THESES ON TACTICS
BY THE FIFTH COMINTERN CONGRESS
July 1924 K.I. v dokumentakh, p. 397
THE INTERNATIONAL SITUATION
1. The Democratic-Pacifist Phase
What is new in the present international political situation is the opening of a certain democratic-pacifist phase. A change of this kind in the world policy of the bourgeoisie was predicted by the fourth Comintern congress, which met at a time when bourgeois world reaction had reached its climax. The shift in policy now apparent is indicated by the following signs:
In England the so-called Labour Government, with the leaders of the Second International at its head, is in power. In France the so-called left bloc won an electoral victory as a result of which the French Socialist Party, one of the chief parties of the Second International, has virtually become a part of the present French Government. In Germany there is also a tendency, connected with propaganda for the Dawes report, for democratic-pacifist illusions to grow stronger, together with
social-democracy, which embodies this policy; at the same time there is a marked trend in the opposite direction, because in order to operate the Dawes plan the ruling class with the help of the SPD must proceed more openly and brutally than before to
suppress the revolutionary movement
. ... In America that wing of imperialism which condescends to interfere in European affairs, and is ready to support the so-called Experts' report, has triumphed. The growing movement to found a 'third' (pettybourgeois) party in America also represents a certain shift towards a 'democraticpacifist' phase in American politics. In Japan the 'democratic' bourgeoisie are
approaching power and getting ready to take over the government from the feudal party. . . .
2. The Real Significance of the Present Stage in International Politics
What is now happening is in reality not the beginning of the stabilization of the capitalist 'order' on the basis of 'democracy' and peace, but merely the concealment of its rule while bourgeois world reaction is intensified and the people betrayed.
The 'democratic-pacifist' era has not brought any reduction in armaments and cannot do so.
. . . Every democracy is arming more or less openly for the
irreconcilable imperialist conflict with other democracies.
The fundamental antagonism between American and Japanese imperialism has not been eliminated, but continues automatically to work, and must inevitably lead to a new imperialist war.
The conflict of interests between the imperialist cliques of England and France has not been eliminated or mitigated by the victory of 'democracy' in the two countries. The form, not the substance, of their competitive struggle has changed.
The looting of the colonies and semi-colonial countries continues as a natural precondition of 'progress' and 'civilization'.
3. The Experts' report
The gospel of present-day pacifism and modern democracy is the so-called Experts' report. In reality their plan is intended to plunder the German working masses. It is furthermore an attempt by the imperialists of the countries which only yesterday were at war with each other to improve their business at the expense of the workers.
. . . The Experts' report, which has now received the approval of the entire international counter-revolutionary social-democracy, is in fact the most disgraceful document of the present age. It will become a halter round the neck not only of the German workers, but also of the working masses of a number of other countries. Social-democratic support of the Dawes report is as much a betrayal of the cause of the working people as support of the imperialist war, for it is nothing but the continuation of that war by other means. . . .
4. The International Position of the Soviet Union
The one country which is consistently pursuing a policy of peace is the Soviet Union.
. . . The USSR has recently had considerable success in consolidating its international position. The improvement in welfare at home, the support which the country received from all honest and conscious elements in the international working class, the intelligent policy of the Soviet Government led to de jure recognition of the Soviet Union by some of the largest States. Nevertheless it is by no means impossible that it is precisely this 'democratic-pacifist' era which will create new difficulties for the first proletarian State. There is no doubt that the most treacherous part of 'democracy' is now working to build an international united front against the Soviet Union, in order to force the victorious proletarian revolution to its knees and compel it to repay the old debts
. .. . The nearer capitalism draws to its end, the more difficult and contradictory the situation of the international bourgeoisie, the more probable becomes the instigation of outright war against the Soviet Union. The participation of social-democrats in present-day 'democratic' governments only increases the danger of such a military adventure. . .
