The “Third Period” of the Comintern’s Mistakes


We republish here, for our June, July, and August 2014 organization-wide reading, an “under-the-radar” classic by Leon Trotsky. It was written during the important period that he was building the International Left Opposition. It includes a searing critique of the errors of Stalinism in theory, strategy, and tactics. It also includes many insights into how the working class moves, how Marxists develop perspectives, and much more.

What is Radicalization of the Masses?

The radicalization of the masses for the Comintern has become, at present, a bare catechism and not the characterization of a process. Genuine Communists – teaches l’Humanité [1]—should recognize the leading role of the party and the radicalization of the masses. It is meaningless to put the question that way. The leading role of the party is an unshaken principle for every Communist. Who does not follow it can be an anarchist or a confusionist, but not a Communist, that is, a proletarian revolutionist. But radicalization itself is not a principle, but only a characterization of a state of the masses. Is this characterization correct or is it not correct for the given period? That is a question of fact. In order to estimate seriously the state of the masses, correct criteria are necessary What is radicalization? How does it express itself? What are its characteristics? With what tempo and in which direction does it develop? The deplorable leadership of the French Communist party does not even pose these questions. At most an official article or a speech will refer to the growth of strikes. But even there only bare figures are given, without serious analysis, without even a simple comparison with the ones of the preceding years.

Such an attitude to the question follows not only from the unfortunate decisions of the Tenth Plenum of the E.C.C.I. but, is a matter of fact from the very program of the Comintern. It speaks of the radicalization of the masses as a continuous process. It believes: today the mass is more revolutionary than it was yesterday, and tomorrow it will be more revolutionary than it is today. Such a mechanical idea does does not correspond with the real process of development of the proletariat and of capitalist society as a whole. But does correspond, as perfectly as possible, with the mentality of the Cachins, Monmousseaus and the other frightened opportunists.

The social democratic parties, especially before the war, had imagined the future as a continual growth of social democratic votes, which will grow till it comes to the very moment of the complete possession of power. For a vulgar or pretended revolutionary this perspective still retains, essentially, its force, only instead of a continuous growth of votes, he talks of the continual radicalization of the masses. This mechanical conception is sanctioned also by the Bucharin-Stalin program of the Comintern. It goes without saying that grom the point of view of our epoch as a whole the development of the proletariat goes in the direction of the revolution. But this is not at all a straight process, just as the objective process of the sharpening of capitalist antagonism is not straight. The reformists see only the ups of the capitalist road. The formal “revolutionists” see only its downs. But a Marxist sees the line as a whole, with all its conjunctural rises and declines, without for a moment losing sight of is main direction – to the catastrophes of wars, to the outburst of revolutions.

The political feelings of the proletariat are far from changing automatically in one and the same direction. The rising of the class struggle are followed by its tailings, the flood-tides by the ebbs, depending upon complicated combinations of material and ideological conditions, internal and international. The activity of the masses, if not utilized at the right moment, or used wrong, goes to its opposite and ends in a period of decline, from which the masses recover faster or slower, again due to the influence of new objective stimuli. The characteristic of our epoch is the especially sharp changes of different periods, the extraordinary abrupt turns in the situation and this puts upon the leadership unusual obligations in the matter of correct orientation.

The activity of the masses, even when it is quite correctly ascertained, may have different expressions depending upon different conditions. The mass may, at certain periods, be completely absorbed in an economic struggle, and show very little interest in political questions. On the other hand, suffering from a series of failures on the field of the economic struggle, the mass may abruptly transfer its attention to the realm of politics. But here too – depending upon a series of conditions and on the experience with which a mass entered these conditions – its political activity may go either by the purely parliamentary way or by way of extra-parliamentary struggle.

We take only a very few examples, which characterize the contradictions of the revolutionary development of the proletariat. Those who know how to follow facts and understand their meaning, will admit without difficulty that the variations traced above are not some kind of theoretical combination but an expression of the living international experience of the last decade.

In any case, it is clear from what has been said that when the radicalization of the masses is being discussed, a concrete definition of it should be demanded. The Marxist Opposition should, of course, put the same demand to itself. A bare denial of radicalization brings just as little as its complete affirmation. We should have an estimate of that which is and of that which is becoming.

The Strike Curve in France

The official leaders speak of the radicalization of the French working class almost exclusively in connection with the strike movement. The growth of the latter is an incontestable fact, systematically established. We will take this fact as a starting point.

The official statistic of strikes in France are always extraordinarily late. The last report of the Ministry of Labor on strikes ends with the year 1925. For 1926 I have not data at my disposal. For the next three years there is the data of the Communist press. There is absolutely no doubt that the figures taken from the two sources mentioned are incommensurable. It is doubtful if the Ministry of Labor registers all strikes with the necessary completeness. On the other hand, the superficial “revolutionists” of l’Humanité have an obvious tendency to give exaggerated data. But in spite of that the general tendency of the movement comes out clearly enough.

The strike movement in France reached its highest point in the first two years after the war. In 1919, 2,100 strikes took place in which 1,200,000 workers participated. In 1920, there were 1,900 strikes, in which almost 1,500,000 workers were involved. As to the number of strikers, this is the year of its high point. With the year 1921 there begins – with one small exception which will be mentioned later – a systematic decline, which reaches its lowest point in the years 1926–27. Here are the figures in round numbers: 1921: 450,000 strikers, that is, one-third of the number in the preceding year. In 1922: 300,000 strikers. Only in 1923 does the curve not decline but even rises slightly and shows 365,000 strikers. This episodic rise was undoubtedly due to the events connected with the occupation of the Ruhr and the revolutionary movement in Germany. In 1924, the number of strikers goes down to 275,000. For 1926, as already said, we have no data. For 1927 we have only the total number of strikes: there were only 230 of them, while in the years 1919–1925 the number of strikes varied between 570 and 2,100. Although the number of strikes is a rather crude index, still it does not leave room for doubt that the curve of strikes continued, in general, to fall, beginning from 1921 and including 1927. In the last quarter of 1927, there were 93 strikes with 70,000 strikers. Supposing that the number of strikes was the same on the average during the whole year (an obviously arbitrary supposition), we will have approximately 170,000 for 1927, a number which is exaggerated rather than understated.

In 1928, the Communist press counts about 800 strikes, about 600 of which belong to the second half of the year, with 363,000 participants. Consequently it is possible to adopt, for the whole year of 1928, a hypothesis of 400,000 to 450,000 [men]. The same press shows 1,200 strikes for 1929 with approximately the same number of participants as in 1928 (that is, 400,000 to 450,000). Thus, in comparison with the preceding year there is no rise. The number of strikers in 1928, as also in 1929, is about twice as big as in 1925. It is nearly the same as the number of strikers in 1921: It is three to three and a half times less than in 1920.

All these figures, as has already been noted above, do not pretend to be absolutely exact, but they are enough to define the dynamics of the process. After the high point of strikes in 1919–20, the diminishing progression takes place until 1928, with a very small break in 1923. In the years of 1928–29 we observe an unmistakable, and, what is more, a considerable increase of the strike movement, connected it is not hard to understand – it will be shown further on – with the rise in industry under the influence of the stabilization of the currency.

We can say with perfect confidence that the period of 1919–27 forms a certain independent cycle in the life of the French proletariat, including the cyclonic rise of the strike movement immediately after the war, as well as its defeats and its decline especially acute after the catastrophe in Germany in 1923. In the most general of its aspects this cycle is characteristic not only of France alone, but of the whole of Europe, and in considerable degree, the whole world. What is characteristic of France as such is the comparatively moderate extent of fluctuation between the highest and lowest points of the cycle: victorious France did not go through a genuine revolutionary crisis. In the rhythm of the French strike movement the gigantic events developing in Russia, Germany, England, and other countries found only a weakened reflection.

The same tendencies of the strike movement of the French workers are indicated by other data. The number of strikers and the number of days of each strike, fell sharply beginning with the year 1922. In 1921 each strike had an average of 800 strikers and lasted more than 14,000 days. In 1925 each strike already had less than 300 strikers and a little more than 2,000 days. We can assume that in 1926–27, these averages did not in any case, grow bigger. In 1929, we already have 400 men per strike.

We shall note another important index, which we shall need later. In the post-war years, the first place among the strikers belonging mainly to the miners; the last two years, the first place is occupied by the textile workers and, in general, by the so-called light industry.

What do the Data of the Statistics Show?

Do they confirm the thesis of the radicalization of the masses or do they refute it? First of all, we answer, it takes it out of the realm of abstractions in which Monmousseau says Yes and Chambelland says No, without giving any definition of what is meant by radicalization. The data of the strike struggle given above are indisputable proof of certain moves in the working class. At the same time, they give a very important estimate of the number and quality of these moves. They outline the general dynamics of the process and make it possible, to a certain degree to anticipate the tomorrow, or more exactly, the possible variations of the tomorrow.

In the first place, we can affirm that the data for 1928–29, compared with the preceding period, characterize the beginning of a new cycle in the life of the French proletariat. They give us the right to assume that deep molecular processes have taken and are taking place in the masses, as a result of which the inert force of the decline begins – if only on the economic front for the present – to be overcome.

Nevertheless, the same data show that the growth of the strike movement is still very modest, and does not in the least give a picture of a tempestuous overflow, which would allow us to draw conclusions about a revolutionary or at least a pre-revolutionary period. In particular, there is no marked difference between 1928 and 1929. In the front rank of the strike movement, there still stand, as was mentioned above, only the establishments of light industry. From this fact, Chambelland comes to a general conclusion against radicalization. It would be a different matter, he says, if strikes were taking hold of the large enterprises in heavy industry and the machine shops. In other words, he imagines that radicalization falls from the sky ready made. As a matter of fact these figures testify not only that the new cycle of proletarian struggle has begun, but also that this cycle is now-only passing through its first stage. After defeat and decline, a revival, in the absence of any great events, could only start in no other way than from the industrial periphery, that is, from the light industries, from the secondary branches, from the smaller establishments of heavy industry. The transfer of the strike movement into the metal industry, machine shops, and transportation, would mean its transition to a higher stage of development, and would signify not only the symptoms of the beginning of a movement but the fact of a decisive break in the mood of the working class. It has not come yet. But it would be absurd to shut our eyes to the first stage of the movement only because the second has not begun yet or the third, or the fourth. Pregnancy even in its second month is pregnancy. To force it may lead to a miscarriage. But it is possible to arrive at the same result by ignoring it. It may be well, though, to add to this analogy that in the social realm dates are by no means as stable as in the realm of physiology.

