Instead of drawing back, the leaders of the majority have continued to deepen their mistaken course. They have elevated the guerrilla orientation adopted at the Ninth World Congress into a virtual principle. As we have seen, the adventures committed in Latin America in the name of this “turn” have been condoned and even hailed by the majority leaders. They have maintained silence over the gravest ruptures from the program, tradition, and practices of Trotskyism while voicing public solidarity with those involved in such a way as to encourage similar violations elsewhere in the world Trotskyist movement.
It is true that they have made some adjustments. As we have already indicated, they have shifted the emphasis from rural guerrilla war to urban guerrilla war. They have given greater recognition to the possibility of “exceptional variants”; i.e., mass upheavals in the cities, the coming to power of reformist regimes, and the appearance of legal or semilegal openings that should be utilized by the revolutionary movement.
These concessions have altered nothing in substance. The line remains the same. What has happened in reality is that the guerrilla orientation has become more concrete. Compared with the way things stand today, the line was only adumbrated at the Ninth World Congress. It was difficult then for many comrades to see that something of greater importance than a tactic was actually involved.
How many delegates at the Ninth World Congress would have voted for that line if it had been presented frankly and openly as it became revealed in practice? Who, for example, would have voted for a “turn” that projected Robin Hood distributions to the poor of commodities hijacked from the rich? Of armed commandos entering plants to stage “workers’ meetings” and distribute leaflets at gun point? Of tiny armed groups challenging the armed forces of the state without having built a revolutionary party, without the least preliminary work among the armed forces, and in complete isolation from the masses? Of kidnapping individual members of the bourgeoisie, holding them for ransom, and executing them? Of staking the lives of the best cadres against heavy odds in desperate gambles? Of ultraleft actions that doomed the sections engaging in them?
If these things had been spelled out so that it was clear that they were necessarily and inescapably included in the guerrilla commitment, few, we think, would have voted for it. What dazzled the delegates were the assurances that this course could bring a quick “breakthrough” by applying it to a judiciously chosen country like Bolivia.
One cannot help but wonder. Did the leaders of the majority have a clear conception of how their orientation would work out in practice? Did they hold back from describing this in order not to make an unfavorable impression on the delegates? Or did they simply proceed empirically, trusting to luck? It is difficult to determine. Perhaps Comrade Maitan, the chief architect of the orientation, was not altogether naive. As we noted earlier, he specified a year later: “The strategic perspective the Argentine comrades are following is the one laid down by the Ninth World Congress of the Fourth International—elaborated and made more precise by the last two national congresses of the PRT . . . ” And he approvingly cited the adventurous bank holdups, which he held were in “the old Bolshevik tradition,” and romantic distributions of commodities that were making a “very great impression on the daily and weekly bourgeois press.”
The majority’s persistence in following a mistaken line has proved costly to the Fourth International. The worst aspect, perhaps, is the political deterioration that has set in.
There is nothing very complex about the theory of guerrilla war. If we leave aside the specifics that make up most of the content of the guerrilla manuals, it boils down to the preeminence of arms. What counts is the gun, once a minimum (very small) group has been assembled. Politics counts for little—and theory, of course, still less. The disdain in which the Cubans held, and still hold, theory and the great lessons of the Russian revolution is well known.
The reason for placing the gun above human reason in this way is simple. It worked. And anyone can tell you about the cases of China and Cuba. The theory of guerrilla war elevated these exceptions into the norm, and made the old norm worked out and followed by Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Trotsky the exception. The Russian revolutions of 1905 and 1917 by this reasoning must likewise be regarded as exceptions.
What happened at the Ninth World Congress was the infiltration of this pernicious theory into the thinking of the majority leadership. Its prime source was the Castroist movement, specifically Guevara. Its acceptance was part of an adaptation to ultraleftism owing to various causes analyzed in other documents submitted previously in the discussion.
We have seen how the guerrilla orientation worked out in practice in Bolivia and Argentina. Here we need only stress how knowledge of the guerrilla theory helps to clear up such mysteries as the POR (Gonzalez) joining the reformist and bourgeois judas goats in the FRA. The Bolivian comrades placed the problem of guns above the problem of politics.
In the case of the PRT (Combatiente), we are provided with a striking example of how this primitive theory leads to separation from Trotskyism. Note the logical sequence:
1. Trotsky was a revolutionist, but only one among others, like Mao, General Giap, Kim Il Sung, Ho Chi Minh, and above all Comandante Guevara, from whom the leaders of the PRT (Combatiente) have drawn their ideas.
2. The Fourth International has to be recognized as having revolutionary aims, but it includes “counterrevolutionary adventurers.” In other words, it is badly tainted.
3. It is dubious that the Fourth International can be saved for the revolution, although it is worth an effort.
4. Other parties like the Albanian, Chinese, and North Korean Communist parties are equally revolutionary. (If they bear the taint of counterrevolutionary adventurers this is not mentioned.)
5. A new international must be built that would include all these parties. (The axis shifts in their direction. After all, they hold state power.)
