Reprinted from the Workers' Advocate Supplement,
vol. 1, #3, May 1, 1985.
. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Seventh Congress of the Communist International, which was held in July-August 1935. This Congress is probably the single most discussed congress of the CI. Later this year it will undoubtedly be widely discussed by both Marxist-Leninists and revisionists.
. The Seventh Congress is known mainly for its discussion of united front tactics. Since united front tactics are one of the most basic methods of work of revolutionary communist parties, it is natural that this question has received wide attention.
. Today the issue of the united front comes up in discussion of the most immediate tasks facing class-conscious workers and revolutionary activists. A sharp debate has been in progress for some time. Is one following united front tactics when one works to unite the working masses against the capitalist parties, against both parties of the capitalist offensive, the Democrats and the Republicans, or do united front tactics require working for the election of some or most Democratic Party candidates? Do united front tactics put the class struggle in the fore, or do they amount to uniting with the liberal Democratic Reaganites against the conservative Republican Reaganites? Should there be a united front with the Democratic Party, the labor bureaucrats, and the bourgeois liberals, or should united front tactics be used to build up the independent movement of the working class?
. The pro-Soviet revisionists, such as those of the CPUSA, and the pro-Chinese revisionists, such
as those of the LRS, both oppose revolutionary agitation and both seek to subordinate the
movement to the liberal bourgeoisie. These revisionists, along with the Trotskyites and other
opponents of Marxism-Leninism, are liquidators, who are working to stamp out the class
independence of the proletariat. In this work, they have picked up the language of condemning
revolutionary work as "ultra-left", as a "denial of united front tactics", as a failure to "utilize
contradictions among the enemy", as work "in favor of Reagan", or whatever their particular pet
phrase is. In particular, the liquidators have taken to using united front rhetoric to justify their
opposition to the revolutionary class struggle and their subservience to the liberal bourgeoisie.
United Front Tactics -- A Basic Feature of Marxist-Leninist Tactics
. Hence it is important to study carefully the Leninist teachings on the united front and the experience of the Communist International. We must defend the Leninist united front tactics against the liquidators, who have stripped the heart and soul from united front tactics until there is nothing left but a fashionable phrase which they use to cover up the nakednesss of their betrayal to the side of the bourgeoisie. We must examine closely the rich experience of the C.I. And such a study must eventually come up with the issue of evaluating the views on the united front given by the Seventh Congress.
. Our Party has made use of united front tactics right from the time of the birth of our first direct predecessor, the American Communist Workers Movement (M-L), in 1969. Several years ago we began a special study of united front tactics in order to demonstrate the hollowness of the liquidationist rhetoric and also in order to systematize the theoretical basis of the tactics our Party uses, further develop the sense of revolutionary sweep and a broad perspective on the problems of the class struggle, and further develop our ability to apply our tactics to new problems and new situations. Some of this study has been published in The Workers' Advocate in the series of articles under the overall title "United front tactics are an essential tool of the proletarian party," which first appeared in Jan. 25, 1983.
. Our study, as any careful study of the Leninist teachings on the united front would, soon revealed a contradiction concerning the Seventh Congress. The Seventh Congress is widely known as the Congress that brought united front tactics to the world communist movement. Indeed, Dimitrov himself, in his well-known Report to the Seventh Congress, stressed that "Ours has been a Congress of a new tactical orientation for the Communist International." And there can be no doubt that this "new tactical orientation" for world communism was regarded as the wide and effective use of united front tactics.
. The contradiction is, however, that united front tactics have always been a basic feature of Marxist-Leninist tactics. Marx and Engels made effective use of the united front tactics in their revolutionary work, including their participation in the German democratic revolution of 1848-49 and the work to the build up the First International. The Bolshevik Party also made extensive use of such tactics for many purposes, including uniting the workers of Russia behind the communist stand despite the reformist obstruction of the Mensheviks.
. And the CI also took up the use of united front tactics long before the Seventh Congress. The CI held that, in building communist parties in each country and eliminating social-democratic methods of work, it was essential to teach the parties how to win over the majority of the working masses to communism. The issue of united front tactics came up in essence at the Second Congress of the CI in 1920. And then it was the Third Congress in 1921 that explicitly set forth the militant slogan of "Build up a united proletarian front" and that devoted much of its time to thrashing out the basic principles underlying united front tactics, while the Fourth Congress in 1922 carried this discussion further and lay further stress on the call to apply united front tactics. It is at these Congresses of the CI, in 1921 and 1922, that various principles of Marxist-Leninist tactics are formulated as united front tactics and are set as the line for the world communist movement.
. After these Congresses, the CI continued to devote continuous attention to the question of the united front. One of the focal points of the Fifth Congress of the CI in 1924 was the fight against rightist interpretations of united front tactics and of the slogan of "workers' government". Sharp debates took place on these questions. And the Sixth Congress in 1928, which dealt with a wide range of issues, also took up a number of questions of importance to united front tactics, including restressing the necessity to lay emphasis on the work among the rank-and-file workers as the heart of united front work; showing the necessity to fight against the "left" social-democratic ideology; explaining the nature of the partial demands that should be put forward; analyzing the role of the national-reformist currents in the national liberation movement, and so forth.
. Thus the CI was deeply involved in united front work, and was constantly discussing the issue of united front tactics and adjusting its united front work to ensure its revolutionary effectiveness, for well over a decade prior to the Seventh Congress.
. How then has the Seventh Congress come to be known as the Congress that introduced united
front tactics into the international communist movement? How could the use of united front
tactics be described as a "new tactical orientation" for world communism? Why does Dimitrov,
who himself refers back to some of the previous decisions of the CI on the united front, contrast
the tactics of the Seventh Congress to the previous tactics of the communist parties?
The Seventh Congress--A Turn Away From Leninist United Front Tactics
. In our view, the Seventh Congress of the CI actually did, just as Dimitrov said it did, introduce a new tactical orientation for world communism. But this orientation consisted in large part of abandoning the previous Leninist views on united front tactics and replacing them with profoundly erroneous tactics, tactics that harmed the anti-fascist struggle and that helped begin an opportunist corrosion inside the communist parties. It would still be the communist parties that were in the forefront of the fight against fascism in the rest of the 1930s and in World War II and that shed their blood to defeat the fascist offensive. It would still be a long time before the revisionist tragedy that destroyed the communist character of party after party; but the denigration of Leninist tactics at the Seventh Congress and afterwards would, in so far as various parties followed it, introduce harmful and even liquidationist practices into the communist movement.
. The Seventh Congress was faced with the task of orienting the world communist movement with respect to the new situations arising in the struggle against the world fascist offensive. The revolutionary crisis that the CI had predicted had arrived, but it was taking an unexpected form. It was more and more taking the form of a big clash between the working masses and the forces of fascism, which served as the spearhead of the bourgeois drive to destroy socialism in the Soviet Union and revolution around the world. The working class movement faced grave dangers and needed to soberly discuss how to mobilize around it every bit of revolutionary energy of the working masses.
. The Seventh Congress had at its disposal the results of over a decade of CI activity in forging the communist parties. The line of the first six congresses of the CI, from its founding in 1919 to the Sixth Congress in 1928, was both consistent and Marxist-Leninist. This was also true of "the Sixth Congress period" from 1928 to 1934, until a year or so before the Seventh Congress when the line began to change.
. At the same time, in the period following the Sixth Congress, certain rigid views on certain tactical questions had appeared in the Executive Committee of the CI. This was not a question of gross errors, but of the approach to certain subtle tactical issues that had come up in implementing a correct stand. As the thirties wore on, some of these tactical questions became more and more pressing. One of the tasks of the Seventh Congress was to correct these rigidities and ensure that the communist tactics maintained the necessary flexibility.
