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15.10.2020
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Zinoviev in Halle

To mark the centenary of the pivotal Halle congress of the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany on October 20 1920, Ben Lewis looks at the lead-up to and consequences of Grigory Zinoviev’s marathon four-hour speech

Party comrades! It is not without a feeling of deep inner stirring and emotion that today I step onto this stage - the stage of the party congress of the class-conscious German proletariat, of that proletariat from which we have learnt so much and from which we will learn even more. Indeed, we have not come here merely to provide you with news of the experiences of our proletarian revolution, but also to learn something from the German proletariat and its great struggles.

We will not forget that the German proletariat has gained much experience in the two years of revolution it has been through; that there is not a single town in this country where proletarian blood has not been shed for the proletarian revolution. We will not forget that proletarian fighters like August Bebel, Wilhelm Liebknecht and others have struggled in the ranks of the German proletariat. We will not forget that the German working class includes real heroes of the world revolution: Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg.

These are the opening words to one of the most significant speeches of the 20th-century workers’ movement, delivered by Bolshevik leader Grigory Zinoviev at the Halle congress of the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany (USPD). Many on the left will not have even heard of the speech, or the split which followed it. With a few honourable exceptions, Zinoviev’s speech is often overlooked by many histories of the Weimar Republic and the German workers’ movement more specifically.1

But between October 12 and 17 1920, the differences fought out at Halle were to shape the entire future of the German - and indeed the whole European - workers’ movement for decades to come. Two opposing motions were placed before the 392 mandated delegates. They dealt with two simple, yet profoundly controversial, questions. Firstly, should the USPD affiliate to the Communist International, born in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution? Or was this unnecessary, because the parties of the old Second International, which had ceased to function during World War I, were already reforming? Secondly, should the USPD fuse with the young Communist Party of Germany (Spartacist),2 or would this mean sacrificing its autonomy to an organisation that had just recently split away from it anyway?

In 1920 the USPD had something close to 800,000 members and a press which included over 50 daily papers. But with revolutionary sentiment spreading like wildfire across Europe, the USPD stumbled from one crisis to the next.

In spite of its fractious nature,3 the German workers’ movement was enormously powerful. And, as Europe’s leading industrial power, Germany was centrally important to the world revolution that the Bolsheviks had banked on in 1917. Russia was a backward country with an overwhelmingly peasant majority. The Bolsheviks had always been clear that their continued survival hinged crucially on the German working class taking power. Without corresponding revolutionary action in Germany, the Bolsheviks knew that the young Soviet Republic would be condemned to isolation and inevitable defeat. It was surrounded by a sea of hostile imperialist powers and subject to the overarching economic dictates of the world division of labour.

The USPD continued to grow at the SPD’s expense: between the January 1919 and June 1920 elections the SPD’s share of the vote fell from 37.9% to 21.6%. Yet the USPD’s increased from 7.6% to 18.8%. Reflecting its shift to the left from what was initially a melange of opinion ranging from Clara Zetkin to Eduard Bernstein, the USPD insisted that it would not place itself alongside the SPD in a capitalist government: the only government it would join would be a socialist government with majority support.

Many of the USPD’s burgeoning rank and file increasingly looked to Moscow and the Third International (Comintern) for inspiration and felt that it would only be natural for their forces to join the Communist Party of Germany (KPD). Founded in January 1919, this organisation had not yet managed to achieve mass support among the revolutionary working class: the USPD’s affiliation to the Third International and fusion with the forces of the KPD would thus mark a qualitative step forwards for communism internationally.

Such a prospect horrified the right wing of the USPD and emboldened the leadership of Comintern in equal measure. Having rejected notions of ‘international negotiations’ - the matter at hand concerned whether the USPD wanted to join it or not - the Comintern leadership wrote several letters and articles to establish just what was actually going to be done. The USPD right’s prevarication soon became apparent. One ‘open letter’ from the executive committee of the Communist International (ECCI) went unpublished on rather spurious grounds: running such articles in the run-up to the elections could ‘only assist the KPD’. On another occasion a “lack of paper” (!) was blamed for not printing ECCI correspondence.4

Second Congress

The USPD right’s feeble excuses were running into the sand. Meanwhile, moves towards establishing mass communist parties were starting to pay dividends. More and more sizeable parties, from Norway to Italy, were pledging support for the new international. The USPD leadership felt it had no other choice: it had to go to Moscow for Comintern’s Second Congress in July 1920.

