In his Revelations of the diplomatic history of the 18th century, based on an exhaustive study of diplomatic manuscripts in the British Museum, Marx exposed the secret collaboration of the British and Russian cabinets since the time of Peter the Great. In his writings against Lord Palmerston, Marx revealed that the continuation of this secret alliance was directed essentially against revolutionary movements throughout Europe. In fact, during the first sixty years of the 19th century, Russian diplomacy, the bastion of counter-revolution at that time, was involved in “all the conspiracies and uprisings” of the day, including the insurrectional secret societies such as the Carbonari, trying to manipulate them to its own ends (Engels: The Foreign Policy of Czarist Russia).
In his pamphlet against Herr Vogt Marx laid bare the way in which Bismarck, Palmerston and the Czar supported the agents of Bonapartism under Louis Napoleon in France in infiltrating and denigrating the workers’ movement. The outstanding moments of the combat of the workers’ movement against these hidden manoeuvres were the struggle of the Marxists against Bakunin in the First International, and of the “Eisenachers” against the Bismark’s use ofLassalleanism in Germany.
Combating the bourgeoisie’s fascination for the hidden and mysterious, Marx and Engels showed that the proletariat is the enemy of every kind of policy of secrecy and mystification. As opposed to the British Tory Urquhart, whose Struggle over 50 years against Russia’s secret policies degenerated into a “secret esoteric doctrine” of an “almighty” Russian diplomacy as the “only active factor in modern history” (Engels), the work of the founders of Marxism on this question was always based on a scientific, historical materialist approach. This method revealed the hidden “Jesuitic order” of Russian and western diplomacy and the secret societies of me exploiting classes as me product of the absolutism and enlightenment of the 18m century, during which me crown imposed a collaboration between me declining nobility and the rising bourgeoisie. This “aristocratic-bourgeois International of Enlightenment” referred to by Engels articles on Czarist foreign policy, also provided the social basis for freemasonry, which arose in Britain, me classical country of compromise between aristocracy and bourgeoisie. Whereas the bourgeois aspect of freemasonry attracted many bourgeois revolutionaries in the 18th and early 19th century, especially in France and the United States, its profoundly reactionary character was soon to make it a weapon above all against the working class. This was the case after the rise of the working class socialist movement, prompting the bourgeoisie to abandon me materialistic atheism of its own revolutionary youth. In the second half of the 19th century, European freemasonry, which until then had been above all an amusement of a bored aristocracy which had lost its social function, increasingly became a bastion of the new anti-materialistic “religiosity” of the bourgeoisie, directed essentially against the workers’ movement. Within this masonic movement, there developed a whole series of anti- marxist ideologies, which were later to become the common property of 20th century counter-revolutionary movements. According to one of these ideologies, Marxism itself was a creation of the “illuminati” wing of German freemasonry, against which the “true” freemasons had to mobilise. Bakunin, himself an active freemason, was one of the fathers of another of these allegations, that Marxism was a Jewish conspiracy: “This whole Jewish world, comprising a single exploiting sect, a kind of blood sucking people, a kind of organic destructive collective parasite, going beyond not only the frontiers of states but of political opinion, this world is now, at Least for the most part, at the disposal of Marx on the one hand, and of Rothchild on the other. (…) This may seem strange. What can there be in common between socialism and a leading bank? The point is that authoritarian socialism, Marxist communism, demands a strong centralisation of the state. And where there is centralisation of the state, there must necessarily be a central bank, and where such a bank exists, the parasitic Jewish nation, speculating with the Labour of the people, will be found.” (Bakunin, quoted by R. Huch : Bakunin und die Anarchie).
