Politics of the International Working Class
From New International, Vol.12 No.10, December 1946, pp.318-319.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
In our November issue of The New International
we promised our readers reports on two significant conventions held by
sections of the Fourth International — the Internationalist Communist
Party of France (PCI), and the Revolutionary Communist Party of Great
Britain (RCP). Below we give the most important details of these
conventions, both of which mark definite progress away from the
repetition of sterile, orthodox dogma and progress toward ideologic and
The Third Convention of the Parti Communiste Internationaliste, French Section of the 4th International, was held from September 7th to 11th. Considerable progress was manifested since the previous convention in February. A large majority of the 102 delegates, however, felt that the progress would have been much greater if the leadership elected in February had been more capable — organizationally and politically.
The progress of the PCI since February, 1946, was considerable in several fields. The party increased its membership by between “50 and 75 per cent.” The increase was by no means localized at the center. On the contrary, the increase was notable at the opposite ends of France. Where groups existed, they grew, e.g., the Bordeaux region doubled. Entirely new regions came into being where before there were one or two comrades or none at all. From Alsace-Lorraine to Corsica, from the Italian to the Belgian frontier regions there are now groups of the PCI.
Another big gain was the legalization of La Verité in which the pressure of left wing groups all over the world, including sections of the SP in France and the SWP and WP in the US, played a part. This was followed by the enlargement of the paper from a tabloid size two-pager into a full size four-pager attuned more closely to the life and struggles of the masses.
Of great importance was the role of the PCI in the development of the revolutionary left wing in the unions and in the recent strike actions. The left wing workers grouped around the paper Front Ouvrier played an important part in the recent teachers’ and CGT (labor federation) conventions as well as in the printers and postal-telegraph-telephone strikes. Not only did Front Ouvrier, in which our comrades collaborate, increase its strength, but the PCI itself made a good name for itself. Particularly in the PTT strike, where a special issue of La Verité was put out and well received. There was a valuable discussion of this strike by the delegates.
The second and third days of the convention were given over to the political report and its discussion, in which 80 delegates took part. The following two major tendencies manifested themselves:
1) The Frank tendency — heart of the old majority — centered around the old Molinier group which fused with the party during the war. This group, supported by the International Secretariat, had one-third of the delegates. Its political line reflects the influence of the SWP (Cannon faction). Its position is based on its belief that we are in a revolutionary crisis (second wave), and therefore calls for what amounts to organs of dual power, and the creation of an extra-parliamentary CP-SP-CGT government. “The revolutionary crisis engendered by World War II is of a depth and extension far superior to that of the years 1917-1923,” i.e., to that which produced the Russian October, a Soviet Hungary and Saxony and various Soviet revolts in Germany, Finland, Bulgaria, etc., if one believes the Frank resolution. Not believing that the offensive of the bourgeoisie against the Socialist-Communist bloc for the May Constitution, with its virtual abolition of the reactionary Senate, posed any serious danger of a defeat for the working class, the Frank group clings to its opposition to the “Yes” stand taken by the PCI. However, part of the group (Frank) was for a “No” answer and most of it for a blank ballot.
2) The Geoffroy-Demazière-Craipeau group, the former minority, had a slight majority at this convention, 52 delegates. For them the situation is characterized by a reconsolidation of bourgeois rule and a getting into motion of capitalist economy, accompanied by a series of defeats of the working class and a lowered level of class consciousness due to the war, the occupation and those defeats (speedy liquidation of militia, factory committees and all other workers organs since August 1944, transfer of the struggle to purely parliamentary forms due to the CP and SP leaders, parliamentary defeats and retreats — Constitution) and a corresponding rebirth of parliamentary and democratic illusions. The economic lift opens up new perspectives of labor struggle although necessarily at a lower level to start with, due to those defeats and illusions. The party can play a decisive role by applying its economic and democratic slogans so as to help set the masses in action and to generalize and raise the level of such action.
