Ernest Germain

In Defence of Leninism:
In Defence of the Fourth International

I. Party Building and Armed Struggle:
The Wrong and the Correct Approach

7. The Test of Argentina

In the debate prior to the Fourth Congress of the PRT (in the spring of 1968), i.e., prior to the split between the Combatiente majority and the Verdad group, two different analyses of the dynamics of the class struggle were presented. Comrade Moreno characterised the objective situation in Argentina as one of political stability, with a united bourgeoisie and a profound decline of the mass movement, which was at its lowest level since 25 years. (La Revolucion Latin-Americana y Nuestras Tereas, pp.15, 17.) He drew the conclusion that the orientation of the PRT should be toward defensive struggles of the working class, combined with help to the Bolivian guerillas. The PRT majority, regardless of wrong theoretical positions which we shall discuss further on, analysed that, on the contrary, the situation was one of profound instability in which the rising discontent of the working class and the impoverished petty bourgeoisie would inevitably lead to mass explosions.

Less than a year after this debate, the first Cordobazo erupted. In fact, at the 9th World Congress, a month before the first Cordobazo, Comrade Moreno still clung to his wrong estimate of 1968. Today, after the events, as author of the Lesson of Argentina (the section on Argentina in the minority text submitted to the December 1972 IEC) he has, of course, no trouble in recognising the “turn of the tide” of May 1969, and the pre-revolutionary situation which resulted from that turn. The art of revolutionary politics, however, is to foresee such turns, not to be taken by surprise when they take place. It consists in not speaking of “great stability” and of “biggest decline since 25 years” of a mass movement on the verge of erupting in its most violent convulsions of the last decade.

The impressionistic and static-descriptive character of Comrade Moreno’s political method is clearly revealed in his subsequent analyses of both Argentina and Bolivia.

There is, it is true, a limit to the mass upsurge, which the minority document correctly notes, and which throws some light on the origins of the differences inside the Argentinian Trotskyist movement itself. It is true that all the six semi-insurrections which have occurred since May 1969 erupted in provincial towns and that the greater Buenos Aires region has not yet witnessed similar explosions. It is certainly no accident that at the time of the split, the bulk of the forces which aligned with the majority (El Combatiente) faction inside the PRT came from Cordoba, Rosario and Tucuman, where the first semi-insurrections occurred, while the bulk of the forces aligning with the minority (La Verdad) faction came from greater Buenos Aires, where such a semi-insurrection has not yet taken place.

All of these semi-insurrections witnessed mass confrontations with the army, the gendarmerie and the police in various degrees. Likewise, violent interventions of the army, gendarmerie and police in unions, in factories, against revolutionary groups and individuals (arbitrary arrests, kidnappings, torture, murder) have occurred without interruption during this whole period. In that sense, in Argentina too, albeit from different circumstances than in Bolivia, the question of armed struggle became posed before a broad vanguard of the working class, not as the result of “ultraleft” speculations or “foquista” adventures, but as an outcome of the development of the class struggle itself.

Surely, a revolutionary party worthy of the name would see it as one of its main tasks to prepare the masses for new and bigger clashes, to organise and train armed self-defence detachments of the workers, to project and prepare – within the limitations of its own relatively weak forces – the transition from spontaneous, fragmented and locally isolated semi-insurrections into a nationally coordinated, prepared and generalised uprising. The very absence of semi-insurrections in the greater Buenos Aires region, which has been till now the main weakness of the upsurge of the Argentinian working class during the last years, is, at least, partially explained by the greater weight in the capital both of the repressive apparatus of the state and the apparatus of the Peronist trade union bureaucracy. But the appearance of simultaneous uprisings in several parts of the country would stretch to breaking point the repressive apparatus’ capacity to intervene effectively everywhere At the same tune it would lessen the weight of repression on the Buenos Aires proletariat and thus facilitate its participation in the upsurge

The capitalist class understands this danger perfectly. Since the second uprising in Cordoba armoured cars are usually stationed in central points of the big cities, prepared for every eventuality. When the Mendoza uprising occurred on April 5-7, 1972, against the doubling of electricity rates, the army intelligence transmitted threats of similar mass eruptions in Tucuman, Rosario and Cordoba and also certain areas of Buenos Aires. Immediately on April 8, 1972, General Lanusse withdrew the decree doubling the electricity rates. The army was not ready to face simultaneous risings in several key cities of the country.

The complex political manoeuvre which the Argentinian bourgeoisie has undertaken since then has to be understood in the light of the dangerous situation for capitalism which has resulted from the May ’69 Cordobazo, and from the emergence of armed struggle groups. The Argentine working class is one of the most militant in the world. It has a tradition of innumerable general strikes – the 1964 one taking place with simultaneous occupation of numerous factories. In the past, this tremendous militancy has been thwarted by the class collaborationist outlook of Peron and the union bureaucracy, which moulded to a large extent the consciousness of the mass of the working class. But since the late Sixties, two additional factors have made the situation more dangerous for Argentine capitalism and truly pre-revolutionary. The workers spontaneously begin to take the road of semi-insurrectional mass actions, bypassing the syndicalism which characterised so many of their past actions and looking for a political solution in the form of a workers and popular government. The Peronist union leadership begins to lose control over a new vanguard, both working class and youth, which gropes towards a revolutionary road and expresses on the subjective level the spontaneous radicalisation of broader working class layers.

It is in these circumstances that the Lanusse regime projected a “great national agreement” with the political parties and Peron, to re-establish a semblance of parliamentary democracy through the organisation of general elections. The purpose of the manoeuvre is crystal-clear: to try and put a brake on the development of extra-parliamentary mass action growing towards an insurrectional political general strike; to channel the tremendous militancy of the workers back to reformist, class collaborationist channels, to isolate and break the armed struggle groups.

The difficulties and dangers surrounding this manoeuvre from the point of view of capitalism are numerous. A real solution to the explosive discontent of the masses is impossible under the given circumstances. The economic situation does not allow the bourgeoisie to grant the kind of material concessions to the masses which could tranquilise them for a period. On the contrary, in order to find a more durable solution for its economic difficulties, Argentine capitalism would have to crush the mass movement Brazilian style and still further lower the standard of living of the workers, streamlining and “rationalising” the economy at the workers expense to get a new nook on the world market (“common market” of the Andes, increased meat export to W. Europe, etc.,). Under the present social relationship of forces this is unrealisable before a severe defeat of the working class.

On the other hand, Peron and the Peronista leadership cannot simply capitulate before the regime and agree on a military candidate for the Presidency (or another bourgeois figure identified with the bosses in the eyes of the workers), without risking loss of control over larger and larger sectors of the mass movement, which, in turn, would stimulate rather than reduce the risk of mass insurrections for the bourgeoisie.

