J. V. Stalin
The Right Danger in the German Communist Party
Speech: Delivered at a Meeting of the Presidium of the E.C.C.I., December 19, 1928
Bolshevik, No. 23-24, 1928;
Source: J. V. Stalin, Works, Vol. 11, pp. 307-24, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1954.
Comrades, since Comrade Molotov has already stated here the views of the C.P.S.U.(B.) delegation, I have only to say a few words. I intend to touch upon three questions which came up in the course of the discussion, and that only lightly.
These questions are: the problem of the capitalist stabilisation, the problem of the class battles of the proletariat in connection with the growing shakiness of the stabilisation, and the problem of the German Communist Party.
I have to note with regret that on all these three questions both Humhert-Droz and Serra landed in the quagmire of craven opportunism. Humbert-Droz, it is true, has so far spoken only on formal questions. But I am referring to his speech on matters of principle at the meeting of the Political Secretariat of the E.C.C.I., where the question of the Rights and the conciliators in the German Communist Party was discussed. I think that it is precisely this speech that forms the ideological basis of the position taken up at this meeting by the minority in the E.C.C.I. Presidium. Consequently, Humbert-Droz 's speech on matters of principle at the meeting of the Political Secretariat of the E.C.C.I. cannot be passed over in silence.
I said that Humbert-Droz and Serra have landed in the quagmire of craven opportunism. What does that mean? It means that, besides overt opportunism, there is also covert opportunism, which fears to show its true face. And this is precisely the opportunism of conciliation towards the Right deviation. Conciliation is craven opportunism. I must, I repeat, note with regret that both these comrades have landed in the quagmire of craven opportunism.
Permit me to demonstrate this by a few facts.
I. THE PROBLEM OF THE CAPITALIST STABILISATION
The Comintern holds that the present capitalist stabilisation is a temporary, insecure, shaky and decaying stabilisation which will become more and more shaken as the capitalist crisis develops.
This by no means contradicts the generally known fact that capitalist technology and rationalisation are advancing. More, it is just because they are advancing that the inherent unsoundness and decay of the stabilisation is developing.
Yet what did Humbert-Droz say in his speech in the Political Secretariat of the E.C.C.I.? He flatly denied the shakiness and insecurity of the stabilisation. He bluntly declared in his speech that "the Sixth World Congress virtually condemned the vague general formula that the stabilisation is unsound, shaky, etc." He bluntly declared that the Sixth Congress thesis on the third period says nothing about the stabilisation being shaky. Can it be considered that Humbert-Droz is correct in making this assertion? No, it cannot. It cannot, because the Sixth Congress of the Comintern said the very opposite of what Humbert-Droz claimed in his speech. In the paragraph on the third period, the Sixth Congress of the Comintern plainly states that:
"this period (i.e., the third periodJ. St.) inevitably leads, through the further development of the contradictions of the capitalist stabilisation, to a further shaking of the capitalist stabilisation and to a sharp accentuation of the general crisis of capitalism."
Mark, "a further shaking of the stabilisation.". . . What does that mean? It means that the stabilisation is already shaky and insecure, and that in the third period it will become further shaken. Yet Humbert-Droz permits himself to scoff at all, including the German Communist Party, who say that the stabilisation is shaky and decaying, who say that the present struggle of the working class is undermining and disintegrating the capitalist stabilisation. Whom is Humbert-Droz scoffing at? Obviously, at the decisions of the Sixth Congress.
It follows that, under the guise of upholding the decisions of the Sixth Congress of the Comintern, Humbert-Droz is actually revising them, and is thereby sliding into an opportunist conception of the stabilisation.
So much for the formal side of the matter.
Let us now examine the substance of the matter. If it cannot be said that the present stabilisation is shaky, or unsound, or insecure, then, after all, what is it? Only one thing remains, and that is to declare that the stabilisation is secure, and at any rate is growing firmer. But if we are faced by a capitalist stabilisation that is growing firmer, what can be meant by saying that the crisis of world capitalism is growing sharper and deeper? Is it not clear that this leaves no room for any deepening of the capitalist crisis? Is it not clear that Humbert-Droz has become entangled in his own contradictions?
Further. Lenin said that, under imperialism, the development of capitalism is a double process: a growth of capitalism in some countries, on the one hand, and a decay of capitalism in other countries, on the other hand. Is this thesis of Lenin's correct? And if it is correct, is it not clear that the capitalist stabilisation cannot be other than decaying?
