Ernst Meyer

Discussion on the Report of the Executive

(December 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 107, 5 December 1922, pp. 867–868.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
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Comrades, the German delegation is in accord with the policy of the Executive since the III. World Congress and with the remarks of Comrade Zinoviev, in the most essential points.

Comrades, the situation described by Comrade Zinoviev has not changed in the main since the time of the III. World Congress. We must admit that this situation has not been properly appreciated in all the countries In some countries it as been analysed in an exaggerated manner and exaggerated deductions were drawn from it, while various other groups (partly also in Germany) refused to recognize the correctness of this analysis altogether. Apart from the mistakes of an opportunist nature, which were frequently made, some comrades’ conclusions induced them to advocate a policy of isolation which was tantamount to turning the Communist International into a sect. I believe that the German Party has shown by its attitude and actions since the last World Congress that it is endeavouring to carry out the decisions arrived at in International comradely deliberations.

The question of the united front, which is occupying our attention at present, and which, according to Comrade Zinoviev’s statement, is not to be considered as a mere episode, but as a period of Communist tactics, has been very much discussed in Germany. The only fault I have to find with Comrade Zinoviev’s statement is his omission to acknowledge that the discussions and the application of these tactics were greatly furthered by the Berlin Conference. This conference has not only clarified the situation within our Party, but it also helped the Party and the Communist International in persuading the non-Communist workers that the communists were really striving to fight in common with them, and that they were misrepresented by their opponents.

It is self-evident that in the application of these tactics, misunderstandings appeared even among our friends. Comrade Zinoviev has already drawn our attention to several of them. Some comrades outside Germany look upon the United Front tactics in the light of an election agreement with the social-democratic and even bourgeois parties. They consider these tactics as a preliminary to an organic amalgamation, and it is no use denying that such misunderstandings have appeared here and there not only among the non-party workers, but even within our own Party.

Moreover, the fear has been expressed that the negotiations with the reformist leaders, instead of bringing about cooperation among the workers, have only done harm to our cause. On the strength of our experiences during the Rathenau campaign, we can definitely state that in many districts and localities it was only owing to the negotiations and consultations with these leaders that harmonious cooperation and a common struggle were brought about. Some comrades assert that the united front must only rest on an economic basis, and should not be extended to the political field. This is also a wrong conception. Our own experience has taught us, that in the present situation such a division is entirely out of the question. Comrade Zinoviev was quite right in opposing those (also in the German Party) who are making such a distinction in the struggles which the communists have to carry on.

Apart from the misunderstanding which is likely to crop up, real mistakes have also been made by our Party These mistakes were quite frankly acknowledged at our Party meetings and in Party resolutions. It is not necessary to discuss these matters again, as this has been done very exhaustively at meetings in the Central Committee and in the Press. I should like only to draw attention to one thing: much as it is to be desired that mistakes should be discussed, in order to avoid them in the future, it must be borne in mind that criticism must not make us forget essentials. For instance, the statement of the Czech comrade concerning the mistakes made during the application of the United Front tactics, is tantamount to rejection of these tactics. If the comrades from the Czech opposition have nothing else to say, not only on the question of breaches of discipline, but also on tactical and practical questions, I am convinced that the comrades on whose behalf the statement was made by the last speaker, will have sat down for the last time at the same table with communists.

There must be elasticity in the application of the United Front tactics. It must be adapted to various phases, and it would be quite wrong to consider it always as negotiations between leaders or between various parties. These united front tactics must take various forms according to the situation and if some comrades consider the attitude of the German party during the Rathenau campaign and during the railway strike as opposed to the factory committee movement, they are labouring under a misunderstanding. The establishment and consolidation of the factory committee movement have resulted from the attitude taken up by the German party since the III. World Congress. We should not have a factory committee movement such as the present if we had not consistently applied the united front tactics, thus getting into closer touch with the masses and penetrating into the trade unions and industrial concerns, in a world, wherever the workers congregate.

