The First International Repercussions of the Events in Germany
Proletarians of the Whole World, Your Interests are Today Decided in Germany
Manifesto of the Left Fraction of the Communist Party of Italy
The final defeat of the German proletariat in January 1933, with the National Socialist Party taking power, marked the final defeat of the proletarian movement which, since 1917, had shaken the political power of capitalism to its foundations and had made the bourgeoisie in all countries tremble.
Every Marxist was aware that the fate of the proletariat, and of Soviet power itself in Russia, depended on the expansion of the revolution on an international scale, and Germany was the country to which all eyes looked with hope.
Germany which, from a geographical point of view, represented the heart of Europe, was also the most advanced point of capitalist development with a formidable proletarian concentration.
For its part, the German proletariat, fearsome even if only from a numerical point of view, had always shown its combativeness and courage. What the German working class lacked was not valor, it lacked a revolutionary party up to the task.
Even for capitalism, however, Germany was of vital importance and it was in Germany that all forms of counterrevolution manifested themselves in the most classic way.
It was German Social Democracy, the strongest party of the Second International, which, in 1914, was the first to betray the cause of the proletariat. It was again German Social Democracy, in 1919, which went to the direct repression of the working class and to the assassination of its revolutionary leaders. It was the very democratic Weimar Republic that reduced the proletariat to starvation and organized, in a completely legal and democratic way, the entry of the Nazi party into power.
Finally, we must not forget the counter-revolutionary role of the Stalinized Communist Party, who was the real culprit for the disintegration of the proletarian forces.
As long as the will to fight of the German proletariat had not been annihilated, however, there remained in Europe the fear of communism, the danger that the weak Weimar Republic would collapse under the blows of the working class. To avert this danger, the Holy Alliance of Reaction united in an indissoluble united front in which social democrats and priests, Nazis and Stalinists, the defeated German bourgeoisie, the capitalism of the victorious nations and the degenerated Soviet State all took their place.
The world proletariat, failing to exploit to its advantage the revolutionary phase that had opened as a result of the upheavals caused by the First World War, had not only lost an appointment with history, but had suffered a worse defeat, a defeat that would have compromised any attempt at a rescue for an indefinite period of time. A defeat whose harmful consequences are still felt today: the dissolution of the revolutionary class organ.
The Italian Fraction Abroad was the only political movement that understood what tragic to what tragic consequences the events in Germany would lead. Events that would have worsened if left-wing fractions had not arisen within the Stalinist communist parties to defend the program, the tactics and the revolutionary proletarian organization. The defeated and subjugated proletariat would have lost all notion of class independence and would have become a passive instrument of capitalist interests. With extreme lucidity of analysis, the Fraction foresaw that capitalism, now free from the danger of a revolutionary attack, would be ready to unleash a new disastrous imperialist carnage, and Russia would take part in this new carnage on the side of one of the capitalist sides.
Faced with this prospect, it was once again the Fraction that launched the appeal to the Left Oppositions to devote themselves to serious work for the reorganization of the working class without chasing after easy, false and ephemeral results. Unfortunately, the Left Oppositions, which, although weak, constituted a well ramified network, were not able to resist (and neither was Trotsky) the seduction of immediate successes and, inspired by the "politique d’abord”, they launched themselves in pursuit of any movementist illusion, refusing to analyze with the eyes of dialectical materialism the social and political reality which excluded, in the most absolute way, a revolutionary recovery in the short term.
The preoccupation with being the protagonist of historical events led Trotskyism to all kinds of combinations with democracy, with social democracy and even with Stalinism. This confused attitude, as our Fraction had repeatedly warned, contributed to the disorientation of the proletariat and to the continuation of the Stalinist hegemony. Therefore, regardless of the will of the individuals, the balance sheet of Trotskyism is to be considered negative from every point of view.
