13 October 2020

Key moment in building the Communist International

World revolution and the Third International
Grigory Zinoviev

(The four-hour speech)

Speech of the chairman of the executive committee of the Communist International at the congress of the USPD in Halle on October 14 1920 – translated by Ben Lewis

The left greets comrade Zinoviev with stormy cheers for the world revolution.

Party comrades!
It is not without a feeling of deep inner stirring and emotion that today I step onto this stage – the stage of the party congress of the class-conscious German proletariat, of that proletariat from which we have learnt so much and from which we will learn even more. Indeed, we have not come here merely to provide you with news of the experiences of our proletarian revolution, but also to learn something from the German proletariat and its great struggles. We will not forget that the German proletariat has gained much experience in the two years of revolution it has been through; that there is not a single town in this country where proletarian blood has not been shed for the proletarian revolution. We will not forget that proletarian fighters like August Bebel, Wilhelm Liebknecht and others have struggled in the ranks of the German proletariat. We will not forget that the German working class includes real heroes of the world revolution: Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg.

It was said here that we are coming with a ‘diktat’! Do you really believe that we are so snobbish that we do not want to learn from other proletarians? Whoever thinks that is greatly mistaken. We are not that stupid. Various things have been said about the leaders of the Russian Soviet Republic, about the spokespersons of the Communist International, yet nobody has said that we are mere fools. You have to believe us that we closely follow the movements of the working classes of the different countries, that we are prepared to learn from every movement, and that we are not behaving as if we alone are wise and can do everything, whereas the others can do nothing.

I will make an effort to report to you the experience we have gained. I will also make an effort to convey to you what the other parties, who are already part of the Third International, have said to us. They have accorded us the greatest honour by choosing our country to be the headquarters of the ECCI, which in turn has given us the mandate to speak here today.

We are conscious of our responsibility when we speak at such a party congress in the name of the Communist International. And I would like to ask you to spare me from interruptions, as unfortunately I still only have a poor command of the beautiful German language.

Comrades! Today’s party congress vividly reminds me, and probably many Russian party comrades, of those party congresses which we – the Bolsheviks – had with the Mensheviks before our organisational split. There are many similar arguments, and a similar atmosphere. Yes comrades, this is further proof of the fact that this fight is not a personal matter – as some comrades think of it – but that it is precisely a fight which the working class must go through, there is no other way. These are international phenomena which we see in different countries.

Just like Bolshevism, Menshevism is an international phenomenon. Around ten years ago, at one of the German party congresses of the old social democracy when it was still united, Fritz Ebert laughed at our Russian gouplets and said: “There are so many grouplets in Russia!” But you see, these were no grouplets. They were great tendencies, which today the working class in different countries must struggle through. You clearly have to choose between Bolshevism and Menshevism. Many rightwing comrades have attempted to avoid this fight, but – as the Russian saying has it – you cannot celebrate your birthday twice a year. Either you are for the Mensheviks or you are for the Bolsheviks. We have to say that loud and clear. Comrades, this party congress of the class-conscious German workers must make a clear decision. We must ask comrades to put aside all that is petty, coincidental and momentary and attempt to come closer to these decisive problems.

Comrades, we are of the opinion – and your discussion has once more convinced me of it – that there are two tendencies present amongst your party, which cannot be united. Not only two – for a while there were even three. We stated this already at the start of the war, after the Second International collapsed so ignominiously. We stated that the whole modern workers’ movement will split into three tendencies: the right, the centre and the left, or the communists.

Because of historical developments, you in Germany initially attempted to unite these three tendencies under one roof in the USPD. But now that the time has come in Germany too, that the decision has to be made, this is no longer possible. This is what both sides feel. You must decide between two tendencies which can be characterised by the short names: reformism or communism. [“Very true!”]

There was talk here of “communists in disguise”. What is that supposed to mean? Until now I thought we were all communists, Karl Marx was the founder of communism, was he not? Why then is there a search going on for “communists in disguise”? We are not in disguise, we are openly communists. We are proud of it. If you, the right wing, do not feel like communists, then what business do you have in the Communist International? [“Very good!”] So, comrades, I believe the question is not about communists in disguise, but it should be about those who are openly communist and who stick to the legacy of Marx and Engels.

Menshevism or reformism is an international phenomenon. You see it in Russia, Germany, France, Italy, in America – everywhere. Comrades, it was said here: Well, would it not be better to join together in one front against the bourgeoisie? Certainly, that would be very good and desirable. Yet unfortunately that is still impossible. The situation is the following: the working class is already strong enough that – if we are tightly united and openly fight for communism – we can bring the bourgeoisie to its knees. [Lively applause] If the workers are still slaves, then this is because we still have not stripped off the legacy of rotten ideology within our own ranks. [Stormy applause] When the working class becomes intellectually emancipated, then there is no force in the world which would dare to fight against it.

Look at the rest of the world. Who is saving the bourgeoisie? The so-called social democrats! Who is at the head of the reactionary republic in France? Is it not a certain former socialist by the name of [Alexandre] Millerand? Who is at the head of the Swedish monarchy? Is it not a Menshevik by the name of [Karl] Branting? When the situation got too difficult for the Swedish king, who did he look to, full of hope? Precisely to the social democratic gentlemen. When things went wrong, he said: ‘Mr. Branting, please come!’ It is even said that the King promised that, if everything went well, he himself would join the Social Democratic Party! [Amusement]

And you yourselves have seen how it was in Germany. We know very well who saved the bourgeoisie in Germany. Who saved the bourgeoisie during the Kapp Putsch, when all working class parties failed? Was it not the trade union leaders led by Legien? And in Italy, where currently the working class is carrying out a partial revolution, appropriating the factories, just as the Russian workers did a few months before the November revolution, who is saving the bourgeoisie there? Is it not the reformists [Filipo] Turati, [Giuseppe] Modigliani and [Ludovico] D’Aragona?

If the bourgeoisie has received another reprieve, then this is because there are still reformists amongst us, who are trusted by a part of the working class. The same thing is the case in England, you see it everywhere. The question of the emancipation of the working class, therefore, presents itself as the question of its intellectual orientation. This is why there is so much passion on both sides. It is not a momentary phenomenon, it is the problem of the international revolution. It is even more than that: it is the problem of the liberation of humanity as a whole. All of this depends on the intellectual orientation of our class.

Comrades, it appears that we are agreed on this. Now let’s see where the real differences lie. I have listened to the numerous speeches of Crispien and Dittmann in Moscow and I’ve paid close attention to the presentations here without making a single interjection. I also follow the whole of the German daily press very carefully. I have to tell you that amongst us too there are principled differences of opinion on the decisive questions, ie on the question of the world revolution.

Many things have been said here; yet two words were missing in both of the great speeches of Dittmann and Crispien – the words ‘world revolution’. There was no talk of that here. Comrades! It is not a coincidence that the leading minds of the right wing of the USPD are heading in this direction. They say that the revolutionary movement is over, we have seen the peak, and now we must wait a long time before it continues. [Objection from the right]

If that is not the case, then your politics make no sense at all. Your politics are only comprehensible if you at least start from this premise. That is precisely the very same argument that we have been through in Russia. It was even formulated in almost exactly the same words. When in 1905 our revolution suffered a decisive blow, there were Mensheviks who said that, now that the revolution was defeated, we must create a legal, ordinary social democratic party, and we must carry out work for reforms. And their formula was: 1847 or 1849? 1847 refers to the year before the revolutionary wave; 1849 to the year after the wave. This is how their politics were shaped.

The Bolsheviks represented the view that the revolution is not dead, that the revolution will return once more. Of course, we could not know that the counterrevolution would last for eight to ten years. Yet we remained faithful to the idea. We said to the Mensheviks: You do not believe in the working class! And comrades, the revolution came. The beginning of it was 1912, when the Lena movement[1] broke out. And you too find yourselves in such a situation today. It just hasn’t yet been verbalised, but the trend is already quite clear to see.

A part of Crispien’s speech has already been quoted today. Comrade Crispien was filled with indignation and said that this referred not to the general situation, but the situation of the party. I will quote him again. In his closing speech at your party congress, Crispien said: “Not merely in Germany but in all countries, we currently find ourselves in a situation similar to that following the bourgeois revolution of 1848”. I ask you to note this: “not merely in Germany, but in all countries”. So in his view it is not merely a momentary phenomenon that [Walter] Stöcker and [Ernst]Däumig are bad people, and that the “knout” is coming from Moscow, but about the same tendency in all countries.

Comrade Crispien says that he also refers to the situation of the party – ie, he believes that in all countries the very same problems are now on the agenda as those following 1848. After 1848, there was a long period in which revolution was impossible. Crispien thinks that such another such period is coming today. That is the red thread running through all of the politics of the right wing of the USPD. History will show if you are right. [Heckles]

I am convinced that today a great number of workers are not yet with us, because you have warned them about the “knout from Moscow”. The only thing that is missing is the ‘cossacks’ from Moscow. Well, maybe they are yet to come. I am convinced that this part of the working class does not yet know that they must mistrust your politics as a precondition for their own victory. [“No, they must mistrust yours!”]

We have not heard a single peep about the perspectives for world revolution in your presentations. But the International does not wish to be anything else than an organisation which is the vanguard of the world revolution [Lively applause]. We have been accused of being ‘revolutionary romantics’. That comes straight from the dictionary of the right wing of the SPD. Now the very same accusations are coming from the right wing of the USPD.

Comrades, should we really adjust all working class politics to the assumption that the world revolution will not take place in the near future? I am of the opinion that we have absolutely no reason to presume this. I am not saying that we can be assured of complete victory tomorrow or the day after. Only a charlatan would say something like that. We have never demanded of you, and never will demand, that you should make revolution tomorrow. [Hear, hear! Stirring] The only thing we demand of you – and you have the right to demand it of us – is to systematically propagate and prepare for a world revolution, for which all the necessary preconditions are given. These are not phrases of revolutionary romantics. It is necessary to educate the backward layers of the proletariat and the peasantry, to tell them that the hour of the world revolution has come. [Lively applause]

Comrades, I am of course not very well geared up on all of the workings of the USPD, the internal affairs and the intimate things etc. But we know the USPD’s propaganda very well. Look at your press, the main tool of your propaganda. I am sure that if you give 100 editions of Freiheit to any honest revolutionary from any country, lock him in a room and say: “Sit in there for two weeks, read through that and then tell me: is that an organ that is calling on the working class to make revolution?”, then he will answer: “No, that is an organ which is dampening the revolution.” [Lively applause]

And comrades, what was said by comrade Crispien about the preconditions for socialism? What is being written about them? Do we not hear, day in and day out, that these preconditions are not yet present? It was said here at this congress, and you are saying it everywhere: Yes, we are for the socialist revolution, but the preconditions are missing. So, let’s examine which preconditions are present and which are missing.

In the whole of Germany, are the economic preconditions present for the proletarian revolution? [Heckle from Crispien: “Yes indeed!”] Ok, so the economic preconditions – ie the main factor – are present. But I ask you: Kautsky and Hilferding always declare that the main factor consists in production remaining undisturbed. [Heckle from Hilferding: “I never said that!”] Yes, you did, even at the congress of factory councils. [Heckle from Hilferding: “No, no.”]

That is precisely your fear of the revolution. [Heckle]. We are not dealing with fear in the vulgar sense of the word. I am not saying that some of you personally are fearful, as I know very well that there are old and brave fighters amongst you. But you think that when the revolution comes, then hunger and ruin will come too, and then what we have in Russia will come – which comrade Dittmann did not like. [Amusement]

Yes, it must be clearly stated that this will perhaps be so, although we hope that things will go much more easily for you in Germany. You will not have to fight against the whole world like we do [Contradiction from the floor], but merely against half the world. So I maintain that it is your fear of revolution which runs like a red thread through the whole of your politics. [Ledebour: “That is not true”] It is unfortunately very true. And precisely for this reason we cannot work together.

I repeat. The economic preconditions are present. That is the main factor. Yet has Kautsky not written a thousand times that we should bide our time with the revolution, because how will we be able to organise communism afterwards? Have your representatives not said thousands of times that it is not the socialism of consumers but the socialism of producers, and that initially we should increase production?

But comrades, there the question arises: which production? On which basis is production to be strengthened – a socialist or a capitalist one? Do you first want to put capitalism back onto its feet to then tear it down again? That is the fundamental error of international reformism. Amongst some comrades it arises from quite good desires. They want to protect the working class from hunger, they want to spare them from the great crisis we have in Russia. Yet they are doing it in such a way as to involuntarily reconstruct capitalism, to throw back the working class by ten to twenty years.