Finally a transfer of power to Peron himself – the most “radical” solution possible from a bourgeois point of view – would combine both dangers. The workers would consider it as a victory and their militancy would result in even stronger upsurges than in 1969. They would occupy the factories, take to the streets, present their bill of unfulfilled promises and demands of the last 15 years. The repression of this movement would be much more difficult (in the beginning near-impossible). In addition, being unwilling and unable to apply radical solutions either in a bourgeois sense (crushing the labour movement) or in a proletarian sense (expropriating the capitalists), Peron’s return to power would lead to a rapid discrediting of the old fox himself in the eyes of the working class, to an accelerated differentiation within the Peronist unions and youth organisations and to the rapid emergence of a much broader revolutionary vanguard than the one which exists today.

Much of this analysis can be found, too, in the minority document’s section on Argentina, as in the analysis of the La Verdad group. If before 1970, there was a striking difference in analysis between the Combatiente and La Verdad factions, today many factors of the analysis are held in common by both groups. The working class upsurge and the pre-revolutionary character of the present situation in Argentina are too obvious to be ignored by anybody.

What remains is probably a difference in the appreciation of the possibilities of a success of the Great National Agreement manoeuvre. We believe that the possibility of actually calming down the workers impatience and militancy through elections and partial political concessions to the Peronists is rather limited and will not last long. Comrade Moreno seems to believe that the manoeuvre can have more success. However the most important difference concerns the conclusions drawn from this analysis in relation to the basic orientation of revolutionaries. Comrade Moreno has projected a “workers and socialist pole” in the coming elections as the major intervention of his group. We believe that the main orientation should be propaganda, agitation and practical preparation for an insurrectional general strike to overthrow the dictatorship, coupled with propaganda for a workers and popular government.

The contradiction between the Verdad tendency’s own characterisation of the objective condition in Argentina as pre-revolutionary, and the central orientation towards parliamentary elections (held under the auspices of a military dictatorship) is too obvious to need much comment. The comrades of the Moreno group speak to the Argentine workers as if they were in a situation similar to pre-1914 Britain or the United States in 1938 or 1946, i.e. relatively stable capitalist countries, with a working class which is highly militant from the trade-union point of view, but which has not yet attained a political class consciousness. But in a pre-revolutionary situation, a revolutionary Marxist does not tell the workers that to have workers candidates in general elections is a step forward.

He should tell them to following:

“If the dictatorship is retreating, it is as a result of your powerful extra-parliamentary struggles, as a result of six Cordobazos and of the appearance of groups committed to armed struggle. Continue along this road. Build up local factory and neighbourhood committees to organise in a permanent way for your mobilisations. Start to draw together all radicalised unionists, students, women and militants who are ready to join in these preparations. Coordinate nationally the class struggle factions in the unions and tie them in with the vanguard committees. Start to arm yourself. Beware of a continuation or a quick return to sharp repression and confrontation. Don’t give in to parliamentary illusions. Argentine capitalism cannot grant you a significant increase in your standard of living. That’s why the class struggle is sharpening every day. That’s why you have to continue on the road of the Cordobazos. Whatever retreat the army will undertake today will only be temporary. Large-scale clashes with the army are unavoidable. Don’t go towards it spontaneously and in an unorganised way. Prepare and organise yourselves for it. Prepare an insurrectional general strike.”

While the Verdad group does not develop in the pre-revolutionary situation prevailing today in Argentina, a political orientation which conforms Leninism, it must unfortunately be said that the PRT (Combatiente) likewise is guilty of serious deviations. In fact, it is tragic to have to underline that, while in Argentina there is today a pre-revolutionary situation in which more people are claiming to be Trotskyists than in any other country in the world today with the exception of France, Britain and the USA, the number of comrades who apply a real revolutionary marxist orientation is extremely limited.

In order to criticise in a constructive way the orientation of the Argentianian section of the Fourth International, it is, however, necessary to clear up a whole series of distortions and misrepresentations of the PRT’s activities presented in the minority document Argentina and Bolivia – The Balance Sheet. These misrepresentations are as much a caricature as the way in which the document presented the activities of the Bolivian section in the 1970-71 period.

To state that the PRT is only conducting armed actions and has turned its back on the real class struggle is completely untrue. It publishes several special factory and union caucus papers – a reason, incidentally, why the “statistics” in the minority document counting the number of articles devoted to strikes in Combatiente alone is extremely misleading. It is engaged in united front class struggle union caucuses and has played a leading role in several important strikes during the 1969-72 period.

The way in which the minority’s “balance-sheet” tells the story of the SITRAM-SITRAC national class struggle caucus meetings is most revealing of the half-truths and distortions of the minority document. The document fails to point out that, contrary to the Verdad group, the PRT was represented in the leadership of SITRAM-SITRAC, the most progressive union development known till today in Argentina. It fails to point out that at the plenary sessions, the members of the PRT present were at least as numerous as those of the Verdad group. It fails to point out that whereas the members of the Verdad group present

could only act as trade-unionists, because the credit of the Verdad group as a political group was extremely low among the assembled militants, a woman comrade, strike leader of the current strike who publicly spoke for the PRT was given a standing ovation and immediately taken to the presidium of the conference.

To say that the military actions of the PRT and of the ERP have “isolated” these comrades from the masses, or that they have been reduced to “Robin Hood” actions plus “terrorism” is likewise ludicrous. The most important military activities of the PRT and ERP took place in close connection with the class struggle. The ERP detachments penetrated into some 30 factories where special conditions of repression existed, and where armed factory guards of the bosses and the army terrorised the workers. They disarmed the guards, convened all the workers into general assemblies and held long discussions with them on the present and next stage of the class struggle in Argentina. Each of these actions was an important success.

During the second Cordobazo, the armed detachments of the ERP actually fused with the masses and led many mass actions. The banner of the ERP flew on most of the barricades put up by the fighting masses. Thousands of people followed the coffin of a youth killed during the actions and covered this coffin with the ERP banner. So “isolated” are these comrades from the masses that the top leader of the Peronist party, Campora, chosen as Presidential candidate by Peron, was unable to get a hearing in Peronista mass assemblies after the Trelew massacre if he made any criticism of the armed struggle groups and was forced to shout “Long live the armed struggle.” So “isolated” are they that after the Trelew massacre, the Cordoba CGT proclaimed a 24 hour general strike in protest against the killing, and in several towns thousands of workers gathered behind the coffins of our murdered comrades.

So “isolated” are the PRT and ERP from the masses that the dictatorship had to organise a mass campaign of denunciations against them, covering the walls of numerous cities denouncing the “terrorist bandits.” So “isolated” are they that the question of amnesty for political prisoners of the armed groups, and suppression of the repressive laws enacted against them, has become one of the main bones of contention between the army and Peron, with the army stubbornly refusing any concessions in this sphere. One wonders why the bourgeoisie goes to all this trouble against isolated, inefficient, and influenceless nuclei of “ultraleft adventurists” who don’t make any impact on the course of events in any case.