Facts and Phrases

In discussing the question of the radicalization of the masses, it should not for a moment be forgotten that the proletariat attains it “monolithism” only in periods of the highest revolutionary flood tide. In the conditions of “every day life” in capitalist society, the proletariat is far from being homogeneous. Moreover, the heterogeneity, of its layers manifests itself most acutely precisely at the turning points in the road. The most exploited, the least skilled, or the politically most backward layers of the proletariat are frequently the first to enter the arena of struggle, and, in case of failure, are often the first to desert it. It is exactly in the new period that those groups which did not suffer defeats in the preceding period are easily attracted to the movement, if only because they did not generally take part in big fights. In one way or another, these phenomena are bound to appear also in France.

The same fact is shown by the indecision of the organized French workers which is pointed out by the official Communist press. Yes, the organized workers have their inhibitions too well developed. Considering themselves an insignificant part of the proletariat the organized are often apt to play a conservative role. It is not, of course, an argument against, organization, but an argument against its weaknesses, and an argument against those trade union leaders of the type of Monmousseau, who do not understand the nature of trade union organization and are not able to guarantee it a proper place in the working class. But, in any case, for the given moment the vanguard role of the unorganized testifies that the question is not as yet about a revolutionary, but about a joint-economic struggle, and that, moreover, in its elementary stage.

The same thing is demonstrated by the important role of the foreign born workers in the strike struggle, who – by the way – will in the future play in France a part analogous to that of the Negroes in the United States. But that is in the future. At present, the part played in strikes by the foreigners who often do not know the language, is another proof of the fact that it is not a question of political but economic struggle, to which an impetus has been given by the change in the economic conjuncture.

Even in relation to the purely economic front, one cannot speak of the offensive character of the struggle, as Monmousseau and company do. They base this definition on the fact that a considerable percentage of the strikes are conducted in the name of increased wages. The thoughtful leaders forget that such a form of demands is forced upon the workers on the one hand by the rise of prices in food products, and on the other by the intensified physical exploitation of the worker as a result of new industrial methods (rationalization). A workman is compelled to demand an increase in his nominal wages in order to defend his standard of living of yesterday. These strikes can have an “offensive” character only from the standpoint of capitalist bookkeeping. From the standpoint of trade union policies they have a purely defensive character. It is precisely this side of the question that every serious trade unionist should have clearly understood and brought to the forefront by every means. But Monmousseau and company believe they have a right to be good-for-nothing trade unionists because they are, if you please, “revolutionary leaders”. Shouting till they are hoarse about the offensive, political and revolutionary character of purely defensive strikes, they do not, of course, change the nature of these strikes and do not increase their significance by a single inch. But on the other hand, they do their best to arm the bosses and the government against the workers.

It does not improve matters when our “leaders” point out that the strikes become “political” on account of … the active role of the police. An astounding argument! The beating up of strikers by policemen is designated … a revolutionary advance of the workers. The history of France knows quite a few massacres of workers in purely economic strikes. In the United States, a bloody settlement with strikers is the rule. Does this mean that the workers in the United States are leading the most revolutionary struggle? The shooting of strikers has in itself, of course, a political significance. But only a loudmouth could identify it with the revolutionary political advance of the working masses – thus unconsciously playing the hand of the bosses and their police.

When the British General Council of Trade Unions represented the revolutionary strike of 1926 as a peaceful demonstration, it knew what it was doing: that was a deliberately planned betrayal. But when Monmousseau and company represent scattered economic strikes as a revolutionary attack on the bourgeois state, nobody will think of accusing them of a deliberate betrayal: it is doubtful of these people can act with deliberation. But it is certainly no help to the workers.

In the next article we will see how these terribly revolutionary heroes render some other services to the bosses, ignoring the rise of commerce and industry, underestimating its significance, that is, underestimating the profits of the capitalists – and by the same token undermining the foundation of the economic struggles of the workers.

All this is done, of course, to the glory of the “third period”.

the Fifth Congress of the Confederation General du Travail Unitaire, A. Vassart made a lengthy speech against Chambelland [1], which was later published as a pamphlet, with a foreword by Jean Brecot. [2] In his speech, Vassart attempts to defend the revolutionary perspective against the reformist perspective. In this respect, our sympathies are entirely on his side. But unfortunately he defends the revolutionary perspective with such arguments as can bring only advantages to the reformists. In his speech, there is included a series of fatal theoretical and factual mistakes. One may object: Are there so few mistaken speeches in the world? Vassart can still learn a great deal. I myself would be glad to think so. But it has been made difficult by the fact that the speech has been published in the form of a propaganda pamphlet. It is provided with a foreword by Jean Brecot who is at least a cousin to Monmousseau himself, and this gives the pamphlet a programmatic character. The fact that not only the author, but also the editor who prepared it for publication, did not perceive the enormous mistakes is witness to the sad state of the theoretical level of the present leaders of French Communism. Jean Brecot does not tire of smashing the Marxist Opposition. What he ought to do, as we shall soon demonstrate, is simply to sit down and study his ABCs. Leadership of the labor movement is incompatible with ignorance, as Marx once said to Weitling.

Crises of Conjunction and the Revolutionary Crisis in Capitalism

At the congress, Chambelland expressed the superficial thought – based decisively on nothing but the reformist tendencies of the speaker – that capitalist stabilization will last for about another thirty-forty years, that is, that even the new generation of the proletariat which is just coming forward cannot count upon the revolutionary seizure of power. Chambelland brought no serious arguments to substantiate his fantastic period of time. Whereas, the historical experience of the past two decades and the the theoretical analysis of the present situation speak wholly against Chambellland’s perspective.

But let us see how Vassart refutes him. He proves first of all that even before the war the capitalist system could not exist without convulsions.

“From 1850 to 1910, an economic crisis took place approximately every 14 years (!?) bred by the capitalist system.” (Page 14)

And further on:

“If, before the war, the crisis took place every 14 years, we see a contradiction between this fact and the assertions of Chambelland who does not foresee a serious crisis before forty years.” (Page 15)

It is not difficult to understand that with this sort of argument, Vassart, who confuses crises of conjuncture with the revolutionary crisis of capitalism as a whole, only strengthens the false position of Chambelland.

First of all, the establishment of the conjunctural cycle, at 14 years is rather surprising. Where did Vassart get this figure? We hear it for the first time. And how is it that Jean Brecot, who instructs us so authoritatively (almost as authoritatively as Monmousseau himself), did not notice such a crass mistake, especially in such a question that has such an immediate, such a vital significance for the trade union movement? Prior to the war, every trade unionist knew that crises or at least depressions recurred every seven or eight years. If we take the period of a century and a half, we find that one crisis was never separated from the other by more than eleven years. The average duration of the cycle was about eight and a half years, and furthermore, as was shown by the pre-war period, the conjunctural rhythm had a tendency not to slacken but to accelerate, which is bound up with the renewal of technical machinery. In the post-war years, the changes of conjuncture bad a disorderly character, which was expressed by the fact that the crises recurred more frequently than before the war. How does it happen that leading French trade unionists do not know such elementary facts? Especially how can one lead a strike movement without having in mind a realistic picture of the changes of economic conjuncture? Every serious Communist can and must put this question to the leaders of the C.G.T.U., primarily to Monmousseau – and that squarely.

That is how the matter stands from the point of view of the facts … It is no better from the methodological point of view. What does Vassart actually prove? That capitalist development is generally inconceivable without conjunctural contradictions; they existed before the war and will exist in the future. It is doubtful if even Chambelland would deny this commonplace. But from this there does not as yet flow any revolutionary perspective. On the contrary: if for the past century and a half the capitalist world passed through eighteen crises, then there is no basis for the conclusion that capitalism must fall with the nineteenth or twentieth. In actuality, conjunctural cycles in the life of capitalism play the same role as is played, for example, by the cycles of blood circulation in the life of an organism. From the periodicity of the crises, there flows just as little the conclusion of the inevitability of the revolution, as the inevitability of death – from a rhythmic pulse.

At the Third Congress of the Comintern (1921), the ultra-Leftists of the time (Bucharin, Zinoviev, Radek, Thaelmann, Thalheimer, Pepper Bela Kun and others) calculated that capitalism would never again know an industrial revival because it had entered the final (“Third”?) period, which would develop on the basis of a permanent crisis until the very revolution. Around this question, a big ideological struggle took place at the Third Congress. My report was devoted to a considerable extent to proving the idea that in the epoch of imperialism the laws determining the change in industrial cycles remain in effect and that conjunctural vacillations will be characteristic of capitalism as long as it exists: the pulse ceases only with death. But from the state of the pulse, in conjunction with other symptoms, a doctor can determine whether he is dealing with a strong or weak organism, a healthy or a sick one, (of course, I do not speak of doctors of the Monmousseau school.) Vassart however makes the attempt to prove the inevitability and proximity of the revolution on the basis of the fact that crises and booms take place every 14 years.

Vassart could easily have avoided these gross errors if he had at least made a study of the report and discussion at the Third Congress of the Comintern. But, unfortunately, the most important documents of the first four Congresses, when genuine Marxist ideology ruled the Comintern, are now prohibited literature. For the new generation of leaders, the history of Marxist thought begins with the Fifth Congress, particularly with the unfortunate Tenth Plenum of the E.C.C.I. The principal crime of the dull and blind bureaucratic apparatus consists in the mechanical interpretation of theoretical traditions.

Economic Conjuncture and Radicalization of the Masses

If Vassart does not know the mechanics of business cycles and does not understand the relationship between conjunctural crises and revolutionary crises of the capitalist system as a whole, then the dialectical interdependence of the economic conjuncture and the struggle of the working class is just as unclear to him. Vassart conceives this dependence just as mechanically as his opponent Chambelland, although their conclusions are directly contrary, and moreover erroneous to the same degree.

