Although the agenda of the 4th Congress contained two paragraphs concerning the Program (of the International and its sections) and tactics, the general discussions on these important topics were postponed to the 5th Congress.
Nevertheless, our delegation (majority) prepared a project of theses on the tactics of the International, which are not different from the directives on which the ones presented at the Party Congress and approved by the Party (March 1922) were drafted, and on which the Summary was drawn up, which the majority delegation marked as a platform in the discussion of the Enlargement of June 1922. The publication of these theses clarifies the thinking of the majority of the Party on the question of general tactics at the time of the Congress of the International. Needless to add that they are a theoretical contribution and not a program of action that the Party intends to follow.
The necessary prerequisites for the achievement of the revolutionary aims of the Communist International are objective in nature, insofar as they lie in the situation of the capitalist regime and in the stage of the crisis it’s going through, and they’re subjective in nature insofar as they concern the ability of the working class to fight for the overthrow of the bourgeois power and to organize its dictatorship with unity of action: that is, to succeed in subordinating all the partial interests of limited groups to the general interest of the whole proletariat, and to the final goal of the revolution.
The subjective conditions are of a double order, namely:
The question of tactics consists in seeking the means which will best enable the communist parties to realize simultaneously these revolutionary conditions of a subjective nature, based on the objective conditions and the procedure of their developments.
(The descriptive chapters of Zinoviev’s thesis on the international
politico-economic situation, the offensive of Capital and the situation
of the workers’ movement are quoted at this point).
Constitution of the Communist Parties and of the Communist International
The failure of the Second International and the success of the Russian Revolution have given rise to the reconstitution of the revolutionary ideology of the proletariat and its political reorganization in the ranks of the Communist International.
The Communist International, in order to take up its task of unifying the struggles of the proletariat of all countries towards the final goal of world revolution, must first of all ensure its programmatic and organizational unity. All sections and all militants of the Communist International must be committed by their adherence in principle to the common program of the Communist International.
The international organization, eliminating all vestiges of the federalism of the old International, must ensure maximum centralization and discipline. This process is still taking place through the difficulties that arise, ranging from the different conditions of the various countries and the traditions of opportunism. It will be effectively solved, not by mechanical expedients, but by the realization of an effective unity of method, which highlights the common features of the action of the vanguard of the proletariat in the different countries.
It is not possible to admit that any political group can be included in the international revolutionary discipline and organization by virtue of its simple adhesion to given texts, and with the promise of the fulfillment of a series of commitments. On the contrary, it is necessary to take into account the real process carried out in the organized groups acting in proletarian politics (parties and tendencies) and the formation of their ideology and their experience of action in order to judge if, and to what extent, they can be part of the Communist International.
The disciplinary crises of the Communist International are based on a double aspect of traditional opportunism today: one of accepting with enthusiasm the formulations of the tactical experience of the Communist International, without understanding its solid interconnection with revolutionary aims, but taking the external forms of its application as a return to the old opportunist methods which are deprived of any consciousness or a revolutionary, purposive will, and the other which rejects those tactical formulations with a superficial criticism which portrays them as a renunciation and a retreat from the revolutionary programmatic aims. In both cases it is a matter of misunderstanding of the relationship between carrying out the means and the communist ends.
In order to eliminate opportunist dangers and disciplinary crises, the Communist International must base its organizational centralization on the clarity and precision of its tactical resolutions and on the exact definition of the methods to be applied.
A political organization, i.e., founded on the voluntary adherence of all its members, responds to the demands of centralized action only when all its components have seen and accepted the set of methods that can be ordered from the center to be applied in the various situations.
The prestige and authority of the center, which have no material means of disciplinary punishment at their disposal but make use of coefficients that remain in the domain of psychological factors, absolutely demand clarity, precision and continuity in programmatic proclamations and methods of struggle. In this lies the only guarantee of being able to constitute a center of effective unitary action of the international proletariat.
A solid organization arises only from the stability of its organizational rules; which, by assuring each individual of their impartial application, reduces dissension and desertion to a minimum. Organizational statutes, no less than ideology and tactical norms, must give an impression of unity and continuity.
Because of these considerations, based on a rich experience, in the transition from the period of construction of the International of Communist Parties to the period of action of the International Communist Party, it is necessary to eliminate abnormal rules of organization..
These include the mergers of isolated sections of the International with other political bodies, the fact that some of these can be constituted not on the criterion of personal membership but on the criterion of the adhesion of workers’ organizations, the existence of fractions or groups organized on a basis of different “tendencies” within the organization, the systematic penetration and entryism in other bodies of a political nature and discipline (which applies even more to those of a military nature).
