The Communist Organisation held an extraordinary congress on 7/8 January 2023 after just under half of the voting members exercised their right under the statutes to force such a congress through a corresponding initiative. The reason for the extraordinary congress was massive abuse of power and behaviour detrimental to the organisation by a faction that had a majority in the Central Leadership. The leaders of the revisionist faction issued a message to the organisation on 31 December not to participate in the extraordinary congress and instead to call a separate faction and breakaway congress. In a subsequent message, they made it clear that they disregarded the extraordinary congress from the beginning and did not consider its convening legitimate. Their breakaway congress was held in another city on the same weekend.
A step forward
The congress adopted three central motions for the further development of the KO’s work, which had been worked out collectively by the Marxist current of the organisation beforehand.
Firstly, this was a resolution on the further development of the clarification process. This reaffirmed that the process of clarification cannot be organised in a “vacuum” but will take place on the basis of our Programmatic Theses. Specifically, we decided on an increased focus on the political-ideological education of all our comrades and the clarification of a Marxist-Leninist position on the question of imperialism and war.
Secondly, we have decided on a detailed orientation for action, which includes, among other points, publishing our basic training course on scientific communism and using it for educational work; working out a building plan for the Communist Party; examining the organisation of a summer camp in the summer of 2023, to which other parts of the movement should also be invited, possibly with the character of an exchange seminar; in general, the plan to include other parts of the communist movement in the clarification of the imperialism question and to seek exchange with them; reorganising the work of the scientific working groups of the KO and, if necessary, merging working groups; to organise a supra-regional event on the anniversary of the Hamburg uprising in 1923; to work in the trade unions against the line of class collaboration and participation in the war; to strengthen and revive the international contacts of the KO and to continue the discussion on the climate question with the aim of recording a provisional result.
Thirdly, the Congress adopted a resolution on the background and assessment of the war in Ukraine. We evaluate the war in Ukraine as an imperialist war in which the Russian Federation and NATO are the antagonists. We maintain that the working class has nothing to gain on either side and reiterate our determination to resist the war policy of German imperialism.
Motions submitted to the Congress from the ranks of the revisionist fraction (in particular their so-called “leading motion”) were also voted on and unanimously rejected.
We were particularly pleased to receive various greetings for our congress: For example, comrade Frank Flegel read a greeting for the CC of the Communist Party of Germany, in which he pointed out the historical analogy between the present situation of the communist movement and the betrayal of social democracy in the First World War. We also received greetings from the Party of Labour of Austria (PdA) and the Communist Party of Sweden (SKP), which were read out before the Congress. We would like to thank them once again for their solidarity and will publish these greetings separately on our website.
Why did KO split?
It is formally absolutely clear that no one, especially not an organised faction, has the right to cancel a congress convened in accordance with the statutes and to convene its own congress in its place. For this it does not matter whether one shares the revisionists’ criticism of the behaviour of the Marxists in the KO or not. The question of whether we have acted as a faction in the past months is a matter for accountability at the Congress and, of course, can have no bearing on the legitimacy of an extraordinary Congress itself, duly convened as provided for in the Statute. It is therefore beyond doubt that their Congress has no legitimacy under the Statute and cannot be considered the Congress of the KO.
The concrete trigger for the split was opposing assessments of the war in Ukraine: on the one hand, there was us, i.e. the part of KO that has now held the extraordinary congress and thus represents the organisational continuity of KO as well as continuing to manage the KO website, the Telegram info channel, the Youtube channel and the clarification platform BolscheWiki. At the same time, we also represent the KO’s political continuity, taking the view that the war in Ukraine is an imperialist war from both sides and that the working class must not take sides with either of them. On the other side was the part of the KO that sees the war from the Russian side as a “just defensive war” and supports it and has now left the KO (although they continue to use the KO name).
However, over the course of the last year, the differences of opinion on the war turned out to be merely the expression of much deeper ideological differences. The conflict that split the KO is understood by us as a clash between Marxism-Leninism as represented by the revolutionary pole of the world communist movement (for example, the KKE, TKP, PCTE and PCM) and the variant of revisionism and right opportunism oriented towards the rising imperialist pole around China and Russia.
With the split, essentially the KO as it existed until the beginning of 2022, before the revisionist part of the Central Leadership of the KO successively took over the overall organisation, was restored on the basis of its programme. Of course, the Programmatic Theses, the Statute, the Resolution on International Work, the Self-Image and the Resolution on Work in the Masses of the KO therefore apply without restriction – their validity was also never formally revoked, but nevertheless increasingly undermined by the majority of the Central Leadership in the last year.
