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Julius Braunthal on the Third International

 Julius Braunthal, “History of the International, 1914-1943",  vol. 2, 1963 (Germany), 1967 (Britain)

The end of the Second International

The work of Julius Brauthal is written from a point of view of an Austrian Social-Democrat after World War II, and hence can not be revolutionary. Yet, it is much more informative than the works of official communists of the Stalin-Khrushchev period (William Forster, Palm Datt).

Braunthal notes that on August 4th, 1914, “almost all Socialist parties in the belligerent countries pledged themselves to the defense of the very bourgeois-capitalist states whose destruction has hitherto been their aim”. The explanation for this that he gives is that “powerful feelings of patriotism and nationalism had none the less been lying dormant among the mass of the working classes”, and leaders of the Social Democracy (SD) simply gave an expression to these: “They were able to lead the movement because they were in harmony with the natural aspirations and impulses of the mass membership”. In particular, speaking of the German SD, we hear: “long before the outbreak of war they had lost the character of a revolutionary party”. Use of a general strike to protest against war is rejected. “The sole question at issue was whether, if Germany were dragged into war, the party should vote for or against the war”, i.e. a parliamentarian posing of the question, not revolutionary one.

Explaining the 4th August, Lenin, according to Julius Braunthal, said that “the leaders of the Labor parties represented only an upper crust of the working classes – a ‘labor aristocracy’ – and not those of the broad masses of the proletariat. High profits made by monopolies through exploitation of the colonies enabled capitalists in the imperialist countries, as Lenin put it, to ‘bribe’ individual sections among the workers; in other words, to offer them a higher living standard than that of the great majority of workers, thereby creating among them a vested interest in the survival of imperialism. These privileged groups constituted the ‘labor aristocracy’. They were the standard-bearers of reformism before the war, and became champions of ‘social chauvinism’ during the war. They were in alliance with their middle classes".

Lenin's explanation reminds us of the facts explained by Milovan Djilas in 1960's, in his book "The New Class": "The real difference in the income of American, and, for example, Indonesian worker today is greater, than the difference between the first and a large shareholder. Every citizen of the USA in 1940, on the average obtained $1440, while the income of an Indonesian was 58 times less, i.e. only $27". Today we can talk about production only in the global sense. On this scale, the American, British, French, German, etc. workers, and hence workers' parties, belong to the privileged crust of the global working class. Privileged workers, in any country of the world today, live in expensive apartments and drive expensive cars. As a rule, they have this high standard of living through exploitation of someone's labor, directly or indirectly. At the same time, common workers live in crowded and shabby apartments and do not have private cars. A bicycle is a more accessible means of transportation for them.

Braunthal’s critique of Lenin:

1) “the living standards of American workers were (and still remain) far higher, and those of Swedish workers scarcely lower, than those of British workers, even though the American and Swedish capitalists derived no extra profit from colonial possessions". In reply to Braunthal: first, to argue that the USA is not an imperialist country, or has not been since "the Monroe Doctrine", i.e. since the middle of XIX century, is nonsense. The imperialism of the U.S. has followed in the wake of its mentor, the Great Britain. Second, we note that due to conditions of historical development such countries as the USA and Sweden were at the front of the Industrial revolution. Hence, they were producing things with the help of machines, and thus indirectly exploiting, through an unequal exchange of labor, other nations which didn't have the machines. Thus, from the economic history of the XIX century we know that the weaving machines of Great Britain put out on the streets, or led to a miserly existence, of a large number of cotton weavers in India, the colony of England. 

2) Braunthal: "Reversing the argument, the living standards of Belgian workers were lower than those of the Swiss, although Belgium possessed large – and for Belgian capitalists extremely profitable – colonial territories, while Switzerland boasted nothing but its native lakes and mountains” In reply to Braunthal: the Swiss derive their high standard of living due to the Swiss banks participating in the capital management of European and world imperialists. Historically, Switzerland has placed itself as a "neutral" country in all European wars, and hence the international capital sees it as a "safe heaven". It's not for nothing that a Swiss resort of Davos serves today as a meeting place for financial elite from around the world, “The World Economic Forum”.  

3) Braunthal: “it was precisely the ‘labor aristocracy’ in the great imperialist countries- the metal workers in Germany and France, for instance – who were in the forefront of anti-war and anti-imperialist struggle during the war… The revolutionary hard core of the Independent Social Democratic party of Germany, whose majority was affiliated to the Communist party in Halle and was destined to turn it into a mass party, were the highly skilled and highly paid metal-workers of Berlin”. In reply to Braunthal: the devil and angel are made of the same stuff; the devil is a fallen angel. It is the “knowledge workers” who are at the forefront of socialist movement today. But also these "knowledge workers" work in Los Alamos and other military labs of the USA to arm the imperialism.

