On Otto Rühle’s Manifesto of Left-Opportunism
Recently, the anti-Bolshevik pamphlet “The Struggle Against Fascism Begins with the Struggle Against Bolshevism” by German left-communist Otto Rühle from 1939 has caused turmoil within numerous leftist circles.
His pamphlet seeks to undermine the Marxist-Leninist approach to socialist revolution in its fundamental key points and “criticizes” the praxis of the Russian revolution, calling Soviet Russia and the USSR the “principal fascist world-wide”, even superior to Nazi Germany.
Rühle begins the pamphlet by repeating (quite a fundamental factor of his argumentation) his thesis over and over again, each time worded differently: “[Soviet] Russia is the example for fascism. It must be placed first among the new totalitarian states.”
In attempting to prove this theory he is not only unable to concisely explain why this is the case, but also to cite any sources that would backup his incredible claims. He fully believes that his word is evidence enough. Furthermore, he explains that “the abolition of private property alone does not guarantee Socialism”. The fact that this sentence, undeterred by the void of any relevant information in it, is technically correct is frankly amusing. Yet, it is only correct in the light of one of Marx’ famous quotes: “The theory of Communism may be summed up in one sentence: Abolish all private property.”, which makes clear that the abolition of private property is not the root of Socialism, yes, but in fact Communism.
It is apparent, however, that to put all weight of this point on the irregular and anecdotal definition of a communist society given by Marx in that quote would be insufficient. Luckily, we do not have to do this, as the entire second chapter of the Communist Manifesto reiterates this point, and further throws into question the basis for Rühle’s claim. The rest of this second paragraph, ignoring the rambling, mistakenly equates a socialist society to a communist society. Only serving to reinforce his lack-of-understanding of Marx, who clearly defines socialism as being the period of transition between capitalism and communism.
He rambles on with very vague metaphors of the contradictory relationship of proletarian interests and bourgeois interests and (for once) comes to a correct conclusion: That a state serving contradictory interests, i.e. the interests of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie at the same time, is impossible. The implication being that the USSR tries to serve both bourgeois and proletarian interests. He fails to provide any evidence or examples of this “multi-class dictatorship” present in the USSR, or to accurately describe what appears to be a fundamental element of his dismissal of the USSR as a socialist state. Again, these accusations and conclusions of Rühle can be dismissed.
Free from any real conclusion, his other claims are nothing short of jaw-dropping. Rühle elaborates on how Lenin–notorious for his jabs at Kautsky at nearly every given opportunity–is in fact himself a Crypto-Kautskyite!
All the typical slander is repeated over and over again, while Rühle never wastes a thought on actually providing a more detailed look at the situation, assuming that the reader would automatically or already be in favor of his sectarian and counter-revolutionary sentiment.
Glancing over what we had learned so far about Rühle’s stance on Bolshevik revolutionary praxis we should ask: What are the proposals implied in his text? What is his approach? His actual conclusion?
Every line asserts that Bolshevism must be destroyed, as representing the “principal enemy of the workers”. Should we attend anti-fascist rallies with baseball bats to get rid of “Bolsheviks” present there? Take the left-communist grievances to the “Bolshevik” conferences and “clean up”, while fascism is allowed to organize vigorously?
However, what is specifically interesting in midst all of this childish gibberish is a small anecdote, which maybe even passed most of the readers’ minds, based on its seeming irrelevance. When “criticizing” Lenin’s well-known pamphlet on left-communism he points out that Lenin had shown the “true face of Bolshevism”, or as Rühle himself likes to put it: “It is Bolshevism unmasked”.
We can only speculate why the author chose to use such a well-known anti-semitic wording, but nonetheless it is telling that this cheap anti-Bolshevik slander could easily be mistaken for actual Nazi propaganda.
Moving on, Rühle describes the Leninist vanguard as directly modeled after Bourgeois society, that is containing a class duality. It is not only a nonsensical statement, but testifies to the Rühle’s lack of praxis, imagining wonderful, spontaneous worker uprisings all over the world. Naturally, he apparently never demonstrated a curiosity as to why such uprisings have never occurred (nor will they ever). Left-communists find every so-called act of “pragmatism”, that is the bridging of non-antagonistic contradictions, ultimately opportunist, going so far as to support fascism in its fight against accursed Bolshevism.
He accuses Lenin of following “rigid rules”, unable to think dialectically, as evidenced by his apparent focus on “his party, his revolution and his method” being the only true party, revolution and method. In “Left-wing Communism”, cited by Rühle, Lenin in fact affirms that there is much to learn from the experiences of the Russian revolution, yet not every experience of the Russian revolution—not at all!—can or should be implemented in a dogmatic way.
