LETTER

FROM THE ECCI TO ALL
ORGANIZATIONS AND MEMBERS OF THE GERMAN COMMUNIST PARTY

20 August 1925

Inprekorr, v, 128, p. 1863, 4 September 1925

EXTRACTS

 



 

 

 

 


During the last session of the enlarged Executive in March-April 1925, and shortly afterwards, we discussed fully with the representatives of the KPD the questions on which, in our opinion, party work showed the greatest defects. The most important question—the question of the German party—
was then and is now the problem of increasing the recruiting strength of our party, the problem of winning the masses, and particularly the social-democratic masses. ...
It was from this standpoint also that we considered other questions, such as . . . work in the trade unions, convincing the social-democratic workers, normalization of party life . . . (which is itself a prerequisite for the correct attitude to the nonparty masses), the liquidation of the concealed struggle against the International (liquidation of the practice of sending so-called independent emissaries to other parties). . . .
Before the [tenth KPD] congress the representatives of the Executive discussed matters once more with the German delegation . . . the three most important subjects were:

 

First:

the Executive pointed out that the leading Ruth Fischer-Maslow group showed some right-wing deviations, too great an emphasis on parliament, etc.

 

Second:

it was decided to make a real change in the trade union question, and, to advertise this, to elect at the congress a strong and capable trade union department, or to instruct the new party centre to do so.

 

Third:

the representatives of the Executive insisted that fresh and capable personnel should be elected to the central committee, particularly comrades familiar with trade union work, including some oppositional comrades. . . .
Subsequently the Executive was consulted three times about the composition of the central committee, and three times gave its advice.
At the congress these decisions were for the most part not carried out. Comrade Ruth Fischer's group not merely sabotaged the decisions, but instigated such treatment of the Executive's delegates that they were compelled to make a statement on it. At the close of the congress an offer of alliance with the Scholem-Rosenberg group against the Executive was silently accepted. . . .
This caused a severe crisis. The first delegation which came to us with the instruction to ask the Executive to disavow its delegates was forced to admit, after a vigorous discussion, that the Executive was right. The entire delegation declared that it considered the ECCI's criticism correct, and the speeches of the ECCI delegation correct. . . .
The second delegation was divided. Comrade Ruth Fischer at first fought against the ECCI's criticism, but after long discussion in the ECCI commission, at which representatives of all the important parties were present, she too made a statement recognizing the correctness of the ECCI's criticism. . . .

 

I.

THE GENERAL SITUATION

 

The world political situation can be described as very critical. Despite the relative stabilization in central Europe, the most important contradictions of present-day capitalism show a high degree of tension. The rapid growth of the Soviet Union and
the decline in England, the successes of the international red united front. . . and the unprecedented accentuation of the colonial and semi-colonial liberation struggles . . .
the concentration of imperialist forces against the Soviet Union ... all these are signs that the situation is becoming more acute.
A most important phenomenon is Germany's new orientation to the West. This gives rise to a change in popular attitudes, and is to some extent reflected among the least class-conscious sections of the proletariat.
Two processes can be observed among the German working class:

first, a new wave of sympathy for the Soviet Union; social-democratic workers are beginning to move towards communism, although not directly towards the communist party. . . .
Secondly, there are growing among corrupted sections of the working class socalled 'anti-Muscovite' tendencies, which reflect the new orientation of the bourgeoisie. This process is in fact to be found also in the KPD. The so-called ultraleft
tendency is often only a cover for social-democratic . . . sentiments which threaten to turn into direct treachery to the international working class. Both these processes are international in character and therefore particularly important. . . .
The Ruth Fischer-Maslow group did not understand the need to fight energetically against the 'ultra-left' but actually anti-communist tendencies, and even supported them by playing a highly ambiguous part on international questions.

 

 

2.

TRADE UNION WORK, THE COMINTERN, AND THE LEADING PARTYCENTRE
GROUP

 

These defects of leadership were most obvious in the trade union question. As early as the Frankfurt congress in 1924 . . . marked differences arose between the Executive and the new German party leadership on this question. . . .

The failure to understand the importance of trade union work meant that for months on end the decisions of the Comintern were inadequately carried out by the Maslow-Fischer group. A confidential telegram from the Executive [central committee] after the Frankfurt congress was circularized to all district secretaries in order to incite them to protest against the Executive; not enough was done before the fifth world
congress to combat anti-trade union propaganda in the party.
The fifth world congress put the slogan of international trade union unity on the order of the day for the first time. It considered this the basic element of our entire bolshevik strategy. ... At the fifth congress the German delegation led by Ruth Fischer at first opposed the Executive's proposal. Their
attack concealed the charge that the struggle for trade union unity was only a 'move in Russian foreign policy', an attempt to establish better relations with MacDonald's social-democratic Government.
Long negotiations were necessary to convince the delegation of the baselessness of their policy. The charge that the fight for trade union unity was part of a diplomatic game being played by Russian foreign policy can be explained only by the basically anti-bolshevik, social-democratic mentality of the leading group. The same charge was made by MacDonald himself and all English and international social-traitors to discredit the struggle for trade union unity. . . .
Thus the severe losses which our party has suffered in recent years in all spheres of trade union work were multiplied. At the ADGB congress in 1922 the opposition had 88 delegates; this year there were only two. We have lost a number of trade
union branches and local union posts. Our ideological influence on the 80 per cent.
and more of the members of the free German unions not organized in political parties has dropped steeply. . . .
We have already mentioned that comrade Ruth Fischer's group frivolously dissolved the former trade union department of our party centre. The explicit promise of the representatives of the centre to propose, at the tenth party congress, the formation of a new and strong trade union department, was not kept. . . .