6. The Cuban Communist Party is hailed. The PRT (Combatiente) already subscribes to its leadership, while still retaining nominal ties with the Fourth International.
7. It may be possible to establish fraternal ties with other workers states besides Cuba. (That’s without political revolutions in those countries; consequently the ties would be with Stalinism.)
8. The Kremlin’s invasion of Czechoslovakia was, after all, in the best interests of socialism.
This sequence is not a sign of absolute confusion, although confusion is not lacking. It is a clear indication of a direction of movement—away from Trotskyism toward the theory of a two-stage revolution, and toward Stalinism, with the likely end result being political disintegration. The single stable item in this erosion of principles is the conviction that guns take precedence over politics; and that, of course, is the main source of the erosion so far as theory is concerned. In passing, we can note that this is the key to understanding why the PRT (Combatiente) has no difficulty in establishing and maintaining fraternal relations with the most disparate political formations both in Argentina and outside, ranging from the Fourth International to the Cuban Communist Party and with bids to Kim Il Sung and Enver Hoxha. The PRT (Combatiente) leaders merely make it a principle not to let political principles interfere with getting on with guerrilla war.
As for political differentiations within the leadership of the ERP-PRT (Combatiente), we know little about them. The majority of the United Secretariat have given the world Trotskyist movement no accounting of what happened to the two-thirds of the Central Committee who were expelled or walked out since the Ninth World Congress. What we do know indicates that a more or less steady shift has been occurring. More and more the emphasis is on the planning and implementation of guerrilla actions, less and less on initiating political drives and carrying them through. Those with the best political capacities are being displaced by those most adept at handling the gun.
It is an understatement to say that the leaders of the majority have not stood up against this trend. They have in reality bent to it, thereby helping to spread it in the Fourth International. In short, in cheering on the “Trotskyist” guerrillas in Bolivia and Argentina they themselves are guilty of discounting the importance of maintaining the Trotskyist tradition of placing top priority on political principles.
A good example was the eloquent defense of the ERP-PRT in the April 21, 1972, issue of La Gauche with regard to the executions of Oberdan Sallustro and General Sanchez. This two-page article, “Class Struggle and Armed Struggle in Argentina,” ended up by affirming the correctness of the course being followed by the ERP-PRT whatever the incidental errors may have been. It stated that two duties faced the Fourth International. One was affirmation of complete solidarity with the comrades under attack.
The other was “affirmation of our agreement with the general orientation of the PRT of developing the armed struggle, while expressing the hope that our comrades will find the means to link this struggle in the most intimate way to the development of the mass struggle, with the broadening of an organized base among the masses, and with a clear political orientation toward the socialist and proletarian revolution, against any concept of a revolution by stages.”
The article, the authorship of which was unidentified but which certainly met with the approval of the editor of La Gauche, Comrade Mandel, went on to voice sweeping conclusions as to the efficacy and broad applicability of the guerrilla war strategy:
“The lesson to be drawn from the events in Argentina in this regard is, moreover, of universal importance. The temptation to resort to a fascist regime or to a military dictatorship constantly recurs to the bourgeoisie as soon as the class struggle becomes exacerbated anywhere in the world.
“The possessing classes must be made to know that after the experience of the barbarous Nazi atrocities, the young vanguard throughout the world will never again tolerate the most abject form of civil war: that in which one camp is armed to the teeth, and murders, tortures, and oppresses without mercy, while the other camp is physically, psychologically, and politically disarmed, and resigns itself passively to the role of victim. The example of Argentina demonstrates that this vanguard is already sufficiently strong and resolute so that such an ignominy will not be repeated again.”
We pause in wonder before the ramifications of what this suggests. Guerrilla war can stop fascism? Then what about the course Trotsky advocated in battling against the rise of Hitler? Why didn’t he advocate guerrilla war in the style of the PRT(Combatiente) or the Tupamaros? Did he, after all, miss the key to the German situation in the early thirties?
And what about fascism in Italy? Lenin, whom the majority comrades have cited again and again as one of the original protagonists of guerrilla war, was still alive. Why didn’t Lenin advocate guerrilla war as a surefire means of halting Mussolini? Had Lenin perhaps become senile or turned reformist?
Interesting as these questions are, let us postpone discussing them. Right now we want to stress something of much more immediate concern.
What does this alleged lesson of “universal importance,” suggest to the young comrades of our movement not only in Argentina, but throughout the world, including Europe?
The answer is that they begin to think, quite logically, that armed actions of an autonomous and clandestine type, such as those being carried out in Argentina, are applicable in other parts of the world. In Europe, for instance, it is quite clear that Greece, Portugal, and Spain have dictatorial regimes that are worse than the one in Argentina. Moreover, the bourgeoisie are quite capable of setting up similar regimes in rather advanced countries, as is shown by the current trend towards establishment of “strong” states.
It should hardly be necessary at this point to prove that this completely logical line of thinking, flowing from the “turn” adopted at the Ninth World Congress has been going on in sectors of the Fourth International. It has influenced attitudes on many questions which we will not pause to discuss here.