5. The International Policy of Social-Democracy
... In all countries where social-democracy represents a substantial force it continues as before to support its own imperialists, but conceals this treacherous policy behind talk about democracy and pacifism. There is no doubt that it is the
social-democratic leaders who display the greatest zeal in carrying out the policy of the Experts' report, in preparations to isolate the Soviet Union, and even in preparations for a military campaign. To lull the vigilance of the masses, the counter-revolutionary social-democratic leaders indulge in hypocritical talk about fighting war by means of a general strike. . . .
THE PROBLEM OF POWER
1. The Dissolution of the Bourgeois Order
Although the first imperialist world war towards its end released a violent outbreak of spontaneous mass discontent, bourgeois society has managed to prolong its existence for a certain time. The forces of the international proletariat turned out to be not well enough organized, the parties of international proletarian revolution not strong enough, and so at the end of the war the proletarian revolution could not
triumph. Nevertheless the war provoked deep upheavals. Its consequences will continue to be felt for a number of years. . . .
At times symptoms of failing capitalist stability are to be observed even more clearly in the political than in the economic field. The constant and rapid changes of government in a number of countries put the problem of power on the order of the day, in a form unknown before the imperialist war.
2. Two Trends in the Policy of the World Bourgeoisie
In the last few years, and to some extent even before the war, two trends in the policy of the world bourgeoisie have become clearly apparent, one openly reactionary, and the other democratic-reformist.
. . . The first aims at crushing and defeating the revolutionary forces in open and furious struggle before they have ripened, while the other, more far-sighted, aims at changing the relations of power in favour of the bourgeoisie by small concessions, by bribing the top men in the working class, in short, by the methods of 'democracy', pacifism, and reformism.
3. Between Social-Democracy and Fascism
The bourgeoisie can no longer rule by the old methods. That is one of the symptoms of the slow but certain growth of the proletarian revolution.
The bourgeoisie make use at one time of fascism, at another of social-democracy.
In both cases they are concerned to screen the capitalist character of their rule. . . .
4. Social-Democracy as the 'Third' Party of the Bourgeoisie
In America a great fuss is being made about the foundation of a 'third' party of the bourgeoisie (the petty bourgeoisie). In Europe social-democracy has already become, in a certain sense, the 'third' bourgeois party. This is particularly obvious in
England where, in addition to the two classical bourgeois parties which took it in turn to rule, the so-called Labour Party has now become a governing party, a Labour Party which in fact pursues a policy close to that of one of the two wings of
the bourgeoisie. . . .
For a number of years social-democracy has been caught up in a process of change; from being the right wing of the labour movement it is becoming one wing of the bourgeoisie, in places even a wing of fascism. That is why it is historically incorrect to talk of 'a victory of fascism over social-democracy'. So far as their leading strata are concerned, fascism and social-democracy are the right and left hands of modern capitalism.. ..
6. Between White Terror and 'Labour Governments'
Despite the apparent consolidation of the bourgeois order, its power is in fact being more and more undermined. The situation as a whole is extremely unstable.
Parliamentarism is approaching its end. Day by day it becomes more difficult for thebourgeoisie to establish even a moderately safe position on the ruins of the old parliamentarism
. . . The bourgeoisie will have to turn now to one side, now to the other, resorting to open white terror or attempting to find support in a so-called labour government.
It is not unlikely that in the next few years we shall see so-called labour governments in a number of countries. These 'labour governments' are a function of the struggle of the revolutionary proletariat for power and of the vacillations within the bourgeoisie which are unavoidable in the present epoch. Objectively these socalled labour governments signify an advance in so far as they testify to the progressive decline of the bourgeois regime, to irresolution in the policy of the
ruling classes. In this sense even the counter-revolutionary MacDonald Government (in reality a liberal government) represents historical progress. But the job of true adherents of the proletarian revolution is naturally not to praise such 'labour
governments' but to mobilize the proletarian army for irreconcilable revolutionary struggle, and to work for the quickest possible transition from so-called labour governments to the proletarian dictatorship.
