[Marxism] A response to the Kellogg-Riddell exchange on the early Comintern: | Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon May 19 15:48:30 MDT 2014

I strongly recommend that you read two important contributions to 
understanding the role of the early Comintern. The first is an article 
by Paul Kellogg titled “Substitutionism versus Self‐emancipation: The 
Theory of the Offensive, the Russo‐Polish War of 1920 and the German 
March Action of 1921” that can be downloaded from here. I was 
particularly interested to read this since I had learned from Paul that 
it was in the works back in April 2013 at the HM Conference. He related 
a positively hair-raising narrative of the Red Army invading Poland to 
extend the Bolshevik revolution at the point of a bayonet led by a 
former Czarist officer who was a raving anti-Semite. This was Mikhail 
Tukhachevsky, a very capable military man who was among those put up 
against the firing squad on Stalin’s orders on the eve of WWII.

In the interests of transparency, I must confess a strong identification 
with Paul Kellogg’s analysis, especially on the importance of 
Comintern’s role in the German disaster of the early 1920s. He has 
written a defense of Paul Levi who opposed the bumbling diktats of the 
Kremlin that relies on the same material I found useful—Pierre Broue’s 
history of the ill-fated German revolution as well as Werner T. 
Angress’s “Stillborn Revolution; The Communist Bid For Power In Germany, 
1921 1923”. Based on my review of the German events, I came to the 
conclusion that the Comintern imposed a “Zinovievist” party-building 
model on the Comintern that led to both Stalinists and Trotskyists 
turning away from what was truly revolutionary about Lenin’s party—its 
ability to draw revolutionary-minded workers into struggle without 
bureaucratic or sectarian limitations. The “Zinovievist” model put a 
premium on “democratic centralism” and discipline for good reasons. 
After the German disaster, it became necessary to circle the wagons and 
protect the leadership in Moscow from the responsibility of defending an 
indefensible policy. Many years later, I saw the same tendencies at work 
in the American SWP, a group whose “turn toward industry” was just as 
disastrous but fortunately limited to a marginal sect on the American 
left rather than the working class in its millions.

Paul Kellogg’s article was a review of John Riddell’s Toward the United 
Front: Proceedings of the Fourth Congress of the Communist 
International, 1922, a book published by Haymarket. Since I think this 
is a book that belongs on everybody’s bookshelf, it is too bad that the 
publisher has put a $55 price tag on it. Years ago, when Riddell was a 
member of the Trotskyist movement in Canada, Pathfinder Press in the 
USA—the publishing arm of the SWP—came out with a number of books by 
Riddell on the Comintern that now no longer appear in their catalogs. 
This is far worse than Haymarket’s offense. I should add that I have a 
somewhat different take on where things like the Comintern proceedings 
belong. They should be on the Marxist Internet Archives along with the 
rest of the core literature of our movement and not for sale by small 
propaganda groups or outfits like Lawrence-Wishart. If Haymarket had 
made such a decision, their political capital would have increased 
immensely even if their bottom line had decreased. Forget about 
Pathfinder—they sicced their corporate lawyers on MIA some years ago 
when the comrades put some of their copyrighted material on the Net.


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