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“Thus the bourgeois class, as soon as it has first won power over feudalism, arrives at a state order according to its needs, in its interests, for its use. Its wishes are decisive, its attitude determines. For it is authority. Its state is an authoritarian state.

In the capitalist economy all commodities develop the tendency to follow the market in order to be exchanged there. This market can be a shop, a department store, an annual market, a fair or the world market. The market is the point to which the centripetal force of all commodities tends. It is, however, also the point from which the centrifugal force of all commodities pushes apart again as soon as they are exchanged, i.e. fulfilled their capitalist purpose. If the commodity is money, the market is stock exchange or bank. Always the market stands at the middle point of a process working in two directions. The market is the centre.

To the law of motion of the capitalist economy corresponds that of the bourgeois state. All the forces of the government collect at one point, there receive their orders and then act back centrifugally. The bureaucracy escalates up to its highest peak, the minister; the army organisation up to the generalissimo; there the decision is taken, the command given, the decree proclaimed; and with the precision of a mechanical apparatus, the organisation functions according to the will of one head, the centre, down to its last errand boy and lowest organ. Only the central office is autonomous: it is the brain and thinks for the whole. Its decision is definitive, it is to be obeyed unconditionally. Strict order and discipline prevail.

In the feudal era, when every socage-farm with its copyholders formed a small economic unit, more or less self-contained and self-supporting, the individual’s power to give orders did not have much scope. One was situated beside the other and each was to the same extent his own master. The system of organisation in which every part of the whole enjoys its full autonomy is called federalism. The feudal state, then, had been a federal state.

The bourgeoisie had gained from the conditions of its capitalist economy the insight that centralism was in many respects superior to federalism. Especially insofar as it united all the dispersed and isolated forces into a whole. They came out in favour of a centralised will and therewith won the ability to do great things. When the capitalist brought the hand-workers together in the factory, went over from domestic industry to co-operation, finally evolved this into manufacture, he went through practical schools of centralism. All the experiences and knowledge thus gained the bourgeois class now utilised in establishing its state structure. It needed a large centralised mechanism that obeyed every finger-touch at the highest point. A mechanism with which it, the small minority, could be the brain, issuing commands, accomplishing its will. And with which the large mass, the proletariat, was subjected to its dominance through strict order and discipline. This mechanism was provided by the centralist system of organisation. It made possible in the best and surest way the domination of few over many. So the bourgeoisie created its state for itself as a centralised state.

In the capitalist economy the production of commodities soon becomes mass production. But the absorption capacity of the existing market is quickly sated. New, bigger selling outlets become necessary. Capitalism develops a drive to expand, which threatens to burst the boundaries of the state. Thus every young capitalist state seeks, through wars, conquest, colonial acquisitions, etc., to become a bigger state. This requires a certain mental and spiritual preparation and influencing of the citizens – a certain ideology which interprets the pressure towards expansion and extension in the interest of profit as the expression of imaginary forces and needs, and lyingly converts warlike conquests into achievements for the common good. This ideology invents the concept nation, exploits sentiments about home and fatherland and misuses them for class-interested purposes of enrichment. It deals in national interests, national honour, national duties and national responsibility, until it gets involved in the national war, which is falsified into a war of national defence. To wage the war a national army has been provided, the schools have been made into abodes of national incitement; in national politics a special national phraseology has been cultivated which furnishes every war, however notoriously for plunder and conquest, with the requisite intellectual and moral justification. When the SPD defended the world war from 1914 to 1918 as a national war, when the KPD, during the collapse of the Ruhr, joined in supporting the national defence of the Ruhr zone alongside Schlageter, then both parties proved their character as national auxiliary organs of the bourgeois state, which is always a national state.

The capitalist economy, once it has entered the arena of large-scale enterprises and beyond that, the formation of stock companies, has created for itself a complicated apparatus of management, very appropriate for its requirements. In it all forces are well weighed up against each other, all functions cleverly distributed, all individual actions bound into an exact collective action. The technology of the machine is its model.

