ON THE UNITED FRONT
WORKERS AND ON THE ATTITUDE TO WORKERS BELONGING TO THE
SECOND, TWO-AND-A-HALF, AND AMSTERDAM INTERNATIONALS,
AND TO THOSE WHO SUPPORT ANARCHO-SYNDICALIST
ADOPTED BY THE ECCI
18 December 1921
Protokoll, iv, p. 1019
The international labour movement is passing at present through a peculiar transition stage, which presents both the Communist International as a whole and its individual sections with new and important tactical problems.
The chief characteristics of this stage are: The world economic crisis is growing more acute. Unemployment is increasing. In practically every country international capital has gone over to a systematic offensive against the workers, as shown primarily in the fairly open efforts of the capitalists to reduce wages and to lower the workers' entire standard of life. The bankruptcy of the Versailles peace has become ever more apparent to the broadest strata of the workers. The inevitability of a new
imperialist war, or even of several such wars, is clear, unless the international proletariat overthrows bourgeois rule. . . .
The 'democratic' and reformist illusions which, after the end of the imperialist slaughter, were reborn among the workers (the better-off workers on the one hand, and the most backward and politically inexperienced on the other) are fading before they reached full bloom. The 'labours' of the Washington conference will shake these illusions even more. If, six months ago, it was possible to speak with some justification of a general swing to the right among the working masses in Europe and America, there is no doubt that today, on the contrary, the beginning of a swing to the left can be observed.
On the other hand, under the influence of the mounting capitalist attack there has awakened among the workers a spontaneous striving toward unity which literally cannot be restrained, and which goes hand in hand with a gradual growth in the confidence placed by the broad working masses in the communists. . . .
Communist parties can and should now gather the fruits of the struggle which they waged earlier on when conditions were most unfavourable because of the indifference of the masses. But while the workers are coming to feel greater and greater confidence in the uncompromising and militant elements of the working class, in the communists, they are as a whole moved by an unprecedented urge towards unity. Those strata of the workers now awakening to active life but with little political experience are dreaming of the unification of all workers' parties and even of all workers' organizations in general, hoping by this means to increase their power of resisting the capitalists. . . .
Considerable sections belonging to the old social-democratic parties also are no longer content with the campaign of the socialdemocrats and centrists against the communist vanguard, and are beginning to demand an understanding with the communists. But at the same time they have not yet lost their belief in the reformists, and considerable masses still support the parties of the Second and the Amsterdam Internationals. These working masses do not formulate their plans and aspirations clearly enough, but by and large the new mood can be attributed to the desire to establish the united front and to attempt to bring about joint action by the parties and unions of the Second and Amsterdam Internationals with the communists against the capitalist attack. To that extent this mood is progressive. In essentials the belief in reformism has been undermined. In the general situation in which the labour movement now finds itself any serious mass action, even if it proceeds only from partial demands, inevitably brings to the
forefront more general and fundamental questions of the revolution. The communist vanguard can only gain if new sections of workers are convinced by their own experience of the illusory character of reformism and compromise.
In the early stage of germination of a conscious and organized pro-test against the treachery of the leaders of the Second International these latter had the entire apparatus of the workers' organizations in their hands. They ruthlessly used the
principle of unity and proletarian discipline to stifle the revolutionary proletarian protest and to eliminate any resistance to their placing the entire power of the workers' organizations at the service of national imperialism. In these circumstances the revolutionary wing was forced to win at any cost freedom of agitation and propaganda, i.e. freedom to explain to the working masses the unexampled historical
treachery committed and still being committed by the parties created by the working masses themselves.
Having secured organizational freedom to influence the working masses by their propaganda, the communist parties of all countries are now trying to achieve the broadest and most complete unity possible on practical action. The Amsterdamers and the heroes of the Second International preach this unity in words, but in their actions work against it. Having failed to suppress organizationally the voice of the proletariat and of revolutionary agitation, the reformist compromisers of
Amsterdam are now seeking a way out of the deadlock for which they themselves are responsible by initiating splits, by disorganizing and sabotaging the struggle of the working masses. It is at present one of the most important tasks of the
communist party to expose publicly these new forms of an old treachery.
Profound internal processes are however forcing the diplomats and leaders of the Second, Two-and-a-half, and Amsterdam Internationals to push the question of unity into the foreground. But while, for those sections of the working class with little experience who are only beginning to awaken to class-conscious life, the slogan of the united front expresses a most genuine and sincere desire to mobilize the forces of the oppressed classes against the capitalist onslaught, the leaders and
diplomats of these Internationals advance that slogan only in a new attempt to deceive the workers and to entice them by new means on to the old road of class collaboration. The approaching danger of a new imperialist war (Washington) , the
growth of armaments, the new imperialist secret treaties concluded behind closed doors—all this will not induce the leaders of the three Internationals to beat the alarm in order to bring about the international unification of the working class not only in words, but also in fact; on the contrary, it will provoke inevitable friction and division within the Second and Amsterdam Internationals, roughly of the same kind as that apparent in the camp of the international bourgeoisie. This phenomenon is inevitable because the solidarity of the reformist 'socialists' with the bourgeoisie of their 'own' countries is the cornerstone of reformism. . . .
