You Can Trust the Communists (to be Communists)
Chapter 3 - The Molding of a Communist
The Molding of a Communist - Communist Party: Origin and Organization
The achievements of Communism are unprecedented in the annals of human history. The Communists have repeatedly achieved the impossible. They have made idiots of every expert. Any man who had predicted twenty years ago, the situation that exists in the world today, would have been laughed to scorn. How have they done it? What force has been let loose upon the world? The achievements of Communism are the achievements of organization. The Communist Party was formed, not on a principle of economic doctrine or philosophy but upon a principle of organization. Communism is the great illustration of the truism that organization will inevitably conquer disorganization and spontaneity.
Karl Marx and Frederick Engels were the authors of the basic philosophic and economic Communist doctrines. They lived and wrote from about 1840 to 1890. During their lives, many movements were formed to advanced Marxist teaching. A Marxist party was finally formed in Russia under the name of the Social Democratic Labor Party. The individual largely responsible for its formation was a man called Plekhanov. In 1903 a conference of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party was held in Brussels, Belgium. The police, objecting to this international gang of racketeers and revolutionaries meeting in their fair city, asked them to move, whereupon they went across to London, England, the historic haven of refugees. This congress in 1903 is one of the significant events in world history.
A young man named Vladimir Ilyich Lenin came to the congress with very definite ideas about the type of organization that was necessary to achieve basic Marxist objectives. Lenin desired a party organized on military lines, composed of professional revolutionaries subject to maximum discipline and indoctrination. He desired a party of total obedience and submission that would operate with a single mind and will. At the congress, he introduced a motion to implement his ideas concerning the nature of the Party. He moved that no one be accepted as a member of the Party unless he served in a disciplined capacity in one of the Party organizations. A man could not come and say, "I approve the doctrines, the aims and the methods of your Party. I'd like to join. I'll pay my membership dues. I'll abide by the rules. Sign me up." This was not the way it was to be done. Lenin declared that if a man wished to join the Party, he should first link up with one of its working units. The Party operated through multiple local organizations. Some of these units met in neighborhoods, others met in factories, while still others met in the military forces. Having joined one of these units, the individual could prove himself by working within it in a disciplined, obedient fashion. Only in this way should he come into Party membership.
Lenin's motion was opposed by Martov who approved the idea in principle, but who thought it a little too extreme. He pointed out that there were certain important individuals who would be embarrassed if they had to serve in a humble, disciplined capacity in one of the Party organizations-- such people as members of the aristocracy, important businessmen, leading government servants, university professors. Many of these people approved of the Party and were willing to support it, but they would be embarrassed if they had to join a street corner group and engage in its activities. Therefore he suggested a special clause that would allow general membership for special people who could come into membership without joining one of the working units.
Lenin, however, stood firm, insisting that they did not want such people. They needed a party of unity, discipline and obedience, with every member under observation and control. Those unwilling to join on these conditions could become sympathizers and helpers, but they must remain on the outside. The Party wanted no member who was not totally subject to Party discipline.
The vote was taken and Lenin obtained a majority. The Russian word for majority is akin to "bolshevik" and the word for minority is akin to "menshevik." The followers of Lenin became known as the Bolsheviks, and those of his opponent, Martov, were known as the Mensheviks.
It was a seemingly unimportant difference of opinion concerning Party membership, but the cleft that is caused has become the determinant of the destiny of the world. Neither Lenin nor Martov realized its depth and significance. They held unity conferences periodically, but there were quarrels and the cleft widened. In 1917 the division became formal and final. In that year, Lenin returned to Russia from exile in Geneva, Switzerland, after the revolution that had overthrown the Czar, and renamed the Bolshevik segment of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party the Communist Party of Russia (Bolshevik). From that tiny fragment, the entire present world Communist movement has developed.
There has never been any growth like that of the Communist Party in the history of mankind. Some measure of its growth is revealed by the fact that, in one generation, the Communists have conquered more people than Christians have even told about Christ after nearly two thousand years. Some measure of their progress is indicated by the fact that today there are five children in school learning in detail the godless doctrines of Communism for every one child in school learning anything about Christ. The success of the Communist Party has been due to the ceaseless activity of this Leninist organization.
The first step is the recruitment of an intellectual elite to be the core of the Communist Party. The idea is not to recruit great masses of people. The concept is that of a disciplined and dedicated minority who conquer the masses by reason of their superior knowledge and organization. Some of the influences that lead to the recruitment of the intellectual have already been discussed. It is no light thing to join the Communist Party. The membership price is very heavy. It is yourself. Everything you are and everything you hope to be is given utterly to the Communist Party. Some idea of the concept that the Communists have of their role and destiny is given by the speech of Joseph Stalin on the death of Lenin.
