Charles Rappoport

A United Front

(10 February 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. II No. 11, 10 February 1922, p. 77.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2018). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

René Descartes, the greatest French philosopher, considered clarity the chief criterion of truth. And logic is the way thereto. Every Frenchman who reasons is Cartesian often without knowing it. They are terrible logicians. The premises once established the conclusions inevitably follow. They are the jusqu’auboutistes of reason. Poincaré says, “Germany has signed. Hence Germany must pay.” It is in vain that Germany shows him its empty pockets. Shylock Poincaré demands Germany to draw all the logical conclusions from the ratification of the treaty. I could cite numberless instances of policy dominated by this formal logic, it is the logic of money lenders and their lawyers. The logic of a signature on a contract. The contract is the premise – the payment the conclusion.

In France formal logic has dominated until now the formation of an united front. The opponents of the united front reason as follows.

“At Tours we separated from the opportunists, the reformists, and the social patriots. We have broken the existent unity. The united front will re-establish it. Unity of action will bring unity of organization You cannot be both united and divided at the same time. Hence no united front. Our force lies in clarity, frankness, and the continuance of our attitude. The united front with the Internationals 2 and 2½ will bring dissension and confusion among the militants guided by the clarity of logic.”

Thus spoke Frossard and his friends in the name of the comrades of the Left.

The comrades of the Right (to which I do not belong) carry their logic still further.

“To speak of an united front is to imply absolute unity with all those who do not think like us. Now, the Bloc of Left Parties presents perfect unity. For the sake of an united front let us recreate the Bloc of Left Parties.”

Thus speak Henri Fabre, Gottenoire de Joury, etc. Even my friend Loriot in a way contributes his share to formal logic. He says:

“If the united front is absolutely necessary, let us be logical and let us swallow, with a grimace on our faces, the dissident leaders even though we detest them.”

Well, the secretaries of almost all the Federations who met on Sunday, Jan. 22, took fright of this logic. They uttered an unanimous cry: “We will never agree to go hand in hand with the dissidents!” Every Federation has its local terror, its federal monster. The Finisterre is afraid of Goude. The Puy de Dome leaps up in anger at the name of the dissident Varenne. The Nord abhors Lebas. The Lower Rhône, the Upper Rhône, the Moselle, all Alsace Lorraine shout: “Better death than Grumbach!”, etc.

For four solid hours the Federations of Communist France protested their disgust with unity of the old style. That is comforting. It is the best proof that the split at Tours was not the result of “Zinoviev’s pistol shot”, but the natural product of the evolution of Socialist ideas in France. The split has been made, and made well.

But has one the right to limit the problem of a united front to one indecent act: a kiss on the mouths of Renaudel, Varenne, and Grumbach? Evidently no. The problem is more serious and more complicated.

Engels’ definition of metaphysics is well known, “It says Yes, yes, no, no. Outside of that all is diabolic.” Well the method of metaphysics is also the method of formal logic. Marxian dialectics are more than formal logic: they are not formal at all; they are concrete and not abstract. They draw conclusion not from syllogisms, from logical reasoning, but from itself. Life is all movement. Its contents, which according to Heraclitus “flow” do not easily fit into a frame fixed for them in advance. Life is too fluid to rest comfortably on the Procrustean bed of formal logic.

The Marxian dialectics of the Executive Committee correspond to life. They admit our answering our opponents “Yes” and “No” at the same time. “No”, when it is a question of working in the same party with men whose aims are different and whose conceptions are fundamentally the opposite of ours. A revolutionary cannot live and act in the same party with a reformist, an internationalist with a patriot, representative of the class struggle with a representative of class harmony, a destroyer of capitalist society with a lifesaver of this same society, a Liebknecht with a Noske, a Loriot with a Renaudel. For all these things Tours said conclusively, “ No”!

It is another thing when it is a question of bread and peace which the entire working class demands. On this basis of immediate demands one may collaborate even with the devil. All proletarians must be forced out of their torpor, their inertia, their mortal indifference, and be led, to the common battle, on an united proletarian front, opposed to an united capitalist front.

Logically our friend Loriot is right. He said, in fact, at the conference of the secretaries “a temporary agreement with the odious dissident leaders matters little to us provided we succeed in reaching the masses.” The Conference pronounced itself unanimously against Loriot and for the motion of Frossard who skilfully managed to make the problem of an united front appear as a rendezvous with Dame Dissidence. This was also the view of the Central Committee (with the exception of Rappoport). The united front, under this particular form, was beaten.

There is still another viewpoint which I defended at the Conference together with a number of Federations. Taking account of formal logic which still dominates most men, I refused to confound the problem of an united front with the tactics of its application. With points 8 and 10 of the theses of the E.C. as my basis, I demanded for France a special application of these tactics, “the united front with the masses over the head of the chiefs”. For the present it is impossible to speak with the dissident chiefs. Let us first group the masses. The masses once grouped the chiefs will be forced to follow according to the well known rule, “I am their leader, hence I must follow them.” It is not the strict logic of my friend Loriot, but this point of view seems to me to conform with Marxian dialectics which are based on life itself and which take account of all circumstances, of conditions of time and place and even of the infantile disease that characterizes the formal logic of the compatriots of René Descartes who had but one fault: to have been born two centuries before Karl Marx.

Last updated on 5 May 2019