This weakness is all the more dangerous, since the employment in this century of mystical sects and ideologies has reached dimensions going far beyond the simple question of freemasonry posed in the ascendant phase of capitalism. Thus, the majority of anti-communist secret societies which were created between 1918-1923 against the German revolution, did not originate in freemasonry at all, but were set up directly by the army, under the control of demobilised officers. As direct instruments of the capitalist state against the communist revolution, they were disbanded as soon as the proletariat had been defeated. Equally, since the end of the counter-revolution in the late 1960s, classical freemasonry has been only one aspect of a whole apparatus of religious, esoteric and racist sects and ideologies developed by the state against the proletariat. Today, in the framework of capitalist decomposition, such anti-marxist sects and ideologies, declaring war on materialism and the concept of progress in history and with a considerable influence in the industrial countries, constitute an additional weapon of the bourgeoisie against the working class.
The First International against secret societies
Already the First International was the target of furious attacks mounted by occultism. The supporters of the Carbonari’s Catholic mysticism and of Mazzinism were the declared opponents of the International. In New York, the occultist supporters of Virginia Woodhull tried to introduce feminism, “free love” and “para-psychological experiments” into the International’s American sections. In Britain and France, left wing masonic lodges, supported by Bonapartist agents, organised a series of provocations aimed at discrediting the International and justifying the arrest of its members, obliging the General Council to exclude and publicly denounce Pyat and his supporters. Most dangerous of all was Bakunin’s Alliance, a secret organisation within the International, which with its different levels of “initiation” of members into its “secrets” and its methods of manipulation (Bakunin’s “revolutionary catechism”) exactly copied the example of freemasonry (see International Reviews nos. 84 and 85 for the struggle against Bakuninism in the First International).
Marx and Engel’s enormous personal commitment in repelling these attacks, in uncovering Pyat and his Bonapartist supporters, combatting Mazzini, excluding Woodhull’s American sections, and above all in revealing the plot by Bakunin’s Alliance against the International, are well known. Their full awareness of the occultist menace is documented by the resolution proposed by Marx himself, and adopted by the General Council, on the necessity to combat the secret societies.
At the London Conference of the International Workingmen’s Association (IWA) , September 1871, Marx insisted that “this kind of organisation stands in contradiction to the development of the proletarian movement, since these societies, instead of educating the workers, submit them to authoritarian and mystical laws, which hinder their independence and direct their consciousness in a wrong direction” (Marx-Engels Werke Vol. 17, p655).
The bourgeoisie also tried to discredit the proletariat through media allegations that both the International and the Paris Commune were “organised” by a secret Freemason-type leadership. In an interview with the newspaper The New York World which suggested that the workers were the instruments of a “conclave” of “daring conspirators” present inside the Paris Commune, Marx declared: “Dear sir, there is no secret to be cleared up (…) unless it’s the secret of the human stupidity of those who stubbornly ignore the fact that our Association acts in public, and that extensive reports on its activities are published for all who want to read them“. The Paris Commune, according to The World‘s logic, “could equally have been a conspiracy of the freemasons, since their individual share was not small. I would really not be amazed if the Pope were to put the whole insurrection down to them. But let us look for another explanation. The insurrection in Paris was made by the Paris workers” (MEW Vol. 17, S.639-370).
The fight against mysticism in the Second International
With the defeat of the Paris Commune and the death of the International, Marx and Engels supported the fight to shake off the grip of freemasonry over workers’ organisations in countries like Italy, Spain or the USA (eg the Knights of Labour). The Second International, founded in 1889, was at first less vulnerable to occultist infiltration than its predecessor, since it excluded the anarchists. The “very scope” of the programme of the First International had allowed “the declassed elements to worm their way in and establish, at its very heart, secret organisations whose efforts, instead of being directed against the bourgeoisie and the existing governments, would be directed against the International itself” (Report to the Hague Congress on the Alliance, 1872).
The Third International against Freemasonry
Determined to overcome the organisational weaknesses of the Second International which facilitated its collapse in 1914, the Comintern fought for the complete elimination of “esoteric” elements within its ranks.