. The Seventh Congress however failed in these tasks. It did not give a correct summation of the
past experience of the communist movement. It threw aside the revolutionary orientation of the
past as well as the emphasis on strengthening the communist parties. It did not correct the
rigidities of the past period, but instead turned them on their head, drew rightist conclusions from
them, and converted them into major dogmas.
The Seventh Congress, the Great Mass Struggles of the 1930s,
and the Victory Over Fascism in World War II
. The great mass struggles of the latter 1930s and the defeat of fascism in World War II have provided prestige and apparent validation to the new line of the Seventh Congress. However, those who have tried to win mass support and to grow rapidly by simply adopting the rightist prescriptions of the Seventh Congress have failed again and again.
. This is because the great mass struggles of the 1930s arose because of the deep economic and political crises of the times, and because the communist parties had been organized and strengthened by years of previous work as part of the CI. The great mass struggles were part of the great clash between revolution and counterrevolution of the times. They began well prior to the Seventh Congress and the new line. As long as the world communist movement recognized the central role of the struggle against fascism and had a certain minimum of flexibility in its tactics, it was bound to find its rightful place at the head of these struggles.
. These conditions for the mass mobilizations behind the communist parties -- namely the great class clashes and the previous strengthening of the communist parties through protracted and persistent party-building -- cannot be shortcut through adopting some rightist formulas. Indeed, a study of the struggle of the latter 1930s and World War II reveals that various parties lost the fruits of their struggle because of the flabbiness in their orientation and organization created in large part by following the new tactical orientation worked out at the Seventh Congress.
. Our Party has great respect for the heroism, dedication and self-sacrifice of the great army of communists who fought perseveringly against the world fascist offensive. The history of this period shows that it was the working masses, spearheaded by the communist parties, that were the bulwark against fascism, while the bourgeoisie was the class that spawned and sympathized with fascism, that in country after country went over to fascism, that showed repeatedly that it preferred the worst fascist tyranny to the prospect of losing its sacred right to exploitation and plunder. It was the international working class movement, the liberation struggle of the oppressed nations, and the deep sacrifices by the Soviet people that defeated fascism. The history of the anti-fascist struggle shows that it is communism that can organize, mobilize and inspire the working class and unleash its revolutionary power, while reformism and opportunism, whether of the social-democratic brand or otherwise, is impotent and bankrupt before the great tasks of struggle.
. But the successes of this period must not blind us to the setbacks that also occurred, nor must
they prevent a sober assessment of the tactics and methods used at the time. The Seventh
Congress was right to point to the central role of the world fascist offensive in world politics. In
so far as it actually oriented the world's communists to this struggle, it was correct. But the 7th
Congress did not just readjust communist tactics to the current world situation. It ushered in new
orientations that denigrated the Leninist principles on one front after the other. These orientations
were harmful then, were harmful subsequently, helped undermine the communist movement and
leave it prey to subversion by revisionism, and are harmful today.
Introducing the Study of the Seventh Congress
. What were the basic features of the new tactical orientation? Here we will simply present in outline form some of the conclusions we have come to about the new united front tactics of the Seventh Congress. This will be simply an introduction to the extensive materials that, starting with this issue of The Workers' Advocate Supplement, we will be publishing on the Seventh Congress, analyzing in detail the views it set forth and the actions taken to implement them.
. The study of the Seventh Congress requires care as the reports at this Congress, such as
Dimitrov's speech, which was the main document promoted after the Congress and the main
document still read from this Congress, are deceptive and demagogical. They interweave the new
recommendations with disclaimers to the effect that the old views are being maintained. It is
possible to quote all sorts of isolated statements from Dimitrov's speech that are basically right
and that have nothing to do with the actual new tactics that Dimitrov was advocating. Thus it is
particularly necessary to examine Dimitrov's speech and the the other documents of the Seventh
Congress as a whole and, especially, to compare them with the actual practice of the times in
order to see what is window-dressing and what was meant seriously.
United Front Tactics --Before and After the Seventh Congress
. Now we will proceed to list a few of the major changes in the way united front tactics were
implemented before and after the Seventh Cogress. Our aim in doing this is to help guide the
study of this Congress and focus attention on the basic issues at stake. A presentation of many of
the basis Leninist ideas behind the former united front tactics of the CI may be found in the
articles "'To the Masses!'--The Call of the Third Congress of the CI", "The Third Congress of the
CI on the Relationship of the Party and the Masses", "The Third Congress of the CI on the
Reformist Parties as Diehard Defenders of Capitalism", and "The Third World Congress of the
CI Opposed Rightist Interpretations of United Front Tactics" in the issues of The Workers'
Advocate for March 1, 1983, July 1, 1983, August 15, 1983, and December 15, 1983.
** Abandoning the Leninist Stand of Winning the Masses for Communism
. Winning the masses for communism was the very heart of united front tactics as set forth by the Third and Fourth Congresses of the CI. These united front tactics did not consist in having illusions in reformism and social-democracy, but in finding ways to bring the working masses into motion despite and against the obstruction of the reformists and social-democrats. United front tactics were aimed at bringing the masses into struggle; and it was held that the sharper the class struggle, the more the masses could be won over to communism. This did not mean that united front proposals were to be formulated with special provisions designed solely to ensure rejection by the opportunist leaders, as the liquidators claim when they ridicule the Marxist-Leninist conception of the united front, but that these proposals must provide for real action against the class enemy, not empty phrases. And the CI warned against the rightist use of phrasemongering about the united front to hide liquidationist views and illusions about opportunism.
. The Seventh Congress fought hard against this stand. Dimitrov argued in essence that united
front tactics mean abandoning the revolutionary standpoint as something that could be postponed
for the unspecified future. The idea was that militant workers are revolutionaries and communists
for the distant future, but something else when dealing with the politics of the day. The whole
spirit of Leninist united front tactics, that only communism could provide the basis for a fighting
unity of the working class, was thrown aside as allegedly sectarianism, dogmatism, and the
empty repetition of communist platitudes. This affected the views of the Seventh Congress on
many different fronts, including the attitude to social-democracy, the methods to be used in the
fight against fascism, and the stand towards party-building.
** Defining Social-Democracy and Reformism as Progressive Forces
. Previously the united front tactics of the communist parties were based on the profound conviction of the treachery of social-democracy and reformism. The very origin of the Communist International was in the struggle against the treachery of the social-democractic Second International, which had betrayed the workers in World War I by going over to the side of the bourgeoisie. The social-democrats had urged the workers to side with their own national bourgeoisie in massacring the working masses of other countries, and by this class collaboration with the capitalists and reactionaries, the social-democrats had split the working class. The CI came up to rally the working class for the class struggle, to break the working class free of the class collaboration policy of the social-democrats and reformists, and to unify the working class through this revolutionary struggle against the bourgeoisie.
. The condemnation of social-democracy by the CI did not mean that it judged parties solely by their name or refused to deal with groups of social-democratic workers moving to the left. On the contrary, most of the original sections of the CI were left-wings of the social-democratic party of the countries concerned, and it was the task of the CI to convert them into genuine communist parties. And it was precisely during this period of relentless struggle against social-democracy that the CI guided the Communist Party of Germany in its successful winning over and merger with the bulk of the Independent Social-Democratic Party of Germany (the Independents being originally a centrist split from the reformist Social-Democratic Party of Germany, with the Independents who refused to merge with the communists reforming their centrist party and then merging back with the reformists). However, the CI judged that the movement to the left of the social-democratic workers consisted in their abandoning social-democracy for class struggle, even if various groups of these left-leaning masses still bore the term "social-democratic" in their name in the initial stages.
