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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Daily LIFT #753

Third Communist International Poster -- Daily LIFT #753

The 3rd World Congress of the Third International (Comintern) ran from June 22-July 12, Moscow 1921.

On July 12 they released their statement "On Tactics" that read in part:

Even though capitalism is in progressive decline and is unable to guarantee the workers even a life of well-fed slavery, social democracy continues to put forward its old programme of peaceful reforms to be carried out on the basis and within the framework of the bankrupt capitalist system. This is a deliberate deception of the working masses. Although it is evident that capitalism in its present stage of decline is incapable of guaranteeing workers a decent human existence, the social democrats and reformists everywhere are daily demonstrating their unwillingness and inability to fight even for the most modest demands in their programme. The demand advanced by the centrist parties for the socialisation or nationalisation of the most important branches of industry is equally a deception because it is not linked to a demand for victory over the bourgeoisie. The centrists want to divert the workers from the real, vital struggle for their immediate goals by holding out the hope that industrial forms can be taken over gradually, one by one, and that ‘systematic’ economic construction can then begin. The social democrats are thus retreating to their minimum programme, which now stands clearly revealed as a counter-revolutionary fraud.

Some centrists think that their programme of nationalisation (e.g., of the mining industry) is in line with the Lassallean idea of concentrating all the energies of the proletariat on a single demand, using it as a lever of revolutionary action that then develops into the struggle for power. However, this theory is false. In the capitalist countries the working class suffers too much; the gnawing hardships and the blows that rain down thick and fast on the workers cannot be fought by fixing all attention on a single demand chosen in a doctrinaire fashion. On the contrary, revolutionary action should be organised around all the demands raised by the masses, and these separate actions will gradually merge into a powerful movement for social revolution.

The Communist Parties do not put forward minimum programmes which could serve to strengthen and improve the tottering foundations of capitalism. The Communists’ main aim is to destroy the capitalist system. But in order to achieve their aim the Communist Parties must put forward demands expressing the immediate needs of the working class. The Communists must organise mass campaigns to fight for these demands regardless of whether they are compatible with the continuation of the capitalist system. The Communist Parties should be concerned not with the viability and competitive capacity of capitalist industry or the stability of the capitalist economy, but with proletarian poverty, which cannot and must not be endured any longer. If the demands put forward by the Communists correspond to the immediate needs of the broad proletarian masses, and if the masses are convinced that they cannot go on living unless their demands are met, then the struggle around these issues becomes the starting-point of the struggle for power. In place of the minimum programme of the centrists and reformists, the Communist International offers a struggle for the concrete demands of the proletariat which, in their totality, challenge the power of the bourgeoisie, organise the proletariat and mark out the different stages of the struggle for its dictatorship. Even before the broad masses consciously understand the need for the dictatorship of the proletariat, they can respond to each of the individual demands. As more and more people are drawn into the struggle around these demands and as the needs of the masses come into conflict with the needs of capitalist society, the working class will come to realise that if it wants to live, capitalism will have to die. This realisation will be the main motivation in their struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat. The task of the Communist Parties is to extend, deepen and unify the struggle around these concrete demands. The bourgeoisie mobilises to respond to every step the working masses take in fighting for even a single demand and, on the occasion of any major economic strike, the whole ruling class comes swiftly to the side of those employers threatened, in order to prevent the proletariat from winning even a partial victory (mutual employers’ aid in Czechoslovakia, the bourgeois strike-breakers in the rail strike in Britain, and the fascists in Italy are examples). In the struggle against the workers the bourgeoisie mobilises its entire government machine: in Poland and France workers have been called up into the army; emergency laws were passed in Britain during the miners’ strike. In this way, workers fighting on single issues are automatically forced to take on the whole bourgeoisie and its government apparatus. As the struggle over single issues and the separate struggles of different groups of workers develop into a general working-class struggle against capitalism, the Communist Party must extend its slogans, grouping them around the main slogan of overthrowing the enemy. The Communist Parties should make certain that the demands they put forward not only correspond to the demands of the broad masses, but also draw the masses into battle and lay the basis for organising them. Concrete slogans that express the economic need of the working masses must lead to the struggle for control of industry – control based not on a plan to organise the economy bureaucratically and under the capitalist system, but on the factory committees and revolutionary trade unions. Only the creation of such organisations and their co-ordination within the different industries and areas makes possible the organisation of a unified struggle of the working masses and a fight against the split in the mass movement – a split for which social democracy and the leaders of the trade unions bear responsibility. The factory committees will be able to accomplish their tasks only if they are established in the course of the struggle to defend the economic interests of the broad working masses and if they succeed in uniting all the revolutionary sections of the proletariat – the Communist Party, the revolutionary workers’ organisations, and those trade unions undergoing a process of radicalisation. The objections raised against single-issue demands and the accusations that campaigns on single issues are reformist reflect an inability to grasp the essential conditions of revolutionary action. This was the case with the opposition of certain Communist groups to participation in trade unions and in parliament. It is not a question of appealing to the proletariat to fight for the ultimate goal, but of developing the practical struggle which alone can lead the proletariat to the struggle for the ultimate goal. The fact that even the tiny organisations formed by the so-called Left Communists as sanctuaries of pure theory have been forced to formulate single demands, in order to attract a larger number of workers to the struggle than they have hitherto managed to muster, is the best proof that their objections to partial demands are groundless and divorced from the realities of revolutionary life. The present epoch is revolutionary precisely because the most modest demands of the working masses are incompatible with the continued existence of capitalist society, and the struggle for these demands is therefore bound to develop into the struggle for Communism.

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