The Comintern’s unknown decision on workers’ governments

(Comintern on en.wikipedia) – Published on John Riddell, by John Riddell, August 14, 2011.

English-language discussion of the Communist International’s 1922 call for workers’ governments has been based on a preliminary draft that was significantly altered before its adoption. Here, probably for the first time in English, is the amended text that the congress actually adopted.

The call for a workers’ government emerged from German workers’ struggles in 1920 as a way of posing the need for workers’ power in a context where no alternative structure of revolutionary councils, or soviets, yet existed. 

When a right-wing coup in March 1920 was countered by an insurrectionary general strike of German workers, the head of the Social Democratic unions, Carl Legien, proposed to resolve the crisis through creation of a government of workers’ parties and trade unions.

The German Communist Party responded that it would support such a government if it took effective measures to disarm the counterrevolution and defend working people. This stand, which provoked great controversy in the world revolutionary movement, was finally endorsed by the Communist International (Comintern) in December 1921 – although only for Germany. (See my article The Origins of United Front Policy, April 5, 2011) … //

… The workers’ government:

[Point 11 in “On the Tactics of the Comintern,” adopted by the Fourth Congress of the Communist International, 1922]

As a general propagandistic slogan, the workers’ government (or workers’ and peasants’ government) can be used almost everywhere. As an immediate political slogan, however, the workers’ government is most important in countries where bourgeois society is particularly unstable, where the relationship of forces between the workers’ parties and the bourgeoisie places the question of government on the agenda as a practical problem requiring immediate solution. In these countries, the slogan of the workers’ government flows unavoidably from the entire united-front tactic.

The parties of the Second International attempt to ‘rescue’ the situation in these countries by advocating and achieving a coalition of the Social Democrats with bourgeois forces. Recently, some parties of the Second International (for example, in Germany) have attempted to reject open participation in such a coalition government while carrying it out in disguised form. This is simply an attempt to appease the indignant masses, a subtle betrayal of the working masses.

Instead of a bourgeois-Social-Democratic coalition, whether open or disguised, Communists propose the united front of all workers and a coalition of all workers’ parties, in both the economic and political arena, to struggle against the power of the bourgeoisie and ultimately to overthrow it. Through united struggle of all workers against the bourgeoisie, the entire state apparatus can pass over into the hands of the workers’ government, thus strengthening the power of the working class.

The most basic tasks of a workers’ government must consist of arming the proletariat, disarming the bourgeois counter-revolutionary organisations, introducing [workers’] control of production, shifting the main burden of taxation to the shoulders of the rich, and breaking the resistance of the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie.

Such a workers’ government is possible only if it is born from the struggles of the masses themselves and is supported by militant workers’ organisations created by the most oppressed layers of the working masses. Even a workers’ government that arises from a purely parliamentary combination, that is, one that is purely parliamentary in origin, can provide the occasion for a revival of the revolutionary workers’ movement … (full long long text, Footnotes and References).

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