Previous: Braunthal

1919 I Kongres Kominternu Moskwa

Lenin at the First Congress of the Comintern, Moscow 1919.

21 points for entry into Third International

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

For the Second Congress of the Comintern, in 1920, Lenin drew up "21 points", which attempted to differentiate social-democrats from communists:

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

2)     Communists should remove reformists from positions of power in party apparatus.

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

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

5)     Systematic work must be carried in the countryside.

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

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

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

9)     Sections of the CI must carry on work in mass workers’ organizations (trade unions, cooperatives, workers’ councils, etc.). This is a parallel of point #5.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

17) Every section must bear a standard name.

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

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

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

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

Thus, a basic characteristic of a Communist party is a struggle against centrism and reformism. In times of Lenin, this meant a struggle against Social Democrats. 

Lenin’s ideas about organization are nothing extraordinary: a publication around which an organization develops. Today, this means a site + an organization dedicated to developing this site. What is lacking today is “body of ideas” that would give this site a long-term strategy. 

Theory and propaganda should be supplemented by practical-military training. This can be done by means of a military-style training camp. In the proposed camp there should be a military discipline, a clear program of studies, including both theoretical seminars and practical training in military art. Both the leaders of the camp and rank-and-file members should be involved in food preparation, procurement of fire wood, clean up of the territory, etc. In discussion of the life of the camp there should be a democracy, and discipline, in realizing the decisions. 

Merger of Socialist Internationals

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

Defeat of the German revolution in 1923

Revolutions in Russia, Germany, Hungary, etc. were followed by reaction.

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

In Germany, the uprising of communists and independent social-democrats was suppressed in January 1919. Rosa Luxembourg and Karl Liebknecht were killed. In April 1919 there was the Bavarian Soviet Republic, but in May 1919, a counterrevolutionary army entered Munich.

Burning money

Using German money to light up a stove

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

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

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

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

Therefore, we make a conclusion that a revolutionary situation can last for a brief period of time. During this window of opportunity, a revolutionary organization should be ready to act. Also in this period, fears and vacillations of the leadership of a revolutionary party are the strongest (e.g. September 1917 in Russia, the incident with Kamenev and Zinoviev). Failure to act means an offensive for Fascist forces. 

Defeat of revolution in Bulgaria in 1923

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

Hence, the large landowners attempted to overthrow the Stambuliski government. They did this through a conspiracy of reactionary, Nationalist officers with right-wing parties. On June 9, 1923, the coup took place: "The Ministers were arrested and Stambuliski murdered".

During this fight, the Communists chose to remain neutral, although they perhaps should have helped the Peasant party, as a more democratic party. However, in the atmosphere of a right-wing reaction under the new government led by Prof. Alexander Zankoff, the Executive Committee of the Communist International "directly ordered them [Bulgarian CP] to overthrow the Zankoff government by an armed rising and to set up a Workers' and Peasants' government". Why was such decision taken? According to Braunthal, “Not one of the participants in the Moscow Conference – with the sole exception of (a member of Bulgarian CC) Kolarov – was acquainted with conditions in Bulgaria, not one of them knew the circumstances under which he was expecting the Bulgarian party to risk a life-and-death struggle”. Thus, the Third International anticipated the strategy of world revolution which would become practicable only in the age of Internet.

The Communist party of Bulgaria makes another mistake. It attempts to draw the Socialist Party and the remnants of the just defeated Peasant party into "a United Front to fight the Zankoff governmnet". The Socialists agree to a United Front only if the CP pledges to limit itself to Constitutional means. 

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

Defeat in Poland in 1923

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

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


To sum up the events of 1923:

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

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

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

Thus, Arvid Hansen, a Norwegian delegate to the 5th Congress of the Comintern had said: "The Polish party watched the bloody struggle as a passive spectator. The Bulgarian party came out with a policy of neutrality at the decisive moment, and in October the German party threw in the towel without even putting up a fight", referring to the abortive rising in Hamburg.

Next: Brauthal, reaction in the Comintern

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