The Fraction Abroad, in the tremendous storm where everything was shipwrecked, succeeded only in not abandoning the flag of revolutionary communism of Marx, Lenin, the Italian Left, representing both the programmatic and physical continuity of the Livorno party with the one that tomorrow will lead the proletarian masses, finally free from the chains of opportunism, to the assault of bourgeois power.
The two writings published in 1933 that we reproduce below are an example of the clarity and dialectical "prescience” of the Marxist method of investigation. There are no comments to be made but to read and, if one is not a Marxist, be surprised.
Our fraction is the only group which has – among the various oppositions – raised a double perspective of the events in connection with the fascist advance in Germany. It is well known that Comrade Trotsky has raised the vision of a concentration of international capitalism around Hitler for the war against Russia. For a long time we have indicated that one of the consequences of "socialism in one country” could consist in the fact that the Soviet State itself, instead of remaining the pole of concentration of the world proletariat, descended on the chessboard of inter-imperialist competitions. And not following Lenin’s directive, to maneuver among groups of brigands, just to become the element of one or another constellation of these brigands.
Immediately after Hitler’s entry into government and the international tension that corresponded to it, the centrist press posed the problem of Versailles, of the liberation of the German "people” from the chains of the so-called peace treaties. But what is enormously more serious is that the Communist International has not even felt the need to launch a manifesto to the international proletariat, that no campaign of an international nature has been prearranged, that the German events are presented as of secondary importance by the party press.
In the meantime the two groups of brigands emerge: the fascist states and the anti-fascist states. The Social Democratic International speaks without equivocation. In its manifesto of February 19, it writes: “Stand up for the fight against fascism! Stand for the struggle against war!”
And in the context of the manifesto it reads, "The plans to form a bloc of fascist states and to oppose them to France and its Eastern allies now threaten to divide Europe into two enemy camps armed against each other.” Europe knows, from its own bloody experience, where the politics of alliances leads. And if one wants to understand what the position of the Social-Democratic International will be between these two camps, it is enough to glance through the press: in France it is shown that – as a consequence of Fascism – the Republic and freedom are in danger and in Belgium it goes much further and the Social-Democrats are already rising against the government which does not impose on Germany the respect of Versailles (incorporation of the armed forces of Fascism into the police), they note that the demilitarization of the left bank of the Rhine is already compromised, and place themselves at the head of chauvinism. There is no doubt that in the event of a war between fascist and anti-fascist states, the place of social democracy will be in the camp of the latter and from that tribune it will be called upon – as in 1914 – to defend democratic capitalism, that democracy which the proletarians of Indochina know so well.
The Socialist International makes a proposal to the centrists, obviously to enter its orbit. In the meantime, Herriot works along the same lines to win Russia over to the interests of France and puts forward the vision of an alliance based on socialism and “tame communism”.
Russia so far maneuvers and is careful not to soften its relations with Germany. The fact that there is no incompatibility between fascist Germany and Soviet Russia is proved by Hitler’s declarations, who said that “communism is not a matter of State” and that therefore it is possible to maintain excellent relations with Russia without encountering the slightest obstacle in the fight against communism. General von Seeckt goes much further and advocates a strengthening of relations with Russia for the fight against France.
We have always maintained that the more the chance of revolution being the exit out of the present situations recedes, the more the danger of the fall of these situations towards war arises. We have for years presented the vision of the blocs of tomorrow and indicated the double mask of capitalism to drag the proletariat to the slaughter.
Already the possibility of a war can be glimpsed in the alliances that are being prepared, a manifestation of which has been fulfilled in the constitution of a kind of organism that links the Small Entente. The Hirtemberg affair is very significant in this respect.
The centrist press has ceased to present the danger of world war against Russia. But it has not told us what Russia’s position will be for the imperialist war which is being prepared.
We already know that centrism will certainly bring the Soviet state into one of the two combinations of imperialism, and then all masks will fall and the hour of betrayal will be definitely over, since Lenin’s directive will be replaced by the other justification of that alliance which allows the success of socialism in only one country.
