Saturday, December 18, 2010

*From "YouTube"- December 16, 2010-Veterans for Peace Take Demand to White House Fence -The Resistance Begins- The Winter Soldiers Lead The Way

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of the December 16, 2010 veteran-led civil disobedience action at the White House in opposition to Obama's wars.

Markin comment:

This is another easy one-Obama-Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S./Allied Troops From Afghanistan And Iraq! Not One Penny, Not One Person For These Imperial Wars!

*Once Again-From "YouTube"- December 16, 2010-The Resistance Begins- The Winter Soldiers Lead The Way

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of the December 16, 2010 veteran-led civil disobedience action at the White House in opposition to Obama's wars.

Markin comment:

This is another easy one-Obama-Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S./Allied Troops From Afghanistan And Iraq! Not One Penny, Not One Person For These Imperial Wars!

*From "Daily Kos" Blogger Bohica- The Veteran-Led Civil Disobedience Action At The White House On December 16, 2010

Click on the headline to link to a Daily Kos blog with links to the veteran-led action at the White House.

Markin comment:

This is another easy one-Obama-Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S./Allied Troops From Afghanistan And Iraq! Not One Penny, Not One Person For These Imperial Wars!

*From The Archives Of The Socialist Workers Party (America)-From The Pen Of James P.Cannon- Factional Struggle And Party Leadership- The 1953 Cochran-Clarke Fight

Markin comment:

Marxism, no less than other political traditions, and perhaps more than most, places great emphasis on roots, the building blocks of current society and its political organizations. Nowhere is the notion of roots more prevalent in the Marxist movement that in the tracing of organizational and political links back to the founders, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, the Communist Manifesto, and the Communist League. A recent example of that linkage in this space was when I argued in this space that, for those who stand in the Trotskyist tradition, one must examine closely the fate of Marx’s First International, the generic socialist Second International, Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolshevik Revolution-inspired Communist International, and Trotsky’s revolutionary successor, the Fourth International before one looks elsewhere for a centralized international working class organization that codifies the principle –“workers of the world unite.”

On the national terrain in the Trotskyist movement, and here I am speaking of America where the Marxist roots are much more attenuated than elsewhere, we look to Daniel DeLeon’s Socialist Labor League, Debs' Socialist Party( mainly its left-wing, not its socialism for dentists wing), the Wobblies (IWW, Industrial Workers Of The World), the early Bolshevik-influenced Communist Party and the various formations that made up the organization under review, the James P. Cannon-led Socialist Workers Party, the section that Leon Trotsky’s relied on most while he was alive. Beyond that there are several directions to go in but these are the bedrock of revolutionary Marxist continuity, at least through the 1960s. If I am asked, and I have been, this is the material that I suggest young militants should start of studying to learn about our common political forbears. And that premise underlines the point of the entries that will posted under this headline in further exploration of the early days, “the dog days” of the Socialist Workers Party.

Note: I can just now almost hear some very nice and proper socialists (descendents of those socialism for dentist-types) just now, screaming in the night, yelling what about Max Shachtman (and, I presume, his henchman, Albert Glotzer, as well) and his various organizational formations starting with the Workers party when he split from the Socialist Workers Party in 1940? Well, what about old Max and his “third camp” tradition? I said the Trotskyist tradition not the State Department socialist tradition. If you want to trace Marxist continuity that way, go to it. That, in any case, is not my sense of continuity, although old Max knew how to “speak” Marxism early in his career under Jim Cannon’s prodding. Moreover at the name Max Shachtman I can hear some moaning, some serious moaning about blackguards and turncoats, from the revolutionary pantheon by Messrs. Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky. I rest my case.

Fourth International
November-December, 1953
Factional Struggle And Party Leadership
James P. Cannon


Source: Fourth International, Vol.14 No.6, November-December 1953, pp.115-122.
Original bound volumes of Fourth International and microfilm provided by the NYU Tamiment Labor Libraries.
Transcription\HTML Markup: Andrew Pollack.


(Speech by James P. Cannon at the Open Plenum of the National Committee of the Socialist Workers Party, November 1953, New York, N.Y.)

* * *
We all recognize, comrades, that we have come to the end of the long faction fight in the party. Nothing remains now but to sum up the results.

This has been a long faction fight, and it was not brought to a definitive conclusion until it was fully ripe. The Cochranite minority were given a whole year to carry on underground factional work and organization in the party. A whole year. Then we finally dragged them out into the open, and we had intensified discussion for five months, with more Internal Bulletins published even than in the great fight of 1939-40. Then we had the May Plenum and the truce, which the Cochranites signed but did not keep.

Then five more months of struggle during which the Cochranites developed their positions to their logical conclusion and showed themselves in action as an anti-party, anti-Trotskyist tendency. They organized a campaign of sabotage of party activities and party funds, culminating in the organized boycott of our 25th Anniversary meeting. Then we came to this November Plenum where the Cochranite leaders were indicted for treachery and suspended from the party. And that’s the end of the faction fight in the SWP.

In the face of the record nobody can justly say that we were impatient; that anything was done hastily; that there wasn’t a “free and ample discussion; that there were not abundant proofs of disloyalty before discipline was invoked. And above all, nobody can say that the leadership hesitated to bring down the ax when the time came for it. That was their duty. The rights of a minority in our democratic party have never included, and will never include, the right to be disloyal. The SWP has no place and no room for strike-breakers.

* * *
Unifications and Splits
Trotsky once remarked that unifications and splits are alike methods of building the revolutionary party. That’s a profoundly true remark, as experience has shown. The party which led the Russian Revolution to victory was the product of the split with the Mensheviks in 1903, several unifications and splits along the road, and the final unification with Trotsky in 1917. The combination of the splits and the unifications made possible the party of victory in the Russian Revolution.

We have seen, in our own experience, the same principle working out. We began with a split from the Stalinists. Unification with the Musteites in 1934 and later with the left-wing of the Socialist Party were great milestones in the building of our organization. But these unifications were of no more importance, and stand rather on an equal plane, with the split of the leftist sectarians in 1935 and of the revisionist Burnhamites in 1940, and with the split of the new revisionists today. All these actions have been part of the process of building the revolutionary party.

This law enunciated by Trotsky, that both unifications and splits are alike methods of building the party, is true however, only on the condition that both the unification and the split in each case is properly motivated. If they are not properly prepared and properly motivated they can have a disrupting and disorganizing effect. I can give you examples of that.

The unification of the Left Opposition under Nin in Spain with the opportunist Maurin group, out of which was formed the POUM, was one of the decisive factors in the defeat of the Spanish Revolution. The dilution of the program of Trotskyism for the sake of unification with an opportunist group robbed the Spanish proletariat of that clear program and resolute leadership which could have made the difference in the Spanish Revolution in 1936.

Conversely, the splits in the French Trotskyist organization before World War II, several of them, none of which were properly motivated – contributed to the demoralization of the party. It has been our good fortune that we have made no false unifications and no false splits. Never have we had a split in which the party did not bound forward the day after, precisely because the split was properly prepared and properly motivated.

The party was not ready for a split when our Plenum convened last May. The minority at that time had by no means extended their revisionist conceptions into action in such a manner as to convince every single member of the party that they were alien to us. For that reason we made big concessions to avoid a split. By the same reasoning, because everything was clear and everything was ripe in November, we made the split here – without the slightest hesitation. And if, in the reminiscences of the fight, you give the party leadership credit for their patience and forbearance in the long struggle, don’t forget to add that they deserve just as much credit for the decisive, resolute action taken at this Plenum to bring things to a conclusion.

* * *
The Split of 1940
I think it would be useful for us to make a comparison of this split, which we consider to be progressive and a contribution to the development of the revolutionary party in America, with the split of 1940. There are points of similarity and of difference. They are similar insofar as the basic issue in each case was revisionism. But the revisionism of 1940 was by no means as deep and definitive as the revisionism that we have split with today. Burnham, it is true, had abandoned the program of Marxism but he did it openly only in the last stages of the fight, when he took off the mask. And Shachtman did not go along fully with him. Shachtman, up to the point of the split, did not openly revise our program on the Soviet Union, which was the central issue in dispute.

He left the question open and even stated in one of his last documents that if the imperialists would attack the Soviet Union he would come out for defense. As for the third leader, Abern, he did not yield anything theoretically to revisionism at all. He still considered himself an orthodox Trotskyist, and thought the whole fight was over the organization question. He was greatly mistaken, but the definitive struggle between orthodox Trotskyism and revisionism was by no means as clear-cut and deep in 1940 as it is this time. That was shown by the fact that when Burnham; carried his revisionism to its logical conclusion and abandoned the movement altogether a couple of months later, Shachtman and Abern drew back.

The two splits, this one and that of 1940, are similar in that they were both unavoidable. The differences in each case had matured to the point where we could no longer talk the same language or live in the same party. When the Shachtmanites gave us their plain ultimatum and demanded that they be allowed to have their own paper, their own magazine, their own public expression, they were only expressing their deepest conviction that they had to talk a different language from ours; that they could not conscientiously circulate what we wrote in our press along orthodox lines. And since we could not tolerate that, the split was unavoidable.

* * *
The present split is different from 1940 in that it is more definitive. There is not a single member of this Plenum who contemplates any later relations in the same party with the strike-breakers of the Pablo-Cochran gang. Any doubt on this score is excluded. It is an absolute certainty that from yesterday morning at eleven o’clock, when they left the hall, – not with a bang but a giggle – that they left for good. The most that can be contemplated is that individual members who have been caught in the under-currents may drift back to the party one by one, and of course they will be received. But as far as the main core of the minority faction is concerned, they have broken forever with us. The day they were suspended from the party, and released from further obligations to it, was probably the happiest day of their lives.

The Shachtmanites, on the other hand, continued to protest for a long time that they would like to have unity. And even six-seven years after the split, in 1946 and 1947, we actually conducted unity negotiations with the Shachtmanites. At one time in early 1947 we had a unification agreement with them, illustrating the point I make that the split of 1940 was by no means as definitive and final as is the split today. We are finished and done with Pablo and Pabloism forever, not only here but on the international field. And nobody is going to take up any of our time with any negotiations about compromise or any nonsense of that sort. We are at war with this new revisionism, which came to full flower in the reaction to the events after the death of Stalin in the Soviet Union, in East Germany, and in the French general strike.

Differences in the Splits
There are differences between the two splits in other respects, very important ones, and more favorable for the party. First, as to the size of the split. In 1940 the Shachtmanites had not less than 40% of the party and a majority of the youth organization. If you count the youth, who were not voting members of the party, it was almost a 50-50 split. This group takes out a bare 20%. That is one difference.

A second difference is that in 1940 the split was a split of the leading cadre right down the middle. Not just a sloughing off of some people that you can easily get along without. For years in the central leadership of the party, the central political nucleus had been Burnham, Shachtman and Cannon. They took two out of the three. They had a majority of the Political Committee of the party as it was constituted up to the outbreak of the fight in September 1939. We had to reorganize the Political Committee at the Plenum in October 1939 in order to establish the majority rule in the PC.

Shachtman and Burnham were by no means mere ornaments in the Political Committee. They were the editors of the magazine and of the paper, and they did practically all the literary work. There was a division of labor between them and me, whereby I took care of the organizational and trade union direction, administration and finances – and all the rest of the chores that intellectuals don’t like to bother with as a rule, – and they did the writing, most of it. And when they were on the right line they wrote very well, as you know.

So in 1940 there was a real split, not only in the political leadership but in the working cadre as well. At the time of the split there was a lot of apprehension on the part of some of our comrades. What in the devil would we do without these first class intellectual forces, efficient writers, etc.? And there was great jubilation on their part, and a profound conviction that we would never be able to get along because they took all the writers.

Why, practically all the comrades who are now leading the party and doing all the work of the leading cadre – very few of them were even members of the National Committee at that time. Those who were members, were only getting their first experience and had not yet gained recognition as writers, orators and politicians. Comrade Dobbs, for example, coming out of the mass movement, had been only a couple of months in New York. A number of other comrades, who were members or alternates of the National Committee, had not yet considered themselves or been considered as actual members of the leading political cadre of the party. In 1940 the split of the cadre went right down the middle.

* * *
And then there was a third feature of the 1940 split. The petty-bourgeois opposition went out of the party with the majority of the youth who, as Comrade Dobbs said, have more bounce to the ounce. They were confident that with their dynamism, with their ability to jump and run, with their conception of a “campaign party,” and with their writers – they would soon show that they could build a party faster, bigger, better – and in every other California way – than we could. We didn’t agree with them, but that’s what they started with.

And don’t forget, they started almost the next week with a new party. They called it the “Workers Party” and they came out with a new weekly paper and with a magazine which they stole from us. For a considerable period they thought they were serious rivals of ours in the struggle for the allegiance of the workers’ vanguard in this country. That is what we were up against in 1940. We had to take a new cadre of previously inexperienced comrades and push them into places of responsibility in the Political Committee and the press, and begin their training for leadership in the fire of struggle.

The Party Rolls Along
The 1953 split is quite different in various respects. First, I mentioned size. It is much smaller. Second, the cadre is not split down the middle this time, as might appear to some people when they see these names – Cochran, Clarke, Bartell, Frankel, and so on. They are talented people; they were part of the cadre; but not an indispensable part. We have had five months of experience of the “cold split” since the May Plenum to test that out. During that entire period the Cochranites have done no constructive party work whatever. Inspired by the Great God Pablo, they have devoted their efforts exclusively to factionalism, obstruction of party work and sabotage of party finances. And what has been the result? We have found in the five months since the May Plenum that these people are in no way indispensable to the literary work of the party, to the political work of the party, to the organizational work of the party, or to the financial support of the party.

