Who is F. Claudin?
In the "Preface" to the 1975 English translation, we read:
"A leader of the Young Communists in Madrid and a student of architecture, Fernando Claudin abandoned, in or about 1933, all personal ambitions in order to become a functionary of the revolution".
Can one become "a functionary of revolution"? The expression only makes sense if we understand that Claudin was a member of the Spanish Communist Party (PCE), a party that played an openly counter-revolutionary, Stalinist role during the Spanish revolution (civil war), 1936-39. Thus, he was "a functionary", i.e. a counterrevolutionary, in a revolution.
So, Claudin was a functionary in the apparatus of the PCE ("elected to the Central Committee of the Spanish Communist Party as leader of the Youth movement and was a member of the Political Bureau from 1947 to 1965"), contributed to the defeat of the Spanish revolution, emigrated with most of the leaders of the PCE, engaged in underground activities against the regime of Franco. In 1964 he was expelled by the Stalinist party. Examples of similar "purges" we see in the modern history of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation.
Chapter 1: the dissolution of Comintern
Claudin looks at the final period of the Comintern, and the period of the Cominform (1947-1956). We note that neither the Second, nor the Third Internationals stood the test of a world war. The Second was dissolved in 1914, informally. The Third was dissolved formally in 1943. This shows how important is a war for testing an International, or a party. Today, the attitude of "the left" (socialists, communists, Trotskyists, anarchists, Maoists, Stalinists) to the war between Georgia and Russia in August 2008, and the issuing preparations for a big confrontation between the USA and Russia, is a test for these left. Do these adopt a nationalist position (e.g. "Left Russia" writes, in regard to the war between Georgia and Russia: "Russia is standing face to face with direct aggression of imperialism...")? Or have they adopted an "internationalist" position, as those jackasses who brag about "an imperialist" character of Russia, and "oil pipeline" as the main reason for this war?
Stalin was able to “liquidate” the Third International for the same reasons he was able to liquidate “the old guard” of the Bolshevik party. The name for this is reaction, "Thermidor" in the Russian revolution, and reaction, "Thermidor" in the world revolution, following the world revolutionary upsurge in the wake of World War I. Course towards “socialism in one country” (in the USSR) is an early stage of renouncing revolution altogether, betrayal of revolution, and leading the country, and the world, towards Restoration of capitalism.
The Comintern was dissolved in order to accommodate the interests of the US and British imperialism, with whom Stalin aligned himself against Nazi Germany. Roosevelt and Churchill promised "the Second Front” (its main objective was to prevent revolution in Europe), and he dissolved the Comintern. This was to “guarantee” that the objectives of the USSR in the war would not be revolutionary.
Experience of WWII shows that imperialism enters upon the path of war after it is experiencing the most acute economic crisis, out of which it can not find an exit by ordinary (economic) means. This is what we now see in regard to the USA and Western Europe. For example, "The New York Times", on December 6th, 2008, carries this story:
Workers blamed Bank of America, which they said had served as an important lender to Republic Windows, for cutting off credit to the company and preventing workers from being paid. Some workers carried signs and stickers criticizing the bank: “You got bailed out, we got sold out.”
Morality of the story:
1) A newspaper of liberal capitalism carries a story sympathetic to the workers.
2) A workers' struggle against financial capital is intensifying in the heart of imperialism.
3) A producing company is experiencing a sharp decline in sales and hence fires its workers.
4) The workers are used to all sorts of capitalist cushions, such as vacation and severance pay.
5) The workers are united in a union.
6) The workers "have nothing to lose at this point".
7) The police is not touching the workers who do nothing "of a criminal nature at this time", except occupying private property. Hence, the capital is afraid of a bigger fight, and want to handle the situation peacefully.
One obvious escape from this predicament is to paint an outside enemy. "A little victorious war" has already been started in Afghanistan, in 2001, and in Iraq, in 2003, and these are nowhere to drawing to a close (December 8, 2008: 100 NATO trucks were destroyed by Taliban in Pakistan). So, what is left is "a big victorious war". Draw Russia as an international outrage. And look at the front page of "The New York Times", December 8th, 2008: "Kremlin rules".
Chapter 2: the crisis of theory
“World-wide nature of the socialist revolution followed, for Marx, from the very nature of modern productive forces, which makes capitalism a world system… A forteriori, socialism, being the product … of a transition of the productive forces to a still higher level, can not really exist otherwise than as a world system”. If socialism is a world system, then it can not be established otherwise than by a world party. And this can not be otherwise than through a world war. The obvious scenario is this: imperialists start "a big victorious war", further disrupt the world productive forces, and revolutionary socialists finish up the quarrel by turning the weapons against the perpetrators ("turning the imperialist war into a civil one", to use the expression from Lenin).
Conclusions: 1) socialists of the world must build a unified world party, not national ones; 2) Revolutionary socialists see a world war as the most likely period of transition.
“The essential agent in the grand combination of revolutionary forces foreseen by Lenin continued to be the proletariat of the advanced capitalist countries”.
