Party Building in the 70s

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Sat Mar 10 15:26:06 MST 2001


>One question occurs: Why would any radical organization really interested in
>building something rooted in the real world do this?  Isn't the best
answer the
>preoccupation of the leadership with control?  with making itself the arbiter
>of the membership's perceptions?  It is an aspect of the greater question of
>movement democracy.
>
>In soldiarity,
>Mark

The answer is in the Zinovievist conception of party-building which was
ratified at the 1924 "Bolshevization" Comintern. It not only grafted a
mechanical conception of democratic centralism on the Third International,
it encouraged national parties to adopt the same model with the Central
Committee in the same relationship to branches as the Comintern center had
to the CC's. I explain how this all came about in:

http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/mydocs/organization/comintern_and_germany.htm

Here is something from the conclusion:

The Fourth National Convention of the Communist Party was held in Chicago,
Illinois in August, 1925. This convention was inspired by the
Bolshevization World Congress of the Comintern that was held in 1924. The
American delegates came to the United States with the understanding that
their party would adopt more stringent organizational norms in line with
Zinoviev's directives. To give you a sense of the importance of the
language question, the proceedings of the convention report that there were
6,410 Finnish members as opposed to 2,282 English speaking members.

The American party had its own dissident minority that the new
"Bolshevization" policy could be used as a cudgel against. This minority
was led by one Ludwig Lore, who was the main demon of the American movement
as Leon Trotsky was in the Soviet movement. The Majority Resolution laid
down the law against Lore:

"We also endorse fully and pledge our most active support to the Comintern
and Parity Commission decisions providing for the liquidation of Loreism in
our Party. We demand that the Party be united in a uncompromising struggle
against this dangerous right wing tendency. We pledge our fullest support
to the whole Comintern program for Bolshevizing our Party, including a
militant fight against the right wing, the organization of the Party on the
basis of shop nuclei, and the raising of the theoretical level of our
membership."

This is quite a mouthful. They are going to liquidate a dangerous right
wing tendency and reconstitute the party on the basis of factory cells all
in one fell swoop. And "the raising of the theoretical level of our
membership" can mean only one thing. They are going to get politically
indoctrinated by the Zinoviev-Kamenev-Stalin faction in order to destroy
all of its opponents wherever they appear.

Poor Ludwig Lore was in a political fight with other leading Communists
about how to relate to the Lafollette Farmer-Labor Party. This third party
was an expression of American populism and it was not clear which direction
it was going. The disagreements over how to approach it are similar to the
sorts of disagreements that crop up today about how to regard, for example,
the Nader presidential campaign.

So Lore found himself in a bitter dispute about a purely American political
question. What he didn't figure out, however, was that he had no business
being open-minded about Trotsky while this dispute was going on. Lore had
befriended Trotsky during a visit to the USSR in 1917 and retained warm
feelings toward him, just as the French Communist Boris Souvarine did. Not
surprisingly, Lore had very little use for Zinoviev. On one occasion,
according to Theodore Draper, Lore told Zinoviev to his face that his
information about the American labor movement was questionable. Considering
Zinoviev's track record in Germany, this hardly comes as a surprise.

What really got his name in the Comintern's little black book, however, was
his caustic observations about the infamous "Bolshevization" World Congress
of March, 1924:

"The Third International changes its tactics, nay, even its methods, every
day, and if need be, even oftener. It utterly disregards its own guiding
principles, crushes today the these it adopted only yesterday, and adapts
itself in every country to new situations which may offer themselves. The
Communist International is, therefore, opportunistic in its methods to the
most extreme degree, but since it keeps in its mind the one and only
revolutionary aim, the reformist method works for the revolution and thus
loses its opportunistic character."

This was just what the Comintern would not tolerate at this point, an
independent thinker. Lore was doomed.

The "Resolution on Bolshevization of the Party" spells out how the American
Communists would turn over a new leaf and get tough with all the right-wing
elements in the party. "...the task of Bolshevization presents itself
concretely to our Party as the task of completely overwhelming the
organizational and ideological remnants of our social-democratic
inheritance, of eradicating Loreism, of making out of the Party a
functioning organism of revolutionary proletarian leadership." And so Lore
was expelled at this convention.

The party was re-organized on the basis of factory cells and a rigid set of
organizational principles were adopted. For example, it stipulated that
"Wherever three or more members, regardless of their nationality or present
federation membership, are found to be working in the same shop, they shall
be organized into a shop nucleus. The nucleus collects the Party dues and
takes over all the functions of a Party unit." What strikes one immediately
is that there is absolutely no consideration in the resolution about
whether or not a factory-based party unit makes political sense. It is
simply a mechanical transposition of Comintern rules, which in themselves
are based on an undialectical understanding of Lenin's party.

The expulsion of Lore and the new organizational guidelines was adopted
unanimously by the delegates, including two men who would go on to found
American Trotskyism: James P. Cannon and Vincent Ray Dunne. Cannon and
Dunne are regarded as saints by all of the Trotskyist sects, but nobody has
ever tried to explain why Cannon and Dunne could have cast their votes for
such abysmal resolutions. There really is only one explanation: their
understanding of Bolshevism came from Zinoviev rather than Lenin.


Louis Proyect
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