Leon Trotsky

The First Five Years of the Communist International

Volume 1

A Letter to
Our French Comrades

(To Comrades Loriot, Rosmer, Monatte, and Péricat)

DEAR FRIENDS! I am writing to each of you individually as I am linked with each of you by a personal bond of friendship, and I am writing to you all together as we are united with all of you by a common idea and a common banner. Despite the blockade by means of which Messrs. Clemenceau, Lloyd George and others are attempting to thrust Europe back to the barbarity of the Middle Ages, we are from here attentively following your work and the growth of the ideas of revolutionary communism in France. And each time I personally note with joy that you, dear friends, are standing in the first rank of the movement which is to give Europe and the whole of mankind its second birth.

At present the Soviet republic is undergoing the moment of the maximum straining of its forces in order to finally liquidate the military assault on the proletarian revolution. Over the last two months we have had considerable setbacks on our Southern Front especially in the Ukraine. But let me tell you, dear friends, that at the present time the Soviet republic is stronger than at any to before.

We have destroyed Kolchak. The Russian and foreign bourgeoisie including the French had been hoping to crown Kolchak in the Kremlin with the crown of the autocrats. Kolchak’s forces had been drawing close to the Volga. Now Kolchak’s army is broken and scattered. From the beginning of March up till today (September 1) the Red forces fighting on the Eastern Front have advanced over a distance of more than a thousand kilometres. We have brought the Urals with their industry and their proletarian population back to the Soviet revolution. We have thereby created second base for the cause of the communist revolution.

The rout of Kolchak’s armies has given us the opportunity to concentrate our forces and our reserves against General Denikin on the Southern Front. In the course of the last few days we have gone over to the offensive along the whole Southern Front. This offensive has already yielded results. In some extremely important sectors the enemy has been thrown back a hundred kilometres or more. Our forces and our armour are completely adequate to carry through the victory over Denikin to the end: that is until the total eradication of the Southern counter-revolution, There remains the Western Front which on the map of our revolutionary strategy at present has only a tertiary significance. The Polish gentry can have here only temporary marauding successes We look upon the temporary advance by the weak Polish forces with no great alarm. When we have settled Denikin – and that day is near – we shall pour our heavy reserves on to the Western Front.

According to the newspaper reports Churchill boasts that 14 states have been mobilized by him against Russia. But these are 14 geographical titles and not 14 armies. Denikin and Kolchak would prefer instead of 14 allies 14 good detachments. But fortunately neither Clemenceau nor Lloyd George have any longer the power to form these. And herein lies your undoubted service.

I recall the first period of the war when Messrs. Renaudel, Jouhaux and company predicted that the victory of Britain and France would be a victory for Western democracy, the triumph of the nation etc., etc. Together we swept aside with contempt these petty-bourgeois illusions tipped with imperialist fraudulence. Jean Longuet’s group considered that it was possible to correct the course of world history by carrying out Renaudel’s policy with the addition of footnotes, reservations and ambiguities. The obnoxious fraud of the social-patriotism of Renaudel and others stands exposed to the core. Imperialist France represents the fulcrum of the world counter-revolution. The traditions of the Great French Revolution, fragments of democratic ideology, and republican phraseology – all these combined with the intoxication of victory are made use of in order to uphold and reinforce the positions of capital against the turbulent waves of the social revolution. If France has become the bulwark of the capitalist counter-revolution, then Renaudel’s tendency now represents a more reactionary force in France than French clericalism. Yet Renaudel is inconceivable without Longuet. Renaudel is too blatant, too angular and too cynical in taking up his reactionary social position. Jean Longuet who on every basic question upholds the inviolability of the capitalist order uses up most of his energy and resources to cover up his task with the ritual and liturgy of the cult of socialism and even internationalism.

Merrheim’s defection to the side of our enemies did not appear unexpected to me: already in the first period of the war Merrheim was not marching with us but toddling behind. We are living in a period when it is better to have open enemies than dubious friends. With us people of this type always at the decisive moment have ended up on the other side of the barricade. They conceal their treachery to the cause of the working class with phrases about “democracy”. We have made clear to ourselves and to others that in the era of the social revolution the forms and trappings of bourgeois democracy are just as much a fraud as international law in the era of the imperialist war. Where the two irreconcilable classes join the final battle with each other there is no third party which can settle their case. Having rejected the conventional fake of democratic parliamentarism we have created a genuine democracy of the working class in the form of the Soviets. Soviet Russia has involved millions of workers and peasants in the building of a new life. Amidst unprecedented difficulties the labouring masses of Russia have built their Red Army. The Petrograd and Moscow proletariat are its leaders on every battlefield. The peasants of the Urals, Siberia, the Don, and the Ukraine come to meet this army as a deliverer. The commissars of our battalions are at the same time carriers of communist culture and the builders of the new life in the liberated areas.

The economic crisis in food supply has not been overcome by us only because of the principal forces and resources of the country are being swallowed up by a war which British and French capital has savagely unleashed on us. We are hoping in the coming months to finish off our enemies; then all the forces and all the resources of the country and all the enthusiasm and fire of the advanced proletariat will be directed along the path of new economic construction.

We will overcome the economic collapse and the shortcomings of food supply in the same way as we overcame Kolchak and as we are overcoming Denikin in the steppes of Siberia and on the roads to Turkestan. Our victorious battalions are kindling an explosion of revolutionary enthusiasm amongst the oppressed people of Asia And at the same time we do not for a moment doubt that the hour of decisive aid from the West is near and that the hour of the social revolution in all the countries of Europe is near.

The deeper the triumph of militarism, vandalism and social-treachery in bourgeois France, the more severe will be the proletarian uprising, the more decisive its tactics and the more complete its victory.

In our temporary setbacks and in our decisive victories we shall not for a moment forget you, dear friends. We know that the cause of communism in France is in honourable and firm hands.

Communist International, No.5, September 1919

First 5 Years of the Comintern (Vol.1) Index

History of the Communist International Section

return return return return return

Last updated on: 15.1.2007