Declaration of the Bolshevik-Leninist Delegation at the Conference of Left Socialist and Communist Organizations

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The Collapse of Both Internationals

Despite the evident disintegration of world capitalism as an economic and social system, the workers' movement of the world is now passing through a deeper crisis than lifter the smashing of the Paris Commune or during the imperialist war. Two working-class parties of the most industrial country of Europe, the Social Democratic and the Communist parties, which led behind them thirteen million voters, capitulated without a fight before the fascist regime. Two Internationals were subjected to a test and proved bankrupt

The Social Democracy, whose bankruptcy became apparent in the imperialist war of 1914-18, tried to reconstitute its ranks after the world catastrophe, thereby hindering the workers from going over to communism and to the Third International. The defeat of the German Social Democracy confirms that reformism, which has brought the Second International to disaster, can and could lead the workers only to new catastrophes. The Social Democracy, which to the end held on to the soil of rotting capitalism, was itself drawn into the process of decay. However, the Third International, whose task it was to organize the forces of the proletariat for a revolutionary rise against the bourgeoisie of all the countries and for the victory of socialism, has also failed in its task. It fell victim to bureaucratic centrism, which is based on the theory and practice of socialism in one country; in a word, it was wrecked by a system of errors that entered into history under the name of Stalinism. At the time when capitalism, torn by world contradictions, placed the international revolution on the agenda, the Comintern became only a submissive and impotent chorus to the conservative and nationally limited bureaucracy of the Soviet Union.

Thousands of Communists are now trying in Hitler's Germany to save the official party by continuing the old policy under the new conditions. With all our revolutionary sympathy for the self-sacrificing fighters, we must tell them that wrongly directed efforts and sacrifices will be fruitless. Under the conditions of fascist terror, the Stalinist policy is doomed to a complete smashup within a short time. An illegal revolutionary party in Germany must be built on new foundations.

After the living march of events had shown that fascism and the Social Democracy, the two polar tools of the bourgeois regime, exclude each other not only politically but also physically, it was necessary to put the simple conclusion of this experience as the basis for all our international agitation, pushing the Social Democracy to the path of a united front with the Communist Parties. Despite all evidence, the bureaucracy of the Comintern restated the theory of social fascismas firmly as ever and, having thereby completely blocked itself from an approach to the reformist mass organizations, substituted masquerade blocs with impotent circles of pacifists and adventurists for the proletarian policy of the united front If the lesson of the German catastrophe did not help the Stalinist bureaucracy, nothing will help it New national parties and a new International are necessary.

The Position of the Bolshevik-Leninists

The participants in the present conference are of different political origins. Some split off in recent years from the parties of the Second International; others came from the ranks of the Third International; there are, finally, some of a mixed or intermediary origin. Some acted as independent parties, others considered themselves and worked as factions. If these organizations come together today for the first time at a common conference to try to find bases for joint work, all of them have by this very fact openly admitted the necessity of welding together the proletarian vanguard on new foundations.

With regard to Germany, our international organization (Bolshevik-Leninists) has, after serious and heated debates, almost unanimously adopted this position. With regard to the Comintern as a whole, the question was formally raised by us for discussion only within the last couple of weeks. We are speaking here in the name of the international plenum of the Bolshevik-Leninists, which has approved this declaration. Our national sections have not as yet had time to fully express themselves. But the question has been prepared to such an extent by the foregoing development of events, as well as by the development of the Left Opposition itself, that we have no doubt as to the verdict of our organizations. At any rate, the final word belongs to our sections.

Some participants of the present conference are probably of the opinion that we came to the break with the Stalinist bureaucracy with unnecessary belatedness. It is not the place here to return to the old disputes. The fact, however, is that our policy, having taken into consideration objective conditions and not subjective moods, has given us the possibility of forming stable organizations of Bolshevik-Leninists in more than twenty countries. Although in their majority they are cadres and not mass organizations, their invaluable advantage lies in the fact that they are linked on an international scale by a unity of programmatic and strategical conception that has evolved gradually from the experiences of great events and from the struggles of the proletariat

The Struggle with Reformism

From what has been said already, it is clear that the break with the centrist bureaucracy by no means makes our attitude to reformism less sharp. On the contrary, it is more irreconcilable now than ever before. We see the chief historic crime of the Stalinist bureaucracy precisely in the fact that by its whole policy it renders invaluable aid to Social Democracy and hinders the proletariat from going over to the path of revolution.

For us Bolshevik-Leninists and, we trust, also for all of you, there cannot even be any thought of constant work in common with organizations that have not broken with the principled foundations of reformism, that continue to hope for the regeneration of the Social Democracy as a party or that consider the unification of the Second and Third Internationals as their mission. Groupings permeated by such tendencies can only pull the workers backwards. And, basing ourselves on all the lessons of the past, we want to go forward.

The "twenty-one conditions” for acceptance to the Communist International, elaborated in its time by Lenin for the purpose of a decisive separation from all types of reformism and anarchism, acquire at this stage again an urgent character. It is, of course, a question not of the text of this document, which should be radically changed in accordance with the conditions of the modern period, but of its general spirit of revolutionary Marxist irreconcilability.

