counter-revolution, and does not represent a proletarian revolution, so too the same thing can happen in a revolt of the immigrant workers. The great task is to unite these movements among the Americans into a revolutionary movement.

The whole of Latin America must be regarded as a colony of the United States, and not only its present colonies such as the Philippines etc. Central America is under the complete control of the United States through her forces of occupation. The same control is however also exercised in Mexico and South America, where it has a two-fold expression: first of all through economic and financial penetration, which has increased since the expropriation of German business in these countries, and secondly through the application of the Monroe Doctrine, [Proclaimed in 1823 by President Monroe, the Doctrine pledged opposition to colonisation of the Americas by European powers. Used in late 19th and 20th centuries to establish US imperialist domination over Central and Southern America.] which has changed from being originally the defence of America against the monarchist system into being the tool of the hegemony and the strengthening of United States imperialism over Latin America. A year before the war President Wilson interpreted the Monroe Doctrine in such a way that it became a way for the American government to prevent British capitalists from obtaining new sources of oil in Mexico. In other words – Latin America is the colonial basis of imperialism in the United States. While the economic circumstances of the countries of the rest of the world become shakier and shakier, United States imperialism strengthens its position by throwing itself into the exploitation and development of Latin America. It is absolutely necessary to fight against this imperialism by starting revolutionary movements in Latin America, just as it is necessary to proceed against British imperialism by setting up revolutionary movements in its colonies.

The movement in the United States did not previously pay any attention to the movement in Latin America. As a result the latter reached back to Spain for its ideology instead of to the United States. The movement in Latin America must free itself from this backwardness as well as from its syndicalist prejudices. The American Federation of Labour [Bureaucratised trade union federation led by Samuel Gompers, described by Trotsky as ‘that old watchdog of capitalism’. In the period after the First World War its leadership campaigned against nationalisation and supported the victimisation and witch-hunting of militant unionists in the IWW and other left organisations.] and the reactionary Socialist Party strive to build all-American organisations, but not for revolutionary purposes.

The Communist movement in the United States in particular and the Communist International in general must intervene actively in the movement in Latin America. The movement in the United States and in Latin America must be regarded as one single movement. Our strategy and tactics must start from the standpoint of an American revolution involving the whole of America. The fundamental task of the Communist International, the realisation of which alone will secure the world revolution, is the annihilation of United States imperialism; and its annihilation will only be made possible by a giant revolutionary movement embracing the whole of America, where every national unit subordinates itself to the common problems of the American revolution.

Radek: At every Congress of the Second International numerous protests were raised against the brutality of imperialist governments in colonial countries. Even now the colonial question is discussed endlessly at Conferences of the Second International, and we see how Huysmans, Henderson and Company dish out independence left and right to different nations, even when they do not even demand it. If it was simply a question of trumpeting protests about imperialist policies out into the world and ‘recognising’ the independence of colonial peoples, our task would be a very simple one. But in the area of the practical struggle in the colonial countries we are setting foot in completely new territory. Here it is not simply a question of sketching the foundations of communist policies, of sucking them out of our fingers, but of developing them out of a study of concrete colonial conditions. It is a question of taking practical steps to support the struggle in the colonies. Comrade Lenin quotes a statement by Comrade Quelch who declared in the colonial commission that if an uprising were to break out in India the jingoist press would succeed in influencing a section of the British workers into sacrificing themselves to suppress the uprising. If all that Quelch is pointing out is that there is among British workers a strong imperialist current, then that is a matter of fact. But if this fact is supposed to lead our English comrades to a passive posture towards a colonial revolt, and to saying that, because of this mood, they can do no more than pass protest resolutions, then one could say that the Communist International will first of all have to teach its members the ABC of politics. If British workers, instead of opposing bourgeois prejudices, support British imperialism or tolerate it passively, then they are working for the suppression of every revolutionary movement in Britain itself.

It is impossible for the British proletariat to liberate itself from the yoke that capitalism has laid upon it without stepping into the breach for the colonial revolutionary movement. When the time comes for the British workers to rise against their own capitalist class, they will face a – situation in which Britain can, at the best, cover 30 per cent of her food needs out of her own production. They will face a situation in which American capitalism will try to blockade proletarian Britain. For even if the American capitalists’ ships will not be able to cut off the food supplies of proletarian Europe for any length of time, since the Americans must sell, it is none the less very possible that the British capitalists will be in a position for a year or two to buy up American wheat in order to stop it going to Britain. In this situation the fate of the British revolution will depend on whether the peasants and workers of Ireland, India, Egypt, etc. are accustomed to seeing the servants of the British imperialists in the British working class. The Labour Conference at Scarborough passed an important resolution in which it demanded the independence of India and Egypt. Not a single Communist stood up to tell the Conference that the MacDonalds support the British bourgeoisie fooling British workers when they talk about the independence of India, Ireland and Egypt. It is simple hypocrisy and swindling that these same people, who could not even rise to the level of characterising General Dwyer as a common murderer in Parliament on the occasion of the Amritsar bloodbath, pretend to be the defenders of colonial independence. We greatly regret that our party comrades who are in the Labour Party did not tear the mask off these swindlers’ faces. The International will not judge the British comrades by the articles that they write in the Call [The Call was the paper of the British Socialist Party. The Workers’ Dreadnought was the paper of Sylvia Pankhurst’s ultra-left group, the Workers’ Socialist Federation.] and the Workers Dreadnought, but by the number of comrades who are thrown into gaol for agitating in the colonial countries. We would point out to the British comrades that it is their duty to help the Irish movement with all their strength, that it is their duty to agitate among the British troops, that it is their duty to use all their resources to block the policy that the British transport and railway unions are at present pursuing of permitting troop transports to be shipped to Ireland. It is very easy at the moment to speak out in Britain against intervention in Russia, since even the bourgeois left is against it. It is harder for the British comrades to take up the cause of Irish independence and of anti-militarist activity. We have a right to demand this difficult work of the British comrades.

We will have more to say on this question and on the question of parliamentarism, but it is important here today to show the British comrades from the shop stewards movement who want to support the Communist movement how childishly they are behaving, how they are throwing away an opportunity to fight, if they do not participate in parliament. The peasants of India have no way of knowing that our shop stewards are fighting against their oppression. But if someone, without making a long speech, was to call things by their right name in parliament, quite certainly he would be thrown out by the Speaker of the House, and Reuters would tell the world that a traitor had been found in the British parliament who had called a murderer – a murderer. British capital, based on a strong bourgeoisie, cannot be overthrown only in London, Sheffield, Glasgow and Manchester, it must also be beaten in the colonies. They are its Achilles heel, and it is the duty of the British Communists to go to the colonies and to fight at the head of the rising masses of the people and to support them. We scarcely know of a single case in the old International where a Social Democratic Party made itself the champion of the liberation of the colonial peoples. When the Hereros were being driven in their thousands into the desert, the German Socialists abstained from voting because they declared that they did not know the causes of the revolt and had no opinion on the matter. It is the duty of the Communist International to create an atmosphere in which it is not possible to take part in the Congress here without proving that one has helped the revolt in the colonies practically. This is one of the biggest and most important life-or-death questions for the Communist International. just as in every country we must try to win for our struggle those petty-bourgeois elements who are driven in the direction of the working class, the Communist International must be a beacon to light the way to the rebellious peoples in Asia and Africa. The Communist International must beat world capitalism not only through the popular masses of Europe but also those of the colonies. Capitalism will draw not only economic but also military support from the colonial peoples. The social revolution in Europe will have black troops to deal with yet. The duty of the Communist International is to proceed to deeds. The Russian Soviet Republic has taken this path, and if in Britain our painstaking work in the East, our conscious agitation for the formation of soviet organisations in Turkestan and in the Caucasus, and stretching out the first feelers to Persia and Turkey, are thought to be things that the Soviet Republic does in order to make difficulties for the British, then that is a misunderstanding of the foreign policy of the Soviet government. It is part of the programme of the Communist International, it is Soviet Russia fulfilling her duties as part of the Communist International. We do not regard the agitation in the East as a makeshift expedient in the fight against European capitalism, we regard it as a struggle we have a duty to carry out in the lasting interests of the European proletariat. This assistance does not consist in building artificial Communist Parties where there is no basis for them. It happens when we help these people. Comrade Lenin has pointed out that there is no theoretical necessity for every nationality to pass through the stage of capitalism. All the people who today are capitalists have not come to capitalism through the stage of manufacture. japan passed straight from feudal conditions to the culture of imperialism. If the proletarian masses in Germany, France and Britain succeed in winning socialism, then we will go to the colonial peoples not only with the most modern means that capitalism has left us, but also with the production methods that socialism will create. We will help them to find a direct path from feudal barbarism to a form of production where they can apply the resources of modern technology without having to go through the stages of craft production and manufacture. We stand at the beginning of a new epoch. European capitalism fears the awakening of the oriental peoples; it talks about the ‘yellow peril’, and one can say that as long as capitalism exists there will be a yellow peril. The proletarianised peasants of China or Turkey, who are being skinned alive, will have to emigrate to seek work, will have to defend themselves in great mass migrations. But communism has no yellow peril to fear, it can reach out its hand to all oppressed peoples, for it brings them not exploitation but fraternal aid.