Opening to much fanfare, 21 communist parties from across the world were officially present. ECCI chair Grigory Zinoviev opened proceedings by proclaiming the death of the Second International and celebrating Comintern’s transformation from the “propaganda society” of its founding congress of 1919, into a would-be “fighting organisation of the international proletariat”.5 For Zinoviev, attaining this goal required “clarity, clarity and once more clarity”. Expressing the wish that “Soviet France” could commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Paris Commune in 1871, Zinoviev wondered what a Communist Party and a Communist International could have achieved in the heady days of 1871. But conditions were not ripe then. Now they were, and the Second Congress was to clarify remaining political differences to create “one single Communist Party with departments in different countries”.6 The congress was divided into a number of sessions: ‘The role of the Communist Party during and after the revolution’, ‘The national and colonial question’, ‘The conditions of admission to the Communist International’, etc.

The sixth session saw the much-anticipated discussion on the conditions of admission to Comintern. For some delegates like the Dutch leftist, David Wijnkoop, the very presence of large centrist organisations like the USPD and the French Socialist Party was tantamount to the liquidation of revolutionary principles. Henri Guillbeaux also raised objections, because both organisations had not made formal applications to affiliate, but were there to establish the conditions of affiliation.

Yet Zinoviev was adamant that such organisations were not simply to be absorbed into Comintern as they were - that was the role of the conditions. Not seeking to engage with the USPD as a way of winning over 800,000 workers, “badly led as they are”, amounted to nothing more than a sectarian pose. “Under no circumstances … would this congress permit intellectual dishonesty, nor will it make the slightest concessions on principle”.7 Organising in the same party with forces who wavered on the cardinal questions addressed in the conditions would risk another collapse from within, as in Germany or Hungary. Given the fraught nature of the situation, there was no time for patient political struggle within the new International. Soviet Russia was suffering under blockade, and delegates at the congress followed the course of the Soviet-Polish war on a giant map hung on the wall. Meanwhile, Miklós Horthy’s troops ran wild in Hungary, massacring working class activists of all political stripes. The Finnish counterrevolution had, with the complicity of the German SPD, led to the death of around one-fifth of the entire working class. The British government was funding anybody and anything set on occupying and crushing Moscow and Petrograd.

Not that the ECCI was under any illusions that in and of themselves its proposed conditions represented some sort of ‘communist baptism’. Zinoviev reminded the delegates that “it is possible to accept 18,000 conditions and still remain a Kautskyite”. The ECCI had to follow up and monitor the practice of all the parties seeking to affiliate.

Drafted by Zinoviev, the conditions were stringent. Leaders like Kautsky and Hilferding were named as traitors, from whom the workers’ movement should decisively break. The necessity of maintaining an illegal party apparatus alongside a legal one, which caused Wilhelm Dittmann8 and the right some consternation, was uncompromisingly insisted upon. Georg Ledebour made much of the question of the “autonomy” of the USPD as an organisation, which for Clara Zetkin simply amounted to a “German” technocratic/organisational fanaticism conditioned by the organisational prejudices of the Second International.9

Published for the first time on August 24, the conditions eventually agreed upon initiated much debate, particularly among the German, French and Italian parties. They were seen in different lights by the party functionaries, on the one hand, and the membership, on the other. Historian Robert Wheeler has, it should be pointed out, usefully distinguished between a “first and second wave”10 of reception in the USPD.

Left victory

The first response came from the party press, which almost entirely came out negatively. The same can be said of the USPD Reichskonferenz of September 1920, attended by the USPD central committee, Beirat (advisory committee), representatives of local party organisations, newspaper editors, Reichstag fraction members and representatives from the local state parliaments. Many old wounds were opened up in the course of debate. Talk of ‘us’ and ‘you’ surfaced on both sides, with the debate polarising between those ‘for’ and ‘against’ Comintern and the Russian Revolution. This conference of party officials voted against the conditions.

