Paul Levi and the Origins of the United-Front Policy in the Communist International

in Historical Materialism
Restricted Access
Get Access to Full Text
Rent on DeepDyve

Have an Access Token?



Enter your access token to activate and access content online.

Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token.



Help

Have Institutional Access?



Access content through your institution. Any other coaching guidance?



Connect

During its first four congresses, held annually under Lenin (1919–22), the Communist International went through two distinct phases: while the first two congresses focused on programmatic and organisational aspects of the break with Social-Democratic parties (such as the ‘Theses on Bourgeois Democracy and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat’, adopted by the first congress, and the 21 ‘Conditions of Admission to the Communist International’, adopted by the second), the third congress, meeting after the putsch known as the ‘March Action’ of 1921 in Germany, adopted the slogan ‘To the masses!’, while the fourth codified this new line in the ‘Theses on the Unity of the Proletarian Front’. The arguments put forward by the first two congresses were originally drafted by leaders of the Russian Communist Party, but the initiative for the adoption of the united-front policy came from the German Communist Party under the leadership of Paul Levi. This article explores the historical circumstances that turned the German Communists into the pioneers of the united-front tactic. In the documentary appendix we add English versions of two documents drafted by Levi: the ‘Letter to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Germany’ on the Kapp Putsch, dated 16 March 1920, and the kpd’s ‘Open Letter’ of 8 January 1921, which gave rise to the united-front tactic.

Paul Levi and the Origins of the United-Front Policy in the Communist International

in Historical Materialism

Sections

References

Alan Adler (ed), Theses Resolutions and Manifestos of the First Four Congresses of the Third International, (Ink Links, London 1980).

Bernhard H. Bayerlein and Gleb J. Albert (eds), Deutschland Russland Komintern. II. Dokumente (1918–1943). Nach der Archivrevolution: Neuerschlossene Quellen zu der Geschichte der KPD und den deutsch-russischen Beziehungen, (Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2014).

BockHans Manfred, Syndikalismus und Linkskommunismus von 1918–1923: zur Geschichte und Soziologie der Freien Arbeiter-Union Deutschlands (Syndikalisten) der Allgemeinen Arbeiter-Union Deutschlands und der Kommunistischen Arbeiter-Partei Deutschlands, (Anton Hain, Meisenheim am Glan 1969).

BoukharineNikolai Ivanovich, '‘De la tactique offensive’' (1921) Bulletin communiste, April: 219-220.

BrouéPierre, Histoire de l’Internationale Communiste 1919–1943, (Fayard, Paris 1997).

BrouéPierreArcherJohn, 'The German Revolution 1917–1923', in Ian Birchall and Brian Pearce (eds), Historical Materialism, (Brill, Leiden 2005).

BukharinNikolai Ivanovich, '‘O natupitel’noj taktike’' (1920) 15 Kommunistitcheskii Internasional: 3073-3075.

CammettJohn McKay, Antonio Gramsci and the Origins of Italian Communism, (Stanford University Press, Stanford 1967).

CannonJames P., The First Ten Years of American Communism: Report of a Participant, (Lyle Stuart, New York 1962).

Comintern, Der Zweite Kongress der Kommunistischen Internationale. Protokoll der Verhandlungen vom 19. Juli in Petrograd und vom 23. Juli bis 7. August 1920 in Moskau, (Verlag der Kommunistischen Internationale, Hamburg 1921).

ArcherR.A., Comintern, Second Congress of the Communist International: Minutes of the Proceedings, (New Park Publications, London 1977).

CyrFrédériqueRebelle devant les extrêmes: Paul Levi une biographie politique2011unpublished PhD thesis Université de Montréal

Milorad M. Drachkovitch and Branko M Lazić (eds), The Comintern: Historical Highlights Essays Recollections Documents, (Frederick A. Praeger, New York 1966).

Helmut Gruber (ed), International Communism in the Era of Lenin: A Documentary History, (Fawcett Publications, Greenwich, CN 1967).

Koch-BaumgartenSigrid, Aufstand der Avantgarde. Die Märzaktion der KPD 1921, (Campus Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1986).

kpd [Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands], Bericht über den 2. Parteitag der Kommunistischen Partei Deutschlands (Spartakusbund) vom 20. bis 24. Oktober 1919, (Berlin 1919) herausgegeben von der Kommunistischen Partei Deutschlands (Spartakusbund).

