Stalin and the Comintern

Zodiac zodiac at
Tue Sep 12 05:18:41 MDT 1995

I printed out Louis's lastest opus and read it during the streetcar
ride to work. It was an excellent transit companion. Louis's style is,
as always, crisp and strong. And the references are lively and
enlightening. I didn't realize blues singer Leadbelly was closely
associated with the USACP! I will have to dig out my Leadbelly LPs and
respin them.

One thing that particularly caught my attention... Louis, you give a
quote from Lenin in an "unpublished" letter to Zinoviev:

     "If you are going to expel all the not very obedient but clever
     people, and retain only the obedient fools, you will most
     assuredly ruin the party."

What's the source on this? Do you have access to the full letter? If it
was unpublished, how come you are quoting from it? Is it a case of
being able to rummage through Great Great Uncle Zinoviev's papers?

Reading about the struggles the US party had with the Comintern puts me
in mind of what the Communist Party of Canada (CPC) also went through.
So I attach a post I wrote sometime ago on that subject -- it's a reply
to another poster, and I've stripped out his comments.

(I agree with our stalwart Scott M. that hindsight is a wonderfully
accurate thing, and you have to account for the times in judging
actions. But taking the times into account also has the effect of
making those Reds who could sense something was terribly wrong, like
Cannon and Spector, seem all the more impressive and their thought
worthy of indepth study.)


Date: 24 Jul 93 11:00:00 EST
Subject: Communist Party of Canada

The Comintern used the CPC to further Soviet foreign policy without
giving a damn about the Canadian workers themselves.  There are two
primary examples of Comintern ignorance in action.

                          Bring It On Home!

>From its inception, the CPC dutifully obeyed Comintern policies,
endeavoring to unearth ways to apply them in a Canadian context.  This
generally amounted to meaningless statements in the _Worker_ (the CPC
paper).  But, it took a farcically silly turn in 1925 over the issue of
the Canadian Constitution of all things.

(HISTORICAL NOTE: Though Canada has long functioned independently, it
  wasn't until 1982 that the constitution was patriated from England;
  before then, changes to it had to be sent to England to be "ratified";
  nationalists often saw this as "humiliating" etc.  Most people didn't
  give a shit, regardless what class they inhabited.)

In 1925, the Comintern started making alliances with "progressive national
bourgeoisie" in colonial nations, like China.  As Lenin noted, nationalism
can be useful in oppressed nations, though it's merely a tool of
domination in capitalist nations.

Suddenly, the Comintern decided Canada was actually a colonial nation!
Before 1925, it had always defined Canada as a fully-functional
capitalist society (which it is, and was).

The Comintern executive wrote:

       "the CPC should understand that the question of Canadian
       independence is the central question of the entire
       political strategy of our Party." (!)

The naively faithful CPC kept beat and decreed that, yes, constitutional
independence was painfully crucial to communists.  Woe the poor Canucks
without their own constitutional paper. The shame of crawling to the
English king to ratify bourgeois laws.

And so the CPC, with Comintern encouragement, actually rallied behind
the ruling capitalist government (the Liberal party, under Prime
Minister W.L.M. King) to "bring it home".

(Even more embarrassingly, the CPC proclaimed the 1926 re-election of
King a "stunning blow to the interests of British imperialists." I
suppose you'd have to have read Canadian history to appreciate the

At any rate, here was a new "Marxist" master theory for British Empire
bourgeois colonies.  It ran thusly:

     -> form Communist party;
     -> join capitalists, fight for legal return of hoary
        constitutional document from London;
     -> achieve legalistic colonial independence;
     -> fight bourgeois;
     -> form Communist country;
     -> open cold beer, put feet up.

In truth, the Comintern didn't care about Canadian workers.  It
flagrantly used Canadian communists as a foreign policy tool to further
the global machinations of the Russian state (by trying to damage
Britain).  The Comintern doomed the CPC to appear inherently
contradictory, if not outright stupid.

And let me add this...