Rosmer: I move the closure of the list of speakers.

Wijnkoop: I do not think that the list can be closed now. The matter is important, at least for the future. The debate has not even started. Perhaps there will be no debate.

Serrati: I note that another twelve speakers have put their names forward. Perhaps Comrade Wijnkoop is right. I can see that the debate is taking a direction in which we are encountering a series of separate questions. What we have to do here is deal with the questions in general. I think we should adjourn the question until tomorrow and close the list of speakers in the sense that we ask the individual comrades to consider the question in general and not go into details.

Guilbeaux: I suggest that we close the session now but not the list of speakers. The question is very important and it is absolutely necessary for all the representatives of the colonial peoples to report to the Congress. The time available for each speaker could be cut, but the comrades should not be prevented from speaking.

Maring: I would like to insist that Comrade Serrati’s motion should not be accepted. It would not be good if the representatives of the colonies were not given an opportunity to say a few short words on the movement. Comrade Serrati himself knows that not one of the Italians was represented at the Commission today. It is very surprising that he should make such a proposal.

Radek: I am opposed to the proposal from the Presidium. I understand that those present are orientated on the question. But in the discussion you cannot start from the standpoint that one or the other person is acquainted with things. It is the political significance of the colonial question that we are concerned with here. We have a political interest in the fact that workers will read the minutes of the Congress and see that the representatives of the oppressed colonial peoples spoke here and took part in our discussions. It is impossible to set up general rules of communist tactics for everybody, but even a simple worker can contribute a lot to the depiction of conditions in his own country. It is a question of everybody saying what he knows, and the more concretely he speaks the better. I see that the representatives from Ireland want to speak. It is very important for British imperialism to see that there are elements there that are allied to us and want to fight with us.

I do not want anybody to think that suggested we should not have a discussion. Most of all I must state that I did not make my proposal either in the name of the Bureau or in the name of the Italian delegation. We have already spent ten minutes here talking about the question of the blacks in Chicago. We cannot split the question up into its smallest parts, we must summarise it in very clear and very concrete speeches. I would not like anybody to think that I am opposed to the representatives of the backward countries, as they are called in Comrade Lenin’s Theses, speaking. If I have proposed the closure of the list of speakers, then it is because all the representatives of the backward countries – China, Persia, Korea, japan and Turkey – have already been entered. If there are still more comrades from backward countries who put their names forward we will have the histories of all the different nationalities in the world to listen to here. I propose, however, that we close the session and wait and see whether we close the list or keep it open.

Wijnkoop: I propose that we vote on Comrade Serrati’s motion. We will see in the next session how we are to proceed.

Serrati: I withdraw my motion.

Rosmer: The discussion will be continued tomorrow morning in the full session. There will be a further full session the day after tomorrow at 10.00 a.m.

*From The Pages Of The Communist International-In Honor Of The 92nd Anniversary Of Its Founding (March 1919) And The 90th Anniversary Of The Third World Congress (1921)-Leon Trotsky's Summary Speech Delivered Following the Report and Discussion at the Second Congress of the Communist Youth International

Honor The 92nd Anniversary Of The Founding Of The Communist International March, 1919)- Honor The 90th Anniversary Of The Historic Third World Congress Of The CI (1921)

Markin comment:

Some anniversaries, like those marking the publication of a book, play or poem, are worthy of remembrance every five, ten, or twenty-five years. Other more world historic events like the remembrance of the Paris Commune of 1871, the Bolshevik Russian Revolution of 1917, and, as here, the founding of the Communist International (also known as the Third International, Comintern, and CI) in 1919 are worthy of yearly attention. Why is that so in the case of the long departed (1943, by Stalin fiat) and, at the end unlamented, Comintern? That is what this year’s remembrance, through CI documentation and other commentary, will attempt to impart on those leftist militants who are serious about studying the lessons of our revolutionary, our communist revolutionary past.

No question that the old injunction of Marx and Engels as early as the Communist Manifesto that the workers of the world needed to unite would have been hollow, and reduced to hortatory holiday speechifying (there was enough of that, as it was) without an organization expression. And they, Marx and Engels, fitfully made their efforts with the all-encompassing pan-working class First International. Later the less all encompassing but still party of the whole class-oriented socialist Second International made important, if limited, contributions to fulfilling that slogan before the advent of world imperialism left its outlook wanting, very wanting.

The Third International thus was created, as mentioned in one of the commentaries in this series, to pick up the fallen banner of international socialism after the betrayals of the Second International. More importantly, it was the first international organization that took upon itself in its early, heroic revolutionary days, at least, the strategic question of how to make, and win, a revolution in the age of world imperialism. The Trotsky-led effort of creating a Fourth International in the 1930s, somewhat stillborn as it turned out to be, nevertheless based itself, correctly, on those early days of the Comintern. So in some of the specific details of the posts in this year’s series, highlighting the 90th anniversary of the Third World Congress this is “just” history, but right underneath, and not far underneath at that, are rich lessons for us to ponder today.
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Leon Trotsky
The First Five Years of the Communist International
Volume 1
Summary Speech
Delivered Following the Report and Discussion at the Second Congress of the Communist Youth International

THE SEVEREST reproaches were leveled at the Third Congress by the Italian comrades. These reproaches were directed mainly against the Congress resolution on the Italian Socialist Party. Comrades Tranquilli and Polano [1] proceed from the assumption that this resolution muddles up the situation in Italy, that it will introduce confusion into the minds of Italian workers, without yielding any practical results in the future. In the opinion of Comrade Tranquilli, one can expect nothing from the Italian Socialist Party since not only its leaders – who are pacifists and reformists – but also the masses who follow these leaders are not revolutionary. I think that this approach to the Italian Socialist Party is false to the core. This party, hitherto united, has split, as you know, into three wings: the reformists who number about 14,000; the “unity” wing who number approximately 100,000; and the Communists – some 50,000. Comrade Tranquilli says that approximately 40,000 members dropped out of the Socialist Party and that it now counts in its ranks not more than 60,000 members, one-half of whom are members of municipal councils. I don’t know just how exact these figures are; the last figure seems to me a little dubious.

I ask myself: Why has this party sent its delegation to Moscow? Its leaders are opportunists; the masses who follow it – likewise. True the party used to belong to the Communist International. But last September it took a reformist position. The ECCI has ruled that in Italy the Communist Party alone constitutes a section of the Third International. Thus the Socialist Party had itself expelled from the ranks of the Comintern. Serrati and his friends did not doubt that the Third Congress would uphold the decision of the ECCI, and yet they did send delegates to this Congress. To this it ought to be added that the reformists now play in the administration of the Socialist Party an even more important role than they did prior to the split. The reformist leaders, Turati and Treves [2], are acquiring a strong influence over the Socialist Party. They enter into negotiations with Giolitti. In this period the Socialist Party has undergone a clear evolution to the right. Its parliamentary fraction becomes even more reformist than it was prior to the last elections. Turati, the genuine leader and inspirer of the party, begins baiting the Communist International with gibes and calumny.

