II Intl & Nazi rise to power

Hugh Rodwell m-14970 at mailbox.swipnet.se
Wed Feb 14 03:53:23 MST 1996

Gary Maclennan wrote a gripping account of aspects of the Nazi takeover in
Germany. But among other things he said:

>Marxists especially of the Trotskyist persuasion have correctly been very
>critical of the role of the Comintern in the rise of Fascism.  As my report
>on Dimitrov showed I accept a lot of this.  however it cannot be doubted
>that the primary responsibility for the rise of Hitler rests with the Social

It can be very much doubted.

Gary falls between two stools with his statement.

Either Nazism is an expression of the decay of capitalism, and the
*primary* responsibility belongs to capitalism and its need for such a
regime - this is the positive way of seeing it and puts the blame for
atrocities committed squarely where it belongs, with the capitalist class.

Or the responsibility rests with those who *let* the Nazis take over - the
negative perspective. This is the interesting one, where I vehemently
disagree with Gary's analysis. The question at the centre here is this: who
constituted the leadership of the working class? Not in an unhistorical,
sociological sense, but in a Marxist sense - who represented the class
interests of the proletariat at this concrete juncture of twentieth century

It had been obvious since 1914 that the II International (this takes us
beyond national peculiarities to the international essence of the class
struggle of our epoch) no longer represented the class interests of the
proletariat. They headed the biggest party of the class in many countries,
but as traitors to that class. As traitors they worked for the enemy, and
however much responsibility they might bear for their treachery, the
*historical* responsibility for what they did lies with the enemy - in this
case, the bourgeoisie.

The III International on the other hand, despite the convulsions of the mid
and late twenties and Stalin's rise to power, still represented the class
interests of the proletariat on the basis of its origin in the October
revolution, the foundation of the first workers' state, the positions taken
by its early congresses and its ability to attract and organize workers
internationally. Trotsky, in spite of the betrayals in relation to the
industrialization of the Soviet Union and the revolutionary events in
Britain and China, still regarded this as the case and was still
recommending all revolutionaries to work within the CPs.

The whole question of revolutionary leadership of the class came into focus
in the German developments. It was the *treachery* of the III International
in relation to the tasks of this leadership that constituted its definitive
break with the revolutionary Marxist tradition of October. Its failure to
assess the main enemy as the bourgeoisie, its failure to see the main task
as that of building the party for the taking of power, its failure to see
the attraction of revolutionary policies for workers being attacked in
their fundamental class interests, and its failure to neutralize the
petty-bourgeoisie by providing clear working-class leadership against the
big bourgeoisie. (This last point about the petty bourgeoisie appears
nowhere in Gary's analysis.) Well, actually, it wasn't just the *treachery*
as such, but the fact that this treachery led to the smashing of one of the
most important labour movements in the world, and the one with the broadest
Marxist tradition. This combination of treacherous leadership and
historical defeat for the class and its organizations led Trotsky and his
comrades to initiate the process of founding the IV International.

To lay the responsibility on the II International is to choose not to see
the responsibility of the III International for what it was. It is to
abstract from the historical relationship between the leadership of the III
International in 1919 and in 1933. It is to belittle the significance of an
international revolutionary class leadership - in fact it just means
letting yourself be buffeted about by the storms of the present moment, in
other words empiricism and at best centrism, at worst opportunism.

It is this perspective of active responsibility for organizing and leading
the working class to removing capitalism and initiating socialism that led
the founders of the IV International to place the following declaration -
as a fanfare no one could miss - at the very start of the Transitional

        The world political situation as a whole is chiefly characterized by a
        historical crisis of the leadership of the proletariat.

The victory of October was the responsibility of the Bolshevik party under
the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky. What would a defeat have been? The
responsibility shifts to Kerensky all of a sudden? No, a defeat in October
would have been honourable, of course, but one where the responsibility of
the revolutionary leadership, just as in the case of the Paris Commune,
would have had to be analysed by Marxists to discover its historical and
political lessons for the revolutionary party.





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