To the extent that the International applies such expedients, manifestations
of federalism and disciplinary ruptures will occur. If the process
of eliminating these abnormalities were to be halted or reversed, or if
they were to become widespread, the danger of a relapse into
opportunism would be extremely serious.
The Conquest of the Masses
The fundamental task of the communist parties is the conquest of an ever greater influence on the masses. To this end, they must resort to all those tactical means which the objective situation makes appropriate and which will ensure an ever-increasing extension of the influence of the party on on both an ideological level and of the various forms of organization of the party into the strata of the proletariat.
The conquest of the masses cannot be achieved with mere propaganda of the party’s ideology and with simple proselytism, but by participating in all those actions to which the proletarians are driven by their economic condition. It is necessary to make the workers understand that these actions cannot in themselves ensure the triumph of their interests: they can only provide an experience, an organizational result and a will to fight to be framed in the general revolutionary struggle. This is achieved not by denying such actions, but by stimulating them by inciting the workers to undertake them and by presenting them with those immediate demands which serve to bring about an ever larger union of participants in the struggle.
Even in situations of normal development of capitalism, for the revolutionary Marxist parties it was a fundamental necessity to fight for the concrete economic claims of the proletarian groups on the terrain of the trade unions and other such groups. Claims of a general social political order must also serve revolutionary work. But these demands must not form the ground for a compromise with the bourgeoisie through which the proletariat pays for its concessions by renouncing the independence of its class organizations and the propaganda of its revolutionary program and methods.
Through the actions for partial claims, the communist party achieves a contact with the masses which allows it to make new proselytize further: because by suppleting with its propaganda the lessons of experience, the party gains sympathy and popularity and creates around itself a whole wider network of organization connected to the deepest strata of the masses and on the other hand to the leading center of the party itself. In this way a unified discipline of the working class is prepared. This is achieved by systematic entryism in the trade unions, cooperatives and every form of organization of working class interests. Similar organizational networks must arise as soon as possible in all fields of Party activity: armed struggle and military action, education and culture, youth and women’s work, penetration of the army, and so on. The goal of such work is the realization of not only ideological but also organizational influence of the Communist Party on the largest part of the working class. Consequently, in their work in the trade unions the communists tend to realize the maximum extension of their base, as well as of all organizations of a similar nature, fighting every split and advocating organizational unification where a split exists, as long as they are guaranteed the minimum required for possibilities to work for communist propaganda and entryism. This activity in special cases can also be illegal and secret.
The communist parties, while working with the program of securing the
leadership of the trade-union centers, an indispensable apparatus of
maneuver in the revolutionary struggles, by means of the conquest of the
majority of the organized workers, accept in any case the discipline to
the decisions of the latter and do not pretend that in the statutes of the
trade-union organizations or in special pacts, the commitment to a control
of the party is sanctioned.
The United Front
The capitalist offensive and its particular present-day features offer special tactical possibilities to the communist parties to increase their influence on the masses. From this arises the tactic of the united front.
The capitalist offensive has the double objective of destroying the proletarian organizations capable of revolutionary offensive while also intensifying the economic exploitation of the workers in order to attempt to reconstruct the bourgeois economy. The capitalist offensive therefore directly impacts against the interests even of those proletarians who have not yet gained consciousness and a revolutionary understanding, and attacks those same organizations which do not have a revolutionary program and are led by opportunist elements. The bureaucracy which leads these organizations, well understanding that accepting even a defensive struggle is equivalent to posing a revolutionary problem and thus placing the workers on a front of struggle against the bourgeois class and its institutions, sabotages even the purely defensive resistance, while renouncing the illusory program of a gradual improvement of the living conditions of the proletariat.
This situation allows the communist parties to lead to the struggle of even the part of the workers who do not have a developed political consciousness. Communist parties have the possibility to invite these strata of workers to united actions for those concrete and immediate claims that consist in the defense of their interests threatened by the offensive of capital.
To this end, the communists propose a common action of all the proletarian forces within the organizations of the most diverse tendencies.
This tactic must never be in contrast with the fundamental task of the communist party: that is, the diffusion within the worker masses of the consciousness that only the communist program and the organizational framework around the communist party will lead them to their emancipation.
The prospects of the united front are twofold. The invitation to the united front will serve for a campaign against the programs and influence of the other proletarian organizations, if they refuse the invitation to action made by the communists; it is evident, in that case, the advantage of the communist party. If, on the other hand, an action in which all the proletarian organizations and the whole proletariat participate is really achieved, the communist party aims to succeed in taking the leadership of the movement, when the general conditions allow it to lead to a revolutionary outcome. When this is not possible, the communist party must try by all means to achieve – through the events of the struggle, a partial success of it, or, if failure is inevitable – the conviction by the masses that the communist party is best prepared to make the cause of the proletariat prevail. The communist party, if it has previously campaigned on the precise proposals which would guarantee the success of the struggle, will be able, through the participation in the front line of its forces in the common action, to make the masses form the conviction that victory will be possible when non-communist organizations do not have a prevailing influence on them.
