M. Litvinoff and M. Bedacht

“The Communist Party of Russia Does Not Concern America
and the Communist Party of the U.S. Does Not Concern Russia”

(November 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 53, 25 November 1933, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Individuals, even many of them at a time, can be deceived. Classes cannot. Lincoln expressed this idea in a somewhat vaguer way in his famous aphorism about how long a period of time it is possible to fool people.

The bourgeoisie is not in power outside the frontiers of the Soviet Union because it is stupid. On the contrary, the decades it has spent in ruling and oppressing the masses, have sharpened its wits to a fine point, endowed it with cunning and skill in dealing with its classic and mortal foe, the proletariat.

Far easier, as a general rule, to deceive than the bourgeoisie, is the working class. Overwhelmed and blinded by the stupendous capitalist machinery for molding its outlook, its understanding of problems and events, the proletariat advances only with the moat painful difficulty towards the attainment of consciousness of its class interests and historic mission.

If for this reason alone, the responsible leadership of the working class rests its case upon clear-cut pronouncements. Ambiguity and over-complicated maneuvers are at the very best, and only under special circumstances, an auxiliary weapon, for as a rule they confuse not the enemy but the working class itself.

But when a step is taken which covers up something from the working class under the pretense of practising a “maneuver”, it passes far beyond the stage where it merely creates confusion. Such a “maneuver” is the pair of statements made to the press by Maxim Litvinov and Max Bedacht on the subject of the relationships between the American and the Russian Communist Parties.

“Isn’t it true that the Communist Party of the United States insists on speaking in the name of Moscow,” asked the Washington representative of the socialist Forward, according to the Daily Worker report of the interview granted by Litvinov.

“I must profess ignorance”, replied the latter. “The Communist Party of Russia does not concern America, and the Communist Party of the United States does not concern Russia.”

This, writes the editor of the Daily Worker with a triumphant whimper, is the correct version of the Litvinov statement to the correspondents, and not the one printed, among others, by the New York Times, which reproduced a balder version to the effect that the two parties had nothing to do with each other.

The difference lies essentially in the structure, and not in the significance of the Litvinov declaration, even if the cotton-strained Daily Worker account is accepted.

None of the bourgeois papers of any consequences has been deceived. In its commentaries on Litvinov’s letters and assertions, the bourgeoisie has recognized with unconcealed gratification that the representative of the Soviet Union has not merely consented to the formula that the republic will not carry on any propaganda in the United States – a customary diplomatic assurance of no fundamental significance – but to what Russia has never consented before: not to tolerate the activities on its soil of a labor organization which has hitherto enjoyed its hospitality: the Third International.

Beginning with its first utterance on relationships with foreign, capitalist governments, in 1918, Russia has never ceased to make it clear that its government has no intention of imposing the form of its regime upon any other land, that it is prepared to undertake commitments binding it not to carry on any propaganda in other countries asking only a reciprocal engagement from the world bourgeoisie. That is one thing, and in no way out of harmony with the principles of the workers’ state. A promise that it would not grant hospitality, or at least asylum, to an international labor organization whose aim is the emancipation of the world’s working class – a hospitality which was not refused a similar organization (the First International) by either England or the United States in the last century – it has never before given to the capitalists, however much they tried to extract it from the Soviet leaders.

This promise has now been given by Litvinov! He gave it in the stilted, but quite unmistakable, terms of his letter to “your illustrious president” Mr. Roosevelt. Then, to assure the American bourgeoisie beyond any possibility of their fears recurring, he made it plain to the newspapermen that:

The Russian Communist Party is concerned only with Russia. The American Communist Party, if there is one (“I must profess ignorance”), is concerned only with America. The Communist International, as the general staff of the world revolution, does not exist, for it has not the victorious Russian party in its leadership, nor the absurd American party in its ranks.

Made it plain not merely to the newspapermen but also – and this is vastly more important – to the millions of workers who read the capitalist press and who have no cause for taking the People’s Commissar at anything but face value. Assuming that this was intended merely as a clever maneuver against the bourgeoisie – and we have every reason not to assume this – its concrete effect could not but be an icy douche down the spinal column of the American Communist movement and whatever there is internationalist, i.e., Marxist and revolutionary, in it.

If any doubts can conceivably remain about this “trifling concession” which Stalin-Litvinov have made to the American bourgeoisie, Max Bedacht, representative of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the United States, has ruthlessly eliminated them. Exactly like Litvinov (who at least has the thin excuse that he is, after all, a government emissary), Bedacht hastened to assure the American bourgeoisie that the Third International is no longer to be feared, that it is nothing to worry about.

The New York Times (11-19-33), which prints Bedacht’s statement, writes:

“Asked about M. Litvinov’s statement Friday evening that the Communist Party of America was not concerned with the Communist Party of Russia, and vice versa, he said: ‘The American Communist Party concerns itself with the American working class and the Russian Communist Party concerns itself with the Russian working class, so of course they don’t concern themselves with each other’s problems. We have our problems, they have theirs. Their problem is to build socialism we aren’t as far yet. Unfortunately, we still have to defeat capitalism.’”

The Daily Worker, which took such elaborate and unnecessary pains to correct the grammatical structure of Litvinov’s statement, has not printed a correction or a different version of the Times’ report of Bedacht’s statement. We therefore have no reason to question its accuracy ...

There was a time when a Communist – certainly one working in a country where bourgeois legality still existed – was neither ashamed nor afraid to proclaim his membership in the world party of the Third International. But that was before the Communist International was strangled by Stalinism, before the Communist parties were humiliated, debased and forced into the livery of the Soviet Foreign Office, before flunkeys and office-holders have usurped the places of revolutionists, before the world revolution was exchanged for a promised credit of half a billion American dollars.

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