Leon Trotsky

The First Five Years of the Communist International

Volume 1

Jean Longuet

DEAR FRIEND: A fortunate accident and Jean Longuet’s courteousness, which has become proverbial, provided me with a stenographic text of a speech delivered on September 18 [1919] by this Socialist Deputy in the French Chamber of Deputies as it was last constituted. This speech is entitled, Against Imperialist Peace – For Revolutionary Russia! For half an hour I was plunged by Longuet’s pamphlet into the French parliamentary atmosphere in the epoch of the bourgeois republic’s decline, and it led me to recall the refreshing contempt with which Marx [1] used to refer to the artificial atmosphere of parliamentarianism.

In order immediately to placate his opponents, Jean Longuet begins by reminding his “colleagues” that never, never did he lose his sense of proportion nor his courtesy before the assembled body. He associates himself entirely and wholeheartedly “with those correct considerations which were upheld here by our colleague Viviani [2] with his wonderful eloquence.” When Longuet tries to set to work with his lancet of criticism, the most brazen swashbucklers of imperialism instantly try to gag him by shouts of Alsace-Lorraine. [3] Ah, but urbanity is the outstanding trait of Jean Longuet! Out of considerations of urbanity he seeks first of all to find a common ground with his opponents. Alsace-Lorraine! Why didn’t he, Longuet, just say that he himself finds a number of fortunate paragraphs in the peace treaty? “An insinuation has just now been made here concerning Alsace-Lorraine. We’re all in accord on this score.” And Jean Longuet hides instantly in his vest pocket his critical lancet, which bears a remarkable resemblance to a nail-file.

In his criticism of the peace treaty Longuet proceeds from the same concept of the nation as the one proffered by none other than Renan [4], that reactionary Jesuit without a God. From Renan who serves to assure a common ground with the nationalist parliament,

Longuet passes on to the liberationist principle of the self-determination of nations, which had been “advanced by the Russian revolution and embraced by President Wilson.”

“It is precisely this principle, Monsieurs, yes, this noble high principle of Renan, Lenin and Wilson” that Jean Longuet would like to see embodied in the [Versailles] peace treaty. However, “in a certain number of cases (these are the actual words: in a certain number of cases) the principle of self-determination of nations remained unrealized in the peace treaty.” This circumstance makes Longuet sad.

The courteous orator is heckled; he is called an advocate of Germany. Jean Longuet energetically defends himself against the charge that he is a defender of Germany, that is, a defender of a crushed and an oppressed country, as against France, in the person of her ruling executioners. “My friends in Germany,” exclaims Longuet “were those who rose up against the Kaiser, those who suffered years of imprisonment, and some of whom gave their lives for a cause which we are defending.” Just what “cause” is referred to here – whether it concerns “the restoration of the right trampled upon in 1871” or the destruction of the bourgeois system – Longuet omits to say. The corpses of Liebknecht and Luxemburg are used by him to fend off the attacks of French imperialists. If during their lifetimes these heroes of German Communism were a constant reproach to all the Longuets, who were shareholders in the imperialist bloc, containing the Russian Czar in one of its wings, then after their deaths they serve most conveniently for gulling the French workers with one’s claim of their alleged friendship and for tossing their heroic martyrdom as a bone to propitiate the enraged watchdogs of French imperialism.

And immediately following this operation Jean Longuet addresses himself to “the eloquent speech of our friend Vandervelde.” [5] I count: exactly three lines in the text separate the reference to the martyred memory of Liebknecht and Luxemburg from the reference to “our friend Vandervelde.” Where life itself has dug an abyss, leaving between Liebknecht and Vandervelde nothing save the contempt of a revolutionist toward a traitor, there the courteous Lon-guet with a single gesture of friendship puts his arms around both the hero and the renegade. Nor is this all. In order to legitimize his respect for Liebknecht – in the parliamentary sense of the word – Longuet calls as witness His Majesty’s Minister Vandervelde who recognized – and who should know this better than Vandervelde? – that two people had saved the honor of German Socialism: Liebknecht and Bernstein. But Liebknecht, after all, considered Bernstein a paltry sycophant of capitalism. But Bernstein, after all, considered Liebknecht a madman and a criminal. What of it? On the footboards of expiring parliamentarianism, in the artificial atmosphere of falsehood and conventionality, courteous Jean Longuet effortlessly couples Liebknecht with Vandervelde and with Bernstein just as he had a while earlier effected a merger between Renan, Lenin and Wilson.