With the national congress in Halle only six weeks away, the USPD right was confident that its majority amongst the functionaries would be reflected in the party as a whole. The USPD left knew the membership better.

Mass USPD assemblies sprang up all over the country. The “second wave” had begun. The key representatives of both tendencies addressed hundreds of meetings, with members eager to hear arguments. Pamphlets,11 bulletins and flyers were hastily produced. Party newspapers were dominated by the dispute. Local party organisations held special meetings to decide on their attitude towards the 21 conditions. Resolutions were debated and adopted.

Disputes over organisational questions overlaid the ideological battle, with the date for the coming congress proving particularly controversial. To the outrage of the USPD left, who did not control the party press and thus relied on time for their arguments to spread, the USPD right succeeded in bringing the congress forward from October 24 to October 12. When it became clear that there was no space in Hilferding’s daily USPD newspaper Freiheit, four leading comrades wrote an ‘Appeal of the USPD left’ in the KPD(S) publication Die Rote Fahne, which criticised the early convocation of the congress.

The party leadership’s decision to hold a referendum to settle the composition of delegates at the forthcoming party congress marginalised the ‘centre’ current around those like Arthur Crispien and Toni Sender, who sought to preserve the organisational independence of the USPD and use it as the basis for launching a new, separate international (a “bastard” international, in Radek’s words). This tendency had to bloc with the USPD right against what it perceived to be the ‘Moscow diktat’ (a derivation from the term, ‘Versailles diktat’, often used then) of Comintern and its 21 conditions.

The gulf between party functionaries and the membership was most evident in Berlin. While all eight editors of Freiheit, naturally including Hilferding, opposed affiliation, 16 out of 18 USPD organisations voted in favour of the 21 conditions. This pattern was repeated nationally: in the referendum which selected the delegates to the Halle congress, 57.8% voted in favour of Comintern affiliation, 42.2% against.

This result revealed that leaders like Dittmann were losing the argument. Returning from Comintern’s Second Congress, he had penned a pamphlet entitled ‘The truth about Soviet Russia’. Intended to make the case against Comintern affiliation, it had precisely the opposite effect. The patronising tone, his condescending attitude towards the young workers’ state in general - and the “uncultured and ignorant” Russian peasantry in particular - revealed his contempt for the Russian Revolution itself.

This angered many USPD members, including those who were very sceptical about the 21 conditions.12 Class instinct alone led so many to instinctively look to Comintern and, in the words of Curt Geyer, to prevent the development of a “holy alliance” of counterrevolutionary powers against the revolution.

Martov and Zinoviev

This backdrop explains the significance of the Halle congress in the history of the workers’ movement. The run-up to it had seen intense debate in the party press, meetings, union caucuses and the broader working class. Both sides were sucked into feverish agitation and propaganda. The USPD effectively ceased to function as a ‘normal’ party in the months prior to the congress. Everything was subordinated to the factional struggle and getting delegates elected.

The days preceding the congress were fractious. On October 9 leftwing USPD Reichstag deputies split from the party’s official fraction. At the Stuttgart regional congress, those opposed to Comintern affiliation simply walked out, following a dispute over the agenda. One day before delegates assembled in Halle, the right wing in control of the Lower Rhine organisation expelled Comintern supporters.

In such circumstances, it is hardly a surprise that there was such a charged atmosphere in Halle, where in effect “two parties” were present – delegates were divided by the walkway down in the middle of the hall, “as if a knife has cut them sharply in two”.13 The spectators’ gallery at the back was packed for the duration. There were two chairmen, one from each wing - Otto Brass (left) and Dittmann (right).

Both sides of the hall featured tried-and-tested leaders who had run illegal newspapers, served in the kaiser’s jails for defeatist agitation amongst soldiers, and spent the last few years being the target of reactionary gangs of thugs and goons.

