Leon Trotsky

The First Five Years of the Communist International

Volume 1

Letter to Comrades
Cachin [1] and Frossard [2]

DEAR FRIENDS, Through this personal letter I shall attempt to dispel any possible misconceptions or misunderstandings which might have arisen owing to the extremely poor connections between Paris and Moscow. Since the revolutionary events in Germany, in March of this year, the German bourgeois press has kept reiterating that the March movement was provoked by orders from Moscow, because of our internal difficulties. This has caused me and, I believe, other comrades to fear lest these rumors arouse alarm among other Communist parties of Europe. Let us hope that the Third World Congress has served to dispel all doubts and fears in this connection. The fears themselves insofar as they arose here and there (perhaps even in France) could be sustained only by lack of adequate information. It is absolutely self-evident that even if we held the standpoint of serving only the interests of the Russian Soviet Republic and not those of the European revolution, even in that case we would have to say that real assistance could not be rendered us by partial uprisings, and all the less so, artificially provoked ones, but only by the revolutionary victory of the European proletariat. The interests of Russia are therefore served by only those movements, those uprisings, which flow from the internal development of the European proletariat. In and of itself this excludes the possibility of Moscow’s issuing any kind of adventuristic “orders.” But Moscow does not at all hold a “Muscovite” point of view. For us the Russian Soviet Republic constitutes only the point of departure for the European and world revolution. The interests of the latter are for us decisive in every major question. I trust that the Third World Congress has left no room for doubt on this score.

Insofar as one can judge from afar, the political preparation for the revolution in France is proceeding splendidly and systematically. An epoch of Kerenskyism is clearly approaching in your country; the regime of the Radical-Socialist Bloc is the first confused rebound from the war epoch. French Kerenskyism – which combines the irritation and despair of the petty bourgeois with the egotism of the peasant who doesn’t want to pay for the dishes broken by the war and with the conservatism of the more privileged worker who hopes to retain the position created by the war, etc., etc. – French Kerenskyism will signify an extreme shakiness of the state apparatus. Between the imperialist clique and their candidates for the role of Gallifet [3] on the one hand, and the growing proletarian revolution on the other, there will be temporarily injected as a buffer the impotent bloc of the Radicals and the Socialists – Caillaux [4], Longuet and Company. This will be an excellent prologue to the proletarian revolution. Should the expiring National Bloc succeed in passing its law against the Communists, one would have to thank fate for such a gift. Police and administrative persecutions, arrests and raids, will prove an extremely useful school for French Com-munism on the eve of its entry into the phase of decisive events. Through the columns of l’Humanité we are following with great interest and attention how energetically you are conducting the campaign against the Briand-Barthou Act. Should you defeat this enterprise, the party’s authority will be greatly enhanced. Should this law be enacted, you will likewise stand to gain by it.

To the extent that l’Humanité reflects the line of the leading party circles, it shows clearly that this line is becoming increasingly radical and resolute. Unfortunately it is difficult to judge from l’Humanité what the mood is among the broadest working-class circles. Thus l’Humanité carries virtually no letters from workers, no correspondence from factories and plants, nor other material which directly reflects the day-to-day life of the masses. It is of utmost importance to French and world Communism alike to get a far clearer picture of just what circles of the proletariat read l’Humanité and just what it is that they read in the paper. A well established network of worker-collaborators and worker-correspondents can become at a certain moment the apparatus of the revolutionary uprising and will transmit to the masses the slogans and directives of their paper, investing the spontaneous movement with that unity which was so often lacking during revolutions in the past. The revolutionary newspaper cannot hang suspended over the masses; it must sink many roots into the masses.

The question of the party’s relation to the working class is primarily the question of the party’s relation to the syndicates.