Lastly, a few words about some generally known facts.
We have such facts as the desperate conflicts between imperialist groups for markets and fields of capital export.
We have such facts as the frenzied growth of armaments in the capitalist countries, the formation of new military alliances and the manifest preparations for new imperialist wars.
We have such facts as the growing acuteness of the contradictions between the two imperialist giants, America and Britain, each of which is trying to draw all other countries into its orbit.
We have, lastly, such facts as the existence of the Soviet Union and its progress and success in all fields of development, in the economic field and in the cultural and political field the Soviet Union, whose existence alone, not to speak of its progress, is shaking and disintegrating the very foundations of world capitalism.
How, after this, can Marxists, Leninists, Communists assert that the capitalist stabilisation is not shaky and decaying, that it is not being shaken by the very course of things from year to year and from day to day?
Does Humbert-Droz, and Serra with him, realise into what a quagmire they are landing?
From this error spring the other errors of Humbert Droz and Serra.
II. THE PROBLEM OF THE CLASS BATTLES OF THE PROLETARIAT
Just as erroneous is Humbert-Droz's opinion of the class battles of the proletariat in the capitalist countries, of their character and significance. It follows from Humbert-Droz's speech at the meeting of the Political Secretariat that the struggle of the working class, its spontaneous clashes with the capitalists, are in the main only of a defensive character, and that the leadership of this struggle on the part of the Communist Parties should be carried out on]y within the framework of the existing reformist trade unions.
Is that right? No, it is wrong. To assert that means to drag in the wake of events. Humbert-Droz forgets that the struggle of the working class is now taking place on the basis of a stabilisation that is becoming shaken, that the battles of the working class not infrequently bear the character of counter-battles, of a counter-offensive and a direct offensive against the capitalists. Humbert-Droz fails to see anything new in the battles of the working class in the recent period. He fails to see such things as the Lodz general strike, the economic strikes for better conditions of labour in France, Czechoslovakia and Germany, the mighty mobilisation of the proletarian forces in Germany in the fights against the lock-out of the metalworkers, and so on and so forth.
What do these and similar facts show, what do they indicate? That deep within the capitalist countries the pre-conditions for a new revolutionary upsurge of the working-class movement are ripening. And that is the new element which Humbert-Droz and Serra fail to see, fail to observe, and which never will be observed at all by comrades who have become accustomed to looking backward instead of forward.
And what does looking backward instead of forward mean? It means dragging in the wake of events, failing to see what is new in developments, and being caught by surprise. It means renouncing the leading role of the Communist Parties in the working-class movement. That was precisely what caused the German Communist Party leadership to come to grief in the 1923 revolution. Consequently, he who does not want to repeat the mistakes of 1923 must rouse the minds of the Communists and urge them onward, must prepare the masses for the coming battles, must take every measure to ensure that the Communist Parties are not left behind in the wake of events and that the working class is not caught by surprise.
It is extremely strange that Humbert-Droz and Serra forget these things.
At the time of the Ruhr battles the German Communists noted the fact that the unorganised workers proved to be more revolutionary than the organised workers. Humbert-Droz is outraged by this and declares that it could not have been so. Strange! Why could it not have been so? There are about a million workers in the Ruhr. Of them, about two hundred thousand are organised in trade unions. The trade unions are directed by reformist bureaucrats who are connected in all manner of ways with the capitalist class. Why is it surprising, then, that the unorganised workers proved to be more revolutionary than the organised? Could it indeed have been otherwise?
I might tell you of even more "surprising" facts from the history of the revolutionary movement in Russia. With us, it happened not infrequently that the masses proved to be more revolutionary than (some of) their communist leaders. That is well known to all the Russian Bolsheviks. It was this that Lenin had in mind when he said that we must not only teach the masses, but also learn from the masses. What is surprising is not these facts, but that Humbert-Droz does not understand such simple things taken from the sphere of practical revolutionary experience.
The same must be said of Serra. He does not approve of the fact that the German Communists, in their struggle to organise the locked-out metalworkers, went beyond the framework of the existing trade unions and shook this framework. He regards this as an infringement of the resolutions of the Fourth Congress of the Profintern. He claims that the Profintern called upon Communists to work only within the trade unions. That is nonsense, comrades! The Profintern did not call for anything of the kind. To say that is to condemn the Communist Party to the role of a passive observer of the class battles of the proletariat. To say that is to bury the idea of the leading role of the Communist Party in the working-class movement.
