Tony Cliff

Trotsky: The darker the night the brighter the star

8. First steps towards a new international

IN MARCH 1933, after Hitler consolidated his power, Trotsky came to the conclusion that the bankruptcy of the KPD – the collapse of German Stalinism made it necessary to build a new party in Germany. Three months later, in June, Trotsky came to the conclusion that as the Comintern refused to criticise the policies that led to the victory of Hitler, a new international had to be built. In October Trotsky drew the conclusion that the CPSU also could not be reformed, and he now put forward the need for a political revolution in the USSR.

On 12 March 1933, in an article entitled KPD or New Party? Trotsky wrote:

German Stalinism is collapsing now, less from the blows of the fascists than from its internal rottenness. Just as a doctor does not leave a patient who still has a breath of life, we had for our task the reform of the party as long as there was the least hope. But it would be criminal to tie oneself to a corpse.

... The hour has struck! the question of preparing for the creation of a new party must be posed openly ... The official German party is politically liquidated, it cannot be reborn. The vanguard of the German workers must build a new party. [1]

Should a break with the Comintern and the CPSU be made as well?

Here is it natural to ask how we act toward the other sections of the Comintern and the Third International as a whole. Do we break with them immediately? In my opinion, it would be incorrect to give a rigid answer – yes, we break with them. The collapse of the KPD diminishes the chances for the regeneration of the Comintern. But on the other hand the catastrophe itself could provoke healthy reaction in some of the sections. We must be ready to help this process. The question has not been settled for the USSR, where proclamation of the slogan of the second party would be incorrect. We are calling today for the creation of a new party in Germany, to seize the Comintern from the hands of the Stalinist bureaucracy. It is not a question of the creation of the Fourth International but of salvaging the Third. [2]

In June, however, Trotsky came to the conclusion that not only could the Germany party not be reformed, but also the Comintern, and that therefore a new international had to be built.

Everything that has taken place since March 5: the resolution of the Presidium of the ECCI on the situation in Germany, the silent submission of all the sections to this shameful resolution ... – all this testifies incontestibly that the fate of not only the German Communist Party but also the entire Comintern was decided in Germany. [3]

The formation in several countries of strong revolutionary organisation, free of any responsibility for the crimes and mistakes of the reformist and centrist bureaucracies, armed with the Marxist programme and a clear revolutionary perspective, will open a new era in the development of the world proletariat. These organisations will attract all the genuine Communist elements who still cannot bring themselves today to break with the Stalinist bureaucracy, and, what is more important, they will gradually attract under their banner the young generation of workers. [4]

... under discussion now is not the immediate proclamation of new parties and of an independent International but of preparing for them. [5]

Efforts to break out of isolation

TROTSKY WELL understood the enormity of the task that his small, isolated movement was shouldering in trying to build a new international. He was looking for new allies to break from the isolation. In June 1933 he came to the conclusion that elements of the left of the Second International were so shattered by the German events as to be groping towards revolutionary regroupment and a new international.

In June 1933 Trotsky wrote an article entitled The Left Socialist Organisations and our Tasks:

At the present time the Social Democracy is everywhere experiencing an acute crisis. In a number of countries more or less important left wings have already separated themselves from the Social Democratic parties. This process flows from the whole situation. That it has not yet taken on a more developed character is due to the mistakes of the Stalinist bureaucracy, which puts a brake on the internal differentiation in the ranks of reformism and closes the door of communism to the revolutionary wing ...

The International Left Opposition faces a new task: to accelerate the evolution of the left socialist organisations toward communism by injecting its ideas and its experience into this process. There is no time to lose. If the independent socialist organisations remain in their present amorphous state for a long period of time, they will disintegrate. The political tasks of our epoch are so acute, the pressure of hostile classes so powerful – to this it is necessary to add the intrigues of the reformist bureaucracy on the one hand and the Stalinist bureaucracy on the other – that only a powerful ideological bond on the firm basis of Marxism can assure a revolutionary organisation the ability to maintain itself against the hostile currents and to lead the proletarian vanguard to a new revolutionary epoch.

The new situation facing the Left Opposition, unfolding new opportunities, present it with new tasks. [6]

Trotsky was very clear that the left socialist organisations were not consistent, were not revolutionary, but centrist.

