We publish below extracts from the Manifesto of the Workers’ Group of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks). This current of opposition in the RKP (b) was led by Gavril Ilyich Myasnikov, a Russian metalworker from the Urals, who was a veteran Bolshevik activist who participated in the 1905 and 1917 revolutions. Myasnikov was a Left Communist in 1918, opposed to the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. He was dissatisfied with elements of Russian ommunist Party policy and increasing bureaucratisation but had disagreed with the Workers Opposition in 1920-21 in their call for unions to manage the economy. Instead, in a 1921 manifesto, Myasnikov called for “producers’ soviets” to administer industry and for freedom of the press for all workers. Leaders of the Workers’ Opposition Alexander Shlyapnikov and Sergei Medvedev feared that Myasnikov’s proposals would give too much power to peasants. Despite their disagreements, however, they supported Myasnikov’s right to voice criticisms of Party policy. Along with former members of the Workers’ Opposition, Myasnikov signed the “Letter of the Twenty-Two” to the Comintern in 1922, protesting the Russian Communist Party leaders’ suppression of dissent.
In February 1922, Myasnikov was expelled from the Russian Communist Party. In 1923, he formed an opposition faction called “Workers’ Group of the Russian Communist Party” that opposed NEP. The group included some former members of the Workers’ Opposition. Party leaders arrested Myasnikov in May 1923, but then released him and attempted to isolate him from his support base by assigning him to a trade mission in Germany in 1923. There Myasnikov formed ties to the Communist Workers’ Party (KAPD). These groups helped him publish the manifesto of the Workers’ Group, without permission from the Russian Communist Party. The main source for this group’s writings in English, the Manifesto of the Communist Workers’ Group of Russia, was published in the Workers’ Dreadnought throughout January and February of 1924. The Workers’ Group was suppressed after its preparations to call a one day general strike and a mass demonstration, in commemoration of the Bloody Sunday march of 1905, with Lenin’s portrait heading the march. The Central Committee produced a resolution branding them as anti-Communist and anti-Soviet and ordered the GPU to suppress it. In 1923 Myasnikov was persuaded to return to Russia, where he was arrested and imprisoned. In 1927, his sentence was changed to internal exile in Armenia. In 1928, he fled the USSR for Iran. In 1930, he immigrated to France, where he worked in factories until 1945. In 1945, the Soviet secret police returned Myasnikov to the USSR, where he was executed.
Chris Kane, The Commune
Manifesto of the Workers’ Group of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks)
To the Communist Comrades of all countries:
The present condition of the productive forces in the countries of highly developed capitalism gives the proletarian movement of these countries a character of a fight for the communist revolution. Either humanity – drowning by national and civil wars in its own blood will disappear in barbarism, or the proletariat will carry out its historical mission to take the power and once and for all put an end to the exploitation of man by man, and to civil and class wars among peoples and nations, and will plant the banner of eternal peace, work and brotherhood.
The hurried proceedings with the armaments of the air fleet by England, France, America, Japan, and so on, threatens with a new never heard-of war, in which many tens of millions of human beings will perish through centuries of collected riches of the cities, factories, and worships, and everything which the labourers and peasants have created through centuries painful work.
It is the mission of the proletariat in every country to throw down its own national bourgeoisie. The quicker the proletariat makes an end of the bourgeoisie of its own country, sooner will the proletariat of the whole world solve its historic problem.
In order to put an end to the exploitation, repression, and the wars, the proletariat must cease to fight for a slight increase of wages or for shortening of the working time; formerly it was necessary to do so, but to-day it must fight for its rule.
The bourgeoisie and the other oppressors classes of all kinds and shades are satisfied with the social traitors of all countries and peoples. Especially because these divert the attention ‘the proletariat away from the chief objects the struggle against the rule of the bourgeoisie and of the oppressors, and continuously put up such small, petty demands that they cannot check the repression and violence. The Socialists of all countries are at any given moment the only saviours of the bourgeoisie from the proletarian revolution, because the numberless mass of the working class is accustomed to be suspicious of everything which comes from their oppressions, but when the same things are described as being in its interests and will be adorned further with Socialist phrases, then this workman who dimmed by these phrases believes the traitors and expends his power for a hopeless fight. The bourgeoisie has, and will have, no better advocate.