Comrades, we Communists are people of a special mould. We are made of a special stuff. We are those who form the army of the great proletarian strategist, the army of Comrade Lenin. There is nothing higher than the title of member of the Party whose founder and leader was Comrade Lenin. It is not given to everyone to be a member of such a party. It is not given to everyone to withstand the stresses and storms that accompany membership in such a party. It is the sons of the working class, the sons of want and struggle, the sons of incredible privation and heroic effort who before all should be members of such a party. That is why the Party of the Leninists, the Party of the Communists, is also called the Party of the working class. Departing from us, Comrade Lenin adjured us to hold high and guard the purity of the great title of member of the Party. We vow to you, Comrade Lenin, that we will fulfil your behest with credit.(1)
In his book, How to Be a Good Communist, Liu Shao-chi, President of Communist China, outlines the qualities demanded of a Communist.
Whether or not a Communist Party member can absolutely and unconditionally subordinate his personal interests to the Party's interests under all circumstances is the criterion with which to test his loyalty to the Party, to the revolution and to the Communist cause. To sacrifice one's personal interests and even one's life without the slightest hesitation and even with a feeling of happiness, for the cause of the Party, for class and national liberation and for the emancipation of mankind is the highest manifestation of Communist ethics. This is a Party member's highest manifestation of principle. This is the manifestation of the purity of proletarian ideology of a Party member.(2) The demand is for absolute and unconditional sub-ordination of personal interests to the Party's interests under all circumstances. The Communist must not only be prepared to die for Communism, but he must feel happy while he is dying. Lenin defined Communists as "dead men on furlough." The Communist dies to self, and gives the Community Party his life.
The principle of Communist Party organization is known as "democratic centralism." The Party, at the base, is made up of local units, each containing a small number of people. This unit may be called a cell, a club or any innocuous name. It may be a neighborhood group, a factory group, a school group or a nationality group. Each local group elects a representative to a district council which co-ordinates the actions of the local units. This election of representatives is the democratic aspect of the organization. However, the local unit may not instruct its representative how to vote at the district council. Once elected, he is responsible to the district council, not his local group.
When the district council meets, each issue is openly debated with arguments for and against, until the vote is finally taken. When the vote is taken, a change comes over the situation. Once the vote is taken, the decision is unanimously binding on every member of the committee. Back they go to their local units to carry the verdict to them. They may not go back and say, "This is how the committee voted, but personally I was against it." They must present the verdict enthusiastically and with conviction. The decision of the district council is binding on every member of the local group. No decision can ever be appealed below. Under special circumstances it can be appealed to a higher committee.
In a similar fashion, the district committees elect representatives to a higher committee. The decisions of that higher committee, once made, are unanimously binding on every member, and binding everywhere below it, with a possibility of appeal above. Finally, the Central Committee of the Party is reached. From the Central Committee there is elected the executive of the Central Committee, known as the Presidium, formerly called the Politburo. With this committee the ultimate is reached. Since decisions made at each committee level are unanimously binding everywhere below it, decisions made by the top committee, the Presidium of the Central Committee, are absolute and final. There is no possibility of appeal. Their decisions carry the character of absolute truth.
The members of this Presidium are tried, proven Communists. They have worked their way up by hard, dedicated service. They are long established in the principles of Communist discipline and obedience and they observe unfalteringly the principle that the majority vote it final and absolute. Before the vote is taken, they may oppose a proposal vehemently, but once the vote is taken they must believe that the majority decision is right with their whole heart. No vestige of conscientious objection remains. As a united body they report to the Central Committee. The Central Committee hears the report, is instructed in the reasons for it, and unanimously approves it. From the Central Committee, the delegates go down to the next committee level where the same process is repeated. The report is given, unanimously approved, and processes to work it out are established. In this way, a decision reached at the top committee level becomes binding on every member throughout the entire organization.
Periodically, we see evidence of what appears to be fundamental division within the Communist Party. Leading Communists are suddenly hurled from their seats of power. They plunge into the abyss of shame, disgrace, and, frequently, of death. When we hear of quarreling in the top ranks of Communism, we smile happily and wait for the split to come, and for Communism to disintegrate. But our hopes are always doomed to disappointment because we do not understand that quarreling at the top level of Communism leading to the disgrace of leading Communists is not an evidence of division, but a proof of unity. It is not a manifestation of weakness; it is a sign of strength.
