Communists and Nazis
The tactics of left-extremism, we said, were only superficially a return to direct revolutionary action. The 'revolutionary' aspect of these tactics consisted of empty talk, as appeared only too clearly when, four years later, Hitler came to power. The actual meaning of the tactical 'turn' of 1928-9 was a withdrawal from the Western (and equally from the Chinese) political stage. But that does not imply that the years 1929-33 are insignificant in Comintern history. They are a period difficult to understand, yet it is during this period that the Comintern underwent a profound change enabling it to return to the political arena in an entirely different shape.
The actual withdrawal from all serious politics, the reduction of Comintern activities to shallow phrase-making, liberated the Comintern parties from the pressure of the political reality in their respective countries. They were not acting at all; they were talking in a void. Precisely for that reason the innermost trends of the movement, as they had developed owing to the failure of the original conception of world revolution and ten years of incessant disappointment, could come out into the open; precisely owing to its withdrawal the Comintern could be re-shaped.
The left-wing opposition of 1919-20 and the left-wingers of 1924-5 were sectarians, but they belonged to the labour movement. The turn of 1929, the emergence of a new left-extremist leadership typified by Heinz Neumann, had an entirely different meaning. It marked the cutting of all ties with that labour movement where the Comintern parties had their historical roots, and was exemplified in the new fierceness of the communist attitude towards the social-democrats.
Lenin, borrowing the expression from Rosa Luxemburg, had described the social-democrats as 'social-patriots' and 'social- pacifists'. That, after all, was true, though it did not imply the