Only under the condition of irreconcilable separation from reformism is it possible and necessary to enter into friendly cooperation with all those proletarian organizations that are actually developing from reformism towards communism. We condemn and reject categorically the mode of actions of the Stalinist bureaucracy, which treats as "left social fascists" all revolutionary organizations that — by the fault of the Comintern — find themselves outside the Comintern, and which, on the morning after a catastrophe, touchingly invites them into the Comintern as "sympathizing" parties. The Comintern is capable only of decomposing and destroying proletarian organizations but not of strengthening and educating them. The cooperation that we have in mind presupposes an honest attitude to facts and ideas, mutual comradely criticism and respect for each other.

The First Four Congresses of the Comintern

Revolutionary policy is unthinkable without revolutionary theory. Here we need, least of all, to start from the beginning. We stand on the basis of Marx and Engels. The first congresses of the Communist International left us an invaluable programmatic heritage: the character of the modern epoch as an epoch of imperialism, that is, of capitalist decline; the nature of modem reformism and the methods of struggle with it; the relation between democracy and proletarian dictatorship; the role of the party in the proletarian revolution; the relation between the proletariat and the petty bourgeoisie, especially the peasantry (agrarian question); the problem of nationalities and the liberation struggle of colonial peoples; work in the trade unions; the policy of the united front; the relation to parliamentarism, etc. — all these questions have been subjected by the first four congresses to a principled analysis that has remained unsurpassed until now. One of the first, most urgent tasks of those organizations that have inscribed on their banners the regeneration of the revolutionary movement consists in separating out the principled decisions of the first four congresses, in bringing them in order and in subjecting them to a serious discussion in the light of the future tasks of the proletariat The present conference must, in our opinion, indicate the ways and the first steps of this necessary work.

Strategic Lessons of the Last Decade

The political life of the proletarian vanguard did not stop at the first congresses of the Communist International. Under the influence of historic circumstances, that is, the march of the class struggle, the apparatus of the Comintern has completely gone over from Marxism to centrism, from internationalism to national limitedness. If the building of the Third International was impossible without cleansing the layers of reformism away from the teachings of Marx, so now the creation of revolutionary parties of the proletariat is unthinkable without cleansing the layers and falsifications of bureaucratic centrism away from the principles and methods of communism.

The struggle (with numerous and heavy sacrifices) of the Left Opposition against the oscillations of the Stalinist apparatus is imprinted in a series of documents of a programmatic and strategical character. In accordance with the most important political stages of the last decade, the following problems have been illuminated in these documents: the economic construction of the USSR; the party regime; the policy of the united front (Anglo-Russian Committee, on one side, the German experience, on the other); the path of the Spanish revolution ("democratic dictatorship"); the fight against war; the fight against fascism, etc. The basic conclusions of this ten-year struggle are given in the form of a synopsis in the "eleven points" of the international preconference of the Left Opposition. We are submitting this programmatic document here for your attention.

It is superfluous to say that on our part, we will consider with the greatest attention all the theses, resolutions and programmatic declarations in which other organizations represented here have expressed or may express their estimation of the tasks and perspectives. We do not want anything so much as the mutual exchange of experience and ideas. We wish to state with great satisfaction that the "Declaration of Principles" of the Revolutionary Socialist Party of Hollandconcurs on all the basic questions with the platform of the International Left Opposition.

The present preconference cannot, of course, discuss with the necessary profundity the programmatic and strategical lessons of the world revolutionary struggle But it is time to make a start. We permit ourselves to express the wish that each of the organizations represented here will reprint our "eleven points" in their press with the necessary commentaries, and that afterwards the possibility will be given us, in the form of discussion, to defend our theses in the same press. On our part, we obligate ourselves to publish for the information and discussion of our sections every programmatic document that may be introduced by other organizations and shall willingly give to the defenders of the document corresponding space in our press.


The question of the USSR is of exceptional importance to the workers' movement of the world and therefore also to the correct orientation of the present conference. We Bolshevik-Leninists consider the USSR, even in its present form, a workers' state. This estimation needs no illusions or embellishment

One cannot feel anything but contempt for those "friends" of the USSR who declare every work of criticism against the Soviet bureaucracy to be a counterrevolutionary act If revolutionists had been guided by such rules of conduct, the October Revolution would have never taken place.

We reject as a mockery of Marxist thought the Brandlerian position, according to which the policy of the Stalinist bureaucracy represents a chain of errors in all other countries, but remains infallible in the USSR. Such a "theory" is based on the negation of the general principles of proletarian policy and brings the International down to a mere sum total of national parties whose leaders are always ready to close their eyes to mutual sins. A Marxist can have nothing in common with this Social Democratic conception.