The Communist vanguard of the proletariat must, before everything, destroy in the heads of their class-comrades the bourgeois rubbish and capture their consciousness in order to lead them to a bloody fight for victory. But order to burn out this rubbish; one should stay always on the side of the proletariat in its dangers and difficulties. Naturally, it should be attempted to win the sympathy of e proletariat by all manner of means, but not by cutting away, neglecting, or giving up fundamental watchwords. Whoever departs from them—for temporary advantages – he does not attempt to lead the masses, but limps after them and does not conquer, but surrenders himself to those with whom he must fight.
One must not, also, ‘always look around for others and wait till the proletarian revolution will simultaneously break out in all countries; one must not excuse its indecision “We are ready for revolution and are also strong, but the others are strike the German bourgeoisie and the social “set ” (of people), what will take place then? The following happens: the bourgeoisie and social traitors will flee before the proletarian ire to France and Belgium and will implore Poincare weepingly, to finish with the German proletariat, promising the French in return for it to keep the Versailles treaty holy and perhaps even to give up the Rhine and Ruhr territory; that is, they will so act as the Russian bourgeoisie and their allied social traitors did and do till to-day. Poincare and Co. will naturally accept with the greatest pleasure the good cause saving Germany from its proletariat—just as the robbers of the whole worlds did with Soviet Russia. But the ill-luck of Poincare and Co. consists in the matter that their army composed of workmen and peasants, as soon as it will see, that they should help the German bourgeoisie and its accomplices against the German proletariat and Soviet Germany, will turn its arms against its own bourgeoisie, against Poincar6, and Poincare—in order to save the skin of himself and his bourgeoisie with their socialist accomplices to their fate, and that, although the German proletariat will break the treaty of Versailles, drive away Poincare from the Rhine and Ruhr, and will proclaim a peace without annexations and contributions with self-determination of nations. It is not difficult for Poincare to get the upper hand of the Germany of Cuno and of the Fascists, but he will break his teeth with the proletarian Germany of Councils. Therefore, if there is possession of strength, one must fight and not turn round to see all sides.
There is still another danger for the proletarian revolution. That is the splitting of its forces.
In the interests of the proletarian world revolution, the exertion of the total revolutionary proletariat must be unified. If the victory of the proletariat is unthinkable without definite break and desperate fight with the enemies of the working class— with the social traitors of the Second so-called International, who, arms in hand, suppress the revolutionary movement of the proletariat in their own as well as foreign countries, this victory of the proletariat without the union of all forces which are for the communist revolution, for the dictatorship of the proletariat, is equally unthinkable. And, therefore, do we, the workers’ group of the Communist Party of Russia (B), address to all honest Communist revolutionary proletarians with the appeal to unite their forces for the last and decisive battle. We call upon all parties of the Third International, the parties which are united in the Fourth International, and also those separate organisations which belong to neither of these, but which pursue the same objects as these, to form a united front. A united front for fight and victory.
The beginning is made. The proletarian Russia has finished according to the proletarian communist art, the bourgeoisie and its followers of all sorts and shades (social-revolutionaries, Mensheviks, and so on), who defended them so zealously. As you see, although it was weaker than the German bourgeoisie was, it has beaten the whole world bourgeoisie, as a result of the attack made upon it at the request of the Russian bourgeois, landlords, and socialist renegades.
Now it is the turn of the proletariat of the west to act, and it must unify its powers and begin the fight for its rule.
Naturally, it is harmful to close one’s eyes before the dangers, which threaten the Russian October Revolution, and also the world revolution from inside of Russia.
Soviet Russia goes through one of the most difficult moments. It has many drawbacks of such nature that it can become disastrous for proletarian Russia and the whole world. These drawbacks result from the weakness of the Russian working class and of the weakness of the proletarian world movement.
The proletarian Russia cannot yet oppose its will to the tendencies of liquidation of the conquests of the October Revolution—tendencies come from the bureaucracy degenerated in the New Economic policy, and, therefore, a very great danger threatens the achievements of the Russian proletarian revolution, not so much from outside as from inside itself.
The proletariat of the whole world is directly and indirectly interested in protecting the victories of the October Revolution against every danger. Such a country as Russia, as the basis of communist world revolution, means already to achieve half the victory, and, therefore, the pioneers of the international proletarian army, the communist of all countries, must give expression to their views upon the deficiencies and illnesses from which Soviet Russia and its troop of the Communist army of the proletariat—the Communist Party of Russia (B) suffers.
