Revolutionaries at the Second Congress of the Communist International defined the role of the party in the following way:
“The Communist International rejects most decisively the view that the proletariat can carry out its revolution without having an independent political party. Every class struggle is a political struggle. The aim of this struggle, which inevitably turns into civil war, is the conquest of political power. Political power can only be seized, organised and led by a political party, and in no other way.” (‘Theses on the Role of the Party’, our emphasis.)
This position, with certain exceptions, was the position of the vast majority of revolutionaries at that time. Where did it arise? How did it develop?
The origin of this conception of the party must be sought in the general positions defended by the Second International. It coincided with a period when a flourishing capitalism could still allow the winning of lasting reforms by the working class and when revolutionaries wound up relegating the ultimate goal of revolution to a remote and inaccessible future. Social Democracy, understanding that the time was not ripe for a communist revolution, laid the emphasis on trade union work and on the need for a party to devote itself to parliamentary work. As Edward David, an English Social Democrat underlined: “…the brief flowering of revolutionism is most happily past… the party will be able to devote itself to the positive exploitation and the expansion of its parliamentary power.” This was how the ‘revisionism’ of Bernstein and Kautsky was born, i.e. the sharper and sharper separation of the economic activity of the workers (led by the unions) and their political activity (delegated to a mass parliamentary party): this could only lead to the abandonment of the final goal of the workers’ struggles. As early as 1902 Kautsky therefore was proposing a ‘gradual movement, through democratic and imperceptible means, from capitalism to communism.’ The party of the proletariat then had but one sole task - that of participating in parliament with the aim of imposing this progressive movement. The seizure of power was no longer seen as the violent overthrow by the workers themselves of the bourgeois state, as the ‘emancipation of the workers’, but as an affair of parties, as the peaceful conquest of the bourgeois state. This gross distortion of marxism brought with it another one: the proletarian party was no longer seen as that vital fraction which prepares the proletariat to take its destiny into its own hands. Instead the party became a governmental apparatus; the proletariat must delegate its political activity and its power to the party by voting for it in full confidence.
Given that the avowed goal was the ‘conquest’ of the bourgeois state the idea of mass working class political organs did not exist for Social Democracy. The only political organ of the proletariat was the party. If the state could only become proletarian under the control of the proletarian party it was logical to believe, as did the Second International, that the seizure of power could only be organised, undertaken and directed by a party. For this task, and above all in order to lead the struggle for reforms, the party must be a mass, ultra-disciplined and hierarchical organisation. The ideological heritage of bourgeois revolutions weighed heavily on these conceptions!
At the beginning of the Twentieth Century the left elements of Social Democracy began to react in a healthy way against the theses of the Second International. Their great merit lay in perceiving the new epoch that was opening up and in clarifying the role of revolutionaries in the light of that period. Their first reaction centred on the separation made by Bernstein, Kautsky and friends between economic struggles and their ultimate goal — the communist revolution. In his first writings against the Narodniks (Russian populists who supported the idea of a revolution based on the peasant commune), Lenin pointed out the final objectives of the economic struggles of the proletariat:
“The Russian Social Democrats concentrate their activity and attention on the industrial working class. When the advanced elements of this class have assimilated the ideas of scientific socialism and have understood the role of the Russian worker in history, when their ideas have become widespread and the workers have created stable organisations that can transform the present incoherent economic warfare into a conscious class struggle — then the Russian worker will rise up in the van of all the democratic elements, overthrow absolutism, and lead the Russian proletariat (side by side with the proletariat of all countries) into an open political struggle for the victory of the communist revolution.” (Lenin. Collected Works. Vol 1.)
Subsequently Lenin never ceased to struggle fiercely against the view of one part of the Social Democratic Party, the Mensheviks, who failed to see in Russia, the objective conditions for a proletarian revolution. He also turned away from the Social Democratic conception of a mass party. For Lenin the new conditions of struggle meant that there was a need for a minority vanguard party that would work for the transformation of economic struggles into political ones.
In her work Reform or Revolution (1898) Rosa Luxembourg also opposed the opportunist and counter—revolutionary deviations of the Second International. She called to mind, amongst other things that, “for Social Democracy, the struggle within the existing system, day by day, for reforms, for the amelioration of workers conditions, for democratic means, is the only way of intervening in proletarian class struggle and orientating it towards the final goal, i.e. of working for the conquest of political power and the abolition of the wage system.” (R. Luxemburg. Mass Strike, the Party and the Trade Unions, our emphasis.) Rosa Luxembourg also insisted on this unity between the economic struggle and the political struggle, on the fact that defensive struggles are merely a preparation for the final political struggle for the seizure of power.
