It’s a tale from another century – when most people who situated themselves on the radical left also felt they were part of a world civil war. It was a war between good and evil, the oppressed vs. the oppressors, the proletariat vs. the capitalists, the countries of the periphery vs. the centre. Support for anti-colonial struggles and for the Vietcong as well as the various Latin American guerillas was based on a wide consensus, and was in many cases the starting point of individual and collective politicisations. This consensus seemed to override the knowledge and assessments of the crimes of Stalin and Mao, and many other ‘details’. Apparently the way towards socialism was not a straight road, it could be a zig-zag at times. The more the Western proletariat seemed uninterested in revolution, and the Eastern Bloc seemed a bureaucratic aberration, the more the national liberation movements in the ‘backwards’ countries became the global hope of Western middle class ‘revolutionaries’.
The root of this idea goes back to the Conference of Baku in 1920 and the second congress of the Communist International in the same year.
This is when Lenin revised the Marxist slogan ‘Workers of all countries unite!’ and changed it to: ‘Workers and oppressed peoples and nations of the world, unite!’
This slogan significantly changed the direction of the ‘official’ communist movement. Workers are members of a class and at the same time individual human beings. In oppressed peoples and nations the individuals are absent.
In point 11 of his Preliminary Draft of Theses on the National and Colonial Questions, Lenin proclaimed that Communist parties in ‘backward states and nations, in which feudal or patriarchal and patriarchal-peasant relations predominate (…) must assist the bourgeois-democratic liberation movement’. But at least he recognised some of the dangers, and stressed ‘the need for struggle against the clergy and other influential reactionary and medieval elements’ as well as the ‘need to combat the Pan-Islamic and similar trends which strive to combine the liberation movement against European and American imperialism with an attempt to strengthen the positions of the khans, landowners, mullahs, etc.’
This advice was heeded less and less as the Soviet Union degenerated – and in fact even less so by those who accused the SU of ‘social imperialism’ and supported a Maoist alternative to the Russian line, supporting shameless nationalist dictatorships with a ‘communist’ cloak in Albania, Kampuchea or North Korea. [Read more →]
Kommunisten gegen Hitler und Stalin
Die linke Opposition der KPD in der Weimarer Republik – Eine Gesamtdarstellung
Klartext Verlag, Essen 2014
With this 600 page strong book Marcel Bois offers the first comprehensive overall presentation of the history and sociology of the left opposition of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) in the 1920s and early 1930s. The emphasis is on a very detailed and scientifically documented depiction of those groups who left the KPD from the mid-20s onwards in the course of its Stalinisation. These were on the one hand the groups around the former leaders of the party such as Ruth Fischer, Arkadij Maslow and Werner Scholem, who with Hugo Urbahns and others, founded the Leninbund (Lenin-League). On the other hand there were the Entschiedene Linke (Decisive Left) and the Gruppe Kommunistische Politik around Ernst Schwarz and Karl Korsch respectively, as well as The Wedding Opposition and smaller groups like Bolschewistische Einheit (Bolshevik Unity). A bit later, the organisational roots of Trotskyism in Germany also emerged. The Spartakusbund linkskommunistischer Organisationen around Franz Pfemfert had a special position in the milieu of the left oppposition.
The founding conference of the KPD took place at the turn of the year 1918/1919 within two months of the end of World War I. Less than two weeks later, two of its most important leaders, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, were murdered. There were several attempts from this time through 1923 to make the revolution in Germany happen, which all failed. Already in 1919 a back-and-forth started between more ‘left’ or ‘right’ leaning leaderships, and as early as October 1919 a large section of the party’s left were expelled. The issues at stake were the rejection of elections to parliament and the Leninist party concept by the left. In April 1920 this left constituted the Communist Workers Party (Kommunistische Arbeiterpartei Deutschlands, KAPD), and took with them a large part of the membership of the KPD. This marked a decisive historical break in the international communist movement that was echoed in similar processes of regroupment in other countries. Lenin famously targeted the left with his nasty pamphlet “Left-Wing” Communism, An Infantile Disorder, denouncing its ‘opinion, declamations and angry ejaculations’ as ‘childish’, ‘particularly stupid’, ‘fundamentally wrong’ and amounting ‘to no more than empty phrase-mongering’. In the process he defended participation in parliamentary elections and reactionary unions, and effectively the dictatorship of the party over the dictatorship of the proletariat. The KPD in the meantime ditched the ‘right’ leadership under Paul Levi, who was appalled by the fact that the party had been dragged into the ‘putschist’ adventure of the ‘March Action’ in 1921. Levi then printed the previously unavailable – now famous – text by Rosa Luxemburg in which she severely criticised the Bolsheviks. [Read more →]