Communist Organisation: The Struggle of Marxism against Political Adventurism

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In the first three parts of this series of articles, we have seen how Bakuninism, supported and manipulated by the ruling classes, and by a whole network of political parasites, conducted a hidden struggle against the First International, In particular, this struggle was directed against the establishment of truly proletarian principles and rules of functioning within the International. Whereas the statutes of the International Workers' Association, defending a unitary, collective, centralised, transparent, disciplined mode of functioning, represented a qualitative leap beyond the previous sectarian, hierarchical, conspirational phase of the workers' movement, Bakunin's Alliance mobilised all the non-proletarian elements who did not want to accept this great step forward. With the defeat of the Paris Commune and the international reflux of the class struggle after 1871, the bourgeoisie redoubled its efforts to destroy the International, and above all to discredit the Marxist vision of a workers' party and its organisational principles which was increasingly establishing itself. Thus, before disbanding, the International staged an open and decisive confrontation with Bakuninism at its Hague Congress in 1872. Realising that an International cannot continue to exist in the face of a major defeat of the world proletariat, the major concern of the Marxists at the Hague Congress was that the political and organisational principles it had defended against Bakuninism could be passed on to future generations of revolutionaries, and serve as the basis for future Internationals. This was also why the revelations of the Hague Congress about Bakunin's conspiracy inside and against the International were published and thus made available to the whole working class.

Perhaps the most important single lesson of the struggle against Bakunin's Alliance which the First International has passed on to us, is on the danger which declassed elements in general, and political adventurism in particular, represent for communist organisations. At the same time, it is precisely this lesson which has been most completely ignored or underestimated by many groups of the present revolutionary milieu. This is why the last part of our series on the struggle against Bakuninism is devoted to this question.

The historic importance of the First International's analysis of Bakunin

Why did the First International not decide to treat its struggle against Bakuninism as a purely internal affair, of no concern to those outside the organisation? Why did it insist so much on the lessons of this struggle being passed on for the future? At the basis of the Marxist organisational concept is the conviction that revolutionary communist organisations are a product of the proletariat. Historically speaking, they have been given a mandate by the working class. As such, they have a responsibility to justify their actions to the class as a whole, in particular to other political organisations and expressions of the class: to the proletarian milieu. This is a mandate not only for the present, but towards history itself. In the same way, it is the responsibility of future generations of revolutionaries to accept the mandate passed on by history, to learn from and judge the struggles of their predecessors.

This is why the last great struggle of the First International was devoted to revealing to the world proletariat and to history the plot organised by Bakunin and his followers against the workers' party. And this is why it is the responsibility of Marxist organisations today to draw these lessons of the past, in order to be armed in the struggle against present day Bakuninism, present day political adventurism.

Understanding the historical danger which the lessons drawn by the First International represented for its own class interests, the bourgeoisie, in reply to the revelations of the Hague Congress, did everything in its power to discredit this effort. The bourgeois press, and bourgeois politicians declared that the fight against Bakuninism was not a struggle of principle, but a sordid power struggle within the International. Thus, Marx was alleged to have eliminated his rival Bakunin through a campaign of lies. In other words, the bourgeoisie tried to convince the working class that its organisations function in exactly the same way, and are thus no better than those of the exploiters. The fact that the vast majority of the International supported Marx was put down to the "triumph of the spirit of authoritarianism" within its ranks, and to the alleged tendency of its members to see the enemies of the Association lurking everywhere. The Bakuninists and the Lassalleans spread rumours that Marx himself was an agent of Bismarck.

As we know, these are exactly the same accusations which are raised by the bourgeoisie, by political parasitism against the ICC today.