In short, the arguments of Brauthal reveal him as an apologist for opportunism.

Birth of the Third International

As against the general Social-Democratic capitulation to “patriotism”, there was a social-democratic Zimmerwald movement, centered around the slogan of “peace”. Lenin rejected this "struggle for peace", “counterposing to it the slogan of transforming the imperialist war into civil war”. Hence, the problem of what attitude to take to an incoming war is of prime importance to a socialist movement. Hence, the theoretical importance of discussing the nature of present-day Russia, China, etc. Those who describe Russia as “capitalist”, naturally see in the war like the one between Georgia and Russia in August 2008 as “an imperialist war” for the control of the oil pipe between Russian and British capitals. But this view of is not correct. The primary cause for that war was the infighting between Georgian mafia clans, one of which is allied to Russia, and the other to Georgia and NATO. 

At Zimmerwald: “Apart from the Italian Socialist party, the only parties officially represented were those of Eastern Europe. These included the Bolsheviks… the Mensheviks… the left wing of the Russian Social Revolutionaries” and other small groups, like that of Trotksy (“Nashe Slovo”).

There were individual socialist delegates from Western European countries, but they didn’t represent parties, but went on their own initiative. This indicates the make up of the future III International, and what we can expect today of an International revolutionary movement. This movement will consist of representatives of non-imperialist nations.

* * *

After 1914, we have the 1917 in Russia, first the February revolution, the the October. It makes little sense to repeat what happened, but note the following basic texts on the problem:

1) John Reed, "Ten days that shook the Earth",

2) Sukhanov, "Notes on the revolution",

3) Trotsky, "History of the Russian revolution".

4) One of the best movies is "Doctor Zhivago", a 1965 film version of a novel by Boris Pasternak.

History is best written by eyewitnesses and participants. For them, it is an account of a real struggles.

After the start of revolution in Russia, we have 1918, a start of revolution in Germany. Braunthal writes: “Military collapse has become the necessary presupposition and pre-condition for a German revolution”. And not only German. Russian, first of all, and before that the Paris Commune. Hence, we can formulate the following tendencies:

1) “The over-all tendency of capitalism is towards wars” (Braunthal)

2) Local wars have a tendency to become a World War (Djilas)

3) "A new world revolutionary situation would emerge from another world war” (Braunthal)

Hence, revolutionaries should not be afraid of a world war, but should welcome it, as a step towards a revolution. It is a betrayal of revolution to talk about "peaceful revolution".  

In the period immediately preceding a war, and during the actual war, the revolutionaries should be concerned about their personal safety. Keep in mind that the French government “drew up plans to arrest all trade-union officials and all revolutionary Socialists on the outbreak of war in order to prevent the threatened general strike”. Hence, it is necessary to prepare to go underground. 

Lenin put forward the slogan of a new International in 1914, but was able to realize it only in 1919, when we have the first Congress of the Comintern. Braunthal writes: "The Communist International rejected the federal type of organization which prevailed in the Second International. Its statutes laid down that it must ‘represent in fact and in effect one unified Communist party throughout the world’. The parties affiliated to the International ‘are just its member sections’." The Third International essentially attempted to be the Headquarters of the World Revolution. It was meant to be an International military organization.

First Congress of the Comintern, Moscow, 1919. Lenin is sitting, third from the left.

For the Second Congress of the Comintern, in 1920, Lenin drew up "21 points" which characterized a сommunist party, as opposed to social-democratic one:

1)     The propaganda apparatus must have a genuine Communist character. “In the columns of the press, at popular meetings… it is necessary to denounce, systematically and unrelentingly, not only the bourgeoisie, but also their assistants, the reformists of all shades”

2)     Remove reformists from positions of power in party apparatus.

3)     When class struggle enters the phase of a civil war, the Communists must set up an illegal organization, preparing themselves for struggle for power.

4)     Special focus on Communist propaganda in the army of the old regime. Of course, this is illegal work.

5)     Systematic work must be carried in the countryside.

6)     Struggle against “social-pacifism”, i.e. illusions about “a League of Nations”, “international courts of arbitration”, etc.

7)     “Complete and absolute break” with reformist and centrist leaders.

8)     Parties in the imperialist countries must denounce their own imperialists and extend a hand of friendship to the oppressed people, support their liberation struggles.

9)     Sections of the Communist International (CI) must carry on work in mass workers’ organizations (trade unions, cooperatives, workers’ councils, etc.). This is in parallel to point #5. This will win masses to the side of the International.

10) Struggle against “yellow” trade unions, support the Red trade unions.

11) Each member of parliament, who is a member of a Communist Party (CP), must completely subordinate his activity to the interests of the party.

12) The principle of “democratic centralism” must prevail in the organization. In an era of a civil war, there is a need for centralism and iron discipline, i.e. a military organization.

