THESES ON THE BOLSHEVIZATION OF
COMMUNIST PARTIES ADOPTED AT THE FIFTH ECCI PLENUM
Inprekorr, v, 77 , p. 1017 , 11 May 1925
FORMULATION OF THE QUESTION
The Resolution of the Second World Congress on the Role of the Party
The resolution of the second world congress of the Comintern on the role of the party in the proletarian revolution ... retains its full significance today. It was drafted at a time when the Comintern was being established . . . and outlined the role of the party in the proletarian revolution in general.
Now, when the Communist International has taken definite shape . . . and mass communist parties have arisen in a number of countries, it has become necessary to formulate the ideas of the Communist International not only about the role of the
communist party in general in the proletarian revolution, but also about what must be done if our parties are to become bolshevik parties, in the fullest sense of the word, in the shortest possible time.
It should not be forgotten that in 1919-20 we had parties in Germany and Italy which were part of the Comintern, but they were not equal to the demands which history made on them, despite the tremendous spontaneous surge of the mass
movement, precisely because they were not out-and-out bolshevik parties.
The Slowing Down of World Revolution and the Slogan of Bolshevization
Already at the time of the third world congress of the Comintern it was becoming clear that we were approaching a slowing-down phase in the development of the world revolution.
. . . This gives the slogan of bolshevization not less, but more
A bolshevik is not one who joins the party at the height of the revolutionary flood, but one who knows how to go on for years, if necessary for decades, building up the party even when the tide is ebbing and revolutionary development slows down...
A bolshevik party does not come into existence by itself when the revolutionary wave reaches its climax. It takes part in every struggle and builds itself up over the years in the course of these struggles. . . .
The communist party must be elastic enough to be able to make the transition to illegality in good order, should circumstances require it, without getting into a panic; legality should not be lightly surrendered, however, and legal must be combined
with illegal work, and every legal foothold utilized by the party to break through the constraints of illegality and place itself at the head of open mass movements to prepare the revolution. . . .
Right-Wing Dangers and Ultra-Left Deviations
The slogan of bolshevization arose in the struggle against the right danger. . . .
The correct slogan of the third world congress, 'To the masses', was so wrongly applied in a number of countries over the past two years that there was a real danger of independent communist tactics being replaced by a policy of communist
'coalition' with the counterrevolutionary social-democracy. . . .
But bolshevization is impossible without a simultaneous struggle against ultra-left tendencies, which are frequently only the obverse of opportunism.
. . . The mistakes of the ultra-left, for example in regard to communist participation in reformist and reactionary unions, could destroy communist parties for years to come. . . .
Communist Parties and Bolshevik Parties
In themselves communism, Marxism, and bolshevism are one and the same.
'Communist party' and 'bolshevik party' are, in themselves, identical concepts. In practice, however, they are not always one and the same. Some important sections of the Comintern still have to complete the development from left
social-democracy (and in some cases from anarcho-syndicalist ideology) to genuine communism. . . .
Bolshevization and the Conditions of Struggle
It should not be thought that there is one panacea which can be applied uniformly in the bolshevization of all Comintern parties. True bolshevization requires careful consideration of the concrete circumstances of time and place. . . .
Bolshevization of the Comintern sections means studying and applying in practice the experience of the RCP in the three Russian revolutions, and of course the experience of other sections which have serious struggles behind them.
. . . But it would be the greatest mistake to transfer Russia's experience mechanically to other countries, a mistake against which Lenin uttered a warning. There is much in the experience of the Russian revolution which Lenin considered of general significance for other countries. . . .
Bolshevization is the application of the general principles of Leninism to the concrete situation of the given country. ... It is a permanent and continuing process which has only just started in the best European parties of the Comintern. The work still to be done in this direction is tremendous, and will require a number of years to accomplish.
MARXISM AND LENINISM
VI. Marxism and Leninism
In the present epoch the sections of the Comintern can become really communist parties only if they rally under the banner of Leninism.
It goes without saying that Leninism cannot be in any way opposed to Marxism....
There is no Leninism without Marxism. But Leninism has enriched Marxism with the experiences of the three Russian revolutions and with the experience of a number of other revolutionary movements...
Above all, Leninism has enriched the general theory of Marxism by mastering the following problems:
1. The theory of imperialism and the proletarian revolution;
2. The conditions and forms of realizing the dictatorship of the proletariat;
3. The interrelationships between proletariat and peasantry;
4. The significance of the national question in general;
5. The special significance of national movements in colonial and semi-colonial countries for the proletarian world revolution;
6. The role of the party;
7. The tactics of the proletariat in the epoch of imperialist wars;
8. The role of the proletarian State in the transition period;
9. The Soviet regime as the concrete type of the proletarian State in this period;
10. The problem of social stratification within the proletariat as a source of the division in the workers' movement into opportunist and revolutionary tendencies;
11. The struggle against right-wing social-democratic tendencies and also against left deviations in the communist movement. . . .