 

Such denigrations on the part of the bourgeoisie, spread by political parasitism, inevitably accompany every proletarian organisational fight. Much more serious and dangerous is when such denigrations find a certain echo within the revolutionary camp itself. This was the case with Franz Mehring's biography of Marx. In this book Mehring, who belonged to the determined left wing of the Second International, declared that the pamphlet of the Hague Congress on the Alliance was "inexcusable" and "unworthy of the International". In his book, Mehring defended not only Bakunin, but also Lassalle and Schweitzer against the accusations made by Marx and the Marxists. The main accusation made by Mehring against Marx was that he had abandoned the Marxist method in his writings against Bakunin. Whereas in all his other works, Marx had always departed from a materialist class analysis of events, in his analysis of Bakunin's Alliance he tried, according to Mehring, to explain the problem through the personality and actions of a small number of individuals, the leaders of the Alliance. In other words, instead of a class analysis, he accused Marx of falling into a personalised, conspirational vision. Trapped within this vision, Marx was, still according to Mehring, obliged to greatly exaggerate the faults and the sabotage of Bakunin, but also of the leaders of Lassalleanism in Germany[1].

In fact, by refusing "on principle" to examine the material which Marx and Engels presented on Bakunin, Mehring declared:

 

"What has lent their other polemical writings their peculiar attraction and lasting value, the desire for new insights brought to light by the negative critique, is completely missing in this work" (Mehring: Karl Marx).

 

Here again, it is the same critique which has been made inside the revolutionary milieu today against the ICC. In answering these critiques, we will now demonstrate that the position of Marx against Bakunin was indeed based on a materialist class analysis. This was the analysis of political adventurism and the role of the declassed. It is this crucially important "new insight" of "lasting value" which Mehring[2], and with him the majority of present day revolutionary groups, have completely overseen or misunderstood.

The declassed: enemies of proletarian organisations

Contrary to what Mehring believed, the First International did indeed provide a class analysis of the origins and social basis of Bakunin's Alliance.

 

"Its founders and the representatives of the workers' organisations of the Old and New Worlds who at International Congresses sanctioned the General Rules of the Association, forgot that the very scope of its programme would allow the declassed elements to worm their way in and establish, at its very heart, secret organisations whose efforts, instead of being directed against the bourgeoisie and the existing governments, would be turned against the International itself. Such has been the case with the Alliance of Socialist Democracy" ("Report on the Alliance published by the Hague Congress, Introduction". Quoted from Minutes and Documents of the Hague Congress P. 505).

The conclusion to the same document summarises the main aspects of Bakunin's political programme in four points, two of which again emphasise the decisive role of the declassed.

 

"1. All the depravities in which the life of declassed persons ejected from the upper strata of society must inevitably become involved are proclaimed to be so many ultra-revolutionary virtues" (...)

 

"4. The economic and political struggle of the workers for their emancipation is replaced by the universal pan-destructive acts of heroes of the underworld - this latest incarnation of revolution. In a word, one must let loose the street hooligans suppressed by the workers themselves in "the revolutions on the Western classical model" and thus place gratuitously at the disposal of the reactionaries a well-disciplined gang of agents provocateurs" (Minutes and Documents p611).

And the conclusion adds:

 

"The resolutions adopted by the Hague Congress against the Alliance were therefore merely a matter of duty; the Congress could not allow the International, that great creation of the proletariat, to fall into nets spread by the riff-raff of the ruling classes" (p611-612). The report is signed by the members of the Congress Commission investigating the Alliance: Dupont, Engels, Frankel, Le Moussu, Marx, Seraillier.

 

In other words, the social basis of the Alliance consisted of the riff-raff of the ruling classes, the declasses, attempting to mobilise the riff-raff of the working class, the lumpen-proletariat, for its intrigues against communist organisations.

 

Bakunin himself was the embodiment of the declassed aristocrat.

"...having acquired in his youth all the vices of the imperial officers of the past (he was an officer), he applied to the revolution all the evil instincts of his tartar and lordly origin. This type of Tartar lord is well known. It was a true unfettering of evil passions: beating, thrashing and torturing their serfs, raping women, being drunk from one morning to the next, inventing with a barbaric refinement all the forms of the most abject profanation of human nature and dignity - such was the life, agitated and revolutionary, of those lords. Well, did not the Tartar Horostratus lord apply to the revolution, for want of feudal serfs, all his base instincts, all the evil passions of his brethren" (Report of Utin to the Hague Congress. M + D, p 448).

