antagonism
Open Letter

IV. OPPOR­TUNISM IN THE THIRD INTER­NATIONAL

 

The quest­ion of oppor­tunism in our own ranks is of such immense weight that I must deal with it more at length.

Comrade! With the establishment of the Third Inter­national, oppor­tunism has not died in our ranks either. We see it in all Comm­unist parties in all countries. Also it would be truly miraculous and against all the laws of development if that which killed the Second Inter­national did not live in the Third.

On the contrary, just as the fight between anarchism and social demo­cracy was fought in the Second Inter­national, that between oppor­tunism and revo­lutionary Marxism will be fought in the Third.

This time again Comm­unists will go into parliament to become lead­ers. Trade Unions and Labour parties will be supported for the sake of votes in the elections. Instead of parties being founded for Communism, Comm­un­ism will be used to found parties. But parli­ament­ary compromises with social patriots and bour­ge­ois elements will once more come into use, as after all the revo­lution in West­ern Europe is going to be a slow process. Free­dom of speech will be suppressed, and all good Comm­unists expelled. In a word, all the practice of the Second Inter­national will come to life again.

The Left Wing must oppose this; it has to be there, to wage this fight, as it was there in the Second Inter­national. Herein the Left Wing must be supp­orted by all Marxists and revo­lutionaries, even if they are of the opin­ion that the Left Wing is mistaken in detail – for oppor­tunism is our great­est enemy. Not only, as you say (p 13), outside, but also within our ranks.

It would be a thousand times worse, that oppor­tunism, with its devast­ating effect on the soul and the strength of the prole­tariat, should again slip in, than that the Left Wing should be too radical. The Left Wing, even though at times it goes too far, always remains revo­lutionary. The Left Wing will alter its tactics as soon as they are not right. The oppor­tunist Right will grow ever more oppor­tunist, will sink ever further into the mor­ass, will corrupt the work­ers to an ever greater extent. Not in vain have we learned from twenty-five years of struggle.

Oppor­tunism is the plague of the Labour move­ment, the death of the revo­lution. Oppor­tunism has brought about all evils; reformism, the war, the defeat and the death of the revo­lution in Hungary and Germany. Oppor­tunism is the cause of disaster. And it exists in the Third Inter­national.

What do I need so many words for? Look around you, Comrade. Look into yourself, and into the Executive Committee! Look into all countries of Europe.

 

Feeble Criticism

Read the papers of the British Socialist Party, now the Comm­unist Party. Read ten, twenty numbers of this paper; read the feeble criticism against the Trade Unions, the Labour Party, the Members of Parliament, and com­pare this to the paper of the Left Wing. A comparison between these two will show you that oppor­tunism is approach­ing the Third Inter­nat­ional, in imm­ense masses. Once more (through support of the counter-revo­lutionary work­ers) to obtain power in Parliament. A power after the pattern of the Second Inter­national. Remember too that soon the USP will enter the Third Inter­national, and numerous other Centre parties besides! Do you not believe that if you compel these parties to expel Kaut­sky that a swarm of tens of thousands of other oppor­tunists will come? The entire measure of this expuls­ion is childish. An innumerable stream of oppor­tunists is approach­ing[1] – especially since your brochure.

Look at the Dutch Comm­unist Party, once called the Bolshevists of Eur­ope. And rightly so, taking into account the conditions. Read the broch­ure about the Dutch Party, how utterly already it has been corrupted by the oppor­tunism of the Second Inter­national. During the war, and after it, and even to this day, it has pledged itself to the Entente. This once brilliant party has become an example of equivocality and deceit.