How then to explain the fact that the representatives of this party appear in Moscow? The explanation offered by our young Italian comrades does not satisfy me. If the non-party masses regard the Communist International with such enthusiasm as to propel even Socialists to Moscow, then why don’t these masses join the Communist International? I can’t understand such supercircuitous politics on the part of the Italian workers. I believe that you are mistaken. The Italian working class is revolutionary, but its non-party masses are not sufficiently clear in their thinking, and it is precisely for this reason that they do not join the Communist Party. For this selfsame reason they do not exert sufficiently powerful pressure on the Socialist Party. The distance between Rome and Moscow is very great. And if the party leaders want to demonstrate that they are for Moscow; if they deem it necessary to lavish praise on Moscow, where, incidentally, they were not accorded a very warm reception; if they do all this, as you say, in order to deceive the masses, then it only goes to prove that the masses themselves have compelled these leaders to engage in such hypocrisy. Not the masses who are with the Communist Party, nor the non-party masses, but the rank-and-file members of the Socialist Party itself. You cite statistical data and you say that among 100,000 members of this party there are only 60,000 toilers, of whom some 30,000 are members of municipal councils or employes and so on. If this last figure is not exaggerated, one would have to admit that these employees who are shoving Lazzari and Maffi [3] to Moscow are not of the worst sort, and that we ought to try to attract them to us.

An assertion has been frequently repeated here to the effect that the doors have been left open to the Italian Socialist Party. Obviously the impression is that the doors are left wide open for anyone to enter. In reality the situation is somewhat more complex. We have stipulated that for two or three months the doors remain closed, and then the Italian Socialist Party must convene a party congress and discuss a number of questions publicly. First of all it must expel the reformists from its ranks. You may ask: Which ones? This is self-evident. Those who do not avow themselves as Communists, those who arranged the conference in Reggio-Emilia. This condition is quite specific. You know better than I do how great the influence of Turati and Treves is in the Italian Socialist Party. If our resolution compels the centrist and pacifist elements in the party to dissociate themselves from Turati and Treves, it would mean the complete capitulation of the party as a whole. The centrist elements have demonstrated that they lack any kind of policy. They can only be led by the nose – either by the Communists or by the reformists. Their most characteristic trait is their lack of character. And this is especially characteristic of Italy, where the revolutionary movement is very spontaneous in nature.

When parties who have been expelled from the Third International come to us and say: We wish to return to you; we reply: If you are prepared to accept our platform and to drive political saboteurs out of your midst, we shall not refuse to admit you. Does this really frighten you, Comrades? Cite an instance, tell me of a different method whereby we can attract workers who still follow these leaders. You say that we ought to wait until the next action when the Socialist Party will expose itself by its periodic treachery, and then the masses will come over to us. You presuppose, therefore, that the Italian party is incapable of drawing any lessons from experience. There is no need of waiting for the next treachery in order to get rid of these creatures. We created the International precisely in order to safeguard the Italian proletariat against a new September ordeal, against new disillusions and new sacrifices. This, Comrades, is precisely the meaning of the resolution of the Third Congress of the Comintern. We must expand the basis of our actions, of our activities.

Comrade Schueller [4] said that we need only dynamic actions, that only through them will we conquer the masses. He said that the masses have created the apparatus of revolution. This is correct, but in Italy there have been plenty of actions; all the recent years in Italy have been filled with political strikes, with uprisings in cities, villages and in the army, etc. The entire country seethed with rebellion. But it is not enough to interminably repeat the words “dynamic action.” It is necessary to utilize these actions in laying the foundation of the revolutionary organization, in selecting the most resolute elements. It is necessary to center all efforts on the work of preparation. Which is precisely what was not done. There were actions, but there was no preparation for actions. This is what the comrades refuse to understand.

Comrade Polano said that it is necessary to break completely with reformist parties. But it was you, Comrade Polano, who told us that out of 100,000 members of the Socialist Party only 60,000 remained. Picture to yourself the fact that these 40,000, on dropping out of their party, did not join your party. The split that has occurred in the party has put them in a skeptical frame of mind, they are watching and waiting. And those who remained in the party have delegated Lazzari, Maffi and Riboldi [5] to go to Moscow. If we were now to say to them: We want no dealings with you; what impression, in your opinion, would this make upon the former party members, upon these 40,000 who have become skeptics? They inform us of their desire to join the International, but we tell them: No, we want no dealings with you. Will this facilitate your task of conquering the working masses for the Communist International? In no case! This would only reinforce the conservatism of the working masses and those selfsame members of municipal councils would form a bloc against you, against Moscow; because to refuse admittance into the International to those workers who wish to join is to deal them the cruelest insult. It is characteristic of a worker, in general, and of the Italian Socialist Party, in particular, that a worker always cherishes confidence in the organization which has awakened and educated him. This organizational conservatism has its positive as well as its negative side. If we repel a worker from us, we thereby strengthen the negative side of his organizational conservatism. No, by such a policy you will never gain the majority of the Italian proletariat. Never! Here you speak in the spirit of sectarianism and not in the spirit of revolution.

The same Comrade Schueller also said: Before us are theses on tactics; we accept them as disciplined soldiers of the proletarian army, but they were likewise accepted by Lazzari and Serrati and considerable satisfaction will be derived from them even by Levi. But Comrades, what does this prove? We cannot reject these or other theses simply because they happen to please such and such an individual. If the theses are good, it remains for us only to congratulate ourselves that they were also adopted by Lazzari. And if they are bad, then it is first of all necessary to bring proof of that. Comrade Schueller said that we need actions, but if you read the theses over, you will become convinced that they express this same idea with a clarity of thought nowise inferior to Comrade Schueller’s, even though he has expressed himself admirably. But Comrade Schueller is wrong in one thing. What we lacked was not actions, but the preparation of action.

I repeat, why are you so alarmed over the fact that Lazzari and Smeral [6] find our theses excellent? One of two things is possible: either Smeral has actually drawn closer to us, or he is a hypocrite. I don’t believe in the latter supposition; I think that he is acting sincerely. But let us grant for a moment that he did approve our theses out of hypocrisy; if such were the case, why would he do it? Because he assumes that the masses who follow him are gravitating toward Moscow. As a matter of fact, let us suppose that Smeral is as much of a Machiavelli as Serrati – I can’t say this of Lazzari, but in Serrati, why, there is a real Machiavelli for you – and so let us suppose that these Machiavellis say: Up to now we have reiterated that the Third International was making big mistakes, but now we must admit that it is acting correctly. What does this signify? This signifies that the masses who follow them are now for us. This signifies that they no longer have any arguments against us, that they can no longer hinder their masses from streaming into our ranks. You say that we have stripped them of all their weapons. Perhaps, but they themselves remain. Serrati remains. Smeral is coming to us. And don’t we remain ourselves in the International, too? If Smeral demonstrates that he does not abide by the tactics of the Third International, we shall scarcely be scared of breaking with him after we have broken with the centrist and reformist parties. I cannot for the life of me understand what you are afraid of.

Laporte: [7] Since Smeral agrees with the theses, it follows that the theses are no good.

Trotsky: Dear Comrade Laporte, this is precisely what you must first prove. You must prove that the tactics proposed by us are incorrect.

Laporte: I would prove it if I were granted the time.

Trotsky: I would gladly listen to you on this question. But if it is really true that we, i.e., the entire Communist Party, have advanced theses which are permeated with the spirit of opportunism, with the spirit of Smeral, then in that case it is impermissible to speak of our having left the doors open for Smeral and Serrati. After all, Smeral and Serrati will not be alone, they will be together with all of us. And if we are bad Communists, it means that our whole Communist family is bad and that there is no need of being afraid of these two.

