The Sickness at the Heart of Marxism-Leninism
Louis N Proyect
lnp3 at columbia.edu
Tue Oct 8 06:52:01 MDT 1996
Last night I was reading what Deutscher had to say about Zinoviev's
role in the Comintern. I discovered that Lenin was deeply concerned
about the problem of locating the Comintern center in the USSR. He
felt that this would tend to make the Russian Party much too
dominant. He even sought to locate the center somewhere in Western
Europe. The only reason this did not happen was that security was too
difficult to maintain in the capitalist world after WWI.
Another interesting observation that Deutscher made had to do with
Trotsky's behavior during this period, when the Comintern and
Moscow were accumulating nearly the sort of importance that the
Vatican has for Catholics. Deutscher said that Trotsky went along with
this concentration of power and acted just as imperiously as Zinoviev.
He referred to Trotsky's micromanagement of the affairs of the French
This led me to consult Trotsky's "First Five Years of the Comintern",
something of a holy text for Trotskyists. In it there is a June 6, 1922
letter to Comrade Ker, a member of the Central Committee of the
French CP, in which Trotsky attempts to set the wayward French
Communists straight. He says:
"I am very much surprised by your reproaches in connection with the
expulsion of Fabre. The ECCI intended to expel Fabre as far back as
its plenary session. It refrained only because the French delegation
assumed responsibility for carrying out the expulsion summarily (in
the Commission on which I served as chairman, four weeks were
definitely set as the maximum). Subsequently, an amendment was
inserted into the text of the resolution which was utterly unexpected by
us: the phrase 'Journal du Peuple is placed outside the party' was
altered to read 'Journal du Peuple is placed outside the control of the
party.' This amendment was obviously designed to palliate the
expulsion with an open, demonstrative and sharp political character.
Delays and obstructions thereupon ensued which were in direct and
flagrant violation of the obligation which had been assumed by the
French delegation in the name of the Central Committee."
Isn't this atrocious? Trotsky is directing the French Communist Party
to change the wording of an expulsion. The Bolsheviks expelled just
one person--Bogdanov--during its entire history and here is Trotsky
telling the French not only that they *had* to expel somebody but
what language to use in the expulsion motion.
1922 was the beginning of what is called the "Bolshevization" of the
Comintern. This came to a climax in the 5th World Congress in 1925.
The "Bolshevization" Congress inspired Communist Parties all around
the world to move even further away from the genuine Bolshevik
model and more toward the grotesque, authoritarian model that
Zinoviev had been crafting.
To see the impact on American Communists, we can turn to the
proceedings of the 4th National Convention in August 21-30, 1925
where they went through their own Bolshevization cleansing ritual.
Not only did they pass a dreadful resolution on the "Bolshevization of
the Party", they expelled the "Loreites". This act is legitimized in the
"Resolution of the Liquidation of Loreism" which includes the
following dainty phrase: "The Communist International has given a
correct definition of Loreism. Loreism is opportunism. It is a right
wing deviation from the revolutionary Leninist line of the Comintern
and must therefore be relentlessly combated."
In attendance at this convention were James P. Cannon and Vincent
Dunne, two of the patron saints of American Trotskyism who, after the
founding of their own church, included exactly the same attitude
The reason we keep ending up with people like the types who are
satirized by Tariq Ali has nothing to do with bad genes. It is rooted in
a methodology. The Comintern introduced a method of functioning
that had nothing to with revolutionary socialism. This methodology
was imported into each and every Communist Party, where each
General Secretary--be he William Z. Foster or James P. Cannon--took
it upon himself to act as imperiously as Trotsky as Comintern leader.
We need a world-wide socialist organization, but we have to repudiate
this type of functioning either on an international level or a national
level. I believe that the source of the problem lies in a combination of
factors. Partly it has to do with Zinoviev's schematic understanding of
what the Bolshevik Party was about and partly it is a function of a
disastrous split in the world's socialist ranks between "socialism" and
"communism". If we are to achieve victory as socialists in the 21st century,
we have to root out this type of authoritarian and hierarchical mode of
functioning everywhere. We have to return to the genuine model--the Bolshevik
Party--which was nothing but left-wing socialism.
I plan to say a lot more about this in the weeks to come.
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