But look at Germany, Comrade, the land where the revo­lution has started. There oppor­tunism lives and thrives. We were utterly amazed to hear that you defended the attitude of the KPD during the March days. But fortun­ately we learned from your brochure that you did not know the actual course of develop­ment. You sanctioned the attitude of the KPD-Zentrale, that offered loyal oppos­ition to Ebert, Scheidemann, Hilferding and Crisp­ien, but you evidently did not know, at the time of writing the broch­ure, that this happened at the same moment Ebert organ­ised troops against the German prole­tariat, whose general strike was still spread all over Ger­many, and in which the great majority of the Comm­unist mass strove to bring the revo­lution, if not to victory, (perhaps this was hardly possible as yet), at any rate to a higher strength. Whilst the mass, by means of strikes and armed revolt, conducted the revo­lution into a further stage (there has never been anything more hopeful or gigantic than the revolt in the Ruhr region, and the general strike), the leaders offered parli­ament­ary compr­om­ises. In so doing they supported Ebert against the revo­lution in the Ruhr region[2]. If ever an example proved how damnable the use of parli­a­ment­arism is in the revo­lution, this is it. You see, Comrade, that is parli­ament­ary oppor­tunism, that is compro­mise with the social patriots and the Independents, which we refuse to accept, and which you try to further.

And, Comrade, what has already become of the indust­rial councils in Ger­many? You and the Executive of the Third Inter­national had advised the Comm­unists to unite with all the other trends, in order to obtain the leader­ship of the Trade Unions. And what has happened? The opposite. The industrial Zentrale has well-nigh developed into an instrument of the Trade Unions. The Trade Unions are an octopus, strangling everything living that comes within its reach.

Comrade, if you read and investigate everything that is being done in Germany, in West­ern Europe, I have full confidence that you will come over to our side. Just as I believe that your experiences in the Third Inter­national will convert you to our tactics.

However, if oppor­tunism proceeds thus in Germany, how will it be in France and England!

You see, Comrade, these are the leaders we do not want. That is the unity of mass and leader that we do not want. And that is the iron disci­pline, the military obedience, sub­mission and servility that we do not want.

Permit us to add here one word to the Executive Committee, and especi­ally to Radek: the Executive Committee has had the insolence to demand of the KAPD that they should expel Wolfheim and Lauffenberg, instead of leav­ing them to settle this for them­selves. It has threatened the KAPD, and has pandered to the central parties, such as the USP. But it did not demand of the Italian Party that it should expel the Zentrale which, through its offer, was partly responsible for the murder of Comm­unists in the Ruhr region. It did not demand of the Dutch Party that it should expel Wynkoop and van Revesteyn, who during the war, offered Dutch ships to the Ent­ente. This does not mean to say that I myself wish those comrades to be expelled. On the contrary, I hold them to be good comrades, who have gone wrong only because the development, the beginning of the West-European revo­lution, is so terribly difficult. We, all of us over here, still make many big mistakes. Moreover, expulsion at present, from this Inter­national, would be of no avail.

I only point this out to demonstrate by another example how fiercely oppor­tunism is raging already in our own ranks. For the Moscow Central Comm­ittee has committed this injustice against the KAPD only, because for its oppor­tunist world tactics it did not want the really revo­lutionary elem­ents, but the oppor­tunist Independents, etc.. It has deliberately used the tact­ics of Wolfheim and Lauffen­berg against the KAPD for the most miserably oppor­tunist of reasons, although it knew that the KAPD did NOT agree with those tactics. Because it wants to have masses around it, like the Trade Uni­ons and the poli­ti­cal parties, no matter whether those masses are Comm­unist or not.

Two other actions of the Third Inter­national prove clearly where it is drift­ing. The first is the expulsion of the Amsterdam Bureau, the ONLY group of rev­o­lutionary Marxists and theoreticians in West­ern Europe, that has never wav­er­ed. The second section, which is almost more serious, is the treatment of the KAPD, the ONLY party in West­ern Europe which, as an organ­isation, as a whole, from its very origin onwards, has conducted the revo­lution as it should be conducted. Whilst the Centre parties, the Indep­en­d­ents, the French and English Centre, who always betrayed the revo­lution, were allured by all possible means, the KAPD, the real revo­lutionaries, were treated as enemies. These are bad signs, Comrade.