The idea that Marxism is only theory, and Leninism only practice, is false.
Leninism is the theory and practice of Marxism in the period of imperialism, of imperialist wars and proletarian revolutions ushered in by the proletarian dictatorship in Russia. . . .
Bolshevization and Revolutionary Traditions
Bolshevization does not mean abandoning the legacy of previous generations of revolutionaries. The study of the history of the revolutionary struggles of their own and other countries is absolutely essential for all bolshevik parties. . . .
Bolshevization and some Theoretical Mistakes in the Communist Camp
(particularly the Mistakes of the Luxemburgians)
Mastery of Leninism and its practical application in building communist parties is impossible unless attention is paid to the errors of some prominent Marxists who tried, but not quite successfully, to apply Marxism to the conditions of the new
These include the errors of the 'left' communists in Russia, the group of Dutch Marxists (Gorter and Pannekoek), and also the errors of Rosa Luxemburg. The closer these political leaders stand to Leninism, the more dangerous are their views in those respects in which they do not coincide with Leninism. . . . Among the most important mistakes of the Luxemburgians of practical significance today are:
(a) the unbolshevik treatment of the question of 'spontaneity' and 'consciousness', of 'organization' and 'the masses'. Their false ideas on this question . . . prevented them from appraising correctly the role of the party in the revolution;
(b) underestimation of the technical factor in preparing insurrections was, and is in part today, an obstacle to the correct treatment of the question of 'organizing' the
(c) mistakes in regard to the attitude to the peasantry. . . .
A 'tolerant' attitude towards theoretical deviations, etc., makes genuine bolshevization impossible.
. . . Mastery of the theory of Leninism is essential to
Trotskyism is a particularly dangerous deviation from Leninism; it is a variety of menshevism combining 'European' opportunism with 'left-radical' phrases which frequently conceal its politically passive character. Trotskyism is not an isolated
deviation towards menshevism, but a yearlong system of struggle against Leninism.
Nor is Trotskyism a purely Russian phenomenon; it is international in character. To achieve Leninism in the Comintern means to expose Trotskyism in all parties and to
liquidate it as a tendency.
BOLSHEVIZATION AND WINNING THE MAJORITY OF THE WORKING CLASS
IX. Bolshevization and the Slogan: 'To the Masses'
... A bolshevik is, above all, a man of the masses. The slogan of the third world congress, 'To the masses', remains in full force. Far from removing this slogan from the order of the day, the fifth world congress gave it a deeper and broader meaning.
X. Bolshevization and Trade Union Work Deviations in communist trade union work involve the greatest dangers for the cause of true bolshevization of the parties. Throughout the capitalist world trade unions are the most important form of the mass organization of the proletariat. . . .
Work in the existing social-democratic and other (yellow, national-socialist, confessional, and fascist) trade unions is a most important and integral part of bolshevization, to which a hundred times more attention than before must be devoted.
Only in this way can the monopoly of the reformist leaders (the labour aristocracy) in the unions be broken. Only in this way can the unions be liberated from the disintegrating influence of reformism, which seeks to undermine the unions as a reliable instrument of the class struggle. The same, of course, applies to factory committees where they exist. . . .
Communists will increase their influence and gain authority among the working masses by backing all immediate demands for higher wages and the eight-hour day, by conducting a fight against unemployment, by placing themselves courageously at
the head of all conflicts with the employers. . . .
Bolshevization and Correct United Front Tactics
Bolshevization of the parties of the Comintern presupposes the application of united front tactics.
. . . United front tactics were and remain nothing other than a method of revolutionary agitation and organization of the
masses, that is, the correct communist approach to the broad working masses in the given stage of development, when in a number of countries social-democracy is still supported by the majority of workers....
The struggle for the unity of the international trade union movement supported by the Comintern will fill the next few years... .
The time is not far off when this question will become the most
burning one for every union in every country. . . .
Bolshevization and Partial Demands
... Bolsheviks make use of every partial demand to explain to the masses the necessity of revolution, to show the masses, by the concrete facts of the case, the impossibility of even a moderately serious and lasting, let alone fundamental,
improvement in their position so long as the power of capital is maintained.
