James P. Cannon

Spectre of Communism in the Fourth International

Reaction Hounds Trotsky!

(April 1934)

Published: The Militant, Vol. VII No. 16, 21 April 1934, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcription/Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
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With a fury and venom reminiscent of the mad campaigns against the Bolsheviks in 1917 – and identical with them in content – the attack of world reaction is concentrated today against Trotsky.

In France, where the forces of fascism on the one side and the working class on the other are speedily moving towards the decisive struggle that will have fateful consequences for the entire world, the reaction is striking with full force against the leader who personifies revolutionary struggle and victory of the proletariat.

The summary order deporting Trotsky from France, the closing of the doors of other European countries and the rabid incitement against him – in all this there is to be seen not only a reactionary political campaign but also a direct and immediate threat on the life of the organizer of the Russian revolution and the herald, of its international extension. World reaction wants the head of Trotsky! Let the workers take heed and raise the alarm!

French Fascists, Russian White Guards and reactionary forces everywhere cry out against Trotsky and the dread spectre of Communism, rising again on the world arena in the Fourth International. And the Stalinist bureaucracy, which has facilitated the march of fascist reaction throughout Europe, joins in the chorus. This infamous representative and carrier of corruption and treachery in the labor movement reveals its perfidious function once again in the united front of reaction. For the mortal danger to Trotsky’s life in the present circumstances, and for whatever may befall him at the hands of a White Guard, a Fascist or a Stalinist assassin, the revolutionary workers, taking stock of all the events which have led to this climax, will not fail to place the responsibility where it belongs.

The Political Meaning of the Attack

The accusations against Trotsky, which have been made the basis of the deportation order, have undoubtedly been manufactured by the extreme reactionaries to serve a momentary political interest. But this manoeuvre is only the superficial expression of powerful motive forces for the reactionary attack. The Fascist movement of France, which advanced with seven-league boots after Hitler’s effortless victory in Germany – thanks to the shameful capitulation of Stalinism – has taken alarm at later developments and feels impelled to strike quickly.

The heroic resistance of the Austrian Socialist workers, the great French general strike and united front demonstrations against Fascism, and the emergence of a movement for the Fourth International – these three events, each separately and all together, have contributed mightily to the revival of the will and capacity of the workers to fight against Fascism. They constitute an assurance that the French workers will take the road of the united front and of struggle to the death against French Fascism. The ideas of the International Communists, and of Trotsky in the first place, were expressed and verified in these events. The blows of reaction dealt against the person of Trotsky, and the screams of rage and fear directed against the Fourth International, have, therefore, a logic and a profound significance in the French and international struggle of the classes.

Why They Fear the Fourth International

The fact that the Austrian workers were defeated does not suffice to reassure the French reactionaries, nor is the circumstance that the Fourth International is as yet only in the formative stage, and without a broad organization basis, very consoling to them. They have seen the spirit of the Austrian socialist workers mirrored in the menacing demonstrations of the French proletariat and have taken alarm at them, especially at the unity as well as the militancy which the French workers have displayed. And they remember all too well – when they witness the first appearance of the Fourth International – how revolutionary socialism, that is, communism, reduced to a small spark during the war, was rapidly kindled into a gigantic flame in 1917.

They dread the prospect of a combination of the heroic spirit of the Austrian workers with the United front policy which gains ground every day in the French labor movement, and the fusion of this movement with the revolutionary aims and international organization. This is the spectre that haunts them. This is what they strive to exorcise when they strike at Trotsky and the Fourth International.

“The authorities”, who have no reason to fear a bureaucratized and degenerated “communism” that capitulates without a fight, as in Germany, fly into a panic at the bold manifesto of the Fourth International, summoning the workers to the struggle for power. Charging Trotsky with a “plot” to set up a dictatorship in France, “the authorities” quote the demand of the manifesto for the creation of a workers’ militia and its clear, sharp warning to the workers:

“The two forces have just measured swords. War has begun between them. There is no possible peace but in a fight to the death. In the street, by force, will be decided the future.”

No Refuge in Capitalist Countries

The United Press dispatch comments significantly that “there was some Indication that the government was anxious to get Trotsky out of France before May Day” and adds:

“Though secret police said they believed that the Fourth International wad largely in the formative stage, European governments seemed to fear it, and were reluctant to gire the exiled Communist shelter.”

None of the capitalist governments offers a refuge to “the vanguard of the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie”, as Trotsky is described in the precise and felicitous expression of Stalin (who expelled him from the Soviet Union). Says the United Press:

“Flight to Italy, Germany, Poland, Greece, Jugoslavia, Spain or Austria is definitely closed because the governments distrust his activities.

“England has not been approached because it was said at the British Embassy that London would refuse. Turkey will not tolerate his return. France will not permit him to go to Morocco, Algeria or any other African colony ... Belgium and Switzerland, because of their sympathy with France, are not believed likely to grant him asylum.”

Meanwhile, the incitement to drive him out of France in “the shortest possible time”, if not to assassinate him, proceeds with unabated fury. “He reeks with the blood of our soldiers”, says La Liberté. “His residence in any part of France would be a scandal. He must he driven away like a dog.”