In a word: the Second Inter­national is still alive, or alive again, in our midst. And oppor­tunism leads to ruin. And because this is so, and because oppor­tunism is very strong amongst us, far stronger than I could ever have imagined, the Left Wing has to be there. Even if there should be no other good reasons for its exist­ence, it would have to be there as an oppos­ition, to counterbalance oppor­tunism.

Alas, Comrade, if only you had followed the tactics of the Left Wing in the Third Inter­national; those tactics, that are nothing but the “pure” tactics of the Bolshevists in Russia, adapted to West-European (and North Amer­ican) conditions!

If only, as stipulations and statutes for the Third Inter­national, you had proposed and carried through econ­omic organ­isation in indust­rial organ­isations and work­ers’ unions (into which, if need be, indust­rial unions on a shop floor basis might have been intro­duced), and poli­ti­cal organ­isation in parties which reject parli­a­ment­arism!

Then you would in the first place have had, in all countries, absolutely firm kernels, parties that could really carry out the revo­lution, parties that would gradually have gathered the masses around them, through their own example, in their own country, and not through pressure from outside. Then you would have had econ­omic organ­isations that would have annihil­ated the counter-revo­lu­ti­onary Trade Unions (syndi­calist as well as free). And then with ONE stroke you would have cut off the way for all oppor­tunists. For these can thrive only where there is plotting with the counter-revo­lution.

Then, likewise – and this is by far the most important point – you would have educ­ated the work­ers into independent fighters to a very high degree, as far as it is possible in the present stage.

If you, Lenin, and you, Bukharin and Radek, had done this, had chosen these tactics, with your authority and experience, your strength and genius, and if you had helped us to eradicate the faults that cling to us as yet, and to our tactics, then we would have achieved a Third Inter­national that was perf­ectly firm internally, and unshakeable extern­ally, an Inter­national which would gradually have gath­ered the entire prole­tariat around it, through the force of its example, and which would have built Communism.

It is true that there are no tactics without defeat. But these would have suffered least defeat, and would most easily have recovered from it; they would have gone the quick­est way, and would have won the quickest and surest victory. Yours lead to repeated defeat for the prole­tariat.

However, you have rejected this because, instead of conscious, stead­fast fighters, you wanted partly or totally unconscious masses.

 

CONCLUSION

Finally I have to make a few observations regarding your last chapter: “Conclusions”, perhaps the most important of your entire book. Again I was delighted with it, as long as I thought of the Russian revo­lution. But over and over again the thought came into my head: the tactics that are brilliant for Russia are bad here. They lead to defeat here.

You assert here, Comrade (pp 68-74), that in a certain stage of devel­op­ment the masses must be attracted, millions and millions of them. The propa­ganda for “pure” Communism, that collected the avant-garde, and educated it, suffices no longer in that stage. Now is the time... and next follow once again your oppor­tunist methods that I have already refuted: taking advantage of “rifts”, of petty-bour­ge­ois elements, etc..

Comrade, this chapter is also completely wrong. You judge as a Russ­ian, not as an inter­national Comm­unist who knows real West- European capi­tal­ism.

Almost every word of this chapter, wonderful though it may be for the know­ledge of your revo­lution, is wrong for big indust­rial capi­tal­ism, for the trusts and mono­poly capi­tal­ism.

I will demonstrate this here: first in small matters.

 

Still need for Propa­ganda

You write about Communism in West­ern Europe.

“The vanguard of the West-European prole­tariat has been won” (p 70). This is wrong, Comrade. “The period of propa­ganda is past” (p69). This is not true. “The proletarian vanguard has been won over ideologi­cally”. This is not so, Com­rade. This stands in line (and it proc­eeds from the same ment­ality) with what I read in Bukharin, not long ago: “English capi­tal­ism is bank­rupt”. I also read in Radek similar fantasies, that were closer to astro­logy than astro­nomy. Nothing of this is true. Exc­ept for Germany, there is no vanguard anywhere yet. Neither in England, nor France, nor Belg­ium, nor Holl­and, nor, if I am well informed, in most of the Scandi­navian countr­ies. There are only a few “Eclaireurs”, who do not agree yet about the course that must be followed[3]. “The period of propa­ganda is past” is a terrible lie.