A voice from the floor: The theses are not clear enough.

Trotsky: It would of course be much simpler to throw all the vacillating elements out of the window and say: We shall remain a little sect, but by way of compensation we shall be absolutely pure. On the one hand, you always insist on revolutionary actions; but on the other hand, you want the party to consist of chemically pure elements only. These demands are contradictory. Because revolutionary actions are impossible without masses, but the masses do not consist solely of absolutely pure elements. This is beyond dispute. The masses are yearning for revolutionary action, but they have not yet lost faith in Smeral. Whether they are right or wrong is something else again, but the fact is they still continue to trust Smeral. We are consequently faced with the following alternative: either to reject Smeral together with the masses, or to accept him together with the masses. And since Smeral accepts the theses of the Third Congress, I assume, Comrade Laporte, that the mistake in this dispute is being made not by Smeral but by you. You are not striving to expand your base. Tactics cannot be unilateral, they must allow for maneuver, in order to attract the masses. It is a very complex task. But you say: No, I shall remain with my own family, the masses are not pure enough for me; I shall wait until the masses dribble into our party in little homeopathic doses.

Insofar as I am able to understand your tendency you are yearning for a more dynamic policy. If we were living in an organic epoch of slow and gradual development, I might perhaps agree that your tactic corresponds to the character of the epoch. But in our time, when the greatest events are taking place, the masses become educated through these events. And we must adjust ourselves to the situation, because a moment may arrive in Italy, perhaps on the morrow, when the Communist Party will be bound to act as a mass party. Serrati and Lazzari who have broken with the reformists will not have any personal or party influence and they will enter the Communist Party together with the masses that have compelled them to come to us. And should they then display anti-Communist tendencies, you would be able to throw them out of the party.

It seems to me that, this exhausts all the objections which have been made here by certain comrades. No, they have accepted our theses not only as disciplined soldiers of the proletarian army, they have also accepted them out of inner conviction. This applies especially to the Italian comrades. The latest events in Rome demonstrate that the Italian proletariat is not completely disillusioned, that it still has revolutionary élan. On such foundations one can permit himself a bolder tactic, a tactic which does not flinch from embracing ever greater masses of workers. Furthermore, you ought not to forget, Comrades, that the Italian party is not isolated, that there exists the ECCI which takes into consideration the experiences of all parties. If some Socialist group which has entered your party becomes a menace to you, even if you turn out to be in a minority Рwhich incidentally is absolutely excluded Рyou could always appeal to the ECCI.

As regards the developments in Italy in the immediate future, I think that while our tactics in respect to the Socialist Party will not bring it completely into our ranks, they will nevertheless not remain unfruitful but will provoke a split. One thing is certain, namely: Within the Italian Socialist Party, the Left Wing will inescapably crystallize and demand the expulsion of the reformists. The Right Wing of the party will raise objections to this and as a result there will be a split in the party. You may say that the elements which split from the Socialist Party will not be pure enough for us. But in that case we could once again take up in the ECCI the question of admitting them into the Third International. You insist that between you and them there is nothing in common. But we would never have been a Communist Party if we had counted only on those workers who individually wanted to follow us. No, by such methods you will never attract the majority of the working class in Italy. The ECCI will help you to conquer a large faction of the Italian Socialist Party. We thus shall perhaps have in our ranks also some members of municipal councils. But they will only prove useful to you since, upon conquering power, you will need them in organizing food supplies, and so on. I hope that a few months from now I shall be able to congratulate you for having acquired several tens of thousands of workers and several hundred good municipal councilors.


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Notes
1. Polano – leader of the Italian YCL; member of the Executive Committee of the Youth Communist International. Polano and Tranquilli represented the youth at the Third Congress.

2. Treves – an Italian reformist who played an important role in the split of the Italian Socialist Party. Colleague of Turati.

3. Maffi – prominent Italian Socialist, delegate of the Italian Socialist Party to the Third World Congress. After that Congress, Maffi returned to Italy and advocated unconditional acceptance of the CI’s decisions.

4. Schueller – one of the leaders of the German YCL who worked in that period in the Executive Committee of the Communist Youth International as its secretary.

5. Riboldi – leader of the Left Wing of the Italian Socialist Party who was one of its three delegates to the Third World Congress. Like Maffi, Riboldi became a staunch advocate of entry into the Communist International.

6. Smeral – leader of the Czechoslovak Communist Party. An old participant in the labor movement. Congenital Right Winger. Under the pressure of the Czech workers, Smeral joined the Communist Party together with the Left Wing of the Czech Social Democracy. Smeral even in Lenin’s day (1920-23) did not hesitate to avow his opportunist tendencies. He received full scope for his proclivities when Stalin usurped power.

7. Laporte – leader of the French YCL who criticized the policies of the Comintern from the “left” in that period. Laporte like most of the youth leaders at the time suffered from the disease of leftism.

*From The Pages Of The Communist International-In Honor Of The 92nd Anniversary Of Its Founding (March 1919) And The 91st Anniversary Of The Historic Second World Congress (1920)-Lenin's Theses On The National And Colonial Question

*From The Pages Of The Communist International-In Honor Of The 92nd Anniversary Of Its Founding (March 1919) And The 91st Anniversary Of The Historic Second World Congress (1920)-

Honor The 92nd Anniversary Of The Founding Of The Communist International (March, 1919)- Honor The 91st Anniversary Of The Historic Second World Congress (The 21 Conditions Congress) Of The CI (July-August 1920)

Markin comment:

Some anniversaries, like those marking the publication of a book, play or poem, are worthy of remembrance every five, ten, or twenty-five years. Other more world historic events like the remembrance of the Paris Commune of 1871, the Bolshevik Russian Revolution of 1917, and, as here, the founding of the Communist International (also known as the Third International, Comintern, and CI) in 1919 are worthy of yearly attention. Why is that so in the case of the long departed (1943, by Stalin fiat) and, at the end unlamented, Comintern? That is what this year’s remembrance, through CI documentation and other commentary, will attempt to impart on those leftist militants who are serious about studying the lessons of our revolutionary, our communist revolutionary past.

No question that the old injunction of Marx and Engels as early as the Communist Manifesto that the workers of the world needed to unite would have been hollow, and reduced to hortatory holiday speechifying (there was enough of that, as it was) without an organization expression. And they, Marx and Engels, fitfully made their efforts with the all-encompassing pan-working class First International. Later the less all encompassing but still party of the whole class-oriented socialist Second International made important, if limited, contributions to fulfilling that slogan before the advent of world imperialism left its outlook wanting, very wanting.

The Third International thus was created, as mentioned in one of the commentaries in this series, to pick up the fallen banner of international socialism after the betrayals of the Second International. More importantly, it was the first international organization that took upon itself in its early, heroic revolutionary days, at least, the strategic question of how to make, and win, a revolution in the age of world imperialism. The Trotsky-led effort of creating a Fourth International in the 1930s, somewhat stillborn as it turned out to be, nevertheless based itself, correctly, on those early days of the Comintern. So in some of the specific details of the posts in this year’s series, highlighting the 90th anniversary of the Third World Congress this is “just” history, but right underneath, and not far underneath at that, are rich lessons for us to ponder today.
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Markin comment on this post:

As noted in my commentary on the Manifesto of the Second World Congress of the Communist International (1920), reposted below since it also applies to these theses, such documents give the political movement it is addressed to its marching order. In a general sense, at least. These theses codify those general propositions outlined in the manifesto. Note here that this Second Congress took place as the international working class movement was going through a regroupment process right after World War I between the reformist socialists, the emerging communist vanguard, and the bewildered anarchists. Note also the difference in approaches to the more hardened reformist-led socialist parties, and to the ill-formed but more revolutionary-spirited anarchist formations, especially the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, Wobblies) here in America in their good days.


