Marx, the Paris Commune, and the Dissolution of the Communist International

BY:Wadi’h Halabi| April 24, 2019

The heroic Paris Commune was overturned after just 10 weeks. Its defeat could be seen as reason for workers to not again seize power. Marxism instead set about systematically identifying the Commune’s weaknesses.

These included failures to immediately organize centralized defenses against the bourgeoisie’s inevitable efforts to retake power, to seize the banks and to champion land reform, which would have torn the countryside from the property owners.

The Commune deeply informed Lenin’s foundational work on party, state and revolution. Marxism thus set the stage for the victory of the Russian Revolution, the creation of the International and CPs worldwide, and all subsequent labor-led revolutions.

Marxism demands a similar approach to the weaknesses leading to the (temporary) dissolution of the Communist International. The working class can face the truth and correct its errors.

Even the strongest of us will make errors. This is because we are surrounded by the pervasive ‘culture of exploitation’ that has developed since the rise of classes. It is reflected in agriculture, schools, social inequalities such as between nationalities, men and women, intellectual and manual labor, city and countryside.

Many elements of the culture of exploitation survive a socialist revolution. These cause us to make errors. But working together, we can overcome them. The truth is that the Communist International made many errors.  Cde.Sims cites a few.

I have tried to study the International, factors in the Soviet Union’s fall and the defeat of many struggles in the decades since the International was (temporarily) dissolved.

Conclusions include:

  • The International was weakened by incorrect assessment of global developments, and the immense difficulties in organizing the Soviet Union, which dominated the International.
  • Today, a Marxist assessment of the major world developments and their implications for the transition is essential for conscious international unity. Most important are the counter-revolutions that brought down the USSR and eleven similar states; the still-unfolding general crisis of capitalism; the accelerating world environmental crisis; the massive growth in inequality in the world, and deepening oppression of entire nations; China’s extraordinary economic development; and implications of two social systems interacting and conflicting within a single world economy.
  • All sections have the responsibility, indeed duty to think independently; to raise doubts; to contribute critically to the correction of errors and the development, implementation and refining of our program, strategy, and actions. (Doesn’t this duty apply to all Party bodies and members?)
  • Measures are needed to keep one section from dominating the International. For example, the largest section may have four votes on the International’s central body, while small sections are guaranteed one vote, even though they may have a fraction of the largest sections’ memberships.
  • There is a need for relative separation of the various subcommittees addressing the International’s necessary tasks, such as union, national-liberation, prisoner defense, gender equality, environmental tasks — along with development of periodic mechanisms to resolve contradictions among those tasks and make the best out of a bad situation.
  • The relative separation can be achieved many ways. One could simply be geographic. For example, the central body probably should be located in a state where the working class holds power — there are five such states today. These states have the necessary resources to organize meetings and Congresses, and to protect from capitalist interference.
  • Subcommittees, on the other hand, could be located elsewhere, e.g. labor in one capitalist country, national-liberation in another, environmental in still another; and so on.
  • Subcommittees, like sections, must have a voice in developing, implementing and assessing the International’s policies. How to weigh voting is a difficult but solvable challenge.
  • In states where the working class holds power, the Soviet experience has demonstrated the necessity for relative separation of Party from government. (They were intertwined under one discipline in the USSR, with pressing government tasks often taking precedence over Party tasks, this carried over to the International.)
  • What distinguishes all Communist Parties (sections), even after a socialist revolution, is that we “bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality” (Manifesto). The common interests of the proletariat are summarized as advancing the transition, i.e. human liberation from capitalism.
  • With the world changing rapidly, Congresses will need to be frequent for the International to be effective. The International met yearly after its founding 100 years ago.

Even the smallest steps are welcome to restore trust and unity among our Parties. These may range from joint initiatives to advance education in Marxism, to prevent war, to stop capitalism’s further poisoning of nature, defense of political prisoners, cooperation in rebuilding the world Communist youth movement, repudiate student debt – there is no shortage.

Deepening poverty and social decay hound capitalist countries, making struggle and revolution more necessary but also more difficult (not impossible). Conditions are more positive in the states where the working class holds power.

Revolutionary optimism depends on conscious Communist mobilizing of past accomplishments of the international working class. These include Marxism, certain methods in education and organizing, ecological agriculture, our unions, states, parties – and the International.

Comrade Sims is among handfuls of dedicated comrades whose great efforts have kept the CPUSA alive since the Soviet collapse, an accomplishment in itself. But positions he is advocating have not and will not strengthen the international working class.

These are extraordinary times. Humanity faces existential challenges. Horrors have now enveloped the Congo (and Yugoslavia) for nearly three decades, Syria, Libya, Mali since 2011 – and many more “real existing” examples of the future under capitalism. The masses worldwide are desperately looking for solutions. Without our Parties’ common initiatives, the solutions will not arise.

Human liberation requires recommitting to Communist international unity and the common interests of the proletariat, independently of all nationality.

Workers of the world, unite!


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