No, Comrade, this period is just beginning in West­ern Europe. There is no firm kernel anywhere as yet.

What we need here is such a kernel, hard as steel, clear as glass. And this is where we should begin herewith to build up a big organ­isation. In this resp­ect we are here in the stage you were in in 1903, or even before, in the Iskra period. Comrade, conditions here are far riper than we are, but that is no reason why we should let ourselves be carried away, to begin without a kernel!

For the time being we of West­ern Europe, the Comm­unist parties in Engl­and, France, Belgium, Holland, Scandinavia, Italy, even the KAPD in Germany, must remain small, not because we want to, but because other­wise we cannot become strong.

An example: Belgium. Except for Hungary, before the revo­lution, there is no country where the prole­tariat is as corrupted by reformism as Belgium. If at this moment Comm­unism should become a mass move­ment there (with parli­a­ment­arism, etc.), the vultures, the profiteers etc. of oppor­tun­ism would swoop down on it immediately and drag it to destruction. And it is the same everywhere.

For that reason, because the Labour move­ment here is very weak as yet, and almost completely trapped in oppor­tunism, because so far Comm­un­ism is hardly anything, and must fight (on the quest­ions of parli­a­ment­arism and the Trade Unions, and on all others), until we attain the highest luci­dity and clarity, until everything has been made theor­et­ically as clear as possible.

A sect, therefore, says the Executive Committee. Certainly a sect, if that is what you want to call the kernel of a move­ment that conquers the world!

Comrade, there was a time when your move­ment, the Bolsheviks, was also small and insignificant. It was because it was small, and voluntarily rem­ain­ed so for a long time, that it kept itself pure. And through this, and this exclusively, it became powerful. We also want to proceed in this way.

This is a quest­ion of the utmost importance. Not only the West-Euro­pean, but also the Russian revo­lution depends on this. Beware, Comrade! You know that Napoleon, in trying to spread modern capi­tal­ism all over Eur­ope, was finally wrecked, and had to make way for reaction, when he had arrived; where there was not only too much of the middle ages, but especi­ally too little capi­tal­ism.

These, your minor assertions, are not true. I will now proceed to the bigger ones, to the most important of all you say: that now the time has come without propa­ganda to win the millions for “pure” Communism, through the oppor­tunist policy you describe. Comrade, even if you were right in the small matters, if the Comm­unist Parties here were actually strong enough, this would be utterly wrong from beginning to end. Pure propa­g­anda for the new Communism, as I have often said already, will be necess­ary here in West­ern Europe, from the beginning of the revo­lution to the very end. Because (this point is of such importance that it has to be constantly rep­eated) it is the work­ers, the work­ers alone, who must bring Comm­un­ism. Of the other classes they have nothing to expect, in any consider­able meas­ure, until the revo­lution is finished.

You say (p 72): that period of the revo­lution has started in which we have the van­guard, and in which:

1. all class powers that are against us have become sufficiently disarr­ang­ed, have fought sufficiently amongst themselves, have been sufficiently weak­ened by the struggle that surpasses their strength;

2. all vacillating, undecided elements, the petty-bour­ge­oisie, petty-bour­ge­ois demo­cracy, have been sufficiently unmasked before the people, have expos­ed themselves sufficiently through their bankruptcy.

Well, Comrade, this is Russian. In the Russian government body, which was rotten through and through, these were the conditions for the revo­lution.

In the modern, really big-capit­al­ist states, however, the conditions will be altogether different. The big bour­ge­ois parties will stand together in oppos­ition to Communism, will not get disarranged, and the petty-bour­ge­oisie will stand by them. Not in an absolute sense, of course, but to such an extent that it has to determine our tactics.

