Leon Trotsky
Fourth Congress of the Communist International

Summary of Discussion on French Question

December 2, 1922

Source: Published in Toward the United Front: Proceedings of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International, 1922 (https://www.haymarketbooks.org/books/472-toward-the-united-front), pp. 1010–1012.
Translation: Translation by John Riddell.
HTML Markup: David Walters for the Marxists Internet Archive, 2018.
Copyright: John Riddell, 2017. Republished here with permission.

There are three significant points on which I would like to say a few words.

1. With regard to the declaration of Comrade Renaud Jean, who spoke regarding the naming of Central Committee members by the world congress, I feel compelled to correct one formulation that could lead to misunderstandings.

If this formulation, which I consider to be a poor one, is made known in this form, it can only harm the decision that we are all adopting. For us there is no question of having the Central Committee of the French party chosen by this congress. We have made an attempt, on the initiative of the Paris congress itself and of all currents in the French party, to draw up here a motion, which will be presented to the National Council of the French party.

This motion was made by the delegations of the French party’s factions themselves, in full agreement with the commission named by the congress. Three different lists were established by the factions. After some secondary corrections, it proved possible to draw up a common list. This list is the motion to which the three factions have committed themselves, through their authorised representatives, to be placed before the national congress of the French party for its approval.

The commissions that you established to look into the French question – both the full commission and the sub-commission – have unanimously adopted this list. They do not consider it ideal in every way, and objections are of course always possible. But it is the only possibility for the French party to escape from the dead end in which it was placed by the Paris congress.

The commission is therefore in full agreement with the French delegation in believing that if a certain part of our French section now begins to mount an opposition against this motion, one that in fact can only do good to the French party, this opposition will sabotage the intention of all the factions and thus of the party as a whole. In the name of the commission, which helped the French delegation establish this list, I express the hope that the list will be approved by the congress and accepted by the national congress of the French party and thus finally confirmed.

That is the only way to eliminate the personal battles that the factions have conducted against each other in the thorny process of constituting the Central Committee.

However, this does not establish a precedent for the use of proportional representation in the work of our national sections or our international congresses. It is merely a question of how our French party can escape from the dead end in which it is presently caught. We firmly believe that no one in the French party will oppose this wise, necessary, and even therapeutic motion, drawn up by a French delegation representing all the factions.

2. My second point concerns the declaration of the Centre. It is charged that I have passed over without mention the errors and mistakes of the Left.

It is true that I did not say anything about that in my report. I regarded – and continue to regard – this matter as settled by the statement made by the Left itself in the full commission. In the first or second session of the commission, we explained that in a revolutionary Communist party, to resign or threaten to resign contradicts revolutionary discipline, regardless of the circumstances in which this takes place.

The entire commission was of this view. The Left made a statement on this point in which they explained the circumstances that led to their resignation. The statement says:

The commission charged with analysing the French question is of the opinion that the resignations and the statements published in Bulletin of the Communist International were a political error. The Left has always shown through its actions that it takes the discipline of the Communist International seriously, and there is no need for it to declare now that it will unconditionally accept the decisions of the Fourth World Congress. In accepting the sub-commission’s judgment on the specific points regarding the resignations and the Bulletin, it maintains that this decision acquires its true meaning when expanded to include the entire picture of the facts that gave rise to this situation.

In addition, your organisational commission will present you with a very general proposal that excludes once and for all the possibility of any resignation for any kind of oppositional motivation, whether it be the resignation of an individual or of a group, whether it be directed against the Central Committee or the International.[56]

3. This point concerns a motion contained in the statement of the Centre regarding factionalism.

There is no doubt that factionalism is a very bad thing for any party that has to endure it. I have tried to explain in my speech that in this case factionalism is the unhappy result of an unhappy situation. We have proposed measures of a general political character and also measures that are organisational in nature. All factions, that is, the entire French party through its authorised representatives, have committed themselves to implement these measures, which aside from a few reservations have been worked out with the complete agreement of the French delegation. This permits us to hope that we can count on the practical, systematic, consistent, and, if necessary, emphatic application of the Fourth Congress decisions.

In a few weeks the National Council of the French party will convene in order to put the finishing touches on the decisions that are organisational in character.

We trust that after the National Council ratifies these decisions, the situation of the party will change fundamentally, and that as a result any concept of factions will vanish, even in the eyes of the factional figures themselves.

As for the International, which we hope will be represented at the national congress by a delegation of its Executive – I say this on the basis of a discussion with your Presidium – the International will insist with full energy that as soon as the resolutions are implemented, factionalism and the factional struggle in the French party must come to an end and that the French party, in its thought and also its actions, becomes forever a united party. (Applause)



56. See resolution on reorganising the ECCI, in Toward the United Front, pp. 1133–37.

Last updated on: 5 January 2021