March 12, 2021

II. The Shifting in the Correlation of Class Forces

Speech By D. Z. MANUILSKY 

Thirteenth Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Communist international - December, 1933

From the Pamphlet "Revolutionary Crisis, Fascism and War "

The importance of the coming to power of the fascist in Ger­many lies also in the fact that it has exercised an influence on the correlation of the forces of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie in other capitalist countries. 

The reasons for the self-assurance of the forces of reaction are to be sought for in the split of the working class, which is a consequence of the treacherous policy pursued by international So­cial-Democracy. The treachery of Social-Democracy helped the bourgeoisie to suppress the proletarian revolutions in the central empires in 1919-21, to effect the stabilization of capitalism on the bones of the working class. It is helping the bourgeoisie at the present time both to pursue a policy aiming at war and the setting up of fascist dictatorship and to bring about both of these even at the present time in individual capitalist countries. 

It is not today nor was it during the pa t year that the working class was split. Here it is not a case of quantitative changes. The new factor consist in the importance which the split of the work­ing class acquires in view of the maturing of fascism and imperialist war. In the period of capitalist stabilization Social-Democracy be­trayed strikes, but the workers suffered only partial defeats. Treach­ery in the face of advancing fascism is a blow at the working class as a whole. This crime is of an almost equally great historical character as the betrayal of August 4, as the bloody suppression of the German proletarian revolution. Consider for a moment how the world would look today if the vile Social-Democratic reptile had been crushed within the working class , if the world labor move­ment were united under the leadership of the Communist Party and the Communist International, coupled with the existence of the Soviet Union plus the Soviets in China. Then there would be no German fascism, no threat of imperialist war. 

The setting up of fascist dictatorship permits the bourgeoisie temporarily to reconcile the interests of various groups, to rally these groups into one shock troop against the working class; it greatly increases the resistance of the bourgeoisie to the proletarian revolution. And over against these serried ranks oi the bourgeoisie and the forces of reaction there stands a split working class. This fact alone changes the correlation of forces in capitalist countries in a direction unfavorable to the proletariat. 

This does not mean of course that these dynamics in the cor­relation of forces may not change and change with extreme rapidity. This process is already going on and will inevitably go on with catastrophic swiftness under conditions prevailing at the end of capitalist stabilization, but the development of fascist tendencies in the capitalist world is for the time being rendering the conditions for the struggle of the proletariat less favorable. The crisis is having a tremendous revolutionizing effect on the masses, but it is also creating tremendous cadres of unemployed, especially among the youth, part of whom are today being attracted by fascism with its desperate social demagogy. 

Fascist influences are thus penetrating into individual sections of the proletariat. 

Take into account, moreover, the increased difficulty of the strike struggle under conditions of the crisis, the terrorism of the employers in the factories, the unheard-of pressure of the state apparatu5 of terrorist dictatorship upon the working class, the great difficulty involved in developing open forms of the labor movement, and it will be clear to you where the causes are to be sought for the relative hitch in the labor movement in capitalist countries be­tween the Twelfth and Thirteenth Plenums of the E.C.C.I., and why the "labor movement in these countries is not marching steadily onward. 

And it is precisely in these changes that we must seek the ex­planation of the fact that the total number of members in the par­ties forming sections of the Comintern has not increased in com­parison with the figures at the time of the Twelfth Plenum of the E.C.C.I. 

This doe not mean of course that individual sections of the Comintern have not grown. The Chinese Communist Party, for example, has increased its membership by 100,000 during one year, and numbers about 400,000 members at the present time. But there are sections which have suffered cruelly during the past year from the blows of the class enemy. And without doubt first place in respect of the number of victims belong to the German Com­munist Party, which since the moment when the fascists came to power has lost upwards of 2,000 killed, 60-70,000 imprisoned in concentration camps, but which nevertheless, as Comrade Pieck has told us, has retained about 100,000 members in its ranks. 

If the German Communist Party today appeared before the Plenum even with one-half or with one-third of this number, even in that case we should say that the C.P.G. remains a model section of the Communist International. But it is not only in Germany that repressions have been dealt out; during this year they have affected to a lesser or greater extent the majority of the sections of the Communist International. During the eight months of 1933, according to the data of the Executive Committee of the LR.A., there have been 46,000 persons killed, 160,000 wounded or maimed and 228,000 revolutionary workers and peasants arrested, the over .. whelming majority of whom are members of the Communist Parties or active adherents of Communist ideas. 

In Japan there were 14,000 arrested during the past two years, while 30,000 have been arrested since 1929. This figure is enough for a whole party! 