The truly colonial "nation" in all this was French-Canada, largely
centred in Quebec.  This population was economically disadvantaged, as
a matter of course, and culturally cordoned off by British capitalists
in cahoots with an entrenched Quebec Catholic church.  I do believe
you'll find French-Canada fits snugly in Lenin's definition of an
"oppressed nation".

Despite the stirring talk of the Comintern's "fighting racism", the
Comintern didn't address the singular class/cultural problem of
French-Canada.  Instead, it spent its time encouraging the CPC to join
with the capitalists and bring the constitution home.

NOTE: Today, Quebec has plenty of French-Canadian capitalists ready to
exploit their own people.  Salut!

                               Split Party

That the Canadian communists were mere puppets for foreign nationalists
(Stalin bolsheviks) is further demonstrated by the ostracization the
CPC under went when it attempted to stay _out of_ the Trotsky-Stalin

At no point did the Comintern attempt to understand Canadian problems.
At no point did it ask why the CPC still printed the odd Trotsky

The Comintern did not appreciate Canadian issues.  It did not
appreciate Canadian issues because it was ignorant of Canada issues; it
was ignorant of Canada issues because it didn't care about Canada
issues; it didn't care about Canada issues because of the relative
unimportance of the CPC, and Canada in general, in influencing the
international stage.

This underscores the Stalinist Comintern's lack of honest concern for
the workers, the actual people, rather than the dynamics of
international bourgeois politics (and internal CPSU politics).

In 1925, at the 5th Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Communist
International [ECCI], the Canadian delegate was the _only_ delegate to
not vote for the censorious anti-Trotsky campaign.

The CPC was not "Trotskyite".  It's paper never published pro-Trotsky
pieces.  However, it occassionally give his writing space, and
editorially acknowledged his essential place in the Russian Revolution.
It was neutral.

But the Comintern quickly wrote back, threateningly:

     We are compelled to say that considerable ideological confusion is
     noticeable in our Canadian brother party.  The central committee of
     the party expressed itself in favor of Trotskyism.  [It had not,
     but neutrals were enemies in the Comintern.] It did not understand
     the international importance of the Trotsky discussion in the
     Russian Communist Party and in the entire international; it even
     prevented the publication of discussion articles in the Canadian
     Party Press.

     The [ECCI] places on record that by this attitude towards
     Trotskyism the [CPC] has completely isolated itself....  we urge
     the CPC to publish in the Party Press the decisions of the
     Communist International and also explanatory articles on the
     question of Trotskyism-Leninism, and to explain to all party
     members the Comintern attitude to this question by organizing

The pressure continued over the years.  CPC chairman Maurice Spector
refused to go along with the flagrant and, in his opinion, unproven
attacks against the famous "Mr. Trotsky."  Spector demonstrated an
healthy disbelief in what he was merely told.  Spector did _not_
consider himself a "Trotskyite", merely open-minded.  But, somewhere
along the line, freedom of thought -- which gave birth to virtually
every revolutionary movement -- was abandoned by the CPSU and, by
extension, the Comintern.

But CPC members other than Spector were courted in Moscow.  One such
person was shown a selection of quotes gleaned from Lenin that
supposedly demonstrate Lenin's favorable attitude to the idea of
"one-state socialism."

By nurturing this internal conflict, the party split. Spector was
expelled from the party and it even made headlines in the mainstream
press.  In the _Globe_, he was quoted:

     "I protested in a long statement that the fight against Leon
     Trotsky's exile which has been proceeding within Communist parties
     throughout the world for a year was not the real issue, but was
     being used to keep facts about the situation in Russia away from
     the rank and file."

What Spector objected to, quite rightly, was the absence of democratic
consultation; for this, Spector was expelled without -- surprise,
surprise -- democratic consultation.

The CPC went into decline, losing 75% of its members in rapid turnover
between 1929 and 1931.  All the original Bolshevik revolutionary core
was gone by the 1930s.

Sound familiar?

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