A manifesto, particularly a political manifesto, and especially a revolutionary communist manifesto like the one that issued out of the historic Second World Congress of the Communist International in 1920 should give a cogent analysis of the world political situation. It should also describe the nature of the period (revolutionary, non-revolutionary, heading toward or away from either, an estimation of the enemy’s capacities, and the obstacles in the way both inside and outside the workers movement (out side the treachery of the liberals and inside the perfidy of the labor bureaucracy resting on the labor bureaucracy). In short, give the international proletariat its marching orders. The Manifesto of the Second World Congress does just those things at a time when the fledgling Communist International was trying to consolidate its vanguard position in the world working class movement. The Communist International then, and for some time after, did yeoman’s work in that regard, not always perfectly but from a revolutionary perspective. Even as it degenerated politically toward the middle and late 1920s there were, as the Leon Trotsky-led International Left Opposition held, reasons, good reasons to adhere to its tenets. Only with the debacle around Hitler’s coming to power in Germany did Trotsky throw in the towel. That seemed right then, and now. I would argue that the Seventh (and last) World Congress in 1935 unquestionably put paid to that notion. We did not need a vanguard national party, or a vanguard revolutionary international party for that matter, to give the lead in the political struggle to the liberal bourgeoisie as the popular frontist politics of the CI proclaimed from that time onward (with a few “left” turns). There was an international for that “strategy”, or rather a mail-drop address, it was (is) called the Second International.
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Minutes of the Second Congress of the Communist International

Fourth Session
July 25


Zinoviev: I declare the session open. Would all the delegates hand in the written reports on the situation in their parties as soon as possible. Up until now we have only received three reports, and we call on you to make the material available to us over the next two or three days.

Since the last full session several Commissions have been at work, but they have not yet finished. The Commission that was concerned with the National and Colonial Question has made the most progress and is in a position to give a report. We propose to the Congress that the National and Colonial Question should be discussed today. Is nobody against? That seems to me to be the case. We will therefore proceed with the discussion. Comrade Lenin has the floor as reporter.

Lenin: Comrades, I shall only give a short introduction and then Comrade Maring, the secretary of our Commission, will give an exact report on the changes that have been made in the Theses. After that Comrade Roy, who formulated the Supplementary Theses, will have the floor. Our Commission adopted both the former and the latter unanimously. You will see from the Theses that we have taken unanimous decisions on the most important questions, and I should like now just to make a few short remarks.

What is the most important, the fundamental idea of our Theses? It is the difference between the oppressed and the oppressor nations. We emphasise this difference – in contrast to the Second International and bourgeois democracy. It is especially important for the proletariat and the Communist International during the epoch of imperialism to establish concrete economic facts and to approach all colonial and national questions not from the abstract but from the concrete point of view.

Imperialism is characterised by the fact that the whole world is now divided into a large number of oppressed nations and a very small number of oppressor nations that are enormously rich and strong in the military sense. The enormous mass, more than 1,000 million, most probably 1,250 million, and thus if we estimate the population of the world at 1,750 million some 70 per cent of the world population belong to the oppressed nations which are either in direct colonial dependence, or appear as semi-colonial states like, for example, Persia, Turkey and China, or which, defeated by a great imperialist army, have fallen into marked dependency after the peace treaties. This idea of the difference between nations, their division into the oppressed and the oppressors runs through all the Theses, not only the first ones that I signed and which have already been printed, but also through Comrade Roy’s Theses. These were written predominantly from the point of view of India and the other great Asian peoples who are oppressed by Britain, and are thus particularly important for us.

The second main idea of our Theses is that, in the current world situation, after the imperialist war, the mutual relations between states, the world system of states, is determined by the struggle of the smaller number of imperialist nations against the Soviet movement and the Soviet powers with Soviet Russia at their head. If we overlook this question, we cannot pose correctly a single national or colonial question even in the most distant part of the world. It is only from this standpoint that the political questions of the Communist Parties, not only in the civilised but also in the backward countries, can be posed and answered correctly. Thirdly, I would like to emphasise the question of the bourgeois-democratic movement in the backward countries. This was the point that gave rise to some differences of opinion. We debated whether it is correct in principle and theoretically to declare that the Communist International and the Communist Parties have a duty to support the bourgeois-democratic movements in the backward countries, and the outcome of this discussion was that we came to the unanimous decision to talk not about the ‘bourgeois-democratic’ movement but only about the national-revolutionary movement. There can be no doubt of the fact that any nationalist movement can only be a bourgeois-democratic movement, because the great mass of the population of the backward countries consists of the peasantry, which is the representative of bourgeois capitalist relations. It would be utopian to think that proletarian parties, insofar as it is at all possible for them to arise in these countries, will be able to carry out Communist tactics and Communist policies in the backward countries without having a definite relationship with the peasant movement, without supporting it in deeds. But objections were raised that, if we say ‘bourgeois-democratic’, we lose the distinction between the reformist and revolutionary movement which has become quite clear in the backward countries and the colonies recently, simply because the imperialist bourgeoisie has done everything in its power to create a reformist movement among the oppressed peoples too. A certain understanding has emerged between the bourgeoisie of the exploiting countries and that of the colonies, so that very often, even perhaps in most cases, the bourgeoisie of the oppressed countries, although they also support national movements, nevertheless fight against all revolutionary movements and revolutionary classes with a certain degree of agreement with the imperialist bourgeoisie, that is to say together with it. This was completely proven in the Commission, and we believed that the only correct thing would be to take this difference into consideration and to replace the words ‘bourgeois-democratic’ almost everywhere with the expression ‘national-revolutionary’. The point about this is that as communists we will only support the bourgeois freedom movements in the colonial countries if these movements are really revolutionary and if their representatives are not opposed to us training and organising the peasantry in a revolutionary way. If that is no good, then the communists there also have a duty to fight against the reformist bourgeoisie, to which the heroes of the Second International also belong. There are already reformist parties in the colonial countries, and on occasion their representatives call themselves Social Democrats or Socialists. This distinction is now made in all the Theses, and I think that our point of view is thus formulated much more precisely.

The next comment I wish to make is about peasants’ councils. The practical work of the Russian Communists in the former Tsarist colonies, in backward countries such as Turkestan and others, has posed the question of how communist tactics and policies are to be applied to pre-capitalist conditions. The most important characteristic of these countries is that pre-capitalist conditions still prevail there, and therefore there can be no question of a purely proletarian movement there. Nevertheless we have taken over the leading role in them and must take it over. Our experience has shown us that the difficulties there are truly enormous, but the practical results of our work have also shown that despite these difficulties it is possible to awaken independent political thinking and independent political activity even where there is almost no proletariat at all. This activity was more difficult for us than for the comrades in Western European countries as the proletariat in Russia is overburdened with tasks of state.

Obviously the peasants, who live under conditions of semi-feudal dependency, can grasp the idea of soviets and also carry out practical work in this field. It is also clear that the exploited masses, who are exploited not only by merchant capital but also by the feudalists and the state on a feudal basis, can apply this weapon, this type of organisation, under these conditions too. The idea of soviet organisation is simple and can be applied not only under proletarian conditions but also under feudal and semi-feudal peasant conditions. Our experiences in this area are not yet very extensive. But the discussions in the Commission, at which several representatives of the colonial countries were present, proved to us quite decisively that in the Theses of the Communist International we must take up the question that peasants’ councils, the councils of the exploited, are not only appropriate for capitalist countries but are also suitable for pre-capitalist conditions, and that it is the unconditional duty of the Communist Parties and those elements that are prepared to build Communist Parties to propagate peasants’ councils, the councils of the toilers, everywhere, including the backward countries and the colonies, and to make the practical attempt to set up councils of the labouring people immediately wherever conditions permit it.

This opens up for us a very interesting and important field of activity. Our general experiences are not yet particularly extensive, but we will collect more and more material, and there can be no doubt that the proletariat in the advanced countries can and must help the backward labouring masses, and that the development of the backward countries would change its present level as soon as the victorious proletariat of the Soviet Republics can reach out a hand to these masses and give them help.