While the left had won a clear majority of delegates in the party referendum, the five days of the congress were going to be hard fought. This was not going to be a soporific talking shop, but a real battle for the hearts and minds of the movement. Militants from across the whole world looked on. It was here, in the clamour of partisan cheering and booing, that the future direction of the German - and perhaps the international - workers’ movement was fought out. Prominent members such as Wilhelm Könen, Walter Stöcker, Hilferding, Ernst Däumig, Dittmann and Adolph Hoffmann all graced the speaker’s podium. In addition, both USPD factions had canvassed for support internationally, arranging for numerous speakers to address the congress: Marx’s grandson, Jean Longuet, editor of the French Socialist Party’s newspaper, Le Populaire; Solomon Lozovsky, chair of the all-Russian congress of trade unions; Shablin of the Bulgarian communists’ central committee; and many others. But two speakers, both from Russia, were particularly anticipated.

The first was Julius Martov, the intellectually talented but indecisive leader of the Menshevik Internationalists.14 Effectively a co-founder of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, he cut his teeth alongside Lenin in the St Petersburg League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class and then on the editorial board of the underground newspaper Iskra (Spark). Breaking with Lenin and his supporters at the 1903 congress, Martov became one of the main leaders of Menshevism, renowned for his love-hate relationship with the Bolsheviks. Martov’s sophistication of argument and cutting polemics make him stand out from other Menshevik leaders like Fyodor Dan, Pavel Axelrod or Georgi Plekhanov.

Yet these were not the only attributes which distinguished him from other Mensheviks. He was often engaged in protracted battles within his organisation - leading his biographer, Israel Getzler, to consider him an “eternal oppositionist”.15 While highly critical of those in the movement who had besmirched the banner of internationalism by supporting the imperialist war, he refused to go along with the Bolshevik call for a new International. However, Martov was left fuming when, in April 1917, leading Mensheviks like Dan and Irakly Tseretelli took up ministerial posts in the new provisional government and committed themselves to the continuation of the imperialist war. Yet once again he was not prepared to split his Menshevik Internationalist forces from the main Menshevik body. Despite some ideological convergence with the Bolsheviks over 1914-17, he recoiled from the October Revolution and what he called the ‘putschist methods’.

Instead he was at pains to establish contacts with what he deemed the socialist ‘centre’ in Europe. Writing from Soviet Russia, he encouraged those like Karl Kautsky, Victor Adler and Jean Longuet to write letters to Lenin and other Bolshevik leaders condemning the treatment of oppositionist forces. Martov further encouraged them to send party delegations and ‘fact-finding’ commissions to Russia.

Two such leaders had recently returned from Russia: Crispien and Dittmann. And it was they who invited Martov to speak at the Halle congress. They did so because part of Martov’s ‘socialist intervention’ policy was to seek to preserve the organisational and programmatic independence of the European parties from Comintern. Martov felt close to the USPD and its positioning between official social democracy and the Bolsheviks, seeing the USPD as the “backbone of that socialist centre which alone would be capable of forming the core of a future International”.16

Thus his agenda was clear: a split would be the equivalent of condemning the USPD to the wilderness of groups and sectlets, as opposed to real parties. The Bolsheviks were perilously basing themselves on the spontaneous, visceral anger of a population suffering from the privations of the war and the economic crisis17 and this perspective threatened the entire workers’ movement. His position in Halle could be summarised as: ‘Neither Moscow (Bolshevism) nor Berlin (SPD), but international socialism’.

The second eagerly-awaited speaker had come to fight the corner of the USPD left - Grigory Zinoviev. And on October 14, the third day of proceedings, Zinoviev, chair of the ECCI, stepped onto the Halle podium amidst cries of “Bravo!” and “Long live the Third International!”

At this point we need to digress briefly and make a few remarks about Zinoviev. History, to put it mildly, has not been very kind to him. From character sketches to Hollywood movies, he is mostly remembered for his opposition to the Bolshevik seizure of power in October 1917, his ruthless ‘Bolshevisation’ of Comintern and his capitulation to his eventual killer, Joseph Stalin. As with other key Bolshevik figures who fell victim to the Stalinist counterrevolution (amongst others, Karl Radek, Nikolai Bukharin18 and Lev Kamenev), it would appear that Zinoviev was not only physically liquidated by Stalinism, but historically too.