How clearly and forcefully the political issues, eventually become! How unmistakably, through all the fog of slander and falsification, the essence of the eleven-years struggle of the Bolshevik-Leninists makes its way in these expressions of the bourgeois governments and newspapers! In the above quotations the capitalist spokesmen of Europe testify to their unalterable conviction that Trotsky is the veritable representative of the revolutionary program which they hate and fear.

The treacherous policy of Stalinism, exposed already in a long chain of events, is demonstrated once again before the workers of the entire world in the present case. The false face of Bolshevism is torn aside; the ordinary standard of labor ethics espoused by every simple and decent trade unionist, which dictates ar attitude of labor solidarity with a victim of capitalist persecution, – even this is lacking in the conduct of the cynical bureaucrats of Stalinism from Moscow to Paris and from Paris to New York.

Not a united front of the working class against the class enemy, but a united front with fascist reaction – this is the essence of the Stalinist practice in the campaign against Trotsky. Frothing at the mouth, every jackal of the apparatus, every corrupt functionary of a regime that is corrupted to the core, barks at the heels of the international revolutionist.

“Drive him away like a dog”, demands the Fascist newspaper. And the spokesman of the Soviet Embassy in Paris adds: “The Soviet Government is making no effort to interfere. We assume the French Government is capable of handling him”. (United Press, April 18).

“He advocates a revolution by ‘an armed workers’ militia’,” say the French “authorities” in announcing his deportation (Associated Press, April 18). L’Humanité, organ of French Stalinism, replies: “He is a renegade and a despicable character generally”. (Herald Tribune correspondent, April 16).

“During the February clashes between the police and mobs”, the French police charge, “he sent agents to the Socialist and Communist leaders urging a ‘monster joint meeting’ to prepare for mass actions.” (Associated Press, April 18) And the New York Freiheit, which is against that kind of a united front, explains in an editorial on April 19th, that “Trotsky ... is a man whom the revolutionary workers the world over hate and despise ... For the class conscious workers the Trotsky matter is no more than an incident among capitalist governments and their servant.”

Yes, Stalinist perfidy is revealed once again and it is not by accident that they direct it against the chief exponent of the revolutionary doctrines which they trample in the mud. They deported him from the Soviet Union; they dickered with the Turkish police to immure him on an island as in a prison; they connived with capitalist governments to keep him out of Europe; under the guise of calling attention to his lack of adequate protection at Prinkipo they incited White Guards (if not Stalinist agents) to assassinate him; they organized demonstrations against his admission to France and now they salute his deportation by a reactionary government that paves the way for Fascism! And all this cynical cooperation with the class enemy is passed off as revolutionary Bolshevism! Revolutionary workers, learn to despise this bureaucratic canaille which defiles the very name of Bolshevism!

The Real Issues Break Through

The advanced workers all over the world in increasing numbers are beginning to see the issues as they really are and to draw the necessary conclusions. They are breaking out of the circle that has been drawn around them – the devil’s circle of lies and calumnies, of perversion, fakery and disorientation.

In the hail of persecution and slander directed at the person of Trotsky, first by war mongers and social patriots during the war; then by the whole camp of reaction in the Kerensky days and in the first period of the Bolshevik revolution; later taken over and magnified by the Stalinist bureaucracy after the death of Lenin; and now unfolding again under the leadership of the blackest forces of capitalist reaction, with the Stalinists in their train – in these campaigns of rage and hate and persecution concentrated on Trotsky the advanced and thinking workers of the world are beginning to see what is really involved: the struggle of the classes.

And, more than that, the eleven-years’ campaign of the Stalinists, sandwiched in between the two great world crusades of the bourgeoisie, and fusing more or less openly with the latest one, stands out now more clearly in the same light. Trotsky, the person, is the target of the attacks of capitalist reaction because he, more ably and consistently than any other, has pointed out the way to the revolutionary struggle and victory of the workers.

The campaign of Stalinism against him personally was a campaign against his ideas, and that, in turn, has been at bottom a fulfillment of the commands of alien classes. The whole “anti-Trotsky” course of Stalinism, studded along the path for eleven years with disorganization and defeat of the workers’ movement in all countries, is true to itself and more self-revealing than ever now. And! the conclusion is clearer and more inescapable than ever: Stalinism is a reactionary force in the labor movement of the world.

The accusations brought against Trotsky by the French police reveal the whole essence of the matter in a few compact sentences. They accuse him of working for a united front of Socialists and Communists “to prepare for mass action” They charge him with advocating the formation of “a workers’ militia” to repel the Fascist attacks and to take the offensive against them. They indict him for bis solemn warning to the workers that they must “fight to the death”. And they drive him out of France because he summons the workers to reorganize their ranks under the banner of the Fourth International.

That, in brief, is indeed a program to strike terror to the hearts of all exploiters. In those clear, simple words there is the prescription for the workers’ struggle and victory. If the workers will heed these words in time, and carry them out in deeds, they can reform their ranks and halt the march of reaction. The can smash the dread menace of, fascism and clear the way for revolutionary victory.

In these issues, so fateful for the future of humanity, capitalist reaction has taken the offensive. Driving with breakneck speed toward the establishment of a fascist regime in France, they scent danger in the program of Trotsky and launch a furious campaign against him. By the same token the workers of France and of all countries ought to rally to his aid without delay. The defense of Trotsky’s life at the present moment is a duty enjoined upon the labor movement in order to defend itself.

Last updated on 13 May 2016