As for social democracy, as in 1914, it will call the proletariat to defend the so-called democratic fatherland of capitalism.
It is up to the fractions of the left to act today for the defense of the international proletariat, just as it will be up to them to take up again the flag of communism that centrism will surely betray.
For years our fraction has been raising before you the vision of reality, of the threat that weighed on the working class, of the precipice that was opening for the world proletariat. The alarm we had sounded has not been heeded: as with the socialist parties of before the war, the left fraction has found itself unable to effect a reversal of the situation in the direction that resulted from the evolution of the contradictions on which the capitalist regime is based. The fractions had against them an adversary which – having taken over the organization of the party of the revolution – could fulfill – in the interests of the capitalist enemy – its function of depriving the masses of that guidance which was indispensable for their struggle.
Today the facts speak the brutal language of an enemy who has already carried out a large part of his plan.
The proletariat of Germany was not able, in 1919, to destroy capitalist domination, to establish its revolutionary dictatorship: the traitors of 1914 saved the regime of the bourgeoisie by massacring thousands and thousands of proletarians, by assassinating the Spartacist leaders. The Weimar Republic was founded and millions of workers believed that a guarantee against hunger and terror was finally realized. In 1923 the revolutionary movements, instead of finding a party that would launch the call of the Bolsheviks of 1917 to unleash the insurrection, found a general staff blinded in a coalition with the traitors of 1914, with the executioners of 1919: not leaders who want to direct the masses to the assault of the weapon depots, but communist ministers who make the workers believe that the revolution is the business of porters to whom the bourgeoisie hands over the keys of the arsenals.
After the defeat of 1923, with the change of economic situations, and after the outbreak of the economic crisis, German capitalism could only defend its regime by crushing any possibility of workers resisting the conditions that have left six million hungry and unemployed, the conditions of misery and decimated wages.
When this new situation presented itself, what became the promises, the illusions, the hopes of the slaves of the capitalist regime?
The expectation of a better life as a consequence of the development of the technique of production: nothing.
The organization of millions of proletarians in trade unions, in factory councils: nothing.
The Weimar constitution, the republic, the direction of the state apparatus entrusted to exponents of the socialist party: nothing.
A Communist Party that extended its influence over millions and millions of proletarians: nothing.
A Communist International that has in its bosom a party that governs a sixth of the world, Russia: nothing.
Fascism is installed in power and the executioners of the German proletariat can raise their grins stained with proletarian blood, they can pile up the ruins of proletarian institutions, they can dishonor the memory of Karl Liebknecht by installing the political police in the house that bore his name, they can devastate the home of the founder of scientific communism, Karl Marx, the proletarians do not resist the settling of fascism and, in other countries, there is no protest movement, no solidarity struggle.
Without a class party, the proletariat is nothing; the present weakness of the fractions of the communist left and of their influence explains the passivity of the masses in the face of the present terrible situation.
To crash the Italian proletariat, three years of civil war, in which step by step the workers defended their lives and their organizations that the enemy could only attack with arms, could only destroy with machine guns and artillery.
But in 1921-22 the Italian proletariat had a communist party and the international proletariat had a Communist International. These bodies, faced with the attack of the enemy, called the masses to the struggle, indicated to the working class the plan on which, with arms in hand, it was necessary to oppose the violence of fascism.
The Italian proletariat was beaten, but hundreds and hundreds of revolutionary proletarians defended with their lives the flag of international communism. The proletarians of Germany have waited in vain for the call to fight from the party to which they showed their confidence, the Communist Party. This party had lost the ability to lead the working class, to mobilize it against the attack of the enemy: a political current alien to the revolutionary proletariat had established as a new condition for joining the communist parties that of fighting against the principles on which the Russian proletariat had erected its power, and of expelling from the ranks of the party, of deporting, of exiling the militants who remained faithful to these principles.