The independent socialist organisations and the left-oppositionist factions within the Social Democracy are either avowedly centrist organisations or they contain within their ranks strong centrist tendencies or survivals. Their positive side is that they develop in a revolutionary direction under the pressure of the historic blows received by them. For us to seriously approach these organisations on a clear principled basis will signify a new chapter in the development of the Left Opposition and thereby of the rebirth of revolutionary Marxism in the world workers’ movement. A great international revolutionary organisation inspired by the ideas of the Left Opposition would become a center of attraction for the proletarian elements of the official Communist parties. [7]

Trotsky warned against a sectarian attitude toward the left socialist organisations. Some comrades,

... anxious about the purity of the principles of the Left Opposition regard all attempts to approach the larger mass organizations with distrust. ‘What good can be expected from Nazareth?’ How can one approach organisations at the head of which are centrists? We are quite ready, they say, to unite with the rank-and-file workers but we do not see any sense in approaching the centrist leaders, etc, etc. Such a purely formal manner of posing the question is erroneous. They are greatly affected by propagandist sectarianism ... The Third International was itself recruited nine-tenths from centrist elements who evolved to the left. Not only individuals and groups but also entire organisations and even parties with their old leadership or a part of the old leadership placed themselves under the banner of Bolshevism. This was absolutely inevitable ... It is clear that the rebirth of the revolutionary workers’ movement will take place at the expense of centrism. Moreover, not only individuals and groups but entire organisations will place themselves anew under the Communist banner. [8]

Declaration of the Four

ON 27-28 AUGUST 1933 an international conference was held in Paris of several independent socialist and Communist parties and groups. The main organisations standing outside the Second and Third Internationals assembled there. Chief among them were the Independent Labour Party of Britain and the SAP of Germany. In addition there were from Germany the Leninbund and the Left Opposition (Bolshevik-Leninists); from Italy the socialist Maximalists (PSI); from Holland the OSP and RSP; from Spain Maurín (representing the Iberian Communist Federation); from Rumania the Independent Socialist Party; from Norway the Norwegian Labour Party (NAP); and from Sweden the Communist Party of Sweden; from Russia the Left Social Revolutionaries; from France the Party of Proletarian Unity (PUP). There were also a number of observers. [9]

Trotsky saw in the conference the possibility of starting the building of the Fourth International. Of course Trotsky showed an interest in only a few of the organisations present. He did not care for the Norwegian Labour Party (the NAP), nor for the French Party of Proletarian Unity (PUP), nor the Italian Maximalists, nor the Russian Left Social Revolutionaries, nor Maurín’s right wing Communists from Spain. The Norwegian Labour Party was a mass party, really a reformist, not even a centrist party. It was founded in 1887. In 1919 it broke with the Second International and affiliated to the Third, then in 1923 it left the Comintern. In the parliamentary elections of 1928 it gained 37.1 percent of the vote. In the parliamentary election of 1933 the NAP, which had about 87,000 members, won half a million votes, i.e., 40.1 percent of the total vote. [10] In 1935 it became the governing party of Norway, rejoining the Second International. It granted asylum to Trotsky in Norway, but a year later, under Soviet pressure, following the first Moscow trial, it interned Trotsky and silenced him for four months, after which it shipped him off to Mexico.

As with the NAP, Trotsky showed little interest in the Swedish Communist Party, an organisation very similar to that of the NAP. On 9 October 1929 the whole leadership of the Swedish Communist Party was expelled from the Comintern because of its opposition to the ultra-left line of that body. They took 7,000 of the 17,000 party members with them. In 1932 the Swedish CP moved towards the Brandlerite Internationale Vereinigung der Kommunistischen Opposition (IVKO). By the beginning of 1933 its membership reached 13,500, far surpassing the membership of the official section of the Comintern. In the parliamentary elections of 1932 it won 132,000 votes, many times more than the Comintern section. [11] In 1934 it fused with another organisation and changed its name to Socialist Party. It published one daily paper and two provincial weeklies. In the elections of 1934 the Swedish Socialist Party won 4 percent of the total vote and had 11 MPs. [12]

The ILP was a ‘curate’s egg’, that is, good in parts. It was the main initiator of the International Labour Community – Internationale Arbietsgemeinschaft (IAG), that loose association of centrist parties not affiliated either to the Second or Third internationals. It was the international conference of the IAG in February 1933 which decided to organise the August world conference of workers’ organisations against fascism. The ILP leadership was pacifist, not Marxist. In 1933 it decided to seek closer relations with the Comintern: its criticism was only in details. It wished to bring about a world congress of revolutionary socialist organisations in which the Comintern would also participate. [13] Trotsky was not sure about the future of the ILP.