13) Periodic cleansing (re-registration) of members is required to get rid of bourgeois elements.

14) “Unconditional support to any Soviet republic”, i.e. countries like former USSR, China, etc. Need to carry on propaganda “among troops sent to strangle workers’ republics”.

15) Parties must get rid of their old Social Democratic programs and draft a new Communist program to be ratified by the C.I.

16) All decisions of the Congress of the C.I. are binding on the parties (sections). The principle of democratic centralization.

17) Every section must bear a standard name: a Communist Party of such and such country.

18) All sections must publish important documents of the Executive Committee.

19) All parties must examine these conditions of admission at an extraordinary congress convened within 4 months.

20) Not less than 2/3 of the Central Committees of former Social Democratic parties must consist of real supporters of the C.I.

21) Those who reject the conditions must be expelled from parties.

Thus, a basic characteristic of a Communist party is a struggle against centrism and reformism. In times of Lenin, this meant a struggle against Social Democrats, in the main. Today, this means a struggle against Trotskyist and Stalinist parties.

Lenin’s ideas about organization are nothing extraordinary: a publication around which an organization develops (newspaper "The Spark"). In 1990's see Lenin's strategy working successfully in the case of the National Bolshevik Party of Russia, which basically developed around the work of putting together and distributing their newspaper, "Limonka". In  the era of Internet, Lenin's idea of organization means a site. What is lacking today is a “body of ideas” that would give this site a long-term strategy. 

Theory and propaganda should be supplemented by practical-military training. This can be done by means of a military-style training camp. In the proposed camp, there should be a military discipline a clear program of studies, including both theoretical and practical seminars. Both the leaders of the camp and rank-and-file members should be involved in food preparation, procurement of wood, cleaning up of the territory, etc. thus showing in practice the negation of class distinctions. In decisions about the life of the camp there should be democracy, in discussion, and discipline, in realizing the decisions (democratic centralism). Most importantly, the orientation of such camps should be clearly anti-Stalinist and anti-Trotskyist, criticizing both from positions drawn by the Third International.

Resurrection of the Socialist International

The Socialist International and the Vienna International (the "2 1/2 International") merged: “The structural shape of the Labor and Socialist International was modeled on that of the Second International... It laid down no conditions for admission and formulated no policy programme”. How does Braunthal explain this? “The International organization of the working class cannot, at the moment of its birth, reflect total agreement on principles among all its member parties... but its existence was one of the most important conditions for the harmonizing of their views... Article 1 of the statutes defined the new International as a Union of Socialist Labor Parties ‘which recognize that their aim is to replace the capitalist system of production by a Socialist one and recognize also that the class struggle, expressing itself through political and economic action, is the proper means for the emancipation of the working class”. We reply to Braunthal: an organization lacking a program, i.e. a clearly defined goal is opportunistic. One recent example of such opportunist union we see in the foundation of "Organization of Marxists" in Ukraine (in 2007). Such organizations usually do not last long and are no good for action. 

Defeat of revolution in Hungary and Germany

The revolutions in Russia, Germany, Hungary, etc. were followed by reaction.

In Hungary in 1919, after a short period of time, when the Communists were at the helm of the state, a fascist dictatorship of admiral Horthy follows. According to F. Rakosi, 70 thousand people were thrown into jails, 10 thousand were killed or tortured to death, 25 thousand were forced to emigrate.

In Germany, the uprising of communists and independent social-democrats was suppressed in January 1919. Rosa Luxembourg and Karl Liebknecht were among the killed. New rebellions took place in March 1919, but were also suppressed. In April 1919 there is the explosion of the Bavarian Soviet Republic. In May 1919, a counterrevolutionary army enters Munich and starts a bloodbath.

In 1923, there is a new crisis in Germany. On 11 January 1923 French and Belgian troops marched into the Ruhr because of inability of Germany to meet its war reparations. This caused an inflation which impoverished the workers and the middle classes. Braunthal is forced to admit: “in the summer of 1923, Germany had really been in a genuinely revolutionary situation… The working masses were in a revolutionary ferment; the petty bourgeoisie and vast sections of the middle class were in a mood of bitterness and desperation. Cuno’s big-business government had failed. Its policy of passive resistance [to Ruhr occupation] had collapsed, the currency had caved in and the population had been plunged into immeasurable depths of misery”. Hence: “Hundreds of thousands of workers deserted the trade unions and the Social Democratic party, which were unable to help them, and streamed into the Communist party, whose radical language did at least give expression to their bitter feelings. Among the petty bourgeoisie and the German intellectuals there was a revolutionary mood (!) which showed itself in the rapid growth of monarchist, militarist and Fascist organizations”! “On 10 August (1923) workers in the mint went on strike. This caused an immediate general strike in Berlin and other industrial centres. The workers demanded guaranteed food supplies and the overthrow of the Cuno government. On 12 August Cuno resigned”.