LeninVladimir Ilyich, '‘A Letter to the German Communists’ (14 August 1921)', in Collected Works, (Progress Publishers, Moscow 1965 [1921]).

LeninVladimir Ilyich, 'Left-Wing Communism: an Infantile Disorder (April–May 1920)', in Collected Works, (Progress Publishers, Moscow 1976a [1920]).

LeninVladimir Ilyich, '‘Letter to Clara Zetkin and Paul Levi’ (16 April 1921)', in Collected Works, (Progress Publishers, Moscow 1976b [1921]).

LeninVladimir Ilyich, '‘Remarks on the Draft Theses on Tactics for the Third Congress of the Communist International: Letter to G.Y. Zinoviev’ (10 June 1921)', in Collected Works, (Progress Publishers, Moscow 1977 [1921]).

LeviPaul, '‘Brief an das Zentralkomitee der Kommunistischen Partei Deutschlands’ (16 March 1920)' (1920a) 2(12) Die Kommunistische Internationale. Organ des Executivkomitees der Kommunistischen Internationale: 147-150.

LeviPaul, '‘Die politische Lage in Deutschland’ (September 1920)' (1920b) 2(14) Die Kommunistische Internationale. Organ des Executivkomitees der Kommunistischen Internationale: 114-125.

LeviPaul, '‘Report of Comrade Levi to the Executive Committee of the Third International on the Italian Party Congress, Berlin, 20 January 1921’' (1966 [1921]) 1966.

LeviPaul, 'In the Steps of Rosa Luxemburg: Selected Writings of Paul Levi', in David Fernbach (ed), Historical Materialism, (Brill, Leiden 2011) edited and introduced.

LewisBenLihLars T., Martov and Zinoviev: Head to Head in Halle, (November Publications, London 2011).

NettlJohn Peter, Rosa Luxemburg, (Oxford University Press, London 1969).

RadekKarl, Zur Taktik des Kommunismus: Ein Schreiben an den Oktober-Parteitag der K.P.D., (Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands (Spartakusbund), Berlin 1919).

RadekKarl, '‘Die KPD während der Kapptage: Eine kritische Untersuchung’' (1920) 2(12) Die Kommunistische Internationale. Organ des Executivkomitees der Kommunistischen Internationale: 162-167.

RadekKarl, In den Reihen der deutschen Revolution 1909–1919: Gesammelte Aufsätze und Abhandlungen, (Kurt Wolff Verlag, Munich 1921).

RadekKarl, '‘The Italian Question’ (translation of ‘Soll die Vereinigte Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands eine Massenpartei der revolutionären Aktion oder eine zentristische Partei des Wartens sein?’)' (1967 [1921]) 1967.

John Riddell (ed), Toward the United Front: Proceedings of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International 1922 Historical Materialism, (Brill, Leiden 2011).

John Riddell (ed), To the Masses: Proceedings of the Third Congress of the Communist International 1921 Historical Materialism, (Brill, Leiden 2015).

RosmerAlfredBirchallIan, Moscow under Lenin, (Monthly Review Press, New York 1972).

Spartakus, '‘Der Kapp-Lüttwitz-Putsch (Brief aus Deutschland) (Berlin, April 1920)’' (1920) 2(10) Die Kommunistische Internationale. Organ des Executivkomitees der Kommunistischen Internationale: 147-171.

TrotskyLeon, What Next? Vital Questions for the German Proletariat, (Pioneer Publishers, New York 1932).

Hermann Weber (ed), Völker hört die Signale: Der deutsche Kommunismus 1916–1966, (Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 1967).

Hermann Weber (ed), Der Gründungsparteitag der KPD: Protokoll und Materialien, (Europäische Verlagsanstalt, Frankfurt 1969).

Hermann Weber (ed), Der deutsche Kommunismus: Dokumente 1915–1945, (Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne 1973).

ZetkinKlara, '‘Die Lage in Deutschland’' (1920) 2(12) Die Kommunistische Internationale. Organ des Executivkomitees der Kommunistischen Internationale: 155-161.

1

Levi 2011pp. 67–9.

2

Notably Broué 2005.

3

Rosmer 1972p. 80.

6

Levi 2011pp. 70–8.

7

English version in Levi 2011pp. 67–9.

9

Levi 2011p. 59.

10

Levi 2011p. 60.

11

Levi 2011pp. 67–9.

12

Broué 2005pp. 854–5 emphasis mine.

13

Quoted in Bock 1969p. 255.

14

Gruber (ed.) 1967p. 395.