According to the information available, the contention of the minority document that the PRT is today much weaker than the Verdad group in militants is subject to some doubt too. In any case, the figure of “affiliates” to the PST creates confusion, as it concerns people who only signed an election slate, not militants in the Leninist sense of the word.

Finally to identify the actions of the PRT and ERP as “terrorist,” putting them on a par with the actions of the Russian populist/terrorists, is to misunderstand completely the situation in Argentina. The comrades of the minority who use this parallel, should ponder the following words of Lenin:

“Allow us a small digression on the guerrilla actions of the combat detachments. We think it would be false to identify them with the terror of the old type. That terror was vengeance against individual persons. That terror was a conspiracy by groups of intellectuals. That terror was absolutely unrelated to the mood of the masses. That terror did not form military leaders of the masses. That terror ... was the result ... of lack of faith in the insurrection ...

“Guerrilla actions are not acts of vengeance, but military operations. They are as little comparable to adventures as reconnaissance actions of mobile units behind the rear of the enemy army during a lull in the war on the main theatre can be compared to the assassination of duellists or conspirators. The guerrilla actions of the fighting detachments which have been formed since a long time by both factions of social democracy in all the major centres, and are mainly composed of workers, are undoubtedly linked in the most evident way to the moods of the masses. The guerrilla actions of the fighting detachments directly educate military leaders of the masses.” (Lenin, The Present Situation in Russia and the Tactics of the Workers Party, pp.106-7 of the German edition of the Works, vol. X pp.106-7, retranslated from the German, our emphasis)

It is in that spirit that our Bolivian comrades have acted, with a real, if modest success before and during the August 1971 days. It is in the same spirit that the Argentine section tried to act, at any rate till the second Cordobazo and during the insurrection. That alone should be sufficient to discuss the views of these comrades seriously and thoroughly and not through the caricatures which the minority presents in its document. That also in our opinion reconfirms that the position of the 9th World Congress as being in the real tradition of Leninism.

8. Our Differences With the PRT

Nevertheless it must be said that the United Secretariat has made a serious mistake in not opening up a frank discussion with the comrades of the Argentine section much earlier than on the eve of the last IEC. This discussion has now started with the letter signed by some members of the United Secretariat and sent to the leadership of the PRT before the last IEC. But this is much too late. Taking into consideration the heroic struggle in which the Argentine section was engaged and the fierce repression to which it was submitted, we thought it wise first to establish an atmosphere of fraternal solidarity and collaboration with these comrades before beginning a political debate. This was a mistaken tactical delay. In the meantime the danger became precisely that the Argentine section would increase its mistakes and seriously damage its own potential growth and influence – which had increased remarkably as a result of these mistakes.

Our differences with the PRT comrades fall into two categories: the general ideological evolution of the PRT and the concept of the revolutionary army, as developed especially since the second Cordobazo.

Ideologically, the PRT has been from its inception and before the split, a combination of Trotskyism and populist-semi-castroist currents. The populist semi-castroist current has several wrong concepts in relation to the existing global realities and the tasks of Revolutionary marxists in this regard. It has not fully assimilated the Trotskyist theory of the bureaucracy in relation to the Soviet and Chinese bureaucracies, although it is closer to that theory than to Castro’s ideas on the Soviet Union. It adopts a concept of “the two world camps” which fails to draw the dividing line between unconditional defense of the USSR and all workers’ states or any genuine revolution against imperialism and defense of the bureaucracies privileges and power and the policies arising from the latter against the toiling masses.

This led these comrades to adopt a wrong position on the invasion of Czechoslovakia; to seriously underestimate the counter-revolutionary impact of the CP’s policies in France and Italy on potentially revolutionary mass movements in those countries in 1968 and 1969; to completely fail to understand the counter-revolutionary implications of Nixon’s visits to Peking and Moscow with regard to the Vietnamese revolution.

The eclectic combination of the theory of permanent revolution, with which the leadership of the PRT agrees, and some of the concepts of Maoism, has led these comrades to a false “two-possible-roads theory” in relation to the conquest of power by the proletariat which they pose thus: the road of the October revolution or the Vietnamese road. It is one thing to understand the great variety of forms the revolutionary struggle has taken and will take in the future. It is a completely different matter altogether to confuse different forms of struggle with different programmatic goals. There is no other road to the direct rule of the workers and poor peasants than the establishment of Soviet power, of power based on elected committees of workers and poor peasants. The fact that capitalism was overthrown in China through a revolution led by Mao means that from its very inception, the revolution was bureaucratically deformed in that country, that the working class has never directly exercized power there. Surely no revolutionary marxist striving to lead his own class to power can adopt such a “model” as a possible alternative to Lenin’s and Trotsky’s.

The comrades of the PRT correctly understand that the Fourth International today is only the initial nucleus of the future revolutionary mass international. On the road to that mass International, our movement will have to fuse with many revolutionary mass currents. But for us this fusion has to occur on the basis of our programme and our principles, which represent a synthesis of the experience of 150 years of revolutionary class struggle. For the PRT leadership, this fusion is envisaged with all those forces engaged in objectively revolutionary struggles throughout the world, regardless of basic programmatic differences or grave programmatic confusion.

On all these questions, it is necessary to conduct an extensive discussion with the Argentine section in a fraternal, but frank way. We cannot predict the outcome of this discussion. But it is clear to us that the problem of assimilating the PRT thoroughly to the FI has to be tackled POLITICALLY. There is no other way to increase the weight of Trotskyism.

While the ideological questions which we just enumerated might seem unrelated to the present revolutionary struggle in Argentina – which of course they are not – and while the PRT might seem to be in the process of correcting some of its theoretical mistakes (the adaptation to Maoism is retreating under the pressure of events), the concept of the revolutionary army as developed by the PRT leadership since the second Cordobazo has obviously grave implications for the current activities of the Argentine section. The leadership of the section has developed the concept of the gradual strengthening of the revolutionary peoples army, of which the ERP is the main vehicle, as the key factor in the struggle for power in Argentina. This concept disorients the Argentine revolutionists and risks turning them away from some of their key tasks at the present stage.

Under conditions of upsurge of a mass movement of predominantly proletarian composition, which spontaneously takes a semi-insurrectional form, the main ask of the armed detachments of the party consist, as Lenin specified them, in training and preparing the military cadres of the masses themselves. Closely related to this task is the task of relating to the successive waves of mass struggles and confrontation of the masses with the enemy. The revolutionary party tries to arm the masses with the desire of arming themselves. The armed detachments show in practice that this can be done and what difference it makes to the unfolding confrontations. The central objective to be obtained is the creation of armed militias in the factories and neighborhoods, with which the masses identify and which function openly as organs of the appropriate mass organisations (either left-wing unions, or committees of a soviet character, or combined organs of whatever form evolves out of the struggle itself). An insurrectional general strike to overthrow the dictatorship would culminate in the spread of such armed detachments, closely integrated with the mass movement.