The economic preconditions for socialism are here. Admittedly, none of us thought socialism would look the way it does. Of course, we did not think that the bourgeoisie would simply give us everything. We were in a situation where blood had been flowing and where everyone was hungry, where we had already given everything during the war, where the working class had suffered terribly. But still, we thought of socialism differently. Previously we studied socialism in books. We thought it would come about more easily. We had spoken of the concentration of capital, of the development of the productive forces. Everything would go forwards; electricity, nice houses etc. We thought we could bring the bourgeoisie to its knees with one strike and that everything would fall into our laps. Immediately the workers would breathe a sigh of relief, everybody would feel that things are getting better. We believed it and we often articulated it. Now comrades, it hasn’t turned out like this, history is taking other paths. [Heckle]

Even today, socialism doesn’t suit many of you. Did not comrade Hilferding correctly write in his Finance capital that before the war it would have been sufficient to expropriate the ten main banks and socialism would have arrived? Did not August Bebel say this same thing hundreds of times over? Were they not of the opinion that socialism would happen easily? The war threw a spanner in this calculation. It has happened differently; the war has brought socialism about around 20 years earlier; but in a tortuous form, in such a form where every worker really has to go hungry, where every worker must suffer, where we have to go through a long stage of civil war.

We do not like this either, it is difficult for us all; yet we have to understand that there is no other way. And it is precisely this that you do not want to understand. It has been said that in Russia there is actually no communism; there is a socialist republic and there is no bread, no coal, and the working class has to freeze and go hungry! Yes, comrades! But show us a path that would be easier for the working class and we would be the first to take it. [“Very true!” Applause]

The economic preconditions for the proletarian revolution are here, and that is the main thing. [“Indeed”] Then we shouldn’t be called ‘revolutionary romantics’. Before the war, when Kautsky was still a revolutionary, he wrote that the revolution, if it happened now, would not be premature. Then the war came, the crisis accentuated terribly; with giant steps we hurried towards socialism. Then the very same Kautsky, the leader of the right wing of the USPD, says: “You want to make the revolution prematurely.” So before the war it was not too early, but now it is! [Heckle from Ledebour: “That does not concern us”]

The economic preconditions – I repeat for the tenth time – the economic preconditions for the proletarian revolution and for the Communist Party are here. [Heckle] Of course, a proletarian revolution cannot be made by any other party than a communist party. [Heckle] I am not talking about the historically constituted parties in this or that country. It is possible that in this or that country the communist party is still weak, a sect. Yet as Marx had foreseen, in the international sense it is self-evident that a proletarian revolution can be led by nobody other than a real Marxist Communist Party. [“Very true!”]

The economic preconditions are there. Yet what is missing? What is missing is the intellectual orientation of our own class. [“Very true!”] And why is this? Not by chance, but as a result of development of capitalism. [“Very true!”] Remember what kind of education we get from the bourgeoisie in all countries. Is it not the case that as soon as they turn three, the proletarian children in all countries – even in the French ‘democratic’ republic – learn to sing a patriotic song? Is Napoleon not being glorified in school?

Our class is being stamped on everywhere and also by our own representatives: a part of our own people has been spoilt, torn away from us and bribed by the bourgeoisie, by the press, by theatre, by all possible means. It really would be a historic miracle if in this historical hour the enslaved working class would immediately stand ready for action. Yet this is impossible, precisely because for decades the bourgeoisie has known how to enslave us, especially intellectually. The bourgeoisie cannot hold power for long merely through naked force, it has to penetrate our own ranks through intellectual confusion. Because of this, the bourgeoisie has unfortunately succeeded in having some of our best fighters killed by the sons of our own class.

Our task is to intellectually orientate the millions of working class people of the world in such a manner that they are no longer subjected to bourgeois influence, that they are intellectually emancipated and that no bourgeois influence is able to penetrate our ranks. We are talking about truly organising ourselves as a class and becoming intellectually tight. Today’s struggles are moving us towards achieving this intellectual unity. [“But not through the Spartacus League!”] I shall return to that question.

So we are saying that the economic preconditions for the socialist revolution are present, but that some of our own parties and trade unions around the world are stabbing us in the back, like Turati in Italy or Branting in Sweden. This is the case in Italy, in Germany, all over.

Allow me to make a small diversion. In the resolution which you have passed, there is talk of the Trade Union International. Twice it says in this resolution that the Trade Union International must not be destroyed. God help us! Indeed, the resolution states that the Communist International is making itself impossible due to its demand to smash up the Trade Union International. And secondly, it says that this demand destroys the entire proletarian movement for liberation. [Heckle from the right: “Very true!”] Now let’s see whether this is “very true”, or whether it is just true. [Amusement]

Now what is the Trade Union International? It is a piece of the collapsed Second International. [Heckle from the left: “Very true!”] The Trade Union International in Amsterdam – that is the Second International. I maintain that the Trade Union International in Amsterdam is the sole bulwark of the bourgeoisie. [Heckle from the left: “Very true!”]

Comrades, today the bourgeoisie cannot struggle against us and win, because the workers have already awoken. But it can only hurt us if the bourgeoisie can base itself on a part of the working masses. Politically the Second International has collapsed – it is present in a trade union sense, but politically it is nothing more than a null, a corpse. Yet the so-called Trade Union International is unfortunately still something, indeed it is the bulwark of the bourgeoisie. [Heckle from the right: “Nonsense!”] Who are the leaders of this so-called International? They are [Carl] Legien. [“No!”] They are [Leon] Jouhaux. And the whole world knows that Legien is an agent of capital, that Jouhaux is an agent of French capital. [Heckles. Unrest]

It is not about people. It is about politics. Comrades and workers who are sitting on the right today, this Trade Union International is a rope around our necks and around the necks of the working class. [Stormy applause from the left. Cries of “Nonsense!” from the right. Great noise] Around your necks too! [Shout from the left: “Indeed!”] Have you not yet seen enough examples? That is just as true in an international arena as it is of Legien. The international bourgeoisie cannot come to you and say: ‘Beware of the revolution!’ You would not trust them. Yet the so-called Trade Union International can come to you with exactly the same message.

It has often been said that we want to split from you, from our very own class brothers. [Heckle from the right: You want to!] Yes, we want to – because you do not want to break with the traitors from the Trade Union International. [“Quite right.” “Very true.” Stormy applause]

Yes comrades, we say (and you have agreed) that the main task of our days, our epoch, our historic hour, consists in intellectually orientating our class. [Heckle from the right: “We’ve been doing that the whole time!”] That is the only precondition for the victory of the proletarian revolution. But is it possible to do this in a Trade Union International led by yellow agents of international capital, by people who are in the back pocket of the London and Paris stock exchange? [Heckles from the right. A whistle, answered by the left: “You should be ashamed of yourselves”] If you are whistling in reply to that, then you are doing so out of ignorance.

It is plain obvious that the so-called Trade Union International is a weapon of the international bourgeoisie. Indeed it is the sharpest, most dangerous and – I might also add – the only real weapon that the bouregoisie still possesses against us. [Lively applause from the left. Heckle from the right: “Nonsense”] The vigilante groups, the Orgesch in Germany, the white guards – of course, these are not pleasant people, but I have to say that they are a lot less dangerous to us than the leaders of your beloved so-called Trade Union International. [“Bravo!” Stormy applause from the left. Great Unrest] Yes comrades, things are exploding here because that is the truth. [Great noise. Cries of “bravo”. Applause on the left. Disagreement on the right]

Comrades! When the war came and the Second International ignominiously collapsed, when we observed that the Second International had become bankrupt and betrayed the workers, a discontent set in amongst the entire working class which was much greater than that here today. I remember how back then comrade [Robert] Grimm did not want to print our party’s manifesto in his newspaper because we said that the Second International had ignominiously collapsed and had betrayed the working class. Back then the storm of outrage was much greater than that today. And today – let’s be quite open about it – has the Second International not betrayed the working class? Has it not ignominiously collapsed?

When we charge the leaders with this, naturally we do not mean it in a personal manner. I do not know most of these people: some might be quite good and honest people on a personal level and they might really be of the opinion that this branch of the Second International is the best one. No, comrades, it is the worst, it is precisely the poorest part of the Second International. And you become outraged when I say that it is counterrevolutionary?

Comrades, there is one more thing I would like to add. It is actually something quite new for you to defend the Amsterdam International so keenly. I have to say that in Moscow, neither Crispien nor Dittmann put the question in this way. I do not remember a single speech in which these comrades spoke in this way.

But they did say the opposite. I remember quite well – although I do not recall whether it was merely a private conversation – saying to comrade Crispien that for the time being in the field of trade unions, there would only be a Zimmerwald[2] – ie, a compendium of all those elements who are against the yellow ‘socialists’. In Zimmerwald, we were no coherent group, but it was the starting point for consolidating the proletarian elements. Now we are preparing the same thing in the realm of the trade unions. Perhaps it will be quicker; at least I hope it will not take two years. But anyway, we must have a trade union Zimmerwald as a point of crystallisation against the yellow unions – and this is what comrades Crispien and Dittmann agreed to. [Disagreement and heckles from the right: “It was quite different to that!”]

Let me tell you that [Oskar] Rusch and other trade unionists, who are currently in Russia, are also in favour of creating this crystallisation point. Maybe it will turn out differently to Zimmerwald. After all, at the moment the majority of the trade union leaders are against such political clarity. But comrades, you should not take it as lèse-majesté [treason] when I say that this leftover of the Second International is a barrier to the proletarian revolution. We cannot unite our class intellectually by supporting the Amsterdam International, in which the Legiens, the Jouhaux, the Appletons and others rule. [Disagreement and heckles from the right]

With this I will finish my remarks on this point. I am convinced that even a year or six months from now, half of those who take this as lèse-majesté will agree with us. [Strong disagreement from the right] They will say that the Amsterdam International is not a tool of the proletarian revolution, but a barrier to it. If you dispute this, then all you do is prove my point about the state of the proletatriat’s intellectual orientation, which is the precondition for the proletarian revolution.

This party congress in Halle, which also has great international significance, also has to consider the situation in other countries. Why should we be pessimists? Why should we shift the perspectives of world revolution further and further into the distance? Take a look at how things are! Have you not seen that for the past few weeks, Italy is seeing the start of the proletarian revolution? And it will be victorious there – if not today, then tomorrow.

Above all, take a look at the things which you can learn from developments in England and allow me to be a little more detailed on this. With great interest we have all followed the formation of the councils of action in England. This has still not been assessed according to its real significance. When the threat of war came, the whole English working class arose, a class which until now was unfortunately not a revolutionary factor. For the first time in recent human history, we see the English working class as a revolutionary factor, or at least the beginning of one. Until now the English working class has not been a revolutionary factor – that is not an insult, it is a simple fact, and every English revolutionary will have to confirm that. Yet the formation of the councils of action was a beginning. The beginning of a soviet, a second government, a shadow government – which is precisely why the English bourgeoisie is so outraged. The bourgeoisie says: ‘We have an English parliament, and now these new councils are interfering in foreign policy and are behaving as a type of government.’

Indeed, comrades, the councils were the seed of a new government, a parallel government, in England as in Russia – dual power. At the start of the Russian Revolution we also had such a dual government. One government was that of the bourgeoisie with the Mensheviks, and the other was that of the Petersburg soviet – later the soviet of the entire country. Comrades, there will be ructions with the bourgeoisie today or tomorrow – a year later or earlier. At any rate, dual power means ructions with the bourgeoisie. This has already happened in England. In the English working class we can observe cataclysms of world historical significance. Who stood at the head of this movement? Well known English reformists. [Disagreement] You cannot dispute this, comrades – they were English reformists. This is why the movement waned again, but objectively did not lose its significance. Yes, in every country the same thing is happening. The English Mensheviks had to spark a Bolshevik movement. This is what the objective situation looks like [Agreement on the left] and comrades, this will also happen in Germany.

You say in one resolution: ‘Just as we did in the past, we will continue to show solidarity with Soviet Russia and the struggling Russian proletariat.’ [“Naturally!”] Naturally you say? Many thanks! [Amusement on the left, heckles from the right: “Are you trying to mock us?”] I mean this quite sincerely. Just as the help of the English leaders was naturally very welcome to us, we will also embrace and accept your help, wherever it happens to come from. Even if people – to put it mildly – have a Menshevik touch, they ought to support Bolshevism in these circumstances.

And why is that? Because moral right is on the side of our tactics and our outlook. [Applause on the left] The reformists cannot act any differently in the face of their own working class. Clearly, we are going through an epoch – which will later be understood as an episode – where internationally a part of the Menshevik leaders is objectively helping the Bolsheviks to drive the revolution forward. Why? Because this giant, the working class, has awoken, and demands proletarian solidarity with the only proletarian state on earth.