15

Radek 1919p. 9.

16

Lenin 1977p. 319.

18

Broué 2005p. 365.

19

Spartakus 1920p. 157.

20

Levi 1920app. 147–8.

21

Levi 1920ap. 148.

23

Levi 1920ap. 149.

24

Levi 1920ap. 150.

25

Riddell (ed.) 2011.

26

Reprinted in Spartakus 1920p. 161.

28

Broué 2005p. 371.

31

Spartakus 1920p. 164.

32

Spartakus 1920p. 165.

34

Spartakus 1920pp. 166–7 emphasis in the original.

35

Spartakus 1920p. 167.

37

Lenin 1976ap. 110.

38

Gruber (ed.) 1967p. 397.

39

Comintern 1977p. 65.

40

Comintern 1977p. 66.

41

Comintern 1977p. 278.

42

Comintern 1977pp. 283–4.

43

Comintern 1977p. 277.

44

Levi 1920b.

45

See the documents in Lewis and Lih 2011.

46

Broué 2005pp. 468–9.

47

Lenin 1976bemphasis in the original.

48

Lenin 1965p. 319 emphasis in the original.

50

Cammett 1967p. 144.

51

Cammett 1967p. 258 n. 8.

52

Levi 1966p. 272.

53

Levi 1966p. 273.

54

Levi 1966pp. 281–2.

55

Quoted in Cyr 2012p. 148.

56

Levi 1966p. 278.

57

Levi 1966p. 281.

60

See the documents in Gruber (ed.) 1967pp. 346–50.

61

Radek 1967pp. 310 312 emphasis in the original.

62

Levi 2011p. 103.

63

Levi 2011p. 106.

64

Levi 2011p. 108.

65

Levi 2011p. 109.

66

Levi 2011p. 108.

67

Lenin 1976b.

69

Gruber (ed.) 1967p. 403.

70

Bayerlein and Albert (eds.) 2014pp. 141–2: Dok. 35: ‘Die Frucht eines zweijährigen Kampfes wird zerstört’: Paul Levis Brief an Lenin zur Kritik der ‘Märzaktion’ [Berlin] 27.3.1921. Béla Kun confirmed that these interviews took place in a letter sent to Lenin from Vienna on 6 May 1921 adding that ‘the old lady’ Cara Zetkin ‘suffered from “dementia seniles” and is the living proof that Lofargne [Lafargue] with his wife acted in a completely correct way’ by committing suicide in old age (Bayerlein and Albert (eds.) 2014 p. 155: Dok. 43: ‘Persönlicher Brief des “Spaniers” (d.i. Béla Kun) an Lenin über die gescheiterte Märzaktion in Deutschland’ [Wien] 6.5.1921).

71

Broué 2005pp. 494 532.

72

Bayerlein and Albert (eds.) 2014p. 156 note citing Koch-Baumgarten 1986 pp. 315–444.

73

Levi 2011pp. 119–65.

74

Levi 2011pp. 166–205.

75

Levi 2011pp. 119–20.

76

Levi 2011p. 146.

77

Levi 2011p. 148.

79

Levi 2011p. 157 Levi’s emphasis.

80

Levi 2011p. 138 Levi’s emphasis.

81

Levi 2011p. 18.

82

Levi 2011p. 163 Levi’s emphasis.

83

Levi 2011p. 164.

84

Levi 2011pp. 182–3.

85

Levi 2011p. 183.

87

Levi 2011p. 184.

88

Levi 2011p. 203.

89

Levi 2011p. 204.

90

Lenin 1976b.

91

Riddell (ed.) 2015 pp. 10941090.

92

Riddell (ed.) 2015p. 1092.

93

Riddell (ed.) 2015p. 1094.

94

Riddell (ed.) 2015pp. 1094–5.

95

Riddell (ed.) 2015p. 1095.

96

Riddell (ed.) 2015p. 1096.

97

Riddell (ed.) 2015p. 941.

98

Riddell (ed.) 2015p. 951.

99

Levi 1920ap. 147.

100

Lenin 1965emphasis in the original.

101

Levi 2011p. 213.

102

Trotsky 1932p. 103.

106

Broué 1997pp. 293–349.

107

Riddell (ed.) 2011pp. 1164–73.

108

Riddell (ed.) 2011pp. 1187–8.

Index Card

Content Metrics

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 18 18 5
Full Text Views 11 11 11
PDF Downloads 3 3 3
EPUB Downloads 0 0 0