 

3.

THE ATTITUDE TO THE COMMUNIST INTERNATIONAL

 

Broad political tendencies within the working class are not without their influence on the party of the proletarian revolutionary vanguard. . . .

The vacillations and treacheries of certain groups of workers influenced by the bourgeois campaign against Moscow are reflected in 'anti-Muscovite' tendencies within our party, that is, tendencies directed against the Soviet Union, against the RCP, and against the Comintern.
This danger is greater in the KPD because all the present tendencies and shades within it are still without exception strongly influenced by social-democratic, 'West- European' traditions.
Every deviation in communist policy in Germany has begun with an attack on Soviet Russia, the RCP, and the Comintern. The seven-years' experience of the German revolution has made it clear that all such deviations, whether masked as left or right, lead straight towards social-democracy or to an alliance with it. . . .
The change in the political situation, the final turn of the German bourgeoisie towards the West, the social-democrats' intense anti-Russian campaign, make the present danger of anti-bolshevik deviations in the KPD greate and more acute than ever before.
The ultra-left group of Scholem, Rosenberg, Katz, who accuse the Comintern and its most important parties of opportunism, have not only nothing in common with Leninism; in their attitude to the Comintern and to the problems of the German
revolution, they have an explicitly anti-bolshevik character. Dangerous socialdemocratic deviations . . . are also to be found among the leading members of the Fischer-Maslow group....
Comrade Maslow's ideology is not only in tactical contradiction to Leninism; the contradiction is also one of principle. It is one of the roots of the resistance within the KPD to Comintern tactics. It is one of the roots of the failure of the leading
group of the German Zentrale over many years to understand trade union work, the core of our policy. . . .
Since the third world congress the attitude of comrade Maslow's group to the Comintern has been incorrect, unbolshevik. At the Jena congress this group opposed the views of Lenin and the Executive .. . they expressed every possible misgiving and reservation about the Comintern's united front tactics and the slogan of a workers' and peasants' government. . . . During the past year comrade Ruth Fischer, despite the protest of the Executive, sent emissaries to several sections of the Comintern, whose 'mission' it was to change the Executive's tactics by fractional means. The result of these journeys was to discredit and alienate the German party among the fraternal sections of the Comintern. . . .
The entire German party, and above all the best comrades of the German left in all party organizations and districts, are in duty bound to do their utmost to break the unbolshevik system of the party's attitude to the Comintern encouraged by the
Maslow-Ruth Fischer group. . . .
Events since the Frankfurt congress have shown that in all disputed questions the Comintern was completely right as against the Maslow-Ruth Fischer group. It was right about united front tactics and the trade union question. It was also right on the question of the presidential elections. . . .
We are firmly convinced that the communist workers of Germany will quickly recognize that the Comintern is absolutely right in the present struggle about the inner-party line of the KPD, about its attitude to the Comintern and to the German
working masses, about its attitude to Leninist theory, while the Maslow-Ruth Fischer group are absolutely wrong on all these questions.

 

4.

THE INNER-PARTY LINE

 


The leading group in the party Zentrale were incapable of devising measures which gave them access to the masses. And they could not do so because their internal party policy was incorrect.
As already mentioned, questions of inner party life were discussed fully with representatives of the German Zentrale at the meeting of the enlarged Executive. The Executive representatives pointed out that ultra-centralism, mechanical pressure, administrative methods, the absence of propaganda and of methods of persuasion in general, fear of new forces, etc., were bound to have damaging effects. At that discussion it was decided to strengthen inner-party democracy. . . .

We believe that without these internal reforms the party will be unable to pursue a correct policy among the masses. Consequently the Executive demanded these reforms to 'normalize party life'. At the Executive the German delegation, with comrade Ruth Fischer at their head, accepted these proposals. . . .
But the German party congress was organized and conducted in such a way that despite all the promises made the exact opposite was achieved. Although there are strong groups on the wings of the party (ultra-left and right), this fact found no
reflection whatever at the congress. There was no political discussion, since the delegates had decided beforehand what they were going to say; freedom of discussion was annulled at the congress itself, the highest party instance. . . .
What is lacking in the party is control from below, that is, from the party membership. At the same time the leading group continue to fight against control from above, that is, by the Comintern Executive. This has created a situation in which all sense of responsibility is lost, which has had a number of intolerable results.
With such a structure it is impossible for the party to develop its recruiting powers. With such a system the party itself is being ruined. The system must be broken, in order to avoid a still greater crisis, which would have really catastrophic
results.

