Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Fri Oct 1 17:54:16 MDT 1999

At 06:53 PM 10/1/99 -0300, you wrote:
>As Jorge Luis Borges used to say: Excuse me my ignorance. But what do you
>mean with "Zinovievism"? I have called and have been called a lot of things
>along my life: "bordiguist" (form Bordiga, the italian ultr left bolchevik),
>"panekoekist" (from Pannekoek, the dutch revolutionary), "martovian",
>"posadist", etc. But really I do not know this about zinovievism, that have
>to do, I suppose, with a conception about the party. Can something explain
>to this backward southamerican?
>Julio F.B.

I coined this term as a way of explaining the mechanical understanding of
democratic centralism that developed in the period leading up to 1924, when
the famous "Bolshevization" Comintern was held. The organizational model
adopted then, which was conceived by Zinoviev, has been accepted
uncritically for many years and with disastrous results. In the case of
CP's, it has led to slavish following of the Kremlin's initiative. With the
Trotskyists and Maoists, it has led to sect and cult formation. Here is a
brief excerpt from my article on the subject at:

The triumvirate (Stalin, Zinoviev, Kamenev) launched a bitter and
unprincipled counter-attack which culminated in the thirteenth party
conference in May, 1924. They did everything they could to turn the fight
into one of the Old Bolsheviks versus the upstart. Trotsky was depicted as
"anti-party", a rather inflammatory but meaningless term that is often used
myself against factional opponents in any internal struggle in a
"Marxist-Leninist" group. While Trotsky spoke in the name of the workers,
the triumvirate claimed that he was really articulating the interests of
the students and intelligentsia. In other words, he was a spokesman for the
petty-bourgeoisie. Finally, they said his hatred for the party machine
indicated that he continued to harbor anti-Leninist sentiments. He was an
unreformed semi-Menshevik.

In brief, all of the methods of dehumanizing and smashing a political
opponent were mobilized against Trotsky. He was a petty-bourgeois and a
Menshevik. He did not believe in the primacy of the working class. The
triumvirate's underhanded attack on Trotsky is of course the first line of
defense of so-called "Marxist-Leninists". What better way to demonize one's
political opponents than by treating them as a wolf in sheep's clothing.
Bolshevik in name only, the opposition was in league with the

The problem that the triumvirate faced was that Trotsky had an unblemished
reputation internationally. He was considered to be the preeminent leader
of the Russian Revolution, next to Lenin. When word was received of the
anti-Trotsky crusade, the French and Polish Communist Parties protested and
demanded that the differences between the two factions be resolved in a
comradely manner. Unfortunately, most of the other Communist leaders had
long given up any pretense of independence. In the process of eviscerating
the German Communist Party leadership, the Comintern eliminated the
possibility of independent voices being heard against bureaucratic
maneuvers. Unfortunately, Trotsky himself had participated in the weakening
of the German party. At the May, 1924 Russian CP conference, only the
French delegate Boris Souvarine stood up for Trotsky. The rest of the
delegates joined in a procession of anti-Trotsky denunciations.

A month later the "Bolshevization" Fifth Congress of the Comintern took
place. This congress was designed by Zinoviev and Stalin to export the
monolithic model that the Russian party had adopted. Whatever independence
remained in the world-wide Communist movement would soon disappear after
this congress. Zinoviev and Stalin had one and one interest only: to line
up the world's revolutionary forces behind their faction. Ironically, the
model that this monstrous Comintern congress adopted was identical to the
one that the world Trotskyist movement itself adopted. This
"Marxist-Leninist" monstrosity has been the organizational lynch-pin of all
party-building attempts from 1924 on. Trotskyists have always disavowed the
political decisions made at this congress, but have never addressed the
organizational methodology that was ratified at the same time. The
bureaucratic politics and the monolithic party-building model go hand in

The Fifth Congress gave the new leader of the German Communist Party, Ruth
Fischer, the opportunity to rail against Radek, Trotsky and Brandler. They
were all Mensheviks, opportunists and "liquidators of revolutionary
principle." In the words of Isaac Deutscher, "she called for a monolithic
International, modelled on the Russian party, from which dissent and
contest of opinion would be banished. 'This world congress should not allow
the International to be transformed into an agglomeration of all sorts of
trends; it should forge ahead and embark on the road which leads to a
single Bolshevik world party.'"

The Statutes of the Communist International adopted at the fifth congress
were a rigid, mechanical set of rules for building Communist Parties. All
of the Communist Parties were subordinate to the Comintern and members of
the parties had to obey all decisions of the Comintern. The world congress
of the Comintern would decide the most important programmatic, tactical and
organizational questions of the Comintern as a whole and its individual
sections. It would be appropriate, for example, for the Comintern to
overrule a member party that had decided to support Trotsky's New Course.
The Statutes also included the sort of ridiculous measures that mark most
of the sect-cults of today. For example, statute 35 declares that:

"Members of the CI may move from one country to another only with the
consent of the central committee of the section concerned. Communists who
have changed their domicile are obliged to join the section of the country
in which they reside. Communists who move to another country without the
consent of the CC of their section may not be accepted as members of
another section of the CI."

Louis Proyect

More information about the Marxism mailing list