In 1922, in response to the French Communist Party’s infiltration by elements belonging to freemasonry, who had gangrened the party since its foundation at the Tours Congress, the 4th Congress of the Communist International, in its “Resolution on the French question”, reaffirmed class principles in the following terms:
“The incompatibility between freemasonry and socialism was considered to be evident in most of the parties of the Second International (…) If the Second Congress of the Communist International, in its conditions for joining the International, did not formulate a special point on the incompatibility between communism and freemasonry, it was because this principle found its place in a separate resolution unanimously voted by the Congress.”
The fact, unexpectedly revealed at the Fourth Congress of the Communist International, that a considerable number of French communists belong to masonic lodges is, in the eyes of the Communist International, the most clear and at the same time the most pitiful proof that our French Party has conserved not only the psychological heritage of the epoch of reformism, of parliamentarism and patriotism, but also liaisons that are very concrete, very compromising for the leadership of the party, with the secret, political and careerist organisations of the radical bourgeoisie …
The International considers that it is indispensable to put an end, once and for all, to these compromising and demoralising liaisons between the leadership of the Communist Party and the political organisations of the bourgeoisie. The honour of the proletariat of France demands that it purifies all its organisations of elements who want to belong to both camps in the class struggle.
“The Congress charges the Central Committee of the French Communist Party to liquidate, before 1st January 1923, all liaisons between the Party, in the person of certain of its members and groups, and freemasonry. Those who, before 1st January, have not declared openly to their organisation and in public through the Party press, their complete break with freemasonry, will be automatically excluded from the Communist Party without any right to join it again at any time. Anyone who hides their membership of freemasonry will be considered to be an agent of the enemy who has penetrated the party and the individual in question will be treated with ignominy before the proletariat“.
Similarly, the KPD’s delegate at the 3rd Congress of the Italian CP in Rome, referring to the Theses on Communist Tactics submitted by Bordiga and Terracini, could report: “The evident irreconcilability of belonging at the same time to the communist party and to another party, applies, not only to political parties but also to those movements which, despite their political character, do not have the name and the organisation of a party (...) here in particular freemasonry” (“Die ltalienische Thesen”, by Paul Butcher in Die Internationale 1922.)
Capitalism’s entry into its decadent phase since World War I has led to a gigantic development of state capitalism, in particular of the military and repressive apparatus (espionage, secret police etc). Does this mean the bourgeois need for its “traditional” secret societies disappears? This is partly the case. Where decadent state capitalist totalitarianism has taken a brutal, undisguised form as in Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, or Stalin’s Russia, masonic and other “lodges” or secret groupings were always forbidden.
However, even these brutally open forms of state capitalism cannot completely dispense with a secret or illegal, officially non-existent apparatus. State capitalist totalitarianism implies the dictatorial control of the bourgeois state, not only over the entire economy, but over every aspect of life. Thus, in Stalinist regimes the “mafia” is an indispensable part of the state, since it controls the only part of the distribution apparatus which really works, but which officially is not supposed to exist: the black market. In western countries, organised criminality is a no less indispensable part of the state capitalist regime.
But under the so-called “democratic” form of state capitalism, the unofficial as well as the official repression and infiltration apparatus expands tremendously.
Under this dictatorial fake democracy, the state imposes its politics on the members of its own class, and combats the organisations of its imperialist rivals and of its proletarian class enemy in a no less totalitarian manner then under the Nazis or Stalinists. Its official political police and spy apparatus is just as omnipresent as that of any other state. But since the ideology of democracy does not allow this apparatus to proceed as openly as the Gestapo or the GPU in Russia, the western bourgeoisie redevelops its old traditions of freemasonry and the “polit-mafia”, but this time under the direct control of the state. The western bourgeoisie with whatever it cannot do legally and openly, illegally and in secret.
Thus, when the US army invaded Mussolini’s Italy in 1943, they did not bring back with them the mafia alone.
“In the wake of the motorised American divisions pushing north, masonic lodges appeared out of the ground like mushrooms after rain. This was not only the result of the fact that Mussolini banned them and persecuted their members. The mighty American masonic groupings had their share in this development, immediately taking their Italian brothers under their wing“.
