Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

July 29, 2018

Werner Angress’s “Stillborn Revolution: the Communist Bid for Power in Germany, 1921-1923” (part three)

Filed under: Werner Angress — louisproyect @ 8:35 pm

This is the third chapter from Werner Angress’s “Stillborn Revolution: The Communist Bid for Power in Germany, 1921-1923” that deals with the March 1921 Aktion that was an ultraleft adventure sanctioned by the Comintern. When it turned out to be a disaster, Paul Levi, who had already been ousted from party leadership, wrote a blistering and public critique titled “Our Path: Against Putschism” without bothering to get the whacked-out CP leadership’s approval. This got him expelled from the CP even though Lenin plagiarized his analysis and defended it at the Third Congress Of The Communist International that met in Moscow between June 22-July 12, 1921.

Unlike Pierre Broué, whose history of the German CP in the 1920s shares the same criticisms, Angress sees the Third Congress as the first step in the Comintern’s assumption of a centralizing dynamic that prefigures Stalin’s totalitarian control. Even if Lenin and Trotsky had the authority to read the German ultraleft the riot act and set the CP’s on a more rational course, that authority served to rob the CP’s of the independence they once enjoyed. Specifically, in the case of Germany, it meant undermining the Rosa Luxemburg’s conception of how a revolutionary party should function that was defended by Paul Levi, her successor.

In my next series of excerpts, I will be dealing with another fiasco imposed on the German CP by the Comintern that led to the Fourth Congress’s “Bolshevization” turn, which in turn led to the sect formations the left has been trying with mixed results to supersede in the past 30 years or so.

THE BATTLE was over, the party counted its losses, and victors proceeded to punish the vanquished. Public opinion was bitterly hostile to the Communists, particularly because, during the last stages of the uprising, the fighting in Prussian Saxony been ferocious, and charges of atrocities were raised by both sides. On March 29 the Prussian government established special courts for the prosecution of captured agitators, and for weeks after the end of hostilities the legal mills ground out sentences which altogether amounted to an estimated 3000 years of prison and penitentiary terms for 4000 insurgents. Five years earlier, when the British under somewhat similar circumstances crushed another Easter rebellion, that of the Sinn Feiners, they executed Sir Roger Casement and fifteen other leaders, but showed marked restraint in dealing with the rank and file of the Irish Volunteers and the Citizen Army. In Germany, on the other hand, only two prominent leaders, Max Hoelz and Heinrich Brandler, were tried and convicted, whereas on the rank and file, who had borne the brunt of the fighting, fell most of the retribution that followed. It was therefore hardly surprising that the membership of the Communist Party, which at the beginning of the uprising had numbered about 350,000, dropped to a mere 180,443 by the summer of 1921.

As soon as the insurrection had collapsed, the Communist Party underwent a grave internal crisis, set off by Paul Levi. News of the Aktion had reached him in Vienna, on his way to Italy, and he returned at once to Germany. As he was no longer a leading official, Levi had to gather his information from friends and acquaintances who had participated in the various decisive conferences held by the party prior to and during the initial stages of the uprising. On March 29 he sent a summary of his findings to Lenin in a confidential letter in which he made it quite clear that he felt in no way responsible for what had occurred, but that he would not interfere while the uprising was in progress.

The first Central Committee meeting after the debacle was held on April 7 and 8. The new leadership failed to invite Levi, presumably because they did not care to have him state his views on their conduct of the party’s affairs. But they could not very well exclude Clara Zetkin, then in her sixties. After Brandler had given his version of the recent developments, the old lady proceeded to castigate the Zentrale for having recklessly precipitated an Aktion. She criticized the use of extreme and unrealistic political slogans which, she said, had turned the masses against the KPD. She called for an end to “revolutionary calisthenics” and for a return of concern for the interests of the masses; she concluded her speech with a motion for a vote of censure of the Zentrale’s policy and asked for a special party congress (ausserordentlicher Parteitag) in the near future to air all problems in open debate. After a brief discussion, Clara Zetkin’s motion was put to the vote and defeated 43 to 6, with three abstentions. Encouraged by this initial victory, the Zentrale introduced a resolution of its own which turned into a lengthy and involved justification of the revolutionary offensive, presenting it as the only proper revolutionary approach in the face of counterrevolutionary provocation and assault: “The overall situation . . . required . . .the sharpest class struggles; it demanded that the working class seize the revolutionary initiative . . . resolve upon independent action, and meet the counterrevolution in a powerful counterattack. . . .” In answer to Zetkin’s criticism that faulty tactics had alienated the masses, the Zentrale produced the excuse that the German workers had remained passive as a result of unemployment and Socialist demagogy. Under the circumstances the KPD could not afford lo wait until the reluctant workers took courage, and the party chose to risk defeat rather than to do nothing. The resolution, meandering on through twelve paragraphs, praised the fighting spirit displayed by the party, re-emphasized that revolution was the ultimate duty of every Communist, and consigned responsibility for defeat to the counterrevolutionaries and their Socialist lackeys. It concluded with the same tone of self-righteousness with which it began: “Therefore the Central Committee approves of the political and tactical attitude taken by the Zentrale; condemns in the strongest terms the passive and active opposition of individual comrades during the Aktion; and calls upon the Zentrale to put the organization into top fighting condition by introducing all measures required to do so. The resolution was voted upon and passed 26 to 14. A number of additional motions, dealing primarily with organizational improvements, enforcement of discipline, and the right of the Zentrale to expel any individual who was found unworthy of remaining a party member, passed equally handsomely and enhanced the triumph of the Zentrale. One of its members, Max Sievers, was deprived of hit office because he had broken party discipline during the uprising, and the Central Committee adjourned.

The failure of Clara Zetkin’s criticism prompted Paul Levi to address himself directly to the public. As soon as he was informed of the outcome of the Central Committee meeting, he sent to press a polemical pamphlet on the Aktion which he had written a few days earlier, April 3 and 4. Unser Weg was a blistering attack on the methods and errors of the Zentrale, interspersed with several oblique references to Kun and his colleagues. Levi wrote the pamphlet with a lawyer’s touch and the pathos of a thwarted lover. He had been forced to watch the party, which he had helped to found, fall into the hands of incompetents, adventurers, and misguided idealists who, within the short span of a week, had almost succeeded in thoroughly discrediting the Communist cause. All the bitterness, the disappointment, the indignation of the author were reflected in the sharp and aggressive tone of the pamphlet. Levi revealed, sometimes openly, sometimes by insinuation, that the initial plan for an uprising did not originate within the KPD; that the theory of the revolutionary offensive dominated the thinking of party leaders, thus belying the insistent use of the word “defensive”; and that provocations were employed as a means of creating mass action. At the Central Committee meeting on March 16, Frolich had said that the proposed course of action was “a complete break with the past.” Levi commented sarcastically: “It is indeed an innovation in the history of the party which Rosa Luxemburg has founded; it is a complete break with the past that the Communists should labor like juvenile male prostitutes [Achtgroschenjungen] to provoke the murder of their brothers.” But Levi reserved the highest pitch of his angry eloquence for the manner in which the Zentrale had ordered the rank and file into battle, while the leaders themselves stayed in Berlin.