 

Character of West­ern European Revo­lution

In West­ern Europe we must expect a revo­lution that is a tenacious struggle on either side, with a firm organ­isation on the part of the bour­ge­oisie and the petty-bour­ge­oisie. The immense organ­isations of capi­tal­ism and of the work­ers prove this.

These, therefore, we have to organ­ise likewise with the very best weap­ons, the best form of organ­isation, the best and strongest methods of fighting (not with weak ones).

It is here, and not in Russia, that the real struggle between capital and labour will be fought. Because here there is real capital.

Comrade, if you think that (from a tendency for theor­et­ical purity), I exagg­erate, just look at Germany. There you have an utterly bankrupt, almost desperate State. But all classes, big and petty-bour­ge­ois alike, as well as the peasant classes, stand firmly united against Communism. Thus it will be everywhere with us.

It is true that just at the end of the development of the revo­lution, when the most terr­ible crisis breaks out, when we are quite close to victory, the un­i­ty of the bour­ge­ois classes will perhaps disappear, and some of the petty-bour­g­e­ois and peasants will come to us. But what good is that to us? We must determine our tactics for the beginn­ing and the course of the revo­lution.

Because this is so, and has to be so (because of the class relations and even more the relations of production), the prole­tariat stands alone.

Because it stands alone, it can only triumph if it gains greatly in spiritual strength.

And as this is the only way it can triumph, propa­ganda for “pure” Comm­unism is needed here until the very end (quite the contrary to Russia).

Without this propa­ganda, the West-European, and consequently the Russian prole­tariat, is lost.

And the same holds true of the Executive in Moscow.

Whilst I was writing these last few pages, the news came through that the Inter­national had adopted your tactics and those of the Executive. The West-European dele­gates have let themselves be dazzled by the brilliance of the Russian revo­lution. All right, we will take up the fight in the Third Inter­national.

We, Comrade, your old friends Pannekoek, Roland Holst, Rutgers and myself, truer than which you cannot find, on hearing of your West-Euro­pean tactics, asked our­selves what could have caused them. Opinions differed greatly. The one said: the econ­omic condition of Russia is so bad that, after all, it needs peace. For that reason, Comrade Lenin wants to gather around him as much pow­er as possible: the Indepen­dents, Labour Party, etc., so that they may help him to obtain peace. The other said: he wishes to hasten the general European revo­lution. Therefore millions have to join. That is the reason for his oppor­tunism.

I myself believe, as I have said before, that you misunderstand Euro­pean conditions, the state of things.

However this may be, Comrade, and from what motives you may act, if you go on with these tactics, you will suffer the most terrible defeat, and you will lead the prole­tariat into the most terrible defeat.

For if you wish to save Russia, the Russian revo­lution, by means of these tactics, you collect non-Comm­unist elements. You join them to us, the real Comm­unists, whilst we do not as yet have a firm kernel! With this med­ley of dead Trade Unions, with a mass of half or quarter Comm­unists, in which there is no solid kernel, you want to fight against the best organ­ised capital in the world, with all the non-proletarian classes on its side. It goes without saying that in the battle this medley will fall apart, and the great mass will take flight.

 

Why German Work­ers must not be Defeated

Comrade, a crushing defeat, of the German prole­tariat for instance, is the signal for a general attack on Russia.

If you wish to make the revo­lution here, with this hodge-podge of Lab­our Party and Independents, French Centre and the Italian Party, etc., and with these Trade Unions, the outcome cannot be otherwise. The govern­ments will not even fear such a load of oppor­tunists.

If however you form internally firm, radical groups, firm (though small) parties, then the government will fear these parties, as only these carry away the masses in great deeds in the revo­lution – as the Spartacus League has proved in the beginning – then the governments will have to release Russia, and finally, when the parties will thus, through these “pure” tact­ics, have grown powerful, victory will be ours. These our “Left” tactics, there­fore, are the best; nay the only ones that bring salvation for us and for Russia alike.

