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John G. Wright

International Notes

Illegal Conference of Austrian Revolutionary Socialists –
Esthonia Social Democrats and People’s Front –
Swiss Leader Exposes Stalin

(25 December 1937)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. I No. 20, 25 December 1937, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The third Conference of the Austrian Revolutionary Socialists was held in October. While complete account of the proceedings at this Conference has not yet reached us, the material at hand is sufficient to characterise the political platform under which the shattered ranks of Austrian social democracy are seeking to rally the working class movement, there. The Austrian “Revolutionary Socialists” are pursuing a centrist course. The chief document issuing: from the Conference is a Manifesto to the Austrian workers. The Manifesto, after criticizing the sham of bourgeois democracy, goes on to say: “Only a socialist struggle for emancipation on the part of the toiling masses can liberate Austria from the yoke of National-Socialism (Fascism)”. The manner in which the Austrian Revolutionary Socialists propose to wage this emancipatory struggle may be gathered from the Resolution on party tactics which was adopted.

The Conference placed itself on record against the Stalinist “illusions”. The chief point of criticism being that under the slogan of the “People’s Front” or the “Democratic Republic” the Stalinists turn with proposals of alliance to all kinds of groupings, “down to uninfluential groups in reactionary camp.” Instead of a forthright condemnation of the “People’s Front” policies and of Stalinism, the resolution on party tactics confines itself to a declaration that the “Party struggles for political freedom and considers the immediate task of this struggle to be the re-establishment of the organizational freedom of the labor movement. The party combines this struggle with the struggle for the economic and social demands of the masses.”

It is hardly necessary for us to delineate the course pursued by the Stalinists in Austria. Suffice it to say that the Stalinists in Austria as elsewhere demanded, as an integral part of the People’s Front betrayal, complete solidarity on the part of the Austrian Socialists with the Moscow frame-up ... which proved a bit too much too swallow. The Conference complained of the “disruptive tactics” of the Stalinists, placed the blame for the break-up of the united front on the C.P., and then proceeded to “empower the Central Committee to initiate steps aiming to convince the C.P. of the ruinousness and worthlessness of its present tactics and urge the C.P. to cease its struggle against the Revolutionary Socialists so that the existing unity of action its not destroyed but rather made firmer and more effective in the interests of the socialist struggle for emancipation and against the Fascist dictatorship.”

The Austrian Revolutionary Socialists claim to be the partisans of the dictatorship of the proletariat. If they persist much longer in the conciliatory, not to say grovelling, attitude towards Stalinism, they will at best only repeat the tragic experience of the Anarchists and the POUM in Spain. The first condition for revolutionary action is to cherish no illusions about Stalinism but to brand it for what it is: the most dangerous and corrupt enemy of the working class movement.

Esthonian Social Democrats Reform Ranks For a People’s Front

In 1934 the Esthonian S.P. split into three sections. In September 1936 negotiations for unity were initiated. One year later, in September 1937 two of the sections reached a final agreement to fuse, in order to lay a basis for a “People’s Front.” The newly fused organization declared itself against any united front action with the Stalinists. But “recognizing that the Soviet Union is one of the main bulwarks of peace”, the Esthonian social patriots, pledged themselves not to “attack” either the Stalin regime in Russia or the C.P. in particular. Needless to say the Stalinists will not take kindly to this offer of “non-aggression”, which is in essence similar to the attitude of the Austrian Socialists.

Former Head of Swiss Stalinists “Exposes” Stalin

Berner Tagwacht, organ of Swiss social democrats has printed the revelations of Walter Bringolf, former leader of the Swiss S.P., and follower of Brandler, who had broken some time ago with the Comintern. Citations from these articles have been widely reprinted, among others by the Russian Mensheviks (Sots. Vestnik, Nov. 30, 1937). Bringolf deals primarily with the behind-the-scenes struggle between Stalin and the opposition in Russia. He does not specify the source of his information, but in the status of an “old Bolshevik” asserts that the idea of the New Constitution originated among the Red Army tops, as part of a campaign to bring the regime closer in line with the demands of the expanding production in Russia. It was the plan of this opposition headed by Red Army generals to retire Stalin either by assigning him to some sinecure or by altogether removing him from the political arena. Stalin pretended to go along, and then assumed the offensive. The “inside” story of Yagoda’s downfall, to believe Bringolf, is as follows:

“Yagoda had always been personally tied to Stalin and absolutely devoted to him. Back at the time of the first trial against the opposition (Zinoviev, Kamenev), Yagoda went along with Stalin without any reservations. But following this trial some sort of inner conflict seized Yagoda. The thing is that in connection with this trial, a memorandum was handed to the Central Committee of the party, signed by 2,000 old Bolsheviks and decisively condemning Stalin’s methods. Among the signatories were a good many of Yagoda’s old friends and comrades-in-arms. Confronted with the necessity of applying harsh measures against those whose names adorned the memorandum, Yagoda wavered. This was his undoing. The avenging hand of Stalin descended on Yagoda himself.”

Bringolf considers Bluecher’s conduct of especial interest. “General Bluecher was taken by everybody for an oppositionist. And there is no doubt that in the main Bluecher was in agreement with those of his comrades in the Red Army who were shot.”

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