At the same time the communists demonstrate to the masses in the light of experience that it is precisely the reformists who sabotage every serious struggle for partial demands, while it is the communist party which is alone able to lead a consistent struggle for the day-to-day interests of the working masses and ward off attacks on their standard of living.
Bolsheviks place every concrete demand to which the workers rally in the perspective of the fight for the revolution. . . .
Work among Those Belonging to the Second and the Amsterdam Internationals
In the majority of countries the Second and the Amsterdam Internationals still unite in their ranks, in one way or another, considerable strata of workers. The bolshevization of our own parties involves the imperative task of constant work among those proletarians who still belong to these hostile organizations. . . .
Bolshevization and the Youth Movement
Communist parties still do not pay enough attention to work among young people. Even in the largest communist parties there are dozens of organizations which have not formed local communist youth groups.
One of the tasks of bolshevization is to win over the youth of the entire world without exception. . . .
Bolshevization and Work among Women
. . . The enlarged Executive of the Comintern notes that our work in this field is extremely unsatisfactory. Drawing proletarian women into active work and struggle is a precondition of winning over to our side the majority of the working class. . . .
Work among Unemployed
Communist parties throughout the world must devote the most serious attention to work among the unemployed. With the attitude of the bourgeoisie and socialdemocracy to the millions of unemployed what it is . . .we can win decisive influence among this stratum of the proletariat.
Bolshevization and our Press
We cannot tolerate a situation in which, as in Berlin, Paris, and Milan, for example, we have a relatively large number of communist voters and a relatively small number of constant readers of our press. . . .
Bolshevization requires that our press should become a popular press in the best sense of the word; that is, it should be found in every worker's home and read by everyone who sympathizes with us. . .
BOLSHEVIZATION AND THE QUESTION OF THE ALLIES OF THE
PROLETARIAT IN THE REVOLUTION
The Allies of the Proletariat in the Revolution
The principles underlying the attitude of communists to the petty bourgeoisie as a possible ally of the proletariat in the revolution have been explained with exhaustive clarity in the classical works of Marx, Engels, and Lenin. . . .
It is a basic task of Leninism to provide a precise and concrete answer to the question, what intermediate strata at any given stage of revolutionary development are capable of becoming allies of the proletariat, what are the demands which in the
given situation will unite them with the proletariat.
Precisely because Leninism puts the question of the proletarian dictatorship as a practical item on the agenda of history, it places the question of potential allies of the working class in the revolution in the foreground as one of the most important
tactical problems of the day.
By and large Leninism divides the petty bourgeoisie into three groups: certain strata of the petty bourgeoisie can and must be won as direct allies, if only temporarily; other strata we must manage to neutralize; a third group (the upper ranks of the urban and rural petty bourgeoisie) will inevitably have to be fought outright. . . .
Bolshevization and Proletarian Policy towards the Peasantry
The bolshevik party is an industrial-workers' party. The doctrine of the proletarian dictatorship is the basic tenet of bolshevism. Nevertheless the question of the peasantry as the class closest to the working class and the most important of the potential allies of the proletariat in the revolution is of cardinal importance for bolshevism, both before and after the seizure of political power by the proletariat. . . .
Bolshevization and Proletarian Policy on the National Question
The national question in colonial and semi-colonial countries— and not only in these—is very largely a peasant question, since the majority of the population there are peasants. . . .
The experience of the last few years has shown that in different countries, in different situations, communists have again and again made the mistake of underestimating the national question, a mistake which deprives them of the
opportunity of winning over substantial, at times decisive, strata of the population... .
THE CONCRETE TASKS OF THE VARIOUS PARTIES
XXI. The Immediate Practical Tasks of the Various Parties
For the Soviet Union: here the task of bolshevization at the present time consists primarily in the following:
1. The final liquidation of Trotskyism as a tendency within the party....
2. To take all measures to carry out the wholly correct. . . policy of the party in the peasant question, to develop systematically (with the help of the dictatorship) the elements of socialist economy, and so strengthen the economic basis of the proletarian dictatorship and the transformation of Russia from a country of the 'new economic policy' into a socialist country.
For the English communist party, which is now having its first considerable successes in its development into a mass party, the central task of bolshevization consists in:
1. Work in the trade unions. Particular attention for the Minority Movement. . . .
2. Agitation against the imperialist sentiments of the English labour aristocracy....
3. The creation of a firmly centralized party organization and liquidation of dilettante methods of work.
4. Systematic application of united front tactics.
In France at the present time bolshevization consists in:
1. The campaign for trade union unity. . . .
3. Closest contact between the party and the CGTU at any cost on the basis of the principles and tactics laid down by the CI.