. The Seventh Congress, on the other hand, claimed that social-democracy had become progressive in the conditions of the 1930s. According to the Seventh Congress, the only hope for the working class to fight against fascism consisted in ensuring that the social-democratic parties and leaders gave up their class collaboration and took up struggle. Dimitrov and the Seventh Congress, flying in the face of the actual experience of the 1930s and of the struggle against fascism in various countries, theorized that the growing danger of fascism turned social-democracy into a pro-working class, progressive force. They closed their eyes to the experience of social-democracy and reformism serving the bourgeoisie heart and soul, the ongoing sabotage by the social-democrats and reformists of the struggle against fascism, and the many cases when they even sought to reach accommodation with the fascist movements and regimes; and they claimed that social-democracy was no longer a bulwark of the bourgeoisie. Instead they theorized that since the fascists attack the social-democrats, the social-democrats must now be progressive and willing to fight, that since the economic crisis hits the workers hard, the aristocracy of labor must be turning to class struggle so that it could hardly still be said to exist as an "aristocracy of labor", etc. etc.
. The "new tactical orientation" of the Seventh Congress was fully based on this view that the
whole fate of the class struggle depended on whether social-democracy would turn to a policy of
militant class struggle. It saw the crisis facing the social-democratic parties, with more and more
rank-and-file workers in the social-democratic groups disgusted at the treachery of their parties,
longing to throw themselves into the struggle against the fascist offensive, and interested in unity
with the communists. But it surrendered any prospect that this mass movement would upset the
social-democratic applecart and unite the working class behind class struggle, and instead
claimed that this motion of the social-democratic rank-and-file meant that the social-democratic
parties as a whole and all over the world were now progressive.
** Abandoning the Emphasis on Mobilization of the Rank and File
and Instead Subordinating Everything to the United Front From Above
. Previously the Communist International centered its tactics on the mobilization of the rank-and-file. United front agreements and appeals "from above", to the social-democratic parties and leaders or even to the Second International itself, were not ruled out. On the contrary, such appeals "from above" were essential, at the appropriate times, to be able to approach the masses at the base of the reformist parties. But they were to be used for the purpose of strengthening the work at the base.
. The entire content of Leninist united front tactics hinged on consideration of the mood of the workers at the base, at finding the ways to get in touch with them and bring them into struggle. And whatever agreements from above were obtained were regarded as useless if the communist parties did not make immediate use of them to step up their contact with the workers at the base, to find ways to draw these workers into the mass struggle and to find methods of moving them closer to the standpoint of building revolutionary organization. It was firmly understood that even if the social-democratic and reformist leaders agreed to take certain actions, that in most cases they would undertake little action in practice, would seek to find ways to block their members from coming over to communism, and would back out of the agreements as soon as they felt they had cooled off the rank-and-file workers. (Naturally, individual leaders might abandon social-democracy and particular social-democratic groups might move left and break free of social-democracy.)
. At the Seventh Congress, the emphasis changed to obtaining agreements from above with the social-democratic party leaderships. In fact, it was essentially denied that a party was using united front tactics unless it had an all-encompassing agreement with the social-democratic party leaderships and reformist trade union bureaucrats, or else was in the process of subordinating everything to the negotiations to obtain such agreements. Instead of judging proposed agreements with the social-democrats on the basis of whether they in fact helped to bring the workers into sharper struggle against the bourgeoisie, the methods of struggle were to be subordinated to what was acceptable to the social-democrats. This introduced a tremendous pressure for one concession after another to the social-democrats, since these concessions were the only method the Seventh Congress had found to obtain agreements from the social-democratic parties. Much of the Seventh Congress is devoted to justifying such concessions to the social-democrats (and liberals) and putting a good face on them.
. Such united front agreements from above were also regarded as something that could be durable and permanent. And the thought was completely abandoned that social-democratic workers or groups that moved left and took up struggle were in an unstable position, a position that must either lead them further to revolutionary stands and a break with social-democracy or must degenerate back into social-democratic sloth and collaboration with the bourgeoisie.
. Of course, the Seventh Congres did not give up phrases about mobilizing the masses, and the new united front tactics were justified as providing the biggest ever mobilization of the rank-and-file. On the surface, the examples of large mass actions of the 1930s might appear to justify this stand.
. But in fact the new views of the Seventh Congress placed the entire attention on
accommodation with the social-democratic (and liberal) leaders. Any study of the actual mass
actions of the time soon reveals that, in so far as the new tactics were applied, the mobilization of
the rank-and-file was subordinated to the need to reach agreements with the reformists (and the
liberals). The demands of the mass actions were subordinated to this end; the number and
methods of the demonstrations were subordinated; and often the mass mobilizations were
centered simply on electoral blocs. Even the existence of communist agitation and organization
at the base was sacrificed to agreement with the social-democrats (and liberals), as can be seen in
the elimination of communist trade union fractions and the substitution of liberal agitation for
** Abandoning the Standpoint of Struggle on the Immediate Issues
In Favor of Highflown, Empty Words about the Immediate Issues
. Previously united front tactics were designed to rally the workers around the burning, immediate issues of the class struggle. The united front appeals were to rally the workers around struggle against the bourgeoisie. The CI held that the conflict between communism and reformism was not just or mainly over the form of the future insurrection, but was an all-sided struggle on all the questions of the immediate struggle. It held that the main issue was that the reformists and social-democracts pursued a policy of class-collaboration and treachery on all fronts of the class struggle, while the communists pursued the policy of class struggle.
. The Seventh Congress changed this stand. It held that by shelving the revolution, the communists could come to terms with the social-democrats and reformists, who allegedly did fight on the immediate issues. Dimitrov and the Seventh Congress swore up and down about the immediate issues of the struggle, but this was for the sake of justifying such stands as abandoning the revolutionary standpoint and downplaying socialist agitation as allegedly necessary to carry forward the immediate struggle.
. In so far as the immediate struggle is divorced from revolutionary work and subordinated to what is acceptable to the social-democratic reformists, it turns into an empty shell, into words about struggle rather than struggle, into fine phrases to create the impression that something is being done, while politics as usual rules the roost.
. For example, the Seventh Congress raised the need to purge fascists from the French Army, and
then identified this task with the talk of liberal parliamentarians about the alleged loyalty of the
French Army to democracy. It analyzed the coming world war, and replaced the tasks of anti-war
struggle with pacifist agitation and "peace" as the central slogan. It substituted high-sounding
joint declarations to actual mass struggle. It showed a strong tendency to lay stress on
parliamentarianism and referendums, even useless pacifist referendums on whether the masses
wanted peace in general. And it ushered in the practice of advocating that the mass struggle
should be held in check in order to preserve the alliances necessary to fight fascism, rather than
intensified to provide a real struggle against fascism.
** Whitewashing the Bourgeois Liberals
. Previously united front tactics were designed to accentuate the class confrontation between the working class and the bourgeoisie. It was an appeal to the class solidarity of the working class. Without neglecting the differences between the bourgeois liberals and the bourgeois reaction, the communist parties sought to rally the workers as an independent force, separate from and opposed to all bourgeois parties. And the communist parties sought to rally the rest of the working masses around the working class through winning them over from the influence of the bourgeoisie. Thus the communist parties exposed the treachery of the bourgeois liberals, their participation and even leadership of the bourgeois campaigns against the working masses, and their role in facilitating the rise of reaction.