Both on the far left and in the academy, this has tended to confine the interpretation of the Russian Revolution and its degeneration to the decisions and actions of Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin.19 Not only does this downplay the role of the masses: it also fails to grasp the significance of the Bolshevik Party and its role in developing articulate, dedicated leaders. As such it often reduces other leading Bolsheviks to mere minions of the ‘great leader’, Lenin. Understandable for cold war warriors or those in thrall to the ‘cult of the personality’, but utterly insufficient in terms of historical analysis.

Many contemporary records pay testament to his strengths as an agitator and an organiser. Anatoly Lunacharsky was in no doubt: Zinoviev’s speeches “are not as rich or as full of new ideas as the real leader of the revolution, Lenin, and he cannot compete in graphic power with Trotsky”, but, apart from those two, “Zinoviev has no equals”.20 Trotsky had many criticisms of Zinoviev, but he too stressed Zinoviev’s “range of intellect and will”, his deep and unreserved “devotion to the cause of socialism”.21 As the leader of the new Third International, Zinoviev achieved something like celebrity status, from Berlin to Baku.

Zinoviev first met Lenin as a student in Switzerland in 1903. Siding with the Bolsheviks in the RSDLP split, he soon proved his mettle. In 1905 he worked on the party journal Proletary and agitated amongst the Petrograd metalworkers. Voted onto the central committee in 1907, he was arrested within a year. Released on health grounds, he was soon in Switzerland again. That he represented the Bolsheviks at the Zimmerwald anti-war conference of 1915 pays testament to one of his greatest qualities: his ability to speak to hostile audiences and staunchly defend Bolshevik views against opponents and detractors.

Most of his writings remain closed off from an English-speaking audience, but it can certainly be agreed that he lacks the depth, nuance and sophistication of a Trotsky or a Lenin. It is his strengths as an agitator and orator, his ability to respond to real people’s concerns and to tell compelling narratives, that distinguish him. So, even though Lenin called for Zinoviev’s expulsion following the latter’s public opposition to the seizure of power in 1917, Zinoviev was trusted with extremely important tasks: eg, chief party spokesman in the Trade Union Central Council, president of the Petrograd Soviet and chair of the Executive Committee of the Communist International.

Accomplishment

His intervention as ECCI chair at the Halle congress is perhaps his greatest, too often overlooked, accomplishment.22 Readers can judge for themselves, but surely even his most determined detractor admitted that his speech was full of passion, wit and intelligence.

One of Zinoviev’s great advantages in Halle was his command of German. He asked the congress to exercise as much restraint as possible in heckling because of his linguistic limitations, but in reality he was more than capable of dealing with whatever was thrown at him. Geyer, who officially welcomed Zinoviev in Berlin and accompanied him on the train to Halle (with a pistol in his breast pocket just in case) describes Zinoviev’s German as “not completely without error or accent, but incredibly fluent, speaking at a speed considerably greater than my own, and with a diction that appeared to know nothing of commas or full stops”. Geyer was also struck by Zinoviev’s “high, somewhat feminine” voice. 23

Zinoviev’s speech at Halle has very few equals in the history of the workers’ movement. Speaking for over four hours in his second language, he shook German society to its foundations. He impressed even the staunchest supporters of the USPD right, casting seeds of doubt into those who were wavering, and even winning over some to the left.24 We find Zinoviev described in the German bourgeois press as “the first orator of our century”. Though lacking some of the carefully crafted phrases often associated with great speech-making, much of what Zinoviev said was off the cuff. Time and again Zinoviev responds to heated questions and interjections, including from some of European social democracy’s leading figures.