 

It is this attraction of the scum of the upper and of the lower classes for each other which explains the fascination of Bakunin, the declassed aristocrat, for the criminal milieu and the lumpen-proletariat. The "theoretician" Bakunin needs the criminal energies of the underworld, of the lumpen-proletariat, to carry out his programme. This role was assumed by Nechayev in Russia, who put into practice what Bakunin preached, manipulating and blackmailing the members of his Committee and executing those who tried to leave it. Bakunin did not hesitate to theorise this alliance of the declassed "great man" and the criminal.

"Brigandage is one of the most honourable forms of the Russian people's life. The brigand is a hero, a protector, a people's avenger, the irreconcilable enemy of the state, and of all social and civil order established by the state, a fighter to the death against the whole civilisation of the civil servants, the nobles, the priests and the crown ... He who fails to understand brigandage understands nothing of Russian popular history. He who is not in sympathy with it, cannot be in sympathy with Russian popular life, and has no heart for the measureless, ago-long sufferings of the people; he belongs to the enemy camp, among the supporters of the state (Bakunin: The Setting of the Revolutionary Question, quoted in the Report on the Alliance, M+D p573).

The declassed in politics: a breeding ground for provocation

The main motive for such declassed elements to enter politics is not identification with the cause of the working class or a passion for its goal of communism, but a burning hatred and spirit of revenge of the uprooted against society. In his "Revolutionary Catechism" Bakunin thus declares.

 

"He is not a revolutionary if he holds on to anything whatever in this world. He must not hesitate before the destruction of any position, tie or man belonging to this world. He must hate everything and everybody equally" (From the Documents of the Hague Congress P.601).

 

Lacking any ties of loyalty to any class of society, and believing in no social perspective except their own advancement, the declassed pseudo-revolutionary is not animated by the goal of a future, more progressive form of society, but by a nihilistic wish to destroy.

"While not recognising any other activity but that of destruction, we acknowledge that the forms in which it manifests itself may be extremely varied: poison, dagger, noose, etc. The revolution sanctifies all without distinction" (Bakunin: The Principles of Revolution. M + D p 575).  

 

It should go without saying that such a mentality, such a social environment is a veritable breeding ground for political provocation. If the provocateurs, police informers and political adventurers, these most dangerous enemies of proletarian organisations, are employed by the ruling classes, they are nevertheless spontaneously produced by the process of declassment constantly going on above all under capitalism. A few brief extracts from Bakunin's "Revolutionary Catechism" will suffice to illustrate this point.

§10 advises the "true militant" to exploit his comrades.

 

"Each comrade should have at hand several revolutionaries from the second and third rank, that is, from those who have not been fully initiated. He must consider them as part of the general revolutionary capital placed at his disposal. He must expand his share of the capital economically and try to extract from it as much profit as possible".

 

§ 18 puts forward how to live off the rich.

 

"We must exploit them in every way possible, outwit them, confuse them, and, whenever possible, by possessing ourselves of their filthy secrets, make them our slaves. In this way, their power, connections, influence and wealth will become an inexhaustible treasure and an invaluable help in various enterprises."

§19 proposes the infiltration of the liberals and other parties.

 

"We can conspire with these on their own programme, putting up an appearance of following them blindly. We must get them into our hands, seize their secrets, compromise them completely, so that retreat becomes impossible for them, and make use of them to cause trouble within the state".

 

§20 certainly speaks for itself.

"The fifth category consists of doctrinaires, conspirators, revolutionaries, all those who babble at meetings and on paper. They must be constantly encouraged and inveigled into practical and dangerous demonstrations which will have the effect of eliminating the majority, while making true revolutionaries out of some ".

§21 "The sixth category is very important - the women, who must be divided into three classes: first useless women without spirit or heart, who must be exploited in the same way as the third and fourth categories of men; second, fervent, devoted and capable women, who are nevertheless not with us because they have not yet arrived at a practical and phrase less revolutionary awareness; they must be used like the fifth category of men; finally, women who are entirely with us, that is to say, who have been fully initiated and who have accepted our programme in its entirety. We must treat them as the most valuable of our treasures, for without their help we can do nothing" (M+D p600-602).