Let us note, however, the criterion publicly expressed by the comrades in charge of editing Rood that individual terrorism is a valid tactic under a dictatorial regime if it is popular and if those engaging in it have mass support.
Let us note the admiration and endorsement of the terrorist actions in Quebec voiced by some of the European leaders of the Fourth International. “I believe,” Comrade Tariq Ali said on television when asked his stand on the terrorist kidnapping in Quebec, “that individual terror is justified when you have a mass movement; when you have mass support inside a particular society, then it is justified.” (“In Defense of the Leninist Strategy of Party Building,” Discussion on Latin America, p. 123.)
The same line of reasoning is apparent in the uncritical view taken of the use of terrorist methods in Ireland, particularly those involving the Provisionals, the more extreme and less political wing of the Irish Republican Army. This uncritical view reflects a failure to understand the Marxist concept of armed struggle and is directly traceable to the “turn” adopted at the Ninth World Congress and to a carry-over of the guerrilla orientation from Latin America to the European scene.
The article in La Gauche bolstered this trend in the thinking of some of the comrades in Europe although that may not have been the intention of the editor. Comrade Mandel may have wanted merely to open the pages of La Gauche to the most eloquent defense possible of the comrades of the ERP-PRT (Combatiente), who were under heavy attack because of a very bad mistake they had made (although their action was no more erroneous than the entire line they were following).
At the same time the article served to defend the majority line as it had developed in practice. Instead of helping to correct an error made by the Argentine comrades, the editor of La Gauche placed himself in position of being an apologist for it. Instead of helping to rectify the mistaken course adopted at the Ninth World Congress, he helped to fix it all the more firmly by justifying it on a universal level. Finally, instead of beginning to correct himself, he deepened his own error by inducing others to share it.
Comrade Maitan was the chief theoretician in working out the “turn” adopted at the Ninth World Congress. What he attempted was to open up Trotskyism to the theory and practice of guerrilla war. This required finding historic precedents and authoritative backing for it in the works of Engels, Lenin, and Trotsky, an enterprise in which he was ably assisted by Comrades Germain and Knoeller. For a time it appeared that Comrade Maitan might be reconsidering his position in view of the consequences of that “turn” in Bolivia and Argentina. A change by Comrade Maitan would have been a very favorable development, for it would have greatly assisted the work of repairing the damage. It now appears that he has made up his mind otherwise although he seems hesitant about applying the “turn” of the Ninth World Congress to Italy, despite the recommendations of the editor of La Gauche on the utility of guerrilla war in struggling against a rebirth of fascism.
The creation of an atmosphere favoring the extension of the guerrilla orientation to areas far outside Latin America has also been assisted, perhaps unwittingly, by Comrade Pierre Frank. He of course is a strong partisan of the “turn” adopted at the Ninth World Congress. He is also a strong partisan of the PRT (Combatiente). In his July 26, 1971, letter to the convention of the Socialist Workers Party, he reaffirmed this position: “Concerning the activities of our comrades of the Argentinian section, the P.R.T. and its armed organisation, the E.R.P., we don’t look at them as being ultra-left. We think that their policy corresponds largely to the present needs of the class struggle in their country.” (“Letter to Convention From Pierre Frank,” Internal Information Bulletin, Socialist Workers Party, No. 6, November, 1971, p. 15.)
Comrade Frank has been especially concerned that public dissociation from the errors of the ERP-PRT might open the door to “federalism,” thus undermining the principle of democratic centralism. But by attacking the statements made by various sectors of the world Trotskyist movement dissociating themselves from terrorist methods while solidarizing with the comrades of the ERP-PRT (Combatiente) against the attacks of the bourgeois enemy, Comrade Frank placed himself in the position of condoning those methods and of helping to spread them in the International.
Comrades Alain Krivine and Pierre Frank raised still another question—the possible violation of the rules of democratic centralism by the minority. In their article, “Again, and Always, the Question of the International,” they called for revising the statutes of the Fourth International at the next world congress. As justification for their proposal, Comrades Krivine and Frank cited some instances that would tend to show that the present statutes are too loose. We do not consider the statutes to be perfect. However, we defer for the present taking up either this question or the pertinence of the instances they cited.
Comrades Krivine and Frank advanced the concept of a highly centralized international empowered to intervene in the life of the sections in an energetic and forceful way. Again, we defer discussing whether such a highly centralized international is either desirable or feasible at the present stage of development of our movement. We want at this time merely to take up the chief point of the article which was to suggest that the minority has been violating the rules of democratic centralism. Here is what the two authors say:
“Up to this point we have taken up arguments that to us appeared to be dangerous. Unfortunately we have to add that since the last World Congress things have likewise gone in practice in a direction opposite to that of reinforcing the International, most particularly with regard to Latin America. On this question, there was a majority and a minority at the World Congress; it was decided that while acting in accordance with the orientation voted for, the discussion would be reopened at a date to be decided on by a plenum of the IEC; this was done at the end of 1970. The comrades of the SWP of the United States supported the minority point of view. We must regret that they did not limit themselves to defending their point of view in the discussion—which was obviously their completely unquestionable right—but also through multiple interventions in the field encouraged those who shared their point of view to pay no attention to the vote of the World Congress and to go against those who were applying the orientation adopted by the majority. Matters reached greatest sharpness in Argentina. No one had ever thought of asking the members of the ’sympathizing group’ to apply the line voted for, because they would not have been able to do so. They should at least have had a genuine ’sympathizing’ attitude toward those who were carrying it out and who were risking their lives each day. In Argentina and several other countries in Latin America, the support of the SWP went, both in the press published under their control and in the interventions of members of their leadership, to groups or to comrades who openly fought the orientation decided on at the World Congress. We will not dwell more on this subject since it is a notoriously known fact and no one can deny it.