THE BUILDING OF MASS COMMUNIST PARTIES AS THE CARDINAL
TASK OF THE COMINTERN
1. The Crisis of Capitalism and the Subjective Factor
At the end of the imperialist war the world bourgeoisie were not defeated primarily because there were in the decisive countries no communist mass parties able to organize the revolution and to lead into struggle the masses who rose
spontaneously against the war criminals. Consequently capitalism obtained a respite.
In a situation in which capitalism can no longer rule without the support of the social-democrats, in which the capitalist crisis becomes steadily, if slowly, more hopeless, the 'subjective factor', that is, the degree of organization of the proletarian
masses and their communist vanguard, is the cardinal question of the entire historical epoch.
2. The Slogan: To the Masses
The slogan: To the masses, put out by the third world congress of the Comintern, remains in force, unchanged. The successes which the Comintern has had in the preceding period are only initial achievements. The successes of the individual sections have not yet been consolidated. If we make no progress in winning the masses, a retrograde movement may easily set in.
3. Winning the Majority
. . . The fifth world congress of the Comintern confirms in full the formulations of the third and fourth congresses. It decisively rejects as incorrect those right-wing tendencies which insist on the winning of a statistical majority of the working masses as a preliminary, and believe that there can be no serious revolutionary struggles unless the communists have already won if possible 99 per cent of all the workers. It equally rejects the errors of the 'ultra-left', who have still not grasped the decisive world-historical importance of the slogan: To the masses, and who even occasionally go so far as to maintain that communist parties may be parties of a 'terrorist minority'; that is, they believe that, without having become mass parties, communist parties can at any moment lead the masses into struggle.
THE BASIC CONDITIONS FOR THE FORMATION OF MASS
These conditions are:
1. The Methodical Building up of the Party on a Factory-Cell Basis
The great majority of European communist parties still adhere to the organizational principle of party structure taken over from the social democrats. That is a survival from the times when the party was still regarded as an electoral machine. There can be no talk of building a serious internally-solid mass
communist party so long as it is not based on party cells in the factories themselves.
. . . This is not merely an organizational, but a serious political question. No communist party will be in a position to lead the decisive masses of the proletariat to struggle and to defeat the bourgeoisie until it has this solid foundation in the factories, until every large factory has become a citadel of the communist party.
2. Correct Communist Work inside the Trade Unions
Further basic pre-conditions for the building of solid mass communist parties are the creation of a network of communist fractions in the trade unions (legal where possible, illegal if necessary), not merely on paper but in fact, and a systematic,
unyielding, prolonged struggle to capture the unions, a struggle which replies to splitting and to provocations by the social-democratic leaders, designed to drive communists out of the unions, with more intensive activity for unity in the unions.
3. Launching a Factory-Committee Movement
Factory committees are a new form of proletarian organization, which will gradually give rise to new and genuinely revolutionary unions, and which in favourable circumstances may form the kernel for councils of workers' deputies. A communist party which has not yet succeeded in establishing a serious factory-committee movement in its country, or in securing for itself strong influence within an already existing factory-committee movement, cannot be regarded as a serious mass communist party. . . .
4. The Correct Attitude to the Peasantry
. . . The proletariat cannot triumph and establish the Soviet regime unless it steadily pursues a policy of neutralizing one section of the peasantry and winning over other sections to its cause
. . . . Communist parties which have not learnt to do
revolutionary work among the peasantry cannot claim to be mass communist parties dealing seriously with the question of capturing power. Obviously our sections must remain Marxist workers' parties, and not be transformed into 'workers' and peasants' parties'.
5. Correct Policy on the National Question
In a number of countries, as a result of the re-division of the world after the first imperialist war, there is greater national oppression and dismemberment. In a number of European countries, and still more in colonial and semi-colonial countries, a mass of inflammable material has been heaped up which may blow bourgeois rule sky-high. Correct communist policy on
the national question, which was thoroughly analysed in the theses of the second world congress, forms one of the most important constituents in the policy of winning the masses and preparing a victorious revolution. Nihilism and opportunist
deviations in the national question, which still prevail in a number of communist parties, are the weakest side of these parties, which will never be able to accomplish their historical mission if they do not overcome these weaknesses.