Only in the case of this insurrection being defeated in the towns if the mass struggle and upsurge temporarily decline under the blows of repression and if the dictatorship would harden as a result, but if the party at the same time would have qualitatively changed its strength and its relationship to the masses because of the role it played in the preparation and the course of the insurrection, only then could the autonomous development of the revolutionary army be considered as the main vehicle of struggle for the next stage, as happened after 1945-46 in Vietnam. In that case the function of the army would be to harass and weaken the enemy, allow the masses to regain confidence and to restart the struggle under more favourable conditions with regard to the power of the repressive apparatus. This would eventually lead to a new mass upsurge, in the course of which the revolutionary army would again have to fuse with the arming of the toiling masses.

But to base oneself at the present stage on the inevitability of defeat of the mass upsurge in an industrialised country like Argentina, and to act as if this defeat was already around the corner, is to seriously misestimate the tasks of a revolutionary vanguard. The examples of the factory occupation realised by the ERP and of the second Cordobazo indicate that a growing awareness by the vanguard of the masses of the need to consciously prepare themselves for insurrection, can lead at one and the same time to the strengthening of the party, to the strengthening of its ties with the masses, to a strengthening of the armed detachments, and to a growing transformation of these armed detachments into armed militias of the mass movement. This should have been the orientation of the PRT after the second Cordobazo.

The concept of building the revolutionary army as the main vehicle in the struggle for power, in an autonomous way from the mass movement, involves several serious dangers. In the first place it leads to militarist deviations, which systematically give preference to military operations independent from the needs of the mass movement and from the moods of the masses, thereby actually weakening the political effects which armed detachments could exercize if and when they are more closely linked to the mass struggle. Military operations then run the danger of becoming goals in themselves, instead of means for helping the working class to raise its consciousness and the forms of its struggle to the levels required by the objective situation.

Such a militarist deviation tends to underestimate the importance of closely relating the armed actions with party building based on a clear political programme. Party building could become reduced to attracting people by the prestige of the armed actions on their own and the political physiognomy of the party then risks being considerably weakened. A sharp turn in the mood of the masses, temporarily taken in by some enemy manoeuvre, would then leave the party unprepared to provide adequate political answers and would create the danger of opportunist adaptation.

In the second place, the concept of building the revolutionary army as the autonomous vehicle in the struggle for power could lead to a substitutionist deviation in which the party seriously overestimates its own possibilities and undertakes tasks which it is not strong enough to tackle. The preparation of armed detachments, the training of dozens or even hundreds of cadres in armed struggle, can produce wonders in an insurrectional mass movement, when these cadres become the natural leaders of tens of thousands of workers fighting the army and the police. But for small detachments to take on all by themselves, in single combat so to speak, a powerful army and state apparatus based on tens of thousands of armed individuals, is to run the risk of heavy and unnecessary losses. The function of armed detachments is “to help prepare the arming of the masses so that they can participate in the solving of their own tasks which only they can solve.

In the third place, the concept of building the revolutionary army as an autonomous vehicle for seizing power leads to a gross oversimplification of the tasks of the revolutionary vanguard, i.e., to a gross over-simplification of the prerequisites for a victorious socialist revolution in Argentina. It is true that the militancy of the masses in that country has reached an exceptionally high level, and that only the power of the army stands in the way of the pre-revolutionary situation transforming itself into a revolutionary one. But a revolutionary situation by no means guarantees a revolutionary victory. What will be decisive will be the level of consciousness reached by the masses and the political and organisational strength of the vanguard party. To educate the masses in the need to build their own organs of power, to distrust all kinds of parliamentary combinations, to reject class-collaborationism and conciliationism in all its forms, to distrust reformism, Stalinism and peronism: this is as important as arming the masses. The current activity of a revolutionary vanguard in the given pre-revolutionary situation in Argentina must attach at least as much importance to these tasks of education, propaganda, mass organisation and politically arming the masses as it does to the task of strengthening the armed detachments of the party. To conceive of these armed detachments as a revolutionary army, which will in the long run lead the masses to power, turns attention away from these burning tasks.

It is because we highly appreciate the contribution which the comrades of the PRT have made to the development of the Argentine Revolution and to the influence of the Fourth International in Argentina and in Latin America, because we have the highest admiration for their single-minded devotion to the socialist revolution and for their exemplary courage and heroism, that we feel the urgent need to come to grips with the serious political weaknesses they have displayed in applying the strategy of armed struggle in Argentina during the latest phase of their activity. If they do not correct these mistakes, much of their heroism will have been in vain and will not contribute decisively to leading the Argentinian proletariat to the conquest of power. If they correct their mistakes and thoroughly assimilate the lessons of history thus grasping the obstacles which have up till now impeded impetuous proletarian mass movements from actually overthrowing the bourgeois state in Argentina, they could write a decisive chapter in the history of the Argentinian revolution and in the history of the Fourth International.

9. The Forgotten Peruvian Example

It is our contention that the way in which comrade Hansen has opposed the building of a Leninist vanguard party to the orientation of armed struggle makes a clarification of the tasks of Latin American Trotskyists impossible. The analysis of the Bolivian and Argentinian class struggle since the 9th World Congress has convincingly shown that the problems of educating and preparing the masses for armed struggle were key problems of the class struggle itself. Initiatives correctly taken in that sense by Trotskyists, far from implementing any “underestimation” of the problem of party building, represent an indispensable prerequisite for building a revolutionary vanguard party in pre-revolutionary or revolutionary conditions.

The analysis made by comrade Hugo Blanco of the peasant struggle in the Convencion valley in Peru is another confirmation of our position. In his book Land or Death, comrade Blanco insists on the fact that the main cause which made it impossible to extend the peasant uprising beyond a certain point was the weakness, nay, the near-absence of a revolutionary vanguard organisation. That organisation, the FIR, was weaker and much less influential on a national scale than the Bolivian or Argentinian sections of the Fourth International. Of course we fully agree with him. We have never defended the idea that “armed struggle” is a substitute for party building, or that you could have a victorious socialist revolution merely thanks to some weapons and without a revolutionary organisation rooted in the masses.

But there is another side to Hugo Blanco’s story, which the comrades of the minority are much too eager to overlook. Although the upsurge of the peasant movement in the valley of La Convencion was still regionally limited; although the overall situation in Peru was far from equalling the type of pre-revolutionary situation characteristic of Bolivia or Argentinian; although there was no question yet of a generalised mass upsurge of the working class in the country, armed confrontation and armed struggle inevitably grew out of this even limited example of upsurge of the peasant movement. Can one find a better confirmation of the key thesis we have constantly and consistently defended since the 9th World Congress?

On page 39 of Land or Death, comrade Hugo Blanco dealing with the initial strengthening of the FIR when three Argentinian Trotskyists came to help it, states:

“In addition, it gave serious impetus to the preparation for armed struggle. Although preparation had begun earlier, it was clearly becoming urgent to step it up in view of the advanced level of the class struggle in the countryside.” (my emphasis – E.G.)