. The Seventh Congress however held that the bourgeois liberals, as well as the social-democrats, were to be whitewashed as anti-fascist fighters. The parties of the liberal bourgeoisie were misrepresented as peasant or urban petty-bourgeois parties; and just as the proletarian united front was regarded by the Seventh Congress as essentially identical with accommodation with social-democracy, the term "popular front", or alliance of the working masses, was misused as a euphemism for alliance with the liberal bourgeoisie. Thus Dimitrov's stress on the need for the popular front was actually an appeal for the need for unity with the bourgeois liberals at all costs.
. This view of the liberals went totally against the experience of the 1920's and 1930's concerning
the role of the liberal bourgeoisie in the rise of fascism. And to pursue the liberals required that
the class struggle be downplayed, various demands of the working class and peasantry be laid
aside, the militant mass struggle be calmed, and so forth.
** Liquidationist Tendencies on the Question of Party-Building
. Previously, the CI gave tremendous attention to the task of party-building. And it advocated that the strengthening of the communist party was essential for successful united front tactics. The party had to be parties of action, active in the political and economic struggles of the working class. The organizations of the party, from the top to the bottom, had to be extremely sensitive to the mood of the masses and clear and resolute on the orientation to be given to the mass struggle in order to utilize united front appeals correctly.
. The CI held that the correct use of united front tactics required that the communist parties organize themselves as proletarian revolutionary parties of the new type; they had to eliminate the social-democratic methods of organization carried over from former days. The social-democratic style of party organization had a passive mass at the bottom directed by a bureaucratic and detached center. Effective central organs had to be built up, capable of providing firm centralist leadership in close connection with the working masses and all the party organizations. Inner-party democracy that aroused the initiative of all party members had to be developed; this combining of centralism and democracy in democratic centralism could not be obtained by mere formal centralism or formal democracy. The communist organizations at the base had to be active among the masses, and each communist had to take full part in revolutionary work, in order to make the words about mobilizing the rank-and-file workers under social-democratic influence into a reality, rather than simply nice-sounding rhetoric. And the party had to intervene in all major political and economic issues, and not adopt the social-democratic manner of surrendering the economic issues to the trade union bureaucrats and the political issues to the parliamentary group.
. The Seventh Congress, on the contrary, downplayed the role of communist party-building in the name of the fight against sectarianism. The spirit of Dimitrov's remarks on party-building is to reduce all problems simply to the existence of sectarianism.
. Connected to its denigration of party-building, was the Seventh Congress' liquidationist willingness to sell off the communist organization and political stand piece by piece in order to satisfy the social-democrats and reformists. The most open example of this is Dimitrov's announcement that the communists will agree to renounce communist party fractions in the trade unions in the name of unity with the social-democrats. These fractions were crucial for ensuring the ability of the party to deal with the economic issues and to ensure contact with the masses of rank-and-file workers in the trade unions. Yet the Seventh Congress casually tossed them aside, made no suggestions for anything to take their place, and in fact agreed in principle to the hypocritical reformist demand that party politics be kept out of the trade unions.
. In fact, the Seventh Congress linked its new tactics on the question of the united front with the
liquidationist plan of merging the communist parties and social-democratic parties in all
countries around the world, and it held that this could be accomplished very soon. It also began
the process of dismantling the CI apparatus. We will deal with both these points separately a little
A Turn in the General Line of the International Communist Movement
. These views of the Seventh Congress on the united front did not affect just one front of work of
the communist movement. Instead they were inseparably connected with changes in one front
after another of the work of the parties; they affected communist agitation, the method of
approach to political events, the methods of organization, and the general perspective. Indeed, in
order to implement the new tactics, which required comprehensive agreements from above with
the social-democrats and liberals at all costs, such changes were unavoidable. We have already
outlined some of these changes in passing in describing the Seventh Congress' views on the
united front itself, and now we will list some additional areas in which changes were made.
** Abandoning the Revolutionary Struggle for the Liberation of the Colonies
. Previously the CI had laid great stress on mobilizing the workers of the advanced capitalist countries in support of the liberation movement in the colonies. Indeed, the famous 21 Terms of Admission to the CI, passed by the Second Congress, included a term devoted entirely to this point. Point #8 stated that
"Parties in countries whose bourgeoisie possess colonies and oppress other nations must pursue a most well-defined and clear-cut policy in respect of colonies and oppressed nations. Any party wishing to join the Third International must ruthlessly expose the colonial machinations of the imperialists of its `own' country, must support -- in deed, not merely in word -- every colonial liberation movement, demand the expulsion of its compatriot imperialists from the colonies, inculcate in the hearts of the workers of its own country an attitude of true brotherhood with the working population of the colonies and the oppressed nations, and conduct systematic agitation among the armed forces against all oppression of the colonial peoples."
Through this and other means, the CI linked the world working class movement with the revolutionary movement in the colonies into a single revolutionary front.
. The Seventh Congress downplayed this stand. It is notable that Dimitrov, in giving conditions for forming united parties of the proletariat, leaves out opposition to the colonial policy of "one's own" bourgeoisie. It is notable that after the Seventh Congress various European parties downplayed this question. For example, the French Communist Party, taken as a model at the Seventh Congress, in practice replaces support for the revolutionary movement in the French colonies, such as Vietnam and those in Africa, with the advocacy of mild reforms. The Spanish CP similarly puts on the shelf support for the self-determination of Spanish Morocco. Yet Morocco was a tremendous issue in Spain due both to the tremendous exertions the Spanish bourgeoisie had just made in brutally suppressing the Moroccan people and to the need to agitate among the Moroccan soldiers who had been forced into Franco's fascist army.
. But there was no way that vigorous support for the struggle of the oppressed people in the colonies could be carried out without upsetting the applecart of agreements with the social-democrats and liberals. Self-determination for the colonies was being sacrificed on the altar of the united front from above with the social-democrats and liberal bourgeois.
. Meanwhile, with respect to work in the colonies themselves, the Seventh Congress applied its
views on the united front to mean reconciliation with the national-reformist forces. Previously
the CI had held that the national-reformist movement was an opportunist movement, subject to
great vacillations as it balanced between imperialism and revolution. But the Seventh Congress
gave no tasks for communism with respect to national-reformism other than support for this
movement and integration into its activities. For example, in India, after the Seventh Congress,
the Communist Party dropped its struggle against the treachery of the Indian National Congress
and enthusiastically supported it.
** Replacing the Leninist Orientation for the Anti-War Struggle with Pacifist Agitation
. Previously the CI linked the struggle against imperialist war with the building of the revolutionary movement. It showed that only revolutionary struggle against the bourgeoisie, not the pious reiteration by the bourgeois liberals and pacifists of their love for peace and harmony among nations, was of value in the struggle against war.
. The Seventh Congress reversed this stand. It divorced agitation on the questions of war and
peace from the issue of revolution; instead it enthroned simply "peace" as the main slogan in the
fight against imperialist war. Although the Seventh Congress knew that World War II was
coming and even discussed the outlines of the coming war, it recommended agitation on peace in
general and put forward the perspective that such agitation could avert the coming world war. It
waxed enthusiastic about the eleven million people in Britain who voted for the "peace ballot"
organized by an organization called "The Friends of the League of Nations", and put this forward
as a model of anti-war work, despite the fact that this ballot did not deal with the causes of war,
did not say who was responsible for the current war threats, was based on illusions in the League
of Nations, did not mobilize anyone to rise in any form of struggle against the imperialists, and
only signified that the people longed for peace.