“The Zentrale accelerated the action [steigerte die Aktion]. Squad upon squad rose. . . . Heroic and disdainful of death, the comrades got ready. . . . Squad upon squad prepared for the assault—as the Zentrale ordered. Squad upon squad moved up into battle—as the Zentrale ordered. Squad upon squad met with death—as the Zentrale ordered. [Fahnlein urn Fahnlein ging in den Tod—wie es die Zen-trale gebot.] Ave morituri to salutant“. This passage contained the gist of Levi’s argument: the Zentrale, acting with criminal irresponsibility, had needlessly caused the death of many of its followers. Levi demanded that the guilty ones resign from the leadership of the party.” The pamphlet was published on April 12 and caused a sensation in party circles. The Zentrale was outraged, not only because former chairman washed the party’s dirty linen in public, but also because he revealed secrets which most Communist leaders were not eager to see in print. The only ray of light was the receipt of a congratulatory message from the Communist International, dated April 6, 1921, which was printed in the Rote Fahne immediately after the appearance of Levi’s accusations. Its closing words lead: “The Communist International says to you: You acted rightly! The working class can never win victory by a single blow. You have turned a new page in the history of the German working class, prepare for new struggles. Study the lessons of your past struggles Learn from your experience. Close your ranks, strengthen your organization, legal and illegal, strengthen proletarian discipline and Communist unity in struggle . . . .

Long live the Communist proletariat of Germany!

Long live the proletarian revolution in Germany!

Long live the Communist International!”

Encouraged by the emphatic slap on the back, the Zentrale prepared to deal with Levi, whose expose made him liable to disciplinary action. But Levi did not stand alone. Many of his friends. some still in leading positions, shared his views. One of them, a former leader of the Revolutionary Shop Stewards, Richard Muller, had gone at the height of the uprising from one Berlin factory to the next in order to dissuade the metal workers from supporting the general strike. Others, too, had made no secret of their disapproval, In short, the Zentrale knew that the party faced a crisis. But most of its members, irritated by the defeat and stung to the quick by Levi’s public exposure of their actions, were eager to turn on the rebel and his supporters. On April 15, 1921, he was formally expelled from the party on the grounds that he had violated party discipline and solidarity. Upon being asked to surrender his Reichstag seat, Levi refused and appealed to the Central Committee for a hearing.

Levi’s expulsion had immediate repercussions. Eight prominent Communists sided with him by affirming their solidarity with his aims and endorsing his charges against the Zentrale. Four of the frondeurs, Clara Zetkin, Adolf Hoffmann, Ernst Daumig, and Otto Brass, were former members of the Zentrale; one, Curt Geyer, was a member of the Brandler Zentrale, and the remaining three, Heinrich Malzahn, Paul Neumann, and Eckert, were members of the party’s ReichsgewerkschaftsZentrale, a subdivision of the Zentrale in charge of union affairs. Yet the majority of the Communist leaders remained unimpressed. Neither Levi’s criticism nor the demonstrative attitude of his supporters could shake their conviction that they had done the right thing. By way of emphasis they put themselves on record when in mid-April they published a defense of the March uprising under the title Taktik and Organisation der Revolutionaren Offensive: Die Lehren der Marz Aktion.

The Central Committee held another meeting from May 3 to 5, and on May 4 invited Levi to appeal his expulsion. Since Brandler had been arrested by the police on April 18, Wilhelm Pieck presided as acting chairman. It had been Pieck’s intention to restrict the discussion of the “Case Levi” to the question of whether or not Levi had committed a breach of party discipline. To the chairman’s chagrin, Levi shifted the issue by asking whether the March uprising was justifiable or not. He answered this question in the negative and proceeded to repeat the charges which he had made earlier in his pamphlet Unser Weg. Taking issue with such terms as “offensive,” “defensive,” “transition from agitation to action,” all of which were being bandied about indiscriminately by the Zentrale, Levi pointed out that the use of these terms amounted to hairsplitting because throughout the uprising the party leadership had exhibited an offensive spirit. Only necessity had eventually transformed the Aktion into a defensive struggle. Furthermore, the party’s policy during those fatal March days had been full of irresponsible decisions, faulty judgments, inadequate preparation, and poor organization. Terrorist measures—the responsibility for which Levi ascribed, by implication, to Kun—and ill-conceived strategy had ruined the party’s hold on a district which had been one of the foremost Com. munist strongholds in Germany. In addition, the Zentrale had given no thought to public opinion and had grossly overestimated the in. fluence and strength of the KPD.

In this context Levi said: “And now, comrades, another matter . . . It is now being said that it is the duty of the vanguard to engage in an Aktion in order ‘to speed up the [coming of the] revolution,’ Let me read you the following passage: ‘The most important thing is the ideological conquest of the vanguard. Without it even the first step toward victory becomes impossible. Yet from there to the final victory is still quite a distance. One cannot win with only the vanguard. To engage the vanguard in a decisive struggle before the entire class . . . and the broad masses have taken a position by which they can either support the vanguard directly, or at least express their benevolent neutrality . . . would not be merely folly, but a crime as well.’

“The man who wrote this is fortunate that he has not yet been labeled a `Levite’; though he still has every chance to become one, He is Lenin.”

If Levi had any illusions that he could achieve a reversal of the original decision to expel him, he was disappointed. The Central Committee was unimpressed by his eloquence. Reuter-Friesland voiced his regret that Levi’s expulsion was to be based solely on his breach of discipline. Presumably he was more concerned with the heresy of Levi’s behavior, a sentiment quite in line with the fiery defense of the Aktion which Reuter-Friesland had offered at a meeting of Berlin’s KPD leaders a few days earlier. At that meeting, Levi had watched with dismay the enthusiastic reaction of the audience and had commented resignedly with a pun on a line from Schiller’s Wallenstein, “It must be night where Friesland’s [Friedland’s] stars are shining!” The night did not lift at the meeting of the Central Committee which, by a roll call vote, upheld Levi’s expulsion 36 to 7.

