Leon Trotsky

The First Five Years of the Communist International

Volume 2

From the ECCI to the Central Committee
of the French Communist Party

May 12, 1922



Dear Comrades, the ECCI has been following with growing alarm the internal developments inside the French Communist Party and the policy pursued by it among the working masses.

The fact that the party has temporarily stopped growing numerically and has even lost a certain number of members would not in and by itself give rise to alarming conclusions.

The party took shape in the period of post-war revolutionary ferment, a period when hopes were high for a swift development of great revolutionary events. But when the movement proved to be slower in tempo, when the less conscious elements among the masses, i.e., the majority, perceived that the formation of the Communist Party did not imply immediately any drastic changes in the social structure, there was an unavoidable decline in interest in the Communist Party, and a certain section of proletarian and non-proletarian elements, who were swept toward the party by the mounting wave, began to draw away from it.

This lag, conditioned by the logic of events, could and should have aided in cleansing, consolidating and strengthening the party’s principles and organizations. But this could have occurred only on one condition, namely, if the party’s basic core, first and foremost its Central Committee, had conducted a precise and firm policy. But the ECCI is not cognizant of any such policy. The party is becoming neither more fused nor more homogeneous on the basis of its revolutionary program. On the contrary, it is more amorphous today than ever before. Any weakening of the revolutionary concentration inside the party brings about an increase in the pressure from without, i.e., pressure of bourgeois public opinion, The right wingers, that is, the non-Communist and opportunist party elements, whose actual number is small and who are weak ideologically, tend to acquire under these conditions an ever-growing influence, because through them bourgeois public opinion transmits its pressure upon a party which lacks the necessary unity and firmness to resist external influences.

This alarming situation in the party found crass expression in the case of Fabre and his newspaper. It is clear to every Communist that Fabre’s newspaper is absolutely alien and hostile to the spirit of the Communist International. Furthermore this paper is nothing but a private venture by an individual who poses under false pretences as a member of the Communist Party. Our party’s citadel – which is on all sides beleaguered by the bourgeoisie, and such an obdurate and evil one as the victory-flushed French bourgeoisie – has in it a door open to the enemies, through which sneak in spies and other elements who poison and demoralize the party ranks.

As experience has frequently demonstrated, newspapers of this sort find easy access – directly or indirectly – to the party and trade-union bureaucracy. Day by day the poison takes effect imperceptibly, all the more so because it is cloaked by the party’s banner. And at the decisive moment of the conflict the consciousness and the will of a considerable majority of party organizations, namely, the party cadres, will prove to have been poisoned and paralysed by the venom of petty-bourgeois scepticism. The party mass, together with the working class as a whole, will find itself rendered impotent and as if beheaded, in the face of great events; unless attention is paid to this process in time, it can prove fatal to a revolutionary party in the preparatory period.

For these considerations, the enlarged Plenum of the ECCI declared categorically two months ago that the question of Journal du Peuple, regardless of its editor’s personality, constituted one of the most dangerous and negative aspects in the party’s life. And at the present moment we affirm with growing alarm that despite the unanimous warning of the International, the party’s leading bodies are still unable to understand this danger and have not resorted to drastic measures to burn out this wound with a red-hot iron. Instead of mercilessly attacking Journal du Peuple, the party press simply keeps mum. Instead of posing the question of this newspaper in its full political scope, which would make it possible to dispose of the newspaper in twenty-four hours because the case is perfectly clear politically, the Central Committee of the party, proceeding completely counter to the decisions of the Enlarged Plenum and the pledge made by the French delegation, has reduced the entire question to a purely formal procedural inquiry and has thus prevented the party from getting a clear picture of the case and of the international’s demand. To point out to the vanguard of the French proletariat the danger threatening it, the ECCI was compelled first to issue a warning, next to ask compliance with the regulations, and finally to invoke Article 9 of the International’s statutes and to expel Fabre and his newspaper from the party, underscoring the full political significance of this step.


While the right wing has, by exploiting the chronic indecisiveness of the leading party bodies, acquired a disproportionate importance in the life of the French party, we fail to see these leading party bodies concentrating their attention upon their basic task, namely, the political conquest of the working masses organized in the trade unions or still remaining outside them. We do see that on the pretext of maintaining good relations with the trade unions or the syndicalists, the party keeps systematically making concessions to them on all the basic issues, thus surrendering positions and clearing the way for the most extreme anti-Communist elements among syndicalism and anarchism. We see party members continuing to conduct in the trade-union movement an insolent and provocative propaganda against the Communist International. Exploiting the theoretical weakness of syndicalism, they carry out within the trade unions their own private, sectarian policy, and install an irresponsible, oligarchic régime, beyond control and without a program. The party capitulates before each attack of these political opponents who are using the banner of Communism in order to inescapably bring the trade-union movement to decomposition and ruin. To continue to ignore this main danger is to permit subversive work against French Communism for many years to come.