The party has been rolling along without them and despite them for five months. The split of the cadre turned out to be a splinter. We tested it out for five months in a cold split before we finally confronted it in a hot split, and we know. There will be absolutely no disruption in the leadership, no scurrying around to find who is going to fill the places vacated by these former Trotskyists turned revisionists. The places are already filled, filled to overflowing, so to speak. Everything is going OK. That’s the experience of the drawn-out cold split since May.

* * *
Third, nobody can imagine these people even daring to contemplate the idea of launching a new party and an agitational paper First of all, they don’t believe in their own capacity to build a party. Second, they don’t believe in the capacity of anybody to build a party. And in the third place, they don’t believe in a revolutionary vanguard party. So they are not going to confront us with a rival party, claiming to be the Trotskyist vanguard and the nucleus of the future mass party of the revolution.

They are, in their own maximum optimistic plans, aiming at a small propaganda circle which will publish a little magazine, in which they will observe and analyze and explain things for the benefit of the “sophisticated political elements,” i.e. the Stalinists and “progressive” labor skates. Sideline critics, observers, analysts and abstainers – that is the kind of an opposition they will present to us. No rival party.

They will not be an obstacle to us in our struggle as a party in election campaigns – because they don’t believe in election campaigns. In the first period after we split with the Shachtmanites they used to run their own candidates against us in New York and other places; and in general they tried to compete with us, their party against our party. That will not be the case with the Cochranites. If we want to have any debates with these people, I think we will have to hunt them up wherever they may be hiding. And in some places that is going to be a difficult proposition, especially in Detroit and San Francisco.

* * *
A Test of Leadership
A factional struggle is a test of leadership. Factional struggle is a part of the process of building the revolutionary party of the masses; not the whole of the struggle, but a part of it.

Some comrades, especially mass workers, who want to be all the time busy with their constructive work, who are upset and irritated by arguments, squabbles and faction fights, have to learn that they can’t have peace in the party unless they fight for it. Factional struggle is one way of getting peace.

The party, as you know, enjoyed internal peace and solidarity over that entire period from 1940 to 1951; eleven years, barring that little skirmish with Goldman and Morrow, which did not amount to much – eleven years of peace and normal internal life. This “long peace” carried the party through the war, the trial and the imprisonment of the 18, the post-war boom and the first period of the witch-hunt. That internal peace and solidarity didn’t fall from the sky. It was not “given” to us. We fought for it and secured it by the factional battle with the petty-bourgeois opposition in the eight months from September 1939 to April 1940.

Every serious factional struggle, properly directed by a conscious leadership, develops in progressive stages; it has a beginning, a middle, and an end; and at every stage of the struggle the leadership is put to a test. Without a conscious leadership, factionalism can devour and destroy a party. Headless factionalism, sometimes even the smallest squabble, can tear a party to pieces. We have seen this happen more than once. Everything depends on the leaders, on their consciousness. They must know how and when to begin the faction fight; how to conduct it; and how and when to finish it.

* * *
The first two stages of the struggle against the revisionist-liquidators in the SWP – the beginning and the middle – are already behind us. Now comes the end. We will have plenty of time to reflect on the experiences of the first two stages later. I think it would be ill-advised and worse than a waste of time, at this stage of final action in finishing the fight, to begin reminiscing and examining how many mistakes were made, and who made this and that mistake, and so on.

The essential thing is that the leading cadre of the party as a whole saw the problem in time, took hold of the situation and brought it out in the open, for five months of free discussion. Then, at the May Plenum we offered the minority a truce in order to give them a chance to reconsider their course or to establish the issues more clearly in objective discussion. Then, when the Cochranites broke the truce, we went through five months of the “cold split,” and finally brought it to an end at the Plenum.

All that was done successfully, without disrupting or demoralizing the party. That is the essential thing. We can leave for later the reminiscences or examinations or analyses of whether a little mistake was made here and there by this one or that one. That does not count now. The third point is what counts now -how to finish the faction fight. And here again it is a question of leadership.

* * *
The Question of the Party
Leadership is the one unsolved problem of the working class of the entire world. The only barrier between the working class of the world and socialism is the unsolved problem of leadership. That is what is meant by “the question of the party.” That is what the Transition Program means when it states that the crisis of the labor movement is the crisis of leadership. That means, that until the working class solves the problem of creating the revolutionary party, the conscious expression of the historic process which can lead the masses in struggle, the issue remains undecided. It is the most important of all questions – the question of the party.

And if our break with Pabloism, as we see it now clearly; if it boils down to one point and is concentrated in one point, that is it – it is the question of the party. That seems clear to us now, as we have seen the development of Pabloism in action. The essence of Pabloist revisionism is the overthrow of that part of Trotskyism which is today its most vital part – the conception of the crisis of mankind as the crisis of the leadership of the labor movement summed up in the question of the party.

Pabloism aims not only to overthrow Trotskyism; it aims to overthrow that part of Trotskyism which Trotsky learned from Lenin. Lenin’s greatest contribution to his whole epoch was his idea and his determined struggle to build a vanguard party capable of leading the workers in revolution. And he did not confine his theory to the time of his own activity. He went all the way back to 1871, and said that the decisive factor in the defeat of the first proletarian revolution, the Paris Commune, was the absence of a party of the revolutionary Marxist vanguard, capable of giving the mass movement a conscious program and a resolute leadership. It was Trotsky’s acceptance of this part of Lenin in 1917, that made Trotsky a Leninist.

That is written into the Transition Program, that Leninist concept of the decisive role of the revolutionary party. And that is what the Pabloites are throwing overboard in favor of the conception that the ideas will somehow filter into the treacherous bureaucracy, the Stalinists or reformists, and in some way or another, “In the Day of the Comet,” the socialist revolution will be realized and carried through to conclusion without a revolutionary Marxist, that is, a Leninist-Trotskyist party. That is the essence of Pabloism. Pabloism is the substitution of a cult and a revelation for a party and a program.

The Leading Cadre
The problem of the party has another aspect. The problem of the party is the problem of the leadership of the party. I believe, that just as truly as the problem of the party is the problem the working class has to solve before the struggle against capitalism can be definitively successful – the problem of the party is the problem of the leadership of the party.

You cannot build a revolutionary party without the program. We all know that. In time the program will create the party. But herein is precisely the role of conscious leaders – to save time. Time is “of the essence” in this epoch when years count for centuries. It is certainly difficult to build a party without leadership, without cadres. As a matter of fact it can’t be done.

Look over the world, look over all the experiences of the last quarter of a century, in one country after another, where the writings and teachings of Trotsky were available, where the program was known, and what do you see? Where they lacked the leaders to build the party, where they lacked cadres, the party did not amount to much. On the other hand, those parties which threw up leaders capable of working together as a cadre remained firm and solid and consciously prepared their future.

The leading cadre plays the same, decisive role in relation to the party that the party plays in relation to the class. Those who try to break up the historically created cadres of the Trotskyist parties, as the Pabloites are doing in one country after another, are in reality aiming to break up the parties and to liquidate the Trotskyist movement. Take note: I said “trying” and “aiming,” I didn’t say “succeeding.” They will not succeed. The Trotskyist parties will liquidate the liquidators, and the SWP has the high historic privilege of setting the example.

* * *
Given the program, the construction of leading cadres is the key to the construction of revolutionary parties; and the former requires an even higher degree of consciousness and a more deliberate design than the latter. Of course, every party in every generation since the Communist Manifesto has had a leadership of a sort. But there has been very little consciousness about its selection, and for that reason, among others, the real problem remained unsolved. The experiences of the past in this respect are rich in lessons on the theme of what not to do.

The present generation of the revolutionary vanguard, which has the benefit of Lenin and Trotsky, has the supreme duty now to examine the tragic mistakes of the past in this respect in order to avoid them and to replace haphazard methods by a conscious theory and a deliberate design in the construction of leading cadres.

Kinds of Leadership
First, and perhaps worst, of the kinds of party leadership which we have seen and known, even in the Fourth International, is the unplanned leadership of talented individual stars, pulling in opposite directions, squandering their energies in personal rivalries, quarrelling over trifles, and incapable of organizing a sensible division of labor. That has been the tragic experience of many sections of the Fourth International, in particular of the French section. I don’t know how things are in France today, but I do know that the French section of the Fourth International will never become a real party until it learns to discipline its individual star performers and make them work together.

A second kind of leadership is the leadership of a clique. In every leadership clique there is a certain coordination, a certain organization and division of labor, and it sometimes looks good – while it lasts. But a clique is bound together by personal associations – what Trotsky, who hated cliques, called “chumminess” – and has in it, by that very fact, a fatal flaw – that it can be broken up by personal quarrels. That is the inevitable fate of every political clique.

There is no such thing, and can be no such thing as a permanent clique, no matter what good friends and chums may be drawn together in a tight, exclusive circle and say to themselves: “Now we have everything in our hands and we are going to run things fine.” The great winds and waves of the class struggle keep beating upon this little clique. Issues arise. Personal difficulties and frictions develop. And then come personal quarrels and squabbles, meaningless faction fights and senseless splits, and the clique ends in disaster. The party cannot be led by a clique. Not for very long, anyway.

* * *
There is a third method of leadership which I will confess to you frankly I noticed only after I passed my sixtieth birthday. That is the leadership of a cult. I will admit that I lived sixty years in this world before I stumbled over the fact that there are such things as political cults. I began rubbing my eyes when I saw the Johnsonites operating in our party. I saw a cult bound to a single person, a sort of Messiah. And I thought, “I’ll be damned. You’re never too old to learn something new.”

A cult requires unthinking fools for the rank and file. But that is not all. In order for a cult to exist, it is not enough for a leader to have personal followers – every leader has personal influence more or less – but a cult leader has to :be a cultist himself. He has to be a megalomaniac who gets revelations outside the realm of reality. A megalomaniacal cult leader is liable to jump in any direction at any time, and all the cultists automatically follow, as sheep follow the bellwether, even into the slaughter house.

That is what happened with the Johnsonites. The cult followed Johnson, not simply for his theory of the Soviet Union – other people have that theory; a lot of people in the world have that theory about “state capitalism.” The Johnsonites were personal cultist followers of Johnson as a Messiah; and when he finally gave the signal for them to jump out of this party for reasons known only to himself, but allegedly because of some personal grievance he imagined, of which they had no knowledge and which they had just heard about, they all left the party at the same hour, Eastern Standard Time. That is a cult. The Pabloite cult, like any other, is capable of jumping in any direction at any time, whenever the leader gets a revelation. You cannot trust the party of the workers’ vanguard to a cult or a cultist leader.

There is a fourth method of leadership which has been very common. I have seen much of it in my time – that is the leadership of a permanent faction. Here is something that we have to be on our guard about, because we have just gone through a very severe faction fight, and in the course of the fight we have become tightly bound together. It is absolutely necessary for the leadership to see clearly what a temporary faction is, what its legitimate purposes are, what its limits are, and the danger of the faction hardening into permanence.

Hardening of Factious
There is no greater abomination in the workers’ political movement than a permanent faction. There is nothing that can demoralize the internal life of a party more efficiently than a permanent faction. You may say, that is contradicted by the experience of Lenin. Didn’t he organize a faction in 1903, the Bolshevik faction, and didn’t that remain a hard and fast faction all the way up to the revolution? Not entirely. The faction of Lenin, which split with the Mensheviks in 1903, and subsequently had negotiations with them and at various times united with them in a single party, but nevertheless remained a faction, was a faction only in its outward form.

In the essence of the matter, the nucleus of the Bolshevik Party of the October Revolution was the Lenin Bolshevik faction. It was a party. And the proof of the fact that it was a party and not an exclusive faction of Lenin was that within the Bolshevik faction there were different tendencies. There were left-wing and right-wing Bolsheviks. At times some of them openly polemicized with Lenin. The Bolsheviks even had splits and re-unifications among themselves. Lenin did not consider the Bolshevik faction something he was going to keep with him all his life as a closed corporation.

In the decisive days of 1917 when he brought out his April Theses, he showed that his conception was really that of a party by uniting with Trotsky, which made all the difference in the world. It was a party action. And a few months later, when Zinoviev and Kamenev, the very closest collaborators of Lenin, went wrong on the insurrection, he combined with Trotsky to smash them. Lenin’s faction was in reality a party.

* * *
We have seen factions which grew out of a separate struggle, crystallized and hardened, and held together after the issues which brought them into being no longer existed. That was in the old Communist Party.

Its leading cadre, as a whole, was a fusion of people with different backgrounds. There were the New Yorkers, and some others, who came out of the Socialist Party, whose experience had been in the field of parliamentary socialism, election campaigns, etc. – a purely “political” grouping. Ruthenberg, Lovestone, etc., represented this background. There was another tendency in the party represented by the “Westerners” – those who had a syndicalist background, a background of work in the trade union movement, in strikes, in the “direct action” of the class struggle. Foster, Bill Dunne, Swabeck, myself, etc., represented this origin.

We naturally formed different tendencies – each partly right and partly wrong – and from the beginning were always in skirmishes with each other. Eventually these tendencies hardened into factions. Then later, – after several years of experience, we learned from each other and the real differences narrowed down. But the faction formations remained. Time after time, the two factions would agree on what was to be done; agree on every resolution for the convention; and still the factions would continue to exist.