The general strike “was led by Communist trade councils, who fully expected their party leaders to push the general strike to the point of outright revolution”. But the councils (says Ruth Fischer) “met stubborn resistance from their Communist leadership. The Brandler Central Committee was frightened by the dynamism of the movement”. “On 13 August, in accordance with Moscow’s tactics, the Communist Central Committee gave orders to break up the strike”. Why? According to Braunthal, "neither Social Democrats nor Communist leaders believed a revolution was possible. And they were actually scared by the thought of taking power in a country which had fallen into chaos". Power can only be taken in a chaos! The communists were afraid to take power! It's possible that they were waiting for a decision by the Executive Committee of the Communist International. But in reality, German communists of 1923 revealed themselves as a left support of Social-Democracy, as centrists.

The social crisis in Germany reached its highest point in August (1923). In the fall, the situation has already turned counterrevolutionary. For example, at a meeting of 400 shop stewards, trade-union representatives and Social-Democratic and Communist party delegates in Chemnitz on October 21, "Brandler (of CP of Germany) demanded the calling of a general strike and an armed rising". However, Bradler says, "we saw the very opposite of a fighting spirit". Social-Democrats, which represented around half of workers in Germany, said they will walk out of the conference if there is a talk about a general strike. Brandler shup up.

Around this time, orders for a rising in Germany came from Moscow, when revolutionary the situation was already past. Hence, there was only 1 miscarried uprising in Hamburg. Out of 14000 CP members in Hamburg only 200 took part in the revolt. "They stormed police guardrooms and, in total isolation from the mass of the workers, carried on a three-day battle against the police”. Clara Zetkin writes: “Thousands went past these fighters every day, tens and tens of thousands of strikers. We are assured that in their heart they were sympathetic… but they themselves kept their hands in their pockets”.

Therefore, we make a conclusion that a revolutionary situation can last for a period of a few months. During this window of opportunity, a revolutionary organization should be ready to act. 

In this period, fears and vacillations of the leadership of a revolutionary party are the strongest (e.g. September 1917 in Russia, the incident with Kamenev and Zinoviev). Failure to act on part of revolutionaries means offensive for monarchist and Fascist forces. For example, in Germany, the Hitler putsch in Bavaria in November 1923.

Defeat in Bulgaria in 1923

Also in 1923, a world revolution suffered a defeat in Bulgaria. The Bulgarian CP was the Second largest party in the country: "At the parliamentary election in April 1923, it obtained 204,000 votes out of a total of 1,076,000, whereas the Social Democrats obtained only 28,000". The predominantly agricultural country was led by Alexander Stambuliski and the Peasant Party. According to Braunthal, the Peasant Party was the party of the small and the middle peasants, it carried out "land reforms which distributed the big landed estates, Church estates and public land among peasants".

Hence, the large landowners attempted to overthrow the Stambuliski government. They did this through a conspiracy of reactionary, Nationalist officers with right-wing parties. On June 9, 1923, the coup took place: "The Ministers were arrested and Stambuliski murdered". During this fight, the Communists chose to remain neutral, although they perhaps should have helped the Peasant party, as the Bolsheviks took fight against the Kornilov conspiracy in September 1917. Hence, the lesson: a communist party must fight against the right-wing putsch

In Bulgaria, in the atmosphere of a right-wing reaction under the new government led by Prof. Alexander Zankoff, the Executive Committee of the Communist International "directly ordered them [Bulgarian CP] to overthrow the Zankoff government by an armed rising and to set up a Workers' and Peasants' government". Why was such decision taken? According to Braunthal, “Not one of the participants in the Moscow Conference – with the sole exception of (a member of Bulgarian CC) Kolarov – was acquainted with conditions in Bulgaria, not one of them knew the circumstances under which he was expecting the Bulgarian party to risk a life-and-death struggle”. 

The Communist party of Bulgaria makes another mistake. It attempts to draw the Socialist Party and the remnants of the just defeated Peasant party into "a United Front to fight the Zankoff governmnet". The Socialists agree to a United Front only if the CP pledges to limit itself to Constitutional means. The lesson is that you can not prepare a revolution with another party. In fact, as we saw above, in the moment of uprising, even a revolutionary party (as were the Bolsheviks in 1917) tends to waver. Such wavering must be immediately suppressed.

In Bulgaria, "the government was au fait with their plans and on 12 September (1923) nearly 2000 Communists, including Kabakchiev and many other leaders, were arrested. The party's central revolutionary committee under the control of Vasil Kolarov and Georg Dimitrov chose the night of 22-3 September 1923 for the rising. It ended in a complete fiasco. The cities remained quiet. Small isolated groups of Communist party members did take up arms, but only in a few scattered villages. They were soon put to flight in the mountains, where they continued a guerrilla struggle for a few days longer. The headquarters of the rebellion was near the Yugoslav frontier, and the leaders fled into Yugoslavia on 28 September". The political situation was not right for a communist uprising.  The rebellion was not supported by the population. Hence the defeat, and the reign of terror that followed.