Chambelland says:

“Radicalization of the masses is in a certain sense the barometer which makes it possible to evaluate the condition of capitalism in a given country. If capitalism is in a state of decline the masses are necessarily radicalized.” (Page 23)

From this Chambelland draws the conclusion that because the strikes embrace only the periphery of the workers, because metallurgical and chemical industries are affected only to a slight degree, capitalism is not as yet in decline. Before him there is still a forty years’ period of development.

What does Vassart answer to this? Chambelland, according to him, “does not see the radicalization because he does not see the new methods of exploitation.” (Page 30) Vassart in every respect repeats the thought that if one recognizes the intensified exploitation and understands that it will develop further, “that in itself compels you to reply affirmatively to the question of the radicalization of the masses.” (Page 31)

When one reads these polemics, he gets the impression of two blindfolded men trying to catch each other. It is not true that a crisis always and under all circumstances radicalizes the masses. Example: Italy, Spain, the Balkans, etc. It is not true that the radicalism of the working class necessarily corresponds with the period of capitalism’s decline. Example: Chartism in England, etc. Like Chambelland, Vassart also ignores the living history of the labor movement in the name of dead forms. Wrong also is Chambelland’s conclusion itself: From the fact, that strikes have not as yet embraced the main mass of French workers, one must by no means deduce a denial of the beginning of radicalization; but what can and must be arrived at is a concrete evaluation of the extent, depth and intensity of this radicalization. Chambelland, evidently, agrees to believe in it only after the whole working class is engaged in an offensive. But such leaders who wish to start only when everything is ready, are not needed by the working class. One must be able to see the first, even though weak, symptoms of revival, while only in the economic sphere, adapt one’s tactics to it and attentively follow the development of the process. Meantime one must not disregard, even for an hour, the general nature of our epoch, which has proved more than once and will yet prove, that between the first symptoms of revival and stormy upsurge which creates a revolutionary situation, not forty years but perhaps only a fifth or a tenth of that are required.

This matter stands no better with Vassart. He simply establishes a mechanical parallel between exploitation and radicalization. How can the radicalization of the masses be denied, Vassart says irritably, if exploitation grows from day to day? This is childish metaphysics, quite in the spirit of Bucharin. Radicalization must be proved not by deductions but by facts. The conclusion of Vassart can be turned into its opposite without difficulty. It is sufficient to put a question like this: How could the capitalists increase exploitation from day to day if they were confronted by the radicalization of the masses? It is precisely the absence of fighting spirit in the masses that permits an increase of exploitation. True, such reasoning without qualifications would also be one-sided, but still a lot nearer to life than Vassart’s constructions.

The trouble is that the growth of exploitation does not under all circumstances raise the fighting spirit of the proletariat. Thus, with a declining conjuncture, with the growth of unemployment, particularly after lost battles, increased exploitation does not breed radicalization of the masses, but quite the contrary, the falling of spirit, dispersal and disintegration. We saw, that, for example, in the English coal mining industry right after the strike of 1926. We saw it on a still larger scale in Russia when the industrial crisis of 1907 fell with the wrecking of the 1905 revolution. If in the past two years the growth of exploitation in France brought about the evident growth of the strike movement, the ground for it was created by the rise in the economic conjuncture and not its decline.

False Revolutionaries Fear Economic Processes

But the ultra-Left opportunists leading the Comintern fear a rise in industry as economic “counter-revolution”. Their radicalism leans on a weak reed. For the further rise of industry, business conjuncture would in the very first place have delivered a mortal blow to their stupid theories of the “third and last period”. These people deduce revolutionary perspectives not from the real process of contradictions but from false schemas. And from th4 now their fatal mistakes in tactics.

It may seem quite improbable that at the Congress of the C.G.T.U. in France the official orators tried above all to depict the affairs of French capitalism in the most piteous form. Loudly exaggerating the present swing of the strike movement, the French Stalinists at the same time gave such a characterization of French industry as would make strike struggles absolutely hopeless in the future. Among them was Vassart. Precisely because he, together with Monmousseau, does not distinguish between the crisis of capitalism find the conjunctural crisis, and figures this time together with Chambelland, that a conjunctural rise might further remove the revolution to a period of decades, Vassart is apprehensive of an industrial rise. On page 21-24 of his pamphlet, he proves that the present industrial revival in France is “artificial” and “momentary”. (page 24) At the December national committee meeting, Richetat diligently painted the French textile industry as being in a state of crisis, if this is the case it means that the strike movement which so far served as the only indication of radicalization has no economic foundation under itself or is losing it rapidly. To say the least, by anticipation Vassart and Richetat give the representatives of capital a priceless argument against economic concessions to the workers and what is more important they give decisive arguments to the reformists against economic strikes, for it must be understood that from a perspective of chronic crisis one can by no means draw a perspective of increasing economic struggles.

Do not these sorry syndicalists follow the economic press? But, they may say, the capitalist press deliberately parades its optimism. However, it is not a question of editorials here. From day to day, from month to month, the press publishes the market reports, the balances of the banks, commercial and industrial enterprises and railroads. Some of the totals involved have already been printed in No. 12 of Verité. [3] The more recent figures are further proof of the rising tendency of French industry. The last economic weekly to reach me, Le Temps (October 9, 1929), carries for instance, a report of a general meeting of the stockholders of the metallurgical enterprises of the North and East of France. We do not know M. Quivelette’s attitude to the philosophy of the “Third Period” and we admit that we are not very much interested. But nevertheless he can very well sum up profits and cut dividends, Quivelette sums up the total of the past year in the following phrase: “The condition of the domestic market has been exceptionally favorable.” This formula, I hope, has nothing in common with platonic optimism because it is strengthened by forty franc dividends on stock instead of the twenty-five franc franc dividend the year before. We ask: Has or has not this fact an importance for the economic struggles in the metal industry? It would seem that it has. But unfortunately, behind the back of Quivelette we see the figures of Vassart and Brecot or that of Monmousseau himself, and we hear their voice: “Don’t believe the words of this capitalist optimist who does not know that he is up to his ears in the third period!” Isn’t it clear that if a worker makes the mistake of believing on this question, Monmousseau and not Quivelette, he will have to come to the conclusion that he has no ground under his feet for successful economic struggle, to say nothing of an offensive.

The Monmousseau school – if one may give such a title to an institution where people are taught to unlearn thinking, reading and writing – is afraid of an economic rise. It must be said plainly that for the French working class, which has renewed its composition at least twice – during the years of the war and after the war, having included in its ranks tremendous numbers of youth, women and foreigners – and is far from having fused this raw mass together in its melting pot – for the French working class, the further development of an industrial rise would have created an incomparable school, would have welded its strength, would have proved to the most backward sections their meaning and role in the capitalist mechanism, and would thereby have raised class consciousness as a whole to new heights. Two or three years, even one year, of a broad, successful economic struggle would give rebirth to the proletariat. After a properly utilized economic rise, a conjunctural crisis might give a serious impetus to a genuine political radicalization of the masses.

At the same time, it must not be forgotten that wars and revolutions in our epoch result not from conjunctural crises but from the contradictions between the development of the productive forces on the one hand and the bourgeois characteristic of national boundaries on the other carried to their climax. Imperialist war and the October revolution have succeeded in showing the strain of these contradictions. The new role of America has developed them further. The more serious a character the development of the productive forces has in one country or another, or in a series of countries, the faster a new rise in industry will find itself confronted with the basic contradiction of world industry and the sharper will be the reaction–economic, political, domestic and international. A serious industrial rise would be at all events, not a minus but a tremendous plus for French Communism, creating a mighty strike forerunner to a political offensive. Conclusion: there will be no lack of revolutionary situations. It is quite likely, however, that there will be a lack of ability to utilize them.

But is the further rising development of the French industrial conjuncture guaranteed? This we cannot dare to confirm. Here all sorts of possibilities remain open. At any rate, it does not depend on us. What does depend on us, and what we are obliged to do, is not to close our eyes to facts in the name of pitiful schema, but to take the course of economic development as it really is and to work out trade union tactics on the basis of real facts. We speak in the given case of tactics in distinction to strategy, which is determined, of course, not by conjunctural changes but by basic tendencies of development. But if tactics are subordinated to strategy then, on the other hand, strategy is realized only through tactics.

To the Comintern as well as the Profintern, tactics consist in periodic zig-zags, and strategy – in the mechanical sum of zig-zags. That is why the proletarian vanguard suffers defeat after defeat.

What are the Symptoms of the Political Radicalization of the Masses?

The question of the radicalization of the masses is not exhausted, however, with the strike movement. How do matters stand with the political struggle? And above all: how do matters stand with the numbers and influence of the Communist Party?

It is remarkable that in speaking ot radicalization the official leaders, with a striking light-mindedness, ignore the question of their own party. Meanwhile, the facts are that beginning with 1925 the membership of the party has been falling from year to year: in 1925, 83,000 members; 1926, 65,000; 1927, 56,000; 1928, 52,000; 1929, 35,000. For the past years, we use the official figures of the secretary of the Comintern, Piatnitzky; for 1929, the figures of Semard. No matter how these figures are regarded, they are undoubtedly highly exaggerated. As a whole, they very vividly present the curve of the party’s decline: in five years, the membership fell by more than half. It may be said that quality is more important than quantity, and that there now remain in the party only the fully reliable Communists. Let us assume that. But this is not at all the question. The process of the radicalization of the masses can by no means signify the isolation of the cadres, but on the contrary, the influx into the party of reliable and semi-reliable members and the conversion of the latter into “reliables.” The political radicalization of the masses can be reconciled with the systematic decrease in party membership only if one considers the role of the party in the life of the working class the same as a fifth wheel to a wagon. Facts are stronger than words: we observe a steady decline of the party not only during the years 1925–27, when the strike wave was ebbing, but also during the last two years, when the number of strikes was beginning to grow.