One organisation in which Trotsky did show great interest was the SAP. As we have mentioned, when Hitler came to power, the right wing leaders of the SAP returned to the SPD, while the left wing group of Jakob Walcher and Paul Frölich took control of the remaining SAP. In face of the bankruptcy of both the SPD and KPD, the SAP leadership came to the conclusion that what was needed was a new party in Germany and a new International. For Trotsky the result was of the utmost importance. In the course of several days of discussion with Walcher in August, he proposed that the two organisations, the SAP and the German Left Opposition, should fuse and Walcher declared that he agreed in principle.

Two other organisations that participated in the Paris conference supported the call for a new International – the two Dutch parties, RSP and OSP. The Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) came to life in 1928 as a split from the Dutch Communist Party led by Henk Sneevliet, a veteran Dutch Communist and Comintern leader who rejected the ultra-left policy of the Third Period. The RSP had control over a trade union organisation – the National Labour Organisation (NAS). In September 1933 the RSP joined the International Communist League (the Trotskyists) and Sneevliet was brought onto the International Secretariat. The Independent Socialist Party (OSP), founded in 1932, was made up of left-wing elements in the Dutch Social Democratic Party under the leadership of Peter J. Schmidt, the Socialist veteran Frans van der Goes and the former Communist leader Jacques De Kadt who were in close touch with the ILP and SAP. The fusion of the RSP and OSP was very much on the cards.

Both the RSP and OSP were large compared with the organisations of the International Left Opposition. The RSP had 1,000 members, the OSP (in August 1932) some 7,200 members. [14] Both organisations had a not insignificant influence compared with the Dutch Communist Party. Thus, in the general election of 1933 the RSP won 48,405 votes, the OSP 27,476 votes, as against the CP vote of 118,326 (the Social Democratic Labour Party won 798,632 votes). [15]

In August Trotsky had a discussion at Saint-Palais with a number of people attending the Paris conference – Sneevliet, Walcher, De Kadt, P.J. Schmidt, and the ILP-ers John Paton and C.A. Smith. This led to the working out of a document entitled The Declaration of the Four On the Necessity and Principles of a New International. It was an 11-point statement written by Trotsky. The last point was:

The undersigned created a permanent commission of delegated representatives and assigned the following to it:

  1. to elaborate a programmatic manifesto as the charter of the new International;
  2. to prepare a critical analysis of the organizations and tendencies of the present-day workers’ movement (theoretic commentary to the manifesto);
  3. to elaborate theses on all the fundamental questions of the revolutionary strategy of the proletariat;
  4. to represent the undersigned organizations in the eyes of the whole world.

E. Bauer – International Left Opposition (Bolshevik-Leninist)
J. Schwab – SAP (Socialist Workers Party of Germany)
P.J. Schmidt – OSP (Independent Socialist Party of Holland)
H. Sneevliet – RSP (Revolutionary Socialist Party of Holland) [16]

Trotsky was very excited about the result. In an article entitled The Paris Conference: Firm Nucleus for a New International (1 September 1933) he wrote:

We obtained the four signatures ... under a document that is the only tangible result of the conference and that may and should become of historic importance.