Defeat in Poland in 1923

Revolution also suffered a defeat in Poland in 1923. Braunthal writes: "In summer and autumn 1923, nearly a million men on strike - two thirds of the whole industrial working population of the country". This is because of a large inflation. The right-wing Wito government "rejected their demands and was determined to break the strike by force. It manned the railways and the postal services with soldiers, and declared a state of emergency in a number of towns and provinces... The Socialist party (PPS) called in protest a general strike for 5 November". A fighting between demonstrators and army follows in Cracow. Fourteen soldiers and eighteen civilians are killed. But the civilians capture 5000 rifles, machine guns and armored cars. "The Cracow garrison evacuated the city and a Workers' Militia took over the policing of the city".

However, the Communist Party of Poland was nowhere to be seen during these events. Braunthal says that the Polish CP "had been completely taken by surprise by this spontaneous rising and had not even attempted to capture the leadership or to push the movement into a revolution. Julian Lenski, a member of the party's Central Committee, openly admitted at the (Fifth) Congress (of Comintern) that the Communist party was, in fact, 'not to be seen' during the Polish Workers' fight. It was dragged behind the Polish Socialist party - the party of social-traitors'."

There is a similarity between this and the German Communist party.

Summary of defeats of 1923

1) "In Germany, the party, whose leadership had been accepted by millions of workers, had remained entirely passive during the Ruhr struggle, though the country was facing the severest economic and social crisis of its history. It was only under pressure from Moscow that it eventually started a struggle for power, but by this time the crisis already lessened and in Bavaria a counter-revolutionary regime had taken power", opening the road to Hitler.

2) "In Bulgaria, the Communists had remained 'neutral' in a decisive fight between the Peasant party and the bourgeois militarist reactionaries. Once again it was only under pressure from Moscow that they urged he workers on to an armed rising, but meanwhile again the revolutionary situation had turned into one which was counter-revolutionary. The call for revolt went unheeded in the working class and the reactionaries were able to suppress the party without much effort".

3) In Poland, "when the working classes were fighting their biggest battle, the Communist party 'was not to be seen'".

Thus, Arvid Hansen, a Norwegian delegate to the 5th Congress of the Comintern had said: "The Polish party watched the bloody struggle as a passive spectator. The Bulgarian party came out with a policy of neutrality at the decisive moment, and in October the German party threw in the towel without even putting up a fight". In fact, this foreshadowed what happened in Germany in 1933, when Hitler came to power and destroyed both the Commnist and Social-Democratic parties, without either party putting up a fight. 

The Communist parties of Europe showed themselves as passive, as cowards, not relying on their own thinking and initiative, but relying on the orders from Moscow, which was not able to understand the situation from afar. Perhaps, the idea of a global centralized revolutionary organization has appeared too early. Perhaps, a global centralized revolutionary command is possibly in the era of Internet. 

Reaction in the Comintern

Following the defeat of revolutionary movements on international arena, within the Russian CP a conservative wing gained hand.  First, the Workers' Opposition, led by a leader of trade unions Alexander Shlyapnikov, and a revolutionary feminist Alexandra Kollontai, was crushed by the majority of the Russian CP, led by Lenin and Trotsky. The workers' opposition argued for an active participation of the workers in the economic and political decisions, through trade unions and workers' councils. Then, in 1923 we hear of a theory of "socialism in one, separate country". This was opposed to the theory of "permanent (world) revolution" advanced by Trotsky. The conservative wing, led by Stalin, defeated the Trotsky opposition. Then, Stalin defeated and executed his former allies against Trotsky, i.e. Zinoviev, Kamenev and Bukharin. 

The decline in the world revolution affected the Communist International. Thus, the French Socialist Party, in 1920, split upon the decision of joining the Comintern. One part formed the CP, with 140,000 members, and another the Socialist party, with 30,000. In 1924, the CP=68,000 and SP=99,000. By 1932, the CP=15,000 and SP=137,000 members, i.e. in 12 years the positions of CP and SP in regard to the number of members were completely reversed!

How to explain these numbers? Maurice Thorez describes the situation in the Communist Party of France in 1930: “The number of members has fallen. Arbitrary decisions are taken at the top, and there is passive acceptance at all the lower levels; strangling of free discussion; silence and suspicion from those who do not co-operate; sealed lips; absence of any fruitful criticism – the atmosphere of a barrack… a caricature of a party, impotent and vegetating”. Julius Braunthal adds: “Maurice Thorez, arrested in 1929, believed that he had been betrayed by another member of the Central Committee, and that his colleagues had seized the opportunity to be rid of him by refusing to pay his fine”. Hence, Maurice Thorez spent 1 year in jail.  

