We Demand Plain Speaking
on Germany!

Only Unmistakable Change in Comintern Policy
Can Smash Fascism at 11th Hour!

(March 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 18, 10 March 1933, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

What are the exact contents of the “united front appeal” signed by the Executive Committee of the Communist International, which, according to the Moscow dispatches, was dated January 22, 1933 and made public only six weeks later, on March 6, 1933? What exactly is the nature of the appeal? Does it propose a united front with the Labor and Socialist (Second) International? Does it mean that if the Second International is compelled to accept the proposal, the Communist International is prepared to negotiate with the social democracy concerning a concrete program of action against Fascism?

If this is what it signifies, then the Comintern leader’s have made an important change in their policy, which should be openly acknowledged, the reasons for the change explained to the Communist workers, and the party really oriented towards an intelligent and concerted application of the new policy.

If this is not what it signifies, then the Stalinist center is only making a literary gesture for the record, behind which to screen the criminal responsibility for the present situation in Germany which its past policy has accumulated upon its back.

In either case: plain speech, please!


Why hasn’t the appeal of the Communist International been published in the Communist press? The Moscow Pravda, we are told, declares that the appeal was issued on January 22. More than six weeks have elapsed since that date. Regardless of its contents, the appeal is of vital international importance to the working class. Why is there not even an extract from the manifesto in the Daily Worker or Freiheit, to say nothing of the manifesto itself. The American party maintains one or more representatives in the Comintern; it has a Moscow correspondent for its daily press. The correspondent finds it possible to cable regularly about the activity of this or that shock brigade’s activity in this or that one of Russia’s far-flung provinces. Why hasn’t he found it necessary to cable at least the important sections of the Comintern manifesto? Why wasn’t the manifesto sent by mail on January 22nd?


Why are the negotiations with the Second International – which appear to be in progress in one form or another – being conducted behind the scenes and beyond the vision of the working class?

The socialist New Leader of March 11, 1933, prints a cable from Zurich signed by Adler, for the Secretariat of the Second International, which fends: “Our administrative committee published yesterday a declaration of 540 words concerning the Moscow ‘united front’ offer, which was a reply to our manifesto of February 19. Moscow’s appeal will be considered at the next meeting of the Executive of the Labor and Socialist International. Affiliated parties are asked to refrain from definite action until then.”

The “Moscow ‘united front’ offer” is unknown to the masses of Communist and socialist workers. It is deliberately withheld from publication in the official Communist press. The masses thus do not know what the Communist International proposes. Friedrich Adler and Company apparently do know. How are the workers to judge the actions of the Second International with regard to the Comintern offer if they do not know the contents of the latter? How are the Communist workers to approach their socialist class brothers on this question if they do not know what their own International proposes concretely? How are the socialist workers – who ardently desire a common struggle to smash the Hitlerite thugs – to exert pressure on their leaders, to call them to account to demand of them a favorable reply if these workers do not know just what the Communist International proposes?

The united front cannot be established by diplomatic negotiations on the quiet and behind the scenes – as conducted by Stalin with Chiang Kai-Shek, as conducted by Tomsky with Purcell, as conducted by Barbusse with Friedrich Adler during the notorious Amsterdam Congress. All negotiations must be conducted openly, under the eyes and control of the masses on both sides, with the important documents and proceedings available to these masses, especially the social democratic workers who can be relied upon to exert mass pressure on their leaders for common action with the Communists – providing the latter make it possible for these workers to act.

But how are the socialist masses to be mobilized if they do not even have the Comintern’s appeal before them, if they do not even know what the Comintern proposes? Why doesn’t the party press say a word about the Comintern appeal? Why hasn’t the

Daily Worker, which relegated the Buchwald cablegram to the last page, said a single word about the Comintern’s united front appeal since that time?


Does the American (or any other) party leadership know what the Comintern appeal says, what the change in policy signifies – if it is a serious change?

The Daily Worker says nothing, because the party leadership as well as the party membership have been demoralized, confused and paralyzed by the news from Moscow, precisely because it was so ambiguous and contradictory. But the Freiheit, rather its editor Olgin, does risk a word in public about it. In the issue of March 10, 1933, Olgin devotes his whole articles to a polemic against the views we developed on the Comintern appeal in our last number. From his article, it is evident that Olgin knows as little about the details of the Comintern appeal as we do. Consequently, he thinks it safest to declare that there has been no change in policy: “This is the program. A united front of struggle, a united front of action, a united front for special interventions, a united front with the masses, and if necessary, with their local organizations, a united front to fling back the march of Fascism – this has been the policy of the Comintern, so it shall remain.”

Is Olgin’s view that of the Comintern, or is be just whistling in the dark? If he is correct in his assertions, the “change” is only the bankrupt old policy of the “united front from below”, rendered more disastrous and irresponsible by the fact that an attempt is being made to smuggle it in under a new mantle at a time when every day and hour in Germany is the equivalent of months and years. If this explanation is wrong, then all the more reason why the party and the Comintern are obligated to speak plainly and unmistakably for its actual policy.

Are the social democratic leaders to be permitted to escape the responsibility for the treachery they are preparing? Are the statesmen of the Second International to be permitted to continue avoiding the struggle for fear of its revolutionary consequences? The maintenance of the old policy of the Stalinists makes it possible, affords the socialist leaders an easy way out. The policy of the Left Opposition – formal appeal for the united front, demand of negotiations to work out a program of action – puts the Second International right to the wall, compels it to speak and act unequivocally, forces it to show its true colors. Olgin feebly defends his opposition to our policy with the declaration that the leaders of the Second International are traitors, with whom no united front can be made. Olgin’s discovery, however belated, is laudable, even if his conclusions are ludicrous. It took the Communists quite some time to convince Olgin, at that time a collaborator of Abraham Cahan and the Forwards, that his leaders were traitors on the other side of the revolutionary barricades. That he finally learned this elementary truth, is undoubtedly to his credit. The great misfortune, however, is that at this late date it is still necessary to spend invaluable time trying to explain to him that he will yet have to sit down once, and perhaps twenty times, with the leaders of the social democracy, traitors though they are, to force them into a common struggle in the course of which their followers will learn that only the Communists have the correct policy and leadership.

The socialist masses do not yet know that their leaders are traitors. We must patiently enlighten them. They will learn it through their own experience. The policy of Olgin makes it possible for the socialist leaders to retain their hold over the masses. “You see,” they say, “we are ready to unite with the Comintern leaders, but all they want is to break your organization and attack your chosen leaders.” This is an unmitigated lie of the socialist Tartuffes and Elmer Gantrys. They do not want to unite with the Comintern; they do not want to launch a really militant struggle against Fascism. But the masses do not yet know it (it takes them even longer to learn than it took Olgin, whose policy, besides, has prevented them from learning). And unless this policy is drastically altered, the socialist leaders will find a new loophole through which to flee the struggle, to leave the workers to be crushed by the enemy, in a word, to betray them again.


When will the Comintern make clear its position? When will it stop playing hide-and-seek with the crisis in Germany? When will it speak out so plainly that there will be no room for misunderstanding, misinterpretation, ambiguity?

Europe, and consequently the world, is at an historical turning point. In the hands of the Comintern still lie those instruments which enable it to influence decisively the direction of this turn. The express speed of the Fascist advance in Germany has left but little time in which to act. But time is still left.

A terrific historical responsibility weighs upon the Comintern leadership. Its duty is plain. If it fails to do its duty, it will itself be inundated under the overwhelming catastrophe which its own blunders are now serving to prepare in Germany.

Friday, March 10, 1933

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