We have the greatest hope in the working class, even in those countries where the Mensheviks still march at its head. In England, the Mensheviks are marching at the head of the working class; the best of them, [Ramsay] Macdonald, is a Menshevik. He is now in Georgia, and after hearing how the Bolsheviks are being railed against, he declared that he is ready to become a Bolshevik. This was a joke of course; but the best of the Hendersons are Mensheviks; they have to support our Bolshevik tactics, and the more time passes, the stronger their support will become. Why? Because otherwise they will be finished in the eyes of the working class within 24 hours. [Applause on the left]

This is why we place the greatest hope in the revolutionary movement in the various countries. In Italy just as much as in the classic country of powerful capitalism, England, where the convulsions of a new order can clearly be felt, and where the beginning of the proletarian revolution can be clearly be seen. I am convinced that in two or three years, it will be said that this was the beginning of a new era. The proletarian revolution has a great chance in England, the bulwark of the international bourgeoisie, and therefore in all other European countries too.

Let’s take a country like Austria. You could wake up in Austria tomorrow and read in the morning papers that the soviet government has arrived. Don’t be surprised if it happens, it is something quite natural. Take the Balkans: in Bulgaria we have almost won a majority to Bolshevism by legal means alone. In Yugoslavia we have done the same. The Balkans are a ripe fruit for the proletarian revolution. [Heckles from the right: “Fantasy!”] Comrades, fortunately this is nothing fantastical. In several countries in the Balkans, the Communist Party has won the majority by legal means. In Hungary, the reaction will not be able to keep house forever. And allow me to express the hope that the revolution in Germany is not dead either, that here too there will come a struggle and the decisive moment. [Applause]

Therefore we need an international and a set of tactics that are geared towards international world revolution. But this is what is absolutely missing in your tactics. There was no talk of it in your presentations, and you can hardly claim that you forgot or that it was a coincidence. It is as little a coincidence as the majority at this congress. [Cries of “Very good!” from the left and great amusement]

So comrades, for a fruitful debate – which we must have, and which will come and continue even after this congress – we first of all have to give a clear answer to this question. It is certainly no crime for you to arrive at the conclusion that world revolution is now impossible. But you have to say so clearly and honestly. But unfortunately it is a requirement of your tactics to stay silent on this. [Strong disagreement from the right and heckles: “Nonsense!”]

Comrades, I would now like to speak on a second very important question, that of the question of democracy.

Here you also owe us an answer. You have tried to avoid it. Only Dittmann said something. He said that we wish to keep the name of Independent Social Democrats [Heckle from Dittmann: “I did not say that at all!”], because democracy will come after dictatorship. Certainly, dictatorship is a temporary phenomenon. But up until now the whole International knew that the USPD – or at least its leading right wing – stands on the ground of democracy. At least until now. [Disagreement and heckles from the right: “No, no – allegations!”]

All of Kautsky’s pamphlets pick up this question. And Kautsky is of course a leading member and theoretician of the USPD. [Disagreement and heckle: “Not true!”] Well, he is a member of the USPD. Today you cry that it is not true, but comrades, tomorrow you will have to draw the consequences, and then the whole world will see: Kautsky is and remains the intellectual leader of the right wing in the USPD. You should show your true colours and clearly say this to the working class. [“That is what we are doing!”] But you just said that Kautsky’s influence is as good as none. [“Outrageous!”] These are precisely the decisive questions that divide us.

Now I would I like to add something on the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

We regularly hear lip-service being paid to the dictatorship of the proletariat. But was it not Crispien who asked Lenin in Moscow whether the dictatorship of the proletariat was something new? After all, it was written about in the Erfurt programme. Comrades, what sort of mentality did Crispien display here? The Erfurt programme does not talk of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the contemporary sense of the word. Even the Mensheviks can sign up to that kind of dictatorship. But now we are dealing with the real existing dictatorship of the proletariat. The form that the dictatorship has taken has not been plucked from thin air, but it has been created by the international working class itself – ie, soviets.

Should the German working class create a different form of the dictatorship of the proletariat, then we will gladly welcome it. We have always said that things do not have to be like in Russia, and that the working classes of other countries will perhaps do a better job of it than we did. But until now the soviet government is the historically constituted form of the dictatorship of the proletariat. ‘Soviet’ is a word which the working class of the whole world has on its lips, which is deeply inscribed in the hearts of the workers. We don’t want to hear from you that the dictatorship of the proletariat was already foreseen in the Erfurt programme. But we want you to tell us whether you are for the dictatorship of the proletariat in the actual, real sense – which was already initiated by the German working class back in the January Days[3] and by the Hungarian working class.

My impression – and that of the representatives of those parties who have already signed up to the Third International – is that we have differences of opinion with you in these three main questions, particularly around how we conduct ourselves on the question of democracy, and also on the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat. These are the three questions which we are fighting over.

It was said here that in Moscow we were initially quite amicable, but then we became strict and made the membership conditions for the Third International much more stringent. Now you are seeking to explain this out of petty motives. But it is very easy to solve this puzzle which you believe to see in front of you. We also had the intention of coming to an agreement. We have thoroughly argued our cases. Yet the more we have argued about these questions which will decide the fate of the proletarian revolution, the more we got the impression that there is absolutely no unity between us and the right wing of the USPD. This was the sole reason and personal considerations had nothing to do with this. What are we supposed to have against individuals like Dittmann and Crispien? And what can they have against us personally? Up until now we did not even know them! No, we are purely dealing with matters of principle. We have weighed each other up and found each other too light.

It appears that a second process of development has taken place simultaneously – one in which Crispien and Dittmann have concluded that we are ‘revolutionary romantics’. They thought to have weighed us up and likewise found us too light. For that reason, what will come, will come. But surely both sides have to openly say that we are dealing with these three questions of principle – and not with something personal. Therefore, comrades, until we have achieved clarity on this question, we will not be able to come to an agreement. That’s why all members of the executive in Russia have greatly regretted that your debates have sunk to such a low level. [Heckle from the right] I don’t want to investigate who is guilty of it. But the congress has made up for it. We have no reason to regret that the debates are so great and comprehensive. That will be of great use for the German working class and for the working class of the entire world.

Up until now we have only spoken about the organisational aspects of the conditions. That is indeed very important and we will speak about them again. But far more important are the theses, the fundamental questions. We are not splitting because you want 18, not 21 conditions. If the split comes about, then it will be because you do not agree with us on the questions of the world revolution, democracy and the dictatorship of the proletariat. That has to be said very clearly. Only then can everything that has been said here be fully understood.

Yesterday Crispien said: “We explained in Moscow that we want to agree on the conditions and then we are prepared to propagate your ideas in Germany.” And yet in the same breath, it is being said here that one has to fight back Bolshevism in principle, and that we are revolutionary romantics. Then again, it is being said: ‘Well, if there were only 18 conditions on the table as opposed to 21, then we would have reached an agreement.’

And another word on Dittmann, who has been painting a very black picture of Soviet Russia. If so many crimes occur day by day, if we shoot 500 old men and 500 women every day, yes, if we are such criminals, then he should simply declare that it is impossible on principle to be in one organisation with such people. [Applause] And then he does not need to greet us in the manner that he does. Indeed, why should one greet criminals at all? [“Very true”]

Comrades, we have already said something similar to our Mensheviks, with whom we now speak quite differently than before – much more coldly because the split has already taken place. They have written whole pamphlets about this or that person having stolen the cash box , this or that person being a criminal, this or that person wanting the dictatorship of the proletariat – and in the end the Mensheviks always say that for this reason they do want unity with us! [Amusement] And we said to them: well, if we are such criminals, if we have stolen the cash box,  then you ought not to seek unity with us, but fight us to the death.

And comrades, the same thing is true on the international arena. We are saying: either – or. We read in a social democratic newspaper that [Nikolai] Bukharin and I – the exploiters of the Russian working class – are travelling to Germany; we are exploiting the Russian working class and are despots – we are coming to Germany as despots. But if you are really of the opinion that we are exercising a dictatorship over the proletariat and that we are despots, then you cannot have a clear conscience for inviting us, wanting unity with us, no matter whether this is under one condition, two conditions or half a condition.

Where does this confused situation stem from? It stems from the fact that you are still not quite clear on these decisive questions of principle. A whole number of shades of opinion exist in your leadership and the individuals within it. Several of the leading people of the USPD right are for reformism and do not believe in the proletarian revolution. [“Very true!”] And these people are against us when it comes to the three decisive questions. [“Very true!” Disagreement] This is why we say to you in front of congress and in front of the working class of the whole world: it does not even occur to us to come here with a diktat. It does not even occur to us – as you accuse us – to believe that we can simply press a button in Moscow and then the workers would all have to dance to our tune. We are not such idiots. We know very well that you can press the button a thousand times, but if the working class does not wish to make revolution, then it will simply not join in. [Unrest]

It is obvious: the question of joining the Third International belongs in front of your party congress, because this question will not be decided in Moscow, but in Halle, by the representatives of the most advanced part of the working class in Germany. [Great applause] You are still quite a colourful mix, because there is still not sufficient clarity on democracy, dictatorship and world revolution – on all sides. I personally knew almost none of the comrades at this congress; maybe I had come across this or that comrade once or twice. But things have to happen as I have described them, because that is a law. It will turn out that some of you will join the International after all, exactly as it happened amongst our Mensheviks. The best elements of the Menshevik workers, such as Chirkin, Bulkin and many others, are now members of our party. That’s why two years ago we told our Mensheviks very calmly: You have signed resolutions against us. And we say to you: Comrades, workers, we are heavily combating each other here, but we say to you: You are workers too. You might be reformists, but there also is still a lack of clarity.

Half a year, a whole year even, might pass before you will come to communism. That is how it was in Russia and that is how it will be in your case. Therefore we assume responsibility in front of the working class of the entire world: we will throw our weight, the weight of the Third International, onto the scales and say: The Third International declares that it stands here and cannot waver on the question of world revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat. And I believe the working class is already committed to world revolution, the dictatorship of the proletariat and the Third International. There is no longer any hesitation, and you have to make a decision soon.

Comrades, allow me to respond to the questions of a principled nature which comrade Crispien has touched on, because I can’t just brush them aside. He touched on three questions of principle, though in my opinion they were not the important ones. The first question was the agrarian question, then the question of nationalities and thirdly the question of terror. [Heckle from Crispien: “The soviet system!”] Yes, and the soviet system. Those are the four questions of principle, and we have to grapple with who is right.

Firstly we will take a look at the agrarian question. Comrade Crispien declared that the agrarian programme drawn up by the Third International in Moscow can only strengthen the counterrevolution and not help the proletarian revolution. Firstly we have to bear in mind that the agrarian programme is intended for the whole International, not merely for Germany. That is a very important point. And secondly, considering that we are gathered in a German assembly, we also have to check whether the agrarian question in Germany really is as Crispien claims.

I do not know the situation in Germany as well as comrade Crispien and other German comrades, who have been in the movement for decades. But comrades, just look at the example of other countries such as Hungary. This is an important example for us in every respect, because we have seen the unification of different elements in one party. At an important point in time, the Hungarian communists have attempted to unite with the elements of the centre. We also bear responsibility for this. We did not oppose it; we thought things might work out better and simpler than they did in Russia, without great struggles. But events in Hungary have shown that this was not true and that lumping working class reformists and revolutionaries together can cause so much damage. This unity has come at a great cost.

But now to the agrarian question. Our Hungarian comrades unfortunately acted in exactly the doctrinaire manner that some amongst you are proposing. They did not want to give anything to the middle peasantry, with the aim of holding onto large land holdings, socialising them and organising large scale production. And comrades, that was a mistake, which comrade Béla Kun has now openly admitted, just like [Eugen] Varga and all other leading brains of the Communist Party in Hungary. And why was it a mistake? Just imagine for a moment what it was like concretely. In Hungary the working class is only a thin layer of society; it is the peasantry which is decisive there. [“Very true!”] The revolution has arrived. Weeks and weeks go by, even months, and the peasantry in Hungary has not noticed that anything had changed. In the countryside everything remains the same as before. At the head of the revolution stands Béla Kun and the proletarian government. But the peasant has received nothing, and hasn’t noticed that anything has changed. And comrades, this was a fateful error. Because of this, the middle layer of the peasantry remained indifferent and turned a deaf ear to the proletarian revolution.

You see what is happening in Italy: the middle and small peasantry have started to confiscate the land. Have they not? [“It’s socialist after all!”] And comrades, was this a counterrevolution? No comrades, this was part and parcel of the revolution. [“Very true!”] And comrades, this will also happen in Germany, mutatis mutandis. I ask comrade Crispien: how can the dictatorship of the proletariat prevail in Germany without peasants’ councils? We too will have to form not merely workers’ and soldiers’ councils, but peasants’ councils too. Isn’t that right, comrade Crispien? [Crispien: “No!”]