This group has shifted the CP-SP-CGT slogan to “Break the Coalition.” It offers two reasons. Firstly, because, as a concretization of the idea of “oust the bourgeois (MRP) ministers” it no longer has sense since the SP and CP no longer have a majority in parliament. Secondly, because considering it as a concretization in immediate agitation of the slogan “Workers and peasants government” means posing the problem of extraparliamentary power organs, obviously not sensible today. They therefore replace it in agitation with “Break the coalition with the bourgeois ministers” and relegate “Workers and peasants government” to general propaganda.
In addition to these two major (Majority and Minority) tendencies,
there are other small ideological groupings within the party which
oppose the “CP-SP-CGT government” slogan and have varying estimates of
the general situation in France today, as well as different positions
on the basic question of Russia, as indicated below.
The Russian resolution of the old Frank majority takes the traditional line of defense, while declaring that the occupied countries remain capitalist but at the same time says that in the unlikely case “of the Soviet occupation continuing for years and bringing about a structural assimilation (which they say elsewhere is the tendency), it would result in a development of the productive forces far surpassing all that those countries have known during 30 years of capitalist evolution.” They further say that they oppose the Stalinist methods of struggle against the local capitalists “not because they are inhuman, but because they are ineffective.” They also attack “Shachtman and now L., etc.,” who, in “isolating” Trotsky’s prophesy (that the war, won or lost, would finish Stalin), show that they “didn’t understand its meaning.” The only error was of “rhythm and limit and not of analysis,” they say, and to say otherwise one must “prove that the direction of Russia’s evolution has changed.”
The M. group bases its defensism primarily on its fear of a capitalist victory opening up new areas to exploitation, but continues to call Russia a workers’ state.
The newly formed M.C. group is defeatist and considers Russia a bureaucratic collectivist state, but opposes the use of the term “imperialist” because they say it leads to confusion with capitalist imperialism.
The Guerin group is defeatist and its resolution holds that Russia is imperialist but not capitalist “in the same sense as the others.” The resolution takes no stand on the problem of State capitalism or Bureaucratic collectivism.
The multitude of positions convinced everyone that further discussion is necessary in the party and it was decided to open that discussion after the convention with a special conference on the Russian question to be held in six months.
The convention of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Great Britain did not, unfortunately, reveal the same organizational growth and progress as did that of the French section of the Fourth International. Recognizing the extreme power and attractiveness of the Labor Party to the masses of English workers, the convention resolution dealing with the political situation in England admitted an overestimation in its previous prognosis of a sharp swing to the left, based upon a disillusionment with the Labor Government, which would benefit the RCP. This did not materialize, but unfortunately the Convention drew only a fatalistic conclusion from it, rejecting overwhelmingly the proposal of the International Executive Committee that the RCP join en masse the British Labor Party. The RCP, in sharp contrast with the French PCI, seems stagnating and incapable of grappling with the realities of English national political life.
After a long period of ignoring or barely considering the so-called Russian Question, the RCP finds itself involved in an intense discussion on this issue. Three different tendencies were revealed at the Convention during a discussion that will undoubtedly continue in the post-convention life of the party. The Majority (Haston-Grant) tendency — the party leadership — has developed the novel interpretation of Trotsky’s analysis of the Soviet Union to the effect that, although Russia today has a “capitalistic economy” (exhibiting all the features of capitalism, including operation of the law of value, commodity production for the market, wage-labor, etc., etc.), it nevertheless remains a “Workers’ State.” The party Minority clings to the traditional (that is, sterile) characterization of Russia and brands the Majority as revisionist, preparing the way for acceptance of the “State Capitalist” theory regarding Russia or of the “bureaucratic collectivist” theory. A small minority, headed by comrades from the Irish section, advanced substantially the “bureaucratic collectivist” point of view held by the Workers Party in America. These three tendencies will now be discussed within the ranks of the party.
It is important to note that these two conventions of the leading European sections of the Fourth International mark definite progress toward reconsideration of the entire Russian question — a most welcome event, long considered necessary by us. The Russian defensist position, still clung to with desperation by the SWP in America, is becoming increasingly untenable throughout the International. A thoroughgoing re-evaluation of this issue is on the order of the day. Bureaucratic smugness can answer everything but the pressure of history.
Last updated: 4.9.2005