At this point, the honorable Panglosses [1] of official Communism will interrupt, pointing to the “disproportion” between the numbers of the party and its influence. This is now generally the formula of the Comintern, created by the shrewd for the simpleton. However, the canonized formula not only fails to explain anything but in some respects even makes matters worse. The experience of the labor movement testifies that the difference between the extent of organization and the extent of the influence of the party – all other conditions being equal – is all the greater the smaller the revolutionary and the bigger the “parliamentary” character of the given party. Opportunism is a lot easier than Marxism, is based on the diffused masses. This is especially evident from the simple comparison of the socialist and Communist Party. [2] The systematic growth of the “disproportion,” with the decline in the numbers of organized Communists could consequently mean nothing but the fact that the French Communist Party is being transformed from a revolutionary into a parliamentary and municipalist party. That this process to a certain degree took place in the last years, of that the recent “municipal” scandals are incontestable witness; and it may be feared that “parliamentary” scandals will follow. Nevertheless, the difference between the Communist party in its present form, and the socialist agency of the bourgeoisie, remains enormous. The Panglosses in the leadership merely slander the French Communist Party when they discourse on some kind of a gigantic disproportion between its numbers and its influence. It is not difficult to prove that the political influence of Communism, unfortunately, has grown very little in the last five years.

For Marxists – it is no secret that parliamentary and municipal elections sharply distort, and – always to the detriment of revolutionary tendencies – change the actual mood of the suppressed masses. Nevertheless, the dynamics of political development find their reflection in parliamentary elections: this is one of the reasons why we Marxists take an active part in parliamentary and municipal struggles. But what do the figures of the election statistics show? In the legislative elections of 1924 the Communist party polled 875,000 votes, a little less than ten percent of the total electorate. In the elections of 1928, the party polled a little more than a million votes (1,064,000), which represented eleven and one third percent of the votes cast. Thus, the specific gravity of the party in the electoral body increased by one and one third percent. If this process were to continue further at the same tempo, then the perspective of Chambelland with regards to thirty or forty years of “social peace” would appear too … revolutionary.

The socialist party, already “non-existence” in 1924 (according to Zinoviev-Losovsky) polled almost 1,700,000 votes in 1928, more than eighteen percent of the total, or more than one and a half times the Communist votes.

The results of the municipal elections change the whole picture very little. In some industrial centers (Paris, the North) the winning away, of votes from the socialists by the Communists undoubtedly took place. Thus, in Paris the specific gravity of the Communist vote increased in four years (1925–29) from 18.9 percent to 21.8 percent, that is, by three percent, at a time when the socialist vote fell from 22.4 percent to 18.1 percent, that is, by four percent. The symptomatic significance of such facts is undeniable: but so far they have only a local character, and are strongly discredited by that anti-revolutionary “municipalism” personified, by Louis Sellier and the petty bourgeois like him. Generally, the municipal elections that took place a year after the legislative elections did not bring about any real changes as a result of the Selliers.

Other indications of political life speak just as fully against, to say the least, premature parrotings on the so-called political radicalization of the masses, which is to have taken place in the last two years. The circulation of l’Humanité, to our knowledge, has not grown in the past two years. The collections of money forl’Humanité undoubtedly represent a gratifying fact. But such collections would have been considerable, in view of the demonstrative attack of reaction on the paper, a year, two and three ago as well.

On the First of August – it must not be forgotten for a minute – the party was incapable of mobilizing not only that part of the proletariat which voted for it but not even all the unionized workers. In Paris, according to the undoubtedly exaggerated accounts of l’Humanité, about fifty thousand workers participated in the First of August demonstrations. That is, less than half of the unionized. In the provinces, matters stood infinitely worse. This fact proves, be it noted in passing, that the “leading role” of the Political Bureau among the C.G.T.U. apparatus men does not at all mean the leading role of the party among the unionized workers. But the latter contain only a tiny fraction of the class. If the revolutionary rise is such an irrefutable fact then what good is a party leadership which, in the acute moment of the Soviet-Chinese conflict, could not bring out at an anti-imperialist demonstration even a quarter (more correctly stated, even a tenth) part of its electorate in the country. No one demands the impossible of the leadership of the party. A class cannot be seduced. But what gave the August First demonstration the character of a flat failure is the monstrous “disproportion” between the victorious shouts of the leadership and the real echo of the masses. So far as the trade union union organizations are concerned, they went through the party’s decline – judging by the official figures – after a delay of one year. In 1926, the C.G.T.U. numbered 475,000 members. In 1927, 452,000. In 1928, 375,000. The loss of 100,000 members by the trade unions at a time when the strike struggles in the country increased, represents an irrefutable proof that the C.G.T.U. does not reflect the basic processes at work in the field of the economic struggles of the masses. As an enlarged shadow of the party, it merely experiences the decline of the latter after some delay.

The data cited in the present outline confirm with double strength the conclusions we made in a semi-a priori order in the first article of the analysis of the strike movement figures. Let us recall them once more. The years 1919–20 were the culminating point of the proletarian struggle in France. After that, an ebb set in, which, in the economic field, began to change six years later by a new, but still slow tide: but in the political field the ebb-tide or stagnation continues even now, at any rate, in the main mass of the proletariat. Thus, the awakenings of the activity of certain sections of the proletariat in the field of economic struggle, is irrefutable. But this process too is only passing through its first stage, when it is primarily the enterprises of light industry that are drawn into the struggle, with an evident preponderance of the unorganized workers over the organized and with a considerable specific gravity of the foreign-born workers.

The impetus to the strike struggles was the rise in the economic conjuncture, with a simultaneous rise of the cost of living. In its first stages the strengthening of economic struggles is not accompanied ordinarily with a revolutionary rise. It is not evident now either. On the contrary, the economic rise for a certain time may even weaken the political interests of the workers, at any rate, of some of its sections.

If we take further into consideration that French industry has been experiencing a stage of rise for two years now; that there is no talk of unemployment in the basic branches of industry and that in some branches there is even an acute shortage of workers, then it is not difficult to conclude that with these exceptionally favorable conditions for trade union struggle the present swing of the strike movement must be acknowledged as extremely moderate. The basic indications of this moderateness are: the depression in the masses that still remains from the last period and the slowness of the industrial rise itself.

What Are the Immediate Perspectives?

Regardless of the rhythm of the conjunctural changes, it is only possible to forsee approximately the change in the phases of the cycle. What was said refers also to pre-war capitalism. But in the present epoch the difficulties of conjunctural prediction have multiplied. The world market has not attained, after the shake-up of the war, the establishment of a single conjuncture, even though it approached it appreciably compared to the first five years after the war. This is why one must now be doubly careful in attempting to determine beforehand the alternating changes in world conjuncture.

At the present moment the following basic variations appear likely:

  1. The New York stock market crisis proves to be the forerunner of a commercial-industrial crisis in the United States, which reaches great depths in the very next months. United States capitalism is compelled to make a decisive turn toward the foreign market. An epoch of mad competition opens up. European goods retreat before this unrestrained attack. Europe enters a crisis later than the United States but as a result the European crisis assumes extraordinary acuteness.
  2. The stock market crash does not immediately call forth a commercial-industrial crisis, but results only in a temporary depression. The blow at stock market speculation bring about better correlation between the course of paper values and commercial-industrial realities, just as between the latter and the real buying power of the market. After the depression and a period of adjustment, the commercial-industrial conjuncture rises upward once more, even though not as steeply as in the previous period. This variation is not excluded. The reserves of American capitalism are great. Not the last place among them is held by the government budget (orders, subsidies, etc.).
  3. The withdrawal of funds from American speculation generates commercial and industrial activities. The further fate of this revival will in turn depend just as much upon purely European factors. Even in case of a sharp economic crisis in the United States, a rise may yet be maintained in Europe for a certain time, because it is unthinkable that capitalism in the United States will be able in the period of a few short months to reconstruct itself for a decisive attack on the world market.
  4. Finally, the actual course of developments may pass between the above-outlined variations and yield an equivalent in the form of a shaky, broken curve with weak deviations upward or downward.

The development of the worker, particularly through the strike movement in the whole history of capitalism, has been closely bound with the development of the conjunctural cycle. It is not necessary, however, to conceive this connection mechanically. Under certain conditions that overflow the boundaries of the commercial-industrial cycle (sharp changes of the world economic or political environment, sharp social crises, wars and revolutions), it is not the current demands of the masses evoked by the given conjuncture that find their expression in the strike wave, but their deep historical tasks of a revolutionary character. Thus, for instance, the post-war strikes in France did not have conjunctural character but reflected the profound crisis of capitalist society as a whole. If we approach the present strike in France with this criterion, it will present itself primarily as a movement of conjunctural character; the course and tempo of the labor movement will depend in the most immediate sense on a further movement of the market, on alternating conjunctural phases, on their fullness and intensity. All the more impermissible is it, in a changeable moment such as we are now passing through, to proclaim the “third period” without any regard for the real course of economic life.

There is no need to explain that even in case of a renewal of the favorable conjuncture in America and the development of a commerical-industrial rise in Europe, the coming of a new crisis is entirely unavoidable. There is not the least doubt that when a crisis actually arrives, the present leaders will declare that their “prognosis” was fully justified, that the stabilization of capitalism proved its weakness, and that the class struggle took on a sharper character. It is clear, however, that such a “prognosis” costs very little. One who started to predict daily the eclipse of the sun would finally live to see his prediction fulfilled. But it is doubtful if we would consider such a prophet a serious astronomer. The task of the Communists is not to predict crises, revolutions and wars every single day, but to prepare for wars and revolutions, soberly evaluating the situation, the conditions which arise between wars and revolutions. It is necessary to foresee the inevitability of a crisis after a rise. It is necessary to warn the masses of the coming crisis. But to prepare them for the crisis will be more easily possible the more fully the masses under a correct leadership, utilize the period of rise. At the recent (December) Plenum of the national committee of the C.G.T.U., quite healthy thoughts were expressed. Thus, Claveri and Dorelle complained that the last C.G.T.U. congress (May 1929) evaded the question of economic demands of the working masses. The speakers, however, did not stop to think how it could happen that a trade union congress passed by that which should be its first and most urgent task. In accordance with the so-called “self-criticism”, the main speakers this time condemned the C.G.T.U. leadership more thoroughly than the Opposition ever did.