The tactic of the united front is therefore a means for the conquest of a preponderant ideological and organizational influence of the party.
The instinctive tendency of the masses towards unity must be used when it can serve the favorable employment of the tactics of the united front: it must be fought when it would lead to the opposite result.
The serious tactical problem of the united front therefore presents limits outside of which our action would fail in its own ends. These limits must be defined in relation to the content of the claims and the means of struggle to be proposed, and in relation to the organizational bases to be proposed or accepted as the platform of the proletarian forces.
The claims which the Communist Party puts forward for the united front must be such that they do not conflict with the programs of the various bodies who will form the proposed coalition, and they must be achievable by methods of struggle which none of these bodies rejects on principle.
Only in such a case will it be possible to campaign against those organizations which refuse their adherence to the proposed united front: and in the opposite case only in such a way will it be possible to use the course of action to the advantage of communist influence.
All demands that can be pursued through direct party action can be put forward: the defense of wages and labor agreements in industry and agriculture, the struggle against layoffs and unemployment, the effective defense of the right of association and agitation.
As means of struggle can be proposed all those that the communist party does not reject for its own independent actions, and therefore all forms of propaganda, agitation and struggle in which the proletarian class places itself clearly and avowedly against capital.
Finally, the basis of the coalition must be such that, since the whole of the communist proposals is known to the masses, even when the other proletarian organisms have not accepted them, but nevertheless initiate a general proletarian action (for example: using means of struggle suggested by the communist party, general strike, etc. etc. but with other objectives), the communist party, while not keeping itself outside the common action, can nevertheless shift the responsibility of its direction onto the other organisms in case of defeat of the proletariat.
The communist party will not accept, therefore, to be part of organisms common to various political bodies, which act with continuity and with collective responsibility in the direction of the general movement of the proletariat. The communist party will also avoid appearing as a partner in common declarations with political parties, when these declarations contradict even partially its program and are brought to the proletariat as a result of negotiations to find a common line of action.
Especially in cases where it is not a question of a brief public polemic in which other organizations are invited to action with the certain expectation that they will refuse, but there is rather a possibility of uniting in struggle, the leading center of the coalition must be realized in an alliance of proletarian organizations of a union character or similar. In this way this center will present itself to the masses as conquerable by the various parties acting within the workers’ organizations.
Only in this way will the useful employment of the united front tactic be
assured even through an action which, through the influence of
opportunists, ends in an incomplete victory or in a defeat of the working
The Workers’ Government
The immediate claims that interest the proletariat can also be related to the politics of the State.
These claims must be formulated by the communist party and proposed as the objectives of the action of the whole proletariat conducted through an external pressure on the government, exercised with all means of agitation.
When the proletariat finds that in order to achieve these demands it is necessary to change the existing government, the communist party must base its propaganda for the overthrow of bourgeois power and for the proletarian dictatorship on this fact: in the same way as when the workers find that their economic demands have no place in the capitalist economy.
When the governmental regime is in a critical situation due to the relations of social forces, it is necessary to make the overthrow of this regime not mere propaganda, but a concrete claim accessible to the masses.
This demand (power to the Soviets, to the Control Committees, to the Committees of the Trade Union Alliance) can be put to the workers of all parties and without parties represented in these bodies. All workers will be led to accept it even against their leaders. It is part of the political task unique to the Communist Party, since its realization involves the revolutionary struggle and the suppression of bourgeois democracy, and proposing it leads the entire proletarian mass on this path. But it is not to be excluded that such an extra-parliamentary word can also be given in parliament or in an electoral campaign.
To speak of a workers’ government as a coalition government of workers’ parties, without indicating what will be the form of the representative institution on which such a government will be able to rest, is not to launch a claim understandable to the workers, but only to give a word of propaganda which confuses the terms of the ideological and political revolutionary preparation. The parties are organizations formed to take the government, and the parties that form the workers’ government cannot be those that are for the preservation of the bourgeois parliamentary institutions.
To speak of workers’ government declaring or not excluding that it can arise from a parliamentary coalition in which the communist party participates, means practically denying the communist political program, that is, the necessity of the preparation of the masses for the struggle for dictatorship.
The political situation of the world is not such as to foresee the formation of transitional governments between the bourgeois parliamentary regime and the proletarian dictatorship, but rather of bourgeois coalition governments, which will lead with extreme energy the struggle for counter-revolutionary defense. Should transitional governments arise, it is a necessity of principle for the communist party to leave the responsibility of directing them to the social-democratic parties, as long as they arise on the basis of bourgeois institutions.