There was a somewhat lively discussion on this question in the Commission, not only in connection with the Theses I have signed, but even more with those of Comrade Roy, which he will defend here and in which a few amendments were unanimously made.

The question was this: can we accept as correct the idea that the capitalist development of the economy is necessary for those backward peoples who are now liberating themselves and among whom now, following the war, progressive movements have developed? We have come to the conclusion that we have to deny it. If the victorious revolutionary proletariat organises systematic propaganda, and the Soviet Government come to its assistance with every means at its disposal, it is incorrect to assume that the capitalist stage of development is necessary for such peoples. We must not only build cadres and parties in all colonies and backward countries, we must not only immediately propagate peasants’ councils and try to make soviet organisations fit pre-capitalist conditions, but theoretically the Communist International must also declare and explain that with the help of the proletariat of the advanced countries the backward countries can arrive at soviet organisation and, through a series of stages, and even avoiding the capitalist system, can arrive at Communism.

What means will be necessary for this we cannot say in advance. Practical experience will tell. But it is established that the idea of soviets is accessible to all the labouring masses, even among the most isolated peoples, that these organisations must be adapted to pre-capitalist conditions, and that the work of the Communist Parties all over the world in this direction must begin immediately.

The last remark I would like to make here is about the role of the revolutionary work of the Communist Parties not only in their own countries but also in the colonial countries, and particularly among the troops used by the exploiting nations to hold down the colonial peoples.

Comrade Quelch of the BSP spoke about this in our Commission. He said that the ordinary British worker would regard it as treachery if he was to help the dependent peoples to rebel against English domination. It is correct that the jingoist and chauvinist mood of the labour aristocracy in England and America forms the greatest danger for communism and the greatest support for the Second International, and is the greatest treachery on the part of the leaders and workers who belong to such a bourgeois international. There was talk about the colonial question in the Second International also. The Basle manifesto spoke very clearly about it. The parties of the Second International promised to act in a revolutionary manner. But in the parties of the Second International there was no question of doing real revolutionary work to help the exploited and dependent nations in their revolt against the oppressing nations, nor even, I think, in most of the parties that have left the Second International and seek entry into the Communist International. We must say this openly, it cannot be refuted. We shall see whether the attempt will be made to refute it.

Because of these considerations we arrived at resolutions that were, without doubt, too long. But I think that they will nevertheless be useful and contribute to encouraging and organising really revolutionary work on the national and colonial question, and that is our main task.

Zinoviev: The secretary of the Commission, Comrade Maring, now has the floor.

Maring: Comrades, I am giving the report on the work of the Commission on the National and Colonial Question. The Commission checked over Comrade Lenin’s Theses and also Comrade Roy’s supplementary Theses. The following amendments and additions to Comrade Lenin’s theses were accepted:

The end of Thesis I to read ‘abolition of the classes’ instead of ‘annihilation’.

In the first sentence of the 3rd Thesis you can read: ‘The imperialist war of 1914 has shown all nations and all oppressed classes in the whole world with particular clarity, etc. [Reads the text of the Thesis] This sentence has been changed as follows: [reads it out].

The 4th Thesis (German Edition p. 52, 3rd line from the bottom) is to read ‘and labouring masses of every nation and country’.

5th Thesis (p. 52 line 16) strike out ‘masses around itself’ and add ‘and is to mass the oppressed peoples around itself. The same Thesis (line 20): ‘That there is no salvation for them outside of their connection with the revolutionary proletariat and the victory of Soviet power.'

6th Thesis, 10th line from the top: Instead of ‘the bourgeois-democratic liberation movement’ read ‘the revolutionary liberation movement’. In line 11 of this Thesis the words ‘workers and peasants’ are deleted.

In the 8th Thesis, 5th line from the top, for ‘without any basis’ read ‘on the basis.'

9th Thesis lines 7 to 11 are to read ‘to which the bourgeois democrats limit themselves, however much they call themselves “socialist”.'

Line 13 after the word ‘prejudices’ add in brackets ‘which appear in all possible forms, such as racial hatred, nationalist propaganda, anti-semitism’.

11th Thesis paragraph I should read ‘all Communist Parties must’ etc.

Paragraph 2 should read: ‘A struggle must necessarily be carried out against the reactionary and medieval influence of the clergy, the Christian missions, and similar elements.'

Paragraph 3 should read ‘a fight is necessary against Panslavism, and the Panasiatic movement, and similar currents.'

In paragraph 4 add after the words ‘to give’, ‘if possible to organise the peasants and all the victims of exploitation in Soviets.'

In paragraph 5, lines 2, 6 and 17 the words ‘bourgeois-democratic’ are to be changed to ‘revolutionary’.

Paragraph 6 line 5 should read ‘the imperialist powers with the help of the privileged classes’.

In Thesis 12 delete the whole sentence from ‘on the other hand’ to ‘appear’.

Comrade Roy’s Theses were thoroughly checked by the Commission and accepted in full, as Comrade Roy will inform the Congress. I think it is possible to introduce all these amendments into the Theses straight away.
********
Supplementary Theses On The National And Colonial Question
1. One of the most important questions that faces the Second Congress of the Communist International is to establish exactly the mutual relations between the Communist International and the revolutionary movement in the politically oppressed countries dominated by their own capitalist system, like India and China. The history of the world revolution is living through a period which requires a correct conception of this mutual relationship. The great European war and its consequences have shown clearly that the masses of people in the oppressed non-European countries have, as a result of the centralisation of world capitalism, been indissolubly bound up with the proletarian movement in Europe, which found an expression during the war for example in the sending of colonial troops and numerous masses of workers to the front.

2. European capitalism draws its strength in the main not so much from the industrial countries of Europe as from its colonial possessions. Its existence depends on control of extensive colonial markets and a broad field of opportunities for exploitation. England, the bulwark of imperialism, has already suffered from overproduction for a century. Without the extensive colonial possessions that are essential for the sale of her goods and at the same time form the source of her raw materials, the capitalist order in England would long since have collapsed under its own weight. At the same time that British imperialism makes hundreds of millions of the inhabitants of Asia and Africa into slaves, it also keeps the British proletariat under the domination of the bourgeoisie.

3. The super-profits made in the colonies form one of the main sources of the resources of contemporary capitalism. The European working class will only succeed in overthrowing the capitalist order once this source has finally been stopped up. The capitalist countries try, not indeed without success, to restore their shaky position by extensive and intensive exploitation of human labour and the natural wealth of the colonies. As a result of the exploitation of the colonial population European imperialism is in a position to grant the labour aristocracy in Europe a whole range of concessions. While on the one hand European imperialism tries to force down the absolute minimum level necessary to keep the proletariat alive by the import of goods produced by the cheaper labour power of the workers of the colonial countries, it is on the other hand prepared to sacrifice the increased profits it could make in the home country in order to receive the super-profits it can obtain by exploitation in the colonies.

4. The loss of the colonies and the proletarian revolution in the mother countries will bring the downfall of the capitalist order in Europe. In consequence the Communist International must extend its field of activity. The Communist International must enter into much closer connection with the revolutionary forces that are at present participating in the overthrow of imperialism in the politically and economically oppressed countries. The collaboration of these two forces is necessary for the complete success of the world revolution.

5. The Communist International is the concentrated will of the world proletariat. Its task is the organisation of the working class of the whole world for the overthrow of the capitalist order and for the spread of communism. The Communist International is a warlike unity that must unite the revolutionary forces of every country in the world. The Second International, permeated through and through with bourgeois culture and led by a handful of political dilettantes, underestimated the whole importance of the colonial question. The world outside simply did not exist as far as they were concerned. They did not recognise the necessity of the collaboration of the revolutionary movement in Europe and the other parts of the world. Instead of supporting the revolutionary movement in the colonies both materially and morally, the members of the Second International themselves became imperialists.