We achieved this momentous result ... three organizations that lead a few tens of thousands of workers found no other path but to unite with us on a common document that presupposes a long and stubborn struggle. A wide breach was made in the wall surrounding the Left Opposition. We can expect with certainty that additional new organizations and factions, which are being pushed to the revolutionary path by the whole situation, will with every passing month convince themselves that the only banner under which the proletarian vanguard can rally is the banner of Bolshevism-Leninism. [17]

A few days later, in a letter to Fritz Sternberg, a leading member of the SAP, Trotsky wrote:

... the Declaration of Four, despite its modest appearance, is in no way less important than the Zimmerwald and Kienthal documents. Viewed from within, the Zimmerwald and Kienthal documents also appeared extremely modest. Bolshevism then had ten years behind it as a faction and two years as an independent party, and in terms of numbers and cadres, during the war it was hardly stronger than the Left Opposition of the Soviet Union. The majority of the other participants stood on about the same level of confusion as the majority of the participants in the Paris conference. Numerically, however, they were far weaker. As far as the left wing was concerned, it was incomparably weaker than our Bloc of Four. We don’t have Lenin with us, it is true, but we have had a great deal of experience since Zimmerwald – and that counts for much. [18]

On 1 September 1933, Trotsky wrote to the Czechoslovakian Communist Oppositionist Alois Neurath, regarding the Declaration of the Four:

The most decisive thing is that these organisations, which yesterday were strangers and hostile to us, see themselves obliged to come out in favour of our explanation of principles. This is decisive. Tomorrow others will come ... The Declaration of the Four imposes upon us the duty to draft a programmatic manifesto, in a short time. When we bring this out, the whole political life of the workers’ movement, in every organisation and tendency, will inevitably revolve round this document, because we are the only people who can say what is essential; not that we are any more ‘intelligent’ than the rest, but because we are not tied to the bankrupt apparatuses, and are not obliged to embellish things or to falsify them, that is, to deceive the workers. I look forward to the future with great confidence, even the more or less near future. [19]

At the same time Trotsky was quite worried that while the SAP and OSP signed the Declaration of the Four, they also associated with the committee of the majority at the Paris Conference – together with two representatives of the ILP and one representative of the NAP. [20]

Hopes turn to ashes

WE HAVE already quoted Trotsky’s reference to the experience of the Comintern built by attracting ‘not only individuals and groups but also entire organisations and even parties with their old leadership or a part of the old leadership’. [21]

In Italy the Socialist Party had voted to affiliate to the Comintern at its conference in Bologna in September 1919, adding 300,000 members to the International. In Germany the Independent Social Democratic Party (USPD), with 800,000 members, had split from the German Social Democratic Party, (SPD) in April 1917 under pressure from the revolutionary mood among the masses. It veered markedly to the left in 1919 and 1920. At its congress in October 1920 in Halle, the USPD decided by 236 to 156 to join the Comintern. Of the USPD’s 800,000 members, 300,000 joined the Communist Party at a unification conference in December 1920. In France the conference of the Socialist Party in Tours on 25 December 1920 decided to join the Comintern. Although a minority of 30,000 refused to follow, the Comintern still embraced a mass party of 140,000 members. The Czechoslovak Social Democratic Party split in December 1920, the Communist Left taking over half the membership and establishing a Communist Party of 350,000 members. A separate split in the Social Democratic Party of the German speaking minority added further forces, and after their unification the Party claimed 400,000 members.

Similarly, mass Socialist Parties in Bulgaria and Yugoslavia had joined the Comintern. [22]

The leaderships of the parties that moved from the Second to the Third International in the years 1919-20 had often been far to the right of anyone at the August 1933 Paris conference. The social-patriotic Marcel Cachin and L.O. Frossard, the leaders of the French Communist Party, supported the First World War, and the latter ended his life as a minister in the Pétain government. However, the results of the regroupment in 1919-20 was completely different to the outcome of the realignment of 1933.

In the first case the revolutionary storm of the years after the First World War, coupled with the immediacy of world revolution and the victorious October revolution meant that revolutionary Marxism was a pole of attraction for reformists and centrists. Now, in 1933, the situation was reversed. After the catastrophic defeat of the proletariat in Germany, and with Trotsky representing not a victorious revolution and heading a party of hundreds of thousands, but a minute group of revolutionaries, the centrists were bound to move rightwards.