In chapter 5 dealing with the dual power situation which arose, Hugo Blanco correctly stresses that such a situation cannot last for long and that inescapable conclusions flow from that understanding, from the point of view of the class struggle:

“Many of our hastily arrived at positions regarding La Convencion and Cuzco, taken without adequate preparation, had their origin precisely in our completely clear understanding that ‘this state of affairs cannot last.’ The bank expropriations were not designed to ‘stabilise’ the situation, but to buy arms for the revolution. In July or August of 1962, I wrote to the comrades, showing them that this situation would not last more than six months. Why did we turn to guerrilla warfare without sufficient preparation? Precisely for that reason! Because we knew that the moment had arrived in which, if we did not make a decisive move, they would fall upon Chaupimayo and crush us.” (pp.56-57)

Describing the final stage of the struggle, Hugo Blanco writes:

“We had to choose between dying of malaria and going down fighting. We chose the latter, not through romanticism, but for a political reason. We considered it necessary to educate the masses, to show them how the peasantry must fight the armed force of the enemy to the last; to show them that although the peasant fell under bullets, the enemy could meet the same fate; to show them that the military uniform is largely a fetish, that it is not an impenetrable armor, as the people tend subconsciously to believe.” (p.68)

Isn’t that exactly the same spirit in which the Bolivian and Argentinian comrades developed their turn towards the armed struggle? One could think that this is a pure description of what Hugo Blanco actually did and thought in 1962; that since, familiarising himself with the writings of comrades Hansen and Moreno in the present debate, he has developed doubts about his past activities and their correctness and is wondering whether or not he was an “ultraleft and terrorist.” But comrade Blanco, drawing the balance-sheet of this past experience, comes TODAY to the following conclusion:

“Nevertheless, I still think it was correct to choose the armed confrontation, even if all the guerrillas had been massacred and the repression against the peasants had been even more severe. The error was not in turning to guerrillla warfare. It was in having neglected from the start to build the party, which would have organised, extended and centralised all aspects of the struggle (armed struggle among them) in all their variations.” (p.60)

If it hadn’t been an error to turn to armed confrontation growing out of a regionally limited mass movement as was that of the La Convencion valley in Peru, how can one argue that it was an error to turn to armed

confrontation growing out of the mass struggles in Argentina and Bolivia which were much wider and more generalised than those of the 1962 peasant movement in which comrade Blanco was involved?

Thinking over the more general problem of the orientation towards armed struggle, comrade Blanco writes:

“Nevertheless, in both instances (Russian and Cuba) it (the armed struggle) developed after the masses had come to see that armed struggle was the only solution. I emphasize the role of the masses because that is the part which the ultralefts do not understand; they believe that what is necessary for us, the revolutionaries, is to understand that the revolution will have to employ violence.

“In Cuba, it was Batista who convinced the masses with his brutal tyranny that no legal recourse remained open to them. When the guerrilla foco arose, the people understood that it was the only road to their liberation.” (pp.62-63)

The method of approach seems to us substantially correct. The key criteria is whether the masses understand the need for armed struggle. This was the yardstick applied by Lenin in 1906. Comrade Martine Knoeller and myself used the same method in our contribution to the discussion entitled, The Strategic Orientation of Revolutionists in Latin America. The question thus becomes concrete: Did the” brutal tyranny of Barrientos convince large sectors of the Bolivian masses that armed struggle against the armed violence of the enemy was necessary? Did the brutal Ongania dictatorship convince the Argentinian masses likewise? Was the turn of the Bolivian and Argentinian comrades therefore timely or not, according to that criterion? Didn’t the behaviour of the masses who themselves started to participate in semi-insurrectional upsurges provide a confirmation of the correctness of our comrades’ assumptions? Isn’t that exactly the line of the 9th World Congress on Latin America? Isn’t it significant that when thousands of miners came to La Paz in January ‘71, they caused a panic among Torres supporters and their shame-faced reformist and centrist allies, because they demonstrated under the banner and slogans, “Let Us Struggle for Socialism” and “Revolutionary War,” and their main immediate demand was for arms? Can one deny under these circumstances that our comrades’ orientation toward armed struggle corresponded to the understanding of the masses, namely, that armed struggle was necessary?

10. A Second Forgotten Example; China 1925-27

In reality, the inter-relationship between an orientation towards armed struggle and the building of the revolutionary party – instead of the mechanistic opposition of one to another – is nothing new in the history of revolutionary Marxism. It was already posed albeit in a limited way, during the final stage of the Russian Revolution in 1905. It was explicitly enunciated by Trotsky in his critique of the Stalin-Bukharin line pursued during the Chinese Revolution of 1925-27.

Trotskyist cadres have been educated in the essential lessons of the experience. By abandoning the independent political organisation of the Chinese Communist Party and submitting to the bourgeois Kuomintang; by refusing to fight for proletarian hegemony and proletarian leadership over the toiling masses of city and countryside, thereby taking the lead in the struggle for the most burning tasks of the unfulfilled bourgeois-democratic revolution (the anti-imperialist task of national independence and unification and the tasks of the agrarian revolution, of the emancipation of the peasantry); by following the Menshevik theory of stages, Stalin-Bukharin imposed on the Chinese Communist Party a course which led to the victorious counter-revolutionary coup of April 1927 in Shanghai, ending the second Chinese Revolution in bloody defeat.

The world Trotskyist movement has paid less attention, in the last few decades, to the more detailed analysis of Trotsky’s evaluation of the motive forces of the second Chinese Revolution, their interrelationship and the revolutionary tasks which flowed from them. Especially in the debates with the Maoists, but also for the correct education of our own cadres in semi-colonial countries, this analysis is of the utmost importance.

Nowhere did Trotsky advocate a line of the conquest of power by the Shanghai proletariat separate and apart from peasant uprisings. Such a proposition, which would have opposed the relatively small vanguard of the Chinese proletariat to a powerful army, even bigger than it in numbers, would have been pure suicide. It conforms to the Stalinist legend of Trotsky’s alleged “underestimation of the peasantry,” and is unfortunately repeated – in a “positive” sense! – by some sectarians who claim to be the “followers” of Trotsky, in spite of all historical and documentary evidence.

In fact, as far as organising the Shanghai proletariat, of doing “mass work,” of organising unions and strikes was concerned, the leadership of the CCP following the Stalin/Bukharin line were not so much at fault. They certainly didn’t lack success in that field during the months leading up to the successful workers insurrection which opened the gates of Shanghai to Chiang Kai Shek’s army. Even on the question of arming the Shanghai workers, the then leadership of the CCP showed itself much more advanced and much nearer to Bolshevism than the Moreno group in Argentina today, although later on the terrible mistake was made of surrendering part of the arms to Chiang’s henchmen, for the sake of “keeping the anti-imperialist and anti-feudal united front” (another example of dual power being based on armed workers from the start and losing its character of dual power when the arms disappeared).