** Creating Illusions in the Bourgeois-Democratic Imperialist Powers
. The Seventh Congress correctly noted the special role of fascist Germany and Japan in the drive for the coming war and that the bourgeois states might divide among themselves and that the revolutionary forces might utilize this. But instead of a sober discussion of what this entailed, the Seventh Congress created illusions in the bourgeois-democratic imperialist powers. It whitewashed such powers as interested, for the time being, in the preservation of peace, although this was neither the general aim of the policy of the bourgeois-democratic imperialist powers nor the particular aim, which was to use the fascist states as a tool to smash the revolutionary movement. It denounced the very thought that mutual security pacts of the Soviet Union with the bourgeois-democratic imperialist powers could be regarded as a compromise forced by circumstances, and instead glorified them in exalted terms, and displayed tremendous naivety over their effects. (And this despite the fact that Seventh Congress had to deal with the fact that the French imperialists had extracted from the Soviet Union, as part of the price for the mutual security pact, a statement in the joint communique that "In this connection Mr. Stalin understands and fully approves the national defense policy carried out by France in order to maintain its armed forces at a level that will ensure its security.")
. The illusions in the bourgeois-democratic imperialist powers was connected to the pacifist agitation. For example, there was the rhetoric about certain powers being interested in peace. And there was the search of Soviet diplomacy for a joint definition with various countries of what aggression in the abstract was. The pacifist agitation was in fact connected to not just utilizing diplomacy, but centering the attention of the communist movement on diplomacy among the great powers.
. At the end of World War II, illusions in American and British imperialism had the tragic effect
of undermining the struggle in a number of countries where the communist party or the resistance
movement lacked vigilance with respect to, or even welcomed, Allied armies and then found that
these armies turned on them and installed reactionary, pro-Western regimes. These parties and
resistance movements then were faced with either capitulating altogether or fighting in far more
unfavorable conditions than if they had been properly vigilant at the start. These tragic illusions
were related to the line propagated by the Seventh Congress, which confused utilization of
contradictions among the imperialist powers with whitewashing the motives of one section of
** Hiding the Class Struggle
. Previously the CI put the class struggle in the fore. The Seventh Congress downplayed the class struggle in its advice for agitation and propaganda. For example, in dealing with fascist demagogy, the Seventh Congress laid great stress on the communists themselves raising nationalist themes and pandering to petty-bourgeois prejudices. It is notable that it avoided the issue of socialism to the point that it had little to say about the Nazi demagogy that their reactionary regime, drenched with the blood of the class-conscious workers, was "socialist".
. It was also notable that Dimitrov failed to deal with the anti-semitism of the fascists. At the Seventh Congress, only the German communist Florin raised the issue of the struggle against anti-semitism, when he briefly refers to the struggle of the German communists against anti-Jewish pogroms (according to the Abridged Stenographic Report of Proceedings that was published in Moscow in 1939). Part of the reason that the Seventh Congress avoided this issue may be that effectively fighting anti-semitism required raising class issues, not the general love of humanity and brotherhood: anti-semitism in Europe was being used by the bourgeoisie to deflect the anger of the masses at capitalist exploitation away from the capitalist exploiters to the Jewish people, for which reason anti-semitism was sometimes called "the socialism of fools".
. Part of the hiding of the class struggle was the glorification of democracy in general. The
communist criticism of bourgeois democracy as the veiled rule of the bourgeoisie is set aside as
something for the future. This is alleged to be required by the struggle against fascist takeover
and for democratic rights, although the communists had for years fought against reaction and
fascism while maintaining their criticism of bourgeois democracy.
** A Liquidationist Perspective of Worldwide Merger with Social-Democracy
. Previously the CI held that the unity of the proletariat would be reestablished on the basis of communism, on the basis of the revolutionary class struggle of the proletariat. This, indeed, was the reason why the CI had been founded.
. The Seventh Congress, on the contrary, held that the time had ripened for an immediate end to the split between communism and social-democracy. It called for direct mergers between the communist and social-democratic parties. The new parties to be formed were described in terms quite different from that formerly used for the communist parties. And this process was to take place in every country and rather soon. The speed with which this was to happen can be imagined by the fact that Dimitrov feels compelled to warn the communists that some social-democratic parties may yet exist as independent parties for a while.
. Previously the CI had merged different groups that had taken up the class struggle and support for communism into the communist parties. The new united parties were to carry out revolutionary struggle and the organizational methods of Marxism-Leninsm just as the other communist parties did. This merger was inseparable from a difficult and protracted struggle against the survival of social-democratic ideas and traditions of organization among new communists from social-democratic backgrounds.
. The Seventh Congress, however, put forth the plan of forming united parties on some sort of program that smoothed out the differences between communism and social-democracy. It abandoned the struggle against social-democratic traditions and ridiculed as sectarianism any worries about how to handle the influx of newly-radicalized former social-democratic workers into the communist parties. It opposed the creation of new splits in the social-democratic parties since it was so firmly convinced of the imminent merger of communism with the entire social-democratic parties, rank-and-file and leadership included.
. The Seventh CI also denounced the idea of separating the social-democractic workers from the reformist leaders as overestimating the revolutionization of the masses. Yet it held to a fantasy about the revolutionization of the social-democratic parties as a whole and held that world social-democracy as a whole was ripe for merger with communism.
. This was nothing but a liquidationist concept. In the crisis of the 1930's, many former
social-democratic workers were becoming radicalized and going over to communism. This was
particularly happening as the social-democratic parties and their traditional leaderships were
proving bankrupt in the face of the sharpening clash between the working class and the
bourgeoisie. This undoubtedly created conditions for certain groups of social-democrats, as well
as individuals, breaking free of the reformist leaders and going over to communism and called
for every effort to find ways to facilitate this. But the plan laid down by the Seventh Congress
consisted of unity through eliminating the work to build proletarian parties of the new, Leninist
type, through keeping the social-democratic parties together as one piece, and through uniting
with social-democracy as a whole.
** Beginning the Liquidation of the CI Apparatus
. The process of dissolving the CI began at the Seventh Congress.
. The Seventh Congress presented this as simply an adjustment in the methods of work of the CI and the elimination of some bothersome over-centralization. It is quite likely that the CI apparatus did require an adjustment in its methods of work and organization, an adjustment based on summing up its successes and its setbacks. But this is not what the Seventh Congress did. Instead, following the Seventh Congress there was a gradual process of dismantling of the CI. The CI apparatus had not been restricted to just dealing with a handful of leaders, but through congresses, journals and wide discussions it had worked to mobilize the whole mass of communists, from the rank-and-file militant to the Central Committee member. This was increasingly replaced with behind-the-scenes maneuvering.
. The journals of the CI were gradually published less and less, and their contents changed. As
well, there were no more congresses nor plenary meetings of the Executive Committee of the CI.
By 1943, when the CI was officially dissolved, there was hardly much left of it all, and there was
no consideration given to replacing it with another form of world communist organization. (The
Communist Information Bureau, or Cominform, was established four years later in 1947 but only
embraced a small handful of parties.)
The Experience of the Anti-Fascist Struggle
Refutes the Views of the Seventh Congress
. The "new tactical orientation" of the Seventh Congress was put forward as the way to fight fascism, but the experience of the struggle in the latter 1930's and in World War II refuted its theses and confirmed the revolutionary stand of Marxism-Leninism.
. The central view of the Seventh Congress was that social-democracy had become progressive. It
held that the working masses could force the social-democrats to become militant participants in
the anti-fascist united front and that the social-democratic parties were ripe to merge with the
** The Liquidationist Plan for Merger with Social-Democracy
Proved to Be An Utter Fantasy
. The worldwide merger of social-democracy and communism proved to be an opportunist fantasy. The majority of social-democratic leaders and parties continued their diehard struggle against communism. Faced with the intense desire of rank-and-file social-democrats for an end to class collaboration and for unity with communism, the social-democratic leaders simply marked time and waited for a suitable pretext to go on the offensive against communism, which they found in the Moscow trials of 1937 and 1938 against the degenerate Trotskyite and Bukharinite leaders.