Togliati (an Italian communist) paints a picture similar to the one of Maurice Thorez: “Togliatti wrote [to Trotsky in exile] that he had the feeling that the Russians considered the congress (of Comintern) a burden which they were not strong enough to shake off. ‘The tragedy of the affair is’, he wrote, ‘that it is impossible to speak the truth about the life-and-death problems with which we are concerned. We cannot speak. In this atmosphere to speak the real truth would have the effect of a bomb explosion.”

Hitler comes to power and the role of Communists and Social-Democrats

While in the early 1920's, the defeat of communist revolutions in Europe promoted the conservative currents within the Communist International, in the late 1920's and in 1930's, the dominance of Stalinists in the International promoted the defeat of communist revolutions on international arena.

The main example is Germany. In 1932 there were 6-8 million unemployed, i.e. around 1/3 of all working Germans. Real wages down 1/3 since 1929.

The German Social Democrats supported the Bruning Cabinet, apprehensive of the worse evil (Hitler, the National Socialists). According to Braunthal, “the Bruning government … was a government of financiers, upper middle-class elements, the peasants, bureaucracy and army”The SPD again reveals itself as a left prop of capital: "in 1931, when Parliament was dealing with the question of funds for the construction of a second armored cruiser, the Social Democrats abstained (from voting) out of their concern not to endanger the Bruning government... they thus sanctioned the squandering of millions on a ridiculous national prestige project in the midst of a desperate economic situation when millions of unemployed were standing idle of the streets". 

What was the policy of the Communist International at the time? The Sixth Congress of the Comintern in the summer of 1928 adopted the theory of a "third period" in the development of capitalism. This was a period "of rapid development of contradictions in the world economy" and of "maximum sharpening in the general crisis of capitalism", and hence would lead to new wars and revolutions. Moreover, the Congress saw the Social Democracy as "the strongest force of counter-revolution", and hence formulated the task of Communists to destroy them.

The Communist Party of Germany adopted an "ultra-left" position: “Thalmann (1886-1944)… supported the Moscow theory that there was no class difference between Bruning’s government and a fully evolved Fascist dictatorship, but only a difference in the degree and tempo of development... A resolution of the German Communist party’s CC in May 1931 accordingly declared: ‘In principle Fascist dictatorship is not an alternative to bourgeois democracy, for both mean dictatorship by high finance’…” To this Social-Democratic “Vorwarts” replied: “To think that the Hitler state will be no worse than the Republic under Bruning is to deceive yourselves… Despite the shortcomings of the Republic, you hold hundreds of meetings every day and your newspapers appear. Hitler’s state will rob you of all political rights and every opportunity for economic and social struggle”. The reality turned out to be worse than predicted by Social-Democrats.

German Social-Democrats tried a policy suggested by Trotsky, which was a United Front against fascists: "in November 1931, the Social Democratic leaders, deeply worried by the enormous increase in the strength of the Nazi movement, tried to approach the Communist party to suggest a joint struggle against this danger". But the newspaper of the German CP, "Rote Fahne" replied: "Bruning's Fascism is not a jot better than Hitler's Fascism... and our chief attack is against Social Democracy".

In 1932, the SPD controlled a large military organization called "Reichsbanner". Established in 1924, in 1932 the organization has 3 million members. "The hard core of the Reichsbanner was a hard-hitting highly trained military-style elite - the Schufo ('defense units') - which claimed a strength of 400,000 men. Thus the Social Democrats were vastly better prepared to fight off an action by the forces of reaction than they had been at the time of the Kapp putsch" (1920).

These "defense units" could fight the paramilitary Nazi formations, the S.A. and the S.S. So what happened? "The Social Democratic leaders shrank in deadly fear from the prospect of the carnage of civil war". In fact, having to choose between violence and living under the Nazi regime, the SPD chose the later. Brauthals' defense of SPD: "Men like Severing, Hilferding, Breitscheid and Stampfer were totally imbued with the humanitarian traditions of Socialism and every fibre in their being was against bloodshed". They didn't want "a bloodshed", so they got concentration camps. "Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda chief, drew the correct conclusion from the Social Democrat's passive tactics when, on the day after the coup (in Prussia) he noted in his diary: 'The Reds are beaten. Their organizations are putting up no resistance... The Reds have missed their chance and it will not come again'."

On July 31, 1932 there were the Reichstag elections. "Compared with the presidential elections three months earlier, the Nazis gained the support of a further 300,000 voters; their total vote, which was 13,732,000, was nearly twice what they had obtained in the election of September 1930. In the Reichstag... they were now the strongest party. The Social Democrats, on the other hand, lost 600,000 votes (their total was 7,951,000) while the Communist vote increased by more than 600,000 to a total of 5,278,000". It thus appears what the Social Democrats lost was gained by Communists. Both the Social Democrats and the Communist together had approximately the same number of votes as Fascists.