But the parliamentary lieutenants of imperialism are in no haste to take their stand upon a common ground, which Longuet has fertilized with his eloquence. No, they refuse to yield an inch of their position. Whatever may have been Vandervelde’s testimonials to Liebknecht and Bernstein, the Belgian Socialists did, after all, vote for the peace treaty. “Tell us, Monsieur Longuet, whether the Belgian Socialists voted for the peace treaty? Yes or no? (Hear! Hear!)” Jean Longuet himself is preparing, in order to belatedly repair his Socialist reputation, to vote against the treaty, whose appearance he had prepared by his entire previous conduct. For this reason he simply does not answer this yes-or-no question. Did your Belgian “friends” vote for the infamous, ignoble Versailles Treaty, so utterly permeated with cruelty, greed and baseness? Yes or no? Jean Longuet keeps silent. So long as a fact is not mentioned from a parliamentary tribunal, it is virtually non-existent. Jean Longuet is not obliged to cite the ignoble actions of his “eloquent friend Vandervelde,” so long as he is able to quote from Vandervelde’s stylized speeches.

And so ... Vandervelde! Belgium! Violation of Neutrality! “We all stand united here.” We all brand this violation of a small country’s independence. True, the Germans issued their protests somewhat belatedly. Alas, such is the march of history. “Only slowly, only gradually,” with melancholy, Longuet explains, “does the consciousness of a raped and a deceived people awaken. Wasn’t that the case in our own country 47 years ago after the Empire?” Just at that moment the vigilant lieutenants of capitalism prick up their ears lest Longuet say: “Don’t our own people suffer your rule up to the present day? Aren’t our people deceived, scorned and oppressed by you? Isn’t it converted by you into an international hangman? Was there ever an epoch, was there ever a people which was constrained by the will and the violence of its government to play a more ignominious, criminal and hangman’s role than is now being played by the enslaved people of France?” At just that moment our most courteous Jean Longuet by merely turning a phrase unloaded 47 years from the shoulders of the French people in order to unmask the criminal clique of oppressors, deceiving and trampling upon the people, not among Clemenceau’s government of victory but rather among the government of Napoleon III [6], long ago overthrown and since far surpassed in vileness.

And here again the deputy’s hands wield a harmless little lancet. “You are supporting Noske and his 1,200,000 soldiers, who may on the morrow provide the cadres for a great army against us.” An amazing charge! Why shouldn’t the representatives of the Bourse (the French stock market) support Noske who is the German watchman of the Bourse? They are united in the league of hate against the revolutionary proletariat. But this question, the only one that is real, doesn’t exist for Longuet. He dangles before his colleagues the threat that Noske’s army will move “against us.” Against whom? Noske [7] strangles Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Liebknecht and their party. “Against us” – against the French Communists? No, against the Third Republic, against the joint state enterprise of Clemenceau-Barthou [8]-Briand [9]-Longuet.

And again, Alsace-Lorraine. Again, “we are all united on this score.” Of course, it is sad that no plebiscite was held. All the more so since “we” had absolutely nothing to fear from a plebiscite. Incidentally, the coming elections will take the place of a plebiscite. And in the meantime, Millerand [10] will have had the opportunity of carrying out the necessary patriotic, purgative and educational work in Alsace-Lorraine in order thus to effect by means of a future “plebiscite” a complete reconciliation between Longuet’s courteous and legalistic conscience and the stark reality of the Foch [11]-Clemenceau policy. Longuet pleads for only one thing – that the work of purgation be done with a sense of proportion in order not to “abate the profound sympathies of Alsace-Lorraine towards France.” A small dose of humanitarianism for Millerand – and everything will be for the best in this best of all possible worlds.

French capitalism has seized the Saar coal basin. Here has been no “restoration of violated laws”; here, not a single case-hardened reporter has been able to discover any “profound sympathies.” This is theft committed in broad daylight. Longuet is very hurt. Longuet is very sad. Apart from the humanistic side of the matter, “the coal of the Saar basin, we are told by the specialists, is not of the best quality.” Was it really impossible – chides Longuet – to obtain the coal “we” need from crucified Germany, from the Ruhr basin, coal of a far better quality, and without incurring parliamentary difficulties in connection with national self-determination? The honorable deputy is, as we see, not bereft of practical sense.