What is striking is the similarity between the methods expounded by Bakunin, and those employed by present day religious sects, which in general, although dominated by the state, are usually founded around declassed adventurers. As we have seen in the previous articles, Bakunin's organisational model was freemasonry, the precursor of the modem phenomenon of religious sects.

A terrible weapon against the workers' movement

The activities of declassed political adventurers are particularly dangerous for the workers' movement. Proletarian revolutionary organisations can only exist and function properly on the base of a profound mutual trust between the militants and between the groups of the communist milieu. The success of political parasitism in general, and of adventurers in particular, depends on the contrary precisely on the capacity to undermine mutual trust, destroying the political principles of behaviour upon which they are based.

 

In a letter to Nechayev, dated June 1870, Bakunin clearly reveals his intentions regarding the International.

"Those societies whose goals are close to our own, will have to be made to unite with us or at least submit to us, without even noticing this. In doing this, the unreliable elements have to be removed from their midst. Those societies hostile or harmful to us must be destroyed. Finally, the government has to be removed. All of this cannot be achieved by the truth alone. It won't work without tricks, cleverness and lies".

 
One of these classical "tricks" consists in accusing the workers' organisation of employing the same methods as the adventurer himself. Thus, in his "Letter to the brothers in Spain", Bakunin claims that the 1872 London Conference resolution against secret societies, aimed in particular against the Alliance, has only been adopted by the International "in order to clear the way for their own conspiracy, for the secret society, which under the leadership of Marx has existed since 1848, founded by Marx, Engels and the deceased Wolff, and which is none other than the almost exclusively Germanic society of authoritarian communists (...)

One has to recognise that the struggle which has broken out in the midst of the International is none other than between two secret societies". In the German language edition there is a footnote of the anarchist historian Max Nettlau, a passionate admirer of Bakunin, admitting that these accusations against Marx are completely untrue (Bakunin: Gott und der Staat ... p216-218). See also Bakunin's anti-semitic Rapports personnels avec Marx, where Marxism is presented as part of a Jewish conspiracy allegedly linked to the Rothschild family, and which we refer to in our article "Marxism against Freemasonry", International Review 87.

The project of Bakuninism is Bakunin

The methods employed by Bakunin were those of the declassed rabble. But what goal did they serve?

 

The sole political concern of Bakunin was: Bakunin. He entered the workers' movement in pursuit of his own personal project.

 

The International was very clear about this. The first major text of the General Council on the Alliance, the internal circular on the Alleged Splits in the International already declares Bakunin's goal to be that of "replacing the General Council with his own personal dictatorship". The Congress report on the Alliance develops on this theme.

 

"The International was already firmly established when Mikhail Bakunin took it into his head to play the part of the proletariats emancipator (...) In order to win recognition for himself as head of the International, he had to present himself as head of another army whose absolute devotion to him was to be insured by a secret organisation. And having openly planted his society in the International, he counted on extending its ramifications into all sections and on taking over absolute control by this means" (M + D pp509, 511).

This personal project existed long before Bakunin thought of joining the International. When Bakunin escaped from Siberia and came to London in 1861, he drew a negative balance sheet of his first attempt to establish himself in western European revolutionary circles - during the revolutions of 1848-49.

 

"It is bad to be active in a foreign land. I experienced this in the revolutionary years: neither in France nor in Germany was I able to gain a foothold. And so, while preserving all my ardent sympathy of former years for the progressive movement of the whole world, in order not to waste the rest of my life I must henceforth limit my direct activity to Russia, Poland and the Slavs" (Bakunin: To the Russian Polish and All Slav Friends, M+D p615):

Here, Bakunin's motive for his change of orientation is clearly not the good of the cause, but the question of "gaining a foothold": the first characteristic of political adventurers.

Bakunin seeks to win the ruling classes for his personal ambitions

This text is also known as Bakunin's Pan-Slavic Manifesto.

 

"They say that Emperor Nicholas himself, not long before his death, when preparing to declare war on Austria, wanted to call all the Austrian and Turkish Slavs, Magyars and Italians to a general uprising. He had stirred up against himself an eastern storm and, to defend himself against it; he wanted to transform himself from a despotic emperor into a revolutionary emperor" (M+D p616).

