TWILIGHT OF THE COMINTERN: 1930-1935 by E. H. Carr
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An indispensable continuation of Carr's multi-volume History of Soviet Russia, one of the great historical projects of this century. Carr--successively diplomat, university professor, newspaper editor (of the London Times) and Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge--died recently at 90. Characteristically, he was already working on a follow-up to this volume, to take the Comintern story to its conclusion in 1939. Here, he provides a straight narrative of the Communist International (or Third International) from the period just after its ""left turn"" in 1928, when it eschewed collaboration with non-communist political forces in the name of world revolution, to the adoption of a ""popular front"" policy in 1935, which conversely sought unity among democratic forces to counter the fascist tide. A secondary theme is the relationship between the Comintern, dedicated to world revolution, and the Soviet foreign ministry, pursuing Soviet national interests in world affairs. Stalin, the Éminence grise of the story, didn't care much for Comintern politics; he was contemptuous of foreign Communists, as Carr often notes, and seldom attended Comintern congresses. By 1935 the distinction between state and party interests collapsed, since the popular front represented both. The earlier hard line was a result of the world economic crisis, which many communists saw as the death knell of capitalism, and of the particular experience of the German Communist Party (KPD). Unable to make sense of the rise of Nazism in class terms, the KPD concentrated its fire on the German Social Democrats. Hitler's 1933 suppression of the KPD hit the French Communists (PCF) hard. The next year saw a fascist putsch in France, and it was in the PCF that the idea of the popular front took shape. Despite the embarrassment of reversal, or the fact that Leon Trotsky, in exile in France, had worked out a similar tactic, the policy became official in 1935. Carr follows the hard--and soft-liners through all the debates--on the rostrums and in the corridors of Comintern meetings, as well as in its daily activities--and also includes separate chapters on the French, British, Italian, Polish, Austrian, Swiss, Spanish, Chinese, and Japanese Communist Parties (plus a chapter on various front groups). The absurdity of trying to impose political tactics on such a diverse assemblage comes through clearly--especially in the case of the Far East, where Comintern stupidity was matched only by its ignorance. And though few of these personalities shine, Carr brings the whole business to life. His version easily replaces Franz Borkenau's World Communism as the prime source.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1982
Publisher: Pantheon