BETWEEN TWO WAVES OF THE PROLETARIAN REVOLUTION
Signs have been apparent in the last year of the rise of a new revolutionary wave.
The beginning of the revolutionary struggle in Germany, the risings in Bulgaria and Poland, the big industrial strikes in a number of countries bear witness to the ripening of new revolutionary events.
It is precisely the period between two revolutions, or two rising revolutionary waves, that encourages both opportunist right deviations and 'ultra-left' tendencies towards passivity, menshevism upside down, clothing itself in radical phrases.
RUTHLESS STRUGGLE AGAINST RIGHT-OPPORTUNIST
The period between the fourth and fifth Comintern congresses showed that opportunist tendencies in the communist movement are stronger than was to be expected. . . .
At the fifth congress it has become unmistakably clear that in some countries, of the utmost importance for the workers' movement, the representatives of the rightwing tendency tried to distort completely the tactics of the united front and of the
workers' and peasants' government, interpreting them as meaning a narrow political alliance, an organic coalition of 'all workers' parties', that is, a political alliance of communists with social-democracy. While for the Comintern the main purpose of
the united front tactics consists in the struggle against the leaders of counter-revolutionary social-democracy and in emancipating social-democratic workers from their influence, the representatives of the right-wing tendency tend to interpret the united front as a political alliance with social-democracy. . .
CLEARING UP 'ULTRA-LEFT' TENDENCIES
Bolshevism, as the movement of the Russian revolutionary proletariat, developed in relentless struggle not only against menshevism and cen-trism, but also against 'ultra-left' tendencies. From the first day of its existence the Comintern, as the international organization of bolshevism, has waged a relentless struggle not only against right opportunism but also against the 'ultra-left', which is often only the reverse side of opportunism. In the period between the fourth and fifth congresses 'ultra-left' tendencies took on a peculiarly
threatening character in regard to work in reactionary trade unions. The movement in favour of communists leaving the unions is extremely dangerous for communism.
If the Comintern fails to reject decisively these tendencies, which can profit only the counterrevolutionary social-democratic leaders who want to get rid of communists in the unions, we shall never be able to create genuine bolshevik parties. 'Ultra-left' tendencies were also apparent in the rejection 'on principle' of the tactics of manoeuvre as such, particularly in the failure to understand the united front tactics,
the refusal to operate them in practice. . . .
THE UNITED FRONT TACTICS
Despite serious opportunist errors and the distortion of united front tactics by the right—which in many cases might have meant the outright ruin of the communist parties—the application of united front tactics between the fourth and fifth
congresses was, by and large, of undoubted use to us, and furthered the development of a number of Comintern sections into mass parties.
In a period when the communist parties in a number of the most important countries are still in a minority, when social-democracy for a number of historical reasons is still supported by large proletarian masses, when the capitalist offensive is
continuing in various forms and the working class cannot summon up sufficient energy to wage serious defensive struggles, united front tactics were and are correct and necessary. . . .
United front tactics are only a method of agitation and of revolutionary mobilization of the masses over a period. . . .
The tactics of the united front from below are necessary always and everywhere, with the possible exception of rare moments during decisive struggles when revolutionary communist workers will be compelled to turn their weapons against even groups of the proletariat who out of deficient class consciousness are on the enemy's side. . . .
Unity from below and at the same time negotiations with leaders. This method must frequently be employed in countries where social-democracy is still a significant force. . . .
It is understood that in such cases the communist parties maintain their complete and absolute independence, and retain their communist character at every stage of the negotiations and in all circumstances. Therefore all negotiations with the socialdemocratic leaders must be conducted publicly, and communists must do their utmost to get the working masses to take a lively interest in the negotiations.
United front only from above. This method is categorically rejected by the Communist International.
The tactics of the united front from below are the most important, that is, a united front under communist party leadership covering communist, social-democratic, and
non-party workers in factory, factory council, trade union, and extending to an entire industrial centre or area or industry. . . .