All over the world the left of Social Democracy affirmed the need for the communist revolution that the new period had put on the agenda. This left opposition arose at Zimmerwald in 1915 and then at Kienthal in 1916 as a bulwark against the wave of chauvinism and nationalism that definitively overwhelmed the Second International and the Unions at the beginning of World War One.
But that bulwark was still weak and immature. The period had changed dramatically. The demise of Social Democracy forced revolutionaries to reject their former ‘reformist’ and unionist- conceptions. It was necessary to develop the communist programme, to adapt it to the new needs of the struggle etc. All this could not take place without casualties. And despite their bitter struggle against the ideas of the past, revolutionaries still felt the weight of Social Democracy on their shoulders. Let us not forget that the political and militant formation of such revolutionaries as Lenin, Luxembourg, Pannekoek etc were burdened by the theoretical baggage of the Second International. Most of these militants first took up arms in a period when capitalism was still progressive and the theses of Kautsky still carried weight. To ‘cast off an old skin’ is never easy and the remnants of old ideas still cling here and there.
For example, the idea still put forward by some revolutionaries, that the proletariat could use democratic institutions to hasten the revolution. Thus at the beginning of the Twentieth Century most communists saw the Paris Commune of 1871 as a model of working class control of a democratic republic, of the use of a democratic institution as a tool for workers power.
“International Socialism considers that the republic is the only possible form of socialist emancipation - with this condition, that the proletariat tears it from the hands of the bourgeoisie and transforms it from ‘a machine for the oppression of one class by another’ into a weapon for the socialist emancipation of humanity.” (L. Trotsky, Thirty Five Years After: 1871 — 1906.)
In fact only the Dutch Left, on the basis of Luxembourg’s analysis in Accumulation of Capital, defended the idea of the bankruptcy of bourgeois revolutions in the period of decadence and the impossibility of struggles for national liberation.
Lenin for his part saw the “need for the proletariat to use all the democratic institutions and aspirations in its class struggle against the bourgeoisie.” (Lenin, Complete Works, vol. 23, 1915—1916.) In Two Tactics of Social Democracy (1905) he defended the idea that “the proletariat must lead its democratic revolution to a successful conclusion by linking itself to the peasant masses in order to obliterate the force of autocracy.” So for the Bolsheviks the creation of any democratic nation state was progressive. For Pannekoek and the Dutch Left on the other hand only the international proletarian revolution constituted a viable perspective in an epoch when the system was revealing its historic bankruptcy by plunging mankind into imperialist massacres.
A further confusion still weighed on the revolutionary movement, an ideological legacy of Social Democracy: a schematic conception of the coming to consciousness of the proletariat, a distorted view of the relationship between the party and the working class. This confusion is particularly clear in the theses in What is to be Done? elaborated by Lenin in 1902. Lenin used this work, produced in a period of reflux in class struggle, in his battle against a school of ideas prevalent in Russia at that time: Economism. A minor offspring of the theories of Bernstein, this current extolled the need for the class struggle to remain on a strictly economic terrain. In contrast to this conception which transformed Marxism into an ideology of historic fatalism, which made a cult out of the passive spontaneity of the workers and condemned the party to inactivity, Lenin showed very forcefully the need for the proletariat to go beyond the economic to the political struggle and defended the power of revolutionary theory and activity. Starting from a correct concern to put forward the ultimate goal of the economic struggle Lenin ended up ‘bending the stick’ too far the other way. Although his aim was to respond to this false separation, introduced by the Economists, between the economic and political aspects of the struggle, by emphasising the political character of these struggles Lenin was led to underestimate the economic struggle. Defensive struggles were no longer seen as a fertile soil for the development of class-consciousness: the political dimension of the movement developed ‘outside the sphere of the relations of production’. The economic and political would meet of course, but somewhat in the manner of two parallel lines that meet at infinity. Furthermore the party becomes the sole body capable of organising this fusion and of bringing consciousness to the workers.
It is therefore not surprising that Lenin took up in his book whole passages from Kautsky’s writings, for his argument rested in fact upon a Social Democratic line of argument. The keystone to What is to be Done? is contained in this now famous quotation taken from an article by Kautsky in Neue Zeit in 1901.