4. Despite all earlier French traditions, the creation of a firmly organized mass communist party . . .
8. Anti-militarist propaganda. . . .
10. Energetic work in the colonies.
Germany: Here bolshevization consists in the first place of the following tasks:
1. Liquidation of 'left' errors in regard to trade unions. . . .
3. Application of united front tactics. . . .
4. Greater attention to winning the masses organizationally. . . .
7. Propagation of the slogan 'workers' and peasants' government' as interpreted by the fifth congress, that is, in its revolutionary sense. . . .
8. To take all steps to secure the normal and healthy internal development of the party, and to eradicate the effects of the previous fractional struggle, to guard party unity from any new fractionalism. . . .
1. To increase still further the organizational influence of the party on the broadest strata of the workers, breaking through the restrictions of illegality imposed on the party by fascism. . . .
4. To begin systematic work to create, consolidate, and capture the factory committees.
5. To penetrate the countryside more deeply. . . .
6. To pay greater attention to Marxist ideology.
7. To fight against all ideological deviations, against Bordiga's theoretical and tactical ideas, and against Graziadei's revision of Marxist economic theory. . . .
Bolshevization and Anti-Monarchist Agitation
It is incorrect to refrain from anti-monarchist agitation on the ground that even under a monarchy it is the bourgeoisie who rule. Communists must put forward the slogan 'Down with the Monarchy' in England, Italy, the Balkans, etc. In Germany,
too, communists must know how to combine their anti-monarchist agitation with the day-to-day political and economic struggle. . . .
The Numerical Growth of a Number of Parties: Illegal Parties
In a number of countries—France, Germany, England, Czechoslovakia, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Holland, and America — communist parties are today working in conditions in which the size of their membership could be and must be considerably
increased. . . .
Those parties which are forced to work illegally must use every means to extend their organized influence over the broadest strata of workers and peasants by carefully exploiting every legal opportunity. . . .
Illegal parties must take advantage of every opportunity, even a passing one, to unite sympathizing workers in organizations, however loose, and so secure for the party legal channels for
propaganda and agitation activities.
BOLSHEVIZATION AND QUESTIONS OF ORGANIZATION
Bolshevization and Questions of Organization
. . . The basic form of organization of every bolshevik party is the party cell in the factory. . . .
Besides the factory cell, and work in such organizations as trade unions, factory committees, consumers' co-operatives, etc., steps should be taken to establish a whole series of non-party subsidiary organizations—tenants' leagues, unemployed
committees, ex-service men's associations, etc. (with communist cells working in them). Bolshevization requires our parties to use every opportunity to make this organizational network as dense and closely woven as possible. . . .
The initiative in creating such organizations must be taken by the party leadership through the party members, who must then take the management of these organizations into their own hands. Communists must form fractions in these
organizations, receiving instructions from the party leadership. . . .
Bolshevization and Comintern Resolutions on Organizational Questions
The third world congress resolution on questions of organization is far from having been carried out. One of its most important points dealt with the necessity for every member being given a definite party job to do. . . .
The enlarged Executive is of the opinion that the practical carrying-through of this point is essential to bolshevization.
The enlarged Executive directs the attention of all parties to the fifth world congress resolution on questions of organization. It also ratifies the resolutions adopted by the organization conference of the CI sections and recommends their execution in their entirety.
Bolshevization and the Problem of Party Cadres
To create a bolshevik party it is necessary over the years to forge strong party cadres. Such cadres are not formed by means of formal elections, but rather by selection in the course of practical work. The process of selection is necessarily slow; from the party cell up to the party centre it occurs in the course of the struggle which tests the members. . . .
The communist cadres of organizers must be trained in the sense that their work in preparing the revolution should not be a spare-time job; all their time must be given to the revolutionary struggle; they must be wholly and completely at
the disposal of the party. The communist organizer and cadre worker . . . must live and work among the masses in the factory, the shop or mine, always ready to be sent elsewhere by the party in the interests of the cause. . . .
Bolshevization, Party Democracy, and Discipline
. . . The forms of internal party organization are subordinate to the overriding interests of the struggle for the proletarian dictatorship. But in all circumstances the communist party must preserve a certain freedom of criticism within the party, a spirit of equality among the party members. . . .
This is in accordance with the interests of stimulating the entire party mass, securing the co-operation of all the lower party bodies and the cells in the political and organizational life of the party, and arousing the initiative of the workers in the party.