United front tactics were and remain a method of revolution, not of peaceful evolution. They are the tactics of a revolutionary strategic manoeuvre of the communist vanguard, surrounded by enemies, in its struggle against the treacherous
leaders of counter-revolutionary social-democracy.
. . . United front tactics were and are a means of gradually drawing over to our side the social-democratic and the best
non-party workers; they should in no circumstances be degraded to the tactics of lowering our ideals to the level of understanding reached by these workers.
THE WORKERS' AND PEASANTS' GOVERNMENT
The slogan of a workers' and peasants' government was and is formulated by the Comintern as a deduction from the united front tactics as defined above.
Opportunist elements in the Comintern tried to distort this slogan too by interpreting it as a 'government within the bourgeois-democratic framework' and as a political alliance with social-democracy. The fifth world congress emphatically rejects this interpretation. For the Comintern the slogan of a workers' and peasants' government is the slogan of the proletarian dictatorship translated into popular language, into the language of revolution. The formula workers' and peasants' government, derived from the experience of the Russian revolution, was and can be nothing but a method of agitation and mobilization of the masses for the revolutionary overthrow of the bourgeoisie and the establishment of Soviet power. . . . The overthrow of the bourgeoisie, making them harmless, overcoming their resistance, and creating the conditions for a true workers' and peasants' government can only be accomplished by an armed uprising of the proletariat supported by the best part of the peasantry, only by the workers in civil war. . . .
For communists the slogan of a workers' and peasants' government never means the tactics of parliamentary agreements and coalitions with social-democracy. On the contrary; communist parliamentary activity must be directed to exposing the counter-revolutionary role of social-democracy and to making clear to the working masses the treacherous nature and sham character of so-called labour governments
which owe their existence to the bourgeoisie and are in fact liberal, bourgeois governments.
. . . Whereas reformist partial demands are designed to replace the proletarian revolution, partial demands put forward by communists are designed for the exactly opposite purpose of preparing the proletarian revolution more successfully.
Communist agitation for partial demands links each of them to the programme of revolutionary overthrow. This is particularly valid for those countries where the crisis of the bourgeois system has begun. . . .
THE WEST AND THE EAST
The Communist International is an organization for world revolution. But as a result of a number of special circumstances the attention of the Comintern has been claimed in far too great a degree by the West. Far greater attention than before must
be paid to work in the East, using that word in its broadest sense. In India, Japan, China, and Turkey the seeds of a communist movement have taken root. In all these countries a widespread economic struggle is opening, to which the Comintern must give the utmost attention. It must also give all-round support to the anti-imperialist movement of all oppressed nationalities in the spirit of the third world congress resolution, bearing in mind that this movement is one of the most important elements in the universal movement for emancipation. . . .
The era of international revolution has opened. But the tempo of its development, particularly of its development in one continent or another, cannot be predicted with certainty. The situation as a whole is such that two prospects are possible:
1. The possibility of slow and postponed development of the proletarian revolution; or
2. Since capitalism is already seriously undermined and its internal contradictions are in general growing rapidly more acute, the catastrophe may occur very shortly in one country or another.
Comintern tactics must reckon with both these possibilities. The Comintern must develop its capacity to manoeuvre and to adapt itself to changes in the tempo of development. . . .
BOLSHEVIZING THE PARTIES AND FORMING A UNIFIED WORLD
In the present period the most important task of the CI is the bolsheviza-tion of its sections. This slogan should not be interpreted as the mechanical transference of the entire experience of the Russian Bolshevik Party to all other parties. The basic features of a genuine bolshevik party are:
1. The party must be a real mass party, that is, it must be able, both when legal and illegal, to maintain the closest and strongest contacts with the working masses and express their needs and aspirations.
2. It must be capable of manoeuvre, that is, its tactics should not be sectarian or dogmatic. . . .
3. It must be revolutionary, Marxist in nature, working undeviatingly towards its
goal. . . .
4. It must be a centralized party, permitting no fractions, tendencies, or groups; it must be fused in one mould.
5. It must carry out systematic and persistent propaganda and organization in bourgeois armies.
Bolshevization of the parties means that our sections take over for themselves everything in Russian bolshevism that has international significance.