“Obviously we cannot accept the ’argument’ according to which the ’sympathizing group’ of La Verdad had a correct policy, a Leninist concept of party construction, while the Argentine section of the Fourth International is presumably an ultraleft formation. First of all because we do not share this point of view (but this is another subject for discussion). Next because it is not possible for a national organization no matter who it is to take upon itself to decide on the international level who is and who is not Trotskyist. Finally because, in the case in question, it was undeniable that in intervening against the Argentine section, the intervention in fact was against the decision by the World Congress. It will be possible at the next World Congress to confirm or to reverse the decision of the preceding Congress, but whoever does so at present on his own authority simply repudiates democratic centralism on an international level, and places in question—more than the ’rights’ of this or that elected international body—the vote of the World Congress and by that the obligations that this vote imposes; in other words it is the very existence of the International that is put in question.” (“Again, and Always, the Question of the International,” International Information Bulletin, No. 5, July, 1971, p. 4. Emphasis in original.)
We do not accept the charge that the minority engaged in any violations of democratic centralism in advancing its views within the world Trotskyist movement during the period of discussion on Latin America. And we deny that any violation of democratic centralism was involved in the cases of certain sectors of the world Trotskyist movement who dissociated themselves from the terroristic methods used in Argentina or who disagreed with the public approval of such methods voiced by members of the majority. Leaving discussion of these charges and denials aside, we want at this time merely to draw attention to something else:
What function did the leveling of these charges play in the discussion on Latin America? The answer is that they helped to divert attention away from the very real violations of democratic centralism committed by the PRT (Combatiente) in Argentina.
These violations included publicly questioning the revolutionary character of the Fourth International and calling for the formation of a “new revolutionary international.” They included publicly characterizing the Albanian, Chinese, Cuban, North Korean, and North Vietnamese parties as revolutionary organizations, the potential foundation of the proposed new international. They included publicly supporting organizations hostile to the Fourth International as against official sections or sympathizing groups in certain countries. They included publicly opposing the advancement of the political revolution in China and other Stalinized workers states. They included publicly declaring that the official section of the Fourth International in Argentina accepted the guidance of the Cuban Communist Party. They included publicly putting Trotsky on a level with Mao Tsetung, Kim Il Sung, Ho Chi Minh, General Giap, and Che Guevara. They included publicly contending that Trotskyism and Maoism both represented continuations of Leninism, which was finding a higher synthesis in Castroism. They included publicly denying that they are Trotskyists.
What have Comrades Krivine and Frank had to say about these violations of democratic centralism? Not a word. Not a single word either publicly or internally. They have not even informed the membership of the Fourth International that these violations occurred.
Why did Comrades Krivine and Frank remain silent? As the two leaders of the majority most concerned about maintaining democratic centralism and spotting possible deviations, it is hard to come to any other conclusion—they regard the violations committed by the PRT (Combatiente) in Argentina as nothing but the unfolding of the real position of the majority and therefore as not only legitimate but wholly within the framework of democratic centralism.
Either that, or they are practicing their own version of “federalism.”
It is difficult to believe that Comrades Krivine and Frank could have been aware of the direction in which the PRT (Combatiente) was moving politically. Perhaps they, too, were kept in ignorance by the comrades in the majority assigned to follow developments in Argentina. In that case they can be accused of displaying blind trust, which is not a very good sign in top political leaders.
Besides blind trust they can also be accused of displaying a certain imperviousness to the logic of the “turn” adopted at the Ninth World Congress. This is shown by the following extract from Comrade Pierre Frank’s letter to the 1971 convention of the Socialist Workers Party:
“The second argument of Comrade Joe, i.e., that the logic of those who today advocate armed struggle for Latin America must lead them to extend it to other countries, has surprised me even more than the first one. [The first one concerned the contradiction between the guerrilla strategy of armed struggle and the Leninist strategy of party building.] Not that the policy of armed struggle is not relevant to other countries. I suspect that the Bengalis, the Ceylonese, for example, are giving some thoughts to armed struggle. What surprised me is first that Joe makes again his ’demonstration’ with quotations of ultralefts and second that he places himself in tow of these ultralefts in raising the question of armed struggle for countries like the USA, Canada, and Great Britain. . . . For the F. I. there is an international unity of revolutionary struggles all over the world, but unity does not at all signify identity. The F. I. knows that what is good for Latin America is not necessarily good for the U. S. A. and vice-versa what is good for the U.S.A. is not necessarily good for England or Brazil. Armed struggle as a policy can be determined for a country or a group of countries only after a concrete analysis of the situation in this country or group of countries and is not conveyable to other places. I am really amazed that Joe took for good such a dogmatic argument of ultralefts ... ” (Internal Information Bulletin, Socialist Workers Party, No. 6, November, 1971, pp. 14-15. Emphasis in original.)