However, Dorelle himself introduced not a little confusion in the name of the “third period”, in connection with the question of the political character of the strikes. Dorelle demanded that the revolutionary trade unionists, that is, the Communists, – there are no other revolutionary trade unionists in existence at the present time – show the workers in every strike the dependence of isolated manifestations of exploitation upon the whole contemporary regime, and consequently the connection between the immediate demands of the workers and the task of the proletarian revolution. This is an ABC demand for Marxists. But by this is not at all determined the character of a strike as such. By a political strike must not be understood a strike during which the Communists carry on political agitation, but a strike in which the workers of all trades and enterprises conduct a struggle for definite political aims. Revolutionary agitation on the basis of strikes is a task of Communists under all circumstances; but the participation of workers in political, that is, revolutionary strikes, presents by itself one of the sharpest forms of struggle and occurs only under exceptional circumstances, which neither the party nor the trade unions can manufacture artificially according to their desires. To identify economic strikes with political strikes creates chaos which prevents the trade union leaders from correctly approaching economic strikes, from preparing them and working out an expedient program of workers’ demands.

Matters stand still worse with the general economic orientation. The philosophy of the “third period” demands at all costs and immediately an economic crisis. Our wise trade unionists, therefore, close their eyes to the systematic improvement of the economic conjuncture in France for the past two years at a time when without a concrete estimation of the conjuncture it is impossible, in turn, to work out correct demands and to struggle for them with success. Claveri and Dorelle would do well if they would think the question through to the end. If the economic rise in France should last for another year (which is not out of the question) then primarily the development and deepening of the economic struggles would soon be on the order of the day. To be able to adapt themselves to such circumstances is a task not only of the trade unions but also of the party. It is insufficient to proclaim the abstract right of Communism to a leading role; it is necessary to conquer this by deeds, and at that not within the narrow frame of the trade union apparatus but on the whole field of the class struggle. To the anarchist and trade unionist formula of autonomy of the trade unions, the party must oppose serious theoretical and political aid to the trade unions, making it easier for them to orientate correctly in questions of economic and political developments, and consequently, the elaboration of correct demands and methods of struggle.

The unavoidable change in the rise produced by a crisis will change the tasks, taking the ground from under the successful economic struggles. It has already been said above that the coming of a crisis would serve in all probability as an impetus to the political activity of the masses. The strength of this impetus depends directly on two factors: on the depth and duration of the previous rise, the sharpness of the crisis that has come. The sharper and deeper the change will turn out to be the sharper will be the action of the masses. The reason for this is not difficult to understand. By the power of inertia, strikes generally acquire the greatest impetus at the moment when the economic rise begins to pass into depression. It is as if in the heat of running, the workers encounter a solid wall. With economic strikes you can then accomplish very little. The capitalists, with the depression under way, easily utilize the lockout. It is natural if the class consciousness of the workers which has risen begins to seek other roads for itself. But which? This already depends not only upon conjunctural conditions but on the whole situation in the country.

To declare in advance that the next conjunctural crisis will create an immediate revolutionary situation in France, for that there is at present no basis. Under the juncture of a series of conditions overflowing the boundaries of conjunctural crisis, this is quite possible. On this count only theoretical suppositions are thus far possible. To put forward today the slogan of a general political strike as an actual one, on the basis that the coming crisis may push the masses on the road of revolutionary struggle, means to attempt to appease the hunger of today with the dinner of tomorrow. When Molotov stated at the Tenth Plenum that the general strike has already practically been put on the order of the day in France, then he only showed once too often that he does not know France nor the order nor the day. The anarchists and syndicalists do not a little to compromise the very idea of a general strike in France. Official Communism apparently travels the same road, attempting to substitute goat-leaps of adventurism for systematic revolutionary work.

The tide of political activity of the masses, before it assumes a more decisive form, may, for a certain and for that matter a lengthy period, express itself in a greater attendance of meetings, in a wider distribution of Communist literature in the growth of electoral votes, increase in the number of Party members, etc. Can the leadership adopt in advance a purely a priori orientation on a stormy tempo of development at all events? No. It must have its hands united for one and for the other tempo. Only under this condition can the party, not deviating from the revolutionary direction, march in step with the class.

At the expense of the above-developed considerations I can already hear the caressing voice of the tin rattle accuse me of “economism” on the one hand and capitalist optimism on the other, and of course of social democratic deviations. For the Molotovs, everything they cannot grasp, that is, a great deal, is related to the domain of social democratic deviations, just as to barbarians, ninety-nine percent of the universe is related to the domain of the activity of bad spirits. Following Molotov, Semard and Monmousseau will teach us that the question is not exhausted with shakings in conjuncture, that there are many other factors, for example, rationalization and the approaching war. These people talk about “many” factors all the more readily when they are incapable to explain a single one of them. Doubtless, we will reply to them, the war would have overthrown the whole perspective and would have opened, so to speak, a new chronology. But in the first place, we do not yet know today when the war will come, nor what gates it will come through. Secondly, in order to enter a war with open eyes, we must carefully study all the curves in the road that leads to it. War does not fall from heaven. The question of war and its date is connected most closely with the question of the processes of the world market.

The Art of Orientation

The art of revolutionary leadership is primarily the art of correct political orientation. Under all conditions. Communism prepares the political vanguard, and through it the working class as a whole, for the revolutionary seizure of power. But it does it differently in different fields of the labor movement and in different periods.

One of the most important elements in orientation is the determination of the moods of the masses, their activity and readiness for struggle. The mood of the masses however does not fall from the skies. It changes under the influence of certain laws of mass psychology, which are set into motion by objective social conditions. The political condition of the classes is subject, within certain limits, to a quantitative determination (press circulation, attendance at meetings, demonstrations, strikes, elections, etc., etc.). In order to understand the dynamics of the process, it is necessary to determine in what direction and under the influence of what reasons the mood of the working class changes. Combining the subjective data with the objective, it is possible to get to a certain degree the perspective of the movement, i.e., the scientifically based prediction without which a serious revolutionary struggle is in general inconceivable. But prediction in politics has the character, not of a rigid schema, but of a working hypothesis. Directing the struggle to one or the other direction, it is necessary attentively to follow the changes in the objective and subjective elements of the movement, in order to introduce opportunely into the tactics corresponding corrections. Even though the actual development of the struggle never fully correspond with the prognosis, that does not absolve us from having recourse to political prediction. One must not however, get intoxicated with finished schemas but continually check up the course of the historic process and conform oneself with its indications.

Centrism, which now rules the Comintern, as an intermediary tendency living on the ideas of others, by its very nature is incapable of historical prognosis. In the Soviet Republic, Centrism attained its domination under the conditions of reaction against October, at the descent of the revolution, when empiricism and eclectism constituted the warrant that permitted it to swim with the stream. And since it had previously been proclaimed that the course of development automatically leads towards socialism in one country, this in itself was enough to liberate Centrism from the need of a world orientation,

But the Communist Parties in the capitalist countries, which still have to struggle for power or to prepare for such a struggle, cannot live without prediction. A correct, everyday orientation is a question of life or death for them. But they do not learn this most important art because they are compelled to leap and skip interminably at the command of the Stalinist bureaucracy. Bureaucratic Centrism which is able to live for a time off the interest on the capital of already captured proletarian power, is entirely incapable of preparing the young Parties for the conquest of power. In this lies the principal and most formidable contradiction of the present Comintern.

The history of the Centrist leadership is the history of fatal mistakes in orientation. After the epigones missed the revolutionary situation in Germany in 1923 which profoundly changed the whole situation in Europe, the Comintern went through three stages of fatal mistakes.

The years 1924–25 were the period of ultra-Left mistakes: the leadership saw an immediate revolutionary situation ahead of them at a time when it was behind them. In that period they called us Marxist-Leninists “Rights” and “liquidators”

The years 1925–27 were the period of open opportunism, which coincided with a stormy rise of the labor movement in England and the revolution in China. In this period they called us nothing else than “ultra-Leftists”.

Finally, in 1928, the “Third Period” is proclaimed, which repeats the Zinovievist mistakes of 1924–25 on a higher historical plane. “The Third Period”, has not yet come to a close: on the contrary it continues to rage, laying organizations and minds to waste.

All the three periods are characterized, not accidentally, by a systematic decline in the level of the leadership. In the first period: Zinoviev, Bucharin, Stalin. In the second period: Stalin, Bucharin. In the third period: Stalin and … Molotov. There is a regularity to be seen in this.

Let us look closer at the leadership and theory of the “third period”.

Molotov “Enters With Both Feet”

The Plenum of the E.C.C.I. which met a year after the Sixth Congress (July 1929) could not simply repeat what the Sixth Congress had already said but had to take a higher note. Already on the eve of the Plenum, the theoretical organ of the C.P.S.U. wrote:

“In the whole capitalist world the strike wave is rising. This wave is occurring in the highly developed imperialist countries as well as in the backward colonies at times and in places which interlink with elements of a stubborn revolutionary struggle and civil war. Into the struggle are drawn and actively participate the masses of the unorganized … The growth of dissatisfaction and the Leftward swing of the masses also embraces the millions of the agricultural workers and oppressed peasantry.” (Bolshevik, June 1929, No. 12, page 9)

The picture leaves no room for doubts. If the strike wave is actually traversing the whole world, drawing even “the millions of agricultural workers and oppressed peasantry”, and interlinking with “revolutionary struggle and civil war”, then it is clear: the revolutionary situation is at hand and the task of an outright struggle is on the order of the day. Whether to call such conditions the “third period” or to leave them unnumbered on this count we would agree not to quarrel.

The tuning fork at the Tenth Plenum appeared, as is known, in the hands of the maestro Molotov. In his programmatic speech before the leaders of the Comintern, Molotov said: “One must be a dull opportunist (!), one must be a sorry liberal (!), in view of the facts of the world labor movement, not to see that we have entered with both feet into the realm of most tremendous revolutionary events of international significance.” (Pravda, No. 177). “With both feet”, – what power of argumentation!

Harmonizing with Molotov’s tuning fork, Bolshevik, the theoretical organ of the Russian Communist Party wrote in August 1929:

“On the basis of the analysis of the working class struggle in the principal capitalist countries, the Tenth Plenum established the development and deepening of the processes of the Leftward turn and revolutionization of the masses, which grows, already at the present time into a beginning of the revolutionary rise, (at least in such countries as Germany, France, Poland)”. (No. 15, page 4)

There can be no doubt: if not with his head, then with his feet, Molotov has decisively established the revolutionary character of the period we are living through. Since nobody wants to be called a “dull opportunist” or a “sorry liberal”, then Molotov’s argumentation appears to be immediately insured against the criticism of the Plenum. Not burdening himself with economic nor political analysis, for reasons which it must be admitted are very valid, Molotov limited himself to a short catalog of the strikes in the different countries (Ruhr, Lodz, Northern France, Bombay, etc.) as the sole proof of the fact that “we have entered into the realm of most tremendous revolutionary events”. This is how historic periods are created!