Your tactics on the other hand are Russian. They were excellent in a country where an army of millions of poor peasants stood ready, and where there was a wavering, desperate middle class. Here they are no good.

I must finally refute your assertion and that of many of your associates, upon which I have already touched in the third chapter; that the revo­lution in West­ern Europe can only begin after the lower, demo­cratic layers of capi­tal­ism have been sufficiently shaken, neutralised or won.

This assertion also, in one of the most weighty quest­ions of the revo­lution, proves once more that you consider everything from a purely East-Euro­pean point of view. And this assertion is wrong.

For the prole­tariat in Germany and England is so numerous, so powerful through its organ­isation, that it can make the revo­lution, its beginning and devel­opment without, and in oppos­ition to all these classes. And even that it must make the revo­lution, driven by sufferings in Germany.

And it can only do so, if it follows the right tactics, if it founds its organ­isation on a shop floor basis, and rejects parli­a­ment­arism; if only it streng­th­ens the work­ers in this way!

We of the Left Wing, therefore, choose our tactics not only for the reason mentioned above, but especially also because the West-European prole­tariat, and in the first place the German and English prole­tariat, by itself alone, if only it grows conscious and united, is so immensely strong, that it can win in this simple manner. The Russian prole­tariat had to take round­about ways, being too weak by itself, and it has done so brilliantly, in a manner far surpassing all that the world prole­tariat has ever achieved. But the West-European prole­tariat can triumph by the straight, clear road.

Thus also this assertion of yours has been refuted.

There remains one argu­ment still to be refuted, one which I have read over and over again with the “Right” Comm­unists, which I heard from the Russ­ian Trade Union leader, Losofski, and which is to be found also with you: “The crisis will drive the masses to Communism, even if we retain the bad Trade Unions and parli­a­ment­arism”. This is a very weak argu­ment. For we have no idea how big the crisis is going to be. Will it be as deep in England and France as it is now in Ger­many? Secondly, this argu­ment (the “mechanical argu­ment of the Third Inter­nat­i­onal”), has proved how weak it is during the last six years. In Germany the mis­ery during the last years of the war was terrible. The revo­lution did not break out. It was terrible in 1918 and 1919. The revo­lution did not triumph. The crisis in Hungary, Austria, the Balkans and Poland is terrible. The revo­lution did not come, or did not win, not even when the Russian armies were quite near. But in the third place the argu­ment turns against your­self, for if the crisis should bring about the revo­lution in any case, the better “Left” tactics might be just as well adopted.

The examples of Germany, Hungary, Bavaria, Austria, Poland and the Balkans how­ever, all prove that crisis and misery do not suffice. They have the most terrible econ­omic crisis, and yet the revo­lution does not break out. There must be another cause yet, which brings the revo­lution about, and which, if it does not work, causes the delay, or the collapse of the revo­lution. This cause is the spirit of the masses. And it is your tactics, Comrade, which fail to sufficiently awaken the spirit of the masses in West­ern Europe, which does not sufficiently strengthen it, which leaves it as it was. In the course of writing I have pointed out that banking capital, the trusts, the mono­polies and the West-European and North American state formed by them, and dep­end­ent on them, as they are, unite all bour­ge­ois classes, big as well as small, into one whole against the revo­lution.

But this force, uniting society and the state against the revo­lution, goes even further. Banking capital itself organ­ised the working class in a prev­ious period, in the period of evolution, against the revo­lution: edu­cating, uniting and organising them. And in what way? In the Trade Unions (Syndi­calist as well as free), and in the social-demo­cratic parties. By forc­ing them to fight only for reforms, capital turned these Trade Unions and Labour parties into counter-revo­lutionary forces for the main­ten­ance of the State and society. Because of big capital, Trade Unions and Labour parties became props of capi­tal­ism. As, however, these organ­isations consist of work­ers, and of almost the majority of work­ers, and as the revo­lution cann­ot be made without the work­ers, these organ­isations must be destr­oyed before the revo­lution can succeed. And how are they to be destroyed? By chang­ing their spirit. And their spirit can only be changed by making the spirit of the members independent to the utmost degree. And this can be done only by replac­ing the Trade unions with indust­rial unions and work­ers’ unions, and by abolish­ing parli­a­ment­arism in the Labour parties. And your tactics prevent this.