But we must not forget that this year ha been connected with the transition of a large number of our sections to an illegal or semi-legal position. The Communist Party has been suppressed not only in Germany but also in Austria and in other countries; the Communist press has been closed down, the Red trade unions are being suppressed. 

And if under these conditions when the white terror is spread­ing, the Communist Parties of capitalist countries, which in the past have had no experience of illegality, which have grown up in an atmosphere of bourgeois legalism, have retreated in good order to an illegal position and have been able, although with difficulty, to reconstruct the methods of their work, that alone is a great achievement of the Comintern. 

It must be understood that the general tendency of develop­ment under conditions of an inevitable clash of two classes and two worlds, of the intensified growth of antagonisms between them, will lead to a regime in relation to the organizations of the hostile class under which there will be no place for elements of so-called democratic liberties. Bourgeois dictatorship will continue to suppress and destroy revolutionary organizations of the working class with­out mercy, and this circumstance is a characteristic symptom of the epoch of revolutions and war. 

The changes in the correlation of class forces in capitalist countries arc likewise connected with the strengthening of fascist influence among the peasantry and the urban petty bourgeoisie. Of the sections of the Comintern only individual Communist Panics, such as the Bulgarian Party, have been able to consolidate their in­fluence over the peasantry, while in the overwhelming majority of capitalist countries the peasantry have hitherto followed the bour­geois parties. Here the new factor which has been apparent during the past year is that under the influence of the severe agrarian crisis more or less considerable groups of the peasantry in individual countries have shifted over into the camp of fascism. 

These processes have been all the more marked among the urban petty bourgeoisie and the "middle" strata who have been ruined by the crisis. Here we must ay frankly that not one Communist Party of capitalist countries has hitherto devoted its attention to winning over the urban petty bourgeoisie to the side of the prole­tariat or even to the task of neutralizing it. 

And meanwhile fascism, even though it has not succeeded in winning over to its side the reserves of the proletariat, has undoubt­edly made a step forward in this direction. The force of attraction ,f these reserves towards the proletariat has been weakened by the fact of the split in the world labor movement, for the petty bour­geoisie respects the prestige of power and wavers towards the side which impresses it most by its power. 

Finally, in the colonies, if we do not count China, the pa t year, in consequence of the differentiation of the national-revolutionary movement, has been marked in comparison with previous years by a certain weakening of the sweep of this movement-re­sembling rather the calm before the storm, but nevertheless a calm which permits the bourgeoisie to descend with all the greater fury upon the proletariat. 

This whole situation has undoubtedly contributed to a maturing of the elements of fascism and war more rapid than was the case previously. And at the same time it has given international Social­Democracy and its renegade imitators an opportunity to proclaim that the coming period is a period of counter-revolution. 

Can we consider this period as one only of black reaction like that which began in Europe after the suppression of the revolu­tion of 1848 or the crushing of the Paris Commune in 1871? 

No, comrades, history knows different types of reaction, but in the main they may be classed under two heads. There is the type of reaction which comes after the defeat of the revolution and the rout of the proletariat when the wave of revolution is on the ebb. The periods which began after 1848 and after 1871 belong to this type of reaction. But there have been also other periods of frenzied reaction in history-periods which have preceded revo­lutions. It was precisely on the immediate eve of revolution that tsarism resorted to the cruelest methods of terror. The German monarchy which was tottering in 1918 shot down revolutionary sailors a few months before its own downfall. The terrorist dic­tatorship of the war years of 1914-18 could not prevent revolution in Central Europe from terminating the World War. And never­theless during the months and weeks which preceded the end of the war, the terror against the toilers, against the soldiers, took on especially savage forms in all capitalist countries. Strikes were declared illegal, the free expression of opinion was punished as high treason, courts martial passed scores of death sentences, fire was opened on soldiers who refused to attack the enemy. The terror of the ruling classes was not in any way evidence of the consolidation of their power; they employed terror as a last resort to defer the outbreak of revolution. 

It is precisely in relation to such period that Marx's proposition to the effect that the party of revolution rallies the party of reaction acquire twofold significance. It applies most of all to a situation when the forces of the proletariat have not yet matured to such an extent that it is possible to commence the overthrowing of the ruling class by armed force and when on the other hand the positions of the ruling classes are so shaken that they have to resort to extraor­dinary measures in order to maintain their rule. But, comrades, Marx' proposition has also its reverse side. The forces of reaction likewise rally the forces of revolution. Fascism does not only make the struggle of the working class more difficult; it also accelerates the processes of the maturing of the revolutionary crisis. 