The merit of the German Communists is precisely that they did not allow themselves to be scared by talk about "the framework of the trade unions" and went beyond this framework by organising the struggle of the non-organised workers against the will of the trade union bureaucrats. The merit of the German Communists is precisely that they sought for and found new forms of struggle and organisation of the unorganised workers. It is possible that in doing so they committed a number of trifling errors. But no new undertaking is ever free from errors. From the fact that we must work within the reformist trade unions provided only that they are mass organisations it does not at all follow that we must confine our mass work to work within the reformist trade unions, that we must become slaves of the standards and demands of those unions. If the reformist leadership is identifying itself with capitalism (see the resolutions of the Sixth Congress of the Comintern and the Fourth Congress of the Profintern), while the working class is waging a struggle against capitalism, can it be affirmed that the struggle of the working class, led by the Communist Party, can avoid breaking to some extent the existing reformist framework of the trade unions? Obviously, this cannot be affirmed without landing into opportunism. Therefore, a situation is quite conceivable in which it may be necessary to create parallel mass associations of the working class, against the will of the trade-union bosses who have sold themselves to the capitalists. We already have such a situation in America. It is quite possible that things are moving in the same direction in Germany too.
III. THE PROBLEM OF THE GERMAN COMMUNIST PARTY
Is the German Communist Party to be or not to be organised and united, with an iron internal discipline? that is the question, comrades. It is a question not only of the Rights or of the conciliators, but of the very existence of the German Communist Party. There is a German Communist Party. But alongside and within the German Communist Party there are two forces which are disintegrating the Party from within and creating a threat to its existence. They are, firstly, the Right faction, who are organising within the Communist Party a new, anti-Leninist party, with its own centre and its own press organs, and who day after day are violating its discipline. They are, secondly, a group of conciliators whose vacillations are strengthening the Right faction.
I shall not stop to show that the Right faction is breaking with Marxism-Leninism and waging a desperate struggle against the Comintern. That was shown long ago. Nor shall I stop to show that the group of conciliators are violating the Sixth Congress resolution on waging a systematic fight against the Rights.
That, too, was shown long ago. The point now is that this situation in the German Communist Party cannot be tolerated any longer. The point is that to tolerate any longer an "order" of things in which the Rights poison the atmosphere with Social-Democratic ideological rubbish and systematically violate the elementary principles of Party discipline, while the conciliators bring grist to the mill of the Rights, would be to go against the Comintern and to violate the elementary demands of Marxism-Leninism.
A situation has arisen similar to (if not worse than) the one which existed in the C.P.S.U.(B.) in the last phase of the struggle against Trotskyism, when the Party and the Comintern were obliged to expel the Trotskyists from their ranks. Everybody sees that now. But Humbert-Droz and Serra do not see it, or pretend not to see it. That means that they are prepared to support both the Rights and the conciliators, even at the cost of the complete disintegration of the German Communist Party.
In opposing the expulsion of the Rights, Humbert-Droz and Serra refer to the resolution of the Sixth Congress which says that Right deviations must be overcome by means of an ideological struggle. That is perfectly true. But these comrades forget that the resolutions of the Sixth Congress by no means limit the struggle of the Communist Parties against the Right danger to measures of an ideological order. While speaking of methods of ideological struggle against deviations from the Leninist line, the Sixth Congress of the Comintern, in its resolution on Bukharin's report, at the same time declared that:
"far from precluding, this presumes the utmost strengthening of iron inner-Party discipline, unqualified subordination of the minority to the majority, unqualified subordination of the lower bodies, as well as of other Party organisations (groups in parliament, groups in trade unions, the press, etc.) to the leading Party centres."
It is extremely strange that Humbert-Droz and Serra forget this thesis of the resolution of the Sixth Congress of the Comintern. It is extremely strange that all conciliators, both those who consider themselves conciliators and those who repudiate the name, when pleading the Sixth Congress resolution systematically forget this important thesis of the Communist International.
What is to be done if, instead of the utmost strengthening of iron inner-Party discipline, we have in the German Communist Party glaring instances of the most unceremonious violation of all discipline both by the Rights and, to some extent, by some of the conciliators? Can such a situation be tolerated any longer?
What is to be done if, instead of unqualified subordination of the lower bodies, groups in trade unions and certain organs of the Party press to the leading Party centre, we have in the German Communist Party glaring instances of the grossest violation of this demand of the Sixth Congress of the Comintern by the Rights and, to a certain extent, by some of the conciliators?