Up until now we were of the opinion that we absolutely need peasants’ councils, in Germany as in other countries. [“Very true!”] Of course, in the first instance we have to think of the rural workers and establish a solid footing amongst them. But we will also have to try to establish a solid footing amongst the peasantry, even if the final decision of course lies with the proletariat in the cities. If that applies to a young country such as Russia, then it is all the more true in a country like Germany. In the long run, there will be no victorious proletarian revolution without the organisation of the small peasantry. Comrades, you are making a fatal error if you do not want to incorporate the peasantry. I have to say, in that case you want to prepare the counterrevolution here. [“Very true!” Great noise] You want to prepare the soil from which the counterrevolution can recruit its armies against the working class. [“Very true!”]

Comrades, allow me to reminisce about our struggles with the Mensheviks. It was the very same question. At the start of the 1905 revolution we said: our whole orientation must be aimed at leading the revolutionary part of the peasantry alongside the working class in the struggle against the bourgeoisie. But the Mensheviks said this was “unmarxist”. The Mensheviks did not want any alliance with the peasantry against the bourgeoisie. Instead, they wanted to create a “general national opposition” together with the liberal bourgeoisie. We now find exactly the same train of thought, the same political direction, in the USPD right, albeit under different external circumstances.

We should actually reach out into the countryside and say to the small peasants: If the proletarian revolution comes, you will lose nothing, but will actually gain. We will cancel your debts and recommend that you set up peasants’ councils. Because if the revolution is victorious tomorrow, our enemies will be able to get up in the assemblies of the peasant leaders and ask: Well, how come there are workers’ councils, but there are no peasants’ councils?

Where does comrade Crispien’s error stem from? I believe that for him, the perspective of world revolution is not a serious one. This is why he says that the peasants do not belong to us, for they are no socialists. Comrades, we will have many clashes with the peasantry. We’ve had them in Russia and in many other countries. But the main enemy is not the peasantry, it’s the bourgeoisie. What now matters is what past events have taught us. When the revolution comes, we must try to neutralise the middle peasantry or bring them over to our side. Yes comrades, it is very bad when peasants loot goods. It is not good and should be prevented. But it is the smaller evil. It would be worse if the counterrevolution was able to draw its recruits from the peasantry. [“Very true!”] We will never win in any other way, and the proletarian revolution will not be victorious.

In our thesis on the agrarian question we in the commission were careful to listen to all comrades – not due to petty diplomacy, as we have been accused of. We wanted to accommodate the diversity of the social structures in other countries, as in your country too. And we said: there could be situations where it is possible to divide up the latifundia and large land holdings amongst the small peasants. In that context, this was absolutely correct and absolutely possible. [Heckle from Crispien: “That is a step backwards in production – back to the Middle Ages”]

Allow me now to come to the second question. [Heckle from Crispien: “That’s a step back to the Middle Ages”] Alright comrades, let’s look at this ‘step back to the Middle Ages’. We can live with a period of five to ten years where we cannot yet fully establish socialism in the countryside. But if we return to the bourgeoisie, that is a real step back to the Middle Ages. [Movement. “Not true”]

Of course, it will take some time until we have complete communism. But for now the most important question for all countries – apart from Russia – is that we do not support the bourgeoisie, as it is the enemy. And for this we need to have the small peasants on board. Your objections are evidence of the fact that you are still not thinking seriously enough about the world revolution, that you are still coming back to the old Erfurt story: the peasant does not have a socialist brain, he does not belong to us, he belongs to the other side and is our enemy.

Comrades, things will turn out quite differently, just as they did in Russia. Before the revolution, the Mensheviks said the same thing; they played themselves up to be the purely proletarian party, they represented the interests of the proletariat and did not want to make any concessions to the peasantry. Now that there is a real proletarian dictatorship this has all turned out quite differently. Now that we are able to force the rich peasant to give bread to the working class, we are told that we are exploiting the peasants! The Mensheviks completely changed their tune and the same will happen here.

Now the reformists are passing themselves off as a purely proletarian party in order to put off the prospect of the proletarian revolution. But another time will come when they will ask: ‘Why do you want to implement such measures against the peasantry?’ But we will always stick by it: the urban and the rural proletariat are the bearers of the proletarian world revolution. We have to take whatever is achievable in the first stage of the revolution and we have to neutralise a part of the peasantry and have to assure them that they will be better off under the soviet republic. [“Very true!”]

Then onto the question of nationalities. But before, a small anecdotal digression. I have to say that comrade Crispien really has been taken in with this Enver Pasha business. Such outrageous flimflam has been written on the question of nationalities. But it is not only in Germany that people are talking of this ‘spectre Enver’, but in Switzerland too. I just received a letter from the Swiss comrade Rose Bloch, in which she asks: ‘Well comrade, tell me, is Enver really your ally? Tell me, is the terrible Enver Pasha your ally?’ And I have a pamphlet from Frankfurt, signed by Gütler and Kohl, which cries that Enver Pasha, the executioner of the Armenian people, is admitted into the Third International, but Ledebour the old revolutionary fighter is refused admittance.

Allow me to tell you how things really stand. [Heckles. Unrest] Enver Pasha was present at the Baku congress,[4] he was not a delegate. He requested that we give him the opportunity to issue a statement. We did not allow him that. [“Hear, Hear!”] Following this, he asked us to take down a written statement – I have brought the protocol with me, which will soon appear as a book in Germany. You will be able to read it. So, we did not allow him to speak, indeed this was at my instigation as president of the congress. Then he asked us to read out a statement. We agreed to that. I have it here, it is three, no four, pages long; I believe that a few passages from it will suffice:

“I assure you (the congress) that if contemporary Russia had existed back then, at the beginning of the war, and if the war had been carried out with today’s aims, then we would be as energetically on its side as we are today. In order to prove the truth of my thoughts, I want to tell you that we have decided to fight together with Soviet Russia. I would have liked to come to you earlier, but I have been held back by various unfortunate circumstances. I would have come to you back then, in Russia’s toughest times, and perhaps I would not have been forced to explain these superfluous things to you.” [“That is exactly how General Hoffmann speaks in workers’ meetings”]

That was Enver Pasha’s statement. [Heckles] How did we respond to him? Did we perhaps welcome him with open arms, did we say to him: ‘Yes indeed, you are a sinner who has ruefully returned?’ Not at all. We drew up a special resolution against him. [Heckle from Crispien: “The government too or just the party?”] This motion was moved by comrade Béla Kun and me, and was adopted with a great majority – perhaps even unanimously – by the congress. The resolution states:

“After listening to Enver Pasha’s statement on the Turkish national movement, the congress adopts the following resolution:


  1. The congress expresses its sympathy with the Turkish fighters in their struggle against world imperialism which represses and exploits the peoples of the East and holds the working class of the world in its servitude. And we especially turn on French and English imperialism. We declare, exactly as the 2nd congress of the Third International did, that the peoples of the East support the general revolutionary movement to liberate the East from the yoke of foreign imperialism.
  2. The congress asks the Turkish people not to support offhand those who bear responsibility for the war. The congress solemnly establishes that the general national movement is only directed against foreign oppressors, and that its success would still not denote the emancipation of the Turkish peasants and workers from oppression and exploitation.
  3. The congress advises the leaders to prove through actions that they are now prepared to serve the working people [“Aha!”] and to make up for the false decisions they have taken in the past. [“Make up for them?”] The congress advises the working masses of Turkey to support the general national revolutionary movement; but it calls on the peasants and workers in Turkey to build their own organisations, to fight for their liberation and to prevent foreign imperialists hindering the struggle for liberation by exploiting their relations with the indigenous rich bureaucrats, big farmers and generals. This is the only way in which the working people of Turkey can achieve liberation from the oppressors and the exploiters.” [Unrest and heckles: “Armenian generals!”]


So that is what the Enver Pasha story looks like. [Unrest] Enver Pasha was not a delegate, and there was even a resolution against him. Of course, Enver Pasha was the leading butcher of the Armenians, and we also told him that to his face. But I ask you to remember that the Armenian bourgeoisie was also an ally of Baron Wrangel. I ask you to consider that we too can be set upon by the so-called Armenian democrats at any moment, and that so-called ‘independent’ Armenia is a vassal of English capitalism against us.

And remember that in Georgia too, where many USPD people currently find themselves – I do hope Kautsky went there – we can see the same story. Georgia also has to be described as an ally against the Russian workers. [“Yes, that is the case!”] Munitions are being transported through Georgia to get to Wrangel, so don’t talk to us about Armenian ‘democracy’! It is equally a tool of the Entente against the Russian proletarian revolution. And if you think that the Russian Revolution is worth nothing following this link with Enver Pasha, then you might scare off small children with this ghost story, but you are mistaken if you think you can scare off grown adults.

Why? Because you have a reformist attitude to the national question. I will prove that to you immediately. At the USPD’s conference, comrade Hilferding spoke contemptibly of the “mullahs of Chiva”: The mullahs of Chiva, he said, are communists! Of course, what he meant was: That is ridiculous – the mullahs of Chiva are precisely not communists.

But we in the Third International are aware that we really have to speak to the workers of the whole world – and not merely from a European point of view. We also have to bring enlightenment to the “mullahs of Chiva” in a manner that corresponds to their country. We want to lead them and to appeal to them to rise up against their oppressors. And that can’t be done in any other way. We have explained the standpoint of the Communist International. The Second International was restricted to people with white skin; the Third International does not classify people according to the colour of their skin. If you want a world revolution, if you want to free the proletariat from the chains of capitalism, then you cannot simply think about Europe, you also have to turn your sights to Asia.

Hilferding will contemptibly say: These Asians, Tartars, Kalmyks and Chinese etc! Comrades, I say to you: A world revolution is impossible if we do not help Asia onto its feet, too. Four times as many people live there as in Europe, and like us, these people are being oppressed, exploited and humiliated by capitalism. Do we want to bring them closer to socialism or not? [Stormy applause] When Marx said that a European revolution without England would resemble a mere storm in a teacup,[5] then we similarly say to you, party comrades in Germany, that a revolution without Asia is not a world revolution!

And that is very important for you. It looks like I also have the honour of being European, as we all do. But Europe is a small part of the world. At the congress in Moscow we could feel something that until then had been missing in the proletarian movement. We sensed what is necessary if the revolution is to come, namely the awakening of the oppressed masses of Asia. Dittmann will probably laugh at me. Yet I confess: when I was in Baku and saw how hundreds of Persians and Turks sang ‘The Internationale’ with us, I felt tears in my eyes. And there I felt the breeze of world revolution. I will say it again for emphasis: not the European revolution, but the world revolution. That is a movement of the aggrieved peoples of the whole world against the entente, against capitalism.

Crispien was quite wrong when he said that these are young capitalist states who turn on old capitalist states. [Heckle from Crispien: “In part!”] No, that is not correct. As Ledebour once said on the question of colonial policy, there has to be a time when our thoughts have to shake the whole world. And now we need to follow this up with action and lead the oppressed of all countries against the capitalism of the world’s bourgeoisie. This is indeed not yet a storm of the proletarian masses. Yet the storm we are directing against capitalism will become so much greater and become ever more torrential until it liberates the whole world. And once more I say to you, comrades: without this support we cannot make world revolution. At the opening of the congress in Petersburg, comrade Lenin said: What is the result of the capitalist war? That a quarter of a billion Europeans oppress one and a half billion people in other countries. I am not saying that all of us are oppressors, but that the bourgeoisie of the European countries is the oppressor. And it is imperative that the proletarians of all countries join this movement against the bourgeoisie.

If people mock me for programmatically announcing Holy War in Baku, then this is what I said: ‘Peoples of the East, much has been said to you about ‘holy war’. In 1914, we too were told to fight a ‘holy war’. People of the East, it has been a cursed war, but now we propose to you that you start a genuine holy war against the bourgeoisie, against the oppressors of the whole of humanity.’ [Stormy, long lasting applause] Comrades! Is there anything religious in that? Anything demagogic? I will quote to you a few more parts of the speech that I gave to these people.

I said in Baku: “Every English capitalist forces not only hundreds of thousands of English workers, but millions of the oppressed of the dependent countries to graft for him. You have to conclude from this that these millions of oppressed people have to unite. Because then there won’t be a power on earth that could force you to graft for the English capitalist.

“The organised workers of Europe and America want to fraternally assist the backward working masses of the East. They do not wish to sit in judgement of you thanks to their superiority, but they want to strive to make things better for themselves and for you. The movement, which Kemal Atatürk stands at the head of, wants to free the holy caliph from the hands of the enemies. That is not a communist movement. We have to drive it forward. The European working class, which has united in the Third International, fraternally reaches out its hands to you. And you should support the working class of the world, because then you will liberate yourselves and all of us.”

