The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia
Speech Delivered in the Czechoslovak Commission of the E.C.C.I.
January 17, 1925
Works, Vol. 7, 1925
The Czechoslovak Commission was set up by the Fifth Enlarged Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Communist International held in Moscow from March 21 to April 6, 1925. The plenum discussed the following questions: the international prospects and the Bolshevisation of the Communist Parties; the struggle for world trade-union unity; the peasant question; the discussion in the R.C.P.(B.); questions concerning individual sections of the Comintern; etc. The plenum set up a number of commissions: political, Czechoslovak, and Yugoslav, among others. J. V. Stalin was elected a member of the political and Czechoslovak commissions.
leaving aside certain minor points and personal factors which some comrades have dragged into the subject, the disagreements in the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia can be reduced to the following nine questions:
1) Is there a crisis in the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia?
2) What is the chief cause of the crisis?
3) What is the character of the crisis, i.e., from where does danger threaten, from the Left or from the Right?
4) Which danger is the more serious, the Left or the Right?
5) Why is the danger from the Right the more real danger?
6) How should the struggle against the Right danger be waged so that it results in real Bolshevisation and in a real solution of the crisis?
7) What is the immediate task in connection with Bolshevisation in the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia?
8) The rights of the Comintern in relation to the national sections.
9) Comrade Kreibich and the threat of a split.
Is there a crisis in the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia? Yes, there is. Both sides admit it. On this point there is no disagreement between them. Comrade Smeral went even further and said that the crisis is deeper than some comrades usually represent it.
What is the chief cause of the crisis? Comrade Smeral was quite right when he said that the chief cause of the crisis lay in the difficulties entailed by the transition from a period of revolutionary upsurge to a period of lull. A transition period, which calls for a new orientation, usually gives rise to some kind of a crisis in the Party. That is the situation in Czechoslovakia, too, at the present time.
What is the character of the crisis, and from where does danger threaten, from the Left or from the Right? Here, too, Comrade Smeral was right when he said that danger threatens from both sides, from the Left and from the Right. There is the danger of over-estimating the importance of partial demands to the detriment of fundamental demands, of over-estimating parliamentary activity and work in the trade unions. That is the danger from the Right, for it leads to adapting oneself to the bourgeoisie. On the other hand, there is the danger of under-estimating the importance of partial demands, of parliamentary activity, of work in the trade unions, and so forth. That is the danger from the Left, for it leads to becoming divorced from the masses and to sectarianism. Comrade Smeral's desire to take a middle position in this conflict between the two opposite deviations is quite legitimate. The only trouble is that he has failed to keep to that position and has followed in the wake of the Rights.
Which is the more serious danger, the Left or the Right? I think that Comrade Smeral has not cleared up this question for himself. He directs his criticism mainly against the Lefts, in the belief that they are the chief danger. The facts, however, show that the chief danger comes from the Right and not from the Left. Comrade Smeral has not realised this, and herein lies his first mistake.
Why is the danger from the Right the more serious danger at the present time? For three reasons.
Firstly. The transition itself from upsurge to lull, by its very nature, increases the chances of danger from the Right. Whereas an upsurge gives rise to revolutionary illusions and causes the Left danger to become the principal one, a lull, on the contrary, gives rise to Social-Democratic, reformist illusions and causes the Right danger to become the principal one. In 1920, when the working-class movement was on the upgrade, Lenin wrote his pamphlet "Left-Wing" Communism, an Infantile Disorder. Why did Lenin write this particular pamphlet? Because at that time the Left danger was the more serious danger. I think that if Lenin were alive he would now write another pamphlet entitled Right-Wing Communism, an Old-Age Disorder, because, at the present time, in the period of lull, when illusions about compromise are bound to grow, the Right danger is the most serious danger.
Secondly. As Comrade Smeral reported, no less than 70 per cent of the members of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia are former Social-Democrats. It scarcely needs proof that Social-Democratic relapses are not only possible but inevitable in such a party. Needless to say, this circumstance is bound to increase the danger from the Right.
Thirdly. The Czechoslovak state is a state that marks the national victory of the Czechs. The Czechs have already acquired their national state as a dominant nation. The workers there are for the time being fairly well off: there is no unemployment, and they are obviously intoxicated with the idea of possessing a national state. All this is bound to give rise to illusions about national peace between the classes in Czechoslovakia. Needless to say, this circumstance, in its turn, gives rise to and increases the danger from the Right. And it is here that we must look for the reason why the divergence between the Rights and Lefts took place along national lines, why the Slovaks and the Germans (oppressed nations) are on the left flank, and the Czechs are on the opposite flank Comrade Smeral spoke of the danger of such a division. That is true, of course. But it is also true that such a division is quite understandable, if we bear in mind the above-mentioned specific national features of the Czechoslovak state and the dominant position of the Czechs.