1) Experience of revolutions in XX century revealed that it was mostly peasants led by town intelligentsia who were revolutionary. E.g. China, Cuba (Mao - a librarian in Beijing, Castro - a son of a landowner, a student of law at Havana University).
2) With the rise of automation and IT technologies, the nature of production is transformed so that proletariat is no longer an advanced productive class, but is rather a vestige of the past. In other words, the more backward strata of the population become manual workers*. Can we call the IT workers "proletariat"? I don't think so. We can not call a sansculotte of the times of the French revolution "a proletariat", and hence we can not call a worker of the IT period "a proletariat". The sansculotte worked in a shop where there were no machines. The industrial worker of England worked in a factory with mechanical machines; the main moving force was the steam. Workers of IT work with computers, i.e. electronic machines, while those whom we traditionally call the "proletariat" work with mechanical tools and machines. The IT workers and proletariat have different relationship to their means of production. Almost all IT workers own a computer and have an access to Internet. Very few of industrial workers own their means of production. For example, the miners don't own the mine and the corresponding tools necessary for mining. Moreover, as experience shows, the most important tool in modern production is not the computer, but the knowledge which the workers develop in the process of work. For example, the richest man in the world is Bill Gates, as he invented the Windows computer operational system used by most of the computers these days (free operational systems, such as Linux, are just starting to become popular among average users).
3) Europe, the USA, etc. i.e. the centers of imperialism, have become mired in exploitation of the world so that their workers share in the surplus-value extracted from those countries (e.g. from China). Hence, these workers can not be revolutionary, and only certain sections within these regions (e.g. Irish workers in England, black and other national minority workers in the USA) can act as auxiliary revolutionary forces. A world revolutionary party is expected to be formed in the Third World, and in the transitional states now undergoing Restoration of capitalism. In fact, these later states are likely candidates as breeding ground of world revolutionary party because Restoration takes them up to the brink of a civil war, and hence a strong pressure on the people to become politically conscious.
Causes of world wars, in general, are: 1) inter-imperialist rivalries, 2) class contradictions between states, as manifested in Hitler's attack of the USSR in 1941, and "the Cold War" which followed the closing of WWII.
The most critical theoretical problem to tackle today, for socialism, is the nature of the regimes now in existence in the countries of the former “socialist camp”. This will define us vis-à-vis other socialist trends and thinkers. We must clearly understand the nature of wars in such former states as Yugoslavia and the USSR. Soon such wars will be seen in China. Imperialism wants us to see these as wars of "big nations" oppressing "the little nations" (e.g. Serbia oppressing Bosnia, Russia oppressing Georgia). But in reality these are civil wars between two or more factions of bureaucracy and gangsters who attempt to divide up the state property. Neither of the sides in the conflicts must be supported, but both must be fought.
Modern “revolutionary” parties are characterized by: 1) lack of theory, 2) routine-ridden, thoughtless"activism". Both of these qualities are used by imperialists and bureaucracy for their purposes.
* Bukharin noticed “the structural changes observable in the industrial wage-earning class in Germany; the percentage of office-workers among them had increased from 11.1 per cent in 1907 to 36.5 per cent in 1925-6.”
Chapter 3: Monolithicity
Decay of the Russian revolution = decay of the Communist International. Hence, we have to understand the decay of the first to understand the decay of the second. Causes of decay of the Russian revolution have been best covered by Trotsky. These are: 1) defeat of revolutions in the West, first in Germany; 2) low level of material culture in USSR, relative to the most advanced capitalism, 3) and hence, growth of bureaucracy, a slow down in development of self-management.
As a result of the growth of bureaucracy in the Soviet state apparatus, we see “selection within the active nucleus of each national Communist party in favor of those elements that were readiest to submit to the will of the centre in Moscow”. The same process takes place within the CPSU (Communist Party of the Soviet Union), and in the present leadership of Russia, all the way to Putin (remember his servility to Yeltsin, when he was a prime-minister in 1990's). “Political and theoretical discussions (the latter becoming ever less frequent) degenerated into a kind of ritual, by means of which the truth emanating from on high, from the supreme depository of truth, was passed on to those down below”. Look at the latest congress of "United Russia" (in November 2008), the current ruling party in Russia, to see the same lack of political and theoretical discussions, the word of "truth" being spoken by Putin, Medvedev, Gryzlov, and a few other "leaders". The questions addressed to Putin by the Russian people, during his press conference, are pre-selected, "doctored"; they are exactly the questions which he has answers for.
Chapter 4: The crisis of policy (the Spanish revolution)
Membership in an organization is a function of policy. Correct policy – an increase in membership. Wrong policy – decline in membership. Membership of the Comintern was steadily declining, since the death of Lenin. Hence, we can suppose that Comintern after Lenin was following incorrect policies, more and more divorced from reality. To understand what that means look at the latest comments of the Greek communist party about the incident where a 15-year old boy was shot by the police in Greece. It is not possible to understand from their writing what happened. We see just a set of dogmatic assertions with no effort to analyze the situation. This is "a crisis of policy". It reduces to inability for political analysis.