Confronted by this situation, the ECCI is of the opinion that the slogan of the third world congress of the Communist International 'To the Masses', and the interests of the communist movement generally, require the communist parties and the Communist International as a whole to support the slogan of the united front of the workers and to take the initiative in this matter. The tactics of each communist party must of course be worked out concretely in relation to the conditions in each country.
In Germany the communist party at its last national conference supported the slogan of a workers' united front and declared its readiness to support a workers' government which was willing to take up with some seriousness the struggle against the power of the capitalists. The ECCI considers this decision completely right and is convinced that the KPD, while maintaining in full its independent political attitude, is in a position to permeate broad sections of the workers and strengthen the influence of communism on the masses. In Germany more than anywhere else the broad masses will be daily more convinced how right the communist vanguard were when at the most difficult time they did not want to lay down their arms and steadily emphasized the worthlessness of the reformist actions proposed, since the crisis could be resolved only by the proletarian revolution. By pursuing those tactics the party will in time also rally round itself the revolutionary elements among the anarchists and syndicalists who now stand aside from the mass struggle.
In France the communist party has a majority among the politically organized workers. Hence the united front question has a different bearing there from what it has in other countries. But even there it is necessary that the entire responsibility for the split in the united workers' camp should fall on our opponents. The revolutionary section of the French syndicalists are rightly fighting against a split in the French
unions, that is, fighting for the unity of the working class in the economic struggle against the bourgeoisie. But the workers' struggle does not stop in the factories.
Unity is necessary also in the face of growing reaction, of imperialist policies, etc.
The policy of the reformists and centrists, on the other hand, led to the split in the party and now also threatens the unity of the trade union movement, which shows that Jouhaux just like Longuet objectively serves the cause of the bourgeoisie. The
slogan of the united front of the proletariat in the economic and the political struggle against the bourgeoisie remains the best means of counteracting these splitting plans.
Even though the reformist CGT, led by Jouhaux, Merrheim and Co., betrays the interests of the French working class, French communists and the revolutionary elements among the French working class in general must, before every mass strike, every revolutionary demonstration, or any other revolutionary mass action, propose to the reformists support for such action, and if they refuse to support the revolutionary struggle of the workers they must be exposed. This will be the easiest way of winning the non-party working masses. In no circumstances, of course, must the Communist Party of France allow its independence to be restricted, e.g. by supporting the 'left bloc' during election campaigns, or behave tolerantly towards those vacillating communists who still bemoan the break with the social-patriots.
In England the reformist Labour Party has rejected communist party affiliation although other workers' organizations are accepted. Under the influence of the growing desire among the workers for the united front, the London workers' organizations recently passed a resolution in favour of the affiliation of the CPGB to the Labour Party.
England is of course in this respect an exception because as a result of peculiar circumstances the English Labour Party is a kind of general workers' association for the entire country. It is the task of the English communists to begin a vigorous campaign for their acceptance by the Labour Party. The recent treachery of the union leaders during the miners' strike, the systematic capitalist pressure on wages, etc. have stirred up a deep ferment among the English proletariat, who are becoming
more revolutionary. English communists should make every effort, using the slogan of the revolutionary united front against the capitalists, to penetrate at all costs deep into the working masses.
In Italy the young communist party is beginning to conduct its agitation according to the slogan of the proletarian united front against the capitalist offensive, although it is most irreconcilably opposed to the reformist Italian Socialist Party and the social-traitor labour confederation, which recently put the finishing touch to their open treachery to the proletarian revolution. The ECCI considers this agitation by the Italian communists completely correct and insists only that it shall
be intensified. The ECCI is convinced that with sufficient foresight the CP of Italy can give an example to the entire International of militant Marxism which mercilessly exposes at every step the half-heartedness and the treachery of the
reformists and centrists who clothed themselves in the mantle of communism, and at the same time conduct an untiring and ever-mounting campaign among ever broader masses for the united front of the workers against the bourgeoisie.
The party must of course do its utmost to draw all the revolutionary elements among the anarchists and syndicalists into the common struggle. . . .
... ... ...
In a number of other countries the position differs according to different local circumstances. Having made the general line clear, the ECCI is sure that the individual communist parties will know how to apply that line in accordance with the conditions prevailing in each country.
The principal conditions which are equally categorical for communist parties in all countries are, in the view of the ECCI
. . .
the absolute independence of every communist party which enters into an agreement with the parties of the Second and
the Two-and-a-half Internationals, its complete freedom to put forward its own views and to criticize the opponents of communism. While accepting a basis for action, communists must retain the unconditional right and the possibility of
expressing their opinion of the policy of all working-class organizations without exception, not only before and after action has been taken but also, if necessary, during its course. In no circumstances can these rights be surrendered. While
supporting the slogan of the greatest possible unity of all workers' organizations in every practical action against the capitalist front, communists may in no circumstances desist from putting forward their views, which are the only consistent expression of the defence of working-class interests as a whole.