Such are the principal reasons why the danger from the Right in the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia is a particularly serious danger.
How should the struggle against the Right danger in the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia be waged? This question brings us to the very core of the disagreements. One would think that the struggle against this danger should be waged in the most determined and ruthless manner. But with the Czech Communists the opposite has happened. Is Comrade S meral combating the danger from the Right? Yes, he is. But he is combating it in such a way that, in the final result, the Rights, instead of being eliminated, are being cultivated, supported, protected from the blows of the Lefts. That is somewhat strange, but it is a fact, comrades. That is Comrade S meral's second and principal mistake. Judge for yourselves.
1. It is a fact that Comrade Kreibich wrote an article in favour of Trotskyism. It is a fact that this document is known in Party circles and is passing from hand to hand. This document should have been dragged into the light of day and its author should have been given a good drubbing, an ideological drubbing, in full view of the workers, in order to give the Party the opportunity to realise the danger of Trotskyism and to train the cadres in the spirit of Bolshevism; for what is Trotskyism if not the Right wing of communism, if not the danger from the Right? What did Comrade S meral do in this case? Instead of raising the question of Comrade Kreibich's Trotskyism before the whole Party, he slurred over it, suppressed it, took it behind the scenes and "settled" it there in a hole-and-corner way, as if it were an ordinary "misunderstanding." The gainers by this were Trotskyism and Comrade Kreibich. The Party was the loser. Instead of the Rights being combated, they were protected.
2. It is known that some of the leaders of three trade unions — those of the transport workers, woodworkers and building workers — issued a document demanding the complete independence of the unions from the Party. It is known that this document is evidence of the existence of a number of Right elements in the trade unions of Czechoslovakia. This document should have been analysed in full view of the Party, and the Party should have been warned of the danger of the trade unions becoming divorced from it. What did Comrade Smeral do in this case? He hushed up this question too; he withdrew the document from circulation and thereby hid it from the eyes of the Party membership. The Rights escaped unscathed and the "Party's prestige" was saved. And that is called combating the Rights!
3. It is known that there are Right-wing elements in the communist group in parliament. It is known that every now and again these elements throw off the leadership of the Party and try to set themselves up in opposition to the Central Committee of the Party. It is urgently necessary to combat these elements, particularly at the present time, in the present lull. How did Comrade Smeral combat this danger? Instead of exposing the Right-wing elements in the communist parliamentary group he took them under his protection and saved them by means of an elastic resolution on recognising the Party leadership, a resolution adopted as the result of an internal struggle conducted behind the scenes, in the fourth year of the Party's existence. Again the Rights gained and the Party was the loser.
4. Lastly, the Bubnik case. I must say, comrades, that the lull is not a period of the absence of all action. The lull is a period of forming and training the proletarian armies, a period of preparing them for revolution. But the proletarian armies can be trained only in the course of action. The rise in the cost of living that has recently begun in Czechoslovakia is one of the favourable conditions for such action. As is known, the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia took advantage of this situation and recently organised a number of demonstrations in connection with the rise in the cost of living. As is known, the Right-wing Communist Bubnik, now expelled from the Party, also took advantage of the situation and tried to disrupt those actions by the workers, thereby striking a blow at the Party in the rear. What did Comrade S meral do to safeguard the Party from the blow struck in its rear by the Rights? Instead of utilising the Bubnik "case" and by means of it ruthlessly exposing the entire Right-wing group in full view of the Party, Comrade S meral reduced the question of principle concerning the Rights to the individual case of Bubnik, although all the world knows that Bubnik does not stand alone, that he has supporters in the trade unions, in the communist group in parliament, and in the press. At the price of a small sacrifice (the expulsion of Bubnik) he saved the Right-wing group from defeat, to the detriment of the fundamental interests of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. And Comrade Smeral calls that the tactics of combating the Rights!
