Moscow against the “left radicals”

Prominent figures of “left radicalism” (left to right: Gorter, Pannekoek, Rühle, Pempfert)

In the second article on the “Communist” International, we would like to dwell on the struggle of this organization against proletarian revolutionaries, as well as revolutionaries and intellectuals in the West. At that time, the Bolsheviks, who in fact controlled the Comintern, tried to impose on the radical forces in the West their participation in parliamentarianism, work in socially-reactionary trade unions, and the policy of a united front with counterrevolutionary Social Democracy.

As we have already noted in our previous articles, the Bolshevik coup d’état in October 1917 was initially based on the illusions of the proletarian masses. Likewise at first, many subjectively revolutionary proletarians in the private capitalist Western countries were allies of the Bolsheviks and members of the national sections of the “Communist” International. However, the policy of the Comintern was objectively socially-reactionary. The process of radicalization of social-revolutionary intellectuals and proletarians in the West in the course of time had to inevitably lead to conflicts with Moscow, this self-proclaimed center of the “world revolution”.

The direction of the Comintern in Moscow made from Bolshevik politics an example for imitation for all international sections. In our article “Is the October Revolution a proletarian revolution or a putsch of petty-bourgeois radicals?”, we made clear that the Bolshevik policy before the establishment of a State capitalist regime was a mixture of parliamentary and trade-union social reformism with tactics of a coup on the basis of proletarian and small-scale peasant illusions in the initial stages. In the Bolshevik policy there was and could not be anything revolutionary, because the social revolution can only be the abolition of politics. However, the Bolshevik policy was successful for the party apparatus. It managed to seize the State apparatus and eventually merge with it. The Bolshevik policy was successful because of the weakness of the bourgeoisie, parliamentarianism and petty-bourgeois democracy, i.e. Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries.

Thus, the Bolshevik party could take part in the parliamentary elections and then, during the establishment of the State capitalist dictatorship, liquidate the parliamentary democracy. Prior to the seizure of power, they managed to conclude a “tactical united front” with the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries against Kornilov – and then after the end of the Civil War to ban the activities of both parties.

However, in the private capitalist Western countries, the bourgeoisie, parliamentarianism and Social Democracy had strong and fundamental positions. Even at the time of Lenin and Trotsky, the direction of the Comintern demanded that communists abroad join a united front with a frankly counter-revolutionary Social Democracy. However, through the conclusion of a united front, the “communist” parties in the West weakened themselves and strengthened the positions of the Social-Democratic parties by increasing the illusions of the proletariat towards the Social Democracy. Trade unions within the framework of private capitalist in the West were powerful counterrevolutionary apparatuses that, especially during the First World War and the revolutionary postwar crisis in Western Europe, became joint managers of capitalist exploitation. However, the Moscow direction of the “Communist” International demanded that the West-European communists to fight for having an influence within the ranks of the trade union bureaucracy. In short, the Bolshevik tactics, which, due to the weakness of the bourgeoisie in Russia, were crowned with success, failed in the private capitalist Western countries because of the power of the bourgeoisie.

In the industrially developed countries, only the self-organized revolutionary class struggle of the proletariat could and can defeat the bourgeoisie. “Communist” party’s politicians, like all the other politicians, are in no way interested in the revolutionary self-organization of the proletariat. Therefore, in their parties they introduce a social-reactionary bureaucratic discipline. The victims of this discipline in the “communist” parties in the West are many subjectively honest social-revolutionary proletarians and intellectuals.

Thus, at the constituent congress of the CP of Germany in December 1918, the revolutionary majority, despite the pressure of professional politicians within the party, managed to defend the anti-parliamentary position. Among the professional politicians who wanted to impose the KPD to participate in the parliamentary elections were Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg. Also in Germany began to develop the movement of the Workers’ Councils, which was a class-fighting social-revolutionary alternative to the trade unions. The Workers’ Councils opposed the conclusion of collective agreements with the bourgeoisie and fought against the policy of social partnership of the production councils. Many convinced proletarian revolutionaries, who were still partly members of the KPD, were active in the Workers’ Councils.

Moscow and the German “communist” bureaucrats took an active part in the campaign of persecution of revolutionary proletarians and intellectuals. The result was the exclusion of “left radicals” from the party at the Heidelberg congress in September 1919. Because the basis of the party consisted of a revolutionary majority, the chairman of the Central Board, Paul Levy, had to act bureaucratically from above. In fact, this action of the “Communist” International transformed the KPD into “K”PD. In order not to be misunderstood: communist parties cannot exist by definition in the nature, because parties are the organizational form of bourgeois politics. But in the young KPD, many social-revolutionary workers and intellectuals were active, who in the beginning determined the character of this party. In April 1920, these subjectively honest revolutionary forces also founded the Communist Workers’ Party of Germany. In terms of membership numbers, the KAPD surpassed the “K”PD. This party stood on anti-union, anti-parliamentary and anti-national positions, instead of just on internationalist positions. Of course, it also rejected the tactics of the united front with counter-revolutionary Social Democracy. In Holland, there was also such a party – the KAP of the Netherlands. Leading theorists of both KAP were Hermann Gorter and Anton Pannekoek. Later, Pannekoek became one of the most important theoreticians of the communist movement of the workers’ councils, which completely freed itself from the remnants of party Marxism. The followers of the communist movement of workers’ councils in Germany around Franz Pfefffert and Otto Rühle already broke with the KAPD in October 1920; they recognized that parties cannot objectively be socially revolutionary. Rühle was also the first sharp revolutionary-Marxist critic of State capitalist Soviet Russia. This criticism was still too radical for Pannekoek, but in the end he also adopted it.

Thus, the demarcation with Moscow of social-revolutionary proletarians and intellectuals in the West was possible with the rejection of the tactics of the “Communist” International in private capitalist countries. Then there was a transition towards the criticism of State capitalism in Soviet Russia/USSR and Leninism as well. In April/May 1920, Lenin wrote his counterrevolutionary pamphlet “Left-Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder”, which was directed against social revolutionaries in the West.

Source in Russian: Москва против «левых радикалов»
Original Source in German: Moskau gegen die „Ultralinken“