The truth is that the problem of ultraleftism already confronted the Fourth International even before the Ninth World Congress. It came with the big influx of radicalized youth in France in 1968, many of whom were ultraleft, and was therefore inevitable. A romantic view of Che Guevara and his Bolivian adventure was one of the features of this ultraleftism. It was a test of the leadership capacities of the Fourth International to overcome this ultraleftism and particularly the uncritical acceptance of Guevarism. When the majority leaders adapted to the ultraleftism of some of the radicalized youth and decided on a guerrilla orientation in Latin America, it became clear—at least to some leaders of the world Trotskyist movement—that the sickness was contagious and could spread far beyond Latin America, particularly since further recruiting in the radicalized student movement would strengthen this tendency in the International in view of the failure of the majority leadership to give a correct education to new members.
Evidence that this was occurring was abundant enough. It was visible not only in the ultraleft positions on various issues that were being taken by some Trotskyist groups; it could be seen in the uncritical acclaim given to actions of guerrilla fighters who were in political opposition to Trotskyism. Their polities was disregarded; their guerrilla exploits were pictured as exemplary actions. Grave mistakes made by such guerrillas were even pictured in a way to suggest them as models. This development has been easy to follow in the coverage given by the Red Mole, Rouge, and other journals of the movement to guerrillas in Quebec, in Ireland, and many other places besides Latin America.
Bearing out the prediction of those who opposed the “turn” at the Ninth World Congress, prominent members of the majority in the Ligue Communiste, Comrade Frank’s own organization, have now raised the question of applying the guerrilla orientation to France. They are in dead earnest. The Ligue Communiste, they maintain, has no other way out of its crisis of perspective.
The proposed new line for the French section of the Fourth International was submitted by Anthony, Arthur, Jebrac, and Stephane in a long article published in the internal bulletin of the Ligue Communiste. The article is of prime interest not only because it represents the most irrefutable evidence of the process set in motion by the “turn” adopted at the Ninth World Congress but because it goes quite a distance in adumbrating the theoretical underpinnings of that turn. In this respect, like the frankness of the comrades of the PRT (Combatiente), the article represents a welcome advance in the international discussion. It therefore demands the closest attention and study. Although it will lengthen an already long document, we think it will prove worthwhile to indicate the reasoning of the four authors particularly since the article is as yet generally available only in French.
As they see it, the Ligue Communiste is making good progress in recruiting but not at such a rate as to be able to realistically envisage a struggle for state power in the near future. In fact the work of extending the organization on a geographical scale is open to question. “But we are quickly going to reach a point where this spontaneous growth is no longer profitable and may even result in a waste of energies.” (“Is the Question of Power Posed? Let’s Pose It!” Bulletin d’Histoire et de Sociologie du XX Siecle, No. 30, June, 1972, p. 8.)
In what enterprises other than expanding the size of the organization could the energy of the militants be employed more profitably? We will come to that.
The big obstacle to a breakthrough that would lead to posing the question of power in France is the thoroughly Stalinized Communist Party in which it is virtually impossible, the authors hold, to make an impact on the ranks. In the unions, too, the work only plods along although progress is being registered. The workers simply do not accept the leadership claims of our comrades, and the prospects of rapidly forming a left wing are remote.
To be noted here is the contrast to Argentina where the PRT (Combatiente), to believe Comrades Maitan, Mandel and others, is immensely popular. The two situations are nonetheless closely comparable in the fact that the PRT (Combatiente) has not yet solved the problem of “linking up” with the masses.
What about the possibility of new major upheavals in France along the “classic” lines of a proletarian revolution? The authors, in accordance with the general position of the majority, take a pessimistic view on this. It is excluded, they say, that France will witness another situation like the one in 1936 in which the left wins an electoral victory accompanied by an irresistible mass upsurge “that we could carry to final victory just by lending a little push,” (ibid., p. 4), for that would require the Ligue’s being intimately linked with the masses, a possibility closed by the obstacle of Stalinism and the alertness of the bourgeoisie.
While the Ligue Communiste is building along Leninist lines, it is excluded, they hold, that the bourgeoisie will permit it to become “robust and deeply implanted” in the masses. “Thus it would be naive to think that the bourgeoisie, its guard up, its repressive apparatus perfected, is going to permit a really revolutionary organization to grow in its midst beyond a certain point.” (Ibid., p. 4.)
The situation in France, as these comrades paint it, is roughly parallel to the situation in some of the Latin American countries after all! And what about a repetition of another situation like the one in May 1968 but with the Ligue Communiste in position to take maximum advantage of it? That, too, is excluded, to believe the authors of the article. “Because the bourgeoisie and the Stalinists have drawn their lessons from May.” (Ibid., p. 4.)