To understand the conflict within the KO, we quote from our Programmatic Theses:
“Revisionism entails a deviation from fundamental Marxist-Leninist insights and positions, following the intrusion of bourgeois ideology into the world-view of the proletariat. In practice, revisionism begets opportunism. The typical social basis of opportunism is the petty bourgeoisie and the labour aristocracy. Opportunism means choosing a supposedly easy, yet essentially wrong path in the class struggle – a path that leads to a dead end”i
We have already written a detailed account of revisionism within the KO. In concrete terms, this revisionism manifested itself in the following points:
- In the understanding of imperialism in the view that imperialism is not to be understood in economic terms as monopolistic capitalism and therefore as a global system of domination, as in the Programmatic Theses, but as the characteristic of a handful of “robber states” who unilaterally dominate and subjugate the rest of the world. Moreover, they unilaterally identify this exclusive group of imperialist states with the USA and its allies. They assume a “unipolar world order” and ignore the shifts within the imperialist world order, such as in particular the rise of China and other capitalist powers. They negate the imperialist character of Russia with the untenable division of the Russian capitalist class into a “national” and a “comprador bourgeoisie”, with the latter understood as economically dominant. They believe they can analyse today’s imperialist world order with terms from the colonial system period, advocating a rigid division of the world into “imperialist” and “oppressed” countries, thus labelling developed (monopoly) capitalist states as “oppressed countries”, as Lenin did in relation to the colonies, semi-colonies and countries with only embryonic capitalist development at the beginning of the 20th century. They thus misinterpret the inter-imperialist contradictions within the imperialist world order as an opposition between “imperialism” and supposedly “non-imperialist” states (Russia, China, Iran).
- Politically, they accordingly represent the position of Russian social-chauvinism: they support Russia’s imperialist war in Ukraine, demand even a more total form of warfare from the Russian bourgeoisie, they deny the Ukrainian people their existence as a nation and their self-determination by unilaterally and exclusively demanding the right of self-determination of the people of the Donbass.
- On the question of strategy, they revise the previous position of the KO, which very explicitly rejected the idea of intermediate stages to socialism and thus sought socialism as the immediate task of the class struggle. The revisionists, on the other hand, see the struggle for “national liberation” as still necessary even in countries with political sovereignty. As the content of this supposed national liberation, they see the struggle for “independent” capitalist development in these countries, which under the conditions of global monopoly capitalism is nothing but a nationalist utopia that contradicts the laws of development of the capitalist mode of production. The result of their strategy of intermediate stages is that in all but an arbitrarily selected group of Western countries they recommend an alliance of the working class with its exploiters, with the result that the struggle for socialism is postponed until an indefinitely distant future.
- The revisionists revise the Marxist concept of the state by seeking to identify in Russia a state different in essence from that of other capitalist countries, which is judged to be less reactionary because of its socialist past. The reactionary effect of the counterrevolution in the USSR is thereby ignored.
- On the question of fascism, the Marxist-Leninist standpoint is revised in that the struggle against fascism is no longer understood as the task of the organised working class, which is the only force that can effectively wage this struggle; instead, the Russian state is depicted as acting in an “anti-fascist” way, given the fact that Nazis are also killed in Ukraine. This revises the Marxist understanding of anti-fascism, which is not the physical elimination of fascists, but the elimination of the causes of fascism.
- On the question of organisation, the revisionists at least partially revise Democratic Centralism and replace it with an authoritarian model of organisation in which the leadership (rather than the Congress) determines the political line and the rank and file are essentially tasked with implementing instructions from the centre.
- They have also developed revisionist views in the Marxist scientific method: they arbitrarily introduce concepts such as the distinction between “world-dominating” and “dependent” monopolies without any underlying analysis, they separate the understanding of imperialism from the understanding of war and think that they can discover the causes of war not in the laws of development of capitalism but from the political-diplomatic history of war. Instead of going into the further development/correction of the same through clarification with a clear collective thesis like the Programmatic Theses, they claim to arrive at a strengthening of ideological unity simply by looking at the “facts” without any collective basis and from ideologically different standpoints.
- On the whole, we estimate that the part of the KO which has left the standpoint of the Programmatic Theses and thus bears the responsibility for the split in the KO is carrying out a far-reaching revision of Marxism and contributing to the weakening of the international communist movement.
We have to make a serious and thorough self-criticism here. We have not recognised, at least collectively, in time the existential threat to the organisation posed by revisionist and destructive tendencies among many former comrades. We are drawing consequences from this, which are already reflected in our orientation for action. We also clearly underestimated the importance of the correlation of forces in the central leadership – this was an expression of a false and already at that time misplaced confidence in certain persons. As a result of this grave error at the 4th Congress (in 2022), we did not seriously conduct the struggle for a majority in the leadership, thus allowing the opportunists to dictate their terms to the organisation in the ideological struggle.
Expulsions and “expulsions” from the KO
In order to give their illegitimate breakaway congress an apparent “formal” legitimacy, the right-wing factionalists proceeded to “expel” almost half of the voting members of the KO a few days before the congress for supporting the initiative for the extraordinary congress, i.e. exercising a statutory right. First of all, it must be stressed that the “expulsion”, just like any “decision” of the revisionist fraction, is of course not valid in any way. Valid decisions can only be taken by legitimate bodies of the KO, and the right-wing faction is not such a body. But the justifications for this step are also interesting: the factionalists claim that the real reason for the expulsion is that the signatures were collected “in secret”. But this, obviously, is less than the truth: a comrade who immediately communicated the initiative and her signature to her local group was also “expelled”. Moreover, according to the statutes, there is no obligation to communicate the collection of signatures in advance to the Central Leadership; finally, all of this took place two days before the meeting of the Central Leadership, at which the list was to be submitted to the CL anyway. The Congress therefore passed a resolution stating that the “exclusions” were not valid. Exclusions of supporters made by representatives of the revisionist faction in the days before the Congress were annulledii.