“Of course Socialism, as a doctrine, has its roots in modern economic relationships just as the class struggle of the proletariat has and, just as the latter, emerges from the struggle against the capitalist created poverty and misery of the masses. But socialism and the class struggle arise side by side and not one out of the other; each arises under different conditions. Modern socialist consciousness can arise only on the basis of profound scientific knowledge. Indeed modern economic science is as much a condition for socialist production as, say, modern technology and the proletariat can create neither the one nor the other, no matter how much it my desire to do so; both arise out of the modern social process. The vehicle of science is not the proletariat but the bourgeois intelligentsia: it was in the minds of individual members of this stratum that modern socialism originated and it was they who communicated it to the more intellectually developed proletarians who, in their turn, introduce it into the proletarian class struggle where conditions allow that to be done. Thus socialist consciousness is something introduced into the proletarian class struggle from without and not something that arose within it spontaneously.”
The idea that class consciousness does not arise in a mechanical way from economic struggles is quite correct. But Lenin’s error was to believe that class consciousness cannot develop on the basis of economic struggles and must be introduced from the outside by a party. This incorrect view of the relationship between the party and the workers’ struggles leads to a form of mysticism that finally caused these words to fall from Lenin’s pen.
“…but what is the role of Social Democracy if it is not to be ‘the spirit’ which not only soars above the spontaneous movement but raises it to its programme?” (Lenin, What is to be Done?)
What is more, this apology for technical and scientific knowledge being the unique property of the intellectual specialists fused very neatly with Social Democracy’s vision of the seizure of power by the proletariat. Since the bourgeois state had to be seized by a party and used for the benefit of the proletariat the seizure of power demanded the existence of qualified and intelligent technicians capable of taking over the reins of administrative power!
In her work Social Reform or Revolution Rosa Luxemburg had already put her finger on other aberrations produced by this separation between class consciousness and the struggle itself, between the economic and political aspects of the proletarian struggle. In placing socialist consciousness outside the relations of production Kautsky and Lenin reduced the communist revolution and its development to an abstract and religious ideal. From such a standpoint the socialist programme and, the need for revolution are no longer the fruit of economic realities, the product of the objective conditions of the class struggle. They no longer reflect the ever more blatant internal contradictions of capitalism or the imminence of its collapse but reduce it to an ‘ideal’ whose force of persuasion rests only on the perfection attributed to it. Luxemburg continues her critique:
“We have here, in brief, the explanation of the socialist programme by means of ‘pure reason’. We have here, to use simpler language, an idealist explanation of socialism. The objective necessity of socialism, the explanation of socialism as the result of the material development of society, falls to the ground.” (Luxemburg, Reform or Revolution, 1898.)
In 1904 in a more direct response to What Is To Be Done? she outlines the global framework in which the intervention of revolutionaries is situated.
“The international movement of the proletariat towards its complete emancipation is a process peculiar in the following respect. For the first time in the history of civilisation the people are expressing their will consciously and in opposition to all ruling classes. But this will only be satisfied beyond the bounds of the existing system. Now the mass can only acquire and strengthen this will in the course of their day to day struggle against the existing social order — that is, within the limits of capitalist society. On the one hand we have the mass; on the other its historic goal located outside of existing society. On the one hand we have the day-to-day struggle, on the other the social revolution. Such are the terms of the dialectical contradiction through which the socialist movement makes its way. It follows that this movement can best advance by tacking betwixt and between the two dangers by which it is constantly being threatened. One is the loss of its mass character, the other the abandonment of its goal. One is the danger of sinking back to the condition of a sect; the other the danger of becoming a movement of bourgeois social reform.” (Luxemburg, ‘Organisational Question of Social Democracy’, in Die Neue Zeit, 1904, our emphasis.)
In a polemic that also opposed Lenin, Trotsky took up this correct and dialectical view of the relation between the daily struggle of the proletariat and class consciousness. In a passage entitled ‘Down with Political Substitutionism’ he wrote in 1904:
“The system of political substitutionism, just like the simplistic system of the ‘economists’ proceeds — consciously or not — from an inability to understand the relationship between the objective interests of the proletariat and its consciousness. Marxism teaches that the interests of the proletariat are determined by the objective conditions of its existence. These interests are so powerful and so ineluctable that they finally compel the proletariat to make the realisation of its objective interests its subjective interest. Between these two factors — the objective fact of its class interests and its subjective consciousness — lies the domain that is part of all life - the domain of conflicts and confrontations, errors and disappointments, vicissitudes and defeats. The tactical perspicacity of the proletarian party lies entirely in between these factors and consists in shortening and facilitating the road from one to the other.” (Trotsky, Our Political Tasks, 1904, our emphasis.)