Can such a situation be tolerated any longer?
You are familiar with the conditions for admission to the Comintern endorsed by the Second Congress. I am referring to the twenty-one points. The first point of these conditions says that "the periodical and non-periodical press and all Party publishing houses must be completely subordinated to the Central Committee of the Party, irrespective of whether at the given moment the Party as a whole is legal or illegal." You know that the Right faction have two press organs at their disposal. You know that those press organs refuse even to hear of any subordination to the Central Committee of the German Communist Party. The question arises, can such a scandalous state of affairs be tolerated any longer?
The 12th point of the twenty-one conditions says that the Party must be "organised on the most centralised lines," that within it must "prevail iron discipline bordering upon military discipline."* You know that the Rights in the German Communist Party refuse to recognise iron discipline, or any discipline whatever, except their own, factional discipline. The question arises, can this scandalous state of affairs be tolerated any longer?
Or perhaps you will say that the conditions endorsed by the Second Congress of the Comintern are not binding on the Rights?
Humbert-Droz and Serra raise an outcry here about imaginary violators of decisions of the Communist International. At the present time, in the shape of the Rights we have real (not imaginary) violators of the fundamental principles of the Communist International. Why, then, do they keep silent? Is it not because they want, under the guise of a verbal defence of Comintern decisions, to smuggle through a defence of the Rights and a revision of these decisions?
Particularly interesting is Serra 's statement. He vows and swears that he is against the Rights, against he conciliators, and so forth. But what conclusion does he draw from this? Is it, do you think, the necessity of fighting the Rights and the conciliators? Nothing of the kind! He draws from this the extremely strange conclusion that it is necessary, in his opinion, to reorganise the existing Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the German Communist Party.
Just think! The Political Bureau of the C.C. of the German Communist Party is waging a determined struggle against the Right danger and against the vacillations of the conciliators; Serra is in favour of a fight against the Rights and the conciliators; therefore, Serra proposes that the Rights and the conciliators should be left alone, that the fight against the Rights and the conciliators should be relaxed, and that the composition of the Political Bureau of the C.C. of the German Communist Party should be altered in a conciliatory direction. What a "conclusion"!
Serra will pardon me if I say here without mincing words that his position on this question is reminiscent of that of a provincial pettifogger who tries to make out that white is black, and black white. It is what we call a pettifogging defence of opportunist elements.
Serra proposes that the Political Bureau of the C.C. of the German Communist Party should be reorganised, that is, that some members should be removed from it and others put in, that they should he replaced by others. Why does not Serra say bluntly and frankly replaced by whom? (Serra : "By those whom the Sixth Congress of the Comintern wanted.") But the Sixth Congress certainly did not suggest rehabilitating conciliators. On the contrary, it charged us with waging a systematic fight against conciliation. And precisely because this obligation has not been carried out by the conciliators, we have now, after the Sixth Congress, the decision of the E.C.C.I. Presidium of October 6, 1928, on the Rights and the conciliators. Serra wants to assume the role of sole interpreter of the decisions of the Sixth Congress. That claim of Serra's is entirely unwarranted. The interpreter of the decisions of the Sixth Congress is the Executive Committee of the Comintern and its Presidium. I see that Serra does not agree with the decision of the E.C.C.I. Presidium of October 6, although he has not said so plainly.
What is the conclusion? There is only one conclusion: the position of Humbert-Droz and Serra on the question of the German Communist Party is one of craven, pettifogging defence of the Rights against the German Communist Party and the Comintern.
IV. THE RIGHTS IN THE C.P.G. AND IN THE C.P.S.U.(B.)
I learned today from some of the speeches made here that some of the German conciliators plead in their justification the speech I made at the November plenum of the C.C., C.P.S.U.(B.)* on the methods of combating Right elements. As you know, I said in my speech (it has been published) that at this stage of development of the fight against the Right danger in the C.P.S.U.(B.) the chief method of struggle is the ideological struggle, which does not exclude the application of organisational penalties in individual cases. I based this thesis on the fact that the Rights in the C.P.S.U.(B.) had not yet crystallised, did not yet represent a group or a faction, and had not yet provided a single instance of violation or non-fulfilment of decisions of the C.C., C.P.S.U.(B.). I stated in my speech that if the Rights were to pass to a factional struggle and begin to violate decisions of the C.C., C.P.S.U.(B.), they would be treated in the same way as the Trotskyists were treated in 1927. That is clear, one would think. Is it not then stupid to refer to my speech as an argument in favour of the Rights in Germany, where the Rights have already passed to factional methods of struggle and systematically violate decisions of the C.C., C.P.G., or as an argument in favour of the conciliators in Germany, who have not yet broken, and are apparently unwilling to break, with the Right faction ? I think that nothing more stupid than such a plea can be imagined. Only people who have abandoned all logic can fail to understand the vast difference between the position of the Rights in the C.P.S.U.(B.) and the position of the Rights in the C.P.G.