The amalgamation of the USP and the SPD is also a result of the improved tactics of the Party by getting rid of misunderstandings, which were the result of a previous and quite different situation and by making it more difficult for the hostile organizations of the SPD and the USP. This is a great step forward for us, in as much as it does away with the illusion that there is room for another intermediate organization between the reformist and communist parties within one country.

The most difficult question which we had to solve in connection with the United Front tactics – (and which we have probably not yet solved) – is the question of the Workers Government. We must differentiate between social democratic governments and Workers Governments. We have social democratic governments in Germany – in Saxony, Thuringia and formerly also in Gotha – governments which we had to support but which have nothing in common with what we understand by Workers Government. If we desire that the International should support the idea of the Workers Government and if we wish that this watchword should be adopted by the brother parties which are working approximately under similar conditions to ours, this does not mean that we expect them to aim at the establishment of social demorcratic governments and to participate in them, but merely that they should struggle for Workers Governments, thus making our struggle easier. The chief difference between a Workers and a social democratic government is – that the former without bearing the label of a socialist policy is really putting socialist-communist policy into practice. Thus, the workers’ government will not be based on parliamentary action alone; it will have to be based on the support of the wide masses, and its policy will be fundamentally different from that of the social democratic governments such as those existing in some of the states of Germany.

This gives rise to the following question which was already outlined by Comrade Zinoviev; is the workers’ government a necessary phase of the labor movement in the various countries? Our answer to this is: no, it is not an inevitable, but a historically probable phase of the labor movement. It is quite possible that such workers’ governments will be established and will be able to hold out for a certain period. This is also an answer to the second question: can a workers’ government be of long duration, or will it be only very transitory? In order to answer this question satisfactorily one must have a clear idea of what constitutes a workers’ government, and whether there is any difference between a workers’ government and the dictatorship of the proletariat. Today Comrade Zinoviev made this distinction between a workers’ government and proletarian dictatorship. This was never made quite clear before when this question was discussed. We find the following statement by Comrade Zinoviev on page 123 of the report on the session of the Enlarged Executive:

“The workers’ government is the same as the dictatorship of the proletariat. It is a pseudonym for Soviet Government. It is more suitable for the ordinary working man, and we will therefore use it.”

According to our conception this is wrong. The workers’ government is not the dictatorship of the proletariat; it is only a watchword which we bring forward, in order to win over the workers and to convince them that the proletarian class must form a United Front in its struggle against the bourgeoisie. Should this watchword be followed or adopted by the majority of the working class, and should the latter take up the struggle for this aim in good earnest, it will soon become evident that the attempt to bring about this workers government (at least in most countries with a big proletarian population) will lead either directly to the dictatorship of the proletariat or to a prolonged phase of very acute class struggles, namely, to civil war in all its forms.

In that respect we consider the slogan of the workers government as necessary and useful to winning over the masses. It will lead to a sharper class conflict from which the Proletarian Dictatorship will finally arise.

In conclusion, I wish to say that the German Party however fruitful it may have been, has been hampered by the lack of understanding of our problems shown by our brother parties. In our discussion of the workers government and the United Front we have found our work of agitation hampered by the remarks of the Party Press and of the French Party. We may say here that there are no questions today which may be solved on a national basis. All problems are directly dependent for their solution upon the action and the propaganda of our brother parties. The consciousness of the International effect of any party’s actions must be insisted upon. True International discipline does not consist only in the union of all members through a central bureau, or in the execution of the resolutions adopted at our International Congresses; international discipline and international solidarity demand that every party understand its brother parties and realize the effects of its own activity upon the other parties. Some time ago we attempted to reach an agreement with our French comrades especially on the question of the Versailles Treaty. The Conference of Cologne was called primarily for that purpose. Our French comrades have helped us in the solution of this question, but we must say that the crisis of the French Party has greatly hindered the execution of our agreements at Cologne. We urgently insist here on the solution of the French question not only in the interest of our French comrades, but in our own as well. It seems to us that the Third Congress did not take up this question seriously enough, and that the International had too long delayed its solution. But it would be a mistake if after recognizing our errors, we did not limit our disciplinary measures, after a final solution of the principles, to a minimum.

Last updated on 3 January 2021