 

In his pamphlet The People's Cause from 1862, on the role of the contemporary tsar Alexander II of Russia, Bakunin declares that it is "he alone who could accomplish in Russia the most serious and most beneficial revolution without shedding a drop of blood. He can still do so now. (...) To stop the movement of the people who are wakening up after a thousand years of sleep is impossible. But if the tsar were to put himself firmly and boldly at the head of the movement, his power for the good and the glory of Russia would be unlimited" (M+D pp619-620).

Continuing in this vein, Bakunin calls on the tsar to invade Western Europe.

 

"It is time for the Germans to go to Germany. If the tsar had realised that henceforth he must be the head not of an enforced centralisation but of a free federation of free peoples, then, relying on a solid and regenerated force, allying himself with Poland and the Ukraine, breaking all the detested German alliances, and boldly raising the pan-Slav banner, he would become the saviour of the Slav world" (M+D p622).

 

The International comments on this as follows.

 

"Pan-Slavism is an invention of the St. Petersburg cabinet and has no other goal but to extend Russia's frontiers further west and south. But since one dare not announce to the Austrian, Prussian and Turkish Slavs that their destiny is to be absorbed into the great Russian Empire, one represents Russia to them as the power which will deliver them from the foreign yoke and which will reunite them in a great free federation" (M+D p616).

But what, apart from his well-known hatred for Germans, prompted him to so openly support the main bastion of counter-revolution in the whole of Europe, the Muscovite autocracy? In reality, Bakunin was attempting to gain the support of the tsar for his own political ambitions in Western Europe. The radical western political milieu was riddled with tsarist agents, groups and papers putting forward Pan-Slavism and other pseudo revolutionary causes. The Russian court had its agents and sympathisers in the most influential places, as the example of Lord Palmerston, Britain's most powerful politician of the day, illustrates. Clearly, Moscow's protection would be invaluable for the realisation of Bakunin's personal ambitions.

Bakunin hoped to persuade the tsar to give his internal policy a revolutionary-democratic tinge by convoking a national assembly, thus allowing Bakunin to organise the Polish and other radical and émigré movements in the west as Russia's ultra-left Trojan horse in Western Europe.

 

"Unfortunately, the tsar did not deem it appropriate to convoke the national assembly for which Bakunin, in this pamphlet, was already proposing his candidature. He gained nothing out of his electoral manifesto and his genuflexions before Romanov. Humiliatingly deceived in his frank confidence, he had no alternative but to throw himself into pan-destructive anarchy" (The Alliance and the IWA p625).

 

Having been disappointed by tsarism, but unwavering in pursuit of his personal leadership over the European revolutionary movements, Bakunin gravitated towards freemasonry in the mid-1860s in Italy, himself founding various secret societies (see part 1 of this series). Using these methods, Bakunin infiltrated first the bourgeois League of Peace and Freedom, which he tried to unite with the International "on equal terms" under his own leadership (see part 2). When this also failed, he infiltrated and attempted to take over the International itself, above all via his secret Alliance. For this project, entailing the destruction of the world wide political organisation of the working class, Bakunin finally won the whole-hearted support of the ruling classes:

"The whole of the liberal and police press openly sided with them [the Alliance]; in their personal defamation of the General Council they were backed by self-styled reformers from all countries" (The Alliance and the IWA. M + D P.535).

Disloyalty towards all classes, hatred of society

Although seeking their support, Bakunin was never simply an agent of tsarism, freemasonry, the Peace League, or the western police press. As a true declasse Bakunin felt no more sense of loyalty to the ruling than to the exploited classes of society. On the contrary, his ambition was to manipulate and deceive the working and the ruling classes alike, in order to realise his personal ambitions and take revenge on society as a whole. This is why the ruling classes, perfectly aware of this fact, used Bakunin whenever it suited them, but never trusted him, and were delighted to abandon him to his fate as soon as his usefulness had expired. Thus, as soon as Bakunin had been publicly exposed by the International, his political career was finished.