In point of fact, the Rights in the C.P.S.U.(B.) do not yet constitute a faction, and it is indisputable that they are loyally carrying out the decisions of the C.C., C.P.S.U.(B.). The Rights in Germany, on the contrary, already have a faction, headed by a factional centre, and systematically trample underfoot decisions of the C.C., C.P.G. Is it not obvious that at this moment the methods of fighting the Rights cannot be the same in these two parties?
Further. Here in the U.S.S.R. Social-Democracy does not exist as an organised and serious force capable of fostering and stimulating the Right danger in the C.P.S.U.(B.). In Germany, on the contrary, there is alongside the Communist Party the stronger and fairly firmly organised Social-Democratic Party, which fosters the Right deviation in the German Communist Party and objectively converts this deviation into its agency. Is it not obvious that one must be blind not to perceive the vast difference between the situations in the U.S.S.R. and in Germany?
Lastly, there is one other circumstance. Our Party grew and gained strength in fierce battles against the Mensheviks; moreover, for a number of years those battles took the form of direct civil war against them. Do not forget that in the October Revolution we Bolsheviks overthrew the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, as being the Left wing of the counter-revolutionary imperialist bourgeoisie. This, incidently, explains why nowhere, in no other Communist Party in the world, is the tradition of struggle against open opportunism so strong as it is in the C.P.S.U.(B.). We have only to recall the Moscow organisation, especially the Moscow Committee, where there were instances of conciliatory vacillation; we have only to recall how the working-class Party members in Moscow at a single stroke straightened out the line of the Moscow Committee in a couple of months we have only to recall all this to realise how strong in our Party is the tradition of struggle against open opportunism.
Call the same thing be said of the German Communist Party? You will no doubt agree with me that, unfortunate]y, it cannot. More than that, we cannot deny that the Communist Party in Germany is still far from having rid itself of Social-Democratic traditions, which foster the Right danger in the C.P.G.
There you have the conditions in Germany and the conditions in the U.S.S.R., and they show that the difference in conditions dictates different methods of fighting the Right danger in the C.P.S.U.(B.) and the C.P.G.
Only people devoid of an elementary Marxist perception can fail to understand this simple thing.
In the commission which drafted the resolution of the November Plenum of the C.C., C.P.S.U.(B.), a group of comrades proposed that the basic provisions of the resolution should be extended to other sections of the Comintern, including the German section. We rejected this proposal, declaring that the conditions of struggle against the Right danger in the C.P.G. differed cardinally from those in the C.P.S.U.(B.).
V. THE DRAFTS FOR THE OPEN AND CLOSED LETTERS
A couple of words regarding the draft resolutions submitted by the E.C.C.I. commissions. Serra considers that these drafts bear the character of provincial resolutions. Why, one asks? Because, it appears, the draft of the open letter does not contain an analysis of the political situation which engenders the Right danger.
That is ridiculous, comrades. We have such an analysis in the decisions of the Sixth Congress. Is there any need to repeat it? I think that it should not be repeated. As a matter of fact, we might have confined ourselves to a brief resolution on the Rights, who systematically violate the decisions of the Sixth Congress and are therefore liable to expulsion, and on the conciliators, who are not waging a fight against the Rights and therefore deserve to be given a most serious warning.
If, however, we did not confine ourselves to a brief resolution, it was in order to explain to the workers the nature of the Right deviation, to show them the true face of the Brandlers and Thalheimers, to show them what they were in the past and what they are now, to show how long the Comintern has spared them in the hope of correcting them, how long the Communists have tolerated them in their midst, and why the presence of such people in the Comintern cannot be tolerated any longer.
That is why the draft resolution is longer than might have been expected at first glance.
Comrade Molotov has already said here that the C.P.S.U.(B.) delegation associates itself with these draft resolutions. I can only repeat Comrade Molotov's statement.