This transformation of the party and the International is what allowed the terrible defeat suffered by the international proletariat in Germany.
In the imperialist phase of the capitalist economy, no intermediate solution is possible: either the situation goes towards revolution, or the opposite, the situation goes towards war.
Moscow, in spite of mistakes and defeats, represented the pole of concentration of the world proletariat for the revolution until the triumph of the new program of socialism in one country. Then Moscow openly renounced this function: it proclaimed the break with the international proletariat and the construction of socialism in Russia alone. The events developed in consequence: on the one hand the progress of industrialization in Russia obtained mainly at the expense of the living conditions of the Russian proletariat, on the other hand the regression of the communist parties in all countries.
In order to wage war capitalism must annihilate the party of the revolution or leave it in shreds without influence. It must break it up where the economic conditions no longer leave room for the deceptions of democracy, it can leave standing disconnected sections of it which are fundamentally incapable of defeating the enemy positions which capitalism holds in the proletarian movement, through the influence of social democracy.
The victory of fascism in Germany meant the realization of the premises for the unleashing of tomorrow’s war.
But all is not lost
The successes of the enemy, although they are already enormous, the conditions of defense of the international proletariat already desperate, capitalism has not managed to extinguish the will of the masses to fight. The economic crisis is hopeless; those who speak of recovery of the economic situation are deceiving you. Millions of proletarians are today threatened with wage reductions, with cuts in unemployment benefits. And they will be again tomorrow. Powerful energies will be pushed into struggle and the German proletariat itself – after the first moment of astonishment – will try to reorganize itself to beat the enemy.
In order to make use of the already meager possibilities left to us, we need a very clear view of the terrible events of the present tragic situation.
The traitors of 1914, the executioners of 1919 still dare to take the initiative of the united front for the struggle against fascism. They talk about it in order to fulfill, once again, their function of servants of capitalism, they prepare the flag that capitalism will raise in France and Belgium, to chain the proletariat to the war.
Centrism has gone so far as to abdicate in the face of this maneuver of social democracy, so far as to sacrifice the communist parties that they even renounce criticizing the “social-fascists” of yesterday. But what is much more serious is that, in the face of the success of international capitalism in Germany, not a word has come to the world proletariat from the Communist International.
Not one more minute to lose, not one more thousandth of confidence in the forces that have brought us to the brink of the abyss: these are the conditions of the resumption of the struggle, of victory.
In your class organizations, in the trade unions, where workers of all parties are militating, the conditions exist for establishing the united front, the unity of the struggle, the blockade of the working class to defend itself against the enemy.
Everywhere you must demand that your class organizations fight for your immediate interests and to unleash a movement of solidarity with the German proletariat.
Centrism threatens to lead the communist parties on the path of open betrayal of the interests of the world proletariat, but these parties can still be saved.
The Russia of the Soviets, which has deliberately isolated itself from the international proletariat, is directly threatened by the danger of being dragged tomorrow into the war on the side of imperialism. But the class bases of the Soviet regime have not been undermined.
In order to save the communist parties and Soviet Russia, there is only one way: the return to the struggle programs of international communism, and for this purpose the indispensable organism are the left fractions.
And, if the stubborn struggle of the proletarians of the left fractions should fail, tomorrow, when the hour of war is struck, the organizations for which you have kept your confidence will be worth nothing.
The hour has not come to build new parties, and the proletarians of the left, conscious of their responsibilities, do not launch themselves into adventures which would compromise any possibility of action for the present situation and for the future.
Break every hesitation and every delay.
Demand a plan of struggle for your wages, for the unemployed, in solidarity with the German and Italian proletariat, from your trade union organizations.
Impose on centrism the return of left-wing fractions in the communist parties of all countries.
Long live the struggle of the world proletariat against fascism.
Long live the struggle for communist revolution!
Down with the traitors of yesterday, today and tomorrow!
Long live the fractions of the communist left!
THE LEFT FRACTION OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF ITALY