And they have agreed to this, comrades, and this will become reality. I have told them that Marx and Engels preached the word: “Proletarians of all countries, unite!” We pupils of Marx and Engels, we live in an epoch where we have the great fortune of spreading this formulation and of saying to you: “Oppressed peoples of the whole world and proletarians of all countries, unite against your exploiters!” [Thunderous applause on the left]

They agreed with me on this question, and you should not laugh, comrades: You should not scoff at the Baku congress, and you have scoffed at it so much already. I have seen it in all the newspapers, that the Baku communists were written in inverted commas. [Heckle on the right] Party comrades, you have not understood that this was a historic occurrence in world history. You have perceived it, or wanted to perceive it, as if it was a game on behalf of our government.

Party comrades, that was a revolutionary act, an act of hostility against English capital, which the English government even complained about. I do not know how [Georgi] Chicherin responded. But if we have to negotiate with bourgeois governments about such things, then comrades, this is not the fault of the Russian working class, but that of the working class of all other countries. And if it is not your fault, then it is your weakness. [Great Applause]

This is why I’m saying that what was decided by the Moscow congress on the national question was not a step backwards, but a giant step towards the world revolution. [Lively applause] And Crispien said we had made a mistake! The Communist International, the most advanced revolutionary part of the working class of Europe and America, is now attempting to use all its power to bring about the awakening of Asia. Things will go forward and we will not only have a European revolution, but a world revolution.

In Baku, the council of action was formed – there were 48 members from 28 nations and two representatives of the Communist International. It was unanimously decided to give these two representatives the right of veto. You could say: ‘Aha, the Moscow diktat can be found here too!’ Comrades, this is something much more than petty ‘democracy’! It shows that the best part of the people of the East think it is obvious that the best part of the working class of the world must be its teacher and its leader. You should not laugh at these people and look down on them as the ‘Mullahs of Chiva’.

People say to us: ‘There are so many illiterates!’ Comrades! With pride I can tell you that there are hardly any illiterate people in Petersburg anymore, so after three years maybe there wouldn’t be so many illiterate people in Asia either. And after all, these illiterates have understood to make two of the greatest revolutions in human history, in 1905 and 1917. [Stormy applause]

The light from the East will come to us and shine on the whole of humanity. I ask every class-conscious worker: is there anything unworthy and unacceptable if the European proletariat brings together the peoples of the East, and that they voluntarily opted to be led by the working class of Europe and America? We must know how to win their trust, and this cannot be done when leading comrades like Hilferding mock them with phrases like ‘the Mullahs of Chiva’. [Lively agreement on the left]

These poor oppressed peoples have been squeezed, robbed and disgraced so much that they are distrustful of every European. But the Communist International – and this is our great pride – has been received by these oppressed peoples with the greatest faith. And we observe that the most advanced layers of the peoples of Asia are coming to us and not to the old social democracy. So what is our error supposed to consist of? Comrades, I believe the mistake is on your part. The narrowness, the old small-mindedness, the old prejudices of the bourgeoisie which we have absorbed with our mother’s milk, do not allow you to win over these peoples and to make the proletarian revolution together with them, precisely because you do not actually possess the sentiment of world revolution; this sentiment does not exist for you at all. [Stormy heckles from the right]

If this were not the case, then it might be considered a mere coincidence that Hilferding laughed at the “mullahs of Chiva”. A well-known war leader, the Russian General Suvorov, once said: “You should not always say ‘coincidence, coincidence’. The real question is whether you have a brain in your head!” No, it was no coincidence. On these burning issues we should not be scoffing at the peoples of the East. On the contrary, we should prop them up and help them, for without their help, party comrades, without their help, we will all remain in the hands of the bourgeoisie. [Stormy applause on the left]

In Baku, the influence of Enver over a large part of the Muslim population is so great that people on the streets kiss his hands and feet. Of course, this is regrettable. I will not hide that. But I do not want to hear that the whole Muslim population is totally different compared to us. This is what we must understand. We must be able to respond to and remove such local difficulties which the working class in the Orient always comes across. We also have to deal with the rural preoccupation of this population. And we are also doing this in Europe. Are you not doing this, when you take up religious prejudices? [Heckle from the right: “No, we’re not doing that”]

Party comrades, we do not understand how it can happen that in a single day, women in the Orient can become conscious of communism. You will probably consider it to be a trifle when I tell you that during a demonstration of several thousand people, many Muslim women abandoned their veils. An educated socialist like Hilferding will shake his head at this and say: ‘Aha – the women and the mullahs of Chiva!’ But I say to you that is a world-historic event. We cannot have a world revolution if the women of the East do not understand that they are being oppressed and enslaved, and that they are being trapped in prejudice.

Party comrades! I consider it an honour, and an honour for the whole of humanity that we are carrying out such tremendous educational work. Why is this unacceptable to the German workers? [Stormy applause on the left] I believe, comrades, that what the Third International is about to do is exactly what the working class all over the world should do. [Lively applause]

I now come to the third question of principle which Crispien has touched on – the question of terror. In my opinion that is not the decisive question, but it is still an important one.

Crispien is right on this, there was a time when the Communist Party in Russia advocated freedom of the press. The party said that freedom of the press must be upheld as a principle. It has now given up on this. And that was a good thing; it has taken a step forward.

Now you want to make a distinction between ‘violence’ and ‘terror’. In our opinion that is impossible. Terror is an intensified form of violence, just as civil war is an intensified form of class struggle. Civil war is a function of class struggle, it is the culmination, the high point, of class struggle. Terror is the high point of civil war and violence; that is our point of view.

Crispien has quoted comrade Rosa Luxemburg. He cited the sentence where our deceased teacher said: “The proletarian republic does not need terror; it hates and abhors the murder of humans.” But listen to what she further had to say: “It is an idiocy to believe that the capitalists would willingly go along with a socialist verdict of parliament, and that they would peacefully renounce ownership and profit. All resistance of the bourgeoisie must be broken with an iron fist and ruthless energy. The threatening danger of the counterrevolution has to be opposed by the disarmament of the ruling class, the arming of the people and the concentrated force of the working class. The struggle for socialism is the most violent civil war known in world history, and the proletarian revolution must prepare itself with the munitions necessary in order to fight and win.” [Heckle from the right: “Our opinion exactly!”]

It is my opinion too. I really would like to debate Ledebour on this question. [Heckle from Ledebour: “I will gladly speak after you!”] Gladly, comrade Ledebour, but only under the condition that you allow me to speak and do not constantly interrupt me. In Russia, Ledebour’s statements on terror were a great embarrassment to us, because we used to hold him in great esteem as an old fighter. [Noise on the right]

What I just read out was also our opinion at the start of the revolution. We knew that as Marxists we cannot disavow terror. We know that on numerous occasions Marx had defined the concept of the violent struggle against the bourgeoisie. Marx was a centralist and a terrorist. At the start and before the revolution, we also were terrorists in theory; but not in practice. In practice we were used to paying homage to the weaknesses of the Paris Commune, of which our late comrade Paul Lafargue said: “The communists were too good-natured fellows.” This is also what we were like at the start of the revolution; we were too good-natured fellows! We said that we abhor murder. And that was not just a phrase.

You know of course that on the day of our revolution, General Krasnov – who had fought against us on behalf of Kerensky and the counterrevolution – had stood in front of Petersburg with weapons in hand with which he wanted to butcher the Petersburg workers. When he was caught, what did we do? We said to him: “Give us your word of honour that you will no longer fight against us.” He did and we were stupid enough to let him go! The only one who had misgivings was Lenin. We let this officer go! Party comrades! You know that he brought the counterrevolutionary troops together, which has cost us tens of thousands of people. The fact that we were too good-natured towards Krasnov and other counterrevolutionaries cost the lives of tens of thousands of our brothers.

And there is more: on the day of the revolution, several ministers were arrested who had been negotiating on behalf of English diplomacy and had committed many crimes against the working class. And I still remember how Martov put his shoulder to the wheel for these ministers. He came to the meeting – the first meeting of the Council of the People’s Commissars [Sovnarkom – BL] – and requested house arrest for these bourgeois gentlemen ministers. And there it was said that they are people after all. Ah well, maybe they should receive house arrest. We were so stupid to release them, we set free the majority of these people. And what they did to us, party comrades, you all know quite well. The whole world knows how they then behaved. Of course I am not saying that it was Martov’s fault for standing there and smoking a cigarette. It was our fault; we communists were too good-natured fellows.

And at the beginning, this is how we always acted. [“What did you do then?”] The whole world knows that we freed these ministers, with the exception of a few who got away, who were agents of the Entente. We were too good-natured fellows. That is an international weakness of the proletariat.

Comrades, remind yourselves of the situation in Finland. I have spoken to several Finnish friends about it. The Finnish workers took power into their own hands. What did they do? They freed all bourgeois ministers and members of parliament, and these people went to Berlin, gathered white guards and came back to Finland. You all know about the butchery of the Finnish workers. And in Hungary something similar happened. And, comrades, in Germany as well.

So comrades, when you say that you are completely in agreement with comrade Luxemburg’s opinion – well, so were we before the revolution. It was a rosy, naïve youthful period of our revolution, and we thought that those people would comply. [“Very good!”] And this cost us streams of blood, years of struggles. So, comrade Lebedour, when the soviet government comes in Germany – and we all hope that it will come – and when you are confronted with this question, we ask of you not to repeat our mistakes. After all, as an International we have to learn from each other. [“Very true!”] You should not follow our ‘diktat’, but learn from Finland, from Hungary, from Latvia and – last but not least – from Germany. [“Very good!” Applause on the left. Heckle from Ledebour: “All fallacies!”]

If you tell us that you do not want to belong to the Third International because in this question you have principled differences with us, you are committing an error. You should not look at it as a question of morality versus immorality. Nobody is comfortable with murder. You can probably imagine that. But where does it come from? From the fact that the revolution was born of war. Since the war, in which 20 million people were butchered, we have all become somewhat brutalised and we do not treasure human life as much as before. The proletarian revolution comes with streams of blood, it has such terrible birth pains, humanity has been brutalised. [“Very true!”] We have become accustomed to going at each other with muskets. It is now a matter of what means we use to defend the revolution for our class, for humanity – what means we use to defend our lives. That is the question. [Heckle from the right: “That depends on the situation!” Laughter and calls on the left: “Aha!”]

It may be that in a doctrinaire or a professorial sense, a difference could be found between violence and terror. Sure, there is difference in a doctrinaire sense, but the matter concerns a political question: the question of the oppressed class which has to defend itself. And on this we ask you not to split hairs. We were so oppressed and so unorganised in the past that we cannot do without terror. Quite the opposite, we have to use it. We have to understand that it is actually a weapon of the working class. If we need to use it then we are in favour of it.

This is why I am saying for the hundredth time that you are still thinking about the revolution in a completely abstract way. You think that it will come in a hundred years. You do not want to deal with concrete circumstances as they are in Germany, where you are already acquainted with the terror of the bourgeoisie.

The names Luxemburg and Liebknecht shine like stars in the sky of the oppressed of the whole world. But who killed Luxemburg and Liebknecht? Did they not fall as victims of bourgeois terror? And yet we still have to listen to those things from Ledebour – in Germany of all countries, where there isn’t a single street where working class blood has not been shed. How can this ideology emerge, that you are still having doubts?

If it is necessary, then. It needs to be done. [Shouts of “very true” on the left] We have never propagated terror when it is not necessary, only when it is. [Heckle from the right: “So you mean not in principle!”] No, we did not do that either. I have shown you historic facts that are very important. I have shown you a whole section of our revolution. Comrades, you know quite well that after we defeated [Anton] Denikin – it should be remembered – we immediately said: now enough of the terror. It was perhaps too early, but we did it. So how can you now use this against us? How can you say to the workers in Germany: ‘Well, just take a look at these contemptible terrorists, they use terror as a matter of principle!’

No, if you are serious about proletarian revolution and dictatorship, you have to put up with it. It cannot be any different – not through any fault of our own, but because of the damned bourgeoisie [“Very true!”], which is prepared to butcher another 20 million people, but not to relinquish its privileges. That’s how the question of terror should be looked at.

I would like to add one more thing. Perhaps you will say: ‘Yes, terror against the bourgeoisie may well perhaps be necessary, but not against so-called socialists.’ Allow me to speak for a few more minutes on this question.

In comrade Dittmann’s speech to conference – I will quote it, if necessary – he said a lot about a well-known Russian, Victor Chernov. It has been said that the president of the Constituent Assembly is a socialist. If he had come to Halle, he would probably have been gladly greeted by the right wing of the USPD. Allow me to quote a document, from which you will have to see that we are compelled to stand up against such socialists, even with arms in hand, with the means of terror.