Here lies the origin of one of the most famous of the many illegal organisations of the western, American led imperialist bloc, the “Propaganda 2” Lodge in Italy. These unofficial structures coordinated the struggle of the different national bourgeoisies of the American block against the influence of the rival Soviet bloc. The membership of such lodges includes leaders of the “left wing” of the capitalist state: stalinist and leftist parties, trade unions.
Through a series of scandals and revelations (linked to the break-up of the western block after 1989) we know quite a lot about tile workings of such groupings against the imperialist enemy. But a much more carefully kept secret of the bourgeoisie is tile fact that in decadence, its old tradition of masonic infiltration of workers organisations has also become part of the repertoire of tile democratic totalitarian state apparatus. This has been the case whenever the proletariat has seriously menaced the bourgeoisie: above all during the revolutionary wave 1917-23, but also since 1968 with the resurgence of workers’ struggles.
An illegal counter revolutionary apparatus
As Lenin pointed out, the proletarian revolution in Western Europe at the end of World War I was confronted with a much more powerful and intelligent ruling class than in Russia. As in Russia, the western bourgeoisie, in face of the revolution, immediately played the democratic card, bringing left wing, former workers’ parties to power, announcing elections and plans for “industrial democracy” and for “integrating” the workers’ councils into constitution and state.
But unlike Russia after February 1917, the western bourgeoisie immediately began to construct a gigantic, illegal counter-revolutionary apparatus.
To this end they made use of the political and organisational experience of the masonic lodges and right wing volkish orders which had specialised in combatting the socialist movement before the World War, completing their integration into the state. One such pre-war organisation was the “Germanic Order” and the “Hammer League” founded in 1912 in response to the looming war and to the electoral victory of the Socialist Party, declaring in its paper its goal of “organising the counter-revolution“. “The holy vendetta shall liquidate the revolutionary leaders at the very beginning of the insurrection, not hesitating to strike the mass criminals with their own weapons“.
Victor Serge refers to the intelligence services of Action Francaise and of the Cahiers de l’Antifrance which spied on the vanguard movements in France already during the war; the espionage and provocateur service of the Fascist party in Italy; and the private detective agencies in the USA who “provide the capitalists with discreet informers, expert provocateurs, riflemen, guards, foremen and also totally corrupt trade union militants“, “supposedly employing 135,000 people“.
“In Germany, since the official disarming of the country, the essential forces of reaction have been concentrated in extremely secretive organisations. The reaction has understood that, even in parties supported by the State, clandestinity is a precious asset. Naturally all these organisations take on the functions of virtual undercover police forces against the proletariat“.
In order to preserve tile myth of democracy, the counter-revolutionary organisations in Germany and other countries were officially not part of the state, were financed privately, often declared illegal, and presented themselves as the enemies of democracy. With their assassinations of “democratic” bourgeois leaders like Rathenau and Erzberger, and their right-wing putsches (Kapp Putsch 1920, Hitler Putsch 1923) they played a vital role in luring the proletariat towards the terrain of defence of the counter-revolutionary Weimar “democracy”.
The network against the proletarian revolution
It is in Germany, the main centre of the revolutionary wave 1917-23 outside of Russia, that we can best grasp the vast scale of counter -revolutionary operations, once the bourgeoisie feels its class rule threatened. A gigantic network was set up in defence of the bourgeois state. This network employed provocation, infiltration and political murder in order to supplement tile counter-revolutionary policies of the SPD and the trade unions, as well as the Reichswehr and the privately financed unofficial “white army” of the Freikorps.
Even more famous is of course the NSDAP, founded in Munich against the revolution in 1919 as the “German Workers’ Party”. Hitler, Goering, Rohm and other Nazi leaders began their political careers as informers and agents against the Bavarian Workers’ Council.