In broad outline, the management structure of a modern large factory looks like this: nominal owners and with them actual interested parties, and so the real beneficiaries of the capitalist large-scale concern are the shareholders. These come together in the shareholders’ meeting which passes important resolutions, exercises control, calls in reports, relieves and appoints officials, and concedes wages. From the shareholders’ meeting issues the board of directors, which supervises the management, comes to final decisions, constitutes the supreme court in all the vital questions of the works, but is still responsible vis-à-vis the shareholders’ meeting.

An image of this large-scale industry’s machinery is the bourgeois state. There the bearers of a mandate from the electorate sit in the parliament, a large meeting of shareholders entitled to vote who, discussing and resolving, equipped with important powers, decide about the weal and woe of the state as a whole. From its midst issues the board of directors, the Cabinet, which has the task of looking after, with special care and heightened vigilance, the interests served by the functioning of the state machinery. The Cabinet members (ministers) represent the state at its highest point; they supervise the work of the management bureaucracy placed under them, make the big contacts within the competing firms abroad, i.e. the capitalist foreign states, but always they stay dependent on Parliament and responsible to it; by it they are appointed and recalled.

As in the assembly of shareholders, so too in Parliament questions and proposals often manage to be carried through and dismissed which already are foregone conclusions and are only put to the vote for form’s sake. They have already been put forward and decided on in another place, whose importance more or less strongly controls the vote of the shareholders’ meeting or the parliament. This other place is identical with the offices of the great banks or of the captains of industry. Here, where the most significant decisions of the capitalist economy come down, the decisive resolutions of bourgeois politics are passed. And indeed by the same people in the same case. For politics is nothing other than struggle for the legal protection of economic interests – is the defence of profit with the weapons of paragraphs in law, the securing of the capitalist system of exploitation with the means of state authority.

With tirelessness and zeal the bourgeoisie has worked at the construction of its state form and at the development of its legislature. For this it found its most reliable tool in Parliament, which in turn found its auxiliary organs in the parties. Today, having reached the highest peak of capitalist development, big capital feels the power of Parliament and parties as burdensome. It avoids it by Enabling Acts, military dictatorship, and shifting important authority and decisions to other bodies in which the representatives of capital and economic concerns have the upper hand (state economic council). Open antagonism towards Parliament and parliamentarism is no longer at all concealed in big-capitalist circles; in fact attacks directed against parliament and parliamentary government are debated quite openly without inhibition. The slave, Parliament, has done his duty. When the idea of a Directory was being discussed in the bonapartist tendency, Herr Minoux was selected as the supreme holder of power. Herr Minoux the General Director of Stinnes.”

– Otto Rühle, From the Bourgeois to the Proletarian Revolution. 1924.  Translation was first published by Socialist Reproduction in co-operation with Revolutionary Perspectives in 1974. The translation was made from a German edition of the text published in 1970 by IPTR (Institut für Praxis und Theorie des Rätekommunismus, Berlin)

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“At the opening session of the Second Comintern Congress on 19 July 1920,
Zinoviev struck a solemn note: 

‘The Second Congress of the International
entered history at the same moment as it opened. Remember this day. Know
that it is the recompense for all our privations, for our hard, determined
struggle. Tell your children, and explain what it meant. Hold the imprint of
this hour in your hearts!’

Later he was to recall:

In the congress hall hung a great map on which was marked every day the
movement of our armies. And the delegates every morning stood with
breathless interest before this map. It was a sort of symbol: the best
representatives of the international proletariat with breathless interest, with
palpitating heart, followed every advance of our armies, and all perfectly
realised that, if the military aim set by our army was achieved, it would
mean an immense acceleration of the international proletarian revolution.