There only remained for the Central Committee and the papers of the national sections to see to it that their own feet, getting ahead if possible of their heads, should be immersed as quickly as possible into “most tremendous revolutionary events”. But is it not a suspicious circumstance that the revolutionary situation appears simultaneously in the whole world, in the metropolises and the colonies, completely ignoring in this period “the law of uneven development”, that is, that single historic law which, at least in name, is known to Stalin? In reality, there can be no talk of such simultaneousness. The analysis of world conditions is substituted for, as we have just seen, by the summing up of isolated conflicts occurring in different countries and for different conditions. Of the European countries, Austria alone, perhaps, has gone through a crisis in the past year which, with the presence of an influential Communist Party, might have assumed an immediately revolutionary development. But it is precisely Austria that is not even mentioned. What are mentioned are France, Germany and Poland as “those countries which – (according to Molotov) – find themselves at present in the front ranks of the revolutionary rise”. In a series of articles we examined the strike wave in France, in order to determine its actual place in the development of the proletariat and the country. We hope to analyze in the same detail, in the nearest future, the basic indicators which characterize the struggle of the German working class. But the conclusions we arrived at with the French example, which is included by the Tenth Plenum among the least of the three most revolutionary countries of Europe already show that Molotov’s analysis is a combination of three elements: theoretical ignorance, political irresponsibility and bureaucratic adventurism. However it is not “the third period” that these elements characterize, but the Centrist bureaucracy – in all periods.

Are Economic Strikes Called Forth By Crises or Rises?

“Wherein lies the basis of this revolutionary rise?” Molotov makes the attempt to reflect, and. right here presents the fruits of his deliberations:

“At the basis of the rise can only be the growth of the general crisis of capitalism and the sharpening of the basic contradictions of the capitalist system.”

Whoever does not agree, is a “sorry liberal.” But where is it written that at the basis of economic strikes “can only lie” a crisis? Instead of analyzing the actual economic conditions and finding on the basis of thorn a correct place for the present strike movement, Molotov proceeds in reverse order, enumerating a half a dozen strikes, comes to the conclusion about “the growth” of the capitalist crisis and – lands in the clouds.

The rise of the strike movement in a series of countries was caused, as we already know, by the improvement of economic conjuncture in the course of the past two years. This refers primarily to France. True, industrial revival which is far from general for the whole of Europe remained until now very retarded even in France and the tomorrow is far from secure at that. But in the life of the proletariat, even a small turn of conjuncture in one direction or the other does not take place without leaving its mark. If they continue daily to lay off workers in the factories, then those at work will not have the same spirit which is bred with them by the hiring of new workers, even though in limited numbers. The conjuncture has no less an influence on the ruling classes. In the period of an industrial revival which always breeds hopes for a still greater revival in the future, the capitalists are inclined to a softening of the international contradictions precisely in order to secure the development of a favorable conjuncture. And this is the “spirit of Locarno and Geneva”.

In the not distant past, we had a great illustration of the correlation of conjunctural and basic factors.

The years of 1896–1913 were with few interruptions years of a powerful industrial rise. In 1913, this changed to depression, which for all informed, clearly opened the long and drawn out crisis. The threatening break of conjuncture, after the period of an unprecedented boom, created an extremely nervous mood in the ruling classes and served as a direct impetus to the war. Of course, the imperialist war grew out of basic contradictions of capitalism. This generalization is known even to Molotov But on the road to war, there were a whole series of stages when the contradictions either sharpened or softened. The same applies also to the class struggle of the workers.

In the pre-war period, the basic as well as the conjunctural processes developed much more regularly than in the present period of brusk turns and steep breaks, when comparatively steep breaks, when the comparatively less important vacillations in economy breed tremendous leaps in politics. But from this it does not at all flow that it is possible to close one’s eyes to the actual development and to repeat three incantations: “Contradictions sharpen”, “the working masses are turning to the Left”, “the war is imminent” – every day, every, day, every day … If our strategic line is determined in the last analysis by the inevitability of the growth of contradictions and the revolutionary radicalization of the masses, then our tactics, which serve this strategy, proceed from the realistic evaluation of each period, each stage, each moment, which may be characterized by a temporary softening of contradictions, a Rightward turn of the masses, a change in the correlation of forces in favor of the bourgeoisie, etc. If the masses were to turn Leftward uninterruptedly, then any fool could lead them. Fortunately or unfortunately, matters are more complicated, particularly under the present inconstant, vacillating “capricious” conditions.

The so-called general line is a phrase, unless we correlate it with each alternating change in national and international conditions. How does the leadership of the Comintern act? Instead of evaluating conditions in all their concreteness, it smashes its head at every new stagehand then satisfies the masses for its subsequent defeat with a change and even expulsion of those on guard duty in the Central Committees of the national sections. We firmly advise Cachin, Monmousseau, Thaelmann and all the Remmeles (and Foster! – Ed.) to prepare themselves in advance for the role of the victims for the theory and practice of the Third Period. This will happen when Stalin has to correct Molotov – naturally after the fact.

The Rise of the U.S.S.R. as a Factor in the “Third Period”

As the first reason for the “revolutionary rise” in the last two years, Molotov sees the economic crisis which, by the way, he discovered deductively. The second reason he sees in the economic successes of the U.S.S.R. and he even accuses the Plenum of the E.C.C.I. of not having sufficiently appreciated the revolutionizing effect of the Five Year Plan. That the economic successes of the Soviet Republic have a gigantic importance for the world labor movement does not require any proof. But from this it does not at all follow that the Five Year Plan is capable, in an a priori manner, of causing the revolutionary rise in Europe and the whole world. The broad working masses do not live by the prospective figures of the Five Year Plan. But even if we leave aside the Five Year Plan, and take the figures of factual successes of industrialization, we still cannot see in them the reason for the strike of the dock workers in France or the textile workers in India. Millions of workers are led in their actions by conditions which immediately surround them, not to speak of the fact that the greatest majority of the workers learn of the successes or failures of Soviet economy from the lying articles of the bourgeois and social democratic press, Finally, and this is more important than all the rest, what would immediately impress the broad circles of foreign workers is not the abstract figures of statistics but the actual and substantial improvement in the conditions of the workers in the U.S.S.R, It is clear that the conditions of severe food difficulties in Moscow and Leningrad cannot inspire tens of millions of workers in the capitalist world with revolutionary enthusiasm. It is a fact, unfortunately, that only about 100 workers came to hear the triumphant report of the last French delegation to return from the U.S.S.R. A hundred workers – for the whole of Paris: This is a menacing warning; but the noisy and boastful bureaucrats do not consider it necessary to reflect upon it.

The Slogan of the General Strike

Entering so heartily into the “most tremendous revolutionary events” Molotov five minutes later returns to the same strikes and unexpectedly declares, “However, these manifestations against capital and reformism that serves it, still bear an isolated and fragmentary character”.

It would seem that isolated and fragmentary strikes occur in different countries for quite different reasons, but in general, arising as they do out of a conjunctural rise in the world market, are not yet in any way – precisely because they are isolated and fragmentary – “tremendous revolutionary events”. But Molotov wants to combine the isolated strikes. A praiseworthy task. But in the meantime, only a task, and not an accomplished step. To unite isolated strikes – Molotov teaches – is possible by means of mass political strikes. Yes, having at hand the necessary conditions, the working class may be united by revolutionary mass strikes. The problem of the mass strike is then, according to Molotov, “that new, that basic and most characteristic problem which stands in the center of the tactical tasks of the Communist Parties at the given moment”. “And this means” – continues our strategist – “that we have approached (this time only “approached”! – L.T.) new and higher forms of class struggle”. And in order definitely to affirm the Tenth Plenum religion of the Third Period, Molotov adds: “Wecould not have advanced the slogan of a mass political strike, if we had not found ourselves in a period of ascent.” This trend of thought is truly unexampled! At first both strategic feet entered the most tremendous revolutionary events, later on it appeared that before the theoretical head stands only the task of the general strike – not the general strike itself, but only its slogan. And from here alone, by the inverse method, the conclusion is made that we “have approached the highest forms of class struggles”. Because, don’t you see, had we not approached them, then how could Molotov advance the slogan of the general strike? The whole construction is based on the word of honor of the newly made strategist. And the powerful representatives of the parties respectfully listened to the self-confident blockhead and upon roll call reply: “Right you are!”

At any rate, we find out that all countries, from Great Britain to China – with France, Germany and Poland at the head have now attained the slogan of the general strike. We are finally convinced that not a trace is left of the unhappy law of uneven development We might manage to be reconciled to this, if they would only tell us in the name of what political aims the slogan of the general strike is advanced in every country. It should at least not be forgotten that the workers are by no means inclined towards general strikes just for the sake of general strikes. Anarcho-syndicalism broke its head on the failure to understand this. The general strike may sometime have the character of a protest demonstration. Such a strike is realizable, generally speaking, in cases when some clear, sometimes unexpected, event stirs the imagination of the masses and produces the necessity for unanimous resistance. But a strike demonstration is not yet, in the true sense, a revolutionary political strike, it is only one of the preparatory rehearsals for it. As far as the revolutionary political strike is concerned, in the real sense of the word, it constitutes, so to speak, the final act in the struggle of the proletariat for power. Paralyzing the normal functions of the capitalist state, the general strike, brings forward the question: Who is master in the house? This question is decided in no other way than by armed force. That is why a revolutionary strike which does not lead to an armed uprising ends finally with the defeat of the proletariat. If, therefore, Molotov’s words regarding revolutionary political strikes and “highest forms of struggle” have any sense at all, it is this: simultaneously, or almost simultaneously, throughout the world, the revolutionary situation has reached such maturity that it puts the Communist Parties of the West and East, North and South before the general strike as the immediate prologue to armed uprising.