Degeneration of Factionalism
In such circumstances the factions degenerated into gangs struggling for power, and the degeneration of the Communist Party was greatly facilitated by that. The Comintern should have helped us to unify the cadre, but instead it fed the flames of factionalism in order to fish in the troubled waters to create its own Stalinist faction. Those were bitter times. I began to rebel against that sterile kind of struggle and I made several attempts – years before we were thrown out of the party for Trotskyism – I made several attempts to break up the politically senseless faction formations. A number of us broke away from the Foster gang and formed a separate grouping and united with a group that Weinstone had split off from the Lovestoneites, with the same revolt against this purposeless gang factionalism. We formed a “middle grouping” with the slogan: “Dissolve the factions.”

We carried on a fight for a couple of years to dissolve the factions into the party. But by that time both the Lovestoneites and the Fosterites had become so hardened in the gang and clique spirit that it was impossible to do it. That contributed to the degeneration of the Communist Party, because permanent factions become cliques and they exclude everybody else. If a permanent faction happens to get control of the leadership of the party and runs the party as a faction, it is bound to exclude others from any real place in the leadership. By that very fact it drives the others into the organization of counter-cliques and counter-factions, and there is no longer a single cadre in the leadership of the party. We saw that happen in the CP. We have to learn something from that experience.

* * *
In our party, basing ourselves on our experiences and our studies, we have had a conception of the leadership not as a number of uncoordinated individual stars; not as a clique; not – in God’s name – as a cult; and not as a permanent faction. Our conception of the leadership is that of a leading cadre.

It is a conscious design, patiently worked at for years and years. A leading cadre, in our conception, has the following basic characteristics: It consists of people who are, first of all, united on the program; not on every single question that arises in daily work but united on the basic program of Trotskyism. That is the beginning.

The second feature is that the leading cadre is an inclusive and not an exclusive selection. It does not have a fixed membership, but deliberately keeps the door open all the time for the inclusion of new people, for the assimilation and development of others, so that the leading cadre is flexibly broadening in numbers and in influence all the time.

Our cadre has another feature. It constructs the National Committee as a widely democratic representation of the party. I do not know how the leadership is constructed in other parties, but our party here is not led exclusively by the central political working group in New York. The leadership, we have always emphasized, is not the Secretariat. It is not the Political Committee. It is not the Editorial Board. It is the Plenum. The Plenum includes the Secretariat, the Political Committee and the Editorial Board, plus the leading comrades from all the districts of the party.

Leadership Really Representative
These district representatives, as you know, are not handpicked in New York and promoted by special maneuvers. We all know how to do that sort of thing and deliberately refrain from doing it. The central leaders never interfere with the deliberations of the nominating commission at party conventions. The district representatives are freely selected by the delegates from their districts and confirmed by the nominating commission. They really represent their branches or locals, and when they sit in the Plenum you have a really democratic representation of the entire party. That is one reason why our Plenums have such a commanding authority in the party.

When the Plenum meets, we can say that we are the leadership because we really are. It is a small convention every time we have a meeting of the Plenum of the National Committee. That is part of our deliberate program of constructing a representative leadership which is democratically controlled.

* * *
A third feature of our conception of the cadre, which we work on consciously and deliberately all the time, is to cultivate among all the leading people the ability to work together; not to be individual stars; not to be wiseacres who make problems of themselves – but people who fit into a machine; work with others; recognize the merits and respect the opinions of others; recognize that there is no such thing as an unimportant person, that anybody who stands for the program and is sent into the National Committee by his branch or local has got something to give. The task of the central leaders of the party is to open the door for him, find out what he can do, and help him to train himself to do better in the future.

The ability to work together is an essential feature of our conception of the leading cadre, and the next feature is that of a division of labor. It is not necessary for one or two wise guys to know everything and do everything. It is much better, much firmer, much surer if you have a broad selection of people, each one of whom contributes something to the decisions and does a specially selective work for which he is qualified, and coordinates his work with others.

I must say, I take great satisfaction in the way the leading cadre of our party has evolved and developed in the period since the open fight with the Pablo-Cochran revisionists began. I think they have given the world movement a model demonstration of a strong group of people, of varied talents and experiences, learning how to coordinate their efforts, divide the labor between them, and work collectively so that the strength of each one becomes the strength of all. We end up with a powerful machine, which combines the merits of all its individual members into a multiplied power.

* * *
And you not only combine the merits and get good out of them. You can sometimes also get good and positive results from a combination of faults. That also takes place in a properly organized and coordinated cadre. That thought was expressed to me in a letter from Trotsky. What I am telling you here is not exclusively what I have seen and experienced and thought up an my own head. It is not only the experience, but also a great deal of personal instruction from Trotsky. He formed the habit of writing to me very often after he found out that I was willing to listen and did not take offense at friendly criticism.

Trotsky’s Advice
He kept advising me all the time about the problems of leadership. As far back as 1935 and 1936, in the fight with the Musteites and the Oehlerites, he gave us such advice. He always referred to Lenin, how Lenin had put his cadre together. He said, Lenin would take one man who had an impulse for action, smelled opportunities and had a tendency to run ahead of himself, and balance him off against a man who was a little more cautious – and the compromise between the two got a balanced decision, which redounded to the benefit of the party.

He told me, for example, in one letter where he was advising me to be very careful and not to make an exclusive slate for the Committee, and not to eliminate people who have some faults which I especially don’t like, such as hesitation, conciliationism and indecisiveness in general; he said, you know Lenin used to say about Kamenev, that he was a constitutional vacillator; he always tended at the moment of decision to “soften up,” to vacillate and conciliate. Kamenev, as a matter of fact, belonged to the faction of Bolshevik conciliators in the period after 1907 to 1917, with a tendency toward conciliation with the Mensheviks, but he remained in the Bolshevik Party.

And Lenin used to say – as Trotsky explained it to me – we need Kamenev in the Central Committee because his tendency to waver and conciliate is the reflection of a certain tendency of that kind in the party ranks that we want to keep our finger on. When Kamenev speaks we know that there is a certain sentiment within the party of the same kind that we have to take into consideration. And while we do not accept Kamenev’s wavering and conciliationism, we go slow and take it into account because when we move we want to take the whole party with us. If he raises too many objections, we stop awhile and devote a little more time to education in the party ranks to make sure that our ranks will be solid.

* * *
Our strength is in our combination, both of our faults and of our virtues. That, taken on the whole, is what I call the cadre concept of leadership. This cadre, for the last year almost, has been constituted as a faction – that is, the great majority of the cadre. We have engaged in a faction struggle. But what was that cadre organized into a faction for? It was not the whole cadre; it was the majority, but not all. It didn’t include the comrades from Buffalo and Youngstown – there were some differences there at first but they have been virtually eliminated in the course of the struggle; the decisions of this Plenum are all unanimous.

But at the start, the majority of the cadre constituted itself into a faction, meeting by itself, making its own decisions, and so on.

However, this faction was not formed for the purpose of having a faction. It was not formed as a permanent combination of good fellows who are going to stick together from now to doomsday and not let anybody else join. It is not a gang, nor a clan, nor a clique. It is just simply a politico-military organization formed for a certain purpose. But what was the purpose? The purpose was to defeat and isolate the revisionist faction of Pablo-Cochran. That aim has been achieved.

Dissolution of Majority Faction
That being the case, what is the duty of this faction now? Are we going to hold together for old time’s sake, form a sort of “Grand Army of the Republic” – the only ones allowed to wear ribbons, demand special privileges and honors? No. The duty of this faction now is to say: “The task is finished, the faction is no longer needed, and the faction must be dissolved into the party.” The leadership of the party belongs henceforth to the cadre as a whole, assembled at this Plenum. All problems, all questions for discussion, should be taken directly into the party branches.

I would like to start off this new stage of party life by announcing here, in the name of the majority faction of the National Committee, its unanimous decision: The majority faction that was formed for the purposes of the struggle, having accomplished its task, thereby dissolves itself into the party.

*From "YouTube"- December 16, 2010-Veterans for Peace Take Demand to White House Fence -The Resistance Begins- The Winter Soldiers Lead The Way

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of the December 16, 2010 veteran-led civil disobedience action at the White House in opposition to Obama's wars.

Markin comment:

This is another easy one-Obama-Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S./Allied Troops From Afghanistan And Iraq! Not One Penny, Not One Person For These Imperial Wars!

* From The "Stop These Wars" Website- December 16, 2010-The Resistance Begins- The Winter Soldiers Lead The Way

Click on the headline to link to the Stop These Wars Website for many reports and videos of the December 16, 2010 veteran-led civil disobedience action at the White House in opposition to Obama's wars.

Markin comment:

This is another easy one-Obama-Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S./Allied Troops From Afghanistan And Iraq! Not One Penny, Not One Person For These Imperial Wars!

*Once Again-From The Blogosphere- December 16, 2010-The Resistance Begins- The Winter Soldiers Lead The Way

Click on the headline to link to a Libertarian blog entry film clip of the December 16, 2010 veteran-led civil disobedience action at the White House in opposition to Obama's wars.

Markin comment:

This is another easy one-Obama-Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S./Allied Troops From Afghanistan And Iraq! Not One Penny, Not One Person For These Imperial Wars!

*From The December 16th Veteran-Led March On The White House -The Resistance Begins

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of the veteran-led march on the White House December 16, 2010.

Markin comment:

This is another easy one-Obama-Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S./Allied Troops From Afghanistan And Iraq! Not One Penny, Not One Person For These Imperial Wars! 

From "The Washington Post"-Daniel Ellsberg's Defense Of "Wikileaks" And Pvt Bradley Manning

Click on the headline to link to a Washington Post online article about Pentagon Papers (1971) whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg on current whistleblowers Wikileaks and Pvt. Bradley Manning.

Markin comment:

This one is easy- Hands Off Wikileaks ! and Free Bradley Manning.

*The Winter Palace, 1917 (Oops!)-The White House, December 16, 2010- The Winter Soldier Resistance-Down With Imperialist War!

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of the December 16, 2010 veteran-led civil disobedience action in front of Obama’s imperial White House. For pictures of the Winter Palace in Russia in November 1917 during the Bolshevik Revolution you are on your own. Markin comment:

Old Truth: Old white-haired men, well-groomed, well-sated, mainly white-skinned, a few women also white-haired, and also mainly white-skinned now thrown in, their arthritic hands on the throttles on state power send young, virile, half-formed, half-knowing working class men, many brown and black- skinned (and also now young virile, half-formed, half-knowing working class women, many brown and black-skinned) to fight their imperial wars. Their American behemoth, monstrous imperial wars. A current “white” black front man, a conscious and willing front man does not alter that truth. That configuration, that infernal configuration, of who orders and who fights remains in place and no amount of “spin” can alter it.

“Spin”: our vital national security interests demand it: if we don’t stop them there (fill in the blank there) they’ll be at our doorstep next; they need a good dose of democracy, democracy America-style, to cure their ills; we had to burn that village to the ground to save it; the only good “commie” (fill in the blank for the current “axis of evil” enemy) is a dead “commie”; we need to keep our oil (fill in the blank for your favored resource) supplies secure; if we don’t support (fill in the blank) then the next guy will be even worst; we are winning the war by not losing; we can see the light at the end of the tunnel; oh, that, that was strictly “collateral damage” that doesn’t count; we seek no wider war but I will next week sent (fill in the blank) troops just to be on the safe side; America love it, or leave it; my country, right or wrong; and, on and on and on.

New Truth: White-haired men, mainly, standing stoically in the snow in Lafayette Park in front of the White House, brushing off the flakes as they accumulate on their weathered shoulders, many Rip Van Winkle-bearded, Gabby Hayes-bearded for those who remember that name out of black and white television child cowboy and Indian dreams and this crowd, this motley group of veterans of the past and present wars of the American imperium know that name, or know those who know that name. Mostly the beards, like the hair, are white as well, some a bit raggedy like times were a little tough and keeping up with appearances had lost some of its glimmer. Some pot-bellied, showing signs of rough battles after youth’s invincibility proved false for another generation. Some rail thin, reflecting the inhuman struggle to keep old age’s weight down. Some, proudly, wearing their old time medal-bedecked, rank-inscribed and name-stitched service uniforms, those awful greens, those awful olive greens to make a man or woman hate the sight of green. Some, who dearly purchased their right to use that uniform as anti-war symbol, “finger” that uniform today, also proudly. All, I say all, showing the scars of war, some in the stoop of their shoulders, some in that deep, inner place where the horrors of war are kept at bay for another day. All show those scars in their gait as they wait, wait for another signal, a signal to march, but this time to a different drummer, to a different drum beat, more Buddhist bong that military tattoo. They harken back, I can see it clearly in their faces as I could have in my own if I had chanced to see a mirror just then, to young manhood, to young manhood’s fears and follies. To their first taste of battle, bullets whirling, cannons booming, bombs sizzling from the death skies. Life was measured, if it was measured at all, in that minute, that soldier’s minute between life and death, no, less than a minute. The “order” is given to move out, move out slowly, single-file, keep some distance between you and the next kindred spirit, white-doved flags fluttering in the snow wind leading the way. These men know the drill, know the pace, and know the mission. Unlike those youthful terrors this is not a day for fear. This is the day when the ante gets raised. And these are the men to meet that clarion call to resistance. No, no need for fear today. These are winter soldiers. The resistance has begun, and let those other white-haired men, those powerful white-haired men with their hands on the throttle of power tremble at the thought.

*Another Look-From "YouTube"- December 16, 2010-The Resistance Begins- The Winter Soldiers Lead The Way

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of the December 16, 2010 veteran-led civil disobedience action at the White House in opposition to Obama's wars.

Markin comment:

This is another easy one-Obama-Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S./Allied Troops From Afghanistan And Iraq! Not One Penny, Not One Person For These Imperial Wars!

*Yet Again-From "YouTube"- December 16, 2010-The Resistance Begins- The Winter Soldiers Lead The Way

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of the December 16, 2010 veteran-led civil disobedience action at the White House in opposition to Obama's wars.