Rightward moving centrists

NOTHING CAME of the alliance of the International Left Opposition and the SAP. Trotsky had great expectations of the SAP. On 22 September 1932, he wrote: ‘We are ... having considerable success in Germany. Inside the SAP a considerable faction of ours is being created, which is on the eve of splitting and coming over to us.’ [23]

In April 1933 Trotsky wrote:

The left wing of the SAP, in spite of the fact that the leaders have no organ of their own, has won over the majority of the party, removing the Seydewitz faction. This fact is the best demonstration of the general direction of development of the SAP, where we have already seen the beginning of a ‘living current’. Nor can we be blind to the fact that the SAP represents even now the raw forces of communism ... The Left Opposition, there can be no doubt on this score, is ready to do everything in its power to facilitate a mutual understanding with the SAP. [24]

On 18 August 1933 Trotsky wrote to Walcher that the German Left Opposition and the SAP should fuse immediately. [25] Immediately after the Paris conference the prospects for such a development were good. In October the SAP and Left Opposition published joint theses on trade union work. In Paris and Strasbourg joint meetings were organised. In Denmark there was a group made up of the SAP, the Left Opposition and ex-officials of the Danish Communist Party. In Saarland the SAP and the Left Opposition were effectively merged. In Prague fusion was already being striven for. Negotiations between the national executive of the SAP youth and the Left Opposition youth had concluded ‘that with total agreement on the most important questions of principle organisational unification on the basis of a common platform is imminent.’ [26]

However, nothing came out of the alliance of the German Trotskyists with the SAP. Not only did a fusion fail to materialise, but the SAP developed into the major campaigner against the Left Opposition and Trotsky. It came to deploy an entire arsenal of anti-Trotskyist weapons.

Walcher stuck to the IAG [1*], and refused to break with elements to the right of it such as the NAP. The SAP was worried that the break with the IAG would lead to adventurism and isolation.

The SAP in later years moved so much to the right that it participated in a Popular Front conference held in Paris, together with the KPD, SPD and a number of bourgeois intellectuals. [27] On 2 May 1937 the Executive Committee of POUM, who together with the SAP were members of the London Bureau, accused the latter of capitulating to Stalin.

It is unquestionable that the leadership of the SAP is strongly influenced by Stalinism ... The present policies of the SAP, which is in effect adopting Stalinist and Social Democratic positions, are bringing its status as an independent party into serious danger. [28]

The ILP also moved massively to the right. When Italy invaded Abyssinia, one of the ILP leaders, John McGovern, argued that the Abyssinian Emperor was a worse dictator than Mussolini, and James Maxton called on the Abyssinian workers to overthrow the Emperor and carry on the war against Mussolini. Only then would the ILP declare solidarity with the Abyssinians, a position which was radical in words but in practice meant capitulation to imperialism. When Maxton was beaten on this issue at the annual conference of the ILP in 1936 he resigned from the leadership. What followed was a comedy: he withdrew his resignation when the conference retreated from its position. The ILP thus demonstrated that in reality it valued its parliamentary ‘star’ above its political principles. [29] When Chamberlain returned from signing the peace pact in Munich with Hitler, Maxton congratulated him for saving the peace of the world.

Together with its pacifism, the ILP adapted itself to Stalinism. In the early 1930s the ILP increasingly glorified conditions in the Soviet Union. This went so far that the ILP even participated in Stalin’s personality cult. The famine of 1932, which was caused by forcible collectivisation, was simply denied. [30] The ILP even went so far as to justify the Moscow trials. [31] Hence it refused to join the Dewey Commission that investigated the Moscow trials, arguing that a truly independent commission could not assemble under the auspices of the defence of Trotsky. Brockway, the secretary of the ILP, proposed instead a commission to investigate Trotskyism!

The London Bureau never managed to become a stable organisation. Its different elements broke away and moved further and further to the right. In 1935 the NAP became the government party in Norway and broke with the London Bureau. On 28 October 1938 the SAP declared its withdrawal from the London Bureau. [32] When the war broke out the PSOP – the French section of the London Bureau – disintegrated, its leader Marceau Pivert, became a supporter of de Gaulle, and after the war Pivert rejoined the Socialist Party.

On 27 April 1939 the London Bureau, at the POUM’s suggestion, was disbanded.