As previously, Rühle rejects any need for what he calls opportunism (without definition). For him, all actions taken to further strengthen revolutionary movements to actually succeed are opportunist and counter-revolutionary. Rühle struggles to understand that praxis is not a game, not a matter of perfect pathways that lead to a socialist and eventually communist society. Praxis in unity with its dialectical opposite—theory—are the source of progress relevant to humanity, yet Rühle tries to advance solely with theory. It seems ridiculous to him that practical experiences not only further enhance our theoretical knowledge (after all, that is where theoretical knowledge comes from), but are also needed in order to actually make his dreamy theoretical hopes come true. And of course the actual implementation of theoretical knowledge in one point in time will not happen fully according to this theoretical knowledge. All actions within the theoretical framework will take place in a way that, if well implemented, shows a strong tendency to follow theory, to follow “the plan”. Should unforeseen practical obstacles arise in the course of praxis, “pragmatism”, that is, the bridging of non-antagonistic contradictions, is necessary. Rühle, ignoring this rather easy principle on praxis, despises any pragmatism and would, it seems, if commissioned to partake in the leadership of a revolutionary movement, rather give up, than to compromise with whatever would turn out to be a healthy decision for revolution in the long shot, but seemingly unhealthy in a smaller timeframe. It is this circumstance that provoked Lenin to (correctly) call him a child.
“Like a bourgeois, he thought in terms of gains and losses”—This quotation directly equates any manner of strategic process with the “gains” and “losses” of capitalist economic structures; an erroneous comparison. How is the Communist Party supposed to lead without being able to properly judge its surroundings, without being able to calculate probabilities of victories, of losses, when to retreat, when to attack? The strategic work of Communists in the interests of securing state power and the liberation of workers is not comparable to the “numbers game” of the bourgeoisie, which callously calculate profit margins in figures representing human lives, all with the intention of reinforcing bourgeois class rule. The Leninist strategy contains the logic of the socialist society it seeks to install, Rühle is drawing false-parallels in this comparison.
Rühle, on many occasions, implies the inconsistency in Lenin’s theoretical framework in his remarks on the “Leninist principle of compromise”. However this is a rather blunt exaggeration. There is no “Leninist principle” which suggests one must compromise often, or find a compromise in any situation whatsoever. This is either a deliberate exaggeration or evidence of an extreme problem of nuance in phrasing. He turns “it is necessary to compromise, if the gain for the respective revolutionary movement is greater and more important for overall revolution than what is lost by compromising” into “Lenin advocated for compromise at any time [for no reason, whatsoever]”. Furthermore, Rühle establishes links where there are none. The implications later on in his pamphlet clearly create the impression that Lenin had actively inspired, again by this alleged “principle of compromise”, the collaboration of German communists with German nationalism; which is, of course, false. Radek’s attempt at a popular front with German nationalists in the interests of securing a large enough political bloc to obtain state power, utilizing the nationalists as a temporary tool on the path to state power, took place without Lenin’s knowledge. And even then, the only thing that connects Lenin to Radek is, yet again, the alleged “principle of compromise”. He asks “is it necessary to cite more examples?” after providing 3 more similar arguments.
No, it is not necessary to provide more examples, it is necessary to provide actual examples of this principle.
It is precisely this sectarian behavior that is dangerous to revolutionary movements generally and leads, especially in binary situations, to an involuntary support for the dominant hegemonic force: fascism in the case of this pamphlet in 1939. By avoiding a principled and pragmatic understanding of struggle in a binary situation of the oppressors and the oppressed, as is rather unskillfully done in this piece, one takes the side of the oppressors.
Apart from Rühle’s sectarianism, the defining feature of left-communism generally, his violent anti-Bolshevism has at best made him (and his faction of wreckers) impotent in the fight against fascism, and at worst has made them into a useful and willing tool for the fascists and the state in undermining our resistance.
Taking all of this into account, it has become absolutely evident that Rühle’s stance is not only dangerous and reactionary, but also mostly based on lies or misinterpretations. One can only hope that those who see Rühle as an influx to their political beliefs will reconsider. Otherwise, there will only be two outcomes: No praxis at all or hegemonic, reactionary praxis.
Matthew 7:28, “And it came to pass, when [Rühle] had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine.”
 – “Between capitalist and communist society there lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.”, K. Marx, Critique of the Gotha Programme, Section IV
 – At this time, 1923, Lenin had already suffered strokes and it is justified to assume that he was not capable of judging Radek’s attempt, if he even knew of it.
Reblogged this on MB3-org.com.
I’m more interested in the article’s first statement, that this 1939 pamphlet has recently “caused turmoil within numerous leftist circles.” Who are these “leftists”, and why should we care if they are not politically advanced enough that they equate Leninism with Fascism? Are you still trying to to win over Anarchists?
Ruhle was a council communist,
“The abolition of private property is therefore by no means identical with communism and Communism has seen other socialist theories, such as those of Fourier and Proudhon, rising up in opposition to it, not fortuitously but necessarily, because it is only a particular, one-sided realization of the principle of socialism.” Karl Marx, letter to Ruge September 1843