With the “Case Levi” apparently closed, the Central Committee got ready to deal with Levi’s supporters. On April 20 the Zentrale had notified the eight principal “Levites” that those of them holding Communist seats in the Reichstag must surrender them to the party at once. Following Levi’s example, they refused, and they persisted in their refusal when the Central Committee reiterated the order on May 4. Faced with what amounted to open rebellion, the committee resorted to a half-measure by passing a vote of censure (31 to 8) against the recalcitrant group, probably in the expectation that the matter would be taken up anyway at the Third Congress of the Communist International which was scheduled to meet in June. There remained one piece of business, a reshuffling of the Zentrale. Max Sievers had been already expelled from his post. Now Paul Wegmann and Curt Geyer joined his fate. The three openings were filled by Jakob Walcher, Emil Hollein and Hugo Eberlein, all old party hands who could be trusted to support the present Zentrale.

The first leader purge conducted by the German Communist Party war over. A renowned party member, a protege of Rosa Luxemburg, and a man who for a crucial year had occupied the highest office the KPD could bestow, had been driven from the party in disgrace. In addition, eight of Levi’s supporters faced the prospect of sharing his fate before long. It would be wrong to assume, however, that the “Right Opposition,” as the group came to be called at the Comintern Congress, had rejected Communism. Levi and his friends were still loyal adherents to the cause, and some of them, notably Clara Zetkin, remained so to their death. They were up in arms because they felt that the new Zentrale had abandoned the course which Rosa Luxemburg had laid down for the party. The Zentrale, with the full support of the left wing, indignantly denied this charge. Neither faction perceived that the fundamental issue was not whether the Levites or the Brandlerites had followed the right course, but to what extent both had failed, and what consequences this would have for the future. None of them, in fact, real-ized that the KPD had arrived at a major crossroad.

The split within the party remained unresolved during the preparations for the Third Comintern Congress. The official delegation of the KPD, all firm champions of the March action, was led by Thalheimer and Frolich. Together with the Communist youth group, it numbered thirty-three delegates. Clara Zetkin, virtually constituting a delegation of her own, went as representative of the Communist Women’s League and also acted as the unofficial spokesman of the Right Opposition. In addition, and by special request from Lenin, Heinrich Malzahn and Paul Neumann attended the congress to state the views of the opposition. As they had not received a mandate from the Zentrale to speak for the party, they had only an advisory vote, and attended to all intents and purposes as a disenfranchised grievance committee. Finally, the KAPD sent four delegates, which put the Germans, divided though they were, among themselves, in second place as far as numerical strength at the congress was concerned. But they, and everyone else, were dwarfed by the Russian delegation of seventy-four voting members.

The German delegation left for Moscow with the expectation that the Russian leaders would receive them as heroes, especially after the ECCI, on April 29, had endorsed Paul Levi’s expulsion from the party in a letter bristling with expressions of disgust and contempt for “the traitor.” They were to be disappointed. The Russians had in the meantime “reinterpreted” the March uprising. The process had been accompanied by severe factional struggles, because the debate on the uprising was only part of a more fundamental problem, the future of world revolution. Ever since the Russo-Polish War of 1920, the revolutionary wave in Europe had subsided, a development which Lenin, at least, was unwilling to ignore. During the winter of 1920-1921, when general unrest all over Russia culminated in the Kronstadt mutiny and made it abundantly clear that the Bolshevik government could strengthen its hold on the people only by giving the country a chance to recover from the civil war, Lenin decided to buy time by making concessions at home and abroad. The first of these was the introduction of the New Economic Policy, which included vigorous efforts to improve trade relations with Western capitalist countries. The German March uprising was thus completely out of tune with the trend that was developing in the fatherland of the revolution. On March 16, the day that Hörsing’s appeal was published, and the German Central Committee listened to Brandler’s variations on a theme by Kun, Russia signed a trade agreement with Great Britain. The Kronstadt mutiny was crushed on March 17, and Lenin had officially introduced N.E.P. on March 15. No wonder that Lenin was unenthusiastic about the German events, that he was hardly surprised when the uprising failed, and that he profoundly disapproved of the whole adventure.

Since the KPD was the strongest Communist party outside Russia, its fortunes and misfortunes served as a useful gauge to assess the chances for further revolutions in Europe. The recent fiasco, therefore, confirmed Lenin’s view that a temporary retreat on the revolutionary front was necessary, and he wanted to impress this view on the congress by making the German debacle a starting point for a change in over-all Comintern strategy. In order to be effective, Lenin had to secure prior unanimity among the Russian leaders, which was not easy. Trotsky and Kamenev sided with Lenin in condemning the German putsch, but Zinoviev, Bukharin, and Radek defended it. We do not know the details of these factional struggles which preceded the opening of the congress; nor do we know whether a personal report by Clara Zetkin to Lenin was made before or after the Russians had settled the matter. It is very likely, however, that Zetkin’s detailed description of what had occurred in Germany strengthened Lenin’s determination to disavow the Kun-Brandler-Thalheimer-Frolich theory of the revolutionary offensive, especially after Zetkin’s report was confirmed and elaborated by Neumann, who were likewise questioned by Lenin. Whatever the exact sequence of events may have been, by the time the congress was about to convene the Russians presented a united front on the German question. The Lenin-Trotsky faction overruled Zinoviev and Bukharin after Radek, always a flexible man, abandoned the latter, an action which netted him their angry abuse.

News of the latest official Russian position came as a shock to the German delegates. After the initial congratulatory message from the ECCI they had counted on full Comintern endorsement of their policy. Now, on the eve of the congress, they were informed that they had blundered, and that they must under no circumstances embark on a similar unprepared venture in the future. Although the Russians upheld the German party in the matter of Levi’s expulsion, Lenin let it be known that he basically agreed with Levi’s criticisms and only objected to the methods which the former party chairman had employed in making them.

“The Congress will condemn Paul Levi, will be hard on him… But his condemnation will be only on account of breach of discipline, not of his basic political principles. How could it be otherwise at the very moment when those principles will be recognized as correct? The way is open for Paul Levi to find his way back to us, if he himself does not block the road. His political future lies in his own hands!”