Bakunin felt a genuine, burning hatred against the ruling feudal and capitalist classes. But since he hated the working class even more, and generally despised the exploited, he saw revolution or social change as the task of a small but determined elite of unscrupulous declasses under his own personal leadership. This vision of social transformation was necessarily a fantastic, mystical absurdity, since it did not emanate from any class soundly rooted in social reality, but from the vengeful fantasy of an outsider.

 

Above all, Bakunin like all political adventurers believed in changing society, not via the class struggle, but via the manipulative skills of the revolutionary brotherhood.

 

"A real revolution does not need individuals standing at the head of the crowd and commanding it, but men hidden invisibly among the crowd and forming an invisible link between one crowd and another, and thus invisibly giving one and the same direction, one spirit and character to the movement. This is the sole purpose of bringing in a secret preparatory organisation and only to this extent is it necessary" (Bakunin: Principles of Revolution, M+D p574).

Such a vision was not new, but was cultivated inside the "Illuminati" wing of freemasonry since the time of the French Revolution, and which later became specialised in infiltrating the workers' movement. Bakunin shared the same adventurist idea of political, and above all of total, anarchic personal "liberation" through a machiavellian policy of infiltration, in which the different classes of society are played off against each other.

 

This is why the political project of the Alliance was to infiltrate and take over not only the International, but also the organisations of the ruling class.

 

Thus, 14 of Bakunin's revolutionary catechism tells us: "A revolutionary must penetrate everywhere, into the upper and the middle classes alike, into the merchant's shop, into the church, into the aristocratic palace, into the bureaucratic, military and literary world, into the Third Department [secret police] and even into the imperial palace" (M+D p601).

The secret statutes of the Alliance declare:

 

"All the international brethren know one another. No political secret must ever exist among them. None may take part in any secret society whatsoever without the definite consent of his committee, and in case of need, should the latter demand it, without that of the Central Committee. And he may take part only on condition that he discloses to them all secrets that could interest them, directly or indirectly" .

 

The Hague Congress Commission report comments on this passage as follows:

"The Pietris and the Stiebers only use inferior or lost people as informers; but by sending their false brethren into secret societies to betray secrets of the latter, the Alliance imposes the role of spy on the very men who, according to its plan, should take control of the ‘world revolution'":

The essence of political adventurism

Throughout its history, the workers' movement has been afflicted by petty bourgeois reformists and opportunists, and sometimes by brazen careerists, who do not believe in the importance or the future of the workers' movement, and who do not care about it. The political adventurer, on the contrary, is convinced that the workers' movement is something of historic importance. On this point, the adventurist agrees with the revolutionary marxist. Its for this reason that the adventurist joins the workers' movement. An adventurist is attracted neither by the grey boredom of reformism, nor by the mediocrity of a good job. On the contrary, he is someone determined to play an historic role. This great ambition distinguishes the adventurer from the petty careerist and opportunist.

Whereas the revolutionary joins the workers' movement in order to help it fulfil its historic mission, the adventurist joins it in order to make the workers' movement serve his own "historic" mission. This is what sharply distinguishes the adventurer from the proletarian revolutionary. The adventurer is no more a revolutionary than the careerist or the petty bourgeois reformer. The difference is that the adventurer has an insight into the historic importance of the workers' movement. But he relates to this in a completely parasitic manner.

 

The adventurer is in general a declasse. There are many such people within bourgeois society, with great ambitions, and with an extremely high estimation of their own abilities, but who are unable to fulfil their high flying ambitions within the ruling class. Full of bitterness and cynicism, such people often slide towards the lumpen-proletariat, living a bohemian or criminal existence. Others prove an ideal work force for the state as informers and agents provocateurs. But among this declassed magma, there are a few exceptional individuals with the political talent to recognise that the workers' movement can give them a second chance. They can try to use it as a springboard to fame and importance, and thus take revenge on the ruling class, which in reality is the object of their efforts and ambitions. Such people are constantly resentful of the failure of society at large to recognise their alleged genius. At the same time they are fascinated, not by marxism or the workers' movement, but by the power of the ruling class and its methods of manipulation.