. There were some mergers with social-democratic parties or groups, and with certain social-democratic youth leagues, but these social-democrats were going against the international line of social-democracy in so doing. And these examples were never summed up internationally to see how they came about and what the results of the mergers were.
. It should be stressed that during this period of the anti-fascist struggle social-democracy and
liberalism were indeed in crisis, and the working masses under the influence of these trends were
becoming radicalized. This called for energetic united front attempts to help win these toilers to
the revolutionary struggle, and the possibility existed that not just individual toilers, but whole
groups of formerly social-democratic and liberal toilers would go over to the path of struggle.
But the experience of how this took place verified not the "new" orientations given at the
Seventh Congress, but the previous Leninist conceptions.
** The Social-Democratic and Liberal Leaders Continued
to Fear Class Struggle More than Fascism
. The view of the Seventh Congress that the social-democratic and bourgeois liberal leaders were militant anti-fascist fighters -- or would be if the working masses simply applied a little pressure -- fared no better. Experience showed that social-democracy retained its role as a bulwark of the bourgeoisie, and along with the liberals it continued its practice of fearing the class struggle of the working masses more than the torments of reaction. It was not social-democracy and liberalism, but the communist parties and the working masses that bore the brunt of the struggle against fascism.
. The French example was the model for the Seventh Congress. And following the Seventh Congress, the election of a Popular Front government in France was one of the showpieces of the new orientation.
. But the French Popular Front governments failed to implement the social reforms they themselves were pledged to, failed to purge the French armed forces and bureaucracy of fascists, failed to support the anti-fascist struggle internationally (and, in particular, stabbed the anti-fascist fighters in Spain in the back during the Civil War), and failed to raise the militancy of the masses. The various Popular Front governments progressively moved to the right and finally collapsed, throwing France back into the arms of a liberal-center coalition government on the eve of World War II, a government which, at the outbreak of World War II, banned the communist press and arrested activists, dismissed municipal councils with a communist majority, and displayed the iron fist against the working masses, while it left France open to the German blitzkrieg.
. The French social-democratic and liberal leaders were not militant anti-fascists. Not only did the social-democratic class collaboration and the liberal championship of capitalism pull the Popular Front governments down, but prominent liberals and social-democrats entered the service of the fascist pro-Nazi puppet government of France that was set up in part of France after France fell (the other part of France was directly administered by Germany). The social-democratic party went into crisis under the weight of its capitulation to fascism, and it was only gradually reorganized by social-democrats who wished to resist fascism, albeit in the reformist fashion.
. The communist resistance was the largest resistance movement in France, the one that bore the
brunt of the struggle. There were reformist and bourgeois resistance movements, and it was
necessary for the communists to take account of them, and not lump them with the
occupationists; it was particularly necessary to find a way to promote unity in action with the
rank-and-file resistance fighter from the working masses who was under the influence of other
trends. But the bourgeois resistance made little secret of its aim of restoring French imperialism,
as its choice of De Gaulle as a leader showed, while the leadership of the social-democratic party
also sought to keep the struggle of the masses within narrow limits. The tactics carried over from
the Seventh Congress harmed the vigilance of the French communists.
** The Albanian Experience in the Anti-Fascist War
Also Refutes the Seventh Congress
. In Albania, the communists led the anti-fascist national liberation war against the Italian and German fascist occupiers. This was a heroic struggle which not only defeated the fascists but was carried forward to a social revolution. The experience of this war and the subsequent social revolution also refute the views of the Seventh Congress. Comrade Enver Hoxha, who passed away only this month, was the leader of the Albanian communists and one of the giants of the world communist movement. His work and action in the anti-fascist war went against the prescriptions of the Seventh Congress on one issue after another despite his own belief that he was implementing the views of this Congress.
Thus Albania was liberated through the construction of a fighting united front of the masses although it proved impossible to obtain a united front agreement with the Albanian bourgeois nationalists and social-democrats (in Albania, the bourgeois nationalists were the main anti-communist force among the masses). Indeed Comrade Enver and the Albanian communists tore up the sell-out Mukje agreement of August 1943 with the bourgeois nationalists. The Albanian communists were not against agreement in principle and had striven hard to bring all groups into the liberation struggle. But they were not for an agreement at the cost of the struggle. Contrary to the views of the Seventh Congress, not united front from above with the reformists and bourgeois nationalists, but a direct united front of the toilers and anti-fascist militants was the salvation of Albania.
. Similarly, the Albanian communists went resolutely against the orientation of building the united front on the basis of nice-sounding phrases in joint declarations. They insisted on building the united front on the basis of the burning task of the times, on the basis of insisting on armed struggle against the occupier.
. They also did not sell off the communist party to the opportunists. As Comrade Enver stressed in his many writings on the anti-fascist war, in this struggle the Albanian communists never surrendered the leading role of the party and the work to build it up.
. And the Albanian communists had no illusions about the role of the American and British armies in the war, and they succeeded in keeping the Western imperialists from intervening and setting up the domestic bourgeoisie in power.
. It is the example of what the Albanian communists actually did, and not their wrong conception of the line of the Seventh Congress, that must be the decisive factor in evaluating the Albanian experience. It may be noted, however, that although the belief of the Albanian communists in the value of the Seventh Congress didn't prevent them from contradicting the Seventh Congress in practice, it has been a factor that has contributed to their difficulty in applying their revolutionary experience to the present problems of the world Marxist-Leninist movement. It has been one of the sources of the present errors in the policy of the Party of Labor of Albania, errors that we have discussed in The Workers' Advocate of March 20, 1984 whose lead article is entitled "Our Differences with the Party of Labor of Albania".
. The world communist movement, through its struggle and its bloodshed, through its rallying of
the working masses and through its numerous martyrs, led the smashing of the fascist offensive
that culminated in World War II. Insofar as the Seventh Congress substituted what Dimitrov
called "a new tactical orientation" for the Leninist principles of the united front, it hurt the
struggle. It was one of the reasons why many parties were unable to effectively fight against the
fruits of the defeat of fascism being snatched by the Western bourgeoisie from the hands of the
working masses. The influence of the Seventh Congress helped undermine and weaken the
The Seventh Congress Provided the Soil for the Mistakes
That Appeared After World War II
. The "new tactical orientation" from the Seventh Congress was originally promoted as the method of fighting fascism. In fact, it was not applied simply to the period of the late 1930s and World War II, when the fascist offensive on a world scale confronted the working class movement. It was not retracted after World War II. On the contrary, it was one of the foundations for the various wrong orientations that became fashionable in the world communist movement in the period following World War II.
. In The Workers' Advocate for May 1, 1984, entitled "In Defense of Marxism-Leninism: On Problems in the Orientation of the International Communist Movement in the Period from the End of World War II to the Death of Stalin", there is a description of the post-World War II period. Through examining the documents of the Cominform, the statements of Stalin and other major Soviet leaders, and the practice of various of the communist parties during that period, a picture is drawn of the problems that afflicted the world communist movement of that time and the effect these problems had in undermining the movement and leaving it prey to the tragedy of Khrushchovite revisionism in the mid-1950s.
. An examination of the wrong orientations of the post-World War II period shows the close relationship to the "new tactical orientation" of the Seventh Congress. True, the post-World War II orientations were not a simple carbon copy of the Seventh Congress. For one thing, they had to adapt the new tactics to the world situation that arose after World War II. But the post-World War II views clearly build on the foundation of the Seventh Congress.
