Communist Party of Turkey: Legacy of Comintern and the contemporary priorities of the relations between Communist Parties
As it is well known, when the Communist International was founded in 1919, it undertook the legacy of the International Working Men’s Association known as the First International. On the basis of Marx’s ideas, the international class struggle would be directed towards a proletarian revolution and proletarian dictatorship. These first pillars of the international communist movement were exactly those that were inherited by the 3rd International.
The Second International was founded after the defeat of the Paris Commune and under the relatively steady economic course of European capitalism. The fact that capitalism was getting to its last stage, namely the imperialist stage, would make itself evident soon after the emergence of the 2nd International.
The Second International played an important role in the achievements for labour rights but at the expense of a revolutionary pursuit, which was abandoned. The characteristic of both internationals was their natural inclination to pivot on the central country that drove the class struggle, first Great Britain and France, then Germany. Another characteristic was the heterogeneity of the political programs of different parties from each country.
The Second International did not function as an international revolutionary center, nor the member parties and their supporters from the ranks of the workers aristocracy of capitalist centers were exempt from revisionist views. Their affiliation to the bourgeois legality resulted in the betrayal in favor of warmonger bourgeois classes of their countries in World War I.
Therefore, we see the Bolsheviks drawing thick lines of demarcation against ‘social chauvinists’ and ‘centralists’ in 1914. The following year Lenin gathered the Zimmerwald Left even though they formed a minority against the Kautkyists and centralists in the Zimmerwald Conference. This gathering was not intended to capture the Zimmerwald group against the Second International but to open the way for the foundation of a new international communist organization.
Following the Great October Socialist Revolution, the Bolsheviks led the working class and revolutionary oriented parties that had broken off from the Second International to join this new organization established in 1919. Soviet Russia became the new epicenter of international communist movement. The renowned 21 Conditions for joining the Third International, declared in its second congress in 1920, aimed to bolshevize the parties, in accordance with the model introduced by Lenin’s party. The objective was to achieve a political and programmatic homogeneity unprecedented before in the communist movement. The decisions of the Comintern would be binding for the national sections. The national sections were free to decide their organizational tools and unique tactics in the context of the socialist revolutionary program and the requirements of class struggle. The Bolshevik character of the Comintern parties was preserved by their political and organizational continuity and their pursuit for a socialist revolution in their own countries taking into account its specificities.
Yet, what was central to the Comintern parties, very soon after the establishment in 1919, has and had to become the priority to ‘preserve the construction of socialism in one country’, around which they voluntarily closed ranks. Problems emerged as the conjunctural policies of the Comintern to protect the Soviet revolution were inappropriately theorized as general and unconditional strategies. To exemplify, mechanical approach in the analysis of fascism, formulated as the “the open, terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic, and most imperialist elements of finance capital” opened the way for alliances with certain parts of the bourgeoisie that were assumed to be more progressive. Combined with the opportunistic inclinations in the communist movement left over from the 2nd International, it sowed the seeds for Eurocommunism and the New Left in the post-WWII era on the basis of class compromise.
The Comintern was the center of the international communist movement presumed to act as an international vanguard. Yet since such a center was mainly based on defending socialism in one country, it took a mediocre line between the uneven conditions of international class struggle.
Communist parties were challenged by the dilemma of being an integral part of the international communist movement and putting reservations against a heavy-footed center. On the one hand there was the risk of missing certain revolutionary opportunities for the sake of adhering to the central agenda of the international movement, namely preserving socialism in one country. On the other hand there was the risk of falling apart from the legacy of Comintern, which may literally mean yielding to opportunism or a sort of a naive gauchisme.
If we place this discussion in our current circumstances, the absence of a socialist “center of gravity” leads us to take this dilemma seriously. It is hard to reduce the agenda of the international communist movement to a single political program. Each country and region has its own class dynamics, which has pecularities that the vanguard party has to take into account. On the other hand the pursuit to bring together the international communist movement under its historical revolutionary objectives is also indispensable.
As we said at the beginning, the first pillars of the international communist movement were proletarian revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat. With Lenin, Marxist theory was reinforced with a revolutionary approach towards the other essentials of international class struggle: The party, the state and imperialism. Instead of a mechanical approach between capitalist crisis and the working class struggle, the main discussion became the role of the political vanguard. The political vanguard has to deal with various issues sometimes indirectly related with the class struggle, such as peace, sovereignty, secularism. However, only if the orientation of the vanguard party ties such issues to the ultimate goal of the revolutionary class struggle in the country and to the interests of the international communist movement and world revolution, it is possible to overcome the drawbacks of the dilemma, which we mention.
Comintern is part of our historical legacy and embraces an invaluable experience. We consider vital the critical reassessment of this experience. We need this assessment in order to make our past experience a guide in our revolutionary struggle. The role of Comintern in the formation of our parties as Leninist vanguards of the working class, in consolidation of our parties and in their acquisition of the ability to act in concert with eachother for common revolutionary purposes should be conveyed to the younger communist generations clearly. On the other hand, it is also vital to derive lessons by understanding the shortcomings.
One of the crucial lessons to be derived is in the field of the relations of each communist party with the international communist movement. Examination of our past experience reveals that the communist parties should focus more on the ability of self-sufficiency, independence in their organizational work, right and responsibility to meet the requirements of the class struggle in their countries with their own means. Only in this way, solidarity and coordination between the parties amount to a real contribution to the revolutionary struggle in each country. Accordingly, as a principle, communist parties should themselves make the strategic and tactical decisions in their intervention to the course of class struggle. And this decision-making should be fortified by creation in the international communist movement of a culture of open and fraternal debate, assessment and critique. Parties are responsible not only for independent decision-making, but also for taking into consideration the critiques of fraternal parties. Yet, an authority above the will of the parties and their members, who are taking the full responsibility and challenges of the actual struggle in their countries, is unacceptable.
These remarks are relevant for present and also for the future, when our movement becomes mature enough to form a new International, for striking the final blow to the capitalist order.