What then was the most fatal consequence of the Menshevik line of “revolution by stages” applied by the Chinese CP in 1925-27 in relation to the basic revolutionary social forces at work in China hi that period? It was the refusal of the Chinese CP to stimulate, organise, coordinate and arm the peasant uprisings, and tie them together with the communist-led urban working class to create a powerful alliance against which the Chiang army would have beaten itself to death, nay, which would have started to disintegrate Chiang’s army. This is no new variant of “Pabloite revisionism” or “ultraleft Guevarism.” It is the opinion of Comrade Trotsky himself. Here is what he had to say on that crucial experience:

“Had the Comintern pursued any sort of correct policy, the outcome of the struggle of the communist party for the masses would have been predetermined – the Chinese proletariat would have supported the Communists, while the peasant war would have supported the revolutionary proletariat

“If, at the beginning of the Northern expedition, we had begun to organise Soviets in the ‘liberated’ districts (and the masses were instinctively aspiring for that with all their might and main), we would have secured the necessary basis and a revolutionary running start, we would have rallied around us the agrarian uprisings, we would have built our own army, we would have disintegrated the enemy armies; and despite the youthfulness of the Communist Party of China, the latter would have been able, thanks to proper guidance from the Comintern, to mature in these exceptional years and to assume power, if not in the whole of China at once, then at least in a considerable part of China. And, above all, we would have had a Party.” (Leon Trotsky, The Third International After Lenin, pp.185-86.)

One should know that Trotsky was speaking of a party of only 10-15,000 members in a country of then some 450 million inhabitants. More than half, if not two-thirds, of these party members were in the big cities. He was, thereby, regretting that a few thousand communists, no more, didn’t start to organise a communist-led peasant army behind the rear of Chiang’s troops. He stated clearly that, in his opinion, the disintegration of Chiang’s forces, i.e., the possible victory of the Shanghai workers in an open confrontation with them, was dependent on the prior organisation of that army. And he even went so far as to clearly state that the building of a really revolutionary party was conditioned upon its capacity to lead, organise, arm and steel the peasants uprising into a real army of the toilers. Comrade Hansen’s simple rule of counterposing “Leninist party building” to the preparation of armed struggle is completely overturned. Trotsky answers Hansen: under specific circumstances you have to organise a revolutionary army before you even have the right to believe that you have got a revolutionary party.

Why this surprising though utterly correct analysis? Because Trotsky, as every revolutionary Marxist should, always starts from the objective dynamics of the class struggle, from the objective dialectics of the social relationship of forces, and from the political, tactical and strategical needs which flow from that analysis. Any other method is subjective, idealistic, and doomed to failure. It is impossible to subordinate huge social forces to some alleged “intrinsic” needs of “party building,” divorced from the needs of the live vanguard of the workers and poor peasants. If class collision has matured to the point where these forces are taking up arms, it is impossible for revolutionists to say “Stop immediately, because we are not yet ready and strong enough; go back to more ‘patient’ forms of struggle till the moment when we are strong enough to guide you towards victory.”

Trotsky’s analysis of the dynamics of the 1925-27 revolution could only be proven wrong if one could demonstrate that these peasant uprisings were much too scattered and isolated to create the basis for a real revolutionary peasant army; if one could demonstrate that some other political force outside of the Communist Party had such overwhelming support among the toiling peasants that they would never have followed the leadership of the CCP; and that, therefore, for objective reasons independent of the will of the CCP, an alliance between the proletariat and the poor peasantry was still premature (as it proved to be in Russia in 1905) and for the same reason the defeat of the revolution inevitable. But given that this demonstration has never been made, the strategic line as summarised by Trotsky in the above quotation, and which turns on the building of a revolutionary army, was the only possible way to victory in the second Chinese revolution.

Likewise, any attempt to contradict the strategic line we project for the Bolivian and Argentina revolution will have to indicate either that there is much more objective scope for “appeasing” the Argentine (not to speak of the Bolivian!) workers through economic reforms than we believe, or much more possibility for the spontaneous collapse of the bourgeois army under the pressure of “peaceful” mass mobilisations. If this cannot be demonstrated then the conclusion which flows from our analysis of the basic correlation of class forces for Bolivia 1970-71 and for Argentina today implies in the short term the inevitability of an armed showdown between the army and a rising mass movement and hence the uttermost importance of preparing, organising and arming the workers for such a showdown.

11. Third Forgotten Example, or How Comrade Camejo Rewrites the History of the Cuban Revolution

Another very telling precedent of the key role played by the armed struggle, under specific circumstances, in a genuinely revolutionary mass process, is of course the example of the Cuban revolution. In the ISR of November 1972 Comrade Peter Camejo treats us to a rather original interpretation of that experience. “It is important to briefly review what actually happened in Cuba and why it was possible for the Cuban revolution to triumph,” he writes. We can summarise Comrade Camejo’s opinion of “what really happened in Cuba” in his own words:

“Let us summarise the factors that made possible the triumph of the Cuban revolution: 1) Mass support to the July 26th Movement’s central demand, DOWN WITH BATISTA; 2) a substantial apparatus throughout Cuba, and in the colonies of Cuban exiles, capable of raising large sums of money and providing supplies to the guerillas; 3) demoralisation of the army ranks and lower ranking officers in response to popular hostility to the regime, resulting in a hesitancy to enter combat; 4) semi-neutrality of US imperialism and a divided national bourgeoisie; 5) the development of support among the peasantry of the Sierra Maestra and general peasant sympathy based on the demand for land reform; 6) the complete dismantling of the army and the police after the triumph of the guerilla army; 7) the use of governmental power after January 1, 1959, to mobilise, organise and arm the masses, above all the urban proletariat; and 8) the existence of other workers states.” (ISR, November 1972, p.13.)

The inadequacies of this “summary of what actually happened in Cuba” are manifold and striking. The formula “semi-neutrality of US imperialism” is simply grotesque. Washington was arming and financing Batista till the very eve of his downfall. In exchange “liberal” imperialist journalists like those of the New York Times and the television networks wrote and spoke nicely about the “bearded revolutionists.” If this is “semi-neutrality,” one might as well argue that British imperialism had been “semi neutral” in the Vietnam war.

Mass mobilisations did not start only after the “workers and peasants” government was formed. Nor is it correct to say that “mass participation was organised after the seizure of governmental power.” In the first place, the government formed after January 1, 1959, was itself a coalition government and mass mobilisations only occurred on the call made by part of that government. But what this analysis leaves out was the successful general strike of January 1-3, 1959, which started before Fidel’s revolutionary army reached Havana, and which played a decisive role in preventing the Cuban bourgeoisie from setting up an alternative bourgeois regime, an alternative military power and an alternative army leadership after Batista’s downfall. Comrade Camejo also fails to point out that the mass mobilisations which continued in January and February had largely a spontaneous character, and were by no means made possible by the “use of governmental power.”