. We pointed out that one of the main features of the problems that afflicted the world communist movement after World War II was a wrong orientation with regard to the struggle against social-democracy and opportunism. The consistent and principled struggle against social-democracy was replaced with repeated attempts to come to accommodation with social-democracy (to say nothing of the middle bourgeoisie, the priesthood, etc.) This clearly demonstrated a refusal to sum up the experience of the struggle against fascism, and it was a continuation of the stands of the Seventh Congress.
. We showed that there was a wrong orientation in the struggle against imperialist war. This struggle had brilliant possibilities in the post-World War II period, and it could have been used quite effectively to build up the revolutionary movement. But instead the orientation was adopted of detaching the anti-war struggle from the class struggle, the socialist revolution, the national liberation movement or any other social content. The wrong orientation found concentrated expression in the pacifist policy of the World Peace Congress, the building of which was a major project of the world communist movement at that time.
. This separation of the anti-war struggle from the revolutionary movement is completely in line with the pacifist agitation recommended at the Seventh Congress. Even the arguments from the post-World War II period suggesting that revolutionary Leninism no longer applied because of the changes in the world situation since World War I were the same as those used at the Seventh Congress.
. We pointed to the astonishing lack of interest in the national liberation movement and other revolutionary struggles of the people of the oppressed countries in Cominform statements, Soviet statements and in the work of the World Peace Congress. The "Eurocentric" attitude of the Cominform and the backward attitude of the CP of France on the national liberation wars in Vietnam and Algeria is utterly reminiscent of the stand of the Communist Parties of France and Spain after the Seventh Congress of abandoning support for the liberation struggle of the colonies.
. On these and other questions, the similarity of the two periods is evident. It is the Seventh
Congress that opened the door to these errors and to the process of replacing revolutionary
Marxism-Leninism by something else. In so doing, it was one of the factors undermining the
world communist movement, corrupting it and leaving it prey to the tragedy of revisionist
takeover, which destroyed so many parties in the mid-1950s. It shows that if we wish to fight
revisionism and build up a strong international Marxist-Leninist movement, we not only cannot
rely on the mistaken traditions of the post-World War II period, we also cannot rely on the stands
of the Seventh Congress. We must instead uphold the revolutionary communist stands of
The Seventh Congress and the Corruption of the CPUSA by Browderism
. One of the striking examples of the undermining of a communist party by the Seventh Congress is the corrosion of the Communist Party of the USA by Browderite revisionism.
. The CPUSA was once a revolutionary communist party that fought hard against the American bourgeoisie. It went through a difficult and protracted process of overcoming social-democratic traditions and taking up communist methods of work. It tirelessly organized the working class, led a number of fierce struggles against the exploiters, championed the cause of the unemployed, took up the fight for the liberation of the black people and other oppressed nationalities, vigorously fought U.S. imperialism and constantly strove to develop a strong revolutionary movement in the U.S.
. But in the mid-1930s, the CPUSA suddenly changed its line. Throughout the latter 1930s, under the leadership of Earl Browder, it step by step began to drop its revolutionary features and to hitch itself to the tail of the liberal bourgeoisie. It toned down its struggle against Roosevelt and the union bureaucrats and eventually took up the stand of being the left-wing of the liberal-labor Roosevelt coalition. It abandoned its attempt to build up a revolutionary center of the black liberation struggle separate from the black bourgeoisie. It liquidated its trade union fractions and shop newspapers.
. Browder continually redefined the united front and the popular front on a "broader and broader" basis, beginning with a section of the labor bureaucrats and the "left" wing of the Democratic Party, and later including the whole labor bureaucracy, the liberals of both the Democratic and Republican parties, the bourgeoisie of the oppressed nationalities, etc. By World War II he was extending his hand even to the National Association of Manufacturers and the billionaire J. P. Morgan himself.
. In this process, Browder never received any rebukes from the CI. It was not until the very end of this process, after Browder had liquidated the CPUSA altogether, converting it in 1944 into the "Communist Political Association", that Browder received any criticism in the world communist movement; it was in April 1945 that Jacques Duclos, a major leader of the Communist Party of France, wrote his famous article denouncing the liquidation of the CPUSA and certain of Browder's theses as "a notorious revision of Marxism".
. The reason for the acceptance of Browder's actions in the international movement and one of the basic reasons behind the sharp change in the orientation of the CPUSA that began in the mid-1930's is clarified by the study of the Seventh Congress. It is clear that the change in the line of the CPUSA coincides with the taking up of the "new tactical orientation" that was formalized at the Seventh Congress of the CI. Various of the particular features of Browderism were even taken directly from Dimitrov's Seventh Congress report, such as the liquidation of the trade union fractions, the friendly attitude to Roosevelt, and the accommodation with the reformists, labor bureaucrats and liberal bourgeoisie in the name of a broader and broader united front or popular front.
. The change in the line of the CPUSA is also due to domestic factors and causes internal to the CPUSA. There was a great deal of stress on the Party as it carried out revolutionary work in the midst of the Great Depression. It faced repression from the bourgeoisie. It faced complex problems when it led various militant strikes in the early years of the depressions but was was unable to register a corresponding growth in its organization in those sectors of the workers. It had internal organizational problems. It would have required a determined stand to maintain its communist line and adapt it as necessary to the circumstance.
. The CPUSA might have surmounted these factors. And, as a result of their revolutionary work, they were in good position to benefit from the further development of the mass upsurge of the 1930s. But the Seventh Congress added further pressure on the Party to abandon its line, rather than reinforcing their revolutionary determination as the CI had in the past. And thus it turned out that the Seventh Congress served as a catalyst to unleash the negative forces inside the CPUSA. The influence of the Seventh Congress had a powerful effect in undermining and corroding the party.
. Beginning in 1945 a struggle developed in the CPUSA against Browder. Led by William Z. Foster, the American communists reconstituted the CPUSA, stripped Browder of all leading positions (and eventually expelled him from the Party for factional activity), and took up the question of rectifying the methods of struggle and organization of the CPUSA.
. But, as we saw in the article "The CPUSA's Liberal-Labor Approach to the Critique of Browder" (in the May 1, 1984 issue of The Workers' Advocate on the post-World War II situation in the international communist movement), the repudiation of Browder by Foster and Duclos did not bring the CPUSA back to sound Marxist-Leninist positions. Instead, although Browder was denounced for his most extreme liquidationist positions and his most outlandish, rightist statements about the utopia that U.S. capitalism would bring the world and the class peace and class collaboration that was on the agenda, the basic features of the liberal-labor approach that Browder had been advocating and implementing in the Party were left untouched. Foster argued that, despite certain mistakes, the basic line of the party had been correct until May, 1942, when Browder was released from a trumped-up jail sentence.
. The half-heartedness of the repudiation of Browderism by the CPUSA was further elaborated in the article "Why the CPUSA didn't resist Khrushchovite revisionism" in the June 10, 1984 issue of The Workers' Advocate. This article examined the activity of the CPUSA from the repudiation of Browder to its collapse into Khrushchovite revisionism in the 1950's. It showed the liberal-labor stands of the CPUSA in the post-World War II period, and it connected these stands to the inability of the CPUSA to resist the Khrushchovite revisionist offensive.