Jean Longuet is, of course, an internationalist. He admits it himself. And who should know better? But what is internationalism? “We never understood it in the sense of the degradation of the fatherland; and our own fatherland is beautiful enough to have no need of counterposing itself to the interests of any other nation. (Chorus of friends: Hear! Hear!)”

This beautiful fatherland, which happens to be at the disposal of Foch-Clemenceau, is in no case hindered by Longuet’s internationalism from utilizing the superior coal of the Ruhr. The sole requirement is: the observance of those forms of parliamentary symmetry which, you will notice, evokes the approbation of all our friends.

Jean Longuet passes on to England. If in appraising the politics of his own country he advanced the authority of Renan, then Longuet likewise appears on the arena of Great Britain’s policy in highly respectable company. Inasmuch as it is necessary to mention Ireland, “wouldn’t it be permissible to recall the great statesmen of England: Gladstone [12] and Campbell-Bannerman? [13] Should England grant freedom to Ireland, nothing would stand in the way of the unification of these countries in a federation.” Having assured Ireland’s welfare through the method of the great Gladstone ’ Longuet runs up against new difficulties: France herself possesses more than one Ireland. Longuet mentions Tunis. “Allow me to remind you, Monsieurs, that for the sake of France this country has borne the most honorable and greatest sacrifices in the course of the war. Out of 55,000 warriors given France by Tunisia, about 45,000 have been killed or wounded – these are official figures. And we have the right to say that this nation... by her sacrifices has conquered for herself the right to a larger share of justice and a greater freedom. (Chorus of friends: Hear! Hear!) “ The poor, unfortunate Arabs of Tunisia, whom the French bourgeoisie flung into the fiery cauldron of war, this black cannon fodder, fell – without a flicker of ideas – at the Marne and the Somme [14], perishing along with the imported Spanish horses and American steers. And this revolting smear, one of the vilest in the whole vile picture of the world shambles is depicted by Jean Longuet as a supreme and honorable sacrifice which ought to be crowned with the gift of freedom. After the feeble and idle chatter about internationalism and self-determination, the right of the Tunisian Arabs to a shred of freedom is treated as if it were a tip to be thrown to its slaves by the sated and magnanimous Bourse, at the request of one of its parliamentarian brokers. Where then are the limits of parliamentary degradation?

But now we come to Russia. And here Jean Longuet, with a tact-fulness that distinguishes him, begins by bowing low before none other than Clemenceau. “Haven’t all of us here unanimously applauded Clemenceau. when he read from the tribunal of this Chamber the clause relating to the abrogation of the infamous Brest-Litovsk Treaty?” On recalling the Brest-Litovsk peace, Jean Longuet loses all self-control. “The Brest-Litovsk peace is the monument to the bestiality and ignominy of Prussian militarism.” Longuet hurls thunder and lightning. The reason is rather simple: Parliamentary bolts of lightning against the Brest-Litovsk peace which has long ago been swept away by the revolution provides a very favorable and happy background for the deputy’s delicate critical opera-tions on the peace of Versailles.

Jean Longuet favors peace with Soviet Russia. But, naturally, not in any compromising sense. No, Longuet has sure knowledge of a good road to this peace. It is the road of none other than Wilson who has sent his plenipotentiary Bullitt [15] to Soviet Russia. The meaning and content of Bullitt’s mission are sufficiently well known today. His conditions represented a harsher version of the Brest-Litovsk clauses of Kühlmann [16] and Czernin. [17] Included were both the dis-memberment of Russia and cruel pillage of her economy. But let us choose a different topic for discussion. Wilson is, as everybody knows, in favor of the self-determination of nations, and as for Bullitt ... “I consider Mr. Bullitt to be one of the most forthright, one of the most honest, well-intentioned men whom I have had the good fortune to meet.” What a consolation it is to learn from Longuet that the American stock market still disposes of men of probity while in the French parliament there are still to be found deputies who know the true worth of American virtue.