We cannot, go on mentioning many other inaccuracies hi this “summary.” Its main weakness does not lie in these factual inaccuracies, but in the near complete absence of social forces and of political strategy from this analysis. Everything seems to be a function of clever manouvres on the side of Castro’s apparatus and stupid mistakes on the side of his opponents.

There are at least half a dozen ways to untangle this mystified version of what “really happened in Cuba.” Castro won “general peasant sympathy” on the basis of his demand for land reform, writes Comrade Camejo. Why then was this support denied to the Cuban CP, which certainly didn’t fail to call for land reform as well? The masses were mobilised for democratic demands: that’s where Comrade Camejo sees the main lesson of the Cuban revolution, the only one which can be repeated elsewhere too! But did the Cuban CP fail to fight for the “restoration of bourgeois democracy”? Camejo makes a lot about Castro’s bloc with the national bourgeoisie. But didn’t the Cuban CP strive with all its might for such a bloc too? Indeed, if one follows Comrade Camejo’s analysis, one is left with an insoluble mystery: why didn’t the Cuban CP, which at the outset had a much bigger mass influence and a much bigger apparatus than Fidel’s July 26th Movement, lead a successful revolution in Cuba? Perhaps because it didn’t court enough support and “semi-neutrality” on behalf of American imperialism, or could it be that it wasn’t opportunist enough?

The mystery is cleared when one passes from the mystified to the real history of the Cuban revolution. Castro’s growing popularity and support among the Cuban masses was not based on the “use of democratic slogans,” but on his actual armed struggle against the dictatorship, as compared to the cowardly manoeuvres, shameful capitulations and impotent declamations of the Stalinists, reformists and other fake “oppositionists.” His growing support among the peasantry was not based on any vague “demand” for land reform but on the actual implementation of land reform in the areas liberated or protected by the rebel army in the Sierra Maestra. Fidel and Che’s main contribution to the unfolding gigantic mass mobilisations which determined the course of the Cuban revolution – and which Camejo has the effrontery to call “limited” (ISR, Nov. 1972, p.14) was not the manipulation of the government apparatus – that was the way American bourgeois journalists sneered at Fidel’s “television democracy” – but the destruction through armed struggle of the huge repressive apparatus, which enabled the tempestuous rise of the mass movement. And the demoralisation and subsequent disintegration of the bourgeois army was not a result of “popular hostility” (one wonders why the Brazilian army is still intact. It certainly is as unpopular as the Batista army ever was!), but by the very real material blows delivered to it by the rebel army, with the help of a growing sector of the masses.

In other words: the Cuban revolution – like the Chinese revolution of 1925-27 (potentially and to a certain point actually) – which contrary to the Russian revolution of 1917, did not coincide with the breakdown of the ruling army through defeats in an international war, saw a typical inter-action between the unfolding of armed struggle and of mass mobilisations, each feeding and strengthening the other. The weakening of the repressive apparatus through the blows of the revolutionary army, the rise of the mass movement, the collapse of the enemy army’s central apparatus, the political general strike, the disintegration of the bourgeois state apparatus, the rise of centres of workers power: like cogs in a cog wheel these elements integrate with each other to explain what happened in Cuba between 1957 and the spring of 1959.

Is this a “model” which can be repeated? In some parts it can, in others it probably won’t. Instead of speaking about imperialism’s “semi-neutrality” during the civil war, it would be more correct to speak about imperialism’s hesitations after Fidel’s military victory. This is certainly unlikely to repeat itself. Rapid if not instantaneous intervention by US imperialism or its continental relays, is the more likely variant now, as the case of Santo Domingo indicated, as would have happened if the workers and poor peasants had won the confrontation in August ‘71 in Bolivia (the Brazilian army was ready to intervene any minute in that case). That is precisely why it is correct to raise the perspective of “prolonged civil war,” with a possible retreat from the cities where the revolution has already triumphed, if one understands what such an imperialist intervention could mean.

On the other hand, the absence of a revolutionary party based on a revolutionary Marxist programme and tradition hi Cuba was the main factor why direct power organs of the toiling masses – Soviets – did not develop in January-March 1959 in town and countryside, as they most probably will wherever Trotskyists play an important role in the phase during which the repressive apparatus of the dictatorship is overthrown.

But the specific interrelationship between the mass movement and armed struggle which characterised the Cuban revolution (not necessarily in the form of rural guerilla warfare, or rural guerilla warfare only; different combinations will be possible under different social and geographic conditions in different countries) is likely to occur again wherever the basic starting points of the Cuban revolution are repeated, in other words wherever a repressive dictatorship suddenly stopping the rise of the mass movement in its tracks, will be challenged by a determined revolutionary vanguard, progressively gaming mass support and helping to relaunch mass mobilisations till the point of a successful overthrow of the dictatorship.

12. The Experience of the Struggle Against Fascism

Comrade Hansen has some doubt about the use of armed struggle in the struggle against fascism too:

“Note, for instance, how the example they cited of ‘exemplary actions by autonomous armed detachments’ suggest an approach to the struggle against fascism that differs from Trotsky’s, as presented in the Transitional Program. Trotsky emphasized the mobilization of the masses by the tens of millions, starting in the plants with the formation of picket and ending in the streets with massive confrontations – all under the slogan of self-defence.” (In Defence of the Leninist Strategy of Party Building, p.52.)

This is a slight over-simplification of Trotsky’s position on how to fight fascism. Trotsky raised the question of mobilising “tens of millions” against triumphant German fascism, which had already seized state power in the major industrial country of Europe. He never said that before Hitler came to power, it was necessary to mobilise first “tens of millions” before risking a confrontation with the Nazis. And he certainly never said that you had first to organize pickets in plants before you could challenge the fascists in the streets. Here is what he concretely and specifically said on that issue:

“The slogans of the party must be placed in quarters where we have sympathizers and workers who will defend us. But a party cannot create an independent defence organization. The task is to create such a body in the trade unions. We must have these groups of comrades with very good discipline, with good cautious leaders not easily provoked because such groups can be provoked easily. The main task for the next year would be to avoid conflicts and bloody clashes. We must reduce them to a minimum with a minority organisation during strikes, during peaceful times. In order to prevent fascist meetings it is a question of the relationship of forces. We alone are not strong, but we propose a united front.

“Hitler explains his success in his book. The social-democracy was extremely powerful. To a meeting of the social-democracy he sent a band with Rudolf Hess. He says that at the end of the meeting his thirty boys evicted all the workers and they were incapable of opposing them. Then he knew he would be victorious. The workers were only organised to pay dues. No preparation at all for other tasks. Now we must do what Hitler did except in reverse. Send forty to fifty men to dissolve the meeting. This has tremendous importance. The workers become steeled, fighting elements. They become trumpets. The petty-bourgeoisie think these are serious people. Such a success! This has tremendous importance, as so much of the populace is blind, backward, oppressed, they can be aroused only by success. We can only arouse the vanguard but this vanguard must then arouse the others.” (Discussion with Crux (Trotsky)on The Death Agony of Capitalism, May 1938, pp.14-15. Our stress.)

