Written: July 1943
Transcription\HTML Markup: David Walters and Phil from the French MIA team
Translation: Ted Crawford
The petty bourgeois composition of the IVth International groupings in France has been proved by the attitude that they have taken to the imperialist occupation of the country after June 1940. At the time the vast majority of the elements grouped in the "French Committees of the IVth International" (at present the POI) abandoned the internationalist position in favour of a "common front with everyone who thinks in terms of French national interests". On the other hand certain prominent members have gone over to distinctly fascist positions. Thus the split with all these elements is completely justified, a split we made in October 1939 to distance ourselves from a petty bourgeois milieu whose organisational practices were social democratic and not communist.
This disastrous situation of the movement of the Fourth in France is explained by the following:
The ideas of the Russian opposition, which were the basis of the birth of the IVth International current, have not been able to penetrate any working class milieu in France. The proletariat in this country was in the grip of two proletarian parties of which one, the CP, clothed itself with the prestige of the October revolution. The fact that these ideas have above all been adopted by intellectuals, lacking real Communist traditions and who from 1928 to 1933, had no possibility of fighting on the ground of workers' struggles, has given the Communist opposition in France a petty bourgeois character which made any subsequent development of the movement of the IVth International problematic at the moment when the objective situation (the workers struggles in 1934 and 1939) gave a solid base for the propagation of the ideas of the IVth International.
Since the beginning of the war we have been engaged in creating an organisation of the revolutionary Bolshevik type. Bolshevism implies, together with the correct policy (which is defined for us in the Fourth International & the War and the Transitional Programme which continue the line of the first four Congresses of the CI) a real and extensive contact with the working class and a daily participation in its struggles; it is inspired by the daily and permanent interests of the working class. To call itself a Bolshevik Party it must have a certain organisational weight which allows it to lead the class struggle in the country, it must have the traditions of working class struggles. There must be a balance sheet of favourable political struggle. In these senses the question of the party cannot and could not be resolved by our own forces from A to Z and in 1943 the question of the party remains open.
But our work has been conceived as a work towards a Bolshevik Party. For that our independence was and is vital to us. For we cannot start training Communist militants (who become really so through the practice of working class struggle) in an opportunist petty bourgeois milieu. We want and have wanted to assert, by means of educated activists and a consistent policy, a revolutionary conception in front of the other proletarian organisations. Our success in this task, if we see forces capable of forming a party with us in the working class can unleash or start a regroupment of all truly revolutionary activists in the French working class on a Communist basis. In this sense the selection which we are at present carrying out now, in as much as our organisation is opposed to other ones, will give way tomorrow to a new selection of truly revolutionary elements inside one single organisation.
In what milieu do we find this type of revolutionary militant? Since the beginning of the war we have oriented our efforts towards CP activists above all. The CP had communist working class militants. Our extreme numerical weakness has only let us gather very few fruits, in a numerical sense, from this orientation. But proportionate to our forces the results have not been negligible. It is this orientation which has made it posible for us to continue as an independent group. But the efforts of the bourgeoisie in imprisoning or shutting up in camps thousands of rank and file Communist activists and the deportation to Germany of two million workers, some of whom were Communist workers, makes this kind of work very difficult. However in the future (with the return of prisoners and deportees and the freeing of those jailed) work with this orientation remains the primary task as far as recruitment is concerned; in the current situation it should be focused particularly on the very young (16-to 18 year olds) with or without political backgrounds.
In the camp of the groups claiming to be from the IVth International the situation has been changed to some extent by a certain amount of factory activity. This activity is due to the fact that there exists in France a current of IVth International ideas in certain political and worker milieus. The experience of the war and the Stalinist line changes have forced some working class elements to group themselves inside the POI despite the incapacity of that body to organise them or lead them effectively. The POI has gained from this current of ideas, in spite of its opportunist politics, in as much as the organisation is numerically the strongest.
Our task is to demonstrate to these working class elements the opportunism of the leaders of the POI and to show them an organisation and above all organisational methods which they can trust. To achieve such an organisation with these correct organisational methods each member of our group must, in their revolutionary work, get rid of their individualism and act as members of a team. It is only thus that we will have the internal cohesion needed for the work of revolutionary regroupment, a work which can take many forms.
What is this organisation and what are the methods which we wish to prevail? We want the methods and organisation of Bolshevik work to prevail. From the organisational point of view Bolshevism implies a rigorous centralism which takes its whole meaning in the SOVEREIGN political control of the party: the organisational structure which has been called "democratic centralism". The centralist structure of the party follows from the tasks which devolve upon it in the epoch of imperialism: "Every institution is naturally and inevitably determined by the content of its actions" (Lenin What is to be Done?) The content of the party's revolutionary action is twofold: in as much as the party contains the socialist aim the party represents a superior form of human organisation, the cooperation of everyone in the elaboration of its policy and ideology. In as much as it is an instrument of struggle against present day capitalism, the party is adapted for this struggle which is impossible without a centralist organisation. For we live in the epoch of imperialism where one little minority of big capitalists concentrate into their hands the economic, technical, political and cultural resources of whole peoples to which one can only oppose a rigorously centralised proletarian struggle. A rigorously centralised proletarian struggle implies a rigorously centralised revolutionary party.
