by David Korner (BARTA)

Letter to Young Communists

22 October 1944

Written: October 1944
Transcription\HTML Markup: David Walters and Phil from the French MIA team
Translation: Ted Crawford

It is betraying no great secret to say that the Communist Party is at this moment in the middle of a great crisis. It is enough to open one's eyes to be convinced. The malaise is profound and under the appearance of "unanimity" the gap is widening between elements of the rank and file and the leaders, between those who have the desire and the wish to be truly communist and those for whom the CP is only a machine which they use for political ends which have nothing to do with the aims of the French proletarian class; that is to say the overthrow of the French bourgeoisie and the installation of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

But in the absence of any clear perspective and a truly Communist training, these honest elements, disgusted with the bureaucratic wheeler-dealing and the new kind of Sacred Union of classes (which is always the old kind) these elements are incapable of replying in a practical way to the question "What Is To Be Done?". Discouraged they become passive. Thus the policy of the CP demoralises the vanguard of the working class and in this way opens the road to fascism.

The Bolshevik organisations were remarkable for their internal democracy. Everyone could put their positions forward and defend them. Thus there was a real intellectual life within the party, without which it would only have been a corpse. But the bourgeois policy which the CP brought to the bosom of the working class - Bureaucratisation and social patriotism - could not endure criticism, for the criticism would soon expose its consequences. So in order to keep the confidence of the masses a little longer, the Party apparatus was forced to resort to terror and slander.

But facts are stubborn things and cannot be silenced so easily as a man. Where then is the famous harmony of French interests which Humanité preaches? Can we make the lion lie down with the lamb, the interests of those who are raking in the money and those who are pouring out their blood. The exploiter and the exploited. The 200 families and the workers who are still waiting for the "recovery". The CP says "Yes" and tries to achieve this union "against the Boche". Life says no and demonstrates that this struggle "against the Boche (and against who will it be tomorrow?) above all, for as long as the bourgeoisie is the boss in the house, goes along with smashing the working class, the high cost of living, unemployment and a state of emergency or martial law. Moreover, far from disappearing, the antagonism between the working class and the bourgeoisie is being accentuated by the war. The bourgeoisie can only carry on the war by mobilising the proletarian forces in its service, that is to say by binding its own working class to it. In particular this is the meaning of de Gaulle's last speech.

But it is not easy to bind the working class. The bourgeoisie is flabby and decrepit, the state apparatus is worm-eaten and deeply disrupted by the war. Incapable of doing its own dirty work, the bourgeoisie does it through the intermediary of its tame working class parties, which fraudulently gain the confidence of the workers and hand them over to the enemy of their class.

The job which the Socialist party did in the first imperialist world war, putting working class energies at the service of bourgeois interest, the CP is doing today in an even more criminal way. After five years of suffering which had clearly shown the plundering character of the war the whole European bourgeoisie is beginning to crack up and the revolution is knocking at the door. Claiming to be in the tradition of the Socialist Revolution of 1917, the better to betray it, it is in these conditions that the CP proclaim "The Status Quo! Occupy Germany! A New League of Nations!" In the 14-18 war Vandervelde, the President of the II International, went to Russia to exhort the masses to continue the war. Today, from Moscow, Thorez invites them to imperialist butchery.

For this war is not a class war! It is not a question of what is wanted or thought by the cannon fodder whether private soldiers or partisans.  It is a question of who is in charge. And up till now it does not seem that the top General Staff is composed of militant workers ... The political first eleven changes (but not so very much. Everyday Humanité denounces the Vichy creatures who are kept in their jobs). The State - civil servants, the army, the police, the courts - continues and it is this State which runs the war and gives it its class character, a war of plunder, a battle between thieves.

However, can this war perhaps lead to a lasting friendship between countries, a friendship which will abolish the blood-tax which the world bourgeoisie levies more and more frequently? What a lovely idea! Just as the alchemists in the Middle Ages wished to turn a lump of lead into gold, so some claim to transmute a real peace out of an imperialist war! But communists live in an age of scientific machines and the proletarian revolution, not in the age of alchemy. Besides you need only keep your eyes and ears open. De Gaulle says it openly: France is alone and the Allies are guided by their interests alone. The present conflict is not even over but other conflicts are being prepared. The policy of successive desertions from, and treasons to, the revolution to preserve the allied "bloc" is proving treacherous and suicidal.

Many have looked at this and want to finish with the war. But to finish with it, must we agree to new sacrifices? That is what Hitler has already told us. We know that tune. Blood calls for blood. Ruination, death and misery will be multiplied. No! The real way to end war is that of the Bolsheviks in 1917, it is revolutionary struggle. Only the revolution of 1917 put an end to the first imperialist war. Only the Revolution can bring an exhausted and blood-gorged Europe a respite.

But for this battle against war we need a revolutionary party. It is this which was the role of the CP. It was built in intransigent opposition to social patriotism and forged in struggles against the occupation of the Ruhr and the war in Morocco. But the CP was worn away by this struggle. Its best militants fell all over the place - not "for France" but for Communism - the Revolution was delayed and the CP stopped preparing for it. This degeneration occurred because a sufficiently militant base, sufficiently educated in a real internationalist communist spirit did not exist. That is why today, even while war is still, raging, it must be rebuilt under fire. That is why a Communist Party, which has not stolen the name, and which fulfils its national tasks (in the first place through its struggle against its own bourgeoisie) in an international spirit (friendship with the workers of all countries) must be rebuilt.

And to create this Party, we must create people, militants for whom communism is not a "doctrine" but the reason to live and die. The proletariat has in its service an incomparable revolutionary doctrine, marxism. Militants, the youth in the first place, must learn the method and teachings of marxism. The proletariat has a rich tradition consisting of a long series of defeats and one victory in 1917. Militants, above all the young ones, drawing on these lessons, must know how to construct a party and how a Revolution is made.

The action to take and the links between comrades must be envisaged in a totally new and Bolshevik way. They must free themselves from bureaucratism, servility and doing tasks without understanding or discussion. Bolshevik discipline has nothing to do with the blind obedience of a member of the state police, still less with the spying of a petty bureaucrat! Bolshevik discipline rests on the political consciousness of militants, their devotion to the revolution and their skills in understanding the ways to get it. It is a natural and necessary precondition for any revolutionary action. But where there is a lack of revolutionary action there is no room for such a discipline. It has been replaced by the irresponsible dictatorship of the party machine and contemptible mechanism of military discipline.

The CP fritters its members away into "sympathetic" organisations; UFF, FFI,  Friends of the Soviet Union (when things go well...). They are then given non communist jobs, without any actual importance. They must collect money and organise a fete, sew armbands, copy leaflets and sell papers which do not furnish the ingredients of communist work which is real, in short, everything ... except communist action. Thus the CP is on the road to dissolution as it has dissolved itself in the USA.

The IVth International opposes this liquidation of the communist movement in France. It has given itself the job of creating the cadres of a new CP, by consistent Communist deeds, which will bring out, through action, the interests of the workers, in opposition to those of the bourgeoisie and above all, the general interest common to all workers. Resting on the marxist programme of the IVth International, defined by the first four Congresses of the Comintern, the cadres will have well and truly built a real Bolshevik party because there is no other solution. The line of the 4th International is merciless class struggle, communist struggle against capitalism, revolutionary struggle against the war - it is the road of proletarian revolution.

It is not a matter of giving lessons. It is a matter of honestly facing facts and ideas. It is a matter of the right of every revolutionary militant to defend the position that he thinks is correct. We must see clearly to work and work quickly. The coming revolution in France rests in the hands of the youth, and especially the Young Communists. They must become aware and get to work.