Markin comment:

This is another easy one-Obama-Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S./Allied Troops From Afghanistan And Iraq! Not One Penny, Not One Person For These Imperial Wars!

*From The Archives Of The American Communist Party-James Cannon On The Early Days Of The Party-James P. Cannon-The “American Question” at the Fourth (Communist International) Congress

Markin comment:

In the introduction to a recent posting that started a series entitled From The Archives Of The Spartacist League (U.S.) I noted the following that applies to this series on the roots of the American Communist Party as well:

“In October 2010 I started what I anticipate will be an on-going series, From The Archives Of The Socialist Workers Party (America), starting date October 2, 2010, where I will place documents from, and make comments on, various aspects of the early days of the James P. Cannon-led Socialist Worker Party in America. As I noted in the introduction to that series Marxism, no less than other political traditions, and perhaps more than most, places great emphasis on roots, the building blocks of current society and its political organizations. Nowhere is the notion of roots more prevalent in the Marxist movement that in the tracing of organizational and political links back to the founders, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, the Communist Manifesto, and the Communist League.

After mentioning the thread of international linkage through various organizations from the First to the Fourth International I also noted that on the national terrain in the Trotskyist movement, and here I was speaking of America where the Marxist roots are much more attenuated than elsewhere, we look to Daniel DeLeon’s Socialist Labor League, Eugene V. Deb’s Socialist Party( mainly its left-wing, not its socialism for dentists wing), the Wobblies (IWW, Industrial Workers Of The World), the early Bolshevik-influenced Communist Party and the various formations that led up to the Socialist Workers Party, the section that Leon Trotsky’s relied on most while he was alive…..”

I am continuing today in that vane in what I also anticipate will be an on-going series on the early days of the American Communist party from which we who are students of Leon Trotsky trace our roots. Those roots extend from the 1919 until 1929 when those who would go on after being expelled, led by James P. Cannon, to form the Socialist Workers Party which also is part of our heritage. That is not the end of the matter though as the American Communist Party also represented a trend in the 1930s, the Popular front strategic policy, that has bedeviled revolutionaries ever since in one form or another. Those 1930s issues need to be addressed as well.


Additional comment on this article-Markin

A certain amount of caution is needed in dealing with the Stalinized American Communist Party, as with the Communist International, because the Stalinists, then and now, were more than happy to slander political opponents on their left, and to rewrite history for their own purposes. Hardly a new idea among those who “win” whatever battle they are fighting. But a little bit tough on those of us who are trying to draw the lessons of the past for today’s left-wing militants. This series starts with the reflections of that early Communist leader mentioned above, James P. Cannon, who had his own axes to grind politically, no question. However, as Theodore Draper who wrote the definitive study on the history of the early American Communist Party in two volumes noted, of all the people whom he interviewed for the his books James Cannon was the one that stood out as wanting to remember as truthfully as he could that early history. I will use that statement as the touchstone for using Cannon’s work first. William Z. Foster, Earl Browder and the others will get their chance later.
James P. Cannon

Letters to a Historian

(1954 – 1956)

* * *
These articles from the magazines Fourth International and International Socialist Review are based on letters Cannon wrote to Theodore Draper who was then researching his two-volume series on the history of the US Communist Party

Written: March 1954 to February 1956.

Published: Fourth International, Summer 1954–Spring 1956, & International Socialist Review, Summer 1956–Spring 1957. Source: Original bound volumes of Fourth International and International Socialist Review and microfilm provided by the NYU Tamiment Labor Libraries.

Transcription & Mark-up: Andrew Pollack/Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive
James P. Cannon
Early Years of the American Communist Movement
Letters to a Historian

The “American Question” at the Fourth Congress

Source: Fourth International, Vol.15 No.3, Winter 1955, pp.15-18.
Original bound volumes of Fourth International and microfilm provided by the NYU Tamiment Labor Libraries.
Transcription & Mark-up: Andrew Pollack/Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.


May 10, 1954

Dear Sir:

I arrived in Moscow on June 1, 1922 as the official delegate of the American Communist Party to the Plenum of the ECCI and to the pending Fourth Congress of the Comintern. I remained there until the following January. Besides attending to my duties in the ECCI and in the Congress, I had a good chance to look around and form some impressions of the country in the fifth year of the revolution.

After my return to the US, I covered the country on a five-month tour, speaking on The Fifth Year of the Russian Revolution. This lecture was published in pamphlet form at the time and has since been reprinted by Pioneer Publishers, together with another lecture, under the title The Russian Revolution.

I was seated as the American representative on the ECCI and was also made a member of its presidium, the smaller working body, which met frequently and handled all current political work of the Comintern in the same manner as the smaller political bureau of the national committee of a national organization.

This was my first view of the functioning of the Comintern, and my first chance to see the great political leaders at work in discussion and decision on questions of the world movement. I was well satisfied to sit quietly, to listen and try to learn. I really think I learned a lot in this priceless experience.

The problems of the various national parties, one after another, came up for review in the sessions of the presidium. The big questions of the time, as I recall, were the continuing crisis in the French party and the application of the tactics of the united front generally. All the important parties had permanent delegates in Moscow. They presented periodic reports on new developments in their respective Countries and joined in the discussion.

The decisive lead was taken by the Russian delegation assigned to permanent work in the Comintern. These were Zinoviev as chairman, Radek and Bukharin. As a member of the presidium, I saw these leaders at work and heard them speak on an average of about once a week during the entire period of my stay in Moscow. There was no question whatever of the leading role played by the Russian representatives. This was taken as a matter of course and was never questioned. But the reasons for it were entirely just and natural. They were the veterans who were schooled in the doctrine and knew the world movement, especially the European section of it, from study and first-hand experience in their years of exile. In addition, they had the commanding moral authority which accrues by right to the leaders of a victorious revolution. The delegates of the other parties, like myself, were mainly apprentices of a younger generation. I think all of us, or nearly all, felt that we were privileged to attend an incomparable school, and we tried to profit by the opportunity.

* * *
I also worked in the Executive Body of the Red International of Labor Unions (Profintern). There I became well acquainted with the leading figures in the trade-union work of different countries. I particularly remember Losovsky, Nin and Brandler. The Profintern Committee enjoyed a wide autonomy at that time in all the practical affairs of the international trade-union movement. Questions involving political policy, however, were coordinated with the presidium of the Comintern and eventually decided there.

* * *
In pursuit of my special objective – to gain Comintern support for our policy in the US – I talked personally to Zinoviev, Radek, Bukharin and Kuusinen (the secretary of the ECCI). Bittelman came along to Moscow in the summer of 1922 on a special mission – to report on the Jewish movement in the US, I think. Bittelman and I worked closely together in Moscow. We cooperated in preparing written reports on the situation in the US and attended the conversations with the various leaders together.

I noted that all the leaders, as though by a prior decision on their part, remained noncommittal in all these discussions of American policy at that time. They were extremely friendly and patient. They gave us freely of their time, which must indeed have been strictly limited, and asked numerous pointed questions which showed an intense interest in the question. None of them, however, expressed any opinion. The net result of the first round of conversations, which extended over a considerable period of time, was an informal decision to wait for the arrival of the delegates from the other faction, who would be coming to the World Congress, and to defer any decision until that time.

Nothing was said directly to indicate a definite position; but I did get the impression at that time that the Russian leaders were inclined to regard me as a “liquidator” of the type they had confronted in the Russian party in the period of reaction following the defeat of the 1905 revolution. These Russian “liquidators” had wanted to abandon the illegal party organization and to adapt Social Democratic activity to Czarist legality. The Bolsheviks had been traditionally opposed to such capitulatory liquidationism; and I felt that the reserved attitude of the Russian leaders in 1922 was at least partly conditioned by the memory of that old battle.

I noticed that one of the technical functionaries in the Comintern apparatus, a woman comrade who spoke English, told me that she had been assigned to help me study the experiences of the old Bolshevik struggle against the liquidators. She took me to a library and translated for me a number of Lenin’s polemical articles of that time. I agreed with the articles, but I thought there was a difference between Czarist Russia and Harding’s America. I had the uneasy feeling, throughout the summer of 1922, that I wasn’t making a bit of headway in my effort to gain support for our policy.

Possibly the reserve of the Russian leaders was due to the fact that previously the ECCI had sent a representative to America – Valetski, a Pole – and that they awaited his report.

* * *
Those were the good days of the Communist International, when its moral authority was the highest and the wisdom of its advice to the young parties from the various countries was recognized and appreciated by all. We knew nothing of any conflict or rivalry among the Russian leaders. We thought of the Russian leadership as a unit, with Lenin and Trotsky standing above and somewhat apart from all the rest.

Trotsky led the debate on the French question at the June Plenum of the ECCI of that year, and also at the Fourth Congress which followed some months later. Trotsky also appeared a few times at the meetings of the presidium, but only for a special purpose each time. I saw and heard Lenin only once, when he spoke for an hour at the Fourth Congress. We knew, of course, that he was ill; but there was confident optimism on every side that he would recover. As I said, all the daily work of the presidium of the ECCI was led by the special Russia delegation assigned to that function – Zinoviev, Radek and Bukharin. I can’t recall that I either saw or heard of Stalin that time.

* * *
Meantime, at home the factional fight between the liquidators and the leftists was raging. Additional delegates to the Fourth Congress began to arrive from America. It was a big delegation, nearly a score all told, and all tendencies were represented. Max Bedacht and Arne Swabeck came for the liquidators; L.E. Katterfeld, Rose Pastor Stokes and others for the undergrounders. There was a youth delegation headed by Martin Abern. A number came as trade-union delegates; I remember Jack Johnstone, Rose Wortis and others. The youth and trade-union delegates both supported the liquidators. There was also a Negro delegate whose name has escaped me, who seemed to support the leftist faction. Trachtenberg represented the Workers Council group, which had not joined the CP. The seceding group of leftists (United Toilers) had two delegates who had been invited to come and present their appeal.

In addition, a number of individuals had come to Moscow on their own account. Among them were Max Eastman; the Negro poet, Claude McKay; and Albert Rhys Williams. In Claude McKay’s autobiographical book, A Long Way from Home, he devotes a section to his Russian visit and the Congress. Zinoviev and the other Russian leaders made a great fuss over him. They included him in group pictures with them and other Congress leaders for propaganda purposes in the colonial world. In Chapter 16 of his book, McKay speaks about the Congress and the American Commission, which he attended. You might find this interesting, as the independent impression of an artist.

After the full delegation had arrived and the Fourth Congress began to drag out its month-long course, the preliminary fight over the American question began in earnest. The first skirmishes took place in the special department of the Comintern for English speaking countries. Rakosi, the recently deposed Stalinist boss of Hungary, was in charge of this department. He spoke English fluently and I got to know him quite well. He was one of the younger members of the Hungarian leadership who had made their way to Moscow after the defeat of the Hungarian revolution.

Rakosi impressed me then as a rather rigid formalist and sectarian and he did not conceal his suspicion of us as “liquidators.” We didn’t mind that so much because we didn’t take him too seriously. But the possibility that he might be reflecting the point of view of the official leaders made us rather uncomfortable. I must say that this was the general impression at that time, and it was reflected in the attitude of other technical functionaries in the Comintern apparatus.

They began to give me a bad time. On the eve of the Congress they shifted me from my privileged room in the Hotel Lux to a roughly improvised dormitory for overflow delegates. I really didn’t mind that very much, being an old hobo, but political significance was attached to it, and my friends joked about my banishment from the Lux. This is what I meant when I referred in my “History” to my status during that period as a sort of “pariah.” These “apparachniks” were real weather vanes. I never liked this breed, then or ever.

* * *
Toward the end of the Congress we final1y secured an interview with Trotsky. That changed everything overnight. We don’t deserve a bit of credit for this decisive interview because, as far as I can remember, we never even thought of asking for it. The interview was arranged by Max Eastman on his own initiative.

Trotsky, the most businesslike of men, set the interview for a definite time. His fearsome insistence on punctuality, in contrast to the typical Russian nonchalance in matters of time, was a legend, and nobody dared to keep him waiting. Eastman only had about one hour to arrange it, and came within an inch of failing to round us up. He got hold of us at the last minute, as we were blithely returning from a visit to the Russian steam baths – my first and only experience with this formidable institution – and hustled us to Trotsky’s office by auto just in the nick of time to keep the appointment.

Those who attended the interview, as I recall, were Max Bedacht, Max Eastman and myself. If any other American delegates were present, I don’t remember them. Trotsky, bristling with businesslike precision, wasted no time on formalities. He asked us right away to state our case, and reminded us that we had only one hour. I was struck by the difference between his manner and method and Zinoviev’s. The latter had impressed me as informal and easygoing, even somewhat lackadaisical. He always seemed to have plenty of time, and could always be counted on to open a meeting two or three hours late. In spite of that he obviously did an enormous amount of work. It was just a difference in his way of working.

The greatness of Lenin and Trotsky was the greatness of genius. Zinoviev receded before them, but on a lesser scale he was a great man too. I had a soft spot for Zinoviev, and my affectionate regard for him never changed. I still hope, someday, to write something in justice to his memory.

The main exposition at the interview with Trotsky was made by me, supplemented by some remarks from Bedacht. My thesis, as I recall, had four points:

1.The lack of class consciousness of the American workers, and as a result, the elementary tasks of propaganda imposed on the Communist Party.
2.The actual political climate in the country which made possible and necessitated a legal party.
3.Our proposal to support the formation of a labor party based on the trade unions.
4.The necessity of Americanizing the party, of breaking the control of the foreign-language federations and assuring an indigenous national leadership.
Trotsky asked only a few questions about the actual political situation in the country, with respect to the laws, etc. He expressed astonishment, and even some amusement, over the theory that underground organization is a question of principle. He said the attempt of the foreign-language groups to “control” the American party was unrealistic and untenable. If they persisted, he said facetiously, the Russian party would invite them to return to Russia. (It might be remarked, parenthetically, that the return to Russia of Hourwich, Staklitzky, Ashkenudzie and other strong and fanatical leaders of the Russian Federation, did contribute to the eventual solution of the problem of party “control.”)