This living and dialectical view of the revolution — in which the proletariat takes its own destiny into its own hands — is Trotsky’s answer to the rigid conception which limits the revolutionary process to a purely technical and organisational preparation of the proletariat for its dictatorship.
But it would be a caricature to simply contrast the substitutionist What Is to be Done of Lenin with the wholly clear and healthy vision of Rosa and Trotsky. The latter, let us not forget, came in the Twenties to defend the militarisation of Labour and the all-powerful dictatorship of the party.
In the first place, Lenin himself, to some extent, ‘corrected’ the gist of What Is to be Done. In his later works, which were enriched by the concrete experience of the class and the appearance of councils in 1905, as well as in his militant activity, he was a long way from mechanically following the theses of What Is to be Done. On the contrary the Bolshevik Party throughout its intervention in the defensive struggles of the class asserted itself not as an outside element but as an active and vital fraction of the proletariat. The entire revolutionary movement was far from being totally clear on the question of the relation between the party and the class.
Rosa Luxemburg and the German revolutionaries were no more capable than the Russian revolutionaries of severing completely the umbilical cord that tied them to Social Democracy. It is true that Luxemburg was the first to break from the doctrines of Trotsky. When, after 1910 she accused him of opening the floodgates to opportunism she was not supported by any Russian Social Democrat, and most notably not by Lenin, who found her accusations ‘exaggerated’. However it was Lenin and not Rosa who urged most clearly and most rapidly for an organisational split from the most opportunist elements of the Russian Social Democratic Party: the Mensheviks. Luxemburg and Kautsky were, in contrast, in agreement f or once since both criticised this ‘splitting’ policy and called for the reunification of Russian Social Democracy.
Up until events forced the creation of the German Communist Party in 1919 (KPD) Luxemburg remained hesitant. She hesitated to leave the Social Democratic Party (SPD); she hesitated to form a separate organisation which, at first, ran the risk of being a minority organisation; she retreated before Lenin’s persistent desire to create a new Communist International…
Luxemburg was not attached to the SDP in Germany because of any lack of political perception about the objective decay of Social Democracy. In the Crisis of Social Democracy, published in 1916 she fiercely criticised the attitude of the Second International to the imperialist war and the support given by Social Democracy to the national bourgeoisie. No, what imprisoned Luxemburg and made her hesitate was her general conception of mass revolutionary action and the consequences of this for the role of the party.
This militant, who had passed through the school of Social Democracy, developed such an unconditional attachment to the mass character of the revolutionary movement that, for her, the party had to adapt itself to anything that bore this character. Because of her attachment to the Social Democratic vision of the mass party Luxemburg was reluctant to go in advance of the movement. She hesitated to leave an organisation in which the majority of workers still had confidence. Even after the overt and definitive demise of the SPD and the 2nd International in 1914 Luxemburg continued to reiterate that it was for the mass movement to overcome opportunism; revolutionaries could not accelerate this movement.
For her the “errors committed by a truly revolutionary workers’ movement are historically more fruitful and more precious than the infallibility of the finest central committee” (Organisational Questions of Social Democracy) Thus revolutionaries could not take the initiative in going beyond the old Social Democratic organisations.
Luxemburg’s general concern was correct — the insistence on the collective character of the workers’ movement — but the insistence that “the emancipation of the workers is the task of the workers themselves” brought with it incorrect practical conclusions. And a simple concern can easily fall into idealisation, into fetishism. Fetishism of everything that has a mass character leads revolutionaries down the dangerous road of the opportunism of the Second International. An attachment to the mass character of this or that organisation or political tool can lead simply to supporting parliamentary politics (‘because the mass of workers continue to vote’). Paul Levi, a prominent representative of the KPD after Luxemburg’s death followed that path. His conception of a ‘mass party’, which would be entirely subordinate to the movement of the masses, led him to fall gradually back into the clutches of Social Democracy. This was why he urged the fusion of the KPD with the left of the SPD, rejoined the USPD in 1922 having been excluded from the CI and finally rejoined the SPD.
Luxemburg never came to understand the fact that the collective character of revolutionary activity is something that grows and develops. The homogenisation of proletarian consciousness is not made once and for all. The party effectively remains a minority when the vast majority of the working class are subjugated by bourgeois ideology. Its task consists then, not in bending itself to the dominant ideology of the masses, but in defending on a political level, as well as on an organisational level, the entire communist programme. Only in this way can the party effectively play a role in the homogenisation of class consciousness.
