Peng Shuzi

A Common Discussion for Reunification with all the Trotskyists Remaining with the IS

Letter from Peng Shuzi to Farrell Dobbs (October 15, 1955)

Written: 8 September, 1955
Source: The Struggle to Reunify the Fourth International Volume I: The First Parity Commission and Peng Shuzi’s “Pabloism Reviewed”. Published as part of the Education for Socialists series of bulletins by the (US) Socialist Workers Party
Transcription/Proofing: David Walters and Andy Pollack
HTML Markup: David Walters
Public Domain: Peng Shuzi Internet Archive 2005. This work is completely free to copy and distribute. Please cite the Marxists Internet’s Peng Shuzi Internet Archive if the contents herein are reproduced

[Transcribers note: This letter is part of a series of correspondence between Peng Shuzi and other leaders of the Fourth International. The letters deals with the political crisis in the Fourth International that started with the expulsion of the majority of the French Section of the Fourth International by the leader of the then unified Fourth International, Michel Pablo. The series of letters dealing with this and other issues affecting the internal situation inside the Fourth International are part of the document cited in the pubishing information above.]

Dear Comrade Smith,

After reading your letter of September 29, I am very glad to learn that you have the same opinion: “to carry our International discussion into the ranks of the parties and groups influenced by Pablo.” In this case, the question is limited to the form to be adopted, that is, through what channel or what organism should our document be sent to the ranks of these parties and groups influenced by Pablo, and how to supervise the actual carrying out of the discussion. On this point, I believe that at present there exists no other form available besides the parity committee.

True, you have already sent a number of documents to the Ceylonese, but it is impossible to apply the same method by sending documents directly into the various organizations under Pablo’s influence. Even in the case of the Ceylonese, I believe that they are by no means satisfied with this. Because what they really desire is not merely to discuss directly with us but to have the documents of both sides sent through the parity committee for the opening of a general discussion in the ranks, and moreover to assemble the conclusions of this discussion as the political basis of the eventual reunification of all Trotskyists. There is one thing to be noted here: since the IC wrote to the LSSP this March asking the latter to reconsider their position, no reply has ever been received. This is sufficient to prove that if we abandon completely the parity committee and send our documents directly to them, they must feel rather discontented and are not disposed to make any positive response.

Besides, the parity committee, being proposed by the Ceylonese, has been formally adopted and accepted by the IC, and the first meeting has taken place between our delegates and those of the IS last December. If we abandon the parity committee without giving any reason to justify this action, this would not be understood by the Ceylonese and other Trotskyists under Pabloite influence, and can only result in discontent and resentment. In fact, it would be precisely the best opportunity for Pablo to launch a campaign, attacking the IC as a saboteur of the parity committee and as being hostile to reunification, in order to provoke resentment among the LSSP ranks and other Trotskyists influenced by him. By this means Pablo could seek to maintain the present position of the IS and perpetuate his intrigues.

In your letter, you told me that “the one meeting of the parity committee clearly revealed the futility of engaging in a political discussion with the Pabloites at this stage. At that meeting, they submitted all their documents dating back to the Third Congress and offered their bankrupt line as the basis for discussion, although their line has already been repudiated in the internal struggle and split.” In reality, according to the report by Betty after this first meeting, it was rather simple. The delegates on the side of the IS did not insist on any conditions whatever but only made a request that delegates present our conditions, while the condition expressed by our delegates was simply the hope of having a general discussion and the submission of documents on our part for this discussion. However, until today we have not yet proposed to them any document. Then with what reason and fact are we able to prove that “the one meeting of the parity committee clearly revealed the futility of engaging in a political discussion with the Pabloites at this stage”? I deeply feel that, since our delegates have officially promised the IS delegates to submit documents in relation to the general discussion, we have to carry out our promise to manifest our sincerity in the effort of reunifying all Trotskyists, especially with the Ceylonese Trotskyists, and for this reason we are prepared for a general political discussion. Otherwise, it would only furnish a strong pretext to Pablo to claim that the IC is afraid of a discussion and against unification, etc., so as to continue his role of deceiving and controlling the parties and groups affiliated to the IS.