Thus both democratic control and centralised structure of the party flow from its revolutionary and socialist content.
The Bolshevik conception has been hallowed by the victory of the October revolution of 1917. But the degeneration of the October revolution has put in question the very conception of the party. Powerless to explain Stalinism as the product of the actual course of class struggle (which has led to a situation in which the proletariat, having taken power and replaced private property with a planned economy, is pushed away from political power by a bureaucracy which, while maintaining itself in power on the basis of the relationship established by the revolution, represents from the political social and moral point of view, the very negation of Bolshevism) numerous "critics" try to accuse Bolshevism itself as non-democratic etc and thus as responsible for Stalinism. But none of these critics has succeeded in inventing something new which can prevent the party, which is a means, either from breaking up in accomplishing its job, perhaps as a result of its inadequate material and ideological content (as in a number of parties of the III International) or maybe after the exhaustion of this content in the achievement of its revolutionary task: that was the fate of the Russian Bolshevik party. These "critics" have then ended up by quitting the revolutionary struggle and have gone back to bourgeois ideas. THE CRIMES OF STALINISM CANNOT BE IMPUTED TO BOLSHEVISM OF WHICH IT IS NOT THE CONTINUATION BUT ITS NEGATION.
Democracy is not a panacea, it is a form whose content can vary. The experience of bourgeois democracy first of all shows us that it hides a dictatorship: that of capital over the exploited. The model of formal democracy however stays that of social democracy in which complete democracy (complete free speech) hides in reality the political dictatorship of a limited number of politicians over the social democratic workers. This explains the two fold content of social democratic parties -petty bourgeois (the majority) and working class (the minority).
The dictatorship of these professional politicians could not be threatened by free speech as long as the party was divided by the interests of the different classes.
On the other hand true living democracy spontaneously establishes itself among people with the same aim, carriers of the same flame. It shows itself in all popular revolutions. It is in this sense that Lenin stated that for the party : "IF WE POSSESS THESE QUALITIES (strict secrecy, strict selection of members and the training of professional revolutionaries) SOMETHING EVEN MORE THAN "DEMOCRACY" will be guaranteed to us, NAMELY COMPLETE COMRADELY MUTUAL CONFIDENCE AMONG REVOLUTIONARIES."
The question of democracy has therefore two aspects: on the one hand in any grouping which includes class contradictions, democracy allows the free expression of minority opinions. The majority can suppress it in the name of the interest of the class that it represents. Thus when the criticism of the revolutionary minority became embarrassing for the SFIO, they threw this minority out of the party. The reactionary meaning of this measure comes not from the stifling of democracy for revolutionaries in the abstract but from the fact that it was aimed at defending the reformist petty bourgeoisie. The Bolshevik Party which was one of the most democratic parties known to history also suppressed certain democratic rights, (factional rights etc.) in the perilous year of 1920. However in this case the suppression of these "democratic" rights was a revolutionary measure: in the special conditions of that time, the pressure of the petty bourgeois classes had to be prevented from appearing inside the Bolshevik party. On the other hand in a grouping which does not contain class contradictions and having a revolutionary content, democracy is not simply the right to criticise, to express an opinion, it is something infinitely more, it is a "total fraternal confidence between revolutionaries" which by the conscious efforts of each determines the general direction, it is a similar stubborn effort to make the work of the party effective, to get the best out of each member, to put each one to work in the right job (the right man in the right place), to correct political faults etc.
In illegality, democratic control which tends in this last direction is much more difficult than under legality but it can be just as effective. it is a question above all of finding the best possible means of guaranteeing a serious exchange from top to bottom and from the bottom to the top between members of the organisation. The compartmentalisation due to illegality thus upsets the organisation's democracy, that is to say the easy and swift political and organisational exchange between all parts of the party. As well as advantages for the organisation (more rigorous selection of members) illegality implies grave disadvantages for the political progress of the organisation. In these conditions it is the serious training of each member and the true quality of its leadership which can partially remedy this situation. So much so that in a revolutionary group which has a proletarian class content, democracy implies centralism.
The most important condition for the establishment of true democracy is the high socialist consciousness of the responsible cadres. Each one must be organically convinced that without democracy, that is to say without the active participation of everyone, not only in practical work but equally in the development of the politics of the organisation, there can be no revolutionary party and thus no victory of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie. Only the total mobilisation of all the political and practical possibilities embodied in each activist, enables a little organisation to develop, a big organisation to win over sympathisers, an organisation with sympathisers to win over the masses, and an organisation, with sympathisers based on the masses, to defeat the bourgeoisie.