These illegal coordinating centres of the counter-revolution were in reality part of the state. Whenever their assassination specialists, such as the murderers of Liebknecht, Luxemburg, and hundreds of other Communist leaders, were put on trial, they were found not guilty, given token sentences, or allowed to escape. Whenever their secret arms caches were discovered by the police, the army intervened to claim back these weapons, which had allegedly been stolen.
The “Teno”, allegedly a technical service in case of public catastrophes, was in reality an armed troop, 170,000 strong, mainly used as strike breakers.
The Anti-Bolshevik League, founded on 1st December 1918 by industrialists, aimed its propaganda mainly at workers. “It followed the development of the KPD [German Communist Party] very closely and tried to infiltrate it with its informers. It was above all to this end that it maintained an intelligence and spy network camouflaged as a 4th department. It had links to the political police and to army units”.
In Munich, the occult Thule Society, linked to the above mentioned pre-war Germanic Order, set up the White Army of the Bavarian bourgeoisie, the Freikorps Oberland, and coordinated the struggle against the 1919 council republic, including the murder of the USPD leader Eisner, in order to provoke a premature insurrection. “Its second department was its intelligence service, which organised an extensive activity of infiltration, espionage and sabotage. According to Sebottendorff every member of the combat league soon had a membership card of the Spartakus Group under a different name. The spies of the combat league also sat in the committees of the council government and the Red Army and reported every evening to the centre of the Thule Society about the planning of the enemy”.
The main weapon of the bourgeoisie against the proletarian revolution is not repression and subversion, but the presence of the ideology and the organisational influence of lie “left” organs of the bourgeoisie within the ranks of the proletariat. This was essentially the job of social democracy and the trade unions. But the importance of the assistance which infiltration and provocation can lend to lie efforts of the left of capital against the workers struggle is underlined by the example of “National-Bolshevism” during the German revolution. Under the influence of the pseudo anti-capitalism, the extreme nationalism, anti-semitism and “anti-liberalism” of the illegal secret organisations of the bourgeoisie, with whom they held secret meetings, the Hamburg so-called “Left” around Laufenberg and Wollfheim developed a counter-revolutionary version of “left communism” which contributed decisively to splitting the young KPD in1919, and to discrediting the KAPD in 1920.
The work of bourgeois infiltration of the Hamburg section of the KPD began to be uncovered by the party already in 1919, including over 20 police agents directly connected to the GKSD, a counter-revolutionary regiment in Berlin. “From here it was repeatedly attempted to get Hamburg workers to launch armed assaults on prisons and other adventurist actions“.
The organiser of this undermining of the Communists in Hamburg, Von Killinger, was a leader of the Organisation Consul, a secret terror and murder organisation financed by the Junkers and aimed at infiltrating and uniting the struggle of all the other right wing groups against communism.
The defence of the revolutionary organisation
In the first part of this article, we saw how the Communist International drew the lessons of the collapse of the 2nd International at the organisational level by opening a much more rigorous struggle against freemasonry and secret societies.
As we have seen, the Second World Congress in 1920, had adopted a motion of the Italian party against the freemasons, officially not part of the “21 conditions” for membership of the Comintern, but unofficially known as the “22 condition”.
In fact, the famous 21 conditions of August 1920 obliged all sections of the International to organise clandestine structures, to protect the organisation against infiltration, to investigate the activities of the illegal counter-revolutionary apparatus of the bourgeoisie, and to support the internationally centralised work against capitalist repression.
The KPD, for example, regularly published lists of agents provocateurs and police spies excluded from its ranks, complete with their photos and descriptions of their methods. “From August 1921 to August 1922, the Information department uncovered 124 informers, agents provocateurs and swindlers. These were either sent into the KPD by the police or right wing organisations, or had hoped to exploit the KPD financially on their own account“. Pamphlets were prepared on this question. The KPD also found out who had murdered Liebknecht and Luxemburg and published their photos, asking for the help of the population in hunting them down. A special organisation was established to defend the party against the secret societies and para-military organisations of the bourgeoisie. This work included spectacular actions. Thus, in 1921, KPD members, disguised as policemen, searched the premises and confiscated papers of a Russian White Army office in Berlin. Undercover raids were undertaken against secret offices of the criminal “Organisation Consul”.