I don’t recall what, if anything, Trotsky said about the labor party question.

At the end of the discussion, which probably didn’t last more than an hour as he had specified, Trotsky stated unambiguously that he would support us, and that he was sure Lenin and the other Russian leaders would do the same. He said that if Lenin didn’t agree, he would try to arrange for us to see him directly. He said he would report the interview to the Russian Central Committee and that the American Commission would soon hear their opinion. At the end of the discussion he asked us to write our position concisely, on “one sheet of paper – no more,” and send it to him for transmission to the Russian leadership.

It struck me at the moment, as a formidable task, after a solid year of unlimited debate, to be asked to say everything we had to say on one sheet of paper. Nevertheless, with the help of Eastman we did it that very day and sent it in. I would give a good deal today for the original of that document “on one sheet of paper.”

* * *
That interview with Trotsky was the great turning point in the long struggle for the legalization of the American communist movement, which should never have accepted an illegal status in the first place. Soon afterward, the formal sessions of the American Commission of the Fourth Congress were started. The Russians showed their decided interest in the question by sending a full delegation – Zinoviev, Radek and Bukharin – to the Commission.

Nothing was hurried. There was a full and fair debate, in a calm and friendly atmosphere. Nobody got excited but the Americans. Katterfeld and I were given about an hour each to expound the conflicting positions of the contending factions. Rose Pastor Stokes, Bedacht and others were called upon to supplement the remarks of the main reporters on both sides. A representative of the seceding underground leftist group was also given the floor.

Then the big guns began to boom. First Zinoviev, then Radek and then Bukharin. The noncommittal attitude they had previously shown in our personal conversations with them, which had caused us such apprehension, was cast aside. They showed a familiarity with the question which indicated that they had discussed it thoroughly among themselves. They all spoke emphatically and unconditionally in support of the position of the liquidators.

Their speeches were truly brilliant expositions of the whole question of legal and illegal organization, richly illustrated from the experience of the Russian movement. They especially demonstrated that the central thesis of the underground leftists, namely, that the party had to retain its underground organization as a matter of principle, was false. It was, they explained, purely a practical question of facts and possibilities in a given political atmosphere.

They especially castigated the tendency to transplant mechanically the Russian experiences under the Czar, where all forms of political opposition were legally proscribed, to America which still retained its bourgeois democratic system intact and where the Workers Party was already conducting a satisfactory communist propaganda without legal interference. Illegal underground work, said Zinoviev, is a cruel necessity in certain conditions; but one must not make a fetish of it, and resort to costly and cumbersome underground activities, when legal possibilities are open. He told an amusing story of an old Bolshevik underground worker who insisted on carrying her old false passport even after the Bolsheviks had taken over the state power.

The result of the discussion in the American Commission was the unanimous decision: (1) to legalize the party; (2) to recommend that the party advocate and work for the construction of a labor party based on the trade unions; and (3) to appeal to the seceding leftists to return to the party, assuring them a welcome and rightful place in its ranks.

* * *
That was one time when a great problem of American communism, which it had not been able to solve by itself, was settled conclusively and definitely by the Comintern for the good of the movement.

All subsequent experience demonstrated the absolute correctness of this decision. It is appalling to think what would have been the fate of the American communist movement without the help of the Comintern in this instance. The two factions were so evenly matched in strength, and the leftists were so fanatically convinced that they were defending a sacred principle, that a definitive victory for the liquidators within a united movement could not be contemplated.

The main energies of the American communists would have been consumed in the internal struggle, at the expense of public propaganda and the recruitment of new forces. The prospect was one of unending factional struggles and disintegrating splits until the movement exhausted itself, while the great country rolled along and paid no attention to it. The intervention of Trotsky, and then of the Russian party and the Comintern, saved us from that.

This decision showed the Comintern at its best, in its best days, as the wise leader and coordinator of the world movement.

Its role in this crucial struggle of the infant movement of American communism was completely realistic, in accord with the national political conditions and necessities of that time. Moreover, the Russian leaders, to whom American communism owed this great debt, showed themselves to be completely objective, fair and friendly to all, but very definite and positive on important political questions.

I always remembered their friendly help in this affair with the deepest gratitude. Perhaps that was one reason why I could never reconcile myself to the campaign against them and their eventual expulsion a few years later. I could never believe that they had become “enemies of the revolution,” and I believe it even less today, 32 years afterward.

Yours truly,
James P. Cannon

Friday, December 17, 2010

* “Workers of The World Unite, You Have Nothing To Lose But Your Chains”-The Struggle For Trotsky's Fourth (Communist) International-From The Archives- Pre-History-The Struggle Inside The Comintern In The 1920s-The German Left and the Russian Opposition (1926-28)

Markin comment:

Recently, when the question of an international, a new workers international, a fifth international, was broached by the International Marxist Tendency (IMT), faintly echoing the call by Venezuelan caudillo, Hugo Chavez, I got to thinking a little bit more on the subject. Moreover, it must be something in the air (maybe caused by these global climatic changes) because I have also seen recent commentary on the need to go back to something that looks very much like Karl Marx’s one-size-fits-all First International. Of course, just what the doctor by all means, be my guest, but only if the shades of Proudhon and Bakunin can join. Boys and girls that First International was disbanded in the wake of the demise of the Paris Commune for a reason, okay. Mixing political banners (Marxism and fifty-seven varieties of anarchism) is appropriate to a united front, not a hell-bent revolutionary International fighting, and fighting hard, for our communist future. Forward

The Second International, for those six, no seven, people who might care, is still alive and well (at least for periodic international conferences) as a mail-drop for homeless social democrats who want to maintain a fig leaf of internationalism without having to do much about it. Needless to say, one Joseph Stalin and his cohorts liquidated the Communist (Third) International in 1943, long after it turned from a revolutionary headquarters into an outpost of Soviet foreign policy. By then no revolutionary missed its demise, nor shed a tear goodbye. And of course there are always a million commentaries by groups, cults, leagues, tendencies, etc. claiming to stand in the tradition (although, rarely, the program) of the Leon Trotsky-inspired Fourth International that, logically and programmatically, is the starting point of any discussion of the modern struggle for a new communist international.

With that caveat in mind this month, the September American Labor Day month, but more importantly the month in 1938 that the ill-fated Fourth International was founded I am posting some documents around the history of that formation, and its program, the program known by the shorthand, Transitional Program. If you want to call for a fifth, sixth, seventh, what have you, revolutionary international, and you are serious about it beyond the "mail-drop" potential, then you have to look seriously into that organization's origins, and the world-class Bolshevik revolutionary who inspired it. Forward.
The German Left and the Russian Opposition (1926-28) from Revolutionary History, Volume Two, Number Two, 1989

The piece that follows first appeared in French under the heading of Gauche allemande et Opposition russe de 1926 a 1928 on pages 4-25 of the Cahiers Leon Trotsky, no.22, June 1985, and its appearance here in English we owe yet again to the generosity of Pierre Broué and the translational skill of John Archer. It consists of a reply to a paper read to the Follonica Colloquy by Michel Prat.

Pierre Broué is well known to the subscribers of this journal from his presentation on the Comintern and the German Crisis of 1923 at our Annual General Meeting, and from his biography of Trotsky published by Fayard in 1988, whose early appearance in English is much anticipated. Equally indispensable as background to the study of this topic is his exhaustive Revolution en Allemagne: 1917-1923 published by Editions de Minuit in Paris in 1971. A short article of his also exists in English that can serve as an introduction to this study, Germany 1921: The March Action in Fourth International (SLL), Volume 1, No.2, Summer 1964, pp.80-3.


At the Follonica colloquium about Trotsky, Michel Prat, a specialist on Karl Korsch, presented a communication on the Crisis of the Russian Communist Party and Crisis of the Comintern 1926-27 [1] – a choice which is explained by the fact that the colloquium was about Trotsky and not about Korsch. Nonetheless, it was Korschist theses which determined Michel Prat’s conclusions, and we wish to discuss them here by pushing the study forward to 1928 (which he did not mention in his title, but which he dealt with in his text and his notes).

Michel Prat starts from a truism, in which he sees “a completely remarkable phenomenon”, and which, he declares, has nonetheless remained almost totally unnoticed in the vast literature devoted to Trotsky ... his “complete defeat” in 1927 and his statement that Trotsky carried on his struggle for internationalism within in the Russian Communist Party. [2] Michel Prat goes even further in his conclusion. He declares that Trotsky, like Zinoviev, elaborated a political position based “in the last analysis on the same realistic analysis of the hierarchy which in fact existed between the Russian Communist Party and the Comintern” and that consequently Trotsky was imprisoned “in a logic of activity within the framework of the Russian power monopoly” and, therefore, was led “to neglect the possibilities of an International Left Opposition”. [3]

Of course, such an analysis could doubtless appear over the name of Korsch and could even summarise the criticism by the latter of Trotsky’s rôle within this setting and on this point. However, in return, we may be permitted to say that such an analysis is hastily strung together, without overmuch concern for historical reality and for the real contradictions on the basis of which the policy of the oppositionists had to be elaborated.

Michel Prat’s reasoning is, in fact, very simple, and breaks down almost into the form of a syllogism. In 1926 the Left Opposition within the German Communist Party was of the order of 30 per cent of its active membership. In 1929 it was negligible. In the interval, the Russian Opposition had struggled on the basis of the forces which it had in the party on which it depended, and the German Opposition strongly criticised it for having done so; it is, therefore, because the Russian Opposition neglected them that the German Oppositionists were defeated. But it would be too nice if history and politics were to sketch themselves out so simply and harmoniously, in the form of black and white propositions, which would allow the schoolmasters of later decades to distribute good and bad marks.

The Left in the KPD
It is true that the ‘German Left’, which corresponded in 1926-27 to the Unified Opposition in the Soviet Union, had a real existence, unlike the Left Opposition in many other countries. For an opposition in a Communist Party it had a mass character and was solidly implanted in several authentically proletarian sectors, with leaders who had been party cadres in the preceding years. Far from being marginal, it was on the contrary situated at the heart of the most working class of the Communist parties in Europe, the nearest to the Bolshevik 'model’.

But the German Left was not born out of the same division within the German Party as that within the Bolshevik Party from which the Russian Opposition was born. The German Opposition was born out of the problems of the struggle for power in Germany, before the question of ‘Socialism in a Single Country’, let alone ‘the struggle against Trotskyism’ arose the USSR. The German Left of Ruth Fischer and Arkadi Maslow, of Werner Scholem and Hugo Urbahns, was neither a marginal gathering of apparatchiks nor a circle of intellectuals like its French counterparts, but the expression of an authentic current in the German working class, and, more precisely, of that current in post-war Germany which we can call ‘working class leftism’, provided that we do not ever overlook that in the language of Bolshevism ‘leftism’ simply means ‘Left Communism’ and is, therefore, a Communist current. This current was born out of a struggle against the Social Democratic bureaucracy before the war, and then out of the anti-militarist, pacifist struggle during the war, and bore the marks of this. It expressed itself in a spectacular way at the birth of the United German Communist Party, which, moreover, it led to ruin in the ‘Berlin Commune’. Then it began to regain ground with the foundation in 1920 of the KAPD, along the line of the Dutchmen Pannekoek and Gorter, and of European leftism. It was a resurrection of this genuine ‘Leftism’ when, in 1921, at the heart of the German party, in its Berlin-Brandenburg district, intellectual and working class cadres enthusiastically developed the implications for Germany of the well-known ‘theory of the offensive’, born out of Bukharin’s theoretical creativity, and unhappily in Germany by Bela Kun – what Lenin called a “belakunery”.

The men and women who led this current had nothing to learn about finding their way through the jungle which the International had already become by 1921. Their captains joined the entourage of Zinoviev, whose support could be decisive for them. From their side there was considerable help which they could give to him. From the moment when they formed themselves into a current, they were determined adversaries of Trotsky ... and, moreover, of Lenin ... whom they believed fundamentally to be opportunists. It was Ruth Fischer who, in the KPD as well as in the International, appointed herself as the prima donna of what she called ‘Bolshevisation’. We know today that this meant essentially subjecting the party to its apparatus and strangling party democracy, which at the time characterised the Bolshevik traditions of rival tendencies and fractions. It was also Ruth Fischer, the most extreme of the international Zinovievist fraction, who moved a resolution in the working class quarter of Wedding in Berlin calling for the expulsion of Trotsky. [4] These ‘Lefts’ hunted down the least sympathy for ‘Trotskyism’ in the party. Thus the German Left was in no sense the German current of an international ‘Left’ of which, as we know, Trotsky was the leader. It was an authentic current, genuinely German and ‘Leftist’, the leaders of which in the International were partisans of Zinoviev, and with the apparatus and that ever-decreasing fraction of the apparatus which he controlled in 1925. These are two adequate reasons to explain the hostility of the German Lefts to Trotsky and the poor opinion which Trotsky had at the time of the political capacities of their leaders. Consequently nothing predisposed them to be ‘Trotskyists’, or even allies of Trotsky; quite the reverse.