 

5.

THE DANGER OF LACK OF PRINCIPLE

 

Practical bolshevism consists, inter alia, in acting on theoretically valid and honestly-thought-out political lines. Among the Maslow-Fischer group, however, innate convictions and subjective appraisal of the situation are in glaring conflict
with the accepted line. They are at bottom profoundly pessimistic: there are no revolutionary perspectives; on the contrary, the masses are completely passive, they flee from the daily reality and play at being soldiers, etc. It is impossible to win them over. The Comintern, however, 'demands' that the masses be won over. Hence the ambiguity in the actions of this leading group. Pessimism is connected with flirting with the ultra-left. The demands of the International are met by recognition on paper, and by the attempt to fulfil them without any belief in the possibility of their fulfilment. Hence the vacillating position and political instability of this group,
accompanied by the worst kind of diplomatic attitudes in their relations with the Comintern, , . .

 

6.

THE TASKS OF THE PARTY

 

Criticism of the mistakes of the group who have up to now led the party will be of real and lasting use only if it leads to a better and more resolute fulfilment of the party's positive tasks in winning the masses.
At the present time the most important task of the party is to respond promptly and actively to the political regrouping which is beginning to take place within the German working class. The most significant phenomenon in recent months has been
the beginning of resistance among broad working masses to the 'westward orientation', that is, to the going-over of the bourgeoisie to the side of the Entente imperialists, resistance to the leadership of the Second International; these working
masses are turning to the Soviet Union and—although by roundabout ways—to the proletarian revolution. Without exaggerating the importance or speed of this development, the party must place these new phenomena at the centre of its
attention, carefully follow their development, and pay due regard to them in all its practical political activities.
What it all comes down to is that the party must greatly improve its recruiting work. ...
The way to reach the best part of the German social democratic workers is to take up the fight against those excesses which had their origin in the time when the struggle was being waged with arms in hand. Great harm is done to the workingclass
cause, for example, when communists and social-democrats come to blows; this still happens, and the communists are not without blame, as well as the socialdemocrats.
These fights are grist to the mill of the counter-revolutionary leaders of German social-democracy, who of course deliberately stir them up. Communists must take the initiative in putting an end to these fights, and this naturally requires the good will of the social-democratic workers. . . .
The drive towards trade union unity must be embodied, as rapidly as possible, in a trade union left wing, as it is in England. That is the next step forward which the German party must take. . . .

The serious intention of the party leadership to make
this the basic task of the party must be demonstrated in the formation of a strong trade union department at the KPD centre.
What is the significance for the communist party, in a country like Germany, of winning influence in the trade unions? It means, above all, winning influence over the organized workers in factory, mine, workshop, and railway, in all industrial
undertakings. Only those communist workers can have substantial influence in the German unions to-day who have influence in the factory. But it is precisely in the factories that communist influence has recently grown weaker, and we should not conceal this fact. We must grasp the simple truth that in the long run the struggle between communism and social-democracy for influence over the masses will be decided at
factory level. . . .
Of the greatest importance, in addition to reform of the internal party line and reorganization on the basis of factory cells, is the rapid building up of a system of truly bolshevik party fractions, working with initiative, in all workers' organizations without exception, wherever there are communists. . . .

 

7.

WHY MUST THE PARTY BE REORGANIZED NOW, AND QUICKLY?

 

Many comrades will ask why a change in the KPD leadership has become essential 'so suddenly'; in fact there is nothing 'sudden' about the differences which have arisen between the Executive and the Ruth Fischer group. These differences have been apparent throughout the last eighteen months, and have grown steadily more acute until they have reached the present stage, which is intolerable for the party and the International. The Executive warned the leading group more than once against persisting in their deviations. . . .

The Berlin congress, and the events immediately following, finally made it clear that the Executive's hopes of settling the differences by the usual forms of co-operation were unfounded. The attacks by comrades Fischer and Maslow make it urgently necessary to place the German party question openly before the entire membership. . . .
We repeat that it is not the German left which is bankrupt, but a few of its leaders.
With all its mistakes in the past and the present, the German left is not merely a group of individuals. It has a great historical mission to perform. It drew the lessons of October 1923, defeated Brandlerism; it united the torn party at the hour of its most severe crisis. . . .
The chief defects are to be sought not in the healthy proletarian party membership; it is those at the very top who have failed. Great new tasks confront the party. The situation is developing not against us, but for us. In the last few months
the class struggle in Germany has been moving on an ascending line.
Only if the entire party recognizes the signs of the times, becomes aware of itself and its own strength, of the Communist International and the invincible might of the
German working class, can it surmount the crisis and lead the German proletariat to victory. But if it does so, victory is certain.

 

 

[The letter was signed by members of the ECCI, the nine members of the KPD delegation in Moscow, and the central committee of the KPD.]


 

 

Comintern

III. International