Trotskyists pulled into the London Bureau

WHILE THE international Trotskyist movement had very little influence on the centrists of the London Bureau, the London Bureau had quite an effect on the Trotskyist organisations. Practically all the relatively large sections of the Trotskyist movement were sucked into the London Bureau. There were three sections of the Trotskyist movement with over l,000 members: the Dutch RSAP (with a membership of 4,200 in March 1935) [33], the Greek Archeo-Marxists (which, according to their claim in June 1932, had 1,600 members, though this figure is probably exaggerated) [34], and the Spanish Izquierda Comunista de España (ICE), claiming some l,500 members at the end of 1932. [35] (This was certainly an exaggerated figure. According to Juan Andrade, one of its leaders, in mid-1935 it had 800 members.) [36]

Why were the Trotskyists more successful in building organisations in Holland, Greece and Spain (and later in Ceylon) than elsewhere? It was above all the weakness of the Communist Parties in these countries that left a space for the growth of Trotskyism.

About Holland Fritjof Tichelman writes:

The working class, which was late and slow in developing, was dominated by artisans and small workshops until well into the twentieth century. Furthermore the industrial proletariat was for a long time scattered over a range of isolated centres of industry. What is more, the number of employees in the service sector was relatively high. It is thus not surprising that the labour movement never assumed significant proportions in the nineteenth century, and even in the twentieth century never reached the size typical of most other north west European countries. The great trade union confederation connected to the social democracy, the Nederlandsch Verbond van Vakvereenigingen (Dutch Trade Union Association, NVV) never represented anything approaching half of all workers in unions before the Second World War, and the SDAP (Sociaal-Democraatische Arbeiders Partij – Social-democratic Workers Party) could muster only a quarter of the electorate over the same period.

This situation prevented the development of a real mass movement of the working class. It also created favourable conditions for the rise of separate small anti-capitalist currents. As in other industrially under-developed countries ... the Netherlands provided fertile soil for anarchist and syndicalist currents. The variety of ideological impulses from the maturer foreign labour movement stimulated the creation and continued growth of small, mutually independent political organisations and ideological conflicts whose theory was never tested in confrontation with the mass movement and in struggle. [37]

The result was that the Communist Party of Holland did not dwarf the Trotskyist organisation of the RSP. Thus, in the general elections of 3 July 1929, the former won 37,622 votes, while the latter got 21,768. [38] In the 1933 general elections the Communist Party won 118,326 votes, while the combined vote for the RSP and OSP was 85,881. [39] In March 1935 the two organisations merged to make up the RSAP. This belonged to both the world Trotskyist organisation and the London Bureau. In November 1936 Sneevliet and the other leaders of the RSAP distanced themselves from Trotsky: they opposed his suggestion that Trotskyists should enter into Social Democratic parties for factional work – the ‘French turn’. (See pp.211-12, 224-34) They also supported the POUM against Trotsky’s criticism. [40] In June 1937 the RSAP broke off all relations with the Trotskyist movement. [41]

The Greek Trotskyists were also in the same league as the Greek Communist Party, which was quite a small organisation. In 1920 it had 1,320 members; in 1924, 2,200; in 1928, 2,000; and in 1930, l,500. The circulation of its daily paper was also small: 1928-29, 4,250; July 1929, 3,000; March 1930, 1,666; and January 1933, 2,600. [42] The Archeo-Marxists claimed 1,600 members in 1932; this was probably exaggerated, but still they were not far behind the Communist Party. Like the Dutch, the Archeo-Marxists also rejected the ‘French turn’, and following this they broke with Trotsky and joined the London Bureau.

Now to the case of Spain. Because of the massive strength of the Anarchists in Spain, the Communist Party found the going tough, and for a long time it remained a tiny organisation. At the beginning of 1930 it had no more than 500 members. [43]

In these circumstances the Spanish Trotskyists believed they could establish a significant organisation of their own. Hence, like the Dutch and Greeks, they rejected the ‘French turn’, and this led to a break in relations between the ICE and Trotsky. They also joined the London Bureau.

So Trotsky’s great dreams of realignment around the Declaration of the Four turned to ashes. [2*]

These examples were exceptions. More striking was the inability of the Trotskyist movement to attract and retain any significant forces from the centrist milieu in the early ‘thirties. This was neither a personal failing of Trotsky nor due to any weakness in his politics. It has sometimes been suggested that the fault lay in Trotsky’s prickliness, his obsession with principles, his harsh criticism of other tendencies, etc. That this is false is shown by the subsequent evolution of the centrist organisations. Serious revolutionaries and, still more so, revolutionary organisations, do not change their basic political orientation and class position because they are offended by sharp words.