In fact they met in a situation which many people – Michel Prat the first among them – tend to forget, because it is surprising and seems shocking to many. This was the Unified Opposition, in which Zinoviev and Trotsky stood side by side, an ‘unnatural marriage’ in the eyes of all, whether Russians or foreigners, who had taken part in the struggles in 1923-24 between the 1923 Opposition and the ‘troika’ which Zinoviev led at that time. It was only because Zinoviev, their leader and patron in the apparatus, joined in the alliance with Trotsky that Ruth Fischer, Maslow and Urbahns found themselves in a bloc with Trotsky, from whom they were separated by their conception of the United Front, their appreciation of the March Action of 1921, the cause of the fiasco of the German Revolution in 1923, and, especially, on whether there existed in Germany from 1924 onwards a ‘stabilisation’, which Trotsky had been the first to identify, but which the ‘Ruthenians’, as they were called, obstinately refused to see. This was how matters stood in the summer of 1926. The German Lefts understood that they were engaged, willy nilly, in an alliance with the ultra-lefts of the KPD, the first purpose of which was to defend the Opposition formed with Zinoviev and ... Trotsky. Moreover, they did not shout too loud about this: the first statement by the German Opposition, which was evidently inspired by the ‘Ruthenians’, spoke of the Unified Opposition by calling it the ‘Leningrad Opposition’, mentioned that its leaders were Zinoviev, Kamenev and Krupskaya, and referred to Trotsky only to declare that he had “rallied to Zinoviev”, despite the attacks which the latter had made on him. [5]

Yet at the same time, at the beginning of summer 1926, this was really a new departure for this already old tendency, in the struggle which was already taking the Communist world into its grasp. The leader of the tendency, since he came out of prison, was Hugo Urbahns, the hero of the Hamburg insurrection of 1923. He was joined at the time by Maslow, likewise freed from prison, and by Ruth Fischer, who had returned from the USSR, with the complicity of Zinoviev and of Bukharin, in defiance of a decision by the ECCI. [6] Before leaving she had long, frank conversations with Zinoviev during the weeks following the crushing of the New Opposition. [7 ]She had been informed about and had approved of the ‘bloc’ which was being prepared in the USSR with the Zinovievists negotiating simultaneously with the Trotskyists and with the old ‘Leftist’ Oppositions, the Workers’ Opposition and the Democratic Centralists.

The Unified Opposition in the KPD
The struggle of the German allies of the Unified Opposition began with a serious set-back. Ruth Fischer and Maslow evidently made contact with the other tendencies on the left and the extreme left, including those known as the ‘ultra-lefts’, and among them with the group of Karl Korsch, which called into question the proletarian character of the October Revolution and had been excluded from the KPD a year earlier. Indeed, an internal circular of the Korsch group clearly reveals these contacts; it fell into the hands of the KPD apparatus. [8] In mid-August Ruth Fischer and Maslow were excluded from the party for “indiscipline” and “preparing a split”. [9] Their case was to serve in the Soviet press as an example of how the Oppositionists allied themselves with the “enemies of the USSR”.

It seems that this exclusion, which was a symptom of the determination of the Communist International to bring the German party into line and to break a solid democratic tradition within it, (though it is true that this tradition had already been tampered with during the reign of Ruth Fischer and Zinoviev), had the effect at first of serving the cause of the Oppositionists by raising the indignation of the party membership. The document in which the German Lefts express their solidarity with the Russian Opposition harped upon the themes of workers’ democracy and free discussion. This declaration was drafted as a result of discussions between the leaders of the Left, those of the Wedding group and those of the Korsch group. It gives to this solidarity a completely Zinovievist accent, because it refers exclusively, not to the Unified Opposition, but to the ‘Leningrad Opposition’ (the New Opposition) which had earlier been defeated. It pronounced itself against the theory and perspectives of “the construction of Socialism in a single country” and condemned the “opportunist” policy of the International which mechanically flowed from it, as the document said. It demanded that all the sections be fully informed, that the documents of the Russian Opposition be published, and warned against the bureaucratic practices which, it wrote, were leading to the “danger of a split”. The document called for all the disciplinary measures to be annulled, beginning with those against Zinoviev, “the man of the Halle Congress”, that is to say, of the attachment of the German proletariat to Communism from 1920 onwards. This text received an immense number of signatures of support. It was published on 11 September 1926 and among the 700 names, all of party members, we read those of several members of the Central Committee (Urbahns and Hans Weber, from Wedding), five deputies in the Reichstag, eight members of the Prussian Landtag, and numerous party officials from various branches, including a certain number of the Communist Youth. [10] The campaign for signatures was organised and carried out from one end to the other by Werner Scholem, a master organiser.

The leadership of the KPD struck back brutally. In most of the districts, anyone who signed was promptly relieved of his functions. The party press campaigned against this “criminal attempt at a split”, and “the ‘anti-Bolshevik document’ of the Opposition”. It obtained a number of recantations, when some withdrew their signatures under pressure or intimidation. There can be no doubt that the counter-attack of the apparatus derived a great advantage from the events in the USSR at the same time, even though Michel Prat exaggerates when he writes that “it is finally the behaviour of the Unified Opposition which was to break the international dynamic of the action of the Left of the KPD, thus transforming the Manifesto of the 700 into a summit with no tomorrow”. [11]

The truth is that the Unified Opposition in the USSR, faced with the prohibition on expressing itself within the party, had attempted what it described in military terms as a “sortie”. This had totally failed when it encountered the violence of a minority of the Stalinist apparatchiks under the eye of the majority of party members who, if not indifferent, were at any rate passive. These party members sometimes after threats reversed votes favourable to the Opposition, as in the well-known case of the Avriopribor plant. The failure of the sortie and the defeat which it had undergone opened a crisis within the United Opposition, in which Zinoviev at any rate had encouraged hopes of immediate progress. The apparatus threatened to exclude the members of the Opposition, as it had done in Germany, if they did not repudiate the elements who had already been excluded and any who called for a split and for the formation of “a second party”. Within a year Zinoviev had been stripped of the major part of his responsibilities, and seemed to be ready to yield and to dissolve the Opposition. In order to save the Opposition Trotsky advocated a retreat, admitting that the Opposition had acted as a faction, accepting the renunciation of factional methods and the loyal acceptance of discipline, without for all that giving up the ideas which it had advanced and defended. The Political Bureau agreed to discussion on this basis, but demanded that the Left Opposition publicly disavow, among others, Ruth Fischer and Maslow, since they were excluded from the International. The Unified Opposition accepted these conditions and formulated this disavowal in its “pacific” declaration of 16 October 1926. [12]

It cannot be denied that this disavowal would influence the militants in Germany whom the Opposition hoped to mobilise for its struggle alongside the Russian Opposition, and would rebuff less politically sensitive militants, who reasoned in terms of services rendered, let alone unsophisticated people, who would quite simply believe that the arguments of the Russian Opposition against “factional activity” were dictated to it by its own experience and thinking. But it is true that in the struggle to convince the party, which was the line of the Unified Opposition, the necessary retreat had not been helped at all by the fact that Ruth Fischer and Maslow were excluded. This disavowal was an absolute condition, which the Russian Oppositionists could not infringe without finding themselves outside the party for which they were fighting. It therefore seems to us to be necessary here to correct practically all of the terms of the appreciation of Michel Prat which we have quoted above. There was no “international dynamic of the action of the Left”, but only the formation of an opposition, with results which were initially encouraging; this formation was not “broken”, but only seriously embarrassed; finally the Manifesto of the 700, which was not, and could not, be a “summit”, was not “with no tomorrow”.

The report of the meeting of delegates of the City of Berlin, reported in Die Rote Fahne on 22 October 1926, three days after the “pacific declaration” of the Russians had been published in German, confirms this. The resolution of the Stalinist majority got 806 votes, against 323 for that of the Opposition, while the motion for the re-admission of Ruth Fischer and Maslow got the votes of 276 delegates. [13]

Korsch’s position, which was doubtless not too difficult, was to denounce violently what he called “the shameful capitulation of the leaders of the Left Opposition”. [14] Urbahns attempted above all to minimise the impact of their declaration of 16 October, by stressing the “pressures” to which they had been subjected, and restricted himself to making the point that the Opposition outside Russia was in danger of being weakened by it. [15] In fact, the Russian disavowal embarrassed the German Opposition all the more to the extent that they had not elaborated their positions on German questions, let alone international ones, and that their manifesto had centred its argumentation on the ‘Russian’ question. The exclusions of Left Oppositionists from the KPD continued after the declaration of 16 October, but, as we know, they had begun long before, with the exclusion of Ruth Fischer and Maslow, following those of Korsch and the other ‘Leftists’.

In fact, the problem is not so much that the Russian Opposition “abandoned” the German Opposition, but that it was in Germany, in the KPD, that the bureaucracy applied the methods which it was to employ later in order to try to break up the Russian Opposition. After the party conference of 20 October, at which the resolution of the Central Committee was approved by 469 votes against 92 [16], the leadership called upon the leaders of the Left to repudiate publicly the declaration which Urbahns had made there on their behalf. The German Oppositionists quite correctly refused what would have been at the time a real capitulation, at the same time as a renunciation of their own ideas. On 5 November Urbahns, Scholem and Schwan were excluded from the party in their turn. [17] At the end of the month, Ruth Fischer, Urbahns, Scholem and Schwan went to Moscow to defend the appeal which they had made against their exclusion before a commission of the ECCI. We cannot doubt that in this way they were acting in full agreement with the leaders of the Unified Opposition in Russia. Ruth Fischer explained to the commission that her friends and herself had not wished to take the risk of coming with Maslow because, as a Russian citizen, the latter might be detained against his will. [18] Like the Russian Opposition, she condemned factional activity, but made it clear that she included in this condemnation what she called “the factional activity of the majority”. Unanimously the Executive confirmed the exclusion [19] which was to be followed by a severe purge of the German party. In this way the German Opposition found itself excluded from the German party a year before the Russian Opposition from the Russian party! Here – if we may say so – is the explanation for this absence which Michel Prat calls “its defeat at the Essen Congress” in March 1927. [20] It is curious that our friend clings to his idea and declares that the Russian Opposition had thus “indirectly dealt a fatal blow to the German Opposition” [21] – a conception which is a little surprising, all the same, in that it makes a total abstraction, not only of the reality of the German party, but in addition of the political force which carried through these exclusions, won these “victories” and inflicted these “defeats”, that is, the international Stalinist apparatus, which in this way he has involuntarily cleansed of the guilt for all its repressive activities. At all accounts, the prosecutor has had a moment’s distraction and accused the wrong person when he hands out the blame for the “fatal blow”.

The Unified Opposition outside the KPD
At the moment at which the Chinese question, due to the subordination to the Kuomintang which Stalin and Bukharin imposed on the Chinese Communist Party, was to give to the Russian Opposition a second wind on a battleground which involved the International and no longer merely the Russian party, the German Opposition was obliged to reorganise in difficult conditions. Its leaders and cadres were excluded from the Communist Party, and its members and sympathisers were hunted down for exclusion. Forty militants who were not yet excluded from the KPD took part in its first national conference, on 5 December 1926. [22] This conference elected a leadership which included expellees, such as Ruth Fischer, Grylewicz, Joko, Scholem, Urbahns, etc., as well as militants who were still members, such as Bartels, Deutschmann, Eppstein, Max Hesse, Paul Schlecht, etc. It likewise decided to publish a periodical, entitled Mitteilungsblatt (Linke Opposition der KPD) starting at the beginning of January 1927, and to elaborate, for this first issue, a Platform which would include especially an analysis of the “relative stabilisation of capitalism” and of the unfolding of the British General Strike within the framework of this stabilisation. [23]

Michel Prat regards as “symbolic” the fact that the Russian Oppositionists did not seek “the support of the oppositions until after their failure” [24], and writes that Trotsky did not begin to change his attitude towards the Left in the KPD until after the Essen Congress. [25] A simple reading of the document on which he bases this statement, a letter by Trotsky of 2 April 1927, disposes of it. On the basis of a reading of Mitteilungsblatt, Trotsky writes in the first place to express satisfaction that Urbahns and Fischer have carefully drawn the line between themselves and the ultra-lefts like Korsch, and have firmly declared for the defence of the Soviet Union. Above all, he mentions the new analysis which this group made of the situation in Germany, and expresses satisfaction at the awareness among its leaders of the ‘leftist’ character of the positions which they had earlier defended about the revolutionary character of the German situation in 1924, and, in a general way, of what appears to him to be their “greater political maturity”. In other words, Trotsky opens up again the question of the German Lefts which had been bureaucratically dealt with by their exclusion, in order to show the political progress which the group had made and the end of its obstinate opposition on a question of capital importance, as well as their abandonment of a puerile leftism. He took the opportunity of raising once more the question of their group being readmitted into the Communist International. [26] Michel Prat regards the presence of the 10 delegates of the Opposition at the Essen Congress, opposing the hundreds of the Stalinist majority, as no doubt proving its “bankruptcy”. He simply does not understand that Trotsky was interested in the ideas which the German Opposition was defending, nor his interest in political perspectives, which nonetheless were essential for the German and Russian members of the Opposition alike!