It is true that in the course of the discussion, the Pabloites will submit “all their documents dating back to the Third Congress and offer their bankrupt line as the basis for discussion.” But I don’t feel that we have any reason to be uneasy about this. Since Pablo’s revisionist and liquidationist line (including the ambiguous and revisionist elements contained in the documents of the Third Congress) “has already been repudiated in the internal struggle and split,” and proven bankrupt furthermore in the development of events of these two years, if the Pabloites present it once more for discussion, this will only serve as the occasion for all Trotskyists, especially those remaining with the IS, to perceive more clearly and more profoundly the real visage of Pabloism, after going through a discussion with our documents before them.

You say also: “We don’t see that a parity committee can play any useful role in this process. It can do harm. It would give Pablo an opening to substitute organizational maneuvers in a new attempt to confuse the ideological issues.” But I feel we have not yet sufficient reasons and facts to verify this judgment. As the parity committee has not yet begun its function, we are not able to judge beforehand that it cannot play any useful role in this process, or that it can do harm. If, in the process of the eventual discussion, it is proved in fact that the parity committee cannot play any useful role, and on the contrary, “gives Pablo an opening to substitute organizational maneuvers in a new attempt to confuse the ideological issues,” we can publish all concrete facts. Then it will be Pablo and his supporters who will be entirely responsible for sabotaging the discussion and the attempt of reunification. In this way, we shall be able to win the sympathy and support of all Trotskyists remaining with the IS, first of all the Ceylonese Trotskyists. This will mean in fact the disintegration of the IS controlled by Pablo. The IS is still able to maintain its existence mainly due to the support accorded by the LSSP, a recognized Trotskyist party of mass influence. Once this party breaks away from the IS, there would inevitably be violent differentiations and disintegration within the latter.

On the other hand, we have to objectively face the following fact: though our break with the Pabloites is completely correct and necessary politically, we had not presented any document criticizing Pabloism before the open break, and no internal discussion had ever been conducted internationally to furnish the rank and file an opportunity to perceive the true visage of Pablo’s revisionism and liquidationism. Therefore, this break was “exceptional” from the point of view of organizational procedure, hence it undeniably constitutes a “disadvantage” or “weakness” on our part. Precisely owing to this fact a great number of Trotskyists, including those of Ceylon, are still not able to understand this exceptional action adopted by us and still remain within the IS. This is also one of the principal reasons Pablo can still maneuver and control the IS.

In order to amend this “weakness,” we have not only to open a general political discussion with the ranks of the parties and groups influenced by Pablo, but also must make them understand that our movement against Pabloism is not at all working in the sense of splitting the Trotskyist movement but on the contrary is eliminating the revisionists and liquidationists who are working to the detriment of Trotskyism and attempting to reunify all loyal Trotskyists in order to consolidate and develop our movement.

To achieve this goal, we have to respect the desire and will of all Trotskyists still remaining within the IS: to proceed to a general political discussion through the parity commission (as proposed by the Ceylonese), and then to consider and negotiate the necessary measures to be taken in view of eventual reunification of all Trotskyists. If we ignore the desire and will of these Trotskyists remaining with the IS, and abandon unilaterally the promise of proceeding to a political discussion through the parity committee which we have already accepted—and simply send our documents to them, asking them to express their opinions—this will only result in their discontent and the idea that we are adopting a sectarian attitude towards them and are not at all sincere in our intentions concerning the reunification of all Trotskyists. This would finally help Pablo to maintain his control in the IS and utilize the name of the FI to perpetuate his revisionist and liquidationist influence.

In a word, as concerning the question of the parity committee, I hope you, in taking account of various facts and imperative necessity, will give it serious consideration and adopt a positive attitude. If you deem this committee absolutely not useful but harmful, then please propose other concrete and suitable measures to replace it more efficiently for the purpose of a general discussion with the ranks of the organizations controlled by the IS.

As to your opinion “that at this stage our task is to first consolidate the forces around the IC on clearly defined political positions,” in principle, I am in agreement with this. Yet, I feel that we should no longer delay the opening of discussion with the Pabloite ranks. Because to cope with the development of the objective conditions, particularly the situation on the European continent, it is more necessary than ever to unify and consolidate all Trotskyists as soon as we can.