The party is not merely the sum of its members. It has a new quality and it is only the party links which raise every member well above their individual strengths, and turn them into militants. At one and the same time the militant is the product of both his own individual activity, and even more important, of the collective activity of the party. The subordination of all his moral, intellectual and material resources to this collective life of the party is thus the supreme duty of a militant, in the first place his duty to himself. The party on the other hand, contrary to the Stalinist manner, does not think of its member as pawns without importance but, on the contrary finds embodied in each one of its members what is most spirited and valuable.
In the moral sphere the first requirement of Bolshevism is the complete break of all links with bourgeois morality. We cannot accept the objections of those who accuse Bolshevism of having produced Stalinist amorality. Bourgeois morality, in its most hidden requirements, is one of the most powerful brakes on the proletarian revolution. The morality of a militant who has broken radically and completely with bourgeois morality is thus revolutionary where the party is based on the proletariat, linked to the mass movement, where the organisational and political control of the party on its members has as its condition the control of the party by the workers through the confidence which they give to it. And this revolutionary morality gives to the militant a bearing and an honesty without parallel in bourgeois society. This morality is not on an abstract basis (general rules about what is good or bad, what is honest, what dishonest) but it is, with the help of the marxist method, deduced and scientifically based on the class struggle. The criteria vary as it deals with direct enemies, temporary allies or the workers movement. The more each militant is educated and linked in practical ways with the masses the healthier is the party. Only the centralist Bolshevik organisation allows the education of the members to be directed so as to remedy fully cultural and theoretical inequalities and bring out the cultural and theoretical capacities of everyone to the maximum. Only the centralist Bolshevik organisation enables its members' work vis-a-vis the masses to be effective to the greatest degree (the placing of members in areas which suits their abilities best in a practical way, mixing workers and intellectuals to get the most out of their work.)
As far as the professionalisation of militants is concerned, this does not imply the abandonment of all links with production or the different social spheres of activity witgh the exception of a very small minority of loyal, selected members, who carry out the full time work (political or technical) under the party's control but the party must be linked to the whole of social life. Professionalism implies that each militant is entirely at the disposition of the party which uses him in the best interests of the class inside or outside production. We struggle for the victory of the highest Socialist social forms and the party must be able to rely on the greatest possible contribution of intellectuals, engineers and administrators etc. In this sense it is linked and tries to become linked, by creating some sympathisers within all these milieux. But the professional is a party member before he is an engineer etc.
To sum up, we wish to evolve a type of revolutionary exposed to the bourgeois world and to succeed in this a perfect discipline in the organisation is absolutely necessary. More and more we must tend to organise work in a responsible way and to establish political and organisational working links between militants. Since the beginning all our efforts have been bent in this direction, the greatest danger for an organisation being the habit of working on the basis of personal links, ("friendship", life style etc) which gives rise to little groups or cliques and not to a whole level of relationships resulting from organisational practice and theoretical work.
In order to start to put into place all this machinery we must know which members feel capable of being "professional militants", who will submit to the absolute discipline of the organisation and who will determines the direction of our work by their vote. Those who do not feel capable yet, that is to say those who do not have a sufficient basis in the past and present existence of the organisation, will continue to be as active as they have been so far but will not be allowed to determine the future course of our organisation.
Today we only know the difficult and painful costs of such a life but our development and the struggle of the masses will transform this professional situation into a privilege by revealing how much strength and deep humanity such a life may contain.
What characterises the revolutionary is that he expects only one reward for his activity that is the recognition sooner or later that it has been in the true interests of humanity. That is why he can resist all trials: while it is relatively easy to give one's life in a single blow, we must also know how to give it little by little in the stubborn struggle that is needed to overthrow the bourgeoisie. This kind of person is not rare. The party draws out this sentiment of total sacrifice of dignity and, so to speak, of happiness.
"Revolutionary experience and organisational skill are things that can be acquired provided the desire there to acquire these qualities, provided the shortcomings are recognised - which in revolutionary activity is more than halfway towards removing them!."
"Without the "dozen" tried and talented leaders (and talented men are not born by the hundred), professionally trained, schooled by long experience and working in perfect harmony, no class in modern society is capable of conducting a determined struggle."
"The only serious organisational principle the active workers of our movement can accept is strict secrecy, strict selection of members and the training of professional revolutionaries. If we possessed these qualities something even than more than 'democracy' would be guaranteed to us, namely complete comradely mutual confidence among revolutionaries."
"Once again Parvus" apt observation that it is difficult to catch an opportunist with a formula has been proved correct. An opportunist will readily put his name to any formula and as readily abandon it, because his opportunism means precisely a lack of definite and firm principles"