It is true that German, French and Italian capi­tal­ism is bankrupt. Or rather: these capit­al­ist States are bankrupt. The capit­al­ists themselves, their econ­omic and poli­ti­cal organ­isations, maintain themselves and their profits, dividends and new capital are still huge. Only, however, by an extension of the circulation of paper by the State. If the German, French and Italian States fall, the capit­al­ists fall likewise.

 

Crisis is nearing

The crisis approaches with an iron necessity. If prices rise, strike waves rise as well; if they fall, the army of the unemployed increases. Misery is spread­ing all over Europe, and hunger is approaching. Moreover, the world is full of new fuel. The conflict, the new revo­lution, is drawing near. But how will it end? Capi­tal­ism is still powerful. Germany, Italy, France and Eastern Eur­ope are not the whole world. And in West­ern Europe, North America and the British Dominions, for some time to come, capi­tal­ism will hold together all classes against the prole­tar­iat. The issue there­fore to a very great extent depends on our tactics and on our organ­isation. And your tactics are wrong.

Here in West­ern Europe there is only one kind of tactics: those of the Left Wing, that tells the prole­tariat the truth, and does not blind it with illus­ions. Those that, even though it may take a long time, forge the only effec­t­­ive weapons – the indust­rial organ­isations (uniting these into one whole), and the originally small, but pure and firm kernels, the Comm­unist parties. Those tactics, moreover, that spread these organ­isations over the entire prole­tariat. This has to be like this, not because we of the Left Wing want it, but because the relations of production, class relations, demand it.

At the conclusion of my exposition, I will draw them up in a concise survey, so that the worker may see everything clearly for himself.

In the first place, I imagine, there follows from it a clear image of the cau­ses of our tactics (a clear survey of the motives of our tactics), and the tact­ics them­selves: banking capital dominates the whole world. Ideo­logi­cally and materially it keeps the gigantic prole­tariat in the deepest slavery, and unites all bour­ge­ois classes. Consequently the gigantic masses must rise and proceed to act for them­selves. This is only possible through indust­rial organ­isations and the abolition of parli­a­ment­arism in the revo­lution.

Secondly, I will summarise the tactics of the Left Wing, and those of the Third Inter­national in a few phrases, so that the diff­er­ence between your tactics and those of the Left Wing become clearly and absolutely obvious, and so that if your tactics lead to the greatest debacle, as they probably will, the work­ers will not lose courage, but might see there are other tactics.

The Third Inter­national believes that the West-European revo­lution will proceed together according to the laws and tactics of the Russian revo­lution.

The Left Wing believes that the West-European revo­lution will make and follow its own laws.

The Third Inter­national believes that the West-European revo­lution will be able to make compromises and alliances with petty-bour­ge­ois and small peasant, and even with big bour­ge­ois parties.

The Left Wing believes this is impossible.

The Third Inter­national believes that in West­ern Europe during the revo­lution there will be “rifts” and scissions between the bour­ge­ois, petty-bour­ge­ois and small peasant parties.

The Left Wing believes that the bour­ge­ois and petty-bour­ge­ois parties will form one united front until the end of the revo­lution.

The Third Inter­national underestimates the power of West- European and North American capital.

The Left Wing makes its tactics conform to this great power.

The Third Inter­national does not recognise the power of banking capital, the big capital which unites all bour­ge­ois classes.

The Left Wing on the contrary bases its tactics on this unifying power.