In reality, it seems that during the year of 1927 the German Opposition was a veritable culture-medium, one of the high places of political discussion. One of the means by which Stalin fought against the Left Opposition in Russia was by systematically sending its militants abroad on diplomatic or economic missions. Isolated from the main battlefield, the Soviet Party, they took part in the struggle of the emerging Communist Oppositions, which Stalin regarded as much less dangerous for him, because it was the Opposition in Russia he feared above all. Among those who stayed in Berlin at the time, Fischer mentions Turiv, Kaplinsky, Issaiev, Perevertsev and Hertzberg of the Leningrad ‘Old Guard’. [27] In addition, she recalls her old friend, Chklovsky, who was a confidant of Zinoviev. [28] We know that diplomats who were members of the Opposition came and went through Berlin, where Krestinsky, the Ambassador, was a member, and that the German capital received a visit from Rakovsky from Paris, Kamenev from Rome, and Safarov from Ankara. Ruth Fischer also mentions Eleazar B. Solntsev, without any special emphasis. [29]

We are now beginning to know something about Solntsev. He was born at the beginning of the century, and plunged into the revolutionary struggle when he was at high school. He graduated from the Institute of Red Professors in History and in Economics and was one of the most conspicuous militants of his generation in the Opposition, was close to Trotsky and was highly esteemed. He was attached to the Soviet Commercial Mission in Berlin, and spent a year in the German capital. It is only little by little that the man himself is beginning to emerge for us from the documents. He seems to have been especially connected with Urbahns and then with Maslow, and to have devoted himself to influencing the members of the old German Left. He was secretly an adviser to the German Opposition, but also the organiser of the international opposition in Europe, before going to the United States. On this account he has been sharply criticised, especially by Safarov, who seems to have ascribed a certain softness to him. [30] But let us return to the political questions.

The preparation for the Essen Congress was marked by violent confrontations – there were brutal attacks on meetings, for example, when Urbahns went to Halle on 2 November – and especially by determined bureaucratic repression, which did not hesitate to dissolve local groups or to destroy the local organisation in a workplace in order to extirpate the virus of opposition. In spite of this, the Opposition was not annihilated. In the course of the preparation of the Congress, it won 30 votes against 140 in Berlin-Brandenburg, nine against 232 at Halle, 15 against 100 at Magdeburg, seven against 150 at Wasserkante, five against 110 in the Ruhr and seven against 56 in Baden. To be sure, the Opposition lost its bastion in Neukolln, where it had 37 votes against 115, but only following gerrymandering and changes in the constituency boundaries. It still held control of several local organisations – Senftenberg, Rathenow, Schneidermuhl, in the Berlin-Brandenburg district, and especially Suhl in Thuringia. [31] The historian of the Leninbund, Rudiger Zimmerman, records 1,300 exclusions of Party officials attached to the Opposition in 1927. He mentions numerous public meetings which ended in real fighting, with the party trying to break them up and the Oppositionists organising the defence of their meetings. [32] An attentive examination, in fact, permits us not merely to deny categorically the appreciation of Michel Prat according to which the end of 1926 saw a “collapse” of the Left Opposition, but on the contrary demonstrates the exceptional vitality of a tendency which still retained the leadership of local groups of the KPD after a year of witch-hunts and physical violence.

However, we observe the beginning of a move by the Opposition tending to organise independently – perhaps precisely because of the dual impact of the repression and this resistance. In the language used in the polemics of the time, this was a tendency to form, at least in fact, a “second party”. Mitteilungsblatt did not remain a bi-monthly sheet. It became Die Fahne des Kommunismus (The Banner of Communism), presenting itself boldly as the organ of “the orthodox Marxist-Leninists”. Above all, at the time of the municipal elections in September 1927, there was to be seen for the first time a list of left Communists which was openly presented against the list of the KPD. In fact, the local Communist organisation in Altona invited Urbahns to address its members, refused to exclude its officials and demonstrated its solidarity with Hubert Hoffmann, a leader who had been excluded. The Opposition hoped to concretise this resistance by way of positive election result. At the outset the operation was planned for Hamburg and Altona. No warning was drawn from the failure at Hamburg; in the great port, where Urbahns, who five years earlier had led the armed insurrection of the Communist militants, was a dominant figure, those who drew up the list of ‘Left Communists’ did not succeed in getting the 3,000 signatures required to present and support it. The results were perhaps still more catastrophic in Altona, because they could be directly measured. The KPD got 19,000 votes, but the list of the ‘Left Communists’ got a total of only 365, one vote for every 52 cast for the KPD, a proportion which came as a complete surprise to the leaders of the Opposition and was a sharp warning, the meaning of which they were not to understand. [33]

It is only through Trotsky’s correspondence in exile, which Michel Prat has too superficially regarded, that we can form an idea of the reasons for this policy, which is a surprising one from several points of view. In fact we find running through Trotsky’s letters in exile a certain number of warnings about the policies which the exiled Zinovievist militants, who regarded themselves as emissaries, were advocating to the German Lefts. Just as in Russia, the Zinovievists often took considerable risks with their policies during their period of activity, risking exclusion or punishment. It seems that a fraction, if not the majority of them, exerted pressure in a direction which led in fact to the creation of a real ‘second party’ in Germany, on the basis of the Opposition and its policies, and that it was indeed this tendency which expressed itself through the candidatures of the Left Communists in the Altona municipal elections on 27 September 1927. We know that Solntsev fought against this policy. We also know – though without too much detail – that contacts were made by other ‘Russian Trotskyists’ with the remains of the Wedding opposition, Hans Weber and a militant whose mother was Russian, Alexander (Sasha) Müller. We know that when the ‘Leningrader’ G.I. Safarov, a diplomat from Turkey, arrived in mid-November, he undertook a criticism of Solntsev, whose organising activity he regarded as insufficient. At this moment he began to work with Maslow on drafting programmatic theses for a new International – which places him nearer to Korsch than to Trotsky. Safarov was not an isolated case. Kamenev supported the schemes for candidatures by members of the Leninbund in the legislative elections when he was passing through Berlin. [34]

We lack information about the conference which was held in Berlin at the same time as the Fifteenth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, so much so that good writers, using good arguments over a long period, have doubted the reality of an event which seemed to have survived only in the by no means completely reliable memory of Ruth Fischer. But Trotsky’s correspondence, which mentions it several times, finally confirms the version given in Stalin and German Communism on this point. The conference was prepared by several journeys. Grylewicz went to Prague and was received in the secretariat by the party leaders, Viktor Stern and A. Zapotocky, and gave them information which the ECCI had not communicated to them. [35] Likewise, Ruth Fischer was received in Paris by two member of the secretariat, Paul Marion and Dallet. [36] But contact on this occasion was also made with the opposition which claimed to be ‘left’, the Treint-Suzanne Girault group in France and the Michalec-Neurath group in Czechoslovakia. [37] Finally, we know that several European groupings of the Opposition were represented at the Berlin conference [38], in which some 20 Russian militants of the Opposition took part, including Solntsev and Safarov. The latter seems to have made a powerful contribution on the basis of a policy which could be summed up, as Trotsky put it, in the formula, “it is five minutes to midnight”, an appeal for all-out struggle involving an immediate split on the international scale. [39] We do not know whether the Wedding people were represented, but only that two of their members from the Palatinate, Frenzel and Baumgartner, had conferred with Rakovsky when he was on his way through Germany after having been recalled from France. [40] Did Safarov change his line abruptly in the middle of a speech when he received a telegram from Moscow announcing the decision of Zinoviev to capitulate, as Ruth Fischer says, or did he, like the others, change when he arrived in Moscow? We do not know. What is certain is that nothing more was heard of the draft theses for the new International by Maslow and Safarov [41] and that the German Opposition took a road leading less openly to a definite split when it decided to announce itself as a “public fraction” under the name of the Leninbund.

We now have all the materials to enable us to analyse the reasons for the hostility of Trotsky and his faction to this scheme. On 14 January Trotsky wrote to Perevertsev [42] that it was necessary, after the Altona experience, to give up completely the presentation of candidates, which meant “abandoning our line in favour of problematic seats”. He explained that the idea of forming a League (Bund) appeared to him to be mistaken: “The name of the Opposition is popular enough and it has an international character. The title ‘League’ adds nothing, but can become the pseudonym of a new party.” He was to return to this question in a letter addressed to the Leninbund Congress attributed in Fahne des Kommunismus to “A Russian Communist”. He pointed out that there existed in Germany neither mass pressure nor movements to the left, as the Altona results showed, and stressed that the proletarian core of the KPD remained attached to that party by its desire to defend the USSR and its real suspicion of an ‘opposition’, which was all the less convincing because it could not do anything. He believed that the German Opposition should begin by turning its attention to German questions, which would create the conditions in which it could become a mass movement with the confirmation of its analysis by developments in the USSR. He besought the leaders of the German Opposition to give up their electoral proposals. “Our own candidatures mean: ‘The KPD is no longer Communist. Down with the KPD!’ This step would mean that the split had taken place and would make it impossible to win over the party. That would be suicidal.” His proposals were simple: “The comrades who have been excluded remain a propaganda group with their weekly journal and influence the party from outside ... The oppositionists struggle by all possible means ... they submit to decisions but fight stubbornly for their convictions”. [43]

It was, doubtless, Solntsev’s successor in Germany – whom we know only under the initial “L” – who carried this line. Solntsev, for his part, thought that it was bad because of the results to which it led, which consisted in inducing the Germans not to organise. He was to write on this theme to Trotsky:

I believed the position which you have taken on the subject of the organisational measures of the Germans to be absolutely mistaken... I have seen that these formations melted away because they were not organised. Nor will the fraction gain anything, either, by neglecting questions of organisation. [44]

In fact Trotsky’s advice was not heeded. Paradoxically, the encouragement which the Zinovievists had given during the preceding year to the Left revealed itself to be decisive just at the moment when those who inspired it, for all that, capitulated unconditionally in the USSR. On 4 March 1928 the conference was held which was to launch the slogan of organising the Leninbund with an appeal to the German workers:

We do not have a new programme! We are not founding a new party! What we want is for all the Communists who take their stand on the position of Lenin, who recognise the decisions of the congresses of the Communist International, to reunify the ranks of all the authentic Communists in the struggle against opportunism and revisionism in all its forms. [45]

The constitution laid down:

The Leninbund is the organisational rally-point of all Communists, whether within or outside the KPD, who struggle against Stalinism for the re-unification on the basis of Leninist foundations of all the Communists in Germany and in the Communist International. [46]

The Leninbund: A Public Fraction or a Second Party?
The Leninbund, which was to be formally constituted in the Landtag building in Berlin on 8 and 9 April 1928 by a conference which brought together 153 delegates and three Russians, supported by about a hundred visitors, was beyond all possible doubt a revolutionary workers’ organisation, a legitimate offspring of Spartacus, of the Left of the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany (USPD) and of the United Communist Party of Germany (VKPD), the name adopted by the KPD following its fusion in December 1920 with the left of the USPD at the Halle Congress up to the Jena Congress in August 1921. The statistics which the organisers gave about 150 of the 153 delegates are significant on this point. [47]

To begin with, it was a young organisation of people who had lived through the class battles since 1917. 37.4 per cent of the delegates were under 30 years of age, and 60 per cent were under 35 years of age. In 1917, at the time of the October Revolution, 60 per cent of them had been under 25 years of age, and 37.4 per cent under 20 years of age. That made it an organisation markedly younger, not only than the SPD, but also than the KPD.

As regards their political origins, it was ascertained that 50 per cent of the delegates had belonged to a political organisation before the November revolution and 43 per cent before the First World War. Seventeen per cent of them had come to the Communist movement during the year of revolutionary struggle of 1918-19, and the remainder, 21 per cent, had come through the unemployment, the inflation and the revolutionary crisis in 1923. Seventy-four delegates had been members of the Social Democratic Party and 78 of the USPD. Nineteen had belonged to the Spartakusbund, two to the Austrian Social Democratic Party, and one to the Bund. One hundred and forty-nine of the 150 had belonged at one time or another to the KPD, 101 (67.3 per cent) had been excluded, 17 (11.3 per cent) had left of their own accord and 31 (20.7 per cent) were still members.

The social composition of the delegates was no less significant. 127 of them, 84.7 per cent, were industrial workers, eight of them, 5.3 per cent, were employed in commerce, and 15, 10 per cent, practised unwaged professions.

We have less documentation about the membership of the organisation, which was probably nearer to the figure of 2,000 which it had in 1929 than to the 11,000 to which the Opposition was believed to amount in 1927. Its principal strong points were in Berlin, where it had members in every district, in the region of Dortmund, especially in Mannheim, Bruchsal and Karlsruhe, in the Wasserkante, where Urbahns had the leadership, in Cologne, Aix-la-Chapelle, Suhl in Thuringia, Halle, Magdeburg, Zeitz, in the Palatinate, etc. At the founding conference Scholem declared in his report that the Leninbund organisation influenced some 80,000 to 100,000 Communist workers inside and outside the Party. The figure is no doubt exaggerated, though the fact that the Leninbund had possessed a daily paper, the Suhl Volkswille, since the beginning of 1928, enables us to imagine that it enjoyed an influence which would definitely be many times that of its membership, strictly speaking.

However, the question was that of the fundamental orientation of this group. In fact, Urbahns proposed, and the Leninbund Congress decided, to participate in the Reichstag elections, in order to try to retain some of the seats which it had kept after their holders had been excluded from the KPD. Trotsky’s fears were realised. In opposition to everything that was said in their manifesto and to the sense of their constitution, and despite a vigorous speech by Heinz Lagerhaus (a ‘Ruthenian’), the delegates voted, with only 26 votes against, to participate in the elections. The Communist International caught the ball on the bounce, and in a declaration published on 8 May 1928, it promised to re-admit within six months any militant who immediately left the Leninbund and undertook to withdraw from its election lists. [48] The following day Maslow and Ruth Fischer, with three of their comrades, declared that the resolution of the Communist International “reflected the state of mind of wide layers of Communist workers in favour of the unification of all the Communists, and stressed the necessity for the Communists to support the ‘turn to the left’ in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union on the question of the grain collections”. [49] This was an ambiguous position. In it were expressed both the preoccupations of Solntsev and, no doubt, the pressure of Zinoviev and Kamenev to bring back their German comrades to their line, which took them through capitulation. In his turn, some days later, Werner Scholem joined Max Hesse and resigned, calling for votes for the KPD candidates. [50] He considered the decision a violation of the very basis of the Leninbund and a blow against the revolutionary workers in the KPD, as well as the beginning of the decomposition of the Leninbund, won by “the spirit of a sect”. He declared: “Every Oppositional comrade who wishes to defend Communist principles must struggle today for reunification in the Communist International, as our Russian comrades also are doing, even when they are banished from it”.