The German revolutionaries, like most revolutionaries of that time, were not entirely clear about the process by which the proletariat seizes power. On the whole communists saw in the workers councils the organs for the seizure of power. And in every case up to 1920 the CI insisted on the predominant role of the councils in the revolution and in the exercise of power. However, no communist, no revolutionary organisation saw very clearly the relations that should exist between the territorial soviets (the basis of the transitional state) and the workers councils. Confusion existed between the state and the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Furthermore the speech made by Luxemburg at the founding congress of the KPD (Spartacist League) in 1918 left room for very grave ambiguities. The text lacks political clarity, particularly on the destruction of the bourgeois state by the proletariat:
“So the conquest of power for us will not be effected at one blow. It will be a progressive act for we shall progressively occupy all the positions of the capitalist state, defending tooth and nail each one that we seize… the councils must have all power in the state... step by step, by hand to hand fighting, in every province, in every town, in every village, in every commune, all the powers of the state have to be transferred bit by bit from the bourgeoisie to the workers’ and soldiers’ councils.”
What does this text suggest?
1. that the proletariat must involves themselves in the bourgeois state in order to destroy it (a position which allowed the vestiges of revolutionary parliamentarianism to appear.)
2. that the proletariat should use the bourgeois state to its own advantage.
3. that the workers’ dictatorship is expressed through a proletarian state.
So it is understandable that this conception of the revolution that resembles the schema of bourgeois revolutions led revolutionaries to envisage the need for the proletarian party to take power. The Spartacists did not defend a position very different from that of Lenin but they laid strong emphasis on the ‘mass’ character of the party’s seizure of power.
“The Spartacist League refuses to take over the power of government merely because the Scheidemann—Ebert element have completely discredited themselves... The Spartacist League will never take over the power of government otherwise than by a clear manifestation of the unquestionable will of the great majority of the proletarian mass of Germany.” (Proposed programme adopted by the KPD (Spartacists) at its foundation in 1918. Published in Die Rote Fahne Dec. 1918.)
To the question ‘What are the origins of substitutionism?’ we can respond: the weight of Social Democratic conceptions. But to the question ‘What are the causes which allowed the development of substitutionist conceptions?’ we must reply: the general political immaturity of the international working class.
“The first imperialist world war signalling the end of the period of capitalist ascendancy marked the absolute point of no return for the workers’ movement of the 19th Century and its immediate objectives. Popular discontent against the war became rapidly politicised into frontal attacks against the state in key countries of Europe. But the majority of the proletariat was unable to cast off the relics of the past, (adherence to the policies of the Second International which was now in the camp of the class enemy) and to fully understand the implications of the new era. Neither the proletariat as a whole nor its political organisations fully understood the needs of the proletarian struggle in the new age of ‘war and revolution’, ‘socialism or barbarism’. Despite the heroic struggles of the proletariat in this period the tide of revolution was drowned in the massacre of the working class in Europe. The fact that the Russian revolution was the beacon for all the working class in that epoch did not alter the fact that its isolation was a serious danger. Even a temporary gap between revolutionary outbreaks can have its dangers but by 1920 the gap was becoming increasingly unbridgeable.” (Judith Allen. ‘The Degeneration of the Russian Revolution’, in International Review No. 3, 1975.)
However as long as the class was sufficiently strong and the revolutionary movement was on the upturn the theoretical confusions about the relations between the class, the party and the state could be overcome by the concrete experience of struggle. Thus the practice of the workers in Russia confirmed the material impossibility for a workers’ party, even if it is a minority of the class, to substitute itself for the activity of the entire working class.