. It is clear that one factor inhibiting the CPUSA from delving further into the criticism of
Browder was it desire to stay within the bounds of the Seventh Congress. It was implicitly
recognized by Foster that the overall stands of the CPUSA in the late 1930s were basically in line
with the orientation fostered by the Seventh World Congress and that only Browder's later
liquidation of the party and other more extreme stands were going too far. (Indeed, it is notable
how long it took for opposition to solidify against these more extreme stands; this itself is a sign
of the corrosive effect of the atmosphere ushered in by the Seventh Congress.) As long as the
CPUSA stayed within the bounds of the wrong orientations fashionable in the post-World War II
period of the international communist movement, and within the bounds of the Seventh Congress
of the CI, it could not throw off the basic liberal-labor stands of Browder and return to
The Influence of the Seventh Congress Is a Barrier
to Carrying the Struggle Against Revisionism Through to the End
. Today the struggle against Browderism in the American working class movement is far from over. The influence of Browderism survives in the politics of the liquidators, who are seeking to keep the working class and progressive activists tied to the tail of the Democratic Party, the labor bureaucrats, the bourgeoisie of the oppressed nationalities, and the liberal bourgeoisie generally. Building the revolutionary movement is inseparable from a relentless struggle against all those political trends which seek to mire the working masses in the swamp of class collaboration and bourgeois politics. Upholding the standpoint of class struggle and building up the independent movement of the working class requires firm opposition to this new Browderite politics.
. Indeed, today a few of the liquidators have even praised Browder's politics by name. But more generally, the liquidators support instead the various concepts of Browderism. Browderite distortions of the idea of the united front are one of the chief weapons in the liquidationist arsenal.
. To build up the revolutionary movement, and to organize the class struggle through building up the political party of the working class, the Marxist-Leninist Party, we must carry the struggle against Browderism, and against modern revisionism as a whole, through to the end. Soviet revisionism, Chinese revisionism, Browderism and Trotskyism are poisons that are fatal to the revolutionary struggle of the working class. Today they meet on a common liquidationist platform.
. The struggle against revisionism requires going back to the revolutionary ideas of Marxism-Leninism. The Seventh Congress of the CI introduced the corrosive practice of denigrating the revolutionary stand of Marxism-Leninism. It introduced erroneous concepts on the united front, on the nature of opportunism, on the methods of agitation and organization, and a number of other questions. The "new tactical orientation" of the Seventh Congress has been shown in practice to be wrong, and it is today upheld as a shield by many of the liquidators. In order to uphold revolutionary Leninism, it is necessary to subject the views of the Seventh Congress to criticism and to liberate the present-day struggle from the influence of erroneous traditions.
. Criticism of the Seventh Congress does not mean denigrating the memory of the many communist martyrs of the struggle against fascism in the slightest. On the contrary, the real way to honor their memory is to exert all ones' strength and abilities to carrying forward the struggle against the bourgeoisie. In this struggle, we must make full use of the rich experience of the communist movement in the past. The study of this experience helps clarify the issues explained in the classic writings of Marxism-Leninism. But the study of this experience must also involve criticism of mistakes, so that they can be corrected in the present practice of the revolutionary movement. And indeed, if the views of the Seventh Congress are not criticized, then it would mean, in effect, throwing out all the rich experience that preceded it and was allegedly rendered obsolete by it.
. The struggle against revisionism has repeatedly shown its ability to invigorate the revolutionary
working class movement. But in the last few decades certain wrong traditions have contributed to
holding it back and preventing it from developing consistently. Let us clear away these obstacles
to applying revolutionary Leninism to the concrete conditions of today. Let us uphold the
revolutionary principles of Leninism and carry the struggle against revisionism through to the
Notes -- June 2008
(WAS) The Workers' Advocate, and Workers' Advocate Supplement, which carried additional materials including many of the longer theoretical articles, were publications of the Marxist-Leninist Party of the US. The MLP, which was founded on Jan. 1, 1980 and dissolved in November 1993, stemmed from the anti-revisionist movement of activists who wanted to push forward the mass struggles and root them in the working class, saw Marxism as an essential guide for the revolutionary struggle, and rejected the sell-out reformism of the official pro-Soviet communist parties. It was opposed to both Soviet revisionism and Trotskyism. Its roots went back in the mass movements of the 1960s, such as the anti-racist, anti-war, student, women's, and workers' movements, and the WA itself was published from 1969 to 1993. The cause of anti-revisionist communism is upheld today by the Communist Voice Organization, and the Communist Voice is a theoretical journal which is a successor to the Workers' Advocate. (Return to text)
(LRS) The LRS, or League of Revolutionary Struggle (M-L), was a Maoist organization formed in 1978 from the merger of I Wor Kuen and the August 29th Movement (ML). Amiri Baraka's Revolutionary Communist League (M-L-M) also merged into it. The LRS dissolved in the latter 1980s. (Return to text)
(USSR) At the time this article was written, the MLP believed that socialism was being built in the USSR during this period and right up until the Khrushchovite regime that came about sometime after Stalin's death. Subsequently theoretical work and study of Soviet history by the MLP and the Communist Voice Organization led to the conclusions that the historic Bolshevik revolution had begun fading away sometime in the 1920s, and that not socialism, but state-capitalism was being consolidated in the USSR in the 1930s. This was the economic base for the Soviet communist party becoming a revisionist party, and Stalinism ending up as a new form of revisionism; and it's why the Soviet regime became oppressive. This doesn't change the assessment of the fascist offensive, nor the fact that the most class-conscious and revolutionary worker activists in the capitalist world were in the various communist parties, nor the assessment of the general line on the united front of the CI congresses, but it does mean that the communist activists of the time faced an even more complex and difficult situation than was realized at the time. (Text)
(Cominform) The Information Bureau of the Communist and Workers' Parties, or Communist Information Bureau (Cominform), existed from 1947 to 1956. Aside from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, it had an membership of seven to nine other European parties; and, in accordance with Stalinism, it put forward a revisionist standpoint on world affairs and the tasks of the working class movement. Some of the features of this standpoint are discussed later on in this article. (Text)
(Moscow trials of 1937 and 1938) Later research led us to the conclusion that the Stalinists had carried out a murderous campaign against the Trotskyists and other of their opponents. We emphatically condemn this. However, it also confirmed that the Trotskyist doctrine was revisionism. Far from Trotskyism being genuine "Bolshevik-Leninism", as it presents itself, it is, in large part, the flip side of Stalinism. See the four-part article "An Outline of Trotskyism's anti-Marxist Theories". (Text)
(The Albanian communists) The Albanian communists led the anti-fascist resistance and carried
out a revolution that moved Albania into the modern world. They also stood up against
Khrushchovite revisionism when it arose in the Soviet Union, as well as against the "three
worlds" theory of the Maoists. They thus had a strong reputation among most of the world's
anti-revisionist communists, including those who founded the MLP,USA on Jan. 1, 1980. But, as
the Albanian Party of Labor had been following the pre-Khrushchovite Soviet model, it built up
a state-capitalist system in Albania. By the 1980s this system went into crisis, and the Albanian
regime also championed revisionist positions on international politics, and eventually collapsed
at the start of the 1990s at the time of the general collapse of East European revisionist regimes.
The MLP criticized Albanian positions repeatedly throughout the 1980s. It also regarded that the
study of the history of the Soviet Union would, among other things, throw light on the internal
economic and political structure of Albania. The study of the history of the world communist
movement led the MLP to see that the origin of Soviet revisionism lay prior to Khrushchov, in
Stalinism; and the study of Soviet history led to an increasingly critical analysis of the Stalinist
economy and regime. This analysis has been developed further by the Communist Voice
Organization, which distinguishes sharply between the oppressive state-capitalist system build
up under Stalin in the Soviet Union and either the classless socialist goal or the transitional
economy that would exist in a true workers' regime. (Text)
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Last changed on June 26, 2008.