Should the party fail to understand that the trade-union movement is incapable of solving its main tasks without the aid of Communism, without the party’s leading and influencing the Communist members inside the trade unions, then the party will inevitably have to yield its place in the working class and, above all, in the trade unions to the anarchist muddlers and adventurers. The party can win influence over the trade unions only in an open ideological struggle against anarchist muddlers, oligarchic cliques and adventurists. The party must assume the offensive all along the line; it must expose and criticize All muddling and all muddlers; it must place all the Communists in the trade unions under its control, educating them in the spirit of strictest discipline, and mercilessly ejecting from its ranks all those who dare use autonomy as a pretext for continuing their debilitating work in the trade-union movement.

It is self-evident that in fulfilling this task the party ought to reject forms of agitation and propaganda which are likely to repel syndicalists in whom the revolutionary spirit is becoming imbued, and, all the more so, the broad layers of unionized workers who have not yet rid themselves of political prejudices. It is one thing to take a prudent attitude toward such elements and to educate them; it is something again to capitulate passively to the anarchists who are exploiting these elements for their own ends. At all events the necessary condition for success in this field is a firm desire to gain success. To this end the party must enforce the strictest control, with all the ensuing consequences, namely, expulsions of those pseudo-Communists who henceforth make so free as not to submit to the decisions of the International and all the more so those who act directly counter to these decisions. In this connection the ECCI expects the Central Committee to take firm and resolute steps which will give the International a genuine guarantee that its decisions are enforced, a guarantee which will free the ECCI of any need of again intervening directly in the organizational tasks and questions, the solution of which ought to be the business of the Central Committee of our French section.

On the other hand, the ECCI declares that the dilatory tactic of evading and vacillating on life-and-death party questions has already been amply tested and has led only to negative results. For this reason the ECCI will permit no further delays in this sphere.


On the question of the united front we see the very same passive and irresolute tendency, but this time masked by verbal irreconcilability. At the very first glance, one is hit between the eyes by the following paradox: the rightist party elements with their centrist and pacifist tendencies, who overtly or covertly support Journal du Peuple, come simultaneously to the forefront as the most irreconcilable opponents of the united front, covering themselves with the banner of revolutionary intransigence. In contrast, those elements who have right up to the Tours Convention held in the most difficult hours the position of the Third International are today in favour of the tactic of the united front.

As a matter of fact, the mask of pseudo-revolutionary intransigence is now being assumed by the partisans of the dilatory and passive tactic. They do not understand that today when the working class is divided into different camps we cannot in any case permit workers to replenish the ranks of the Dissident, reformist, anarchist and other camps. We need politically aggressive initiative in order to disorganize the ranks of our conservative opponents who maintain themselves in the labour movement only thanks to lack of initiative on our part in the sphere of propaganda. The very same traits of indecision and passivity which caused us to suffer big losses in the trade-union movement have in recent months cropped up on the question of the united front. It was interpreted and presented in the organs of our French party in an absolutely false way.

Moreover, although this question was seriously discussed for several weeks, resulting in the adoption of this tactic by the overwhelming majority of the Comintern at the Enlarged Plenum of the ECCI, we nevertheless see the leading body and the organs of the French party pursuing a tactic absolutely incompatible with both the spirit of the Communist International as well as its statutes. Declarations of “submitting to discipline” seem to serve only as a prelude to more open and systematic violations of this discipline. Despite the specific decisions that have been adopted, the party organs such as l’Humanité and Internationale carry on, in their official articles, that is, in the party’s name, an irreconcilable campaign against the united front. Since both nationally and internationally the issue has passed from the stage of discussion into the stage of action, the polemical articles of the French Communist press constantly supply our enemies with ammunition. This is no longer a discussion, but sabotage of the cause.

The ECCI discerns in these facts the worst vestiges of the spirit of the Second International; the decisions of the latter’s world congresses are purely decorative and are no embarrassment whatever to the tactics of the various national sections who place their “national” considerations above the interests of the revolution and the tasks of the International. A continuation of such impermissible violations of discipline in an international action is unavoidably bound to provoke resolute resistance by the International as a whole as well as by its national sections, who will be compelled to call the French section to order and demand that it submit to discipline.

The ECCI considers that in accordance with the spirit and statutes of the Third International, the Central Committee of the French party is obliged to assure the leading party organs such a composition and form as will convert them into organs for clarifying, defending and realizing in life the resolutions of the Comintern and not for waging a struggle against them. In this connection the ECCI expects perfectly clear and precise guarantees for the future.