Above all, the Comintern regularly supplied all workers’ organisations with concrete warnings and information about lie attempts of the occult arm of the bourgeoisie to destroy them.
After 1968: the revival of occult manipulation against the proletariat
With the defeat of the communist revolution after 1923, the elements of the bourgeoisie’s secret anti-proletarian network were either dissolved, or given other tasks by the state. In Germany, many of these elements were later integrated into the Nazi movement.
But when the massive workers’ struggles of 1968 in France put an end to the counter-revolution and opened a period of rising class struggle, the bourgeoisie began to revive its hidden anti-proletarian apparatus. In May 1968 in France, the masonic Grand Orient greeted with enthusiasm the “magnificent movement of the students and workers” and sent food and medication to the occupied Sorbonne.
This “greeting” was lip-service. In France, already after 1968, the bourgeoisie was using its “neo- Templar”, “Rosicrucian” and “Martinist” sects in order to infiltrate leftist and other groups, in collaboration with the SAC services. For example, Luc Jeuret, the guru of the “Sun Temple” began his career by infiltrating Maoist groups (L ‘Ordre du Temple Solaire, from page 145 on).
In fact, the following years saw the appearance of organisations of the type used against the proletarian revolution in the 20s. On the extreme right, the Front Europeen de Liberation has revived the “National-bolshevik” tradition. In Germany, the Sozialrevolutionare Arbeiterfront (Social Revolutionary Workers’ Front), following its motto “the frontier is not between left and right but between above and below” is specialised in infiltrating different “left wing” movements. The Thule Society has also been refounded as a counter revolutionary secret society.
To the modem right wing private political intelligence services belong the World Anti-Communist League, as well as the National Caucus of Labour and the European Labour Party, whose leader La Rouche is described by a member of the US National Security Council as having “the best private intelligence organisation in the world“.
Left-wing versions of such counter-revolutionary organisations are no less active. In France, for instance, new sects have been established in the tradition of “Martinism”, a variant of freemasonry historically specialised in the infiltration and subversion of workers’ organisations. Such groups put forward the idea that communism can best be achieved by the manipulations of an enlightened minority. Like other sects, they are specialised in the art of manipulating people.
More generally, the development of occult sects and esoteric groupings in the past years is not only an expression of the petty bourgeoisie’s hopelessness and hysteria at the historic situation, but is encouraged and organised by the state. The role of these sects in inter-imperialist rivalries is known (e.g the use of Scientology by the US bourgeoisie against Germany). But this whole “esoteric” movement is equally part of the bourgeois ideological onslaught against marxism, especially after 1989 with the alleged “death of communism”. Historically, it was in face of the rising socialist movement that the European bourgeoisie began to identify with the mystical ideology of freemasonry, especially after the 1848 revolutions. Today, the unbridled hatred of esotericism for materialism and marxism, as well as for the proletarian masses considered “materialistic” and “stupid”, is nothing else but the concentrated hatred of the bourgeoisie and parts of the petty bourgeoisie for an undefeated proletariat. Unable itself to offer any historical alternative, the bourgeoisie opposes marxism with the lie that stalinism was communist, but also with the mystical vision that the world can only be “saved” when consciousness and rationality have been replaced by ritual, intuition and hocus-pocus.
In the face of today’s decomposition of capitalist society, it is the task of revolutionaries to draw the lessons of the experience of the workers movement against what Lenin called “mysticism as a cloak for counter-revolutionary moods“. And it is our task to reappropriate the vigilance of the workers’ movement of the past against the manipulations and infiltration of the occult apparatus of the bourgeoisie.