The behaviour of the adventurer is conditioned by the fact that he does not share the goal of the movement he has joined. Evidently he must hide his real, personal project from the movement as a whole. Only his closest disciples can be allowed even an idea of his real attitude towards the movement.

 

As we have seen in the case of Bakunin, there is an inherent tendency for political adventurers to collaborate in secret with the ruling classes. In reality, such collaboration belongs to the very essence of adventurism. How else is the adventurer supposed to achieve his "historic role"? How else is he to prove himself to the class from whom he feels rejected or ignored? In fact, it is only the bourgeoisie which can bestow the admiration and recognition which the adventurer seeks, and which the workers are not going to give him.

 
Some of the best known adventurers in the workers' movement were also police agents, such as Malinovsky. But in general, adventurers do not work directly for the state, but for themselves. When the Bolsheviks opened the files of the Russian political police, the Okhrana, they found proofs that Malinovsky was a police agent. But no such proofs were found concerning Bakunin. Marx and Engels never accused either Bakunin or Lassalle of being paid agents. And even to this day there is no evidence that they were.

But as Marx and Engels realised, the political adventurer is not less, but more dangerous to proletarian organisations than common police agents. This is why agents uncovered within the International were quickly expelled and denounced, without any major disruptions to its work, whereas the uncovering of Bakunin's activities cost several years and threatened the very existence of the organisation. It is not difficult for communists to understand that a police informer is their enemy. The adventurer, on the contrary, to the extent that he has been working on his own account, will always be defended by petty bourgeois sentimentalism, as in the sad case of Mehring.

 

History shows how dangerous this sentimentalism is. Whereas the likes of Bakunin and Lassalle, or the "National Bolsheviks" around Laufenberg and Wolltheim at the end of World War I in Hamburg, made secret deals with the ruling class against the workers' movement, many other "great" adventurists joined the bourgeoisie: Parvus, Mussolini, Pilsudski, Stalin and others.

Adventurism and the marxist movement

Long before the foundation of the First International, the marxist movement had developed a full scale analysis of political adventurism as a phenomenon inside the ruling class. This analysis was made above all in relation to Louis Bonaparte, the "emperor" of France in the 1850s/60s. In the struggle against Bakunin, marxism developed all the essential elements of such a phenomenon within the workers' movement, without however using that terminology. In the German workers' movement, the concept of adventurism was developed in the struggle against the Lassallean leader Schweitzer, who in collaboration with Bismarck worked towards maintaining the split within the workers' party. In the 1880s, Engels and other marxists denounced the political adventurism of the leadership of the Social Democratic Federation in Britain, and compared their behaviour to that of the Bakuninists. From that time on, this conception began to be appropriated by the workers' movement as a whole, despite the existence of an opportunist resistance to it. In the Trotskyist movement before the Second World War it still remained an important tool of the defence of the organisation, being correctly applied to the case of Molinier and others.

Today, in the phase of capitalism's decomposition, and the unprecedented acceleration of the process of declassment and lumpenisation, and in face of the offensive of the bourgeoisie against the revolutionary milieu, particularly via parasitism, its a matter of life and death to restore and defend the marxist conception of adventurism, and to renew the struggle against it.

 

Kr

 


[1] Mehring's discrediting of the Marxists struggle against Bakuninism and Lassalleanism was to have devastating effects on the workers' movement for decades to come. Not only did it lead to a partial rehabilitation of political adventurers such as Bakunin or Lassalle. Above all, it allowed the opportunist wing of social democracy before 1914 to banish into oblivion the lessons of the great struggles for the defence of the revolutionary organisations fought in the 1860s and 1870s. This was a decisive element in the opportunist strategy to isolate the Bolsheviks within the Second International, whose struggle against Menshevism stood in this great tradition. The Third International also suffered from this legacy of Mehring. Thus, in 1921, an article by Stoecker "Concerning Bakuninism" bases itself on Mehring's critique of Marx in order to justify the most dangerous and adventurist aspects of the March 1921 action of the KPD in Germany.

 

[2] In the last years of his life, during World War I, Mehring became one of the most passionate defenders of the Bolsheviks within the German Left, thus revising, at least implicitly, his previous critique of Marx on organisational questions.