6. The foreign imperialism violently forced upon the peoples of the East has without doubt hindered their social and economic development and robbed them of the opportunity of reaching the same level of development as has been achieved in Europe and America. Thanks to the imperialist policies whose efforts are directed towards holding up industrial development in the colonies, the native proletariat has only come into existence fairly recently. The dispersed local cottage industries have given way to the centralised industries of the imperialist countries. As a result the vast majority of the population was forced to engage in agriculture and export raw materials abroad. On the other hand we ban observe a rapidly growing concentration of the land in the hands of big landowners, capitalists and the state, which again contributes to the growth of the number of landless peasants. The vast majority of the population of these colonies lives under conditions of oppression. As a result of these policies the underdeveloped spirit of outrage that lives in the masses of the people can only find an expression in the numerically small intellectual middle class. Foreign domination constantly obstructs the free development of social life; therefore the revolution’s first step must be the removal of this foreign domination. The struggle to overthrow foreign domination in the colonies does not therefore mean underwriting the national aims of the national bourgeoisie but much rather smoothing the path to liberation for the proletariat of the colonies.

7. Two movements can be discerned which are growing further and further apart with every day that passes. One of them is the bourgeois-democratic nationalist movement, which pursues the programme of political liberation with the conservation of the capitalist order; the other is the struggle of the propertyless peasants for their liberation from every kind of exploitation. The first movement attempts, often with success, to control the second; the Communist International must however fight against any such control, and the development of the class consciousness of the working masses of the colonies must consequently be directed towards the overthrow of foreign capitalism. The most important and necessary task however is the creation of Communist organisations of peasants and workers in order to lead them to the revolution and the setting up of the Soviet Republic. In this way the masses of the people in the backward countries will be brought to communism not by capitalist development but by the development of class consciousness under the leadership of the proletariat of the advanced countries.

8. The real strength, the foundation of the liberation movement, will not allow itself to be forced into the narrow framework of bourgeois-democratic nationalism in the colonies. In the greater part of the colonies there already exist organised revolutionary parties which work in close contact with the working masses. The Communist International must make contact with the revolutionary movement in the colonies through the mediation of these parties and groups, for they are the vanguard of the working class. At present they are not numerous, but they express the will of the working class and lead the revolution behind them. The Communist Parties of the various imperialist countries must work in the closest contact with the proletarian parties of the proletarian countries and through them support the revolutionary movement in general both materially and morally.

9. In the first period the revolution in the colonies will not be communist; if however from the very start the communist vanguard emerges at its head the revolutionary masses will be brought on to the correct path along which, through the gradual gathering of revolutionary experience, they will reach the hidden goal. It would be a mistake to try to solve the agrarian question straight away according to purely communist principles. In the first stage of its development the revolution in the colonies must be carried out according to the programme of purely petty-bourgeois demands, such as distribution of the land and so on. But from this it must not be concluded that the leadership in the colonies can be allowed to fall into the hands of the bourgeois democrats. On the contrary, the proletarian parties must carry out an intensive propaganda of communist ideas and found workers’ and peasants’ councils at the first opportunity. These councils must work in the same way as the Soviet Republics in the advanced capitalist countries in order to bring about the final overthrow of the capitalist order throughout the whole world.

For the more precise information of the Congress I have the following to add. I would like to draw the Congress’s attention particularly to these very important questions. I am glad to have the opportunity for the first time to participate seriously in a discussion on the colonial question at a congress of the revolutionary proletariat. Until now the European parties have given far too little attention to this problem, for they were always occupied with their own affairs and usually passed over the colonial questions, although they are at the present moment of very great importance for the international movement. Since the war the colonial question has become a matter of the greatest importance. Britain is now one of the greatest colonial powers in the world and has an enormous significance, an enormous strength and a strong social position as a result of its colonial possessions. Although the same cannot now be said of Germany, since Germany no longer has any colonial possessions, the question does not, nevertheless, have an exclusively British significance. The German comrades too, therefore, have to give this question their attention as it has become an international question. The economic relations between Europe and the colonies have now become the foundation of capitalism. The surplus value that was in previous ages produced in England has now in part been invested in the colonies. Moreover the surplus products that were produced in Britain itself have been taken to the colonial market. In this way Britain has so ordered her production that she can produce food for no more than three months of the year. Britain has always exploited her workers in the most brutal manner. The same system of exploitation, expropriation and the suppression of the human being in the worker is now applied in the conquered countries. British India alone has a population of no less than 315 million. Apart from British India, England exploits many other millions of coloured peoples in the colonies.

If the Communist International understands clearly that it must take this matter to heart, then the second question, how the colonial movement can best be encouraged and developed, still remains to be solved. Until recently there were in the colonies only national-revolutionary movements of the middle class, whose only wish was to supplant the ruling foreigners in order themselves to exploit their own proletariat. If we do not look at the matter in too doctrinaire a manner, if we look at it somewhat more closely here at the Congress, then one can estimate correctly the great value to the Communist International of the national-revolutionary movement among the peoples of the East Indies also. Great changes took place in India during and after the war. Whereas earlier British capitalism had always prevented the development of industry in British India, this has no longer been the case in recent years. Industry has developed at a greater pace in recent years in British India than anyone can imagine here in Europe. If one considers that in the same period that the industrial proletariat in British India increased by 15 per cent the capital invested in Britishowned industry increased by 2,000 per cent, one can form some impression of the rapid development of the capitalist system in British India. This is also true of Egypt, the Dutch East Indies and China. The same development that is taking place in British India is also to be noted in these countries. In recent years there has been a new movement among the exploited masses in India that has spread very quickly and expressed itself in mighty strike waves. This mass movement does not stand under the control of the revolutionary nationalists. It develops independently, although the nationalists try to use this movement for their own purposes. One can say of this mass movement that it is at all events revolutionary, although no-one would say that the workers and peasants who form this movement are also clearly class-conscious. This is evident day by day in the forms it takes. Comrades, I think that at this stage of the revolutionary mass movement the field of work lies open for the Communist International. It is only a question of taking the correct measures to harvest the fruits of work among these masses very quickly. Naturally a revolution by these masses would not at the first stage be a communist revolution, naturally revolutionary nationalism will play a role in the first stage. But at any event this revolutionary nationalism too win lead to the collapse of European imperialism, which is of enormous significance for the European proletariat.

Finally I direct an urgent appeal to all the delegates to the Congress under no circumstances to refuse the support that the colonial peoples of the revolutionary proletariat of British India are now offering, and I hope that the Congress will take my views very seriously into account. I hope that comrades will be moved by my Theses to oppose their views to mine, that they will use the opportunity that offers itself to them to create greater clarity among the communists of Europe and America through debate. [Applause]

*On The 8th Anniversary of The Iraq War (Really 20th) A March 19th Veterans-Led March In Washington To Stop The Wars In Afghanistan And Iraq-All Out In Support Of The Vets

Click on the headline to link to the Stop These Wars Website.

Markin comment:

In the lead up to the December 16, 2010 Veterans For Peace led-civil disobedience action in Washington, D. C. where 131 people were arrested (many of whom later had the charges against them dropped) I motivated my support for that action as described below in a blog entry that I am re-posting today. That same general motivation applies (with a caveat noted just below) as another Veterans For Peace-led planned civil disobedience action is scheduled for March 19th 2011, the 8th anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War II. (Although as noted in the headline to this entry it really is the 20th year as the theme of the Catholic Worker-led demonstrations in Washington on January 15, 2011 made clear, correctly clear.)