I’ll quote only one document: A resolution on international politics, which was drafted by the eighth meeting of the party council of the Socialist Revolutionaries in 1918 and then adopted by a party congress, council and conference of this party, of whom Victor Chernov is the leader. This was at a time when the Czechoslovaks and white guards were fighting against us. Try to envision what the situation was like. We did not yet have a Red Army, we only had the beginnings of it, we still had the Brest-Litovsk peace, the Entente was much stronger than it is even now, it fought against us, sent Czechoslovak soldiers against us. We had no bread and were under attack. The situation was very difficult. The congress of the Socialist Revolutionary Party adopted the following resolution, which I will read out word for word:

“As the Bolshevik government has – through its policies on Russia – provoked the danger of the complete loss of independence and the splitting up of Russia into the spheres of influence of its strong neighbours, the 8th council of the Party of the Socialist Revolutionaries believes that this danger can only be removed through the immediate liquidation of the Bolshevik government and if a social democratic government, elected by universal suffrage, takes governmental power. A government, which in this war against Germany recognises the military support of the allies, under conditions and forms that warrant the inviolate character of Russia. The appearance of Allied troops on Russian territory for purely strategic and non-political ends will be acceptable to such a government of organised democracy based on the legislative national assembly, if a formal settlement between Russia and the non-Allied, armed powers guarantees the inner political decisions and the security and inviolate character of Russian territory.”

So, the SRs proposed to the Entente that they should send troops to Russia for “strategic”, but not “political” purposes – with the condition that they do not interfere. I do not need to tell you just how the Entente troops interfere; so envision this: at a time when every day hundreds of our comrades fall on the front, when the working class is starving, and when the Entente is prepared to hold a pistol to our head on a daily basis – at such a time a socialist party comes along and decides at its congress to enable the Entente to send troops into the Russian Soviet territory – not for “political”, but for “non-strategic” purposes. I ask you, comrade Ledebour, what would you do if you stood at the head of a proletarian government, if you were in such a situation, and the Entente wanted to send troops against you, and in Germany a socialist party stood up and said: ‘Yes, we ask the Entente to send troops.’ [Heckle from Ledebour: “Of course we will treat them as enemies!”]

How can we deal with these people in any other way than with violence? [“Very true!”] What are these people if they are not class enemies, bourgeois elements? Although they call themselves socialists, they have now dropped out of the Second International, too. [Heckle from Ledebour: “Zimmerwald!”] You have to realise that during the first part of the revolution and partly during the second, Chernov and his party of the Socialist Revolutionaries were the closest possible allies of the Mensheviks. They sat in one single government, made one single policy, their ministers arrested Trotsky, their ministers destroyed our party organisation, their ministers subdued the proletariat of Petersburg – that is what these socialists look like! [Heckle from Ledebour: “counterrevolutionaries!”]

You also have to understand psychology. Initially, a group of my closest co-thinkers and I simply could not believe that these people were counterrevolutionaries. We said to ourselves: how can it be that Chernov – who was alongside us with Ledebour in Zimmerwald, and who even wanted to belong to its left wing for a moment – is a counterrevolutionary? We thought it must be an exaggeration. We wanted to hold off and attempt to reconcile ourselves with these forces.

Yet with an iron logic, the revolution drove us apart. We knew that he might call himself a socialist, but that he is a bourgeois agent – he is more dangerous to us than any Orgesch. And this is precisely what the revolution is like – it cannot be done in a friendly, patient and peace-loving manner. It is about risking one’s neck, it’s about all or nothing. This is why we had to use terror against a so-called socialist party, just like they used it against us, and just like they badly injured Lenin. That is what the party of the Socialist Revolutionaries did. [Heckle from Martov: “No!” Heckle from Crispien: “Martov protested against it!”] The woman who shot at Lenin was a member of the Socialist Revolutionaries. This woman almost robbed us and the whole working class of Lenin.

This is what the situation was like. We wish from the bottom of our hearts that this won’t happen to you and things will turn out better for you. But if we look at the first period of your revolution, and when we once again consider the fate of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, then this merely remains a wish. You know very well that many of you sitting on the right – like Ledebour for example – are only alive by chance. And I do not need to tell you who carries the moral responsibility for that.

It may be very embarrassing that the proletarian revolution proceeds in such a bloody and difficult manner, but it cannot be changed. That is what I had to say to you on the question of terror. I believe that the working class of the whole world, if it really has learnt the lessons of the Paris Commune – which we proudly stand in the tradition of – if it has learned from the attempts, the experiences of the Finnish, the German, the Russian, the Latvian and the Estonian revolutions, then they really have to say to our inexperienced parties what Lafargue once said: “Comrades, in the struggle for our cause do not be too good-natured. If you have to, use even the accentuated form of violence, which is terror!” [“Very true!” “Bravo!”]

I believe I have dealt with the three points of principle we disagree on and which were touched on by Crispien. [Heckle from Crispien: “soviet system!”] I have been asked to also speak on the soviet system. As far as I was able to understand, there was an argument here about whether one should sign up the yellow workers into the councils. [Heckle from Crispien: “Not just about that!”] I hope at least that I have understood the correct problems and will attempt to answer them.

First, the question of the yellow workforce. If we understand the yellow workers to be the technical staff, the paid technical staff of the bourgeoisie, if we understand them to be a small group of people, then of course we must hunt them out. But if we understand them as reactionary workers’ elements in general – Christians, other backward elements etc – then I say that we definitely need to have such elements in the councils. Comrades, we have to organise our class. That is the ABC of our whole activity. It is the curse of our class that some of our brothers are fighting against us. In the soviets we have the opportunity to teach them better. You all agree that the councils of action in England were a very important proletarian movement. Were there not Christian workers present? As many as you want. All workers were there. There was a delegate in every town, and unfortunately there are also many Christian and backward workers in England.

In the first meetings of the Petrograd and the Moscow soviets, there were anti-Semitic elements. They were there, some are still there – and it cannot be any different. But if we practically work there for two or three years – like I did for example in Petersburg – then these soviets will become very generous universities for these workers. They would soon get rid of their own prejudices. The concept of the soviets is a great one, it is an idea for the working class of the whole world. It gives us the opportunity to teach our backward brothers, and gives them the opportunity to take part in and master the state apparatus on a daily basis. It will not happen any differently here either, you must have these people in the councils. It is a shame that they are not coming over to us, that the yellow leaders are preventing them from joining the soviets. But the idea of the soviet system is such a powerful magnet that it is attracting the hearts and souls of all workers – those of backward workers, too. We have to make use of this magnet, gather the people around us, and treat them in a comradely fashion – for these backwards workers are the curse of our class. We have to teach them, that’s the only way.

Should it come to a vicious struggle, then we have to fight each other, and this has happened, but we have to have those people in the soviets. And if reality presents itself to you like that, you have to react to it. Praxis itself will tell you that you must have these people, and here I would like to remind you of what the late August Bebel said to you on many occasions. We have followed the fate of the German party for decades and have learned from it. We have read everything that such masters of the German party like August Bebel have said. [Heckle from the right: “He would say something quite different today!”] When you were discussing the question of the trade unions, how many times did he say: ‘Yes, we must be careful and tolerant in the face of Christian workers organised in trade unions and we precisely have to get these people on our side.’ [Disagreement from the right. Heckle from Crispien: “The Amsterdam trade union!”] The Amsterdam trade union! The Third International has decided to take part in all congresses of the union, to re-educate the workers there. But of course we have to fight against the leaders – or rather the misleaders. The deceased August Bebel did not say that you should be soft on the Christian leaders! [“Very true!”] We have not been soft on those people – but our attitude to the workers, our class comrades, is quite different.

Therefore comrades – and perhaps it will be different for you – we do not have to offer any protection to these people, we are not some sort of schoolmaster. We have accepted the backward elements. We are also accepting those who are not party members. Sometimes those are the very same backward elements, the very same christians. And comrades, in my capacity I speak far more often with those who are without a party than our own party comrades. Sometimes there is a joke made about me: yes, Zinoviev is “not in a party”! Why? Because it is precisely these people who are not in a party that we must have with us in order to re-educate them. [Heckle from the right: “That is purgation!”]

Now onto the second issue of dispute on the question of councils. As far as I can see, you have argued about whether the party must be leading in the workers’ councils. And we are absolutely of the opinion that it must be leading.

There was a time when we had only two to eight percent of members of the Petrograd soviet, which is the most advanced soviet in the whole country. I remember when it was decided to form a coalition government for the first time, when Chernov, [Irakly] Tseretelli and other ministers arrived. What jubilation there was amongst the workers in the Petrograd soviet – they now had a socialist minister. But when Trotsky wanted to speak there, and when I wanted to move a motion, they did not even want to listen to me. They said: ‘Go to hell, we have a coalition, we have socialist ministers, we do not need civil war or terror.’

Now this was a very bitter hour for us, but later it all turned out very differently. So the party was in a small minority. Yet we knew how to carry on working, to show the working class on a daily basis that our party is right. And the party won the soviets, carried them further and will continue to do so. I doubt whether it will be different for you. Maybe a different regroupment of forces will occur here. Maybe it will happen differently, but we should take to heart the experiences of the Russian Revolution, which are actually worth something. In our experience, there must be a united party, which continues the soviets and also leads them.

I think I have also dealt sufficiently with this question. I cannot digress too far and it is difficult for me to speak and you are probably tired, but I think I actually have the duty to discuss one further question here, and you have to grant me a little bit more time…[Heckle: “We have still not heard the conditions!”] First I wish you to allow me to speak about Russia…[Heckle from Ledebour: “What about the centralisation of the International?!”] I intend to speak on that.

But first comrades, allow me two words on Russia. You know very well how comrade Dittmann has turned on the Bolsheviks [Disagreement. Heckle: “Not true!”] Actually, it is quite laughable to dispute this. So I would like to propose to comrade Dittmann that he if so disposed and if it is possible, then we should debate the question of Russian affairs in a great public assembly of workers in Berlin or elsewhere. Somebody has played an evil joke on the comrade: he was given outrageous material and he passed it on. When he declares that 315,000 members of our party are soviet officials and not workers, and only eleven percent of our party are workers, and when he audaciously claims that these are data and figures published by the central committee, then this is a legend and a fable with which I am at a loss.

How can a man like Dittmann, who is such a tried and tested politician, publish something like this without checking it first? So I am prepared to spar with Dittmann and Crispien in a public discussion. But I would like to say one thing: It really is looking bad in Russia. We do not deny that at all. There is not enough bread – now there is more than before, though there are not enough other foodstuffs. In the cities, the heating and housing situation is bad. There is much that we do not have, but we ask you to consider the kind of struggles we have fought through in these three years. [Dittmann: “I mentioned all of that!”]

A comrade of ours attempted to put together a summary of the governments we have to fight against. There are at least 18 of them: England, France, America, Japan, previously Germany, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Poland and Czechoslovakia and many others. I am not even talking about our internal enemies, the counterrevolution, the officers and the white guards. So 20 governments, almost the whole world, with a few exceptions, have fought against us, with weapons, money, spies, leaders and everything possible, and that is no exaggeration. We must fight against a whole world, and unfortunately the working class of Europe was so badly organised that it could not help us immediately.

Indeed, we were in an argument with almost the entire bourgeois world. And now comrades, take a look at this picture and imagine what it is like. [Heckle from the right: “We know all of that already!”] Imagine this: the workers strike for two months, three months, even four. They have no help, they are being persecuted, they have nothing to eat, their children are running around barefooted, things look very bad in their houses, and now a worker from another town or district takes a look at the situation and says: ‘I do not like this at all’. [Heckle from the left: “Very good!”]

Comrades, this was what comrade Dittmann’s action was like, too. [Heckle from the left: “Very true!”] You can imagine what sort of feelings this aroused amongst the Russian working class. I do not need to say what sort of feelings these are, and I know full well that this action was not endorsed by the German working class either. [Stormy applause and clapping on the left. Disagreement on the right. Dittmann cries: “Because you are not reading it out loud, I have written on it”] I think you all know these articles of comrade Dittmann. I don’t want to read them out. I have been informed that the Anti-Bolshevik League has used one of them for a placard. [Heckle from the right: “You too!”]

I would like to request one small thing, namely that you make this placard available to me for our revolutionary museum in Petersburg. We will put it in a lovely frame and always think of it. [Renewed heckles from the right: “Lenin!”] Comrades, Lenin was quoted today and it was said: ‘Lenin, he’s quite a clever fellow’. This is my view, too, I am in agreement; what he wrote on the infantile disorder of the revolution is very good. The manner in which he criticises our party is also not bad. But this is not what Dittmann wrote on the situation in Russia – not by a long stretch. [Agreement from the left]

And now allow me to speak about my own criticisms about my party, which Dittmann read out today. Dittmann thinks that it speaks against me and my party. No, comrades! It speaks precisely for my party and for me as a member of the party. Yes, it is true that comrade [Yevgeny] Preobrazhensky wrote what has been quoted today [“Hear, Hear” from the right], although of course it was cut out of context.