Still another rough parallel can be drawn between the situation the Ligue Communiste will face in the coming period and the situation currently faced by our comrades in Latin America; that is, selective repression:
By continuing to face the public openly, “and tempted to maintain this position as long as possible to draw the maximum profit from it,” the party becomes more vulnerable to repression by ultrarightist strong-arm squads, who seek to pick off individual militants and to break up local headquarters.
There is no choice, according to these comrades, but to consider going underground. They hold that “for us there is no absolute distinction between a period of legality and one of clandestinity. We have been given a respite.” (Ibid., p. 4. Emphasis in original.)
Another grave question must be weighed. Unless it goes underground, how can the party hope to maintain its purity, how can it avoid sliding into reformism? “A moment comes when the dangers of legality outweigh its advantages. This moment is up to us in part to determine. Provided that we have built an organization capable of taking the step. Unless we do this—since being determines consciousness—a completely legal existence will not fail to produce a legalistic consciousness.” (Ibid., p. 4. Emphasis in original.)
The model these comrades have in mind, apparently, is the purity of the PRT (Combatiente), which places guerrilla action above all other considerations, including political principles and the foundations of Trotskyism itself.
They themselves dispose of basic theoretical positions in passing. For instance: The “classical schema of the Russian revolution,” which really exists, according to Maitan, Germain, Knoeller, and Hansen, as shown by their writings, “appears to us to be quite mythical.” (Ibid., p. 4.) In all revolutions, including those in the past in Russia, what is involved each time is a “specific military context in which the proletariat is either already armed or supported militarily by other social forces.” (Ibid., p. 4.) In short, like the PRT (Combatiente), the four reduce the highly complex process of revolution to one aspect—the employment of arms, disposing of everything else as irrelevant.
Placing the military question above all other considerations—which is in strict accordance with the “turn” adopted at the Ninth World Congress—these comrades continue: “The proletariat’s military form of organization, born out of its struggles, is pickets, or militia for collective defense. These are relatively sporadic defensive forms, poorly suited to meeting the challenge of the state in the offensive field.” (Ibid., p. 5.)
Left out of consideration is the proletariat’s strike weapon, a rather amazing omission by comrades who lived through May-June 1968 when France witnessed the greatest and most paralyzing strike action in its history.
That is a mere bagatelle, however compared to the programmatic implications of this view. What these comrades have done is challenge one of the most basic parts of the Transitional Program. They have, in effect, denied the validity of the orientation outlined in the Transitional Program on the arming of the proletariat.
They have weighed the question, it is quite clear. And they have come up with an orientation, which, while it is at variance with the Transitional Program and everything that Trotsky taught, clearly dovetails with the “turn” adopted at the Ninth World Congress and the way that “turn” was put into practice by the majority in both Bolivia and Argentina:
Rural social forces are much more reliable than the proletariat even in France. “The peasantry is more supple, has greater capacity for evasive action. Against feudalism, it was capable of organizing itself in armed columns. The march of the Eighth Route Army in China is the most celebrated example, but this experience goes way back, among others to the celebrated peasant war in Germany.” (Ibid., p. 5.)
Even in the cities this dictum applies. The proletariat cannot be relied upon; the petty bourgeoisie offers the best hope. “The urban middle-class layers, through their social mobility, their financial, material, and technical resources, are providing the essential social base for the urban guerrillas; at least that is what is indicated by the accounts of the Tupas about themselves and by the social base of the ERP.
“If one thus conceives of the revolutionary crisis, not as the blessed moment when the masses enter the fray and arm themselves spontaneously, ’but as a moment when the thrust of the masses makes possible the victorious conclusion of a process of prolonged struggle, the preparatory phase takes on all the greater importance for us inasmuch as we have to reintroduce the dimension of revolutionary violence against weighty traditions of legality in the labor movement.” (Ibid., p. 5. Emphasis in original.)
At this point, one must ask, haven’t we now come close to the heart of the majority position? That is, to drop the Transitional Program and the proletarian orientation in favor of converting our movement into the party of the peasantry and the urban petty bourgeoisie with a corresponding orientation in the field of armed struggle?
Comrades Anthony, Arthur, Jebrac, and Stephane are merely prescribing for France what the “Resolution on Latin America” laid down for Latin America. We have already cited it once; perhaps it is worth citing it twice:
“In fact, in most of the countries the most probable variant is that for a rather long period the peasants will have to bear the main weight of the struggle and the revolutionary petty bourgeoisie in considerable measure will provide the cadres of the movement.” (Intercontinental Press, July 14, 1969, p. 719.)
With admirable logic, the four comrades continue, posing the question of violence and of party building in terms consistent with extending the “turn” of the Ninth World Congress from Latin America to the continent of Europe.