Only to the extent that the decisive sections of the CI really become bolshevik parties will the Comintern become, not in words but in fact, a homogeneous bolshevik world party permeated with the ideas of Leninism.
CONCRETE TASKS OF THE MOST IMPORTANT SECTIONS OF THE CI
The tasks of these sections are in essentials as follows:
Because of the present world situation England, with its possessions, is in general playing the premier part in all international questions. It follows that the CPGB also acquires greater importance. To train the CPGB to fulfil its tasks is one of the most important CI tasks. In its attitude to the Labour Government the CPGB displayed some ideological and tactical deviations. In the forthcoming period the CPGB must concentrate its forces on the following questions:
(a) Inside the Labour Party, to support and drive forward its left wing so that it becomes a genuinely revolutionary wing, and to carry on most intensive work in the trade union Minority Movement;
(b) to combat MacDonald's so-called Labour Government among the masses, openly and unambiguously, by exposing its bourgeois anti-working-class character;
(c) at all by-elections and in the next election campaign to follow a clear, decisive, unambiguous communist line;
(d) to wage industrial struggles in such a way that the main emphasis is laid on the formation of united front bodies built from below (strike committees), factory committees . . .;
(e) the CPGB must conduct an active campaign to set up committees of action in the factories and unions, to exert pressure on the so-called Labour Government to carry out that part of its programme which it has dropped, namely the nationalization of the railways and mines, higher unemployment
benefits, more workers' housing, etc. Only if the CPGB exposes the treachery of the Labour Government in relation to the workers' daily needs will it be able to destroy their illusions about the so-called Labour Government . . .;
(f) particular attention must be given to contacts with the colonies, to supporting the national-revolutionary movements in the colonies, to militarism, disarmament, England's relations with the Soviet Union and imperialist France, and to the Dawes plan;
(g) the CPGB must also begin serious work to influence the unemployed. . . .
Congress notes with satisfaction the substantial successes of the French party . . .
but at the same time points to the necessity of carrying out the following tasks without delay:
(a) the building of a real party apparatus, without which a proletarian party cannot exist . . .;
(h) the party must do its utmost to get rid of the survivals of right-wing attitudes, bring the entire organization together under the Comintern banner, and set up a really capable, solid nucleus at the centre. Friction between the left and the former centre must be eliminated . . .;
(i) the international contacts of the French CP must be improved. Above all, permanent and unbroken relations with the KPD must be maintained;
(j) French heavy industry is becoming of steadily greater importance in imperialist conflicts and inter-imperialist relations. The CPF must wage a struggle against the growing influence of French heavy industry, particularly in connexion with the Experts' report, and in closest fighting collaboration with the KPD;
(k) the recruitment of class-conscious communist elements in the CGTU must be accelerated . . .;
(l) the CGTU leaders must adopt a clear position in the struggle against anarchism and vulgar syndicalism of the old type. In this struggle no concessions must be made to the false theory of 'neutrality'. . . .
The prospects for the German revolution, as outlined by the ECCI in the autumn of 1923, remain unchanged. It is not impossible that the victory of 'democraticpacifism' in England and in France will give a temporary access of strength to the
German bourgeoisie and German social-democracy.
. . . All this complicates the political situation in Germany and may mean a slowing down of development.
Nevertheless, by its very nature the international position of the German bourgeoisie and social-democracy remains hopeless. . . The internal crisis may come to a head very quickly. . . .
The party crisis has been surmounted. But to ensure that no trace of it survives and to avoid new dangers, the present Zentrale of the party must:
(a) Vigorously oppose any inclination to leave the social-democratic unions; oblige all party members without exception to carry out the decisions of the CI and the Frankfurt congress on the trade union question; reorganize the party on the basis
of factory cells, which will be a tremendous advantage to the party when it becomes illegal. . . .
The ECCI and all fraternal sections must give unreserved support to the present KPD Zentrale. Then the KPD will be able to overcome easily the right-wing tendencies which caused it such tremendous harm and which might here and there again arise.