Forty to fifty people.” “We can only arouse the vanguard, but this vanguard must then arouse the others”: this is quite different language from Comrade Hansen’s. It comes from that notorious defender of “rural guerilla warfare” and “vanguardism,” Leon Trotsky. And it happens to embody the whole historical experience of the fight against fascism in Europe.

Revolutionists will never stop the rising tide of fascism, when conditions are ripe for it, if they limit themselves to writing articles, resolutions and speeches calling upon mass organisations to mobilise against the fascists. The more the working class organisations – included their vanguard groups, which it would be entirely correct to call for that reason “so-called groups” – are content with using only words and empty threats to the material and violent successes of the fascists, the readiness of the working class to act against the fascists, not to say its capacity of drawing petty-bourgeois masses away from the fascists, will decline, and the more conditions for a fascist victory will become riper and riper.

Only by successfully breaking the fascists’ terror first in a few meetings and neighbourhoods, then in key towns and provinces, and finally in the whole country, are the preconditions created for “mobilising tens of millions.” This Trotsky understood perfectly – thereby also understanding the key role of the vanguard. To fail to do this under the pretext that the “vanguard cannot substitute itself for the masses,” is to make the victory of fascism certain.

When the Spanish fascists rose on July 17, 1936, the first blow against them was not made by “tens of millions” but by a few thousand vanguard fighters, who had arms, had learned how to use arms during the previous year, and were ready to act immediately, instead of waiting for mass assemblies to vote on this or that resolution. Their armed response took the fascists completely by surprise and changed the situation by one stroke. Thanks to this unforeseen fact, broad masses were rallied to the struggle, hundreds of thousands rose, and the fascists were beaten in a few days in practically all the industrial towns of the country. But without that instantaneous armed answer of a limited vanguard, the danger of a fascist walk-over victory, following the Italian and German pattern, or the pattern of the Greek coup of 1967, was very real.

The minority document submitted to the December 1972 IEC session takes the weekly of our Belgian section, La Gauche, to task, because that paper wrote:

“The possessing classes must be made to know that after the experience of the barbarous Nazi atrocities, the young vanguard throughout the world will never again tolerate the most abject form of civil war: that in which one camp is armed to the teeth, and murders, tortures and oppresses without mercy, while the other camp is physically, psychologically and politically disarmed, and resigns itself passively to the role of victim. The example of Argentina demonstrates that this vanguard is already sufficiently strong and resolute so that such an ignominy will not be repeated again.”

The minority comrades add to this the following comment:

“We pause to wonder before the ramifications of what this suggests. Guerrilla war can stop fascism? Then what about the course Trotsky advocated in battling against the rise of Hitler? Why didn’t he advocate guerrilla war in the style of the PRT (Combatiente) or the Tupamaros? Did he, after all, miss the key to the German situation in the early thirties.

“... What does this alleged lesson of ‘universal importance,’ discovered by the editor of La Gauche, suggest to the young comrades of our movement, not only in Argentina, but throughout the world, including Europe? “The answer is that they begin to think, quite logically, that armed actions of an autonomous and clandestine type, such as those being carried out in Argentina, are applicable in other parts of the world. In Europe, for instance, it is quite clear that Greece, Portugal and Spain have dictatorial regimes that are worse than the one in Argentina. Moreover, the bourgeoisie are quite capable of setting up similar regimes in rather advanced countries, as is shown by the current trend towards the establishment of ‘strong’ states.” (International Internal Discussion Bulletin, January 1973, pp.48-49)

Let’s not dwell on the confusion between fascism and the “strong state,” between the struggle against a “rise” of fascism and the struggle against a fascism which has already conquered power. What is saddening is the minority’s distortion of what is said and intended by La Gauche, in the most classical Trotskyist tradition. Nowhere does La Gauche speak about “guerrilla warfare” against a fascist take-over. Nowhere is there any mention of “clandestine armed actions.” What we mean is something quite different, but perhaps equally “terrifying” for the comrades of the minority. It is the capacity of our comrades, wherever they have reached a minimum strength, to take the initiatives of open confrontation with the fascists, which the mass organisations still fail to take. It is the action by the Communist League against the fascists of Ordre Nouveau holding their mass meeting at the Paris Palais des Sports. It is the action of the comrades of the Communist League against the terror of the fascists in the Rennes Citroen plant, preventing the distribution of leaflets there even by the trade union. There is nothing “clandestine” in this. It has nothing to do with “guerrilla action,” but has something to do with taking appropriate initiatives in action against the fascists.

The minority document submitted to the December 1972 IEC tries to exploit a couple of lines from an article submitted to the Internal Bulletin of the Communist League of June 1972 by comrades Anthony, Arthur, Jebrac and Stephane, to suggest that these comrades “apparently” project a guerrilla war orientation for France too. This is not a serious method of discussion. Abstraction made even of the fact that these comrades disavowed that passage nearly immediately after it had been written; abstraction made of the fact that comrade Jebrac has voted at the IEC for the European thesis which clearly states that isolated defense against state repression in Western Europe would be suicidal and that our European sections should follow a line of creating the broadest possible united front against such repression, involving the whole labor movement, how can one judge the policies of the Communist League and of other FI sections in Western Europe on the basis of a paragraph in a discussion bulletin, and not on the basis of their actual day-to-day activity since 1969? We are waiting for the proof the minority has apparently assembled that the Communist League is actually preparing guerrilla warfare in France. If that proof does not exist because the allegation is of course totally unfounded, as the minority comrades themselves know, what’s the use of this type of misleading polemics?

We repeat: what we threaten the fascists with is not “guerrilla war,” but civil war of the Spanish type, which, let us repeat again, was started by relatively limited vanguard forces. What we demonstrate to the fascists is that the vanguard is strong enough; that ignominious capitulation without struggle by the large bureaucratic apparatus will not be identical to capitulation without struggle by the whole class. “January 30, 1933 will not repeat itself; in the best of cases, what you could expect is July 1936 in Spain.” That is our “message” to the fascists.

We will spare no effort to educate the new generation of European revolutionists in the lessons of the terrible experience which cost mankind 60 million dead. It will be the pride of the Fourth International, that such a turn of events will not repeat itself wherever we have sufficiently strong sections. We cannot assure victory; that depends on the relationship of forces. But we can assure that there will be no ignominious capitulation before fascist murderers, following the pattern of German social-democracy and German Stalinism. Comrade Hansen might interpret this as a result of our adaptation to “guerrillaism” and “guevarism.” We see it rather as a fulfillment of Trotsky’s heritage. For it was in answer to the Comintern’s capitulation without a struggle before Hitler that Trotsky raised the cry: “The Third International is dead; we must start to build the Fourth International.”

Last updated on 15.10.2005