In fact the Leninbund entered a serious crisis. The object of the ECCI was to provoke a number of its members to break from what it called “the counter-revolutionary Fischer-Maslow-Urbahns group” – the pseudonym for the Lenibund in the Moscow documents. And it was Maslow and Fischer who were the first to hold out their hands to take advantage of the forgiveness offered to those who would repudiate them! Confusion reached its height. Did Trotsky himself believe for an instant that Maslow and Fischer would break with the Leninbund for reasons analogous to the criticisms which he had made at its foundation, when they were really taking the road of Zinoviev and Kamenev, with whom they had re-established contact, with some delay and without saying anything? [51] A report from Scholem [52] addressed to the leadership several days before he resigned [53] stressed two other grave aspects of the crisis, namely, the dramatic financial situation of an organisation loaded with debt, which supported a daily paper as best it could and grew poorer every day, and the total disappearance of practically every link with the KPD and the profound political developments within it. The most dramatic illustration of these statements carne in May: following the initiative of the local leader Guido Heym, who wanted to save “his journal”, the Leninbund group at Suhl went over ... to the Social Democratic Party. The national leadership of the Leninbund nonetheless succeeded in reviving a Volkswille in a small format which appeared three times a week from 18 May onwards – two days before the Reichstag elections. [54]

The elections produced a catastrophe which could have been foreseen. The oppositional lists won 80,230 votes in the 24 (out of 35) constituencies in which they were presented. This was 0.26 per cent of the total votes cast. The KPD won 3,262,986 votes, 10.5 per cent of those cast. [55] Pravda exulted at the blow which, in its words, the German working class had inflicted on “the Trotskyists”. From Alma Ata Trotsky wrote to his comrades:

The 80,000 votes are certainly not those of comrades who share our ideas. They are obviously those of supporters of the ultra-left wing of the Leninbund, and of the ultra-left in general (Korsch and others). Our comrades called for votes for the official candidates of the Party, and they were right to do so. But the stupidity of the bureaucrats is the only explanation of the fact that Pravda contemptuously shrugs its shoulders at the 80,000 votes which the ultra-lefts have won (which the falsifiers call “Trotskyist”, without any reason for so doing). 80,000 is a very important figure, if we do not forget that only selected individuals, and not the masses, could vote for such purely demonstrative candidates. [56]

Less than a month earlier Trotsky had clearly expressed his position towards the Leninbund, in a letter to a party comrade who belonged to the fraction of the conciliators:

To speak of an organisational bloc is absolutely false. All the statements to this effect are fabrications. But undoubtedly there does exist an ideological and political affinity, as far as I can judge, on the basis of the publications of the group which I receive. I think that it has abandoned much and learned much. To accuse it of being counter-revolutionary, or of having reneged, etc, is absolutely false, and differs in no respect from accusing the Opposition of “supporting’ Chamberlain. [57]

Michel Prat has read this letter, which he believed he can sum up by saying that Trotsky “defends himself against the accusation of an ‘organisational bloc’ with Fischer and Maslow, but that he admits the existence of ‘an ideological and political affinity’”. [58] This seems unfair to me. What is of interest to us is that nothing subsequently shows that Trotsky really revised what was a favourable prejudice, providing we remember his hostility to the ‘leftist’ adventures of the German group. But was Alma Ata any more favourable than Moscow to an attentive examination of the policy of the Leninbund?

In reality their differences were deepening, at least on the sensitive question of the USSR. Die Fahne des Kommunismus saw in the Sixth Congress of the Communist International, which announced a new zigzag to the left, that of the Third Period and the elimination of the rightists ... the “victory of Bukharinist revisionism”, the proof of the victory of the Bukharin-Rykov bloc in the Soviet Union which had taken Stalin captive. [59] It took the Leninbund’s press months to extricate itself, and then badly, from the imbroglio into which this magisterial piece of nonsense plunged it.

There are many gaps in our knowledge of this period. We do not know how far the contacts with the Russian Opposition went, or how frequent or how close they were. There is nothing which enables us to think of a permanent interchange, such as existed in Solntsev’s time. He addressed to Trotsky the last report from abroad which we possess from him while he was passing through Berlin in November 1928. In it he sharply criticised the comrades who had undertaken to replace him. According to him, their mistake is that “we have principally oriented ourselves towards Weber (that is, towards the Wedding Opposition), which, for the moment, represents strictly nothing. We have completely turned our backs on Urbahns. No one has been to see him, and no one has given him any documents. We sent Weber to see him, and he posed an ultimatum to him, etc.”

Solntsev tried to regain the ground in relation to Urbahns which had been lost. He made efforts to improve the situation by giving explanations which he hoped Urbahns would accept on the basis of “their old friendship”. He gave Trotsky a description of the Leninbund and of the attitude of Urbahns which rings very true:

His organisation has 2,000 members and about as many sympathisers. It is not very solid politically, and it makes mistakes. It intervened in the campaign against the pocket battleship (it played a certain double game with the right), but above all else it has no perspectives. It is waiting for us to give it some. It is trying to play at being independent of us, but fundamentally it listens to us and will continue to listen to us. [60]

Solntsev concluded by saying that the scheme for an international conference seemed to him to be premature, but that Urbahns intended to convene it for December 1928 and that he had refrained from opposing him. The conference was held on 17 February 1929, at Aix-la-Chapelle. It was convened by the Leninbund. Delegates from two German organisations took part in it, the Deutsche Industrieverband and the Korschist group Kommunistische Politik, from the Ruhr, as well as those from the French group Contre le Courant, from the Opposition in the Belgian Communist Party, from the NAS trade union in the Netherlands and from the editors of the journal Die Nieuwe Weg. Did the conference have, as Rudiger Zimmerman thinks, the aim of “clarifying” the Russian question in the different organisations of the left and extreme left which it claimed to regroup? In any case its composition well explains Solntsev’s reserve and the absolute silence of Trotsky on the subject after he left the USSR. We are ignorant of practically everything, except two decisions. One was to set up a provisional international committee, under the presidency of Urbahns and including the Belgian Van Overstraeten, the Frenchman Maurice Paz, the Dutchman Sneevliet, the Leninbund member Jakob Ritter and the syndicalist Paul Weyer. The other decision was to set up a ‘Trotsky Aid’, which set itself the object of finding asylum for the exiled leader in Western Europe and of helping the Russian revolutionaries of the Opposition in prison or deportation. [61]

When Trotsky arrived in exile, the Leninbund was one of the few organisations possessing a real basis concerning which one could think that it shared the essential viewpoints of, and would form a support for, organising the international Left Opposition. Well – one year was enough to produce a complete break, which could have been forecast after several months of correspondence between Urbahns and the exile. This break, which lies outside the framework of this article, arose from divergences on the questions of the nature of the USSR, of the ‘second party’ and the national or international dimensions of the Opposition. It was the article by the Korschist sympathiser, Heinz Pachter, in the press of the Leninbund, which led to the outbreak of the conflict about “the defence of the USSR”, in connection with the Chinese Eastern Railway. [62] It was the appreciation of the nature of the USSR, made by the Central Committee of the Leninbund, which constituted the signal for the final break.

However, in the interval there were two incidents which illuminated the reality of the divergences between the two formations. On the morrow of the declaration of August 1929, the Urbahns organisation, which proclaimed from the housetops that Rakovsky had capitulated, took upon itself the enormous responsibility of informing the world that there were no more than nuances between the capitulations of someone like Piatakov and Radek, who got back their jobs and their privileges, and that of someone who was deported to the heart of Siberia. [63] Moreover, it admitted publicly that it had used for its own politics money that had been collected to help the Russians who had been deported, thereby demonstrating a cynicism which, in its own way, bore witness to the degree of decomposition in the German Communist movement after years of ‘Ruthenian Bolshevisation’ and of Stalinisation.

We hope to have convinced our readers that the concrete history of this period of Communist oppositions is far from being explained merely, as Michel Prat thinks, by “the vision of the relations between the crisis of the Russian Communist Party and the crisis of the Communist International”. [64] There are also social forces class layers, apparatuses, large and small interests, a bureaucracy on the scale of an empire and a mini bureaucracy on the scale of a sect, the difficulties of a concrete orientation in an entirely new concrete situation, without positive or negative lessons from a past experience. We shall know more, and understand more, when we have a deeper understanding of what the Zinovievist current was and what its politics were, and when we have analysed the significance for all the sections of the Communist International of what some people called “national oppositionism”. There are all these elements, and many more, which intervene to explain a development which is more complex and contradictory than the excessively summary and somewhat schematic explanation suggested by Michel Prat. On the other hand, we await with immense interest the work which he is preparing on Korsch.

We would like to conclude on the German Left, within, of course, the limits of our knowledge. There can be no doubt that the existence of this current in Germany – with its characteristics and its deep roots – an authentic ‘workers’ leftism’ was one of the principal obstacles on the road of the international Left Opposition, and especially of the German Opposition. That is only one of the ways that shows that the Zinovievist current, which was at one and the same time near and different, constituted at one and the same time a rival and a handicap to the Trotskyist current.

However, it would not be serious today to maintain an equal balance between them, in some kind of historical balance-sheet. The appalling capitulation of Zinoviev, Kamenev and their Russian comrades can, of course, be put down to the weakness of character of these men, and to the brutality and cruelty of their Stalinist torturers. But in the two cases this explanation is really not enough. Politically, Zinoviev could not hold out – as he tried – on a position independent of the bureaucracy which was not that of Trotsky – or a position independent of that of Trotsky which was not identical with that of the bureaucracy, even ‘amended’. The political odyssey of his German followers is a clear illustration of this. It demonstrates, in fact, that when Zinoviev and Kamenev received the bullets which finished them off in the cellars of the Lubyanka, both men were really bankrupt and totally isolated politically.

Urbahns’ Leninbund – that is the most suitable label for it – cannot be seriously considered as the continuation of the German Communist Left. It entered on a divergence which took it a very long way, and no longer really has its place in the history of ideas. The other leaders of the German Left dispersed to different positions, between which it is, nonetheless, possible to detect a certain unity. Anton Grylewicz, the militant worker who symbolised the Left, the man who ensured continuity with the struggle of the Social Democratic ‘revolutionary delegates’ in the Berlin munitions factories during the war, selected to organise the German October in 1923, placed himself in 1929 at the head of the minority in the Leninbund and carried on the struggle for a German section of the Left Opposition and then of the Fourth International. We say today – thanks to the Oeuvres – that the last stage of the itinerary as Communists of Ruth Fischer and Arkadi Maslow likewise unfolded in the embattled camp of Trotsky, whom they met in Paris in January 1934. Won to work with them by Trotsky and Sedov, they could never overcome the hostility of the ‘real Trotskyists’ who came out of the German Opposition. From 1934 to 1936 they worked for the International Secretariat of the International Communist League, of which Fischer was a member under the name Dubois, while Maslow collaborated with it under that of Parabellum. This is not the place to discuss the circumstances and reasons for their break, which took place some time in 1936. Let us say merely that it, too, constituted only a stage in a long drift outside the history of Communism. Their names were associated for the last time with that of Trotsky by the prosecutor, Vyshinsky, in the Third Moscow Trial.

The itinerary of Werner Scholem, one of the most attractive of this group of young post-war leaders is beginning to be known. He refused, like Max Hesse – another veteran of the insurrection prepared in Moscow in 1923 – to support the line which led Fischer and Maslow to capitulate, and resigned in February 1928 from the Leninbund, advancing reasons which could have come from Trotsky. As an attentive observer, during a momentary tactical diversion, while he resumed his advanced legal studies to qualify as a lawyer in Berlin, he was attracted by Trotsky’s analyses. In 1931 in Berlin he made the acquaintance of Leon Sedov, and this meeting marked the beginning of a regular collaboration with Trotsky’s German comrades, weekly meetings with E. Bauer and drafting (unsigned) articles for Die Permanente Revolution. He expressed the desire to meet Trotsky, who, for his part, keenly wished to meet a man of his quality and his talents. But in the end it was Trotsky who opposed his proposal to travel, not wanting someone like Scholem to run the risk of finding himself in Turkey at the moment of the decisive struggle on German soil. Scholem first emigrated to Czechoslovakia, and then returned with underground links to the Left Opposition, and was arrested. The Nazis were not going to let this prey escape, a Communist, an intellectual and a Jew. He was savagely tortured and, it appears, was executed or struck down in 1939. It is curious that the Trotskyist current has not laid claim with greater enthusiasm to this martyr, who nonetheless did belong to it. Winning him to their ranks, as well as his heroic end, did them credit. The final adherence of this young German leader, who had organised the campaign of signatures for the Letter of the 700, when he joined the international organisation founded by Trotsky, was not just an episode. It demonstrates that it is ridiculous to try to counterpose the course of the Russian Opposition to that of the German Opposition or vice versa. We have tried here to introduce a little clarity into episodes which invite us not to seek scapegoats for errors of tactics so much as to pose seriously and with respect for the subject the problems which arose from what the Russian Opposition very correctly at the time called “the crisis of the revolution”.

Pierre Broué
I have not placed Broue's footnotes in this space-Markin