Comrade Smeral calls those tactics "fine," "delicate." Those tactics may indeed be fine, but they have nothing in common with the Bolshevik tactics of uncompromising struggle against the Rights; there cannot be the slightest doubt about that. Comrade Smeral forgets the Russian saying: "The finest thread is most likely to break." He forgot that fineness is no guarantee against failure. And that is what happened, as is known; for those "fine" tactics towards the Rights broke and failed at the very first test, when, encouraged by those tactics, the Bubnik group almost succeeded in disrupting the recent action by the Czech proletariat. The strengthening of the Rights and Bubnik's treachery — such are the results of Comrade Smeral's "fine" tactics. That is why I think that Comrade Smeral's "fine" tactics are tactics that save the Rights, tactics that intensify the crisis, tactics threatening to doom the Party.
Why did the old Social-Democracy perish as a revolutionary Party? Among other things, because Kautsky and Co. did indeed employ the "fine" tactics of shielding and saving the Rights, the "delicate" tactics of "unity and peace" with Ed. Bernstein and Co. What was the result? The result was that at the crucial moment, just before the war, the Right-wing Social-Democrats betrayed the workers, the "orthodox" became the prisoners of the Rights, and Social-Democracy as a whole proved to be a "living corpse." I think that, in time, this may happen to the Communist Party in Czechoslovakia if you do not quickly and resolutely substitute for Comrade Smeral's "fine" tactics the Bolshevik tactics of ruthless struggle against the Right-wing groups in the communist movement. In saying this I am not putting Comrade Smeral on a par with the Social-Democrats. Not at all. He is undoubtedly a Communist, and, perhaps, even a splendid Communist. What I want to say is that if he does not renounce his "fine" tactics he will inevitably slide into Social-Democracy.
What is the immediate task of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia?
The immediate task is, while combating "ultra-Left" deviations, resolutely to combat the danger from the Right with the aim of altogether isolating and completely eliminating the Rights. To unite all the genuine revolutionary elements in the Party for the purpose of completely eliminating the Right groups — such is the Party's task, such is the way out of the crisis. Unless this is done it is useless even to think of Bolshevising the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia.
That, of course, does not mean that all the Rights must necessarily be expelled. Expulsion is not the decisive weapon in the struggle against the Rights. The main thing is to give the Right groups a drubbing, ideologically and morally, in the course of a struggle based on principle and to draw the mass of the Party membership into this struggle. That is one of the chief and most important means of educating the Party in the spirit of Bolshevism. Expulsion must come, if it is really necessary, as a natural result of the ideological rout of the enemy. In this respect, the Lefts in Czechoslovakia committed a grave mistake in hastening to expel Bubnik. Instead of utilising the Bubnik "case" to the utmost and linking it with the principles underlying the stand taken by the Rights on the question of mass action, revealing their true countenance, the Lefts hastened with the expulsion, and cut off the road to further attack against the Rights on this ground.
As regards the rights of the Comintern and its intervention in the affairs of the national parties, I emphatically disagree with those comrades who spoke in favour of curtailing those rights. They want the Comintern to be transformed into an organisation situated beyond the stars, gazing dispassionately at what is going on in the individual parties and patiently recording events. No, comrades, the Comintern cannot become an organisation beyond the stars. The Comintern is a militant organisation of the proletariat, it is linked with the working-class movement by all the roots of its existence and cannot refrain from intervening in the affairs of individual parties, supporting the revolutionary elements and combating their opponents. Of course, the parties possess internal autonomy, the party congresses must be unfettered, and the Central Committees must be elected by the congresses. But to deduce from this that the Comintern must be denied the right of leadership, and hence of intervention, means working on behalf of the enemies of communism.
Lastly, about Comrade Kreibich. I think that the purpose of his entire speech was to frighten somebody or other with the threat of a split. Don't touch the Rights in Brunn, he said. If you do there will be trouble. Don't fight them; if you do there will be a split. Well, we shall see. But let not Comrade Kreibich try to frighten us, he will not succeed. He surely knows that we are seasoned people, and threats of a split cannot frighten our kind. And if he thinks of passing from threats to action, I assure him that he, and he alone, will suffer.
To sum up. There is a crisis in the Party. There can be no doubt about its causes. The chief danger comes from the Right. The task is to wage a determined and uncompromising struggle against this danger. The way out of the crisis is to unite all the revolutionary elements in the Party for the purpose of completely eliminating the Rights.
Advantage must be taken of the lull to strengthen the Party, to Bolshevise it and make it "always ready" for all possible "complications"; for "ye know neither the day nor the hour" wherein "the bridegroom cometh" to open the road for a new revolutionary upsurge.
Pravda, No. 72, March 29, 1925