Only in this way can the communist party devote itself to the preparation
of the revolutionary conquest of power and the inheritance of the
The Conquest of the Unorganized Masses
The existence of strong and flourishing economic organizations is a good condition for the work of penetrating the masses. The accentuation of the breakdown of the capitalist economy creates an objectively revolutionary situation. But since the fighting capacity of the proletariat proved to be insufficient at the moment after the apparent prosperity of the immediate post-war period and the crisis appeared in all its gravity, we are thus witnessing today the emptying out of trade unions and all similar organizations in many countries: in others it is foreseeable that such a phenomenon won’t take long to come.
As a result, the revolutionary preparation of the proletariat is becoming difficult, despite the spread of poverty and discontent.
In the forefront is the problem of organizing behind the communist parties the layers of the jobless and the proletarian elements reduced to a precarious state by the paralysis of the productive machine. It is possible that in some time this problem will appear more serious than that of the conquest of the workers who follow the other proletarian parties, through the economic organizations directed by them, a problem which is being faced with the tactic of the united front. On the contrary, it must be considered that, as the intensity of the counter-revolutionary united action of all the bourgeois forces is accompanied by economic decadence, the non-communist proletarian economic organizations will be emptied more rapidly. The terms of the problem of the conquest of the masses will be changed.
A new form of organization of proletarian interests will have to be
realized, the revolutionary work always having to be based on the real
concrete situations. In the present stage, the task is outlined of
organizing around the committees and organs of the unique front of
organizations, with appropriate forms of representation, the strata of
proletarians without organization. The communist party will have to be the
center of the struggle and of the redemption against the reactionary
capitalist centralization tending to impose itself on a scattered and
dispersed working class and definitively abandoned to itself by the
"Lo Stato Operaio", March 6, 1924
I find the draft organization completely acceptable in all its parts. It contains provisions which, objectively considered, are of great importance because they aim at eliminating the last remnants of the federalist type of organizational methods of the old International.
If, at this stage of the Congress, it were still possible to broaden the discussion a little more, I could raise the question as to all that’s needed to make effective revolutionary centralization work is achievable through a reform of the organizational apparatus.
I have already said something about this in my discussion of the report of the Executive and will not repeat myself now. However, I must reiterate that, if we want to achieve an effective centralization, that is, a synthesis of the spontaneous forces of the vanguard of the revolutionary movement in the different countries, in order to eliminate the disciplinary crises that we see today, we must centralize our organizational apparatus, but at the same time we must unify our methods of struggle and clearly specify what the program and the tactics of the IC are about.
We must explain to all the groups and comrades belonging to the IC exactly what is meant by the duty of unconditional obedience they contract by joining our ranks.
As for the international congresses, I fully agree on the abolition of imperative mandates and on the manner of convening national congresses.
I unreservedly admit that we are dealing here with measures which correspond to the principles of centralization, but I am of the opinion that, in the interest of true centralization, we should not merely declare that the imperative mandates must be abolished and the world congresses held before the national congresses, for on the very work and organization of the world congresses even graver words must be said.
We have reached the last sessions of the Congress and we must note that the work done is not in all respects satisfactory.
For example, the question of resignations remains open.
I agree that resignations must be prevented. I suggest, however, the adoption of a rule already in effect in our party, according to which all resignations are accepted, and the person who has tendered them cannot resume his place in the party within the next one or two years. I believe that this procedure would have the effect of considerably reducing the number of resignations.
But there is another issue that I feel I must address despite the stage the Congress is at: the proposal for a two-year interval between world Congresses. If the next Congress should not be so heavy with work and issues as the present one, it would certainly be advisable not to repeat this impressive organizational and financial effort. But I raise the specific question of the time that separates us from the Fifth Congress.
We are about to postpone to the next Congress a series of questions of the utmost importance, especially the presentation of a new program, or rather the first real program, of the IC, and the revision of its Statutes, which is to say, of the organic link that unites the International and its sections.
After the Executive’s report, we discussed at length the question of tactics, but the various speakers who took the stand did not deal with the great problem of the International’s tactics, limiting themselves to discussing a few remarks in the E.C. on the activity or situation of this or that national section. Very important questions, such as that of workers’ government, on the other hand, were not clarified.
I don’t propose to reopen now a big debate on the question of tactics, but if I think about the program, the statutes, the tactics, I find absurd the idea of convening the 5th Congress only in two years. In the name of the majority of the Italian delegation, I therefore reserve the right to present the proposal that the 5th Congress of the IC, taking into account the postponement of very important issues, should be held in the summer or autumn of 1923 at the latest.
[Kolarov, on behalf of the E.C., clarifies that the Fifth Congress
will be held next year and that the decisions regarding the two-year
interval between world congresses will not come into effect until
From the German Protocol.