Insofar as one can judge from afar, this is today the most acute and most disturbing question in the French labor movement. The La Vie Ouvrière group represents a precious section of the French labor movement, if only because it has coalesced a rather considerable number of trustworthy, devoted and tested workers. But if this group continues – as I don’t believe it will – to uphold its isolation and its shut-in character, it will incur the danger of becoming transformed into a sect and turning into a brake upon the future development of the syndicates and of the party. By its present formless policy toward the syndicates – in the spirit of Verdier’s article – the party is helping to conserve the weak sides of La Vie Ouvrière while retarding the development of its strong sides. The party must set itself the task of conquering the syndicates from within. It is not a question either of depriving the syndicates of their autonomy or of subordinating them to the party (this is nonsense!); it is a question of the Communists becoming the best trade unionists within the syndicates, of their conquering the confidence of the masses, and their gaining the decisive role within the syndicates. It is self-understood that within the syndicates the Communists act as disciplined party members who carry out the basic party directives. At all costs, the Central Committee of the party must have within it several worker-Communists who play a prominent part in the syndicalist movement. It is indispensable that the Communists who work in the syndical movement should meet periodically and discuss the methods of their work under the leadership of members of the party’s Central Committee.

Naturally, we must maintain the friendliest relations with the non-party revolutionary syndicalists, but we must at the same time create right now within the syndicates our own party nuclei, which can later join in the mixed nuclei with anarcho-syndicalists. Only if the Communist cells in the syndicates are firmly welded and disciplined will we be able to recruit growing numbers of disjointed anarcho-syndicalist elements, by convincing them through experience how indispensable are the discipline and the centralized unity of a guiding line, i.e., the party.

If we simply slur over our differences with the syndicalists and the anarchists, these differences can later break catastrophically over our heads at the decisive moment.

I ask you to accept with good grace the fact that I express my views so freely about the situation in France with which you are more familiar than I am. I am impelled to do so on the one side by the fresh experience of the Russian Revolution; and on the other by my deep interest in the questions of the French labor movement. Together with other comrades I share in the disappointment that you were not present at the Congress. Isn’t it possible that both of you, or each one separately, might be able to come to Moscow prior to the next Congress of the French Party? Unquestionably, your meeting with the new Executive Committee of the Comintern would prove of great value to both sides, serving to eliminate the possibility of all sorts of misunderstandings and to still further strengthen the organizational and ideological bonds between us.

I shake your hands and salute you heartily.

July 14, 1921


1. Cachin – an old participant in the French labor movement. In the years before the First World War he was one of Guesde’s closest collaborators. During the war of 1914-18 Cachin, like his teacher, became a jingoist. By 1919, owing to mass pressure, Cachin had already become one of the Left Wing leaders of the French Socialist Party, out of which the French Communist Party later emerged. Despite the fact that in 1921-22 Cachin was a co-thinker of Frossard (see next note) he remained at his post when the latter deserted, thus saving for the party the central organ l’Humanité. This was one of the few acts of Communist loyalty on Cachin’s part. Thereafter he became true to himself, or rather reverted back to his real nature. With the ascendancy of Stalinism, he found himself in his native element, i.e., among the case-hardened betrayers of labor.

2. Frossard came to the fore after the split with the followers of Longuet in 1919. In 1920-22 Frossard was the chief leader of the French Communist Party. Educated in the traditions of French parliamentary socialism, Frossard could never surmount this early training. During his brief stay in the French Communist Party he invariably supported centrist tendencies and after the Fourth Congress of the Communist International, when the latter turned the helm of the French Communist Party sharply to the left, Frossard together with a group of his co-thinkers left the party, and gravitated back to the Second International. He again joined hands with the Stalinists and with his former colleague Cachin when the People’s Front policy was put through by the Kremlin in 1935-36.

3. Gallifet – French marquis and general who distinguished himself by his savagery in the suppression of the Paris Commune of 1871. Thousands of Communards were shot and tortured to death by his orders. In 1899-1900 the “Socialist” Millerand served in the same cabinet with Gallifet.

4. Prior to the First World War Caillaux was the Minister of Finance in the French government. He was one of the leaders of the French bourgeois Radical Party.

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Last updated on: 19.1.2007