Iron proletarian discipline is one of the most important pre-conditions of bolshevization. Parties which carry on their banner 'Dictatorship of the Proletariat' must realize that there can be no talk of a victorious proletarian dictatorship without
iron party discipline, acquired in the course of years and decades. Bolsheviks . . . must realize that the civil war cannot be fought, political power conquered, or the proletarian dictatorship maintained and strengthened, without the strictest internal discipline founded on ideological unanimity; without this the civil war is doomed in advance to failure.
Bolshevization and the Party Apparatus
A centralized, firmly welded, and strictly organized bolshevik party is impossible without an appropriate party apparatus.
At present a few Comintern sections have a thoroughly unwieldy, disproportionately large, and hence frequently bureaucratic party apparatus. Other sections have practically none at all.
The enlarged Executive of the CI instructs the presidium to work out, with the orgbureau and the representatives of the parties concerned, a series of measures which will enable the parties to establish an apparatus in harmony with the interests
of their work.
Bolshevization and Self-Criticism
The struggle against what comrade Lenin called 'communist boasting', against self-satisfaction and conceit, is a most important pre-condition of bolshevization. . . .
Planned Work and Checking its Execution
In all countries in which communist parties carry on their work in comparatively normal conditions it is necessary to draw up a general plan of work for six months, a year, etc., in order to learn how to concentrate the party's forces. . . .
There must be a check by all organizations on the carrying out of any decisions taken. Better have fewer decisions, but see that they are at all costs carried out in practice. . . .
BOLSHEVIZATION AND THE INTERNATIONAL LEADERSHIP
. . . Bolshevization is incompatible with separatist and federalist tendencies. The world party of Leninism must be strongly fused, not by mechanical discipline, but by unity of will and action. . . .
Every party must give its best forces to the international leadership. It must be brought home to the broadest masses that in the present epoch serious economic and political battles of the working class can be won only if they are led from one centre and on an international scale.
No Communist Party should recoil from illegal work. Illegality is a condition in which many Communist Parties must now work and which in the epoch of the increased intensification of the social struggles might extend to many Parties of the Comintern which to-day are still legal.
Every Communist Party must reckon with illegality as a possible and probable condition, and must be prepared to transfer to illegal work. Whenever the political situation becomes seriously acute, it must take the proper measures which will
enable it to continue its work illegally after its organization has been prohibited; it must keep its whole technical apparatus for illegality in readiness. But all unnecessary playing with illegality must be avoided and the Party must defend its
legality to the bitter end.
On the other hand the Parties which are compelled to work illegally must take advantage of every passing opportunity of conducting legal activity and for the extension of such opportunities.
The Party should not allow any form of legal activity to be taken from it (election campaigns, parliamentary activity, the legal press, factory councils, trade unions, educational societies, co-operatives, sick benefit societies, etc.). The masses of workers and peasants must become accustomed to protect the legal opportunities of their Party, and to meet every attack of the bourgeoisie and the social traitors against
these opportunities with mass demonstrations (strikes, demonstrations, etc.).
The German text as given in Inprekorr ends here, as does the Russian text in the official collection of documents edited by Bela Kun; the following section is taken from the theses as given in Bolshevizing the Communist International (London, CPGB, 1925), p. 167.
The principal basis of the activity of an illegal Party is strict Party discipline which must be much more strict than that of the legal Parties. But this discipline should not be confounded with bureaucratization. Even under the most extreme
illegality, there is still the possibility of Party democracy, freedom of discussion, and of election of all Party representatives. Any unnecessary limitation to this democracy would cause the separation of the Party from the masses, would make it pedantic and transform it into a group of conspirators. But once the Party officials have been elected, they must be able to count in all their activities on the iron
discipline of the Party membership, and Party discussion may be carried on only until the Party comes into action.
Party discipline in an illegal Party also includes the strictest methods of conspiracy. The composition of the Party organs, the internal Party affairs and such like, must be kept strictly secret from the Party members. Any breach of conspiracy must be ruthlessly punished, by the dismissal of the responsible Party officials, Party trial and expulsion from the Party.
In the illegal Parties, more care must be exercised in the acceptance of new members. The moral value of the new Party members, their strength of character, etc., must be very carefully investigated. The behaviour of Communists under arrest, cross-examination and in prison is extremely important; such situations serve as the fiery ordeal for the firmness of a Communist and his devotion to the Party, and are of extreme importance for the authority of the whole Party. Especially during crossexamination a revolutionary must be doubly careful in his demeanour; every word carelessly dropped might endanger both the Party and the Communist movement.
One of the most important tasks of illegal Parties is the fight against spying and provocation. The most important weapon in the fight against provocation is to mobilize the opinion of the working class against it and to train the workers to react to all acts of provocation and denunciation with the most determined methods. In factories we must continually be on the watch to discover and drive out police informers.