The ECCI considers it useful to remind all brother parties of the experiences of the Russian Bolsheviks, that party which up to now is the only one that has succeeded in winning victory over the bourgeoisie and taking power into its hands.
During the fifteen years (1903-1917) which elapsed between the birth of bolshevism and its triumph over the bourgeoisie, it did not cease to wage a tireless struggle against reformism or, what is the same thing, menshevism. But at the same time the
Bolsheviks often came to an understanding with the Mensheviks during those fifteen years. The formal break with the Mensheviks took place in the spring of 1905, but at the end of 1905, influenced by the stormy developments in the workers' movement, the Bolsheviks formed a common front with the Mensheviks . . . and these unifications and semi-unifications happened not only in accordance with changes in the fractional struggle, but also under the direct pressure of the working masses who were awakening to active political life and demanded the opportunity of testing by their own experience whether the menshevik path really deviated in fundamentals
from the road of revolution.
. . .
The Russian Bolsheviks did not reply to the desire of the workers for unity with a renunciation of the united front. On the contrary. As a counterweight to the diplomatic game of the menshevik leaders the Russian Bolsheviks put forward the slogan of 'unity from below', that is, unity of the working masses in the practical struggle for the revolutionary demands of the workers against the capitalists. Events showed that this was the only correct answer.
And as a result of those tactics, which changed according to time, place, and circumstance, a large number of the best Menshevik workers were won for communism.
While the Communist International puts forward the slogan of the workers' united front and permits agreements between the various sections of the International and the parties and unions of the Second and Two-and-a-half Internationals, it can itself obviously not reject similar understandings at the international level. The ECCI made a proposal to the Amsterdam International in connexion with relief action for the Russian famine. It repeated this proposal in connexion with the white terror and the persecution of workers in Spain and Yugoslavia. The ECCI is now making a further proposal to the Amsterdam, Second, and Two-and-a-half Internationals, in connexion with the opening of the Washington conference which has shown that the international working class is threatened by a new imperialist slaughter. Up to now the leaders of these Internationals have shown by their conduct that in fact they ignore their unity slogan when it comes to practical action. In all such cases it will be the task of the Communist International as a whole and of all its sections separately to explain to the broad working masses the hypocrisy of these leaders who prefer unity with the bourgeoisie to unity with the revolutionary workers, and who, for example, by remaining in the International Labour Office of the League of Nations, form part of the Washington imperialist conference instead of organizing the struggle against imperialist Washington. But though the leaders of the Second, Twoand- a-half, and Amsterdam Internationals reject one or another practical proposal put forward by the Communist International, that will not persuade us to give up the united front tactic, which has deep roots in the masses and which we must systematically
and steadily develop. Whenever the offer of a joint struggle is rejected by our opponents the masses must be informed of this and thus learn who are the real destroyers of the workers' united front. Whenever an offer is accepted by our opponents every effort must be made gradually to intensify the struggle and to develop it to its highest power. In either case it is essential to capture the attention of the broad working masses, to interest them in all stages of the struggle for the revolutionary united front.
In putting forward the present plan, the ECCI directs the attention of all brother parties to the dangers which it may in certain circumstances entail. Not all communist parties are sufficiently strong and firm, not all have broken completely
with the centrist and semi-centrist ideology. Some may overstep the mark, there may be tendencies which would amount in fact to the dissolution of communist parties and groups into the united but formless bloc. To carry out the new tactics successfully for the communist cause it is necessary for the communist parties who put them into operation to be strong and firmly welded together, and for their leaders to possess great theoretical clarity.
Within the Communist International itself, there are two tendencies among the groups which may with more or less reason be classed as right or even semicentrist.
One has not really broken with the ideology and methods of the Second International, has not emancipated itself completely from reverence for its former numerical strength, and, half-consciously or unconsciously, is looking for a path of intellectual understanding with the Second International and consequently with bourgeois society. Other elements, who are opposed to formal radicalism, to the mistakes of the so-called 'left', are anxious to give the tactics of the young communist party greater flexibility and manoeuvrability, in order to ensure for it the possibility of more rapid penetration among the masses.
The rapid development of the communist parties has occasionally thrust both apparently into the same camp, to some extent into the same group. The use of the methods noted above, which are designed to provide a prop for communist agitation
in the united mass actions of the proletariat, is the best way of exposing the really reformist tendencies within the communist parties and if rightly used will contribute in a high degree to their internal revolutionary consolidation, both by educating the impatient and sectarian elements through experience, as well as by ridding the parties of reformist ballast.
The united front of the workers means the united front of all workers who want to fight against capitalism, which includes those who still follow the anarchists, syndicalists, etc. In many countries such workers can help in the revolutionary struggle. From the first days of its existence the Communist International has taken a friendly line to these workers, who are gradually overcoming their prejudices and drawing nearer to communism. Communists must pay even greater attention to them now, when the united front of the workers against the capitalists is becoming a reality.
In order to give definite form to future work on the lines laid down, the ECCI resolves to convene a meeting of the Executive in the near future at which the parties will be represented by double the usual number of members.
The ECCI will follow carefully every practical step taken in the field under discussion, and asks every party to inform the Executive of every attempt and every success, giving full factual details.