It is true that a few weeks ago, at a shortened party congress in Moscow, I myself gave a talk in which I raised the sharpest criticism about several problems of our party. [“Hear, hear” on the right] It is true that I even spoke about the inequality in the living conditions within our party. I would like to ask you: is there no inequality in your party, and is everything here in best order? [“That is not what this is about”] It is true that I said that and that I raised much sharper criticisms. But you have to know that for the last 25 years, we have always spoken out openly in our party. It is for this reason – in spite of a few weaknesses – that in the eyes of the working class of Russia and the whole world, we have become – and I say this with pride – the greatest, most esteemed, disciplined party, and the one best equipped for action. We have done this for 25 years, and will continue to do so. Comrades, at different times our party has suffered from different illnesses, which can well be described as seasonal illnesses, just like any other party has. But we have criticised them, we have cured them, and we will continue to do so.

The moment we took power into our hands, a range of new illnesses befell us. Illnesses that we previously did not have, because we did not hold power. Today’s seasonal illness consists of the fact that many shady elements have joined the party, some dodgy types, who are not exactly very pleasant. I wish that things would be better in this regard. Yet I don’t know whether this wish will be fulfilled. Indeed, in Hungary it was precisely the same – a whole number of dodgy and shady types forced their way into the party.

But just consider our situation. Consider the fact that we have lost at least 300,000 of our best people on the front. According to statistical surveys we lost 280,000 workers in the first year of the revolution, who for the most part fell in the army and on the front. We had to note that the old guard has almost completely disappeared. Yes, this is bad, but it cannot be any different. It was precisely our most tried and tested comrades who had acted as soviet officials and who had to be thrown at the most dangerous places and situations. This is how we suffered every day the loss of some of our best and most tried and tested comrades. So the layer of the tried and tested old workers became too thin.

Not only this – even those who we did not lose often became ill and exhausted. We can see that they are ill and that we ought to let them recover. But it happened that when we wanted to send a comrade into a sanatorium – a comrade that I have know for 14 years – he said that he did not want to and that he would rather work with us and die with us here.

But even those who stayed alive had to go through such terrible things during these three years, had to carry such enormous burdens on their shoulders that many of them lost their strength and had become terribly nervous. This is a phenomenon that we still have to deal with at the front today. I said in my report that at the front there are people who do not act as communists; but immediately after this I added that this was dwindling minority and that the great majority were tried and tested. Recently, Trotsky gave a report to the Central Committee – ie, in a rather intimate setting – about his trip to the Polish front. He said that the most terrible thing was that our workers from Petersburg and Moscow looked like ghosts. They work so terribly and suffer so terribly and have so little that they can barely stand up. A simple soldier will requisition the last goose and eat it, but a communist will not do so. He will content himself with his ration, and no matter how weak he is, he will be found on the frontline.

This is what the situation is like, because we have to fight against a world of enemies. But you cannot forget: the proletarian revolution cannot be had cheaply, and whoever doesn’t want to pay the price should not even start it. Of course, there are illnesses within our party. There are people that have become communists overnight, have then become soviet officials and claim the greatest privileges for themselves, and who merely want to bureaucratise and many more things. It is precisely for this reason that we reprimanded these people in the name of the central committee, in the name of the working class, and said: this is not on, the party will not tolerate this. The party demands of you that you do not become proletarian bureaucrats, the party does not wish to have such inequalities. That is what we said. And you are seriously mistaken if you believe that we did not know and predict that Dittmann would quote this against us.

We knew that very well, and I would make it my duty to say so in every mass meeting. Comrades and brothers, this is what it is like in Russia, we have these seasonal illnesses. But is it wrong if we speak out openly about what we should do to overcome them? Do you have a right to rail against it? Is that the ‘diktat’ people are telling us about? I would like to meet the person from the right of the USPD who stands up and has the courage to say something like this publicly. [Stormy applause on the left]

Yes comrades, we have learned about openness from you, at least from some of you, admittedly not from Dittmann! [“Very good!” Amusement on the left] But allow me to say who we have learnt it from: Bebel. He used to hold such open speeches at the party congresses. That was the most beautiful period of the German working class, when it had such a leader, when it had nothing to fear, and when its leader dared to speak out. So I ask: was the person who spoke in the name of our central committee, was he a coward, a hypocrite, an ultra-centralist? Was he a dictator? [Heckle from the left: “No, no!”]

I therefore say, comrades: What Dittmann quoted against me speaks for our party, for our working class. Yes, we do not want to conceal the fact that not everything is good, that many things are bad. But, comrades, we will heal ourselves, and therefore we tell each other what is going on. But for the main part we are a workers’ party, and at its core this workers’ party is healthy, which is why it can take criticism. And, above all else, from this criticism it can draw the conclusions about what has to be done for things to get better. A commission has been elected to this end, in order to overcome this as quickly as possible. Therefore, comrades, we will print and distribute this speech. We do not fear that our brothers in Germany or in other countries will say: ‘Yes, look there, they have gone bankrupt!’ Well comrades, I can only hope that the workers’ parties of all countries suffer such bankruptcy! [Applause on the left]

An article has come to my attention, which, if I am not mistaken, was written by comrade Breitscheid, in which she writes: “I understand our Russian brothers quite well. They have to carry out a difficult fight, they are hungry, they would like to get help quickly, and therefore they demand that we should make revolution immediately – and hence the Moscow diktat”. In a good-natured fashion, this probably very good comrade says: “Yes, we have sympathy with you, but we will not go along with this Moscow diktat.” I would like to say to our dear comrade and others: comrade, do not help us, help yourselves! [Stormy applause and clapping on the left lasting for minutes. Laughter on the right]

Of course we need your help, and I believe we have the right to this help. Of course, we should and must have the help that the working class of other countries can give us. And things were certainly very difficult for us. But the most difficult part is over. Yes, the most difficult part is over and the civil war will be over. We can then turn to peaceful work. We have a rich country which makes up a sixth of the globe, we have a working class which is heroically-minded, and which is on our side in life and death. We can already say that we have survived the most difficult period. So comrades, in the first instance, take care of the working classes of your own countries. [Applause on the left]

An article by comrade Kaminski has appeared in Rote Fahne, in which he expresses the opinion that one should not make revolutions with foreign weapons. But at our conference, a representative of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Poland turned up, saying that the party is completely in agreement with the Russian party. We believe that we must exercise as much solidarity as the international bourgeoisie. When the international bourgeoisie seeks help from other countries, it does not say: ‘Those are not my weapons’, but it says: ‘We, the bourgeoisie, are a class, and we have the duty to support each other.’ We should also think and act like this.

When you are in power and you have the opportunity to help the French working class, then this is not merely your right, it is your duty. [Heckle from the right: “Of course!”] You see then, this has also become an international question. Until now we have only led one offensive in the area of internationalism: we have demanded neutrality. But now the proletarian revolution is stepping into a new phase and we are arriving in a new epoch, where the working class internationally must go from the defensive to the offensive. Today it is not enough to be on the neutral and pacifist defensive. The working class, if it wants to help in this fight, has to understand that we have to prepare the offensive with the bayonet and with all other possible means. That is what I have to say on this problem.

Now allow me to move on to the conditions. [Ironic heckles on the right: “About time!”] Finally, you say. I beg forgiveness for speaking so diffusely, but you yourselves asked me to speak on a few questions, and I had to answer other questions – not just before this party congress, but also from this high stage, which today is an international one. [Applause on the left]

Comrades, I think the first question is this: why have these conditions actually come about? It is not an absolute necessity to put up conditions. Up until now it was the case that, both in our own party and in the Second International, we always said: ‘The more people the better.’ So why the conditions? If there hadn’t been such great confusion, such a terrible crisis in the international working class movement, then we really would not have needed any conditions. Everybody would simply join the party he wanted to. But our party is not a corporation, it is an association of the forces of the working class in struggle. So we could simply say: ‘All fraternal parties can come in and that is the end of it.’ Where have these conditions come from then?

Because since 1914, and even earlier, the working class has gone through a terrible crisis, which we should not forget. Sometimes we already begin to forget that we had an imperialist war, and that as a result we had this massacre and this terrible crisis. We had an International in which some 10 million workers were organised, and the working class of the entire world had placed its best hopes on it.

Then the war came and everything was lost. Many of our workers buried their hopes and comrade Luxemburg was absolutely right when she said: “The strangest thing following this terrible collapse is that we stayed alive and did not commit suicide.” But many comrades did exactly this. Is all of that already over? Not at all! The working class was in the darkness, and in the darkness of those times we shot at each other. Thousands and hundreds of thousands of us killed each other. Now the war is over, but our crisis isn’t yet. We still haven’t united, there still is a smorgasbord of different tendencies.

Therefore, we first have to carry out a re-evaluation of all values. This is why the conditions have to come first, this is why we need such a litmus test, which has to prove who actually belongs to us and who does not, who is still a reformist and who wants to be revolutionary. That is the reason for the conditions. They were not born out of viciousness or of a longing for ‘diktat’, but precisely out of the crisis of the international workers’ movement. If we want to build the International now, then we have to proceed in this way and have to advance conditions. [Heckle from the right: “But not these kinds of conditions”]

Well, what kind of conditions? The first condition states: “The whole of our propaganda and agitation has to bear a genuinely communist character and correspond to the programmes and decisions of the Third International.” Comrades, I have to say that this one sentence would actually be completely sufficient for us [“Very true!”], if we could be sure that these were not just words. Crispien just heckled me with “So what?” But the very same Crispien told us yesterday that it was the greatest crime that there were communists “in disguise” here. [Heckle from the right: “In disguise?”] Right, but you have no objections to comrades being openly communist? [“Very good!” Laughter on the left]

If our differences of opinion merely hinge upon us not wanting communists to be in disguise, then we are of the same opinion. But you know very well that this is not the case. It was precisely said that comrades who openly behave as communists are not welcome. Only today it was said here that it wouldn’t work: “this here is not the KPD, but the USPD. If tomorrow the workers see that accepting the conditions means ‘Now all into the Communist Party!’ and that they are no longer allowed to call themselves USPD, but have to call themselves KPD, then we are lost.”

Comrade Crispien also challenged me on the Polish question. He said that Zinoviev had explained in Moscow that the Polish working class was bad. I have to speak on that, because it has international significance. The Polish working class was so subdued, so many of them had been arrested and struck down that they really could not give us sufficient help. But we are in absolute solidarity with the Polish working class.

I don’t think this is particularly scary. Comrades, hand on heart, it is quite clear that you are neither communists in disguise nor open communists. And you don’t want to be. This is why in your case the first condition is not sufficient. After this terrible crisis, after the collapse of the Second International, we have the duty of mistrust, the duty, comrades, to understand that words are not enough. And the course of this conference has proven this.

You said that we initiated such unrest here. What else could we do? Yesterday, Crispien said that the executive was speaking with its fraternal parties in the same manner as bourgeois governments are speaking with each other. [Heckle from the right: “Much worse!”] The same Crispien later quoted a note by [Viktor] Kopp saying that this, compared to us, was polite. Comrades, we speak differently with the governments than with fraternal parties. We sometimes have a coarse, very brutal language – perhaps sometimes it is too brutal. But it is not the ‘tone’ that is important. The question is whether we are on a common path and whether we want to continue on it.

We have to work out such conditions step by step, so that everybody has to profess in advance where they stand. Everybody can be happy with the first condition. But you want to take a big hat and cover everybody, even the Second International. You want to render homage to Amsterdam. Which is why we have to be more detailed with our conditions; and the ECCI has been given full authority to do so.

Where we see that we are dealing merely with formalities, we have the ECCI’s authority to exercise the greatest tolerance towards genuinely proletarian elements. [Heckle: “You say that now!”] We want to walk along the same path, but not with those elements who do not want to do that and who have taken up another path. [Heckle from the right: “Are those conditions or not?”] Comrades, I just said that this is a question of individuals, the executive has the right to make exceptions. [Heckles on the right: “To demand something like that of us?”] No worker will read a lèse-majesté out of that, only professional leaders will. [Heckles] [The bell rings.]

This is not a diktat of the Russians, but of the other nations. Crisipien is right: initially we did not want conditions 2 and 7; but the congress compelled us to accept them. [“(Karl) Radek said he had the congress in the bag!”] I do not know whether Radek was able to say such a thing.

But everybody who has was at the congress will be able to confirm that condition 21 was moved by the Italian comrade [Amadeo] Bordiga. We have accepted it, but we believe that comrade Bordiga is wrong on the question of parliamentarism. Yet when it comes to the struggle against reformist elements, he is completely correct and he has done well: the majority of congress accepted the conditions. If we needed proof, then the best possible proof is this congress. [Applause on the left]

Comrades, there was talk here of an accidental majority – I think we can equally say there is an accidental and significant minority here. [Applause] Comrades, we have accused you of calling this party congress too quickly. Maybe now you share this opinion? [“No”] Neither do I, actually. But I know that the more detailed and longer the debate goes on, the more workers come over to our side. [“Very true!”]