Having paid the tribute of gratitude to Clemenceau and Bullitt for their kindness to Russia, Longuet does not refuse to address a few words of encouragement to the Republic of the Soviets. “No one will believe,” says he, “that the Soviet regime could have maintained itself for two years unless it had the backing of the broadest masses of the Russian people. It could not have built an army of 1,200,000 soldiers, led by the best officers of old Russia, and fighting with the ardor of the volunteers of 1793. [18]

This point in Longuet’s speech is the apogee. Recalling the armies of the Convention,” he becomes submerged in national tradition, uses it as a cover for all the class contradictions, embraces Clemenceau in heroic recollections, and at the same time provides a historical formula to effect indirectly the legal adoption of the Soviet State and the Soviet Army.

Such is Longuet. Such is official French Socialism. Such is the parliamentarianism of the Third Republic in its most “democratic” aspect. Conventionalities and phrases, senility and evasiveness, courteous falsehoods, arguments and tricks of a shyster lawyer who, however, seriously takes the planks of the speakers’ stand for the arena of history. Today, when class is openly pitted against class, when historical ideas appear armed to the teeth and all litigation is settled by cold steel, “Socialists” of the Longuet type are an outrageous mockery of our epoch. We have just seen him as he is: he kowtows to the Right; bends curtsies to the Left; pays homage to the great Gladstone who deceived Ireland; kneels before his (physical) grandfather, Marx, who despised and hated the hypocrite Gladstone; lauds the Czarist favorite Viviani, the first Minister President of the imperialist war; combines Renan with the Russian Revolution, Wilson with Lenin and Vandervelde with Liebknecht; slips under the “rights of nations” a foundation consisting of Ruhr coal and Tunisian skeletons; and in performing all these incredible wonders, compared with which swallowing fire is child’s play, Longuet remains true to himself as the courteous incarnation of official Socialism and the crown of French parliamentarianism.

Dear friend! It is high time to put an end to this protracted misunderstanding. The French working class is faced with problems far too great, with tasks far too important and far too sharply posed to tolerate any longer a combination of contemptible Longuetism with the great reality of the proletarian struggle for power. We need above all clarity and truth. Every worker must clearly understand just who are his friends and enemies; he must clearly know where his reliable comrades-in-arms are and where the base traitor is to be found. Liebknecht and Luxemburg are with us, while Longuet and Vandervelde must be mercilessly thrown into that filthy bourgeois heap from which they seek so vainly to crawl to the socialist road. Our epoch demands ideas and words of full weight as the prerequisites for fully-weighted deeds. We have no need any longer for the obsolete decorations of parliamentarianism, its chiaroscuro, its optical illusions. The proletariat of France needs the clean, brave air of the proletarian streets; it needs clarity of thought in its brain, a firm will in its heart and – a rifle in its hands.

A definitive settlement with Longuetism is the unpostponable demand of political hygiene. And while I have reacted to Longuet’s speech with an emotion for which there is no appropriate label in the courteous lexicon of parliamentarianism, here at the close of my letter I am able to think with joy of the superb cleansing job which the ardent French proletariat will accomplish throughout the utterly bespattered edifice of the bourgeois republic, when it finally proceeds to the solution of its last historical task.

December 18, 1919. Moscow.


1. Any number of passages can be cited from Marx and Engels illustrating their contempt for parliamentarianism, bourgeois democracy, pure democracy, etc. We cite two instances from their correspondence: “The dogs of democrats and the liberal scoundrels will see that we are the only fellows who have not been stupefied by this appalling period of peace.” (Marx to Engels, February 25, 1859) “In any case our sole adversary on the day of the crisis and on the day after the crisis will be the whole collective reaction which will group itself around pure democracy, and this, I think, should not be lost sight of.” (Engels to Bebel, December 11, 1884)

2. Viviani – one of the galaxy of French bourgeois leaders who began their careers in the Socialist Party only in order to betray it for a government post. At the beginning of the First World War Viviani rose to the post of premier. He was replaced by Clemenceau.

3. Alsace-Lorraine was ceded to Germany by France in 1871 after her defeat in the Franco-Prussian War. The restoration of these territories was the favorite slogan of the French bourgeoisie in its 1914-18 war agitation.