Historically, this is quite easy to prove. In 1924, Lenin died. He left the destiny of world Communism in the hands of a Politburo of seven men. All were Communist world figures, each of them utterly dedicated to the Communist cause. All of them had given a lifetime of service to Communism, had forsaken home, family, and fortune, had undergone hardship and suffered imprisonment and privation for the sake of Communism. When Lenin died, they turned on one another in an orgy of mutual destruction. When the final record was written, Stalin had emerged victorious and the other six died violent deaths. According to our customary interpretation, the Communist Party should have been rent asunder and have shivered into fragments. In actual fact, the very reverse took place. It acquired a monolithic unity and strength, and went ahead to conquer well nigh half the world.
This seems incomprehensible because the principle of democratic centralism has not been understood. According to this principle, the decision of the Presidium is absolute. If that committee votes that one member is a traitor, he must believe that he is a traitor, he must confess that he is a traitor, and he must welcome his own execution. For his mind is the mind of the Party, and his life belongs to the Party. The willingness of the top Communist leadership to act in this way is an evidence of unity and strength, not of division and weakness. It reveals their total dedication and devotion to the party.
When Lenin died, the great name in Communism was Leon Trotsky. The name Trotsky was linked with that of Lenin throughout the chancelleries of the world as the author of the Communist revolution. Most people expected Trotsky to assume power. Trotsky was a great orator, a military genius, a brilliant philosopher, historian and author.
But Trotsky had joined the Bolsheviks only in 1917. He was more or less a "Johnnie come lately." In 1903, he had been called "the dagger of Lenin," and was Lenin's spokesman. In 1905, when revolution broke out in Russia, Trotsky was the chairman of the Petrograd Soviet. When the revolution failed he was arrested and brought to trial. He made a great oratorical defense of the right of revolution, but was convicted, and sentenced to lifetime Siberian exile. Czarist treatment of political prisoners was benign and compassionate compared with the treatment meted out by the Communists. He escaped shortly after he arrived in Siberia, and went into European exile.
Between 1905 and 1917 Lenin and Trotsky quarrelled constantly about points of doctrine. Lenin led the Bolsheviks; Martov led the Mensheviks; and Trotsky led an intermediate group trying to conciliate the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks. Trotsky called Lenin the exploiter of the worst elements of the proletariat. Lenin called Trotsky a compromiser without principle.
Lenin returned to Russia in April, 1917, and formed the Communist Party from the Bolshevik segment of the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party. Trotsky arrived in May from Nova Scotia, Canada, where he had been interned. He was met at the railway station by cheering throngs and made a speech in line with the policies of Lenin. In July, 1917, he joined the Bolsheviks. When the July revolution was a failur, Trotsky was arrested and Lenin went into hiding. However, influences were brought to bear for Trotsky's releast. He was re-elected chairman of the Petrograd Soviet, and chairman of the Military Revolutionary Committee. As such he was official military head of the Communist revolution. Following the success of the revolution, he was Foreign Minister and creator and Commander-in-Chief of the Red Army. He was leader of the Red Army while it defeated the armies of intervention. He was a member of the Politburo until 1924.
Trotsky had a great name and a great popular following . He was a hero to the Red Army. But the fact that he had a great name was unimportant. The fact that he was Commander-in-Chief of the Red Army, and its idol, was also unimportant. The only important thing was the vote he could get in the Politburo of the Communist party after Lenin's death. Trotsky received practically no votes at all, for Zinoviev, Kamenev, and Stalin formed a triumvirate to keep him out of power. The death of Lenin was followed by an interregnum of collective leadership. Trotsky was expelled from the Politburo, dismissed as Commander-in-Chief of the Red Army, and exiled from Russia. He could have taken the Red Army and turned it against the Communist Party, but he refused to do so. The Communists have a name for the act of using military power for political purposes. They call it "Bonapartism." Trotsky scorned Bonapartism. He said, "History has given one instrument only for the fulfillment of its purpose. That instrument is the Communist Party." When he was escorted to the Turkish border, he make them push him across. He wanted it on record that he had not left Russia of his own volition.
He settled eventually in Mexico City where he organized and wrote. He formed the Fourth International. His name, meanwhile, had become the synonym of evil and hatred within the Communist empire. The word "Trotskyite" was the vilest curse word their tongues could find. Finally he was assassinated by a young man who wormed his way into the Trotsky organization and awaited his opportunity. When that moment came, he took a short-handled ax, the kind used for mountain-climbing, and crashed it through the skull and into the brain of Leon Trotsky.
