French Trotskyism Class Against Class. 1929
Source: Contre le Courant, no. 29-30, May 6, 1929;
Translated: for marxists.org by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) marxists.org 2011.
The Communist Party congress confirmed that there is a “radicalization” of the working class, that is, that the proletariat is in a state of revolutionary effervescence. Consequently, it has adopted the tactic of “class against class” imposed by the Executive of the Communist International in order to hide from the western proletariat the concessions Stalin is making to the capitalists and the kulaks, a tactic inaugurated in the legislative elections of 1928 and characterized by the maintaining of Communist candidates during the second round of voting.
A preliminary question: is there a “radicalization” of the working class?
We don’t think so.
There is discontent in the working class provoked by the rise in the rise in the cost of living and the reduction in their purchasing power, which pushes the working class to demand raises in order to make ends meet. The strikes come from this.
These aren’t strikes to gain new advantages, but to defend conditions already obtained. We have seen other periods of strike waves that had the same causes.
If there was a “radicalization” we would see, as in 1919, the workers rushing to join the unions; the masses would feel the need to organize in order to vigorously go on the offensive to conquer moral and material advantages: the seven hour day, paid vacations, raises in salary, etc.
The Communists talk about “radicalization” even though during the textile strike in the North and the miners’ strikes in the Aveyron and the Loire, 40% of the workers remained at work! It will be objected that it was the reformist leaders who were guilty of betrayal, but if the workers had been “radicalized” the leaders of the CGT would not have been of great importance.
Another example: The metalworkers union of the Seine summoned their workers of the region to two meetings at the labor exchange on the afternoon of March 23. Posters were put up everywhere; tracts were distributed at the factory exits. Among the speakers were two stars that should have drawn a huge crowd, Doriot and Monmousseau. The party expected such a huge crowd that the municipal councilor Gélis was mobilized in order to avoid incidents with the police.
The largest number of revolutionaries can be found in the metal industry, but of the 250,000 metal workers barely 1,200 comrades took the trouble to attend.
It is a joke to speak of “radicalization.”
The PCF, because of this “radicalization,” makes no distinction between the parties of the grande and the petite bourgeoisie; it considers that confronting it is nothing but a National Union, of which the Socialist Party is a part.
We repeat that a distinction must be made between the grande bourgeoisie of the fascist and reactionary parties and the petite bourgeoisie which has its expression in the parties of the “left.”
The Socialist Party, while defending the petite bourgeoisie, includes within it a great number of workers of revolutionary tendencies. There is thus a distinction to be made between the bourgeois parties and the SFIO, and within this party between the leaders and the troops.
We think that in every electoral campaign the policies of the socialist leaders must be energetically combated and denounced as a support of the bourgeoisie, the actions of the leaders of the SFIO consisting in ameliorating the capitalist regime when it should be brought down.
If in the first round of elections the Socialist candidates finish ahead of the Communists and there is a danger that fascists are elected, in order to defeat fascist reaction the party should not maintain its candidates, though without renouncing propaganda or allowing any illusions.
A revolutionary vanguard is composed of the elite of the working class, those who have best understood the need for the class struggle, the most devoted, the most courageous proletarians. The vanguard’s task is energetically attacking capitalism, leading the majority of the working masses into battle, which advances slowly and hasn’t yet understood the need to take the offensive.
This working mass is composed of socialists, of reformist syndicalists, and also of those not members of a party. The leaders are socialists who do all they can to see to it that this mass advances slowly; they are brakes on the workers movement.
Maintaining Communist candidates in the second round of municipal elections against socialists who are favored means by firing on the leaders wounding the working masses we should be protecting. It means causing confusion, playing the game of the capitalist enemy. In doing this a large number of cities will pass over to fascist reaction.
What will the consequences be?
The reactionary municipalities will not hesitate to worsen the living conditions of the working class by making them put up with increases in municipal taxes.
For some time the political parties that say they represent the working class have the direct control of large scale public services, water, gas, electricity, street cleaning, and the municpalization of housing as part of their program.
The exploitation through direct control of public services places them under the control of the municipalities that lead them and leaves to the city — the owner of factories and materiel — the disposal of the profits realized. It thus allows cities not only to improve their finances and, as a result, to reduce municipal taxes, but it also allows the lowering of sale prices to the public, while the personnel of the services benefit from certain guarantees. The partisans of direct control should have been allowed to — and be held responsible for — realizing their program.
The adversaries of direct control are many. These sharks grouped in the “Union of Economic Interests” dispose of considerable sums of money and are carrying out a serious campaign.
The Communist Party, by its tactic of “class against class,” which means maintaining candidates in the second round against all parties, will provide them with support.
The proletariat’s interests dictate that in the second round of voting the Communists practice class action that doesn’t isolate them from the masses. This is not the case with “class against class.”