Part 4: Discussion of Lenin's Report on the Tactics of the Russian Communist Party

Interventions by delegates of the KAPD at the Third Congress of the Communist International in 1921 in response to Lenin's report on the tactics of the Russian Communist Party

HEMPEL(Jan Appel): It is first necessary that I ask something of comrade Radek who is appar­ently absent (cries: he is there). I ask comrade Radek to spare us his jokes in identifying us with the Mensheviks, because these jokes when they become repeated often become ridiculous. Next, comrades, comrade Radek has invited us to respond to the question: Is Russian policy correct for Russia and for the International? We say briefly on this subject: whether the internal policy of the RCP is cor­rect the Russian comrades can judge themselves. We were of the opinion that the tactics that the Russian comrades are following in their country are correct. Today, after comrade Kollontai has spoken, we learn that it is necessary to agree to strive more to raise the initiative of the workers, in order not to be forced to make so many concessions to the capitalists. If the state of things is as comrade Kollontai has described it, we must say that it is a fault of the Rus­sian policy. We say this because we have for Germany and for Western Europe another conception of the party dictatorship of the proletariat. According to our conception, it's true, the dictatorship was correct in Russia, because of the Russian situation, because there weren't sufficient forces, sufficiently developed forces within the proletariat and that the dictatorship must be exercised more by the top. But when we see some efforts emerge today within the Russian proletariat, when we see it want to also contribute itself to the development, then it is necessary to support these efforts, it is necessary to take notice of these thrusts upward; in this way one has a force that supports the proletarian dictatorship even more than foreign capital. If we turn this force to the widest account we will have less greater concern to make concessions to the capitalists.

Secondly, it is necessary to examine the question of knowing how the Russian policy acts on the International. In this case we say: at this moment, it is true, we can­not yet see if the path taken is totally false. But we see that the preparations that are made are false, and this is what it is necessary to analyse.

The question is: are the comrades in Russia supermen, are they men who can detach themselves from the relationships of forces, or are there actions even determined by the things that surround them? This is what we must examine. For us then, it is uninteresting to criticise; but we see the error and also the fact that it will grow and that it will have to grow. Comrade Trotsky said it clearly and it is in this way that we intend it also: to gain time. Everything depends on whether the vanguard succeeds in surpassing, whether we succeed in surpassing this state of uncertainty as comrade Lenin said. Because then will come the aid of the world rev­olution or of the revolution of some country. And this vanguard, this state power, can it survive this state of uncertainty? Such is the question. Trotsky responds from another side: we come to nought if we do not take this so simple path, that is to say which consists in making concessions to the petty bourgeoisie (which means petty capitalism) on one side, and to foreign capitalism on the other (which means state capitalism). This is the necessity. Who can refrain from doing a thing, when only this thing is possible? But if one does this, can one at the same time remain communist? Will one be as solid as this? Well, now I want to get back to the core of things. Will this communist party be able to survive doing this if it lasts for a year or some years? Will this party re­main what it is today? Won't it have, for any cause whatever, a great interest in not carrying the revolution beyond? For this means a new poverty. If the revolu­tion breaks out in Germany, it will last perhaps one year or more; then we will not be able to aid Russia. We must think it over; the entire population and with it the Russian party has gotten used to the reconstruction, to a period of rest, of stability, of security. How this goes in itself! This population will rise up against the dominant state power if troubles return, if commercial relations cease, if poverty revives. This is how the question presents itself. Consequently, it is proven that there is a need for revolutionary rest with the broad masses, a need for rest after the revolution. This already becomes perceptible, and later this will have an influence on the communist party. It must be taken into account. I ask if it will then be strong enough.

I now deal with other things. We know that the economy is put out of order when one charges oneself with the reconstruction of capitalism; this brings into each country an enormous corruption, as that which we witness today in Germany. We wit­ness then the black market which rages here also. We have heard more talk of many things, reaching and striking within the communist party, and against which some valuable people, like Lenin and Trotsky, are impotent. There is the great danger. It must not be lost from view. That is whv, we sav it is in the interest of the Russian revolution, of the world revolution and of communism that this state of uncertainty not last too long. We will arrive there quickly. We put ourselves almost in agreement in the matter. We will see how to attain an acceleration. The Russian comrades lack a comprehension of things as they happen in western Eur­ope. The Russian comrades reckon with a population such as they have in Russia. The Russians endured a long tsarist domination, they are hard and solid, whereas with us the proletariat is penetrated by parliamentarism and is completely infested with it. In Europe it is a question of doing something else. It’s a question of barring the road to opportunism (cries: Scheidemannian theory}. Absurdity! this is not a Scheidemannian theory! Since when does Scheidemann want to bar the route to opportunism? It's a question of barring the evasion of opportunism from the prole­tarian fighters, from the communist parties, who must struggle in the front line, and opportunism with us is the utilisation of bourgeois institutions in the econom­ic domain; same thing for the attempt to use the consumers' co-operatives as a means of struggle to aid Russia, not with revolutionary means, but with the means of cap­italism, insofar as the proletariat is inclined. Yes, comrades, what does this sig­nify? On acts over the international proletariat? When you propose to your consum­ers' co-operatives to enter into commercial relations with Russia, are you then do­ing something for Russia? No, nothing. The consumers' co-operatives must, exactly like any other entrepreneur., reckon with capitals. With them it will come even dear­er. This will lead away from the right path. This is the central point. The 3rd Internationa1 must see to it that Russia may not be pushed from outside by capitalist means, but by the proletariat, with revolutionary means. There is the central point. And this will not be brought about by adopting the tactics that the Third Interna­tional gives itself. We call for a harder line (Hilarity)The comrades can well laugh. Comrade Lenin laughs also, we can say no more. Such is our honest conviction. (Inter­ruption: comrade Bukharin will tell why we laugh). Each can laugh. I want once again to point out this point that in Germany, in all the countries of the world, coming after the prolonged development of democracy, democracy that is not revolu­tionary, the working class and with it the great mass communist party, in which even opportunist elements are found, without any further ado, takes the road that consists of not using difficult means, and it uses parliamentarism, the trade unions and other means in order to aid Russia. But this is not an aid; it is a deviation from the struggle. Trotsky says now: to leave this state of uncertainty as quickly as possible. Then I come to the second point: the danger that is there, if one does not exert oneself, by all means, to offer the least possibilities to foreign capitalists to expand here, if one does not attentively keep watch and if one does not allow the proletarians to control. The danger, is that the Soviet Union, in our opinion, will then run into a situation, in quite a different manner than what Trotsky thinks, that will see international capitalism rise on the martyrdom of the international proletariat. It will not rise so as to be totally healed, but in such a way that it takes more time to drag on. The policy of the Third Interna­tional must be to render this period, this development of capitalism im­possible. This can be done through the sabotage of production in the factories. We naturally don't speak of the destruction of the means of production; it's a question of not making things profitable for the capitalists. Such is the task of the prole­tarians of the entire world in order to advance the revolution in a very short time. For it is also true that the revolution is born of the poverty of the work­ing population.

Thus, comrades, what we have to say to the 3rd International, is that the Russian party must more and more recognise the dangers and express them. Then it becomes less important. The Russian party must be conscious that it is the foundation of the Third International and that the other parties have absolutely no possibility, nei­ther intellectual, nor material, to go against it. One sees in this that no opinion can be raised here against the Russian comrades. The latter must thus see and recog­nise that they are themselves more and more constrained, by the course of things — we say it one last time -- to lead their Russian state policy towards the right; they are no longer supermen, and they need a counterweight, and this counterweight must be a third international liquidating all tactics of compromise, parliamentarism and old trade unions.

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