This brings to considertation the policy advocated by Trotsky, which was the same as the policy advocated by Social Democrats: a United Front of Social Democrats and Communists. Trotsky addressed himself to German communist workers thus: "only a fighting unity with Social Democratic workers can bring victory".

Events in Germany went swift. On 30 January 1933 "Hindenburg abandoned state power to Hitler". The socialist workers were ready to respond: "on the afternoon and evening of 30 January spontaneous and violent mass demonstrations of workers took place in German cities. Delegations from factories and delegations of area officials of the (SPD) party from all parts of the country arrived on the same day in Berlin in expectation of battle orders". However, during the night of January 30th discussions of SPD party leaders took place and "arguments for prudence and hesitation overcame those in favor of going into battle immediately". What did it mean "to go into action against Hitler"? It only meant overthrowing the legal government, starting a revolution. But, Social Democrats had no nerve for this. They covered themselves with all kinds of legal excuses: "On Breischeid's advice the party leaders postponed organized active resistance to the Fascist threat until such time as it was unanimously determined that there had been a clear breach of constitution. They hoped that such a moment would not come. They trembled at the thought of civil war".

Then a Nazi, Wilhelm Frick, was appointed the Minister of the Interior; simultaneously, "social Democratic and Communist newspapers were banned... labor leaders forbidden to speak and labor meetings stopped by government officials immediately they began, or else simply broken up by Nazi storm-troopers with police connivance. Republican policemen were dismissed en masse and replaced by Nazis".

February 27, 1933 - Reichstag fire. The Communists are accused by the government and banned. The Social Democratic press is suppressed. A meeting to celebrate the 50-th anniversary of Karl Marx's death is broken up. Personal freedoms - of press, of association - were suppressed. Postal secrecy was suspended.

Undoubtedly, this was a coup d'etat. But, according to Braunthal, "it was too late for active resistance". Organizations were paralyzed, the leaders were arrested, "together with many hundreds of the key men of their parties, their printing presses were closed, their leaflets confiscated and their election meetings broken up by Nazi storm-troopers". The 81 communist M.P.'s were disqualified from Reichstag. Hitler was given unlimited power through "an enabling law".

The Social Democratic Party of Germany tried to "adopt" itself to the fascist dictatorship. They resigned from the Labor and Socialist International. They expelled the Berlin Socialist Youth, which began illegal work. They refused any association with those party members who went to Prague "to organize the fight against Hitler from abroad".

The trade union leaders, associated with Social Democrats, sent a submissive letter to Hindenburg, on 10 March, 1933, begging him to protect the trade union property and their members. But "the heritage of the old Germany as well as the dignity of the new" (to use the words from the letter) was deaf to their supplications. "On 2 May the S.A. occupied trade-union premises and arrested top trade-union officials... A few days later the government confiscated all trade-union property and finances... On 22 June 1933 the Social Democratic party was also banned. Its property was confiscated and its members of Parliament were disqualified". Hence, first, the Communists were suppressed. Then, the Trade Unions. Then, the Social Democrats. This reflects the level of their threat to the Nazi regime. 

What was the policy of communists upon Hitler taking power? On 30th January they declared a general strike. However, this did not materialize as it was not supported by the Social Democratic party. But the time for a general strike has passed. This was a time for a desperate fight. There are reasons to believe that some sections of the Social-Democratic party would have supported the Communists: "during the same evening (30th January) a joint conference of executives of the General Federation of Trade Unions, the Social Democratic party, the S.P.D.Parliamentary party and the leaders of the Reichsbanner and the 'Iron Front' decided in principle to go into action against Hitler". They were held only by the cowardly leaders of the SPD.

However, after the call of the Communist leaders for a general strike went unheeded, "the Communist party made no further attempt to fight; like the Social Democrats it remained passive".

The Communists showed themselves passive during revolutionary situations in 1923, incapable of independent action from orders from Comintern. From that time on, the leadership of the German Communist Parties became even more passive, more dependent on the orders from Stalin.

While the Social Democrats covered themselves with pretexts of legality, the Communists covered themselves with pretext of no order from Moscow: "the Praesidium of the Communist International 'noted' at its meeting of April 1, 1933: 'That the political line and the organizational policy followed by the Central Committee of the German Communist party up to and during Hitler's coup was perfectly correct'." And the newspaper "Pravda" spoke of "The rousing success of the German Communist party in its Bolshevik tactics". 

Covering their lack of initiative in resisting Hitler, the leaders of the German Communist Party wrote: "The big step into the final battle must only be taken when the conditions of victory exist". But, first, the conditions for victory have existed, in the increasing number of people who were voting for Communists. Second, it is better to die fighting, then to perish in concentration camps of fascism. This thought belongs to Winston Churchill who took England into war with Germany in 1939. This was also a desparate fight.