Trotsky had the greatest reputation in Russia on the death of Lenin. But Trotsky was voted out by the Politburo, and his fame availed him nothing. According to the principle of democratic centralism, the decision of the Politburo of the Communist Party is final and absolute.
The men who caused Trotsky's overthrow in the Politburo were Zinoviev, Kamenev, and Stalin. Zinoviev and Kamenev had been Lenin's lifelong collaborators and co-workers. They were brilliant writers with famous names. Zinoviev was in charge of the Leningrad Soviet organization and head of the Communist International. Kamemev was President of Soviet Russia. Stalin did not have the brilliance, the oratory, or the writing skill of the other two, but he was Secretary of the Politburo and the Party. As secretary, he was the man who appointed all the provincial officials. He was the bureaucrat par excellence. Suddenly, to their amazement, Zinoviev and Kamenev found themselves isolated in the Politburo. They were expelled from the Politburo, and from the Communist Party. They humbled themselves, confessed their sins, and pleaded for readmission to the Party as ordinary members. Their request was granted. Thus began the mad, recurring cycle of confession, expulsion, and readmission until, finally, the great Stalinist purges of 1936, they stood up and said, "We are unfit to live. We have betrayed the working class. Please take us out and shoot us." Stalin hastened to grant their last request.
The rise of Stalin to complete power was unnoticed until accomplished. It was widely anticipated that the mantle of Lenin's power would finally rest on the capable shoulders of Nikolai Bukharin. Bukharin was a brilliant Communist theorist, the author of The A B C of Communism, head of the Communist International after the decline of Zinoviev; a man of the caliber of Lenin himself. When the vote was taken, however, Stalin was victorious by a majority of four to three. Once the vote was taken it was binding on all seven members of the Politburo. Unanimously they went down to report the verdict to the Central Committee and, finally, the vote at the top became the belief and the marching orders of the entire Communist Party. There is no way whereby quarreling among the leadership can transfer itself to Party membership.
Stalin was then in complete power. He appointed those whom he approved. As secretary of the Politburo, he was in charge of the calling of the meetings and determined the agenda of those meetings. From 1929 until his death in 1953 his power remained absolute.
The rise of Stalin to personal and absolute dictatorship was not due to the qualities of his personality, but due to the nature of the structure of the Communist Party. An accepted Communist principle is that every member is subject to Party discipline. This is a euphemism for the reality that every member is under constant, personal, intimate supervision. The organized instrument to administer Party discipline was called Orgburo. Associated with it was the internal Party police. Individuals rose to great heights of administrative power within the Communist Party, yet the secret police supervised their lives in minute detail. Their telephone calls were monitored. Their individual interviews recorded. Their papers, both personal and public, were at the disposal of the secret police who possessed a key to the safe of every official. The only Communist official to whom this did not apply was the number one man, Joseph Stalin. To him the secret police finally reported and from him they took their orders.
Thus every member of the Politburo, powerful as he was, was isolated from all other members. There was no possibility of the prior consultation necessary if united and planned action was to be taken at a Politburo meeting. If two members should meet and Stalin should become suspicious, they could quickly be arrested and thus prevented from reaching the next meeting. In this way, each meeting of the Politburo was under the complete domination of Stalin. All other members in attendance were isolated from each other and the information on which their decisions were to be made was given to them by Stalin himself. In this manner his power became limitless.
His achievements are unbelievable. Khrushchev recounts them in detail in his speech attacking the cult of personality and outlining the "mistakes" of Stalin, but he does not clearly indicate how Stalin did it. He tell us, for example, that Stalin put to death the military leaders of Russia who were the idols of the armed forces. He tells us that Stalin caused to be arrested and shot for treason 70 percent of the Central Committee that elected him to power in 1934-- 98 members out of 137. He tells us of entire nationalities that Stalin destroyed. He relates how, during the war, Stalin sat in an office with a globe in front of him and gave specific orders to the military commanders in the field. In one operation alone, because of the ignorance of Stalin and his refusal to heed the plea of the commanders in the field, hundreds of thousands went to their deaths. Khrushchev tells us what Stalin did, but he does not explain what gave him the power to do it. How does a man put to death the majority of the military commanders? How does he put to death the majority of the leaders of his own political party?