This is precisely what makes the Halle congress so extraordinary. The stenographic record is in parts extremely difficult to follow, due to the myriad interventions from the floor. Nevertheless it allowed the arguments to reach wider audiences.25 It is obvious that the delegates were not only fully knowledgeable about the world political situation, but they were also fully acquainted with the nuances and shades of opinion in the movement. Passions occasionally ran so high that the speakers could not make themselves heard. The intensity of debate is striking. Heckling aside, the congress record makes for incredibly inspiring reading - a painful reminder of how far today’s left has moved away from the healthiest parts of its history in terms of organising congresses which allow time and space to present big issues, put arguments to the test and fully explore and clarify differences. Nowadays we often get only three or four speakers to a motion, each subject to three- or four-minute time limits.

In the end, with the aid of Zinoviev’s rhetoric, the USPD left emerged victorious: 234 delegates voted for affiliation to Comintern and fusion with the KPD(S), soundly trumping the 158 votes against. Typical of the right, once the result was announced, it walked.

Despite the split, this was an enormous step forward. Having lost his voice due to his oratorical exertions, Zinoviev was unable to read out his closing remarks in person. His message, though, was clear: rally the majority of the working class to the new united party.

Stopping off in Berlin on his way back to Russia, he was placed under house arrest. In a diary entry he compares the atmosphere in Germany to the July Days of Russia 1917, when leading Bolsheviks were rounded up by the provisional government and Lenin had to go into hiding. Zinoviev mentions numerous posters on the walls of Berlin openly calling for his blood. That Zinoviev’s detention gave rise to the so-called ‘Bolshevik debates’ in the German Reichstag merely underlines the drama surrounding his speech and his presence on German soil.

The work of Zinoviev and Comintern bore a good harvest.26 In December, around 400,000 USPD members joined the KPD(S) to form the United Communist Party of Germany (VKPD).


  1. To mark the centenary, Zinoviev’s four-hour speech - which was first published in Zinoviev and Martov: head to head in Halle (London 2011), written by Lars T Lih and myself - is now available on the CPGB website (communistparty.co.uk/library/ben-lewis/key-moment-in-building-the-communist-international) and will also hopefully soon feature on the Marxists Internet Archive.↩︎

  2. Formed in January 1919, the Spartacist suffix was only dropped in December 1920. Henceforth I will refer to the Communist Party of Germany (Spartacus) as KPD(S).↩︎

  3. At the Halle congress, Arthur Crispien mocked the USPD left by pointing out that there were already four different ‘communist parties’ in Hamburg alone. Paul Levi, then KPD(S) chair, corrected him with a heckle: there were actually five! Protokolle der Parteitage der USPD Band 3, Berlin 1976, p77.↩︎

  4. Quoted in ‘An alle Mitglieder der USPD’ in Die Kommunistische Internationale No12, summer 1920, p325. The letter appealed to the USPD rank and file to send its own delegates to Comintern’s Second Congress.↩︎

  5. R A Archer (trans) The Second Congress of the Communist International Vol 1, London 1977, p187.↩︎

  6. Ibid p87.↩︎

  7. Ibid p10.↩︎

  8. Wilhelm Dittmann (1874-1954) was originally a cabinet maker, member of the SPD from 1898, a journalist in 1899 and an SPD deputy in 1912. In opposition during World War I, he attacked censorship in particular. He was a USPD co-founder. He was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment in a fortress after the January 1918 strike against the war. Amnestied in October of that year, he became a people’s commissar in November and December. A leader of the USPD right, he returned to the SPD in 1922. Eventually he emigrated to Switzerland in 1933.↩︎

  9. C Zetkin Der Weg nach Moskau Hamburg 1920, p5.↩︎

  10. R F Wheeler USPD und Internationale p233.↩︎

  11. Amongst others, Curt Geyer, Tony Sender, Karl Radek and Clara Zetkin wrote contributions. Not to be outdone, the SPD also chipped in, publishing a pamphlet with the rather long yet barbed title: Who is for splitting the workers’ movement? The USPD. Who is for uniting the workers’ movement? The SPD.↩︎

  12. Wheeler cites an example where one of the party organisations in Berlin voted for the conditions “in spite of them”!↩︎

  13. G Zinoviev, ‘12 days in Germany’ in B Lewis and LT Lih (ed) Zinoviev and Martov: head to head in Halle London 2011, p64.↩︎