The question of who took power in Russia in October 1917 is answered by history and the practice of the proletariat itself. On the eve of the insurrection the Petrograd Soviet felt itself sufficiently strong and sufficiently supported by the provinces to call for the convocation of a Congress of Soviets and urge it to prepare for the armed insurrection. The Soviet believed that the Congress had a role in “giving a solution to the problems of the organisation of revolutionary power.” After untiring propaganda by the Bolshevik Party within the Soviets and the factory committees, the majority of workers finally declared themselves in favour of the seizure of power. From a military viewpoint it was the Revolutionary Committee that in Petrograd prepared the insurrection. This committee, which was composed of representatives from the Soviets, from the navy, the factory committees, the railways and the Red Guard (armed workers) was not an organ of the party, even if the Bolsheviks were dominant inside it. The Revolutionary Committee stayed in permanent contact with the whole of the working class and never ceased to act under its control; it was an organ that was directly linked to the Soviets and the factory committees. Not for an instant did the contact between the barracks, the factories, the committee and the party break down. A vital and continuous link existed between all the organs cementing the collective will of the class. The workers as a whole made decisions and held in their hands the reins of history, even if the day-to-day military actions were implemented by a small number of people. This is why, when he was accused of taking power with a small group of ‘conspirators’ i.e. the Revolutionary Committee, Trotsky replied:
“Professor Pokrovsky denies the very importance of the alternative: soviet or party. Soldiers are no formalists, he laughs: they did not need a Congress of Soviets in order to overthrow Kerensky. With all its wit such a formulation leaves unexplained the problem: why create soviets at all if the party is enough? ‘It is interesting’ continues the professor,’ that nothing at all came of this aspiration to do everything almost legally, with soviet legality, and the power at the last moment was taken not by the soviet but by an obviously illegal organisation, created ad hoc,’ Pokrovsky here cites the fact that Trotsky was compelled ‘in the name of the Military Revolutionary Committee’ and not the Soviet to declare the government of Kerensky non—existent. A most unexpected conclusion. The Military Revolutionary Committee was an elected organ of the Soviet. The leading role of the committee in the overturn did not in any sense violate that soviet legality which the professor makes fun of but which the masses were extremely jealous of.” (Trotsky. History of the Russian Revolution, vol. 3, our emphasis.)
What do these phrases mean? Do they suggest that the October Revolution took place within strict bourgeois legality, under the protection of formal democracy, with no clandestine activity? Of course not! The ‘Soviet Legality’ of which Trotsky spoke was very simply the need for the collective will of the workers, for their control over the whole of the revolutionary process. The seizure of power in Russia showed in an astounding way how the workers as a whole can decide and control the revolution. In his History of the Russian Revolution Trotsky describes how this control was concretised and how the workers prepared the insurrection through the Soviets.
No party substituted itself for the practical and decisive activity of the workers. The Bolsheviks acted in a decisive way within their class but they did not take power in the place of the workers. However theoretical confusions existed on the nature of the relations between the party, the working class and the state, and on the role of the party. And since the party is not simply a passive reflection of consciousness these misunderstandings, which had existed in embryo since 1902, would expand and accelerate the degeneration of the revolution. From 1918 on the political power of the working class was being restricted and stifled by the state apparatus at whose head stood the Bolshevik party. Since the seizure of power the Bolshevik Party had entered into conflict with the unitary organs of the proletariat and presented itself as a party of government. This substitution of the councils’ power by that of the party was justified theoretically (along with the militarisation of labour) in Trotsky’s work Terrorism and Communism written at the beginning of the Twenties — a tragic work which already contained the theoretical justification for acts like the Kronstadt massacre.
“We have more than once been accused of having substituted for the dictatorship of the soviets the dictatorship of our party. Yet it can be said with complete justice that the dictatorship of the soviets became possible only by means of the dictatorship of the party. It is thanks to the clarity of its theoretical vision and its strong revolutionary organisation that the party has afforded to the soviets the possibility of becoming transformed from shapeless parliaments of labour into the apparatus of the supremacy of labour. In this ‘substitution’ of the power of the party for the power of the working class there is nothing accidental, and in reality there is no substitution at all. The communists express the fundamental interests of the working class. It is quite natural that in the period in which history brings up those interests in all their magnitude on to the order of the day that the communists have become the recognised representation of the working class as a whole.” (Trotsky. Terrorism or Communism.)
Once the party and the state become the avowed ‘representatives’ of the working class as a whole they could never be wrong, they were always right even in opposition to the entire working class, even at the price of massacres. From that instant socialism itself becomes the affair of the party and of the state. From that moment the Russian state began destroying the councils that meant destroying the strength of the revolution and sinking deep into counterrevolution.And alongside these serious confusions the Communist International was developing the concept of the United Front, the idea of defending a minimum programme with a mass party, the need for union work, the positions of revolutionary parliamentarianism etc. Rather than trying to go against the reflux in the revolutionary wave and to hold communist principles intact the CI was bending itself more and more to this retreat and was also adapting its practices. Differences between ‘tactics’ and principles developed, as they had within the Second International. Rather than always keeping in mind the international interests of the proletariat the CI became more and more the mouthpiece of the Russian State and sounded its death knell when it adopted the theory of Socialism in One Country. These theses defended by the CI were merely brought forward to defend the strengthening of state capitalism in Russia. From that point on the Bolshevik Party became the most docile tool of the counterrevolution.