On this point, the foreign and the Russian delegates were in agreement.
During the discussion of an appeal drafted by Paul Levi and addressed to
the world proletariat on the subject of the Polish War, Ernst Däumig, one of
the four delegates of the USPD, declared: ‘Every kilometre which the Red
Army wins … is a step towards the Revolution in Germany.’ The Russians
modified the draft texts at the last minute to take into account what they
regarded as a new conjuncture of events. For this reason, the resolution which
Lenin drafted on tasks on 4 July which included the phrase: ‘However, it
does follow that the Communist Parties’ current task consists not in accelerating
the revolution, but in intensifying the preparation of the proletariat’ was
charged in the draft finally submitted to the Congress to: ‘The present task of the Communist Parties is now to accelerate the revolution, without provoking
it by artificial means before adequate preparation can have been made.’

All this seemed to prove to the Communists that the postwar revolutionary
wave, hitherto confined to the defeated countries, was in the process of
extending to the victorious ones, France, Britain and Italy. From this viewpoint,
the construction of real Communist Parties was becoming ever more urgent.
For an approaching revolution, an organisation, an instrument, a leadership
were needed very quickly. Lenin wrote:

The Second International has definitely been smashed. Aware that the Second
International is beyond hope, the intermediate parties and groups of the
‘centre’ are trying to lean on the Communist International, which is steadily
gaining in strength. At the same time, however, they hope to retain a degree
of ‘autonomy’ that will enable them to pursue their previous opportunist
or ‘centrist’ policies. The Communist International is, to a certain extent,
becoming the vogue. The desire of certain leading ‘centre’ groups to join
the Third International provides oblique confirmation that it has won the
sympathy of the vast majority of class-conscious workers throughout the
world, and is becoming a more powerful force with each day.

The requests of the centrist parties to join the International had to be examined
with the greatest caution. If they were accepted unconditionally, it would be
with the opportunist leaders at their head. The Bolsheviks thought that they
had nothing to expect from such leaders but ‘active sabotage of the revolution’,
as the experiences in Hungary and Germany had shown. There was not
enough time to eliminate them by a political struggle from within. It was
therefore necessary to take precautions in advance to prevent them bringing
problems into the International, ‘to put a lock … a solid guard on the door’,
as Zinoviev said.

This concern, plus the need to concentrate the Bolshevik experience within
a few points as an instrument of political clarification for parties joining the International, led the Russian Communists to propose to the Congress nineteen
conditions with which applicants were to comply. This applied both to existing
members and to parties applying for admission, whether they were centrist,
such as the USPD, which still included strong social-democratic currents, or
ultra-leftist, such as the KAPD. These nineteen conditions were modified by
the congress to become the celebrated ‘Twenty-One Conditions’, which
expressed the Bolsheviks’ conception of what a Communist Party should be. 

The first duty of Communists was to give a ‘genuinely Communist’ character
to their day-to-day agitation and propaganda. The objective of the dictatorship
of the proletariat must be presented to the working masses in such a way
that its indispensability would be clear from their day-to-day experience. Reformist and centrist elements were to be systematically dismissed – the word
is emphasised in the draft – from positions of responsibility in workers’
organisations, and replaced by tested Communists, workers promoted from
the rank and file if necessary. The activity of Communists could not be confined
within the limits approved by bourgeois legality:

In almost all the countries of Europe and America, the class struggle is
entering the phase of civil war. In these conditions, Communists can place
no trust in bourgeois legality. They must everywhere build up a parallel illegal
organisation, which, at the decisive moment, will be in a position to help
the party fulfil its duty to the revolution.

In connection with this, Communists must carry out systematic agitational
and propaganda work within the army, and create Communist cells in it.
Refusal to carry on such activity, which would be partly illegal, was considered
as incompatible with membership of the International. The Communist Parties
must develop systematic agitational work directed at the working people of
the countryside, relying upon workers who had preserved their rural
connections.