The congress also decided to expel from the KO with immediate effect all members, candidates and supporters who had participated in the faction’s congress.
What is the future of the KO?
Not all those who have now turned their backs on the KO’s construction and clarification project represent, in our estimation, a closed revisionist world view. The insincere demagogy of the leaders of the right wing, according to which only they wanted a “clarification” and the Marxist part of the KO did not, unfortunately caught on with some comrades. This is a result of the political immaturity of the organisation and insufficient understanding of both its programmatic foundations and the concept of clarification and organisational construction that has been advocated since its foundation. This does not change the fact that it is nevertheless correct to speak of a revisionist camp, since it is the above-mentioned ideological positions that give this camp its character. It has also been shown in the past year that a large majority of the revisionist camp at least defends corresponding positions on the war and the understanding of imperialism.
Our clear positioning on the war in Ukraine does not at all mean, as the opportunists claim, an end to the process of clarification. Clarification and positioning are not contradictory. For us, the fact that we are recording our current state of discussion and knowledge in a position does not mean that this marks the end of constant critical questioning, constant discussion of the arguments of others and the deepening of our knowledge. For KO, progress in clarification has always gone hand in hand with taking a position and this will continue to be the case in the future.
We regard the Programmatic Theses as a binding programmatic basis for the organisation’s structure and outward appearance, but therefore not as unquestionable or as the final result of the process. They are an important milestone on our way towards an elaborated programme of the communist party.
The split in the KO has cost us almost half of our strength in terms of numbers. As a result, some local cells have disappeared from the map altogether (or now belong to another organisation), other local groups and the scientific Working Groups have been weakened in terms of personnel. Some of these problems will certainly be a challenge that we will have to deal with.
Nevertheless, we clearly see the split as a strengthening, especially in relation to last year. Last year, the opportunist faction robbed the overall organisation of an enormous amount of energy through their actions: as they made up the majority of the leadership elected at the last Congress (April 2022), they were able to largely ignore the decisions of the last Congress and move to impose their own line as that of the organisation by majority vote, as could even be seen from the outside from the publications of the KO in 2022. The confrontation with the constant breaches of Democratic Centralism by the revisionist majority was a constant burden, added to which was the drastically worsened external image and loss of prestige of the KO in the movement and among sympathisers due to the de facto change of line; the loss of time and energy in pointless and nerve-racking discussions on questions that we could already answer at the stage of our clarification process such as, in particular, the basic (strategic) positioning of the communists on the imperialist war; and finally, the fact that we could hardly have any positive external impact, except in the last few weeks with the details and procedures of the split.
We have at the same time gained important experience of how quickly revisionism can lead to the decomposition and finally immediate threat to a communist organisation. We have waged a struggle against this threat in which many of our comrades were able to develop a great deal in a short time, so that we expect to go about compensating for the temporary weakening of personnel with renewed strength. We do not share the widespread view in the left and beyond that splits per se are something negative to be avoided. Unnecessary divisions on petty issues are undoubtedly negative because they are fruitless sectarianism. Necessary divisions based on ideological and strategic differences, on the other hand, are correct and can be an important step towards strengthening and consolidating the movement. In the case of KO, the split from the opportunists was undoubtedly a necessity and a liberating blow that will finally enable us to continue the construction process. That the name and legacy of the Communist Organisation could be saved is an important success of our struggle. The fact that there is now likely to be a group that will also use the KO name without any legitimacy is a problem, especially as it is a group that is hostile to the aims of the KO and has also illegally appropriated some of KO’s resources. However, we will have to find a way to deal with this situation. In any case, we are convinced and believe we have demonstrated in detail that we are the ones who represent the continuity of KO politically and in terms of programme.
In recent weeks we have presented in detail the exact processes of the split to the outside world. This was necessary in the last few weeks in order to react to the ever new escalating steps of the revisionist faction and to refute their lies and misrepresentations. However, we see no further point in this and will now discontinue this practice.
The congress thus marks both a break and a continuity with the KO that existed before. The renewal lies in the fact that we will now work on a thorough and self-critical reappraisal and, where necessary, correction of the negative developments in KO. At the same time, however, we are not a new organisation, but continue seamlessly with everything that KO has done right since its founding in 2018.
The communist party is more necessary than ever – without it there is no way out of the crisis of capitalist society that threatens humanity. We have no time to lose, let’s get on with it!
i Programmatic Theses of the Communist Organisation, p. 24.
ii A note on this: Since the congress was also attended by members who were not “excluded”, the “exclusions” would thus have been invalidated even according to the revisionists’ “count” (in which the “excluded” are not counted as voting by the right) by a majority of those entitled to vote. Even according to their formalist logic, they would therefore have to recognise the Göttingen Congress and all its decisions as legitimate.