3rd International

Adam Rose adam at pmel.com
Fri Jun 14 07:36:21 MDT 1996

Louis' comments regarding Lenin has pushed me into doing some reading.
So, I am slowly working through "The Comintern" by Duncan Hallas.

In the introduction, he lists the other books he knew of in 1985 which had
been written in English from a revolutionary perspective :

CLR James : The World Revolution
K Tilak : Rise and Fall of the Comintern
Claudin : The Communist Movement

The period from the capitulation of the 2nd International in August 1914 upto
the declaration of the 3rd International in March 1919 is an interesting one,
because this is the period during which Lenin and the Bolsheviks consciously
broke from the 2nd International. Having developed within the Second International,
we can look at this period and see if Lenin, at the end of this process of development,
saw the new international he was trying to build as merely another 2nd international,
or something different.

Duncan Hallas doesn't say so anywhere in his introduction, but I think it is true
to say that once Lenin had come to believe that the capitulation of the 2nd
international wasn't simply a deliberate lie by the capitalist press, he
immediately declared the need for a new international, even though he could
still envisage working within the 2nd if there was not sufficient support for
a new international. Louis is right to point out that all through his debates
with the Mensheviks, Lenin quoted Kautsky as his ultimate authority. How does
he react to Kautsky now ? Does Louis assertion that he organised "on the
basis of an adherence to Marxism" fit what actually happened ?

I would argue that the whole period from 1914 to 1920 ( when the debate about
ultra leftism started , and the Red Army was defeated in Poland  ) can be seen as
essentially an organisation and political battle against first of all the right, the
out + out reformists, and just as importantly, also against the centrists ie
people like Kautsky.

At the outbreak of the war, while Lenin had immediately proclaimed the need for
a new international, he was still prepared to work with in it. But as soon as
there was any possibility of developing an alternative to it, he took advantage.
So, in September 1915 , he attended the Zimmerwald conference, at which he was
prepared ( just ) to support the essentially centrist document it produced. While
supporting it, as an important step towards a new international, he still published
his own "turn the Imperialist War into a civil war" motion, which had been defeated.
In other words, this was not the beginning of the new international, but a step
towards it. As soon as circumstances allowed, he would move further towards the
sort of international he thought was required.

At Kienthal in 1916, Hallas writes that the left ( centered around Lenin ) took a
harder line than at Zimmerwald. Why ? Because the first signs of a mass movement
in opposition to the war were starting to break through : there is the Easter rising
in Dublin, and the German left recovers from its initial depression and disorientation to
start parliamentary agitation, leading to 50,000 workers in Berlin on strike in may.
So after Kienthal, Lenin writes against the Zimmerwald majority : "It is the social-
chauvinists and Kautkyites of all countries who will undertake the task of restoring
the bankrupt [ 2nd International ]. The task of socialists is to explain to the
masses the inevitability of a split with those who persue a bourgeois policy under
the flag of socialism."

Lenin has as his ultimate goal a new international. But his immediate political
battle is with the centrists, Kautsky etc, who are leading the workers back into
the 2nd international. But still, Lenin argues that "The task of socialists is to
explain to the masses the inevitability of a split" , not to actually organise it,
since the underlying movement is not there to sustain it.

Then, Lenin's slogan "turn the Imperialist War into civil war" materialises.
Of course, there is Russia in 1917. But also, the revolution breaks out across
the whole of central and eastern europe. In Germany, the key to the situation,
the working class has taken power. Hallas emphasises this point : Germany at the
end of 1918 was not in a situation of dual power, it was workers power. There was no
other power. The reformists took it upon themselves to recreate the bourgeois state.
Their argument was "in order to achieve socialism, we must first have a democratic
republic. Therefore the workers have to give back the power to the capitalists
in order to take it back from them later" !

So, in March 1919, ie 4 months after the November revolution in Germany, the
third international is declared. The objective conditions for the declaration are
quite obviously there - the working class has risen, workers are moving to the left
under the impact of the Russian revolution.

Hallas writes :
"The delegates meeting in Moscow had constituted the new International on the basis
of uncompromising internationalism, a decisive and final split with the traitors
of 1914, workers power, [ . . . ] and the perspective of revolution in the near
future in Western and Central Europe. The problem was to create the mass parties
that could make all this a reality"
"The means lay to hand. Centrist leaders controlled the Italian party, and were soon
to capture the French. The German USPD was to have 80,000 members . . . Their members
had to be won to communism."
"The foundations had been laid. The STRUGGLE AGAINST THE CENTRIST LEADERS was now the
MAJOR TASK . . . " [ My capitals - Adam ].

He then goes on to explain the historical context of the 21 conditions.

Indeed, one reason Lenin declared the third international with such weak forces
actually at the conference, was precisely the fear that a centrist international
would win over the allegiance of the leftward moving workers. This pushed him into
the declaration while the subjective conditions, the allegiance of any serious
current in Germany, were uncertain to say the least.

This period was one of unrelenting battle against Centrism ie against people
who SAID they were Marxists, opposed to the Imperialist War, and for the
dictatorship of the proletariat. As soom as Lenin had the freedom of movement
to organise a meaningful 3rd international, he embarked on this struggle against
the centrists. If you choose to advocate organising with centrists or reformists
today, you should explain why you have rejected the Leninist tradition.


PS Next I shall look at the various zig zags of the German KPD - but I'll
be away from my terminal until Thursday at the earliest.

Adam Rose


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