By the time the proceedings began, Lenin and Trotsky were assured of the unconditional, though not entirely enthusiastic, support of their Russian colleagues. They had whipped the ECCI into line and had duly warned the German delegation to prepare for some rough treatment. With these preliminaries out of the way, they could entrust the issue to the congress, confident that their views would prevail. And so they did. Despite occasional fierce verbal duels, indignant interjections, and angry charges and countercharges, an air of unreality pervaded the debates whenever the March uprising was on the agenda. The Russians had set the stage very well. Any direct references to such precarious subjects as the role of the ECCI, especially as far as the Kun mission and Zinoviev’s share in it were concerned, and the Zentrale’s attempts to create a revolutionary spirit artificially, were excluded from open debate. These topical taboos benefited the ECCI and the Bolshevik leadership, and restricted both German factions in their arguments. The critics of the uprising had to couch their charges in carefully worded insinuations, and the proponents of the revolutionary offensive could not invoke Kun, Zinoviev, or any other member of the Executive Committee in their defense. Nor does it seem a coincidence that on the Russian side the principal speakers were Radek and Trotsky rather than Zinoviev, who would have been the logical person to place the “German question” before the congress, since he was chairman of the ECCI. Zinoviev had evidently been too deeply implicated in the German imbroglio, and was moreover too reluctant a convert to the official Russian position to serve as its most suitable spokesman. His references to this explosive topic in his official report on the activities of the Executive Committee were accordingly brief and rather innocuous. He complimented the German party for having fought bravely in a struggle imposed from the outside, but when he touched upon the crucial problem of the revolutionary offensive, he skillfully spouted commonplaces with great oratorical emphasis while dodging the issue.

“Too much loose talk has been wasted on the revolutionary offensive. May God preserve us from a repetition of such foolishness…. The enemy attacked us. You need not lament about the mis-conceived offensive. Many mistakes were made, many organizational weaknesses were revealed. Our comrades in the German Zentrale have not shut their eyes to them; they want to correct their mistakes.”

After posing the rhetorical question whether the past struggle constituted a step forward or should be labeled a putsch, Zinoviev said emphatically: “The Executive is of the opinion that the March action was not a putsch. It would be ludicrous to talk of a putsch when half a million [sic] workers have fought. . . . We must clearly point out the mistakes [committed by the KPD] and learn from them. We conceal nothing, we don’t conduct . . . secret diplomacy. And we are of the opinion that, by and large, the German party need not be ashamed of this struggle, quite the contrary.”

Zinoviev delivered his report on June 25. The following five days were taken up by discussions of the report, with the Comintern bosses presiding from the bench rather than sitting in the dock. They had, moreover, used their privileged position to help formulate the “Resolution to the Report of the ECCI,” Article II of which dealt with the German question. In its relevant part it read as follows: “The Congress . . . sanctions completely the attitude of the Executive in regard to the further developments within the V.K.P.D. The Congress expresses its expectation that the Executive will apply in the future these principles of international revolutionary discipline with equal strictness.””

The resolution, including its Article II, was scheduled for a vote of adoption at the end of the discussion period. In spite of its deceptive vagueness its significance could hardly be missed. Its wording clearly expressed the right of the ECCI, retroactively as well as for the future, to interfere in the affairs of a member party. In this particular instance, the interference to be sanctioned by the congress referred to the approval by the ECCI of Paul Levi’s expulsion from the KPD. In this respect, therefore, it appeared to be intended primarily as a chastisement of the so-called Right Opposition, but at the same time the phrasing provided sufficient leeway to allow for its application to any other faction. That the resolution made no mention at all of any possible connection between the March uprising and Comintern was hardly surprising.

The discussion which preceded the vote on the first vital resolution also touched on the German insurrection, even though this topic was officially scheduled for later debate. Ostensibly the arguments centered around Paul Levi’s role, since the pending vote would determine once and for all his status as a Communist. But actually the charges and countercharges hinged on the larger question of principles and thereby constituted a continuation of the German intraparty feud, only now being fought coram populo. The high point of these preliminary skirmishes was a debate between Clara Zetkin and Ernst Reuter-Friesland, each expressing the point of view of his own faction with great frankness. Zetkin put up a spirited defense of Paul Levi. With her usual bluntness the old lady lashed out against all her opponents in the KPD and the ECCI, and even included the German police who had confiscated all her documentary ammunition. Her principal point was that both the ECCI and the apologists of the March action were trying to make Paul Levi the scapegoat for their own blunders and, while she was careful not to endorse Unser Weg, in essence she repeated many of the charges Levi had raised in his brochure. “It remains a fact . . . that representatives of the Executive bear indeed a large share of responsibility for the way in which the Marzaktion was conducted, [and] that representatives of the Executive bear a large share of responsibility for the wrong slogans, the wrong political attitude of the party, or, more correctly, of the Zentrale.” Equally outspoken was her opinion on the attitude of the Brandler Zentrale: “If Paul Levi is going to be severely punished for his criticism . . . and for mistakes which he has undeniably committed, what punishment, then, deserve those who are really guilty? The putschism against which we have raised our charges did not consist of the actions of the fighting masses . . . but was endemic in the heads of the Zentrale who led the masses in this manner into battle.”

Measured by the limited degree of free speech which prevails nowadays at Communist conferences, Zetkin’s performance was indeed daring. It must be remembered, however, that in the early twenties, before the days of Stalin, debates among Communists were still relatively unimpeded by fear of retribution. Moreover, Clara Zetkin knew that Lenin was in agreement with her on this question. For this reason she made hardly any effort to defend Levi against the charge of having broken party discipline but concentrated instead on the substance of his criticism, which coincided with her own views and Lenin’s. From the lengthy talk she had with Lenin before the congress opened, she knew that he was less concerned with crushing the right wing of the KPD than he was with labeling as harmful the principles underlying the Marzaktion. It was a foregone conclusion that once the “Case Levi” had been settled by the vote on the “Executive Report,” attention would be focused on the uprising proper, during the “Debate on Tactics.” Then the Bolshevik leaders would be free to bear down on the Brandlerite errors, since they had successfully barred any further debate on the role of the ECCI by means of the innocuously phrased “Resolution to the Report of the ECCI.”