  14. Whether this was just revolutionary bravado or not, Zinoviev did not seem too bothered by the prospect of debating Martov. When he was asked what he thought of the latter’s attendance, whilst on the train to Halle, he responded: “Just leave Martov to me - you’ll see”. Quoted in C Geyer Die revolutionäre Illusion: zur Geschichte des linken Flügels der USPD Stuttgart 1976, p219. According to Bukharin, a majority of Politbureau members were concerned that allowing Martov a visa to travel to Germany might throw a spanner into the works of the Comintern. It was mainly due to Lenin’s stubborn insistence that they allowed him to leave for Germany (I Getzler Martov: a political biography of a Russian social democrat Cambridge 2003, p208).↩︎

  15. I Getzler Martov: a political biography of a Russian social democrat Cambridge 2003, p164.↩︎

  16. Ibid p206.↩︎

  17. This was a common aspect of his critique of the Bolsheviks throughout his life. After the failure of the December 1905 uprising, Martov wrote to Axelrod: “... at a time of political lull, the Bolsheviks are bound to win, for the ‘spontaneity’ of revolution works for them; the limited consciousness of ‘conscious’ workers and the cursed, lifeless psychology of ‘kruzhkovshchina’ [little activist circle mentality] and ‘putschism’, which thrives in the underground, works for them.” Quoted in I Getzler Martov: a political biography of a Russian social democrat Cambridge 2003, p113. This quote provides further vindication of Lars T Lih’s research: the Mensheviks were characterised by their ‘worry about the workers’.↩︎

  18. Both Radek and Bukharin played a part in shaping developments in Germany. Unfortunately, the latter seems to have had visa problems and thus could not travel there. In the important run-up to the Halle congress, the former wrote a pamphlet against Hilferding, Crispien and Dittmann, accusing them of saying the same things as Scheidemann and acting as the “last guard of the Whites” (K Radek Die Masken sind gefallen Berlin 1920, p10). Unfortunately, the pamphlet did not arrive in time for the congress. Radek, who had done a lot of work in the West European Bureau of Comintern, was not present at Halle. He had been removed from the Comintern secretariat in August 1920 for opposing the presence of the KAPD at Comintern’s 2nd congress. However, he did represent Comintern at the fusion congress of the new, united KPD in December 1921. I thank comrade Ian Birchall for pointing this out.↩︎

  19. The title of Bertram Wolfe’s study, Three who made a revolution, is a case in point.↩︎

  20. A Lunacharsky Revolutionary silhouettes: Grigorii Ovseyevich Zinoviev (marxists.org/archive/lunachar/works/silhouet/zinoviev.htm).↩︎

  21. L Trotsky Kamenev and Zinoviev (marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1937/xx/kamzinov.htm).↩︎

  22. As far as I can gather, the Halle congress of October 1920 is the only time during Lenin’s lifetime that a top Bolshevik leader left the borders of Soviet Russia to engage in a public defence of the Bolshevik approach in such a polarised discussion.↩︎

  23. C Geyer Die revolutionäre Illusion Stuttgart 1976, p218. According to Lars T Lih, later hostility towards Zinoviev within the Russian party often expressed itself in emphasising Zinoviev’s ‘feminine’ qualities.↩︎

  24. Although all delegates were mandated to vote either with the left or the right, Geyer of the USPD left estimates that there were a number of ‘waverers’ - about 15 in total - who were won over by Zinoviev’s speech. Considering all delegates were mandated, this is impressive. Prager, an opponent of Zinoviev, claims that this figure was closer to “two or three” (E Prager Geschichte der USPD: Entstehung und Entwicklung der Unabhängigen Sozialdemokratischen Partei Deutschlands Berlin 1921, p224).↩︎

  25. Lenin in particular placed great emphasis on congress records and was always itching for them to be completed, so that he could furnish his polemics. In spite of improved technology, hardly any records of left conferences are taken at all. Indeed, why would one bother to do so?↩︎

  26. In making this judgement, I am at odds with historians like Wheeler and Krause, who downplay the role of Bolshevism and reduce Zinoviev to a mere demagogue, speaking at a congress whose result was already fixed.↩︎