The policy of the Stalinist bureaucracy in the USSR is of the same principled nature as the policy of the Comintern. The difference lies not in methods but in objective conditions: in the USSR the bureaucracy bases itself on the foundations laid by the proletarian revolution, and if in a decade it succeeded in squandering the capital of the Comintern, in the USSR it has undermined but not liquidated the foundations of the socialist state. In reality, deprived of the party, trade unions and soviets, which the bureaucracy had seized, the Soviet proletariat defends by its revolutionary traditions the workers' state from a bourgeois overturn.

To identify the social order of the USSR with "state capitalism" of the American, Italian or German type is to ignore the main question of the social order, namely, the property character, and to open the doors wide to false and dangerous conclusions. On this question there can be for us no ambiguities and no compromises. The defense of the workers’ state from imperialism and counterrevolution remains as heretofore the duty of every revolutionary worker. But to serve this defense does not at fill mean to become a tool of Soviet diplomacy.

The acts and declarations of Soviet diplomacy have provoked more than once, especially in the past period, the burning and entirely righteous indignation of the advanced workers. Nothing weakens the international position of the USSR more, despite all recognitions and nonaggression pacts, than the thoroughly opportunistic external policy of the Stalinists, permeated by the pacifying illusions of "socialism in one country."

One cannot defend the USSR without the revolutionary struggles of the world proletariat; there can be no revolutionary struggles without independence from the Soviet bureaucracy as well as from Soviet diplomacy. On the other hand, the most irreconcilable criticism of Stalinism does not exclude but, on the contrary, prescribes a united front with the Soviet bureaucracy against the common enemies.

The Party Regime

The question of the party regime should become the subject of the greatest attention in the building of new parties and of a new International. Workers' democracy is not an organizational but a social problem. In the last analysis, the stifling of workers' democracy is the result of the pressure of class enemies through the medium of the workers' bureaucracy. This historic law is confirmed equally by the history of reformism in capitalist countries and by the experience of the bureaucratization of the Soviet state.

The Social Democracy attains the regime necessary for it by means of a complicated system: on one hand, it systematically expels not only from the party but also from the trade unions radically or critically inclined workers, if they cannot be bribed by remunerative positions; on the other hand, it frees its ministers, parliamentary deputies, journalists and trade-union bureaucrats from submitting to discipline with regard to the party. The combined methods of repression, betrayal and bribery permit the Social Democracy to retain the semblance of discussions, elections, control, etc., while remaining, at the same time, the apparatus of the imperialist bourgeoisie within the working class.

By means of the state apparatus, the Stalinist bureaucracy liquidated the party, soviet and trade-union democracy not only in essence but also in form. The regime of personal dictatorship has been fully transmitted from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union to all the Communist Parties of the capitalist countries. The party officials have the task of interpreting the will of the top bureaucracy. The party masses have only one right: to keep silent and obey. Repressions, baiting, bribery are the usual methods for keeping "order" in the party. Such is the path of decay and ruin of the proletarian parties.

A revolutionist is brought up only in the atmosphere of criticism of all that exists, including also his own organization. A firm discipline can be attained only by conscious trust in the leadership. This trust can be gained not only by a correct policy but also by an honest attitude toward one's mistakes. The question of the internal regime thus acquires for us an extraordinary importance The advanced workers must be given the possibility of a conscious and independent participation in the building of the party and in the direction of its whole policy. Young workers must be given the possibility to think, criticize, make mistakes and correct themselves.

It is clear, on the other hand, that the regime of party democracy can lead to the creation of a hardened and unanimous army of proletarian fighters only in case our organizations, basing themselves on the firm principles of Marxism, are ready to fight irreconcilably, but with democratic methods, all opportunistic, centrist and adventurist influences.

The orientation towards a new International is dictated by the whole course of development This does not mean, however, that we propose to proclaim a new International immediately. We would have introduced such a proposal without hesitation had the organizations represented here already been in actual, that is, tested by experience, agreement with regard to the basic principles and methods of revolutionary struggle. But we do not have it We can arrive at a principled unanimity and therefore an International only through joint revolutionary work and serious mutual criticism.

A new International cannot be prepared without practical participation in the unfolding events. To counterpose a programmatic discussion to the revolutionary struggle would, of course, be false. It is necessary to combine the two. We welcome the fact that the conference placed on the agenda urgent questions concerning the fight against fascism and against war, and in each of these fields we are ready, hand in hand with other organizations, to make a real step forward.

Comrades! Without leadership, without international direction, the whole proletariat will be unable to free itself from the present oppression. The creation of a new International depends not only on the objective course of events but also on our own efforts. It is very likely that already now we are much stronger than it may seem to us. Not in vain does history show us how an organization possessing authority but having lost direction may for a long time keep on piling up errors seemingly unpunished; but finally the course of events brings die inevitable collapse. On the contrary, an organization that is armed with a reliable compass, but has for a long period remained in an insignificant minority, can with the advance of a historic turn suddenly rise to a higher level. Under the condition of correct policy on our part, such a possibility opens up before us. With joint forces let us try not to miss this opportunity. Our revolutionary responsibility is immeasurably great Let our creative work rise to the height of this responsibility.