Leon Trotsky

The First Five Years of the Communist International

Volume 2

From the ECCI to the Paris Convention
of the French Communist Party

September 13, 1922


Dear Comrades,

The coming convention of the French Communist Party is of exceptional importance. After a year of profound internal crisis which paralysed the party’s will, this convention must help the party to emerge on the broad highway of revolutionary action. For the convention to successfully fulfil this task it is necessary that the whole party critically review the road that has been traversed, gain a clear conception of the reasons for the severe internal maladies which resulted in political passivity, and apply, at the convention, with a firm hand all the necessary measures for restoring party health and reinvigorating it. This letter is aimed to help the public opinion of the French party to solve this task.

1) General Causes of the Party Crisis

Official French socialism and official French syndicalism proved in the course of the imperialist war that they were completely poisoned by democratic and patriotic ideology. The columns of l’Humanité and of all other party and trade-union publications used to preach day in and day out that this was a war to end all wars, that this was a just war, that the Entente headed by France represented the loftiest interests of civilization, that the victory of the Entente would bring a democratic peace, disarmament, social justice, and so forth. After these fantasies, poisoned with chauvinism, found their embodiment in the foul and revolting reality of the Versailles peace, official French socialism arrived in a blind-alley. Its inner fraud was laid bare starkly and irrefutably. The masses were seized by ideological alarm, the party’s leading circles lost their poise and self-confidence. These were the circumstances under which the party went through its transformation at the Tours Convention and adhered to the Communist International. Naturally, the results of this convention were prepared by the tireless and heroic work of the Committee for the Third International. Nevertheless, the speed with which these results were achieved astonished the entire international proletariat at the time. The overwhelming majority of the party, together with its most important publications including l’Humanité, were transformed into the French section of the Communist International. The most discredited elements, all of whose interests and thoughts were tied up with bourgeois society, split away from the party. This swift transformation of a Socialist Party into a Communist Party, resulting from the glaring contradiction between the ideology of democratic patriotism and the reality of Versailles, unavoidably also brought negative consequences in its wake. The party recoiled from its own past, but this did not at all mean that it had succeeded, in so brief a span of time, in critically examining and assimilating the theoretical principles of Communism and the proletarian methods of revolutionary policy.

In addition, the revolutionary movement has, during the last two years, assumed a more gradual and protracted character in Europe. Bourgeois society acquired a semblance of new equilibrium. On this soil there ensued a revival inside the Communist Party of the old prejudices of reformism, of pacifism and democratism which the party had formally renounced at Tours. Hence the unavoidable internal struggle which has resulted in the profound party crisis.

Following Tours a considerable number of revolutionary syndicalists joined the party. In and by itself this was a very valuable development. But precisely because there was a total lack of clarity in our party on the question of the interrelations between the party and the trade unions, the syndicalist views, which demand that the party refrain from “meddling” in the trade-union movement, tended to reinforce the utterly false idea that the party and the trade unions constitute two absolutely independent powers whose only bond at best is that of mutual and friendly neutrality. In other words, it was not the revolutionary syndicalists who were remoulded in the party’s forge, but, on the contrary, it was they who imprinted upon the party their stamp of anarcho-syndicalism, thereby further increasing the ideological chaos.

One might thus say that the Tours Convention only roughly outlined the general framework within which the difficult process of the party’s regeneration from a democratic, Socialist Party into a Communist Party continues to take place to this very day.

2) Internal Party Groupings

The most obvious and acute expression of the crisis lies in the struggle of tendencies within the party. These tendencies, reduced to their basic groupings, are four in number:

a) The Right Wing. The revival and consolidation of the right wing inside the Communist Party has proceeded along the line of least resistance, that is to say, along the line of pacifism which can always count on scoring superficial successes in a country with such traditions as France, especially after an imperialist war. Humanitarian and tearful pacifism which doesn’t contain anything revolutionary provides the most convenient camouflage for all the other views and sympathies in the spirit of reformism and centrism, The party’s right wing began to gain in confidence and boldness in the same measure as the protracted character of the proletarian revolution became more apparent; as the European bourgeoisie gained more and more ascendancy over the state apparatus after the war; as the economic difficulties of the soviet republic began to – multiply. The rightist elements knew and felt that they could be assured influence only if the party’s consciousness remained formless and confused. For this reason, without always being bold enough to attack Communism openly, they waged all the more bitter a struggle against the demands for clarity and precision in the party’s ideas and organization. Under the slogan of “freedom of opinion”, they have defended the freedom of petty-bourgeois intellectuals, lawyers and journalistic grouplets to introduce confusion and chaos into the party and thereby paralyse its ability to act. All the violators of party discipline found sympathy among the right wing which never fails to discover singular courage each time a deputy or a journalist tramples underfoot the program, tactics or statutes of the proletarian party. Under the slogan of national autonomy they have launched a struggle against the Communist International. Instead of fighting for this or that viewpoint inside the International, which they have formally joined, the rights have challenged the very right of the International to “interfere” in the internal life of the various parties. They have gone further. By identifying the International with Moscow, they began hinting to the French workers in a covert and therefore all the more pernicious manner that such and such decisions of the Communist International were dictated not by the interests of the world revolution but by the opportunistic state interests of soviet Russia. If this were actually the case, or if the right wing seriously believed it, they would be duty-bound to launch an irreconcilable struggle against the Russian Communists, branding them as the betrayers of the world Communist cause