It is sufficient to formulate correctly Molotov’s strategy of the “Third Period” for its absurdity to be revealed.

“The Conquest of the Street”

Along with the general strike is set the task of “the conquest of the street”. The question here – at any rate in words – is not that of the defense of one of the “democratic” rights, trampled upon by the bourgeoisie and social democracy, but of the determination of the “right” of the proletariat – to barricades. That is precisely how “the conquest of the streets” has been interpreted in the numerous articles of the official Communist press immediately after the July Plenum. It is not for us to deny the right of the proletariat to the “conquest of the streets” by means of barricades. But it is necessary to clearly understand what this means. Before air one must make clear to himself that the proletariat does not go on the barricades for the sake of the barricades, just as he does not participate in strikes for the sake of strikes. There are required Immediate political purposes, welding together millions and giving firm support to the vanguard. That is how revolutionists pose the question. The opportunists gone mad approach the question quite differently.

For the revolutionary “conquest of the street” – art for art’s sake – they set aside special days. The last invention of this sort appeared, as is known, the First of August. Ordinary mortals wondered: why the First of August, the failure of which was pre-determined by the failure of the First of May? What do you mean, why? – the officials strategists answered excitedly: for the conquest of the streets! Precisely what is to be understood by that: the conquest of the sidewalk or the pavement? Heretofore we thought, that the task of the revolutionary party is the conquest of the masses, and that the policy which can mobilize the masses to the greatest number and most actively inevitably opens up the street, no matter how the police block and lock it. The struggle for the street cannot be an independent task separated from the political struggle of the masses and subordinated to the office schedule of Molotov.

And what is more important, you cannot fool history. The task is not to appear stronger, but to get stronger. A noisy masquerade will not help. When there is no“Third Period” it is possible to invent it. It is possible to manufacture dozens of resolutions. But to make the Third Period on the streets according to the calendar – is impossible. On this road the Communists Parties will find only defeat, in some cases tragic ones, but more often simply stupid and humiliating ones.

“No Agreements with the Reformists”

But there is another important tactical deduction from the “Third Period”, which Molotov expresses in these words: “Now more than at any other time the tactic of coalition between the revolutionary organizations and the organizations of the reformists is inadmissible and harmful.” (Pravda, No. 177, August 4, 1929). Agreements with the reformists are inadmissible now “more than at any other time”. Does it mean that they were inadmissible before too? How then shall we explain the whole policy of the years 1926–1928? And precisely why have agreements with the reformists, inadmissible in general, become particularlyinadmissible now? Because, they explain to us, we have entered a period of revolutionary ascent. Yet we cannot but recollect that the conclusion of a bloc with the General Council of the British trade unions was motivated at the time precisely by the fact that England had entered a period of revolutionary ascent, and that the radicalization of the British working masses pushed the reformists to the Left. By what incident is yesterday’s tactical super-wisdom of Stalinism stood on its head?? We would look in vain for a solution to the riddle. It is quite simple: the empiricists of Centrism burned their hands on the experiment of the Anglo-Russian Committee and with a strong oath they want to guard against scandals in the future. But an oath will not help, for our strategists have not yet understood the lessons of the Anglo-Russian Committee.

The mistake was not in making the episodic agreement with the General Council, which was actually going “Left” in that period (1926) under the pressure of the masses. The first mistake was in the fact that the bloc was concluded not on concrete practical tasks clear to the working class but on general pacifist phrases and falsely diplomatic formulas. The chief mistake, however, which grew into a gigantic historical crime, lay in the fact that our strategists could not immediately and openly break with the General Council when it turned its weapons against the general strike, that is, when it turned from an unreliable semi-ally into an open enemy.

The influence of the radicalization of the masses on the reformists is quite similar to the influence that the development of a bourgeois revolution has on the liberals. In the first stages of the movement of the masses the reformists move Leftward, hoping in this way to retain the leadership in their hands. But when the movement overflows the limits of reform and demands from the leaders an outright break with the bourgeoisie, the majority of the reformists sharply change their tone. From cowardly fellow-travellers of the masses, they turn into strike-breakers, enemies, open betrayers. At the same time, however, part of them, consisting not entirely of their better elements, jump over into the camp of the revolution. An episodic agreement with the reformists, at the moment when under the influence of conditions, they happen to be compelled to make a step or a half-step forward, may be unavoidable. But it must be understood, beforehand that the Communists are ready to break mercilessly with the reformists the moment they take a jump backward. The reformists are betrayers not because they carry out, at every given moment and in every one of their acts, the direct instructions of the bourgeoisie. If that is how the matter stood, the reformists would have no influence on the workers, and consequently would not be needed by the bourgeoisie. Precisely in order to have the necessary authority far the betrayal of the workers at the decisive moment, the opportunists are compelled at the preparatory period to assume the leadership of the workers’ struggle, particularly at the beginning of the process of the radicalization of the masses. From here follows the necessity of the united front tactic, in connection with which we are compelled for the sake of a broader unification of the masses to enter into practical agreements with their reformist leaders.

It is necessary to understand the historic function of the social-democracy as a whole in order to force them step by step out of all their positions. The present leadership has not even a trace of such an understanding. It knows only two methods: either, in the spirit of the Brandlerites, to drag at the tail of the social democracy (1926–1928), or by identifying social-democracy with Fascism, to substitute helpless abuse for revolutionary policy. As a result of the zig-zags of the past six years, we have the strengthening of the social democracy and the weakening of Communism. The mechanical directives of the Tenth Plenum can only serve to worsen the already sufficiently damaged situation.

Only a hopeless ignoramus can imagine that due to the miraculous power of the “Third Period”, the working class as a whole will turn away from the social democracy driving the whole reformist bureaucracy into the camp of Fascism. No, the process will develop by more complicated and contradictory roads. A growing dissatisfaction with the Social Democratic government in Germany, with the Laborites in England, the transformation of partial and isolated strikes into mass movements, etc. (when all these developments actually do take place) will have as their unavoidable consequence – we propose to all the Molotovs to carve it on their noses! – a Leftward turn of very wide circles of the reformist camp, just as the inner process in the U.S.S.R. necessitated the Leftward swing of the Centrist camp – to which Molotov himself belongs.

The social democrats and those of the Amsterdam International with the exception of the more conscious Right wing elements (types like Thomas, Herman Mueller, Renaudel, etc.) will be compelled, under corresponding conditions, to assume the leadership of the advance of the masses – it is understood, only in order to confine these advances within narrow limits, or in order to attack the workers from the rear when they will overstep these limits. Although we know that in advance, and openly warn the vanguard about it, nevertheless, in the future there will still be tens, hundreds and thousands of cases when the Communists will not only be unable to refuse practical agreements with the reformists, but will have to take the initiative in such agreements in order, without letting the leadership out of their hands, to break with the reformists the moment they turn away from shaky allies into open betrayers. This policy will be unavoidable primarily in regard to the Left Social Democracy, which during an actual radicalization of the masses, will be compelled to oppose the Right wing more decisively, even to the point of a split. This perspective in no way contradicts the fact that the head of the Left Social Democracy most often consists of the most degraded and dangerous allies of tho bourgeoisie.

How is it possible to refuse practical agreements with the reformists in those cases where, for instance, they are leading strikes? If there are very few of such cases now, it is because the strike movement itself is very weak as yet and the reformists can ignore and sabotage it. But with the drawing into the struggle of great masses, agreements will become unavoidable for both sides. It is just as impossible to block the way for practical agreements with the reformists – not only with the Social Democratic mass, but in many instances also with their leaders or what is more likely with part of the leaders – in the struggle against Fascism. This perspective may turn out to be not very far off, not only in Austria but also in Germany. The directives of the Tenth Plenum are simply a result of the psychology of opportunists scared to death.

The Stalins, Molotovs and the other allies of yesterday of Chiang Kai Shek, Wang Chin Wei, Purcell, Cook, Fimmen, LaFollette and Raditch, will undoubtedly raise the cry that the Left Opposition stands for a bloc with the Second International. These cries, as soon as the real Leftward swing of the working class takes the bureaucrats unawares, will not prevent the pronouncement of a fourth period, or a second stage of the third, and all the Molotovs will enter at least with “both feet” into an epoch of opportunist experiments like the Anglo-Russian Committee and the workers and peasants Kuo Min Tang.

Do Not Forget Your Own Yesterday

Let the present leaders of the French Communist Party, just as, by the way, all the other Parties in the International recall their own still fresh history. All of them, with the exception of the Youth, came from the ranks of the reformists under the influence of the Leftward swing of the workers. That did not prevent us Bolsheviks from entering into agreements with the Leftward moving reformists, putting very precise conditions to them. One of these innumerable agreements was, for instance, Zimmerwald. Whence, this self-satisfied confidence of the social-patriots of yesterday, that the masses, when they actually approach the “advanced positions of the revolutionary rise,” will not bring forward a new shift of Cachins, Monmousseaus, Thaelmanns, and others, (the second edition, let us hope, will be better than the first) – and that we shall not be compelled once more to pull these gentlemen by the ears into revolutionary position, entering with them into episodic agreements, putting before them, in later stages, 21 and perhaps 42 conditions, or on the contrary, throwing them overboard with their heads into the mud of opportunism, when they start to draw back?

The official theoreticians quite falsely explain the present strengthening of the Right wing in Communism by the fact, that the “inner” reformists got scared of the radicalization of the masses. Here is a complete misunderstanding of political psychology! Opportunism presupposes a very great elasticity and ability for adaptation. If a mass pressure were felt, the Brandlers, Jileks and Lovestones would have moved to the Left and not to the Right, particularly such worn-out careerists as Sellier, Garchery, and others who are concerned primarily with the retention of their legislative mandates. It is true, the capacity of opportunists for moving Leftward is not unlimited. When the Rubicon – the decision, the uprising – is reached, the majority of them jumps back to the Right wing. This was proved by the experience of even so tempered a Party as the Bolshevik (Zinoviev, Kamenev, Rykov, Kalinin, Tomsky, Lunacharaky and others). After the victory, the opportunists once more moved “Left”, or more correctly to the side of power (Losovsky, Martinov, Kussinen and others, end following them, such heroes as Pepper, Cachin and Frossard). But in France matters are far from having reached a decision. And if the French opportunists do not go Leftward at present, but jump to the Right, then this in itself is a true sign that the revolutionary pressure of the masses is not felt, that the Party is growing weak, and the municipal and other careerists hope to retain their mandates by coming out against Communism. [1] The desertions of such rotted elements is in itself a gain for the party. But the misfortune lies in the fact that the at one and the same time false, irresponsible, adventurist self-praising and cowardly policy of the official leadership creates a very favorable cover, for the deserters and pushes towards them proletarian elements whose place should be in the Communist ranks.