I note here that while I support and will attend the March 19th actions (with as many of the local ad hoc anti-imperialist group that I belong to as can come that day) because they are very important symbolic actions on an important anti-war occasion I am worried, at least a little worried, that if we do not take more arrests (more than 131 that is) this action will be seen as a failure. Not by the media, of course, as they hardly paid attention on December 16th. Not the Bush I-Clinton-Bush II-Obama government, of course, they haven’t paid attention at all, ever. But militants, and potential militants, who will dismiss such actions out of hand and write off street actions as the work of cranky old men and women. In short, we do not want to get civil disobedience-itis any more than we wanted to keep doing those endless dwindling mass marches. So to do this right-All out in support of the Vets- All out to resist these wars- All out to end Obama’s Iraq and Afghan Wars.
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December 1, 2010

A December 16th Veterans-Led March In Washington To Stop The Wars In Afghanistan And Iraq-All Out In Support Of The Vets


On November 11, 2010, Veterans Day, I marched with a contingent of Veterans For Peace in the Boston Veterans Day parade and posted an entry in this space about my take on the event. (See, A Stroll In The Park On Veterans Day- Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S. Troops From Iraq and Afghanistan!, dated November 11, 2010). As part of that commentary I noted the following:

“Listen, I have been to many marches and demonstrations for democratic, progressive, socialist and communist causes in my long political life. However, of all those events none, by far, has been more satisfying that to march alongside my fellow ex-soldiers who have “switched” over to the other side and are now part of the struggle against war, the hard, hard struggle against the permanent war machine that this imperial system has embarked upon. From as far back as in the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) days I have always felt that ex-soldiers (hell, active soldiers too, if you can get them) have had just a little bit more “street cred” on the war issue than the professors, pacifists and little old ladies in tennis sneakers who have traditionally led the anti-war movements. Maybe those brothers (and in my generation it was mainly only brothers) and now sisters may not quite pose the questions of war and peace the way I do, or the way that I would like them to do, but they are kindred spirits.”

Now comes word (click on headline for similar March 19th action) that veterans are leading an action in Washington, D.C. on December 16, 2010 in front of the White House under the rubric of "Peace On Earth." There is no question that I, the anti-imperialist committee that I am a member of in Boston, any self-respecting radical or, hell, any self-respecting little old lady in tennis sneakers for that matter, could endorse this thing. If for no other reason that it begs, literally begs, Warmonger-In-Chief Obama (of the double troop escalations in Afghanistan with nobody holding a gun to his head remember) to “do the right thing.”

That said, the sentiment expressed above in that Veterans Day commentary still holds true. So I, and all I can gather to go with me, will be in Washington on December 16th. I will hold my nose in doing so, although not my tongue, trying to get my fellow vets to change course. In my hand I will hold this slogan-Obama- Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S. Troops From Iraq and Afghanistan! And I won’t be begging him about it, no way.

From The Wisconsin War-Zone- The First Trickle Of Labor Support For A General Strike-Madison Area AFL-CIO Votes to Prepare For General Strike

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for the San Francisco General Strike of 1934 as background for this post.

Markin comment:

As I mentioned in other postings concerning the proposal for a one day general strike in support of the Wisconsin public workers unions I am placing material in this space of others, individuals and organizations, who are committed to that same general proposition.

Madison Area AFL CIO Votes to Prepare For General Strike

By Mike Elk, Feb. 22, 2011

This evening in a press release from IBEW Local 2304 President Dave Pokilinski, I received word that the 45,000 member Southern Central Federation of Labor, the local chapter of the AFL-CIO for the Madison and Southern Central Wisconsin area, has voted to make preparations for a general strike.

The press release reads as follows:

Around 10:50PM Wisconsin Time on February 21st the South Central Federation of Labor endorsed the following motions:

Motion 1: The SCFL endorses a general strike, possibly for the day [Governor Scott] Walker signs his “budget repair bill”, and requests the Education Committee immediately begin educating affiliates and members on the organization and function of a general strike.

Motion 2: The SCFL goes on record as opposing all provisions contained in Walker’s “budget repair bill”, including but not limited to, curtailed bargaining rights and reduced wages, benefits, pensions, funding for public education, changes to medical assistance programs, and politicization of state government agencies.

Friday, March 04, 2011

From The Wisconsin War-Zone- The First Trickle Of Labor Support For A General Strike- A Resolution From The Letter Carriers Union Branch 214-San Francisco

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for the San Francisco General Strike of 1934 as background for this post.

Markin comment:

As I mentioned in today's other posting concerning the proposal for a one day general strike in support of the Wisconsin public workers unions I am placing material in this space of others, individuals and organizations, who are committed to that same general proposition. That this trickling of support that has started comes out of San Francisco (although not from the well-known militant dockerworkers' unions yet), a historic area of labor militancy is telling. Forward!

Resolution of Letter Carriers Union Branch 214
Adopted unanimously March 2, 2011 in San Francisco, California

Support the Initiative for a General Strike in Wisconsin – and Prepare for Nationally-Coordinated Solidarity Job Actions

Whereas, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s Koch brothers-funded and Wall Street-inspired attempt to destroy Wisconsin’s public workers’ unions is the highly strategic opening battle in a war to destroy both the public and private sector of the U.S. labor movement; and

Whereas, resistance that the workers and students have mounted to the union-busting attack has in a short time breathed new life into the workers' movement in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and across the country; and

Whereas, there must be no illusions about the determination of the
forces committed to crushing labor that are behind Gov. Walker, and
much more must be done if Wisconsin workers and all workers are to
prevail in this most critical battle facing working people in generations; and

Whereas, Gov. Scott Walker and the billionaires behind him must know in no uncertain terms that if they persist in their outrageous efforts to destroy the labor movement, that they will bring upon themselves the kind of massive, popular uprising of workers' power that this country hasn’t seen since the 1930s; and

Whereas, if the people of Egypt were ready to put their very lives on the line in their fight for freedom, then certainly the labor movement in the U.S. must be ready to demonstrate that it is prepared to put it all on the line in defense of the very elementary right of workers to have a union, and in defense of the right of the labor movement to survive; and

Whereas, the South Central Federation of Labor of Wisconsin (AFL-CIO) voted on Feb. 21, 2011 to “endorse a general strike” if the union busting bill is passed by the Wisconsin legislature and signed into law. The motion ordered that strike preparations begin immediately, asking the Education Committee to “immediately begin educating affiliates and members on the organization and function of a general strike.”

Therefore be it Resolved, that Golden Gate Branch 214 of the Letter Carriers Union calls upon organized labor everywhere and at every level to officially support the initiative of Wisconsin's South Central Federation of Labor to endorse a general strike if the union busting bill is passed; and

Be it further Resolved, that we call on organized labor to commit all
concrete solidarity support necessary to ensure the success of a general strike; and

Be it further Resolved, that we call on organized labor to approve, and prepare to initiate nationally-coordinated job actions in solidarity with a general strike in Wisconsin; and

Be it finally Resolved, that this resolution be submitted to Bay Area labor councils, California State Association of Letter Carriers, the NALC, and California Labor Federation, with which we are affiliated, for concurrence and action.

Resolution adopted unanimously 03/02/2011 in San Francisco, California, by the membership meeting of Golden Gate Branch 214 of the National Association of Letter Carriers, representing some 2,300 Postal Service letter carriers in the San Francisco Bay Area.

###


Madison Area AFL CIO Votes to Prepare For General Strike

By Mike Elk, Feb. 22, 2011

This evening in a press release from IBEW Local 2304 President Dave Pokilinski, I received word that the 45,000 member Southern Central Federation of Labor, the local chapter of the AFL-CIO for the Madison and Southern Central Wisconsin area, has voted to make preparations for a general strike.

The press release reads as follows:

Around 10:50PM Wisconsin Time on February 21st the South Central Federation of Labor endorsed the following motions:

Motion 1: The SCFL endorses a general strike, possibly for the day [Governor Scott] Walker signs his “budget repair bill”, and requests the Education Committee immediately begin educating affiliates and members on the organization and function of a general strike.

Motion 2: The SCFL goes on record as opposing all provisions contained in Walker’s “budget repair bill”, including but not limited to, curtailed bargaining rights and reduced wages, benefits, pensions, funding for public education, changes to medical assistance programs, and politicization of state government agencies.