Holding that the dynamics of the revolution in the European countries cuts across national boundaries, which is of course true, they state: “The dynamics, taking into account the unevenness of development, is that of a continental revolutionary war.” (“Is the Question of Power Posed? Let’s Pose It!” Bulletin d’Histoire et de Sociologie du XX Siecle, No. 30, June, 1972, p. 4.) It is merely necessary to visualize a mass revolutionary upsurge in one country of such scope as to threaten toppling the government to see that this brings up the more enduring problem of the “relationship of military forces vis-a-vis the reaction on a continental or subcontinental scale.” (Ibid., p. 4.)
That faces the Ligue Communiste with a real test: “It is not sufficient to mumble in front of the PCF that the peaceful road is in fact a bloody deathtrap; we must ourselves be capable of defining the practical consequences of our critique.” (Ibid., p. 4.)
This brings us to the key point, the raison d’etre, of the document. “The perspectives that we are able to point out likewise imply a certain type of organization with regard to utilizing violence.” (Ibid., p. 8.)
The reasoning in this connection becomes very close, for the authors are quite consciously broaching the sensitive questions of party building, of guerrilla action, the contradiction between them and how to resolve it, or, if it cannot be resolved, how to cut through it. And they are doing this in the light of the experience in Latin America and the discussion on this topic in the Fourth International.
As against the Lambertists, who in principle exclude the use of violence by a minority, the four comrades say, the Ligue Communiste takes a different view. While systematically propagating the idea of self-defense as a means of mass struggle, “we have not hesitated to resort to violent actions when their relationship to mass work could be clearly established, as in the case of Burgos and Indochina.” (Ibid., p. 8.)
It is worth noting in passing that only a single criterion is advanced—clear establishment of a relation to mass work. Unlike the position of Rood in the case of the kidnapping and assassination of Oberdan Sallustro in Argentina, the criteria of the existence of a dictatorial regime and the popularity of the action are not specified. But to continue:
“Within this overall framework, it is necessary to understand and to systematize the dialectics of mass violence and minority violence.” (Ibid., p. 8.)
But to conceive such activities, they contend, not as spectacular accompaniments “but as a permanent, essential axis of our activity, entails a series of organizational consequences.” (Ibid., p. 8.)
These include beginning at once to set up the framework of a special organization for such matters. Moreover, it means conceiving the construction of the party from a different angle than has been followed hitherto.
Anthony, Arthur, Jebrac, and Stephane disagree with Comrade Maitan in his polemic with Hansen on the question of the contradiction between a guerrilla orientation and the Leninist strategy of party building. They are of the opinion that Comrade Maitan evaded the question by asking rhetorically whether Hansen had ever thought of the “construction of the party” being opposed to “participation in a general strike.” (Ibid., p. 7.)
The four French comrades argue that it is obvious that if a group is following “an orientation of armed struggle, and more precisely guerrilla struggle in the case under consideration of Latin America, then this fact affects the whole process of constructing the party. The relationship between party construction, armed struggle, and mass work assumes a particular, complex character. In the main the problem is what kind of mass work, legal or semilegal, in the labor movement and in intellectual circles can be done by a clandestine party engaged in armed struggle? How do democratic demands and armed struggle fit together? What organizational structures are capable of tying the two fronts together?” (Ibid., p. 7.)
The four comrades resolve the difficult contradiction with a single masterly stroke. They redefine what is meant by a Leninist party:
“Contrary to what the conclusion of Hansen’s document suggests, the Leninist party is not synonymous with the revolutionary party of the ’classical schema,’ but of the proletarian revolution in general. And when Lenin spoke of militants who should be tribunes of the people and not secretaries of trade unions, he was affirming the unifying function of the party. Around and under the leadership of the proletariat, an alliance must be consolidated, uniting different social and class layers that can achieve their aspirations only by this means. This in particular enables the working class to benefit from the military capacities of the peasantry and the urban middle layers.” (Ibid., p. 5.)
The confusion in this paragraph between the role of a Leninist party and the role of soviets is total; but we leave discussion of this question to another time.
The final consideration raised by Anthony, Arthur, Jebrac, and Stephane, which may be one of the weightiest with them and which shows how directly they have been affected by the orientation of the PRT (Combatiente), is that the Ligue Communiste must somehow get beyond the “propagandistic level.” The Fourth International may “find itself quickly disarmed” unless this Is done. (Ibid., p. 9.)
It is especially difficult, they say, to reply to the “questions raised by certain Latin American sections, or the Spanish comrades, if we close our eyes to our own future while holding forth on the whole range of international problems. It would be particularly dangerous to pose questions for other sections that we have not formulated for ourselves...” (Ibid., p. 9.)
As shown by this document, it is clear that some of the members of the Ligue Communiste—and not the least important sector—have grown impatient over the slow and arduous work of building a party in the Leninist way. They are looking for a shortcut. That shortcut seems to lie in the direction of the peasantry and the urban petty bourgeoisie.
It is clear, moreover, that the role of military technique has assumed priority over the role of politics in their thinking. Their conviction as to the impenetrability of the Communist Party, the sluggishness of work in the trade unions, the inadequacy of proletarian methods of struggle, the messianism they feel in relation to violence, the justification they advance for “minority violence,” the discounting of legality, the imagined virtues of working underground, and their organizational proposals all testify eloquently to that.
