The following is part of a polemic with the late British communist Bill Bland on the question of the policies of Georgi Dimitrov.
The formation of Comintern in 1919 took place in the wake of the Russian revolution when the communist movement was on the ascendant. After the subsidence of the post-war revolutionary storms the tactics of united front from below were adopted. The coming to power of Nazism in 1933 created a situation where the immediate object of the communist movement in the advanced capitalist countries was no longer socialist revolution but the defence of the entire democratic movement from the expansion of fascism. The danger of world war loomed large. These were circumstances which led Stalin, Dimitrov and the Communist International to re-orient the tactics of the international communist movement towards creating the broadest possible united and popular fronts against fascism. This was at the back of the popular fronts established in France, Spain and other countries where successful defensive fronts it was hoped would form the basis for later socialist offensives. These experiences, both positive and negative, were utilised by Stalin, Dimitrov, the Comintern and later the Cominform in formulating the strategies of New Democracy and People’s Democracy both before and after the Second World War
Bland rejected the appraisals of Stalin, Dimitrov and Comintern, maintaining this was a betrayal of Marxist principles, that Dimitrov was a Nazi agent who had successfully penetrated the Comintern, that Stalin was unable to assert himself as he was held captive by a revisionist majority in the Soviet party. The failure to understand the policies of the Seventh Congress of the Comintern were further augmented by the inability to correctly cognise the policies of new and people’s democracy adopted by the communist and workers parties in central and eastern Europe and China after the second world war where the experiences gained in the popular fronts were successfully utilised to defeat fascism and imperialism, to democratise these countries and take the first steps towards socialism. At the root of the errors of Bland was the failure to understand that the rise of fascism necessitated new tactics. Following from this was the construction of a fictional theory that revisionists had gained control of the CPSU (b) and the Comintern from the 1920s. Needless to say Blandist doctrine was not based on facts but flimsy distortions and downright gossip. Their author demanded of the communist movement that it refute his assertion that Dimitrov was a Nazi agent.
While the absurdities of Blandism have never had any significant influence on the communist movement they have had a certain role in acting as an obstacle to the Marxist comprehension of the history of the international communist movement on the question of the United and Popular Front, New Democracy and People’s Democracy. It is for this reason that the polemic below has a certain relevance today.
Yes, we continue to maintain the understanding that Georgi Dimitrov was a Marxist-Leninist. We consider him a great communist and a comrade-in-arms of Joseph Stalin. We note that you reject the opinion of Stalin as given in the obituary of Dimitrov which expressed a positive appraisal for the role of Dimitrov as General Secretary of the Communist International particularly in his persistent struggle for the creation and consolidation of the united proletarian and popular front for the struggle against fascism. Contrary to the known written views of Stalin who supported the promotion of the Popular Front adopted at the Communist International at its 7th Congress, you continue to confound the new tactics of United Front and Popular Front of Stalin in the period when a defensive United Front was required against the rising forces of Fascism with the line of ‘peaceful transition’ which was advocated by revisionism after the Second World War.
Maurice Thorez records that after the PCF (Communist Party of France ed.) Nantes meeting where it was decided to fight for the formation of the National Front he met Stalin who expressed satisfaction with the bold united actions of the PCF. Stalin stated to Thorez: ‘You discovered the new key, opening the door to the future.’ (Moris Torez: ‘Cyn naroda’, Moscow, 1960, p. 90).