Once More on War Danger

In order to worsen this tangle the recognition of an immediate revolutionary situation is multiplied by the announcement of just as immediate a war danger. In defense of this thesis, Molotov unexpectedly directed the full power of his knowledge against Varga, the well-known theoretician courtier, the Shakespearean Polonius who is inclined to say something agreeable to every “prince,” Right or Left, depending upon the state of weather. This time however, Polonius did not hit the mark. His very acquaintance with the foreign press, with facts and figures, prevented his timely replacement of the meridian of the Comintern at the place where Molotov stepped with his left leg. Varga brought into the resolution the following political correction:

“The sharpening of imperialist contradictions which not one of the major imperialist countries considers at present sensible to decide by way of war, compels them to attempt temporary conciliation of these contradictions in the sphere of the reparations question.”

It would seem that this ultra-careful phrase is absolutely irrefutable. But as it nevertheless, demanded some additional strain of thought, Molotov was completely exasperated. How can one think, – he yelled – that not one of the main imperialist powers does not consider it sensible at present to decide the imperialist contradictions by way of war? “It is known to everyone (!)” – listen, listen: Molotov is talking! – “It is known to everyone that the danger of a new imperialist war is growing every day.” Nevertheless, Varga “sees the contrary”. Isn’t it monstrous? – How does Varga dare “deny that precisely as a result of the execution of the Young reparations plan, the sharpening of contradictions are unavoidable” …

All this is so absurd, so primitively stupid, that it even disarms irony. “It is known to everybody, that the danger of new imperialist war grows daily.” What power of thought! Known to everybody? unfortunately, this is known only to a small percent of humanity, just as the newly-appeared leader of the Comintern does not know at all how the growth of the war danger proceeds in reality. It is absurd that it increases “daily” just as it is absurd that the masses go further to the Left daily. We have before us a dialectical process with temporary weakening of imperialist friction and their new growth. Molotov may have heard that even the development of the productive forces of capitalism, the most basic of all its processes, does not quite take place “daily” but through crises and rises, through periods of the drop of the productive forces, and even their mass destruction (during war) Along these lines develop also the political processes, but with still sharper convulsions.

In 1923 the reparation problem led to the occupation of the Ruhr. This was an outright staging of war on a small scale. But this scale appeared sufficient to create a revolutionary situation in Germany. The Comintern, directed by Zinoviev and Stalin, and the German Communist Party, led by Brandler, wrecked this exceptional opportunity. The year 1924, which brought the Dawes Plan, was a year of weakening of the revolutionary struggle in Germany and started thesoftening of contradictions between France and Germany. This is now the political prerequisites for economic stabilization were created. When we stated this aloud, or more correctly, when we predicted this development at the end of 1923, Molotov and the other wise ones, accusing us of liquidationism, immediately entered confidently into a period of revolutionary ascent.

The years of stabilization brought forth new contradictions and sharpens a series of old ones. The question of the revision of the Dawes plan rose in all its sharpness. Had France or Germany refused to accept the Young Plan, Europe would have been confronted today with a repetition of the Ruhr occupation, but on a far wider scale, with the consequences following from it. But precisely this is lacking. All the participants in the game considered it wiser at the present moment to come to an agreement, and instead of a second Ruhr occupation, we see a cleaning up of the Ruhr district. Ignorance is characterized by the mixing up of things, knowledge though begins with their differentiation. Marxism has never indulged in ignorance. But must there not, exclaims our strategist, “as a result of the execution of the Young reparation plan,” necessarily come a further sharpening of “contradictions”? Necessarily come! But – as a result. It is necessary to understand the succession of events and the dialectics of their alternation. As a result of high capitalist conjuncture there inevitably comes a depression and sometimes a crisis. But from this it does not follow that a high conjecture is as strong as a low one, and that a crisis “grows daily”. “As a result” of his life a human being follows his ancestors, but from this it does not flow that a man does not go through the periods of infancy, growth, illness, maturity and old age, before he reaches the gates of death. Ignorance is characterized by the mixing up of things. The apple of wisdom teaches to distinguish them. But Molotov never had a bite of that fruit.

The sorry schematicism of the present leaders is not altogether innocent; on the contrary, it practically strikes the revolution at every step. The Soviet-Chinese conflict created an urgent necessity for the mobilization of the masses against the war danger and for the defense of the Soviet Union. There is no doubt that on this road the Communist parties, even under the present conditions, could have attained considerable successes. For this it was necessary that in the propaganda the tremendous fact should speak for itself. But as if out of spite, the far-Eastern conflict broke out in the very heat of the preparations for the First of August. The official agitators and journalists yelled about war in general and danger in general so furiously and continuously, that the real international conflict was drowned in the cries finding only a weak approach to the consciousness of the masses. Just so in the present policy of the Comintern do the lean kine of bureaucratic schemas swallow the fat kine of live reality.

In connection with the question of the struggle against the war danger, it is again necessary to observe the strategy of the “second period”: as one of the main reasons in favor of the bloc with the General Council was put forth the necessity of a common struggle against the war danger. At the July Plenum of the Central Committee in 1927 Stalin swore that a bloc with the General Council was fully justified by the fact that the English trade unions were helping us conduct a struggle against British imperialism, and therefore a demand to break with the strike-breakers could come only from those people who haven’t the defense of the Soviet Union at heart. Thus not only the Leftward swing of the English workers but also the war danger during 1926–27 served as the main arguments in favor of a bloc with the reformists. Now it appears that both the radicalization of the masses and the approaching war danger demand a decisive refusal of any kind of agreements with them. All the questions are put so as to confuse the advanced workers as much as possible.

There is no doubt that, in case of war or even an actual and clear approach of one, the reformists will be completely with the bourgeoisie. An agreement with them for a struggle against war is just as impossible as a bloc to carry out the proletarian revolution. Precisely for this reason, to imagine the Anglo-Russian Committee as a weapon of struggle against imperialism, as Stalin did, meant to deceive the workers criminally. But matters are such that history knows not only wars and revolutions but also periods between wars and revolutions, that is, periods when the bourgeoisies makes preparations for war, and the proletariat – for revolution. We live at present in precisely such a period. We must win away the masses from the reformists, who gained strength in recent years and did not weaken, By their strengthening, however, they put themselves into a greater dependence upon the evolution of their proletarian base. It

is upon this dependence that the tactic of the united front is fully based. Only it is necessary to carry it out, not according to Zinoviev and not according to Brandler, not according to Stalin and not according to Bucharin. It is necessary in this question to return to Lenin.

Groupings in Communism

The Left Opposition, which has not joined in with the catechism of the “Third Period”, will once more be accused of a Right deviation by skirmishers like Monmousseau. After the experience of the last six years, we can look calmly at this accusation. Already at the Third Congress of the Comintern, many of the gentlemen who later went over to the social-democracy or remained temporarily at the Brandler stage, accused us together with Lenin of a Right deviation. It is sufficient to recall that at the period of the Fifth Congress, Louis Sellier was one of the main accusers of “Trotskyism”.

There is no doubt, however, that the Right elements will actually attempt to make use of some elements of our criticism. This is absolutely unavoidable. It is not necessary to think that all the accusations of the Rights are wrong. Quite often the Rights have a basis for their criticism of the goat-leaps of Left opportunism. Within these limits they are quite inclined to use a Marxist criticism, so as to counterpose under its cover opportunism to adventurism.

It must be added, however, that in the ranks of that Opposition, which quite justly considers itself the Left, were until recently the remnants of such elements as joined us in 1924, not because we defended an international revolutionary position, but because we fought against Zinovievist adventurism. Many potential opportunists, at that period in France adopted the protective coloring of the Russian Opposition. Some of them paraded even until very recently with the fact that they agreed with us without any reservations (“Sans reserves”). But when the real question of the struggle for the views of the Opposition came to the forefront, it was revealed that between these parlor Oppositionists and us there is an abyss. They deny the presence of a revolutionary situation all the more since they do not feel the slightest need for it.

Many good souls were sincerely worried by the fact that we unceasingly drove a wedge between the Left Opposition and the Right. Our classification of the three basic currents in present-day Communism was called arbitrary and they affirmed that for France such a classification is not real because of the absence of a Right wing. The facts of the last months however gave life and blood to the international “schema” also in France. The “Syndicalist League” decisively raised the banner of struggle against Communism finding in this a common ground with the trade union opposition of the second order. Simultaneously the more reformist elements split away from the Party. They utilized the struggle against bureaucratic adventurism, and under the guise of a new party are attempting to preserve their mandates. Immediately, by the power of political relationship, the Right trade union opposition appeared connected with the new parliamentary-municipal “party”. Thus gradually everything finds its place. And in this we think the service of La Verité was very considerable.

A straight line is determined by two points. For the determination of a curve it is necessary to have not less than three. The lines of politics are very complicated and curved. In order to evaluate correctly the different groupings, it is necessary to take their behavior for several stages: at the moments of revolutionary rise and at the moment of ebb. To draw a correct revolutionary orbit of the Left Communist opposition is possible only if we put down on paper a series of critical periods: the relationship to the German events of 1923; the question of stabilization in 1924; the relation to industrialization and the Kulak in the U.S.S.R. in 1923–1928; the question of the Kuomintang and the Anglo-Russian Committee; the relation to the Canton uprising, the evaluation of the theory and practice of the “Third Period”, etc. Each, of these questions by itself includes a whole group of tactical tasks. Out of the complicated system of ideas and slogans the apparatus marauders tear single phrases and construct on them the idea of an approachment between the Left and Right. Marxists take the problem as a whole, carrying the unity of strategic thought throughout different circumstances. This method does not give instantaneous results but it is the only reliable method. Let the spoilers despoil. We will prepare tomorrow’s day.


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