Another telling sign of the drift of their ideas is the concept that the bourgeoisie and the Stalinists, having learned the lesson of May 1968 are not going to “permit” any repetition. (As if they really exercised such control over the class struggle! )
From this, the four comrades draw the conclusion that it is possible to get around the bourgeoisie and the Stalinists by giving up the fight for legality, going underground, and launching something like urban or rural guerrilla war (or a combination) in France. It is curious that these comrades believe that the bourgeoisie and the Stalinists, having learned the lesson of May 1968, will not permit a repetition of that but will permit a group of partisans to get away with actions that seriously pose the question of power. Don’t the defeats of a series of guerrilla fronts in Latin America, including the front led by Che Guevara, show that the bourgeoisie have learned certain lessons?
The desire of the authors to copy the Tupamaros and the ERP, that is, to apply to France the orientation adopted by the majority for Latin America, is the most serious aspect of the document. To merely project this orientation in a theoretical way for France is an ominous sign of the way the “turn” at the Ninth World Congress has led to the miseducation of a key layer of cadres in the Ligue Communiste.
In the absence of strong resistance from the leadership, the danger is mounting that the guerrilla orientation will be put into practice in France. The majority leaders have not been resisting. They have not been opposing ultraleftism; they have been adapting to it, and fostering it.
A single incident will serve to illustrate how real the danger is. Following the Trelew massacre in Argentina, a group set off a Molotov cocktail at the entrance of the Argentine embassy in Paris early in the morning of August 25 and scattered some leaflets. The action was hailed in the September 2 issue of Rouge, which identified the group as “revolutionary Marxist” militants.” Laudatory comments on the action, signed by Cuarta Internacional, presumably the Spanish publication of the United Secretariat, were featured. The use of the name of Cuarta Internacional gave the impression that the Fourth International itself was publicly endorsing the planting of a fire bomb in Paris.
The approval of such a substitute for mass protest only pointed up the weakness of the Ligue Communiste, that is, the weakness of its ties to the masses and its incapacity to mobilize a significant action. The Ligue Communiste cannot be blamed for not doing what it is unable to do. That would be completely unreasonable. But it can be blamed for engaging in a disorienting action.
Much greater than the single incident, however, was the setting of a precedent and the sanctioning and approval of an ultraleft action of this nature. The development corresponds to the logic of the position advanced by Anthony, Arthur, Jebrac, and Stephane; and, naturally, the logic of the guerrilla orientation adopted by the majority at the Ninth World Congress.
To any comrade who has followed the development of the discussion in the world Trotskyist movement since the Ninth World Congress, it should now be absolutely clear what dangers were involved in the “turn.” A significant grouping in the leadership of the Ligue Communiste has gone so far as to propose applying the guerrilla orientation to France with the modifications they have outlined.
This testifies to the accuracy of the analysis made by the minority of the meaning of the “turn” at the Ninth World Congress and their forecast on how it would inevitably become extended both geographically and programmatically.
Let us once again raise some questions previously asked of the majority, which they have stubbornly refused to answer, either because they are incapable of answering them, or, more likely, because they cannot reach common agreement on what to say.
What about Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, for that matter all the deformed or degenerated workers states? In advancing the political revolution, does the guerrilla orientation apply to these countries? Yes or no?
If the answer is no, precisely why is guerrilla war excluded? If the answer is yes, then what about the course followed by Trotsky and the Left Opposition? Would it not follow logically that they made a historic blunder in failing to resort to guerrilla warfare in the struggle against Stalinism in the Soviet Union? Even worse, was it not a colossal mistake on Trotsky’s part not to have mobilized the Red Army against the usurping Stalinist clique when he still could have done so?
We venture to predict that these or similar questions will inevitably be raised by sectors of the majority in the coming period, just as the question of applying the guerrilla orientation to Europe, and specifically France, has been raised by a sector of the leadership of the Ligue Communiste. Would it not be preferable to attempt to answer these questions now rather than remaining silent until you are confronted by a full-blown tendency among your followers who want to apply the guerrilla orientation to the workers states and are already impatiently waiting to go into action?
We think that the persistence of the majority leaders in maintaining the guerrilla orientation in face of the disasters experienced in Bolivia and Argentina promises an even greater disaster for the Fourth International as a whole. Up to now we had hoped that a rectification could be achieved without the organization of a tendency. But this hope has not been borne out. We therefore propose the organization of a tendency on an international scale to give battle to the guerrilla orientation.
In our opinion, the platform of this tendency should consist of the following three planks to be advanced for adoption at the next world congress.
1. Reversal of the “turn” made at the Ninth World Congress on guerrilla warfare and its extension since then both geographically and programmatically.
2. Reaffirmation of use of the method indicated in the Transitional Program to solve the concrete problems faced by the Fourth International and its sections in bidding for leadership of the proletariat in the class struggle.
3. Reaffirmation of the basic program, tradition, and practices of the Fourth International as they stood up to the time of the Ninth World Congress, that is, specifically, of commitment to the Leninist strategy of building a combat party to assure success in the coming revolutionary upsurges of the proletariat and its allies.