One of the most important tasks facing Communists consisted of a
determined break from both the social-patriotism of the reformists and the
social-pacifism of the centrists. Communists must systematically demonstrate
to the workers that, ‘without the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism, no international arbitration courts, no talk about a reduction of armaments, no
“democratic” reorganisation of the League of Nations will save mankind from
new imperialist wars’. The break from the reformists and the centrists must
be carried through ‘imperatively and uncompromisingly’ in every party,
particularly in respect of notorious reformist personalities like the Italian
Turati. At the same time, the Communist Parties must resist the imperialist
undertakings of their own bourgeoisie, and ‘must support – in deed, not
merely in word – every colonial liberation movement’. 

The ninth condition returned to the themes which were developed in the
polemic against the ultra-leftists. It instructed the Communist Parties to work
within the trade unions, by establishing cells within them that were ‘completely
subordinate to the party as a whole’. It was these cells – later to be called
‘fractions’ – which ‘by their sustained and unflagging work, win the unions
over to the communist cause’ and ‘unmask the treachery of the social-patriots
and the vacillations of the centrists’. Within the unions, it was necessary to
fight against ‘the yellow Amsterdam International’, and the International
must do all that is possible to break the unions from Amsterdam, and strengthen
‘the emerging international federation of red trade unions which are associated
with the Communist International’. 

Communists must use bourgeois parliaments as platforms for revolutionary
agitation, but must ensure the reliability of the parliamentary groups by
purging them of unreliable elements, and subordinating them to the Party’s
Central Committee. The publishing and press departments of the Party must
be under the control of the Central Committee. 

In matters of organisation, Communist Parties must be organised in
conformity with the principle of democratic centralism. The thirteenth condition
laid down:

In this period of acute civil war, the communist parties can perform their
duty only if they are organised in a most centralised manner, are marked
by an iron discipline bordering on military discipline, and have strong and
authoritative party centres invested with wide powers and enjoying the
unanimous confidence of the membership. 

Moreover, the leaders of Communist Parties needed to ensure the integrity
of the rank and file by carrying out a periodic purge, which in the case of
parties which carried on legal activities, meant systematically removing
dubious members.

The fifteenth condition laid down that Communist Parties were obliged
‘selflessly to help any Soviet republic in its struggle against counter-
revolutionary forces’.

The last four conditions spelt out the immediate requirements for parties
that were either actual or prospective members of the International. They
were to revise their former programmes to meet both national conditions and
the decisions of the International, with the revisions being ratified by the
ECCI. The decisions of the International’s congresses and the ECCI were to
be strictly followed. Every party which wished to join must call itself ‘the
Communist Party of the country in question (Section of the Third International)’,
in order to bring out clearly the difference between the Communist Parties
and the old Socialist or Social-Democratic parties which had betrayed the
working class. Lastly, they were all to convene their own congresses at the
end of the World Congress in order to put on record that they accepted these
conditions.

These were draconian conditions, and they were further strengthened at
the congress. They implied for every party of social-democratic or centrist
origin, whether in the International or not, as well as for the ultra-left groups
which wanted to join or to remain in the International, an early split on their
part, as the Bolshevik leaders were well aware. Trotsky declared:

There is no doubt that the proletariat would be in power in all countries, if
there were not still between them [communist parties] and the masses,
between the revolutionary mass and the advanced groups of the revolutionary
mass, a large, powerful and complex machine, the parties of the Second
International and the trade unions, which in the epoch of the disintegration,
the dying of the bourgeoisie, placed their machine at the service of that
bourgeoisie… . From now on, from this congress, the split in the world
working class will proceed with tenfold greater rapidity. Programme against
programme; tactic against tactic; method against method.

To be sure, no Communist underestimated the negative consequences of any
split in the workers’ movement. However, convinced as the Communists
were that the world was in a period of ‘sharp civil war’, and that the time
of the seizure of power was near, at least in the most advanced countries,
they decided, without a real preliminary discussion, to apply these conditions.”

– Pierre Broue, The German Revolution, 1917-1923. Translated by John Archer and edited by Ian Birchall and Brian Pearce. Brill: London & New York, 2005. pp. 422-427

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