It is just such periods as the present which are characterized by the development of two contradictory processes, of two rising waves -the wave of revolution and the wave of reaction. Both these processes are shattering the capitalist system from different direc­tions-shattering it ever more extensively, more profoundly, and more sharply. And he who at the present time admits the presence of only a single one-sided tendency, the tendency of political reac­tion alone, and completely disregards the elements of the revolu­tionary crisis which is maturing, this man inevitably bases himself on the recognition of "organized capitalism," overcoming the contra­dictions which are tearing it asunder in the unity of reaction, what at the present time are the manifestations of the element of the maturing revolutionary crisis? 

Firstly, the unprecedented ten ion of class interrelations. Fas­cist dictator hip i introducing into these relation utterly unmasked violence and civil war. Just as the war of I 914-18 did in its time, so fascism now, by placing the bayonet on the order of the day, is killing the illusion of legalism and bourgeois law among the masses. By these same methods bourgeois dictatorship is preparing its own destruction. 

If the history of mankind knows no precedents of such a ten­sion in class relations, it is not because the classes have not clashed previously in more bitter conflicts, but because the economic contra­dictions which lie at the root of this tension have passed beyond the bound of anything which mankind ha known hitherto. The dreadful force of pressure which monopoly capital exerts upon the masses will inevitably bring in its train revolutionary outbursts of such a scale as have never been seen in the past. 

Fascism is inculcating a frenzied hatred into the toiling masses not only towards its gangs of bandits but also towards the bour­geoisie as the class which is responsible for all violence and suppression of the toilers. He who sows the wind will reap the whirlwind. 

Hypocritical pacifism both in class relations and in interna­tional relations is suffering bankruptcy before our eyes. 

The rule of open violence, both in relations of classes and in those of capitalist states between each other, constitutes the basic content of the epoch of collapsing capitalism after the end of cap­italist stabilization. This is the characteristic feature of the second round of revolutions and wars. 

The second element of the world revolutionary crisis which is maturing is the growing indignation of the masses. Suppressed, driven underground, this mass indignation smoulders deep below the surface in the countries of fascist dictatorship. Its secret pro­cesses are often not noticeable to the naked eye, and this is why they lead to unexpected outbursts. 

In 1916 during the World War Lenin wrote: 

"The socialist revolution may break out not only in consequence of a great strike, a street demonstration, a hunger riot, a mutiny in the forces, or a colonial rebellion, but also in consequence of any political crisis, like the Dreyfuss affair, the Zabern incident, or in connection with a referendum on the secession of an oppressed nation, etc."

French bourgeois historians assert that if anyone had been walk­ing the streets of Paris a few days before the fall of the Bastille, he would not have noticed anything such as might have presaged the events of July 14, 1789. Superficial "quiet" mislead the ruling classes. Fascist dictatorship, driving the mass discontent under­ground, loses the feeling of reality; it bases its judgment of the situation on the reports of those hysterical cretins whom it has ap­pointed as leaders of its storm detachments. Those comrades who guarded Nicholas II when he was held prisoner could tell of the almost idiotic lack of comprehension for the meaning of the events taking place in a revolutionary country revealed by this man who had had this vast country under his command. Fascism, like a vandal let loose, is smashing the whole system of those indices by which it is possible to judge of the state of feeling among the masses-statistic, trade unions, elections, etc. And every kind of reaction to a lesser or greater extent follows in its footsteps. Hence the "unexpected" character of mass outbursts. 

We have had the English general strike of May 1, 1926, the uprising of the Vienna workers on July 15, 192 7, the movement in the English Beet in the autumn of 1931 as symptoms of the growing indignation of the masses at the capitalist order of things. Can anyone assert that with the development of the crisis this in­dignation has diminished? Can the degree of this indignation in the countries of fascist dictatorship at the present time be measured only by strikes and demonstrations? Is not the growth of this in­dignation evidenced by such facts as the shootings in Geneva, as the events in Rumania as the uprising in the Dutch Beet by the joint action of the Dutch and Malayan sailors? 

Thirdly and lastly, no small part in the maturing of the elements of the world-wide revolutionary crisis is played by the growth of influence of the Communist Parties and of the ideas of Com­munism in general. This influence is making itself felt in three main ways. First and foremost it is increasing the number of the direct supporters of the aims and tasks of the Communist Party among the working class; secondly, there is a growth in the number of people who do not call themselves Communists but who ins­tinctively, by virtue of their class instinct, accept our slogans, our methods of struggle, serve the aims of their own class. In any spontaneous strike or in any spontaneous movement one may find this type of unexpected "promotees" from among the masses them­selves. Finally, the influence of the ideas of Communism is shown by the way in which the penetrate into the rank of hostile orga­nizations and above all into the ranks of Social-Democracy, which accelerates the process of the latter's disintegration. 

Next

III. The Forces of Revolution