There has been a significant number of workers in your ranks, because you have pushed discussion solely onto organisational issues. [“Very true!”] Therefore, comrades, we say that Bordiga and the Italian comrades are correct. It is clear that this classic split will also happen in other parties. And the good thing is that the German working class has been the first to recover from the crisis, by mustering such a majority here. [Cries of “Bravo!”] For example, here I have a letter from a worker on the left of the USPD, which states: “I am for Moscow, can you not formulate the 21 conditions differently for us?” Following the battle with those who oppose us on principle, we will exercise the greatest tolerance towards those workers who are really in favour of the future proletarian revolution. [Applause on the left. Heckles on the right: “Everybody does what they can”]

I have to carry out one more mandate of the ECCI [“Paragraph 21”] I have to ask the congress – that part of the congress to whom our conditions are unacceptable – that it may be so good as to tell us quite formally: what do you desire, what would be acceptable to you? Which theses, which conditions do you accept? [Disagreement. Heckle on the right: “Why did you not tell us that three weeks ago?”] I raised this very same objection yesterday when comrade Longuet was speaking. He immediately told me what conditions were unacceptable to him. [“Retract!” Great unrest. “Why not before?” Heckle from Crispien: “Opportunistic spin!”]

Crispien thinks our request is based on fear of the conditions. I have no reason to be dissatisfied with the conditions. I think it is actually an international duty to listen to our request and our appeal. [Heckle from the right: “You could have done that a long time ago, why did you not come three weeks ago?”] The document is well-known to you. As this representative body, you should be able to formulate which theses you are in favour of and under which conditions. [Unrest on the right. Heckle from Crispien: “That is too strong.” “You are con men!”]. [The bell rings.]

I believe, comrades, that we are not particularly challenging on this point. If the Swiss party decides it would like to negotiate with us once again, then this would indeed be funny, as the Swiss have changed their decision six times already. But comrades, it is the duty of the ECCI to negotiate once more. And that is what we will do. [Heckles on the right. Heckles on the left] Comrades, I already said so to you before … [Heckle from (Fritz) Radtke: “You are worse than a horse trader”][6]

Otto Brass (in the chair): “I ask you to let the speaker continue. [Great unrest on the left. Heckle from Radtke] If you cannot listen, then go outside!” [“Bravo!” “As chair you are unable to accuse us of such a thing. What fool’s play!”]

Brass: “I told comrade Radtke that if he does not want to listen then he should make his way outside”. [“Very true!” Applause. Heckle on the left]

Zinoviev continues:

Comrades, it is my duty to pass on the executive’s proposal to you. Of course it is fully within your rights to reject it if you want. But you will hopefully understand that I have to pass it on. This is what I have done, and I hope that you will not take offence in me doing so.

Now I come to the conclusion. I still wish to say something on the composition of the ECCI and on relations to the German party. You always say that you are under the ‘Russian diktat’. There was even an article today with the headline: ‘The knout of Moscow’. Considering that our countries had been at war for four years, we should in my opinion be somewhat more careful with the term ‘knout’. It is nothing less than the awakening of nationalist instincts.

I have to finally declare that the ECCI is composed of five members of the Russian party and 18 members of other parties. You know that comrade [Clara] Zetkin is a representative in Moscow and I hope that a large part of the working class will say that she does well as the representative of the German working class. [“Very true!”]

Remember when the Second International was based in Brussels and you wanted to be part of it. Comrade Crispien even went to Lucerne.[7] [Heckle from Crispien: “Untrue! We just wanted to listen to it, I already ascertained that in Moscow, that is an untruth.” Lively unrest] It is a fact that official representatives of your party took part in the meetings of the Second International even after the war. [“Very true!”] How was it there? In Brussels the Belgians – a small party, remember – actually took care of your business. The ISB of the Second International rarely met. Only when important questions arose was an effort made not to leave those to the executive. Why did you do that? Because the opportunists in Germany, France and Russia said that it was irrelevant whether the Belgian opportunists or other opportunists do it.

Initially we only wanted ten parties, now there are 13 on the executive committee. After the congress, three other parties joined. The executive now consists of 16 representatives. It was proposed that the Russians should take over things and carry lone responsibility. Although this was of course a great honour for us, we rejected it. We rejected it precisely because we needed to have a different International, because above all else we needed to have a connection with the other countries. Crispien will confirm that sometimes other comrades led the discussions in Moscow. If you want to relocate the executive to Germany or Paris, then we will be the first to agree happily. That is what we said! [“Hear, Hear!” Applause on the left] This is what we said, comrades, they were not mere words. Today we know full well how much responsibility lies on our shoulders. I ask you, where are the other countries, the other parties, who are always asking to be given ‘trust’? We want to discuss this.

Soon we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Paris Commune. We will be happy when the French workers have soviet power and form a great party – then we can relocate the executive to Paris. [Heckle on the right: “Bawler!”] As I have said, this is not about any dictators. Comrades, just think about what blame you are trying to lay on us. What do we need dictators for? Do you really think we are stupid enough to believe that when we press a button, the people start dancing?

It has been said that we want to hunt our German brothers into a war with France. [Heckle on the right: “Yes!”] That is outrageous – absolutely outrageous. [“Very true!”]  In Lenin’s pamphlet and in thousands of documents we have explained that when the German working class takes power, it must perhaps grit its teeth, but it must tolerate the Treaty of Versailles for a while. [“Hear, Hear!”] Is that pushing the Germans into war? [Disagreement] Comrades, in Moscow we told comrades Crispien and Dittmann that they made a mistake on the peace question. [“What mistake was that?”] The mistake of not having made the revolution immediately. If at that moment power had landed in the hands of the working class, then perhaps they would have to sign a new Brest Treaty.

But power was in the hands of the Scheidemanns – ie, in the hands of the bourgeoisie, who wanted to make peace anyway, and had it in the bag. At the last minute the clever fox Scheidemann pretended he was against it. He wanted to save his honour. Right up until the last minute you worked flat out and made it easy for Scheidemann to sign the peace treaty. Why did you take such responsibility? You were not able to make revolution, but you should have declared – as we did in 1915 – that if we have the opportunity, we will lead revolutionary proletarian war. But if we don’t have the opportunity, then we will have to be patient, obey, agree peace with the imperialists and thus make a compromise.

But you did not have power in your hands. Power was rather in the hands of the bourgeoisie. So comrades, you overlooked this small difference. Never did we dare to say to you: “make war”. We know what war means. [Applause on the left] We know that war is not a walk in the park, that it brings great difficulties for the working class, and we also know how the working class suffers.

We say that initially we must have power in our hands. And how long we have to tolerate the Treaty of Versailles will depend on the International in Europe and the whole world, with the French working class quickly coming to our aid. This is how things are. [Disagreement] We have never demanded that the Germans should make war. [Heckle from the right: “Rote Fahne says that every day!”] No way. I have to say that I read a historical document put together by the KPD on the question of peace. It is a terrific document, scientific and proletarian through and through. It says that we do not take responsibility for wars. Initially we have another task, namely to unite the workers against the bourgeoisie.

We do not want to demand of you that you start the new war or that you carry out the revolution tomorrow, but merely that you engage in day-to-day preparation, systematic propaganda – not against communism but for communism; not against the revolution but for revolution. That is the only condition.

This composition of our ECCI is a guarantee that things will work out. Comrades, I already said so in my first letter. There are not only Russians, but 16 other parties represented there. We were told that these are all our pupils. Was that polite, proletarian? [Disagreement] Today I proudly say: it is now possible for us to materially support many of our fraternal parties. [“Bravo!” on the left] Of course, we feel rather differently reading Dittmann’s propaganda today than we did when you – the German working class – helped us back in 1905 and also afterwards. That is quite clear.

When the proletarian government of Hungary sent a sum of money to their Italian brothers, the Italian comrades were very proud of the Hungarians – and so were we. Comrades, I am convinced that when you have a proletarian government – and with it a state treasury – then you will also do your duty and help others. Clearly, the ECCI is precisely the kind of organisation that we never had in the Second International. We have 17 parties working together day by day, collectively discussing every appeal, building an International of action. You are always talking of the ‘international of action’! What does that mean? Centralisation without discipline: what kind of action is that? Those are merely words.

I gave a speech in Moscow on the role of the centralisation of the party. Crispien and Dittmann actually congratulated me, saying that it was a good speech – a USPD speech. [Heckle from Crispien: “I said it was a USPD right speech!”] I immediately asked other comrades whether I had really talked that much opportunistic stuff? I was assured: the speech was not bad. I read it later on and I have to say that it wasn’t bad.

In this USPD speech I already mentioned centralism and the unification. If the USPD is like that, then I am a USPD man. Why not? [Amusement] Why are you now saying the opposite? Why are you now coming with this story of the knout? You will see how dangerous such talk is if I quote you a passage from a French imperialist newspaper, Le Temps – ie, the cleverest organ of the French bourgeoisie, the organ of [Georges] Clemenceau. There we find an article published on September 30 [he quotes a French text].[8]

Now it was also said that the USPD shouldn’t be destroyed and that we are trying to kill the party. Why such terrible excitement? There is no destruction or killing going on. We are merely asking you not to hang on to those elements who are not communist and don’t want to be communist. You should shake them off and transform yourselves into a genuine communist party. In the past, our party called itself a socialist party. We also destroyed and killed ourselves. And it wasn’t easy for us either.

And now we are accused of demanding that ‘You should abdicate and step down from the stage’. Nobody needs to do that. But we are talking about the need to draw conclusions from the last two years of class struggle. You are always talking of a ‘Moscow diktat’. But this is not what this is about. Even back in Leipzig[the 1919 USPD congress – BL] it was suspected that many of you did not want to join the International – so it is not the ‘Moscow diktat’ which is the cause of your split, but the nationalist German tendencies. [Great applause] And now it is time to draw the conclusions and you should not come here and say that the Moscow conditions are to blame. The blame lies somewhere quite different. Dittmann says we should not call ourselves the Communist Party. I hope that the German workers are already sufficiently enlightened not to be ashamed of the name of a party which was founded by Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg. [Lively applause]

What we are proposing now is the unification of all communist elements in Germany: The USPD, the KPD, and – in the spirit of a mandate from the executive – I would also like to say the KAPD, which has members in many towns. There are good proletarian elements in many cities, who, I am firmly convinced, want to belong to us and participate in a communist party. A fundamental revolution of the party system in German is about to take place. A regroupment of historical significance for the entire working class. I am convinced that what is happening today – combining all communist elements in the framework of a communist party which will form one part of an international – is an event of enormous importance for the working class.

Therefore allow me to finish and to say to you from the bottom of my heart: Long live the United Communist Party which unites all elements in all countries of the world who are determined to fight the revolutionary fight! Long live the Communist Party in all these countries and long live the proletarian International, the Third International of the proletariat of the whole world. [Stormy applause lasting for minutes]

Otto Brass (in the chair): “Today’s business is finished, we will continue with business tomorrow. Congress is adjourned”.

Close 19:20

The delegates slowly leave the venue while singing ‘The Internationale’. Zinoviev shouts: “Long live the German proletariat!” Cheers in the crowd.


[1], Refers to the Lena gold miner strikes which saw many workers shot down by the tsarist army. This signalled the beginning of a revival of the workers’ movement, which among other things allowed the Bolsheviks to launch the daily Pravda and to win all seats in the workers’ curia of the Duma.

[2]. The Zimmerwald conference was held from September 5-8 1915 in the Swiss town of Zimmerwald and brought together 38 delegates from all over the world to discuss the outbreak of World War I and the de facto dissolution of the Second International. A ‘Zimmerwald left’ was formed around Lenin, which condemned the imperialistic character of the war, condemned social chauvinism and called on the working class to wage civil war. The right, headed by Robert Grimm, wanted to agree merely to pacifist formulations. In the end, a compromise manifesto was agreed – but, crucially, it marked the beginning of the split of the revolutionaries from the reformists.

[3]. The January Days refer to the so-called ‘Spartacist uprising’ of January 1919 in Berlin.

[4]. Baku, Azerbaijan was the location of the Congress of the Peoples of the East – an extremely important conference that sought to spread the Bolshevik message to the Far and Middle East.

[5]. “England dominates the world market. Any upheaval in economic relations in any country of the European continent, in the whole European continent without England, is a storm in a teacup.” K Marx ‘The revolutionary movement’ Neue Rheinische Zeitung 184, January 1849: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1849/01/01.htm

[6]. Radtke actually said „You are worse than Schimmeljuden”. This expression “mouldy Jews” refers to Jews who used to trade horses.

[7]. Lucerne refers to the congress of the remants of the Second International, the Labour and Socialist International. It took place from August 1-9 1919

[8]. This quote was not recorded in the protocol.