The workers’ group of the Communist Party of Russia (B), which is well posted on the Russian situation, -makes the beginning. We are not of the opinion that we, proletarian communists, should not speak about our mistakes because there are on the earth social traitors and scoundrels who will be able to exploit our words against Soviet Russia and Communism. All these fears are beside the point. Whether our enemies openly or secretly are inimical to us, it does not matter; they are troublemakers, who, according to their nature, cannot live without doing harm to us proletarians and communists. But what is the conclusion of it? Should we pass, therefore, over our sicknesses and deficiencies silently and not speak of them nor take measures to destroy them? What will take place, then, when we allow ourselves to be chased by the social traitors upon the hours of a dilemma and keep silent? In such a case it can go so that there remains only a memory of the achievements of the October Revolution.
It is, therefore, exactly in the interests of the proletarian world revolution and of the Russian working class, if we, the workers’ group, make the beginning, and, without trembling before the opinion of the social traitors, we put the decisive questions of the international and proletarian movement. We have already said that the deficiencies can be explained from the weakness of the international as well as from the Russian proletarian movement, and the best help which the proletariat of other countries can give to the Russian proletariat is a revolution in their own countries, even if only in one or two of these most developed of capitalist countries. If even there is not sufficient strength at present, it is at any rate enough to help the Russian revolution to hold its position of the October Revolution till the proletariat of all other countries will rise and vanquish the enemy.
The working class of Russia, weakened by the imperialist world war, the civil war and the famine, is not all all strong; it can overcome the dangers which threaten at present just because it has acknowledged these dangers and will exert all its powers in order to overcome them and, with the help of the proletariat of all other countries!, it will also succeed.
The workers’ group of the Communist Party of Russia (B) has sounded the alarm, and its call finds loud echo in whole, great Soviet Russia. Everything which is proletarian and honest in the Communist Party of Russia is uniting and beginning the struggle. It will be successful for us to awaken in the minds of all thinking proletarian groups the thought about the fate of the achievements of the October Revolution.
The struggle is hard. Legal work has been made impossible for us—we work unlawfully (illegal). We could not print our “Manifesto” in Russia. We printed it secretly and continued to copy it upon the typewriter. The comrades who come to be suspected of being near to us in sympathy will be excluded from the party and trade unions simply upon suspicion, arrested, and spirited away.
To the Xllth. Party Congress of the Communist Party of (Russia, the comrade Zinoviev had announced, under the acclamation of the party and Soviet bureaucrats, a new formula of suppression of every critique of the working class. He said: “my and every criticism of the central office of the Communist Party of /Russia, whether it comes from the right or left side, is Menshevism.” (Read his speech to the Xllth. Congress of the Communist Party of Russia.) What does it mean? It means the following: If the conduct of the central office does not appear right to a workman-communist, and, he, in his proletarian simplicity, begins to criticise, then he will be excluded from the party and from the trade union; will finally declare him ‘a Menshevik, and will thrust him into the G.P.U. (political police department). The central of the party does not tolerate any criticism……………………….
Every Bolshevik and especially the average members of the party who possessed little experience in political intrigues, cried at every street-corner to the Mensheviks: “you faithless traitors of the working class! We will hang you to the telegraph poles. You carry the guilt of the international carnage in which the working people of all countries were drowned. You have murdered Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht. The streets of Berlin become red, thanks to your atrocities, with the blood of the workers who rose in indignation against the capitalist exploitation and oppression. You are the makers of the treaty of Versailles; you have committed numberless crimes against the international proletariat by betraying them at every step.” The readers must admit that it is not quite proper to offer to a communist worker with such an attitude the “socialist united front” i.e. a united front with Noske Scheidemann, Vandervelde Branting and Co.
It must be somehow masked. The theses are not entitled simply ‘Socialist united front’ but ‘on the united workers’ front and on the relation with the workers who follow the Second, Two-and-a half, and Amsterdam Internationals and also to those who support the Anarcho-Syndicalist organisation. The same comrade Zinoviev who writes these theses, a little earlier had invited us to take part in the funeral of the Second International. He has apparently received news from this International that the announcement of its death is a little exaggerated. Therefore comrade Zinoviev has not lost his presence of mind and invites us now to the marriage of the Communist International with the, Second International.
An agreement with the workers is not spoken of only with the parties of the Second and two-and-half Internationals. Every workman, even if he has been a refugee abroad, knows that the parties are represented by their head offices and there sit Vandervelde, Branting, Scheidemann, Noske and Co. With them, an agreement will be arrived. Who was at the Berlin Conference of the Three Internationals? To whom has the Comintern offered its heart and hand? To Wels, Vandervelde among others.