As the Third Inter­national does not believe in the fact that in West­ern Eur­ope the prole­tariat will stand alone, it neglects the mental development of this prole­tariat; which in every respect is still deeply entangled in bour­ge­ois ideology; and chooses tactics which leave slavery and subjection to bour­ge­ois ideas unmolested and intact.

 

Left-Winger to free Work­ers’ Minds

The Left Wing chooses its tactics in such a way that in the first place the mind of the work­ers is liberated.

As the Third Inter­national does not found its tactics on freeing the mind, nor on the unity of all bour­ge­ois and petty- bour­ge­ois parties, but on compromises and “rifts”; it leaves the old Trade Unions intact, trying to unite them with the Third Inter­national.

As the Left Wing strives above all for freeing the mind, and believes in the unity of the bour­ge­ois parties, it realises that the Trade Unions must be dest­royed, and that the prole­tariat needs better weapons.

The same motives induce the Third Inter­national to support parli­a­ment­arism.

The same motives also induce the Left Wing to abolish parli­a­ment­arism.

The Third Inter­national leaves the condition of slavery such as it was in the Second.

The Left Wing wishes to change it from below upward; it seizes the evil at the root.

As the Third Inter­national does not believe that in the first place the liber­ation of minds is needed in West­ern Europe, nor that all bour­ge­ois part­ies will be one in the revo­lution, it collects masses around it, without inquir­ing whether they are really Comm­unist, without determining its tactics, on the supposition that they are – as long as it gets the masses.

The Left Wing wishes in all countries to form parties consisting exclus­ively of Comm­unists, and determines its tactics accordingly. Through the example of these originally small parties, the majority of the prole­tariat, and therefore the masses, will be brought to Communism.

To the Third Inter­national, then, the masses in West­ern Europe are a means.

To the Left Wing they are the aim.

Through these tactics (which were quite right in Russia), the Third Inter­national employs leader-politics.

The Left Wing, on the other hand, employs mass politics.

Through these tactics the Third Inter­national is leading not only the West-European, but also the Russian revo­lution, into ruin.

The Left Wing on the other hand, through its tactics, leads the world prole­tariat towards victory.

And, finally, I will gather my statements into a few theses, so that the work­ers who must strive for themselves to gain a clear insight into those tactics, may have them before their eyes in a concise, surveyable form. They have to be read, of course, in the light of the above exposition.

1. The tactics of the West-European revo­lution must be different from those of the Russian revo­lution.

2. For here the prole­tariat stands alone.

3. Here the prole­tariat must make the revo­lution all by itself, against all other classes.

4. The importance of the proletarian masses, therefore, is relatively greater, and that of the leaders smaller than in Russia.

5. Consequently, here the prole­tariat must have the very best weapons for the revo­lution.

6. The Trade Unions being insufficient weapons, they must be replaced or changed into indust­rial organ­isations, that are united into one league.

7. As the prole­tariat must make the revo­lution all alone, without help, it has to rise very high, morally as well as spiritually. It is better therefore not to use parli­a­ment­arism in the revo­lution.

 

Marx had learnt from the Paris Commune that the prole­tariat cannot use or take over the bour­ge­ois State for the revo­lution. Thus the “Left Wing” has learnt from the Russian, German, Hungarian, from the World Revo­lution, that the prole­tariat cannot use the old Socialist parties, nor the old Trade Unions for the revo­lution.

With fraternal greetings,

H. GORTER.

 



[1] In Halle, in one day alone, 500,000 new members came under leaders which only a short while before they themselves had recognised to be worse than the Scheide­mann lot. And in Tours, three quarters of the French Socialist Party joined, which until quite recently were for the most part social patriots.

[2] Comrade Pannekoek, who thoroughly knows Germany, had predicted this. If the leaders of the Spartacus League were placed before the choice between Parliament and Revo­lution, they would choose Parliament.

[3] The English Comm­unists for instance, with regard to the most important matter of affiliation to the Labour Party.