Third Period Stalinism

OpenSentence Type Foundry typefoundry at
Tue Nov 18 20:59:14 MST 2003

> Date: Tue, 18 Nov 2003 20:29:46 -0500
> From: "Jose G. Perez" <jgperez at>
> Subject: RE: Religion/Luxemburg
> Melvin asks about "Third Period Stalinism."
> It was a term derived from a schema that the Comintern (supposedly)
> held, circa 1930 or so: the immediate period after 1917 had been a
> revolutionary one, then there was a retrogression in the 20's, then
> beginning in the late 20's the general crisis of capitalism erupted, and
> the CP's everywhere were urged to go on the offensive. It was the period
> when social-dems were branded "social fascists," etc., a generally
> ultraleft stance, and replaced around 1933-34 with the People's Front
> against Fascism line, which became pretty permanent.

I missed that post, but this is an interesting issue.  The pre-Popular Front
left language of the 30s (which persisted for some time other places, for
example in Spain up until the "ideological purification" of the Republican
forces) is strange, because it was a strange time for the European left; and
both "third period Stalinism" and "social-fascism" are terms that deserve
more scrutiny.  The first term is bad, because it makes people ask what it
means, ultimately it has to be explained in terms of the slogan "After
Hitler, us", and it didn't really work out like that (although the KPD
persisted in that vein for quite some time).  And this is a little
unfortunate, because the early KPD was really a pretty bad-ass organization,
*even* after the deaths of Luxemburg and Liebknecht.

You can pick the memory of Paul Levi by calling him a "rightist" or
"opportunist", but he was responsible for what KPD resistance there was to
the Kapp Putsch (rather a lot), and the third period started after he got
kicked out of the KPD. And although the example of the KAPD (those people
expelled by Levi from the KPD, although they later "came together" over the
March Action) intrigues me more than any other party North, South, East, or
West in terms of genuine potential for a US communist organization with a
large membership -- since I know there are large numbers of
anarcho-syndicalists who would join such an organization if it was by turns
appropriately "autonomistic" and well-scrubbed, and good comrades who would
like to be in the fight any way they can -- the Communist Workgroup he
briefly piloted is not too bad either as an example of a beyond-sincere
communist organization which was not intended to be a party.

> When people who come out of the Trotskyist movement refer to "third
> period Stalinism" strictly speaking they're referring to the error of
> groups who refuse to make united fronts with other forces because they
> consider those other forces reformists and so on. That was the stance
> (as Trotsky described it) of the German CP. Debating whether, or to what
> degree, that may or may not have been true in fact is, of course, beyond
> the parameters of this list.

I don't come out of the Trotskyist movement (quite the opposite, although
I've never been affiliated with a Leninist party either), but "reform or
revolution" (originally Eurocentrist Daniel DeLeon's question) is not quite
all there is to the question of third period Stalinism.  The issue of party
autonomy (one which veritably afflicted the KPD, which had many able people,
for its entire existence) is also present.  The KPD was so busy defending
the Soviet Union, they didn't really get a chance to defend free Germany,
whether that would have been the Weimar Republic (freer than the *Bonn*
Republic) or its constituents.  The rest of this is just you jerking off and
putting words in Melvin's mouth, and I'm not going to touch either; but
frankly, I'm waiting for you to charm my way out of Empirical tendencies.

Jeff Rubard

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