We are aware that no number of quotations of Stalin supporting Dimitrov and the line of the 7th Congress of the C.I. can convince the Dimitrov-critics that Stalin actually supported these policies. The Dimitrov-critics pre-empt this by fabricating the ‘theory’ that Stalin had lost control of the CPSU (B) and the C.I. after 1929. As a result any of Stalin’s policies which do not appeal to the Dimitrov-baiters may be rejected on the ‘ground’ that the writings of Stalin do not represent the ‘true’ opinions of Stalin who was bound by the so-called revisionist majority. Moreover, the secret of which of the writings of Stalin belonging to the period 1929-53 are actually the views of Stalin and which of them represent the views of the (fictional) ‘revisionist majority’ can only be divined by the Dimitrov-critics themselves. The ‘theory’ that Stalin was in a minority in the period 1929-53 i.e. almost the entire Stalin period, has been propagated over the last quarter of a century but we have yet to see any proof of this. We find it mightily curious that Russian and Bulgarian Comintern specialists who are familiar with the archival sources in Moscow and Sofia do not refer to Stalin being in a minority but on the contrary indicate that Stalin supported Dimitrov at every step in the preparations for the 7th Congress and the establishment of the new line.1 The fictional notion that Stalin was in a minority is buttressed by a companion ‘theory’ that Marxism-Leninism teaches that ‘everything makes sense’. By this device the Marxist understanding that investigation must uncover the actual processes and events which occurred is annihilated. In consequence the Dimitrov-baiters can arbitrarily make use of all kinds of bourgeois and renegade gossip and tittle-tattle and serve this up as Marxist theory with the end result of traducing genuine Communists
We are aware that we will incur the wrath of the Dimitrov-baiters and that we are and will be branded as ‘disrupters’, ‘confusers’, ‘anti-Marxist’ and perhaps ‘fifth-columnists’ but nevertheless we will continue to side with J.V. Stalin in the assessment of Comrade Georgi Dimitrov.
It is argued that evidence of the differences between Stalin and Dimitrov exists as Stalin argued that:
‘World War II was from its inception a just war on the part of the democratic imperialist powers, while Dimitrov maintained that it was an unjust one on both sides, but with the democratic imperialists as the aggressors! Yet you deny that there is any evidence of differences between Stalin and Dimitrov!’
Well let us look at Stalin’s writings. It is absolutely clear that Stalin considered that the Second World War had the character of an anti-fascist war:
‘…the Second World War against the Axis powers, unlike the first world war, assumed from the very outset the character of an anti-fascist war, a war of liberation, one of the tasks of which was to restore democratic liberties…’2 (J.V. Stalin, Works, Volume 16, London, 1986, p.72).
We have no reason to doubt that Dimitrov maintained that the Second World War was unjust on both sides, but with the democratic imperialist powers as the aggressors.
You have ignored a well-known text of Stalin. In a letter to Pravda dated 30th November, 1939, Stalin argued as follows:
‘This information of the Gavas Agency, as is the case with many other of its reports, represents an untruth. I, of course, cannot know in which particular coffee-house this lie was fabricated, but however much the gentlemen of the Gavas Agency may tell lies, they cannot deny that:
1. it was not Germany that attacked France and England, but France and England attacked Germany, and so they assume the responsibility for the present war;
2. after the outbreak of war preparations, Germany offered peace proposals to France and England. The Soviet Union openly supported the German peace offer for it was of the opinion and continues to uphold the opinion that a speedy end to the war would alleviate in a substantial way the condition of all countries and peoples;
3. the ruling groups of England and France outrightly declined the German peace proposals and so also brushed aside the endeavours of the Soviet Union to secure a speedy end to the war.
Such are the facts.
Can the riff-raff café politics of the Gavas Agency deny these facts?’
(I.V. Stalin, Sochinenia, Volume 14, Stanford, 1967, p. 404. Our translation.)
It is clear that the views of Dimitrov and Stalin were in consonance and that the alleged divergences between these two Communists do not exist.
June 3rd 1995
1. The documentation for this is now available in English. See: ‘Dimitrov and Stalin 1934-1943’, Letters from the Soviet Archives, edited by Alexander Dallin and F.I. Firsov, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2000.
2. For an incisive analysis of this statement of Stalin see: Rajani Palme Dutt, ‘On the Character of the Second World War’, Revolutionary Democracy Vol. XI, No. 1, April 2005, pp. 57-60.
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