Zetkin’s attack on the errors of the Zentrale were met by a no less fiery counterattack from Ernst Reuter-Friesland. The man who only six months later was to share Paul Levi’s fate now directed all his indignation against Levi and his supporters, notably against Clara Zetkin whom he accused of intellectual dishonesty. While admitting that the March uprising had suffered from mistakes committed by the party leadership, he made it clear that “we shall talk about these mistakes only with those comrades who fought alongside us, and not with those who systematically sabotaged the Aktion.” After a lengthy diatribe against Levi, whom he accused of having persistently undermined the reputation and influence of the ECCI ever since the Second Comintern Congress, Friesland invited Levi’s followers at the congress to take an unequivocal stand condemning him, or forfeit the right to call themselves Communists and members of the Communist International. Shortly before the vote on the “Resolution on the Report of the Executive,” Malzahn and Neumann, the two right-wing opposition delegates who had only an advisory vote, requested that a final vote on the resolution be postponed until after the full-fledged debate on the uprising. They argued that only at the conclusion of this debate could the members of the congress properly judge whether or not Levi ought to be definitely excluded from the Communist movement. Radek employed all the biting sarcasm for which he was famous to discredit the two hapless Levites, badgering them mercilessly.

When he had finished, Malzahn and Neumann asked the congress once again, this time formally, to postpone voting on the resolution until after the discussion on the March uprising. Their plea was read aloud and then ignored. Five minutes later the “Resolution on the Report of the Executive Committee of the Communist International” was adopted. The only delegation which abstained from voting on Article II was that of Yugoslavia. No one voted against, but Clara Zetkin stated publicly that the “Case Levi” had been settled “over our protest.” It was a clear-cut victory for the ECCI, though not for the Brandlerites, as they were soon to find out.

Now that the Executive had effectively removed itself from the sphere of controversy, the Bolshevik leaders felt free to encourage wide-open discussion of the March Aktion on the floor. Up to this point the debate had centered around Levi’s attitude, with special reference to his criticism of KPD and ECCI. From then on the uprising proper became the chief issue and was discussed within the framework of the “Tactics of the Communist International.” By the time this phase of the congress began, the behind-the-scenes efforts of the Russians had succeeded in noticeably narrowing the gap which divided the views of the Right Opposition from those of the Zentrale, although many important points of conflict were still unresolved.4

The vital debate on tactics was introduced by a lengthy speech by Radek, who was the first member of the ECCI to criticize the mistakes of the Zentrale publicly and in detail. But the part of his speech that dealt with the German party lacked force and conviction; his heart apparently was not in it. His introductory remarks amounted to a virtual apology to those whose mistakes he was about to discuss, and one wonders whether this unusual civility was not partly due to the realization that his own role in the March event had not been free of ambiguity.

Radek’s criticism of the March uprising included most of the major points later to be incorporated in the official theses of the congress, e.g., the need for capturing the masses prior to any revolution; the need for better party organization and discipline; and the dogma that the uprising had been a defensive action which us spirit of its failure constituted “one step forward.” He carefully concealed how many arguments he had borrowed from the opposition. Moreover, he did not mention that without the constant pressure for “greater activity” which the Executive had applied to the German party, and which culminated in the Kun mission, many of the “errors” would never have been committed in the first place. He was not challenged on these omissions, due to the “oratorical taboos” so prudently devised by the ECCI.

Although Radek’s arguments were couched in the deceptively optimistic phrases so peculiar to Marxist rhetoric, the underlying call for a strategic retreat on the revolutionary front was unmistakable. Even when read today, his sophistries sound hollow and they must have impressed his listeners in that way on the afternoon of June 30, 1921. With capitalism inevitably on the decline, he argued, Communism is moving forward to great struggles. However, the decline of capitalism does not proceed in a straight line; nor does revolution, which. has its ebb and flow. If Communists want to fight and win, they must prepare for the struggle—which does not mean that preparation and propaganda should become a substitute for action. But action lies still in the future, and in the meantime the Communists must be the bell which calls the living to battle. The watchword of universal Communism must be, “first and foremost, to the masses, with all means.” The Communists must actively prepare the masses for the eventual struggle by means of propaganda and agitation.

“Prepare yourselves and the proletariat for the [coming] struggles . . . , lead it into the struggles which history will produce. It will not be necessary to look for these struggles; they will come to us. And we shall fight the better if we prepare for them. The mistakes we make always mean a step backward, and there is no doubt that we have suffered such a setback . . . in Germany. . . . If the left comrades have made mistakes . . . during the March Aktion, then I say that these mistakes speak in favor of them [as] they demonstrate the will to fight. For this reason we were with them, their mistakes notwithstanding. But it is better to win than merely to prove that one wanted to win. And therefore, comrades, our tactical line is focused on world revolution. We see the road toward world revolution in the conquest of the great masses. These masses we want to lead into the great struggles which history has decreed for us. . . . We stand at the threshold of a historical turning point, and there is no power . . . which can save capitalism. We want to hasten its death, and this can only be done if we unify the great masses under the Communist banner. We are but the heralds, the organizers. The proletariat will bury capitalism. The proletariat will also be the hammer driving the nail into its coffin.”

Radek’s report heralded a decisive swing to the right, but, as was to be expected, this projected shift of policy was promptly challenged from the left. On the following day a speaker of the KAPD, Hempel, agreed with Radek on only one point, the impending decline of capitalism. The rest of the report he rejected, with all its implications, defending in particular the justification of the revolutionary offensive and partial actions (Teilaktionen), which must precede the all-out revolution. Since the KAPD was not affiliated with the Comintern and its delegates attended merely as guests, this first assault could be ignored by the ECCI. It was a more serious matter, however, when Ernst Reuter-Friesland requested in the name of the German delegation that the next speaker, Comrade Terracini from the Italian Communist Party, be granted a longer speaking time than was customary to justify a number of suggested amendments to the theses developed by Radek. He added that these amendments had been drafted by the German, Italian, and Austrian delegations, and that additional delegations would most probably endorse them at a later time. The request was granted.

Terracini, like the KAPD speaker before him, criticized Radck’s report from a radical point of view. He took issue with the condemnation of the theory of the offensive and charged that Radek’s critics were too pronouncedly directed against the radical left wing of the Comintern and its affiliates. As he was probably unaware of the hectic behind-the-scene struggles among the Bolsheviks which had preceded the congress, Terracini said naïvely, “Comrade Zinovicv has spoken at length in his Report on the Executive against rightist tendencies. If we now suggest amendments to the theses on tactics, we herewith merely endorse once again the arguments of Comrade Zinoviev. We do not think that Comrade Radek will raise object ion4 to our amendments.” It was not Radek who raised objections, but Lenin. In a brief speech, delivered in a mildly ironic vein which barely concealed the underlying intensity of his arguments, Lenin tore into the leftist s by ridiculing their charges and amendments. He stated bluntly that all future feuds against the so-called “centrists” within the various Communist parties would have to cease, as the real centrists (Inclining Levi) had been expelled. Violations of this injunction would be fought ruthlessly by the Comintern. He reiterated the necessity to win the masses prior to any future Communist revolution, and defended those passages in the draft which bore on this question and which had become subject to a leftist amendment.