The policy of placating Hitler on international arena received the name of "Munich". But this goes back to Berlin, January 30, 1933, when the Communist party refused to take the course towards an armed insurrection. This was the real "Munich". 

Let's note that Julius Braunthal also blames the communists for Hitler coming to power: "the heaviest responsibility for the tragedy of German Socialism [only "German"?] lay with the Communist International... It was its historic error to perpetuate and deepen the split in the German labor movement. The split paralyzed Socialist strength when it should have been reshaping the German state [which state: capitalist?]; it weakened the left wing of the Social Democrats who were seeking social and political transformation [read: reform]... it forced the Social Democrats on to the slippery slope of accepting an alliance with the bourgeoisie as the lesser evil in an attempt to escape the greater". Hence, the social-democrat Julius Braunthal blames the communists for splitting with the Social Democracy, back in 1919, i.e. with the foundation of the Communist International, opposed to the rotten Socialist International.


1) Revolutionaries should oppose themselves to reformists. They should split from the reformist party and criticize the later for its policies. This policy is to carried in times of preparation for a revolution. 

2) In the revolutionary period, it is necessary to act together with the reformist parties ("the United Front", not to be confused with the "Popular Front", which is an alliance with liberal parties), or - if need be - alone, in energetically opposing the right-wing coup. This will smoothly pass into a communist insurrection. A positive example of this we've seen in the Bolsheviks tactics in fall of 1917. A negative example we've seen in Bulgaria, 1923, and in Germany, 1933. 

Defeat in Spain, 1936-39

In 1930's, “Russia’s foreign policy was no longer aligned to that of the Communist International; that of the Communist International had become aligned to that of Soviet Russia”. One example of this is the civil war in Spain, 1936-39. The goal of Stalin, in foreign policy, was a military alliance with capitalist England and France against the fascist Germany. Hence, it was necessary to suppress the revolution in Spain to prove itself in the eyes of imperialist England and France. Also, a revolution in Spain did not coincide to the internal politics of the conservative bureaucracy of the Soviet Union. Hence, the Communist Party of Spain argued: “the first essential was to win the war; the time for social revolution would be after military victory”. Dolores Ibarruri (“La Pasionaria”): “The revolution which is taking place in out country is the bourgeois-democratic revolution”, thus turning a blind eye to the lessons of the Russian revolution in 1917. In government, the communists sided with the bourgeoisie against the anarchists and a centrist party (POUM), for example in Catalonia, in 1936 (see George Orwell's stories "Homage to Catalonia", 1938, and "Looking back at the Spanish war", 1943). The communists have done everything possible to take away property from peasants and workers, which they have confiscated from landlords and factory owners, and return it back to its original owners. Hence, the Stalinists first helped to defeat the revolution, after which they themselves were thrown out of the country.

The end of two Internationals

War is a test for any organization. It either makes or breaks an organization. Labor and Socialist International was broken: “when war tensions in Europe grew still sharper in the autumn of 1938 the (Socialist) International began to disintegrate”. There were divisions on policy to be adopted: “The differences on major policy between isolationist parties in the International – the Oslo bloc [favoring neutrality in the coming war, thus hoping to preserve their independence] – and the parties which favored armed resistance to the Fascist offensive, were, in the nature of things, insurmountable.” Last meeting of the Bureau of the Labor and Socialist International took place on April 3, 1940: “the Socialist International’s [1940] May Day manifesto had nothing to say about all these events”, i.e. Hitler’s and Stalin’s invasion of Poland, the USSR war against Finland, the preparations of Hitler against France and Britain.

The individual Socialist parties also ceased to exist for same reason. For example, Leon Blum writes: “The simple truth is that from the time of Munich onwards the French Socialist party had fallen into two parts because of the dispute about the basic problem in public life. It was this dispute which reduced it to silent impotence. Anxious to preserve the appearance of unity, the party avoided taking any clear-cut line of action and even avoided making any clear-cut declaration for that would have revealed its inner divisions and would undoubtedly have led to an actual split… Thus the party dragged out its existence in mistrust and humiliation for nearly two more years until at the end it very existence was scarcely noticed any longer”.

But the war also breaks the Communist International. Or, to be more precise: the war has finished that which was already dead. Milovan Djilas, in his "Conversations with Stalin", writes that the intention to break up the Communist International first appeared when the USSR invaded the Baltic states, following the 1939 treaty with Hitler. Stalin and Molotov saw the Comintern as a hindrance to their policy. Brauthal writes that Stalin dissolved the Comintern in 1943 to “strengthen his position with Churchill and Roosevelt”, i.e. for the same reasons that the USSR suppressed the revolution in Spain.


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