We cannot leave unmentioned the ambiguity which exists in the relations between the Central Committee of the French party and the ECCI. Not only that single question on which the French delegation voted against at the Third World Congress and at the Enlarged Plenum of the ECCI, but also all the decisions adopted with the complete agreement of all the French delegates, have been depicted as though they have been dictated to the party and imposed upon it from the outside and are being complied with by the party only as a pure formality. For example, all the members of the French delegation agreed in complete unanimity with the Enlarged Plenum that it was indispensable to restore the Central Committee mandates of those comrades who tendered their resignations at the Marseilles Convention. This decision pursued a political aim of the highest importance: the securing of complete unanimity in the functioning of the Central Committee, as well as of the party as a whole. This aim can be achieved only if it is made clear to the party that it is not a question of any sort of personal combinations nor of the personal ambitions of this or that individual, but of creating the organizational premises for complete unanimity in work. The political significance of this question should have been clarified lucidly and precisely in leading articles of the party press and at the party’s National Conference. Nothing of the sort was done. Everything was reduced to a pure formality of a show of hands, prepared behind the scenes, that is, behind the party’s back, without any explanatory articles or speeches. Had anyone set himself the goal of attaining results diametrically counter to those pursued by the Enlarged Plenum of the ECCI. then such an individual would have behaved exactly as the Central Committee did in this particular instance.

It is perfectly clear that such an approach cannot fail to produce and reinforce among the heterogeneous mass of the French party an impression that the International or “Moscow” is in the habit of issuing incomprehensible and unmotivated ultimatums, political and organizational in character, to which the Central Committee of the French party submits out of disciplinary considerations while at the same time skilfully making its negative attitude to the International’s proposals known to the party rank and file. An atmosphere is thus created which is highly propitious for the intriguers and political horse traders grouped around Journal du Peuple.


Finally, it is of interest to review the history of the relations between the ECCI and the Central Committee. From it we shall see that the misunderstandings and mistakes at no time emanated from the ECCI.

The French party sent to the Third World Congress at Moscow a delegation of eleven members, representing all the different shadings in the party at the time. This delegation took extensive part in the work of the congress and of the ECCI. The decisions pertaining to the French party adopted by the ECCI were discussed with and were unanimously adopted by the French delegation, in particular the decision wherein the ECCI proposed that the French party institute control over the party press, as is done by all the other Communist parties.

To the surprise of the ECCI, the Central Committee for a long time ignored this decision and the evil which the ECCI had pointed out continued to exist and to grow stronger in the French party. For this reason the ECCI insisted on the adoption in principle of the control of the party press. After a six months’ delay, this principle was finally adopted, but nothing was actually done to carry it out in life.

After the Third World Congress, the ECCI submitted various proposals concerning the French Communist movement to the Central Committee. In addition, Comrades Zinoviev and Trotsky wrote letters to the most prominent members of the French party in order to facilitate by such friendly correspondence mutual understanding and fraternal collaboration.

In the same spirit the ECCI repeatedly invited Comrades Frossard and Cachin to make a trip to Moscow in order to discuss in person the most important questions of the Communist movement in France. Unwilling to let slip any opportunity for establishing cordial relations with the leaders of the French party and in the absence of a favourable reply to its invitations, the ECCI sent a delegate to Paris who was to acquaint himself with the situation and present the viewpoint of the International to the Central Committee.

Toward the end of last year the ECCI managed to get another French comrade assigned to Moscow, and in this way learned the manner in which the Central Committee would like to establish its relations with the International. The ECCI gave its reply in a resolution, which in turn, requested an answer from the Central Committee. This answer was not forthcoming.

The ECCI took advantage of the convening of the Marseilles Convention in order to send an open letter to the French party, containing among other comments on the state of affairs in the French party certain critical judgements, made in a friendly and frank spirit, as is customary in International relations among Communists. This letter also requested a precise answer on the questions of discipline and control of party newspapers. Unfortunately the ECCI received no answer either to this letter or to a second and more detailed letter sent to the Central Committee.

Let us also recall that by the time of the Marseilles Convention the ECCI had sent a second delegate to the Central Committee whose stay in France was intended to straighten out all the differences of opinion and to facilitate the establishment of regular connections in the future.

After the Marseilles Convention, for purposes of clarification and of establishing its relations with the French section on a precise basis, the ECCI counted upon Comrade Frossard’s coming to Moscow, in accordance with the decision adopted in October by the Central Committee.

The ECCI persistently invited the party secretary to come, in view of the extreme importance of the questions that had to be settled. The ECCI considered, as it still does, that such a direct exchange of opinion is the most expedient way of strengthening the ties between the International and the French section.

The Central Committee never presented objections of a political character to the ECCI, except on the question of the united front. In cases where the decisions of the Enlarged ECCI were carried out in life, this, as we saw on the question of the resignees resuming their posts in the Central Committee, was done in such a purely passive way as if only to underscore a hostile attitude toward the substance of the decision adopted on this question.

The ECCI deems it absolutely impossible to maintain relations of this sort in the future. It proposes that the Central Committee of the French section of the International take clearly into account the motives – unexpressed to this day – which lie at the bottom of such conduct, and also the grave consequences which must necessarily ensue if the tactic of evasion, now practised in relations between Paris and Moscow, is not replaced by open and revolutionary sincerity.

The Executive Committee of the Communist International

Moscow, May 12, 1922

First 5 Years of the Comintern (Vol.2) Index

History of the Communist International Section

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Last updated on: 13.1.2007