In reality centrism is always a political formation in motion – either to the left or the right, depending on the pressure of events. For a brief period (1932-33) events pushed the centrists to the left, and brought them into Trotsky’s orbit. Subsequently the great weight of Stalinism, combined with the terrible defeats of the working class drew them ineluctably back to the right.

Trotsky, precisely because he was not a sectarian, had no choice but to attempt to influence the centrist tendencies, but objective circumstances precluded him from achieving more than the rescue of a few individuals.


1*. On 17 February 1935 the IAG changed its name to ‘International Bureau of Revolutionary Socialist Unity’. In August its Secretariat moved to London and was henceforth known as the London Bureau.

2*. In the case of Ceylon the Trotskyists succeeded in building a significant party because there was no prior Communist Party. The Lanka Sama Samaja Party (Ceylon Equality Party) was founded on 18 December 1935. To begin with it was not a Marxist party, and still less a Trotskyist one. It had some 20 members and grew within a year to 80. [44] In 1937 the editor of the party paper was B.J. Fernando, who considered himself a Trotskyist, while of the joint party secretaries one was a Trotskyist and the other a ‘staunch Stalinist’. [45]

The party won a mass following: thus in the 1937 May Day demonstration it led 10,000 followers. [46] Its membership now reached 800. [47] One paper was edited by a Trotskyist and another, a Tamil mass circulation weekly, by a Stalinist. [48] The differences between the pro-Stalinists and pro-Trotskyists were kept hidden. As the historian of Ceylonese Trotskyism, George Jan Lerski explains:

Otherwise it would be hard to explain the outward coexistence in relative harmony of the Trotskyites and the pro-Moscow Communists both in the rank and file and in the party leadership for a good five years after the organisation was formed. [49]

In December 1939 the executive committee of the LSSP adopted a thoroughly Trotskyist position by 29 votes to 5; the five Stalinists who opposed the policy were expelled. [50]


1. WLT, 1932-33, pp.137-8.

2. Ibid., p.138.

3. Ibid., p.305.

4. Ibid., p.308.

5. Ibid., p.311.

6. Ibid., pp.274-5.

7. Ibid., p.275.

8. Ibid., p.276.

9. W. Buschak, Das Londoner Büro, Amsterdam 1985, pp.84-5.

10. Ibid., pp.86-7.

11. Ibid., p.100.

12. Ibid., p.159.

13. Ibid., pp.90-1.

14. F. Tichelman, Henk Sneevliet, 1883-1942, Bochum 1978, p.90.

15. Ibid., p.82.

16. WLT, 1933-34, p.52.

17. Ibid., p.65.

18. WLT, Supplement, 1929-33, p.290.

19. T9397.

20. WLT, 1933-34, pp.67-8.

21. WLT, 1932-33, p.276.

22. Cliff, Lenin, Vol.3, pp.216-8.

23. WLT, 1932, p.202.

24. WLT, 1932-33, p.214.

25. WLT, 1933-34, pp.46-7.

26. Buschak, pp.112-3.

27. Drechsler, p.343.

28. La Batalla, 2 May 1937, Buschak, p.248.

29. Buschak, p.181.

30. Ibid., p.267.

31. Ibid., p.274.

32. Ibid., pp.297-8.

33. Tichelman, p.90.

34. WLT, Supplement, 1929-33, p.133.

35. Introduction to L. Trotsky, The Spanish Revolution 1931-39, New York 1973, p.31.

36. P. Pagés, El Movimiento Trotskista en España 1930-1935, Barcelona 1977, p.94.

37. Tichelman, pp.7-8.

38. Ibid., p.77.

39. Ibid., p.82.

40. Ibid., p.97.

41. Ibid., p.99.

42. A. Elefantis, The promise of the Impossible Revolution – the KKE and the Bourgeoisie between the World Wars [in Greek], Athens 1976.

43. V. Alba, Histoire du POUM, Paris 1975, p.34.

44. G.J. Lerski, Origins of Trotskyism in Ceylon, Stanford 1968, p.110.

45. Ibid., p.110.

46. Ibid., p.126.

47. Ibid., p.144.

48. Ibid., p.149.

49. Ibid., p.156.

50. Ibid., p.211.

Last updated on 4 August 2009