The fate of Comintern was sealed by the victory of Stalinism in USSR. Yet, there are young people in modern Russia who take pride in acknowledging in being Stalinists, e.g. Maria Donchenko, a leader of AKM-TR (Vanguard of Communist Youth - Working Russia). The fate of the Comintern is not a lesson for them.
Stalin in January 1934 said: “quite clearly, things are heading for a new war”. Signing of military pacts – a prelude to a world war. Today: the same thing. Russia has signed military treaty with China, and other states hostile to the U.S. We should suppose that the new world war will use the most modern weapons, such as hydrogen bombs and war in cyberspace. Most likely, neither the regime in Russia, nor in the U.S., will be able to withstand the social pressure from such explosions. What will replace these? The fascists, of the Tim McVeigh type ("Turner's diaries"), or proponents of world socialist revolution, of the Trotsky type?
About Spain in 1936 we read: “the armed combat between revolution and counter-revolution in Spain became automatically transformed into an international problem”. That’s a law of international relations: a civil war in a country immediately becomes an international concern because competing powers want to establish their “influence” in this region. The most important civil wars now is in the former Soviet Union. In August 2008 this was Russia vs. Georgia (South Ossetia); in the future, it may be Russia vs. Ukraine (Crimea), Russia vs. Moldova (Trans-Dneister region), Russia vs. Azerbaijan (Nagorno-Karabakh), etc. The United States, NATO must sooner or later become involved in these civil wars, and here we have fuse for the "big victorious war".
Prior to WWII, “the primary object of Soviet policy was to consolidate the military alliance with France and achieve an understanding with Britain. But neither the bourgeois France of Blum nor the Conservative Britain of Baldwin and Chamberlain could tolerate a victory of the proletarian revolution in Spain”. Hence, a betrayal of that revolution on the part of Stalin; and later - a dissolution of the Comintern.
In Spain, “the entire future of the Republic depended ultimately upon the type of socio-political regime that would be established during the war (1936-39)”, not after. But the position about first fighting the fascism, and the social revolution after the victory, was exactly the position of such people as Dolores Ibarruri (see photo below), a leader of the Spanish Communist Party. “Neither its (PCE) propaganda nor the steps taken with a view to strengthening the army and increasing the production of arms could make up for the vacuum left by the loss of what had been the mainspring of the people’s fighting spirit in the first months: revolutionary enthusiasm”. That’s exactly the situation we have in Russia with Putin-Medvedev regime and the offensive by the U.S. What enthusiasm can there be towards a regime which oppresses its people, while promoting the oligarchs? A regime which does not allow the modern production techniques to develop? A regime that is corrupted from top to bottom? In case of war,revolutionaries’ best chance lies in fighting a guerrilla war, similar to the one in Yugoslavia during WWII, and in Afghanistan and Iraq in XXI century.
In Spain: “Guerrilla activity on a wide scale, for which favorable conditions existed in a number of regions of Spain, would not merely have considerably reinforced the military power of the Republic and the likelihood of victory but would also have made possible, in the event of defeat of ‘conventional warfare’, the creation of bases for continuing the armed struggle over a long period, so as to merge, when the world war came, with the anti-Hitlerite resistance”. Revolutionaries all over the world must work for anti-NATO resistance. The main roadblock to this strategy are going to be the CP’s and their "left" friends. The CP's will say: "first defeat the NATO, revolution will come afterward". But we must say: "revolution and defeat of NATO must come together". One is impossible without the other. Defeat of NATO is impossible when a country is headed by people such as S.Milosevic of Yugoslavia, or S. Hussein of Iraq. Resistance in Iraq will not succeed, unless it grows over the Islamist, nationalist stage, and develops into a socialist revolution.
(Listen to "Adagio " by Rodrigo, 1937)
An Indian Communist, M. N. Roy, said at an early Congress of Comintern: “thanks to the resources drawn from the colonies, European capitalism was in a position to go as far as would be politically necessary in making economic concessions to the proletariat of Europe”. A resolution of the Congress of Comintern said: “Extra profit gained in the colonies is the mainstay of modern capitalism, and so long as the latter is not deprived of this source of extra profit it will not be easy for the European working class to overthrow the capitalist order”. Hence, the world strategy for revolution: first revolution in the the former pseudo-socialist states and the Third World countries. Then, finish up by landing the revolutionary troops in the centers of imperialism.
We must keep in mind the following: “At the Fourth Congress of the Comintern, Tan Malaka, representing the Communist Party of the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) strongly criticized the blanket condemnation of Pan-Islamism, explaining the revolutionary anti-imperialist significance of a considerable portion of this movement, and how the attitude taken up by the Comintern had been skillfully used by the bourgeois nationalists of the Dutch East Indies in order to isolate the Communists from the peasant masses”. Thus, in Indonesia, Iraq, etc. there are Islamists and Islamists. One section of the Islamist movement, those who attack tourists from the imperialist countries, has a potential to grow into a revolutionary socialist party.
Other resources on the Spanish revolution:
George Orwell, "Homage to Catalonia", 1938
George Orwell, "Looking back at the Spanish civil war", 1943
Next: F. Claudin, Part 2