Letter to the Marxist Group
This is the full text of the document referred to by John Archer on p.69 of Revolutionary History Vol.6 No.2/3. It was only possible there to give a summary in a footnote.
from the International Secretariat for the Fourth International,
dated November 7, 1936.
From the International Secretariat for the Fourth International: Berne November 7, 1936
To the Executive Committee of the Marxist Group, London.
We regret that we have not received either the minutes or an official report of your national conference of October 10. The two resolutions accepted by the majority of the Conference, that of James and that of Cooper, have reached us only unofficially. It flows from these resolutions that the decision has been taken – contrary to the decision of the international conference at Geneva – that the group must continue its association with the ILP.
We do not wish to deal exhaustively with this resolution, in which you gave what is, in our opinion, an incorrect appreciation of the ILP: “revolutionary in comparison with the Labour Party or the Communist Party”; “attitude nearly correct on the Abyssinian and Spanish questions...”. There is no such thing as a “nearly revolutionary” party or a “nearly correct” attitude. In the language of Marxism, you call it by the clear term – Centrism. We do not want to reveal here the contradictions which exist in this same resolution in which you speak of... “the isolation from the masses” of the ILP, of its “organisational breaking-up”, of the movement of its leadership to the right, of the “decline in number of its members”; the poor quality of its membership, its lack of industrial contacts, its specific attitudes correct only in superficial appearance and its centrist oscillations, the reasons why the ILP “has become an obstacle for the correct development of the Bolshevik-Leninist work”, and yet ... you decide to remain in this moribund body.
You speak of “crushing” the ILP, of making “a mass withdrawal” at the moment of a split.
The several days which have passed since this resolution was accepted already permit a verification of the correctness or falsity of your perspective. As had been predicted many times, it is not you (!) who are going to crush the ILP, but it is the bureaucracy, much stronger than you, which is going over to the attack to divide you up and introduce confusion in your ranks. We do not have the exact figures of your membership, either now or for the past six months. But it is a fact that you have lost many of them without effectively weakening the ILP. We demand from you that you send us an exact balance sheet, because these are the facts themselves which speak the clearest language.
We have here your minutes, of 25 October, in which you discuss your attitude to be taken towards the sale of your journal, Fight, outside the ranks of the ILP. The attitude of the bureaucracy is crystal clear: “They have declared that the Trotskyists were engaged on an activity hostile to the party”. But, on the contrary, your attitude is ultra-equivocal. What, for example, does this mean: “Our object is to utilise, to break from the ILP, on a political question of the greatest importance which would permit such a split; in our opinion, the question of the sale of the journal is not such a question”.
“Comrade Cooper declared that we should go over to the political question as soon as (?) they attack us on the organisational plane”. If we understood correctly, Comrade Cooper is of the opinion that the prohibition of the sale of Fight is not yet an organisational attack, and that it is necessary still to wait. It is absolutely correct that the question of Fight in itself does not represent a “political issue”. But does this mean that we must wait on and on before leaving? The bureaucracy – and all the experience of France proves this a hundred times – will not attack us on the political plane, on which it is much weaker than we are. The bureaucracy of the SFIO began also by prohibiting La Verité , and as our French comrades, under the influence of Molinier, did not go over in time to the counter-offensive on the political plane, the bureaucracy became stronger, the centrists (Pivert) and the sympathisers no longer solidarised themselves with us, and in the end we finished up by having a split in our own ranks.
Comrade Braun, when he was staying in London, explained to several comrades, and in particular to Comrade Cooper, that with the first issue of Fight the opening of coercive measures will begin on the part of the bureaucracy, and that the Marxist Group must be able to make a turn in twenty-four hours. But we are very much afraid that you are repeating the mistakes which have been so disastrous in France. To call today for a national conference of the ILP can form part of our counter-offensive. But to begin with, this is not a political question, and, in the second place, we are convinced that we are much too weak to force them to have a conference. And, if that is the case, are you proposing to stay in the ILP up to the Annual Conference at Easter? That would be fatal.
There are enough political questions which can serve you as a target for a vigorous attack, without withdrawing a millimetre; we greatly regret that you did not publicly take a position in relation to the Brussels Peace Congress. Fight has been silent on this important question. And all the same, such a resolution or open letter, from the very base of the ILP, would have been of enormous value to combat the centrists of the London Bureau. You did not help us.
In conclusion, we beg you to reconsider your policy on the basis of the facts, to go over at once to the offensive in the political domain, to treat questions of party statues (National Conference of the ILP etc.) of formal discipline etc. ... as entirely secondary questions, to trace a perspective of an open exodus from the ILP with a political declaration which can be used in all our groups in the Labour Party and the League of Youth. Further, we request you to give us an exact report on the forces of the Marxist Group today.
While waiting to hear from you, comrades, we express our fraternal revolutionary sentiments.
For the IS ...