4. Renan – French orientalist and scholar in the late nineteenth century. Author of The Life of Christ.

5. Vandervelde – leader of the Belgian Socialist Party and former leader of the Second International. Lawyer and professor. Throughout his entire career Vandervelde remained in the Right Wing of the Social Democracy. The war disclosed him as a complete traitor. He was among the first Socialists to enter the war cabinet, becoming His Majesty’s premier. As Belgium’s representative, he signed the Versailles Treaty. Participated in various coalition governments in the ’twenties.

6. Napoleon III, nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, gained the imperial throne on the crest of French reaction after the Revolution of 1848. Basing himself on the financial and industrial bourgeoisie, Napoleon III supported reaction in other countries. In the epoch of Napoleon III the corruption of bourgeois democracy was quite graphically revealed. See Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire.

7. Noske was the Social-Democratic executioner of the revolutionary movement of Germany in 1919-20. Noske came from the ranks of the labor bureaucrats who even prior to the First World War had openly supported the Kaiser’s colonial policy. During the war he was one of the German government’s lackeys. In the days of the 1918 revolution in Germany he served as the hangman of the counter-revolution. Together with Scheidemann, Noske was responsible for the shooting of tens of thousands of German workers. Later died in obscurity.

8. Barthou – one of the prominent political figures in the camp of the French bourgeoisie. Served in many cabinets and held the post of premier. Assassinated together with King Alexander of Yugoslavia in the autumn of 1935.

9. Briand – one of the outstanding examples of renegacy within the French Social-Democratic movement. In the 1890s Briand belonged to the Left Wing of the labor movement, being the chief agitator for the “Direct Action Group” a tendency which later fused with syndicalism. But even before 1914 Briand executed a right about-face, entered the ranks of the saviors of the French bourgeoisie, and made a career as one of the political leaders of French imperialism. In the middle ’twenties, i.e., at the time this volume was published in Russia, Briand tried to resume his career as one of the conservative leaders of the “Left Bloc.”

10. Millerand – president of the French Republic, like so many other leaders of the French bourgeoisie began his career as a Socialist. He worked together with Jaures. In 1899 he joined the bourgeois government. Millerand’s action precipitated a bitter controversy within the Second International. Millerand unswervingly evolved to the right, becoming in the end the outstanding leader of French reaction.

11. Foch – marshal of the French army. Commander-in-chief of the Allied forces in 1918. Resolute partisan of military intervention in the Soviet Union.

12. Gladstone – one of the prominent leaders of the Left Wing of the English bourgeoisie during the latter part of the nineteenth century. Gladstone was in favor of the peaceful assimilation of Ireland. [In order to gain the support of the Irish Party in the British House of Commons Gladstone repeatedly offered them Home Rule (i.e. autonomy for Ireland within the United Kingdom, somewhat similar to the present arrangements for Scotland), but he was never able to deliver on his promises. Nevedrtheless, he was able to keep the Irish Party tied to the Liberals because of his promises. – TIA]

13. Campbell-Bannerman – bourgeois Liberal prime minister of England 1905-08. Supporter of Irish Home Rule and autonomy for the Boers as well as a campaigner to curtail the cower of the House of Lords.

14. The Marne and the Somme are rivers in the northeastern part of France. During the war of 1914-18 they were the arena of gigantic battles in which hundreds of thousands were killed and wounded on both sides.

15. Bullitt was an attaché of the American delegation to Versailles. In February 1919 he was sent by Wilson to Soviet Russia to negotiate a peace between the White Guards and the Soviet government on the basis of the then existing frontiers. Bullitt was entrusted with the text of the Soviet counter-proposals. But inasmuch as Bullitt’s return to Paris coincided with the first successes of Kolchak’s offensive in the spring of 1919, the Allies decided to drop the matter. This created quite a scandal at the time.

16. Kühlmann – Minister of Foreign Affairs of the German Imperial government who conducted the peace negotiations at Brest-Litovsk for Germany.

17. Czernin – Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Austro-Hungarian empire who represented Austria-Hungary at Best-Litovsk.

18. The armies of the National Convention during the Great French Revolution were organized to meet the intervention of the counterrevolutionary armies of Austria and other feudal regimes who tried to base themselves on the forces of French reaction. Within a few years the armies of the National Convention not only repulsed the foreign enemy, but succeeded in extending the influence of the French republic far beyond its original frontiers. The Convention sent into the armies its own emissaries who had dictatorial powers.

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Last updated on: 15.4.2007