Lenin said, “Whoever does not understand that we must conquer the majority of the working class in Europe, where nearly all proletarians are organized, is lost to the Communist movement. . . . Comrade Terracini has not understood the Russian Revolution very well. We in Russia were a small party, but we had a majority  in the workers’ and peasants’ councils throughout the country. Where do you have anything like it? We had at least half of the army, which then numbered at least ten million men. Have you the majority of the army? Show me such a country. If these intentions [to make amendments] of Comrade Terracini are supported by three delegations, then something is rotten [krank] in the International. Then we must say: Stop! Fight to the bone! [entschiedener Kampf] otherwise the Communist International is lost.”

After he had repeated in no uncertain terms that the theory of the offensive, as applied in the March uprising, was wrong, Lenin gave his definition of “the masses” as “not only the labor movement, but also the majority of the working and exploited rural population. Then he came back to intraparty feuds: “We have not only condemned the centrists, but also chased them away. Now we must turn against the other side, which we also deem dangerous. We must tell the comrades the truth in the politest possible way. Our theses are also held in a congenial and polite form, and nobody can feel hurt by our theses. We must tell them: we now have other tasks than to hunt centrists. Enough of this sport. It is already getting a little boring.”

Lenin’s unequivocal defense of the theses, and his equally unequivocal rejection of the attempts by the left to amend them, did not end the debate on tactics in general, nor on the tactics of the Marzaktion in particular. One German speaker after the other, Heckert, Reuter-Friesland, Thalheimer and Ernst (“Teddy”) Thalmann, the future idol of the German proletariat, tried to salvage as much of their point of view as was possible. Ignoring Lenin’s warning not to prolong the feud with the former Levites, the spokesmen for the Zentrale, and especially the extreme left-wingers of the German delegation, Reuter-Friesland and Thalmann, persisted in hurling charges at Zetkin, Malzahn, et al. Their bitterness increased the more they realized that they were fighting a losing battle. Their colleagues of the Right Opposition had won a significant advantage when they signed a statement that they were now willing to go along with the general interpretation which the Comintern had given to the March uprising. This left the German majority delegation in the uncomfortable position of obstructionists who held up a generally desired settlement of their intraparty feud, not to mention their reluctance to bow to the ECCI on the crucial issue of tactics

The last speaker on the question of “Tactics of the Cominlen was Trotsky. He had angered those who defended the Marzaktion on principle by an earlier report, “The World Economic Crisis and the New Tasks of the Communist International,” delivered at the beginning of the congress. In this report he had given an estimate of the worldwide economic situation and its probable effect on revolution. While predicting the inevitable collapse of capitalism in the long run, he had been outspokenly sceptical with regard to revolution in the near future: “. . . In a word, the situation now at the time of the Third Congress of the Communist International is not the same as at the time of the First and Second Congresses, for the first time we see and feel that we are not so immediately near to the goal, to the conquest of power, to the world revolution. At the time, in 1919, we said to ourselves: ‘It is a question of months. Now we say: ‘It is perhaps a question of years.'”

It was under the shadow of Trotsky’s essentially pessimist evaluation that the debates on the March action took place. The left-wingers at the congress, and not only the Germans, proved unwilling to accept his perspectives at face value. Most of them not see, or did not want to see, that the debate on the uprising essentially served as a rallying point for two opposing schools of thought concerned with the most fundamental issue confronting the Congress, namely what course the Communist movement was to take in the days ahead. Trotsky alluded to this point when he again addressed the congress, prior to Radek’s summary, to wind up the debate on the German question. After a few brief and condescending remarks directed at Thalmann, who had been the last of the enrages to defend the leftist position, Trotsky turned his attention to the essence of the March action. Many delegates, he said, had complained to him that the German delegation took up so much of the congress’ time in discussing its internal affairs. Such an impatient attitude on the part of these critics was unwarranted. The March action was the main issue under discussion. The congress had to choose between two tendencies. One was represented by Lenin, Zinoviev, Radek, and himself. The other tendency was expressed by the various amendments to the theses on tactics that were soon to be submitted for a vote.

Trotsky granted the German delegation that the March action, as compared to the past history of the party, constituted a step forward, “but it does not mean that the first action, this first attempt to play an independent leading role, has proved successful.” With considerable sarcasm Trotsky then leveled his guns at the Brandlerites: “They tell us that they have learned a great deal from it [the March action] and, moreover, precisely from their own mistakes. That is what their own amendments say. . . . They state that the major merit of the March action consists precisely in this, that it provided an opportunity for clarifying the mistakes committed therein, only in order to eliminate them subsequently. Isn’t it a little too audacious to seek for special merits in this connection?”

Trotsky proceeded to expose the errors of the March action, and to enumerate the contradictory reports on the uprising which members of the German delegation had given at the congress. All these reports, he thought, served primarily to confuse and becloud the issue. “From all this one gets the impression that the members of the German delegation still approach the issue as if it had to be defended at all costs, but not studied nor analyzed. . . . I think that for your situation in Germany it is best to introduce clarity into this question. I don’t believe what Levi has said, that is, that the party will perish from it. However, the congress must say to the German workers that a mistake was committed, and that the party’s attempt to assume the leading role in a great mass movement was not a fortunate one. We must admit that this attempt was completely unsuccessful in this sense—that were it repeated, it might actually ruin this splendid party. . . . It is our duty to say clearly and precisely to the German workers that we consider this philosophy of the offensive to be the greatest danger: and in its practical application to be the greatest political crime.”

As soon as Trotsky had finished, a motion was made by the American delegation to close the debate and to let Radek give his summary. But Trotsky’s speech, in which he had expressed the attitude of the Bolshevik leaders more plainly than any of the preceding speakers, including Lenin, had stirred up the emotions of many delegates. Bela Kun rose to protest against the motion to terminate the debate: “Comrade Trotsky has just spoken for one hour against the so-called Left; he has done so in such a tone that we must absolutely [unbedingt] reply to his speech. . . . In my estimation that motion . . . is a low political trick [Schiebung] and against this, a trick I firmly protest.” But the motion was passed, and Radek made a summarizing speech which was remarkable for its conciliatory tone. When he had finished, the congress prepared to vote on whether the theses on tactics, in their existing draft form, were acceptable to the delegates in principle. If the vote was in the affirmative, the draft was to go to a committee where the final version would be worked out for subsequent approval by the congress, However, a few minutes before the vote, the left die-hards made what can only be called a demonstration against Trotsky, in the form of a “declaration.”