Have they tried to come to an understanding with the Communist Workers’ Party (KAPD) of Germany, although the same comrade Zinoviev says that in it very valuable proletarian elements are to be found.
It is true, comrade Zinoviev says in the theses that no amalgamation at all of the Comintern with the Second International is attempted and that the former will keep its organisational independence.
The Communists impose upon themselves a discipline in activities, but they must preserve unconditionally with it the right and the possibility, not only before and after but even when necessary during action, to give expression to their opinions about the politics of all workers organisations without exception.
Discipline in action and independence in expressing the views is formally recognised for the inner party life in the Statutes of the C.P. of Russia. That does not mean any thing other than one must do what the majority has decided …you can exercise only criticism…….. Do that which has been commanded to you, but if you are too angry and know quite definitely that it does harm to the cause of world revolution, then you can give your anger free vent, during, before and after action—speak. That is synonymous with giving up independent action, exactly as Vandervelde had provided a clause when he subscribed to the Treaty of Versailles.
In the same theses the executive gives out the watchword of ‘Workers’ Government’ whereby it slyly substitutes for the slogan of the “dictatorship of the Proletariat” the slogan of “Socialist Ministries.” What is exactly then ‘Workers’ Government’? It is a government which will be formed out of the Central Committees of Allied Parties and Ebert (Socialist) is President, as in Germany—even if a cabinet, as befits him, is added, we get an ideal programme which is built upon these theses. Then when this watchword is not accepted, the Communists must support with their voice the Socialist Prime Minister Branting in Sweden and Ebert in Germany. Comrade Zinoviev offers them the united front and proposes to them the formation of a Socialist government with communist supplement.
Noske, Ebert, Scheidemann and company will go to the meetings of workmen and will tell them that the Comintern has declared amnesty and offers instead of the gibbet, Ministerial Chairs. But upon one condition, viz. that the Communists will receive one, even if the worst Ministerial Chair. To give or not to give? It will be voted and decided to give it. They will tell the whole working class that the Communists have recognised that only together with them and not against them is it possible to fight for Socialism. Only look at these people! They lept and they jumped, they buried and hanged us and finally, however, have they come to us.
The Communist International has certified the political trustworthiness of the Second International and has received from it a certificate of political poverty. What is really the cause of this change? Why does comrade Zinoviev offer Ebert, Scheidemann and Noske a Ministerial seat instead of a gibbet? Only a little previously had he sung the burial hymn to the Second International and complained against its spirits. Why does he sing now a panegyric? Shall we see its resurrection and worship it?
The theses of comrade Zinoviev answer this question thus: “The economic world crisis’ is sharpening, unemployment is increasing, capital is taking the offensive and endeavours to press down the standard of life of the proletariat.” Also a war is inevitable. For these reasons, the working class is going more to the left. The reformist illusions are destroyed. The broad workmen’s circles begin for the first time to prize the Communist vanguard… and therefore… one must form a united front with Scheidemann.
The end does not correspond with the beginning. We would not be just unless we added a few more grounds which comrade Zinoviev adds in his defence of the united front. He makes a wonderful discovery: “The working class strives towards unity. And how can it do otherwise than through a united front with Scheidemann?!!!
Every conscious worker to whom the interests of his class and of the world revolution is not foreign, can ask: Is it only now, in the movement when the necessity of united front is supported, that the working class has desired to become united? Everyone who has lived in the moment of the appearance of the working class on the arena of political struggle, knows the desperation which rises in every workman: why do the Mensheviki, Bolsheviki, the Social-Revolutionaries and the members of the Workers’ Party fight one another? They all want the best for the people. Then what do they fight each other for? Every workman lives in this doubt. But what conclusion must one draw from that? It is necessary to organise and lead the working class into a self-dependent class-party, in which act one must place oneself in antagonism to all other parties. That our petty-bourgeois prejudices must be laid aside, was correct. It is true also until today. We must prepare the working- class in all capitalist countries where the era for social revolution has arrived, for open armed attack, exactly against International Menshevism and Social-Revolutionaries. In this case the experiences of the Russian Revolution must be considered. It must be tightly hammered into the working class of the whole world that they, the Socialists of the Second and Two-and-a-half Internationals are at the head of counter-revolution and will continue to remain there. The propaganda of united front together with the social traitors of all shades attempts to convince that the latter also fight for and not against Socialism.