Jakob Herzog: “Speeches at the 2nd World Congress of the Communist International”

Proletarians of all countries, unite!
There is one goal, the conquest of Power!

SPEECHES AT THE 2nd WORLD CONGRESS OF THE COMMUNIST INTERNATIONAL

Jakob Herzog
02.08.1920

Minutes of the 2nd World Congress
of the Communist International
Reproduced by
The Red Flag

SPEECHES AT THE 2nd WORLD CONGRESS OF THE COMMUNIST INTERNATIONAL

1

Dear comrades, the attempt is being made here to force through a decision that the Communist Parties must apply revolutionary parliamentarism in all those countries of which Comrade Bukharin said that, up to now, no revolutionary activity at all on the Russian pattern has yet been practised in their parliaments, although the economic developments in those countries, like, for example, France, England and Switzerland, have long been ripe for a proletarian revolution.

Why is the proletariat in these countries so backward in revolutionary tactics? Precisely because, in these republics and democracies, the possibility of improving the life of the proletariat existed. It was possible there, with the help of parliamentarism, to achieve many good reforms for the proletariat, and because that was possible it is understandable why no revolutionary activity could develop there. That is the reason why the workers in these countries are so slow to arrive at revolution and find it so difficult to take on the revolutionary strength to act that is present in the Russians. In Russia it was quite different. The proletariat could not work legally. It could not force through reforms there and improve its conditions. It had to go onto the streets and carry out revolutionary actions. And therefore no parliamentarism could develop here in Russia as it did in the Western European countries. Now our Russian Comrades come to us and say: „Things in Western Europe will now be different from what they were previously. Previously it was impossible to act in a revolutionary way in parliament, but now we are in a different situation and now such a possibility does exist, even in Western Europe and America. We will give all the Communist Parties certain guidelines. We will tell the factions how they must work, and then revolutionary work will be done there as well.“

But I do not think that that is possible. For one thing, simply because these rules themselves leave open the possibility that the Communist Parties too can work in an opportunist way. We had a long discussion in the Commission on how Communist representatives on local councils should behave, what Communist local councillors must do if they are in a majority. Comrade Bukharin said there: „If you are in the majority you must try to improve the conditions of the workers in order to sharpen the contradiction between the Communist local council and the State.“ That is precisely what the opportunists too tell us when they go into parliament.

They say: „We go in in order to sharpen from here outwards the conflicts between the proletariat and the state. We want to fight for improvements, but all that has the purpose merely of sharpening the Conflict between capital and labour.“ Here the possibility is left open for precisely these opportunist elements, which are here already inside the Communist International, to work in an opportunist way even as Communist Parties, and to bring all parliamentarism to this slippery path. Another possibility is also provided by the course the Communist International has taken in order to accept all „revolutionary“ parties into the Communist International. It will not be long before the majority of the Independent Social-Democratic Party of Germany and of the French Socialist Party are In the Communist International. Naturally the majority of the small social-democratic parties must also come to Moscow. Platten has already been sent to Switzerland on this mission. Thus still more opportunist elements will manage to enter the Communist International, who will not become revolutionary Communists overnight. They will carry out exactly the same policies in the Communist International as they carried out previously in the 2nd International.

That is the danger that we see and that makes us recognise that, in the form that is proposed here, parliamentarism cannot in fact be applied in the western countries. We have a practical example of that. We have been told today that the Communist Party of Bulgaria is a model example of revolutionary parliamentarism, that its parliamentary faction works splendidly. I recently read an article which said precisely the opposite. Further, I had the opportunity to talk to a Bulgarian comrade who went from Moscow to Bulgaria a parliamentarian and who, when he saw how the Bulgarian Communist parliamentary faction worked, became a supporter of anti-parliamentarism, and returned as such. That is proof that parliamentarism cannot be developed in every country in the same way that it was carried out earlier in Russia by the Communists.

The Social Democrats in Germany too, old Wilhelm Liebknecht and Bebel, declared: „We only go into parliament in order to exploit this rostrum in a revolutionary way.“ This revolutionary activity, however, was soon transformed into opportunism and reformism, because the possibility for it existed, and now the Social-Democratic Party is an open party of social traitors.

Naturally you can decide that parliamentarism must be carried out by the communist Parties. We are not anti-parliamentarian in such a doctrinaire way as to say: „We shall not submit to the decision of the Communist International.“ We can try the experiment for a period, but we are convinced that it will not succeed, and that after a year or two, at the next Congress, on the basis of practice and experience, it will be said: „It would have been better if we had kept our hand off that and concentrated all our forces in the factories, in the army and among the peasants. That would have been much more advantageous for the development of the revolution and for the Communist International.“

2

In my remarks on the activities of the Communist parliamentary faction in Bulgaria the Bulgarian delegation saw a slander. This accusation will not stand up. I believe that the source from which I obtained the material for my remarks is thoroughly reliable, and I do not need to take back anything I said. All the less so for the fact that the Bulgarian delegation accused me of slander without even trying to prove the real or alleged dubiousness of the source.