“The undersigned delegations, Poland, Germany, Youth International, Hungary (majority), ‘Deutschbohmen,’ and Austria declare that they will accept, in principle, the tactical theses suggested by the Russian delegation, but that they make express reservations concerning the interpretation which Trotsky has given to the theses in his speech.” Thalheimer and Kun were among the signers. The congress then voted to send the draft of the theses to the committee. The great debate on the March uprising was over.

While the congress moved to less controversial issues, such as the trade-union question, the economic question, the women question, etc., the committee which worked on the definitive version of the theses on tactics made every effort to eliminate all remaining differences between the two German factions, in order to secure unanimity in the final vote. The Russian leaders were clearly worried by the possibility of a further split within the KPD. During the debate on tactics, Zinoviev had said, “There can be only one answer: under no circumstances must there be a further split in the ranks of the German Communist Party. . . . Therefore the congress must press for an agreement.” On the surface at least such an agreement was reached. On July 9, three days before the theses on tactics were adopted, the congress passed a special “Resolution on the March Action and the Internal Situation in the V.K.P.D.,” which bore all the earmarks of compromise inasmuch as its tone was conciliatory toward the defenders of the uprising, although the congress had rejected their policy. The resolution, proposed by Zinoviev in the name of the Russian delegation, reemphasized that “The congress considers any further disintegration of forces within the VKPD, any factionalism—not to mention a split—as the greatest danger for the entire movement.” The congress, the resolution continued, expected that the Zentrale and the party majority would treat the former opposition with tolerance, and expected from the members of the opposition that they would loyally carry out the decisions reached at the Third Congress. The resolution concluded with a warning.

“The congress demands of the former opposition … the immediate cessation of any political collaboration with persons expelled from the party and the Communist International. . . .

“The congress instructs the Executive to observe carefully the further development of the German movement, and in the event of the slightest breach of discipline to take immediately the most energetic steps.”

Before the congress voted on this resolution, Malzahn presented in the name of the former opposition an alternate version. Thalheimer immediately protested because Malzahn’s version, signed by Malzahn himself, Clara Zetkin, Paul Neumann, and Paul Franken, was too vague in form and content. Zinoviev supported Thalheimer and suggested that the former opposition offer their draft as a mere declaration rather than as a formal countermotion. The suggestion was accepted, and the Russian-sponsored resolution was unanimously adopted a few minutes later.

The adoption of the theses on tactics on July 12, the final day of the congress, presented no more difficulties. They expressed with meticulous conciseness the principal tenets which the leaders had previously developed in their speeches. Although they bristled with militant expressions, the call for a retreat from an aggressive revolutionary policy was too plain to be missed. “The world revolution, that is, the downfall of capitalism . . . will require a fairly long period of revolutionary struggle,” read the first sentence of the second section. The third section began with the statement that “The most important question before the Communist International today is how to win predominating influence over the majority of the working class, and to bring its decisive strata into the struggle.” The fourth one warned that “The attempts of impatient and politically inexperienced revolutionary elements to resort to the most extreme methods . . . frustrate for a long time the genuine revolutionary preparation of the proletariat for the seizure of power.” All parties were admonished to reject “these extremely dangerous methods.”

Section seven, “The Lessons of the March Action,” was a document the tone of which was on the whole rather unenthusiastic. Perhaps its most important statement was the first sentence, with roundly asserted that “The March action was a struggle forced on the VKPD by the Government’s attack on the proletariat of Central Germany.” This statement became a Communist dogma from which no party publication has deviated since. There followed an enumeration of the mistakes committed by the party, with special emphasis on the fact that the mistake of not having clearly defined the “defensive” nature of the struggle “was aggravated by a number of party comrades who represented the offensive as the primary method of struggle. . .” Despite the errors, however, the congress was willing to grant that it considered the uprising “as a step forward.” The Russian leaders had been initially content with letting the matter stand at that, but in the process of formulating the final draft in committee had decided to elaborate on the meaning of this phrase. The uprising constituted one step forward because “it was a heroic struggle by hundreds of thousands of proletarians against the bourgeoisie,” and because the KPD, “by assuming leadership . . . showed that it was the party of the revolutionary German proletariat.” With these sparse compliments the German party had to rest satisfied. The balance of the section on the March action contained once again the look-before-you-leap sort of warning with regard to future revolutionary situations, although the congress stated explicitly that once the party had decided on action, everyone must obey and co-operate to the best of his ability. Criticism of an action was to be allowed only after the action was over, and then only within the framework of the party organization. The congress pointedly reminded all potential future critics that Levi had been expelled for having violated this basic principle of party discipline.

On that same day, July 12, 1921, the “Theses on the Communist International and the Red International of Labor Unions” were also adopted.” The gist of what the Bolsheviks envisaged in the fore-seeable future as the principal task of all Communist parties was contained in section IV: “In the forthcoming period the chief task of Communists is to work steadily . . . to win a majority of the workers in all unions . . . to win the unions for Communism by the most active participation in their day-to-day struggles. The best measure of the strength of any Communist party is the influence it really exercises over the working masses in the trade-unions. The party must learn to exercise decisive influence in the unions without subjecting them to petty control. It is the union cell, not the union as such, which is under the authority of the party.”

Here was spelled out in very practical terms the new party line which all the member organizations of the Comintern were expected to follow. They were not to engage in putsches, but were to talk softly and persuasively to their fellow proletarians in the unions and Socialist parties. Direct action had dismally failed in the German March uprising. Capitalism was dying much more slowly than had been anticipated. Finally, since the Russians needed that breathing space which the Bolshevik leaders so tenaciously pursued, and so manifestly expressed by NEP and international trade agreements, the Communist International switched its emphasis at the Third Congress from crusading to missionary work. “For the power of capital can only be broken if the idea of Communism is embodied in the stormy pressure of the great majority of the proletariat, led by mass Communist parties which must form the iron clamp holding together the fighting proletarian class. To the Masses -that is the first battle-cry of the Third Congress to the Communists of all countries!”