Khrushchev gives an indication when he says. "Different members of the Politburo reacted in different ways at different times." To understand this statement, we must understand the situation that existed. The Politburo was made up of seven men, each of them all-powerful within his administrative department, but each of them under constant, hourly surveillance. The internal Communist secret police checked everyone they met, listened in on every phone conversation, had a key to every safe, read every document, and reported everything they did to Stalin. Two of them might desire to confer on some question to come before the Politburo. They could not do it. If Stalin heard of their meeting, he would have them arrested before the next session of the Politburo was called. Thus each of them came to a Politburo meeting completely unaware of the attitude of other members. Not one of them had any idea how the others were going to vote. If a man voted against Stalin and the motion was defeated, his life was ultimately forfeit. This was the end result of the all-or-nothing law of Communism. Only when this situation is clearly visualized can we understand why the other members of the Politburo were powerless to halt the cataract of Stalinist criminality. Only in the light of the understanding of Communist organization does the plaintive plea of Khrushchev, "Different members of the Politburo reacted in different ways at different times," become significant.
Stalin occupied a position of limitless power from which he operated as a tyrant unequaled in the annals of history. But it was Communism, not Stalin, that was responsible for his tremendous power. It was the organizational structure of Communism that projected him to his all-powerful position.
Communist organization remains the same. It has not changed. The events following the death of Stalin recapitulate minutely the events following the death of Lenin. Multitudes of people stand up and say, "Ah, but there is a difference! Stalin used to execute those he expelled, but Khrushchev does not." Such people have no knowledge of history. Lenin died in 1924. Stalin came to total power in 1929. The expellees from the Politburo were not executed until 1936. In the meantime, they were frequently given jobs appropriate to their abilities in distant areas. The same thing has happened since Stalin died. Immediately after the death of Stalin, there was a period of collective leadership followed by the emergence of Bulganin and Khrushchev. Bulganin was eventually overthrown and appointed to some minor position. Today at the top is the all-powerful Khrushchev, projected by the Communist Party to leadership of the Communist movement throughout the world.
Those who prate on the importance of public opinion within Russia, and proclaim the power of the Red Army, are ignorant of the political facts of life in Communist countries. All power resides in the Communist Party. Some time ago a name frequently in public discussion was that of Zhukov, Commander-in-Chief of the Red Army, friend of President Eisenhower. Our pundits advised that President Eisenhower and Zhukov meet and negotiate. They pointed out that the Red Army was a very powerful organization and claimed that Zhukov as its Commander-in-Chief was the real power in Russia. Let Zhukov and President Eisenhower get together and they could iron out the problems of the world.
In truth, Zhukov's position as Commander-in-Chief of the Red Army gave him no more power than if he had been head of the Boy Scouts. All power is in the Communist Party. The Communist Party is a unified, disciplined party. The man at the top has all authority. From its membership one disciplined man it taken and made Commander-in-Chief of the Red Army. In his administrative position within the army he is very powerful, but as a Communist he is totally subject to the orders that come down from the top of the Communist Party. Similarly, other men are selected to fill all significant governmental, educational, cultural and religious positions, but each of them owes complete obedience to the head of the Party.
The difference between the State and the Party is rarely understood. The head of the Russian State may be an insignificant individual. When Stalin was all-powerful within Russia, while he was putting to death the majority of the officers of the Red Army, the majority of leading Communists, the majority of industrial managers, he was merely Secretary of the Communist Party. When it was necessary for him to meet with President Roosevelt in the capacity of chief of the Soviet State, he appointed himself to that position. When he thought it advisable, he appointed himself Commander-in-Chief of the Red Army. But his power never depended on his being President of Russia, or Commander-in-Chief of the Red Army. His power was derived from his position as head of the Communist Party.
For the Communist, the Party becomes the very voice and breath of God. The statement by Nikolai Bukharin before his execution is most revealing. Said he, "Comrades, I feel it is my duty to make the following statement. You all know that for three months I would say nothing. Suddenly I changed and confessed to everything of which I was accused by the Comrade Prosecutor. Why the change? I think you are entitled to know. As the moment of death approaches and one goes out into the great loneliness, the thought of going out alone, unforgiven, apart form the Party in which I have lived and which to me has been life itself, was a prospect I could not face; and, if by some miracle I should not die, life outside the Party would to me be worse than death itself." There is something frightening about a movement that can evoke such devotion in one it is about to destroy.
The curse of Communism is that by the Party it creates, it takes the idealism of its young recruits and uses it as an ultimate instrument of dictatorship, tyranny and genocide. Their intelligence is prostituted, their idealism debauched, and they are molded into intellectual robots of unquestioning obedience and frightening efficiency at the disposal of the dictator of the Party.
- Selected Works of V. I. Lenin (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1952), p.21.
- Liu Shao-chi, op.cit., p. 50.