Now I shall briefly relate the situation in France and Italy in the following:

The bourgeois regime in France, under the pressure of the development of the situation abroad and at home, especially under the fire of incessant attacks from the growing national liberation movement in its colonies, has long since plunged into a slowly intensifying crisis. Under these conditions it should have been quite possible for the latent revolutionary potentials to explode into open insurrection. But this revolutionary crisis is fundamentally reduced to the most concrete expression of the crisis of revolutionary leadership. The Stalinist party is executing with base servitude the Kremlin diplomacy, while its internal crisis is developing continuously. This has been clearly revealed in the Marty and Tillon affair and the subsequent Lecoeur affair.

I believe that the consequences and influence of the Marty affair within the [French] CP and in the society generally are already very well known to you. Here I have only to mention the publication of Marty’s book early this summer and the response to it. As Marty criticizes the opportunist policy of the party leadership in his book, his fundamental views are very close to the Trotskyist position. For this reason, the bureaucrats of the CP condemn him as a Trotskyist and try to prevent the ranks and masses under their influence from reading his book. Despite this, there are still quite a number of CP members who have stealthily read his book and are more or less sympathetic to the criticisms he made of their leadership and its policy. Particularly when they feel more and more the policy of the leadership is leading further into a deadlock, they will sympathize more and more with the criticisms and views of Marty, and will gradually form their opposition. Therefore, we may say that Marty’s critical spirit and his position will most possibly advance the crisis in the FCP and push it toward a new explosion on a grand scale, only if the French Trotskyists are able to intervene actively and in due time.

On the other hand, Marty’s work has also produced considerable influence among the left-wing intellectuals in France. For example, among the editors of the review France-Observateur, there had been more or less sympathy for the Stalinist party, but since they read the book by Marty, they immediately published with sympathy extracts of the most important contents in the book and at the same time they approached some Trotskyists with certain sympathy (for instance with Bleibtreu). Although these intellectuals can never represent a social force, they have nevertheless sensed more quickly and reflected the orientation of the latent social and political thought.

The accusation made by the Stalinist bureaucratic leadership against Marty is not without foundation. On the morrow of his exclusion from the FCP he got in contact with La Verite and corresponded with it, and had several talks with Bleibtreu, Lambert, etc. Then he studied Trotsky’s works. From his own experiences, he has already perceived the impasse of the political leadership of the Kremlin, and implicitly confided his hope to the Trotskyist movement. It would have been our best opportunity to help Marty politically to prepare and publish his critique on the Stalinist party and his own position, to accentuate the differentiation inside this party. Unfortunately, it was just when the whole Trotskyist movement was undergoing a split, and especially in France the movement was splitting in several tendencies and then groups. Marty was already somewhat disappointed. The worst is that during more than a year’s contact with him by Lambert and his group (as Bleibtreu was obliged to cease contacting him owing to the internal conflicts between his tendency and Lambert’s), not only did they not help him politically in order to facilitate the work of intervening in the differentiation of the FCP, but on the contrary they provoked his extreme resentment and indignation owing to their attitude towards technical problems (such as long prolongation and non-execution of their promise of publishing his book, etc.) and finally led to his open break with them. This, of course, has put Marty in an annoyed state. Now there is only Bleibtreu who has recovered and maintains correspondence with him. According to B[leibtreu], in replying to the letter B. addressed him in the month of July criticizing his book, Marty expressed sincere gratitude and acceptance of his criticisms, and told him that he was prepared to revise and amend his book when it would be re-edited. This proves that he still respects the opinions expressed by the Trotskyists.

In view of the deepening crisis in the French Stalinist party and the enormous influence to be produced by Marty’s criticisms of its leadership, it is more imperative than ever for all Trotskyists in France to unite and to present a single standard and a correct program to influence the ranks and masses still under the influence of the Stalinist party, to precipitate its political differentiation and to attract the best elements among them into our movement.

The crisis in the Italian Stalinist party is sharper than in the French, because its opposition, the so-called “Communist Action” has not only had a solid basis in the important party sections and mass organizations, but its internal bulletin called Communist Action has openly criticized the party leadership and its opportunist policy from the left point of view. If this situation continues to develop, it will inevitably lead to an open split. It is, therefore, necessary that all Trotskyists in Italy be united under a single standard and program to intervene in this situation.

Simply from this revelation in the French and Italian situations, we are no longer permitted to prolong the attempt of a common discussion for reunification with all the Trotskyists remaining with the IS, particularly with those remaining within Frank’s group and Livio’s group. Fraternally yours,


Back to Peng Shuzi Archive
Back to Marxist Writers Archive