The congress was over. Before the German delegation left for home to devote itself to its new tasks, the Russian leaders arranged for one more meeting with both German factions. The purpose of this get-together was to confirm the “treaty of peace” that had been concluded so laboriously and, as time was to show, so superficially between the majority delegation and its Right Opposition, Harmony seemed to have been established. Significantly, Reuter-Friesland who had held many private conversations with Lenin and other leading Bolsheviks, had been won over to the newest shift in policy as expressed in the slogan “To the Masses!” Thus the Russians had every reason to be pleased with the outcome of the Third Comintern Congress.

This peace treaty marked a turning point in the development a German Communism. A distinct phase had come to a close. For when the conflict which divided the KPD after the March uprising was settled by the Russian-dominated Third World Congress, the German party unwittingly surrendered to Moscow a large share a its former independence which it was never to regain. Luxemburg’s maxim of friendly aloofness was buried for good, and its place was taken by Leninist centralization and discipline. The spirit of independence which Rosa Luxemburg had infused into the KPD had still been very pronounced during the first two Comintern congresses. The Zentrale had then felt free to weigh any advice the Bolsheviks gave, had argued with the Russian leaders from a position of strength and confidence, and in the end had made its own decisions. True, as an affiliate of the Comintern, the party had been bound by the over-all policy adopted at the first two congresses, especially by the twenty-one conditions of the Second Congress. But as long as Levi was chairman of the Zentrale, these policies had been interpreted liberally and with discretion. The Third Congress, where the intraparty feud over the March uprising became the key issue of debate, put an end to all this. The change came about for a number of reasons. In the summer of 1921 the Soviet Union, for the first time since the revolution, was in a position to exert more than a nominal influence over the Communist parties of Europe. Foreign and civil war, and Allied intervention, were past, making physical contact with the West easier, and at the same time giving Russia time to recover. Lenin was eager to utilize the relatively favorable situation to stabilize Bolshevik gains at home, and to strengthen the Communist movement abroad. As far as Lenin was concerned, the latter task could only be accomplished if the Russian Communist Party strengthened its control over the various European parties, something which he had always thought necessary and which now, for the first time, had become possible of realization. It was done at the Third Congress by tightening the bonds of organization and discipline within the Comintern. Special emphasis was placed on the authority of the ECCI over the member parties, thereby ensuring a better control over the Communist movement than had been possible in the past.

The KPD, second in strength and importance only to the Russian party, facilitated the task of the Bolsheviks in no small measure. In their effort to change the general course of Communist strategy, Lenin and Trotsky in particular made the German question a key issue at the congress, incorporated the specific lessons learned from the March uprising into the theses and resolutions, and thus turned the German disaster into a Bolshevik asset. What was more, in the process of making the March action a convenient vehicle for implementing a major shift in policy, the Russians effectively destroyed most of the still remaining sparks of independence among the KPD leadership. Both factions of the German delegation had gone to Moscow in the hope of winning approbation for their respective stands on the uprising, and they were so deeply involved in their intraparty feud that they failed to see how much their disunity benefited the Russians. Without the coarse dictatorial manner which Stalin was to employ on similar occasions in later years, Trotsky, Radek, and Zinoviev displayed excellent teamwork in their handling of the German delegates. In private talks and on the floor of the congress, both factions were subjected to unsparing criticism but with the exception of Levi no one was punished for his or her past errors. After the Russians had censored the Right opposition for having abetted Levi, they turned around and used many of Levi’s and Zetkin’s arguments to chastise the Zentrale and its left-wing supporters. When it was all over, the German delegates could not help but agree that the Kremlin knew best. So strong was the prestige and personal magnetism of the Bolshevik leaders that the Germans submitted, however reluctantly in some cases, to the demands made of them. They let themselves be maneuvered into accepting theses and resolutions which, at least in part, were distasteful to them. Clara Zetkin was honored by the congress on her sixty-fifth birthday, and the Russians scored a minor triumph when Heckert delivered the principal ovation in the name of the German delegation, and showered the old lady with good wishes. Only four days earlier he had been one of her most outspoken critics. Finally, after Lenin had persuaded both Zetkin and Reuter-Friesland of the rightness of the Russian position, the way was clear to a general reconciliation, and in the interest of the common cause both Getman factions buried their differences, at least on the surface.

Thus, as far as the KPD was concerned, the most significant result of the Third Congress was the increase of Russian influence over the affairs of the party. This was a notable achievement by Lenin and Trotsky, whose dialectical skill and singleness of purpose were not matched by the divided German leadership. The old argument tween Lenin and Luxemburg over the tactical questions of discipline and centralization had been finally won, for all practical purposes, by Lenin. The victory had been made easier by the default of the KPD, which no longer had a Luxemburg to defend its independence, and which had now lost in Levi the last strong champion of the Luxemburg tradition. The position of the Comintern had been immeasurably strengthened. Not only had the congress expressly endorsed that body’s recent interference in the affairs of member parties, notably those of the KPD, but had also voted to give it enlarged and additional powers for the future. Thus the right of the ECCI to dispatch meddling Turkestaner to the member parties remained unimpaired; this was a distinct victory over the western organizations by what Levi had sarcastically called “the mullahs of Khiva and Bokhara.”

Essentially, then, strong Russian influence over the affairs of the KPD dates from the Third Congress rather than from a later date. To be sure, it was initially neither as noticeable nor as rigid and oppressive as it was to become in Stalin’s time; yet it was there. Its foundation had been firmly laid by Lenin and his colleagues, firm enough for Stalin to build on and to make more effective. This is not to say that there was henceforth no more opposition to Russian interference in the German party. But what opposition there was never had a chance to restore the original spirit of independence, after Lenin had so successfully disposed of the Luxemburg tradition.

In March 1922 Lenin wrote: “Paul Levi now wants to get into the good graces of the bourgeoisie . . . by publishing precisely those works of Rosa Luxemburg in which she was wrong. . . . Rosa Luxemburg was mistaken on the independence of Poland; she was mistaken in 1903 in her appraisal of Menshevism; she was mistaken in July 1914. . . She was mistaken in the works she wrote in prison in 1918, especially her book on the Russian Revolution. . . . But in spite of her mistakes she was and remains for us—an eagle.” Indeed, Lenin was by then quite safe in calling her that. He did not need to add that the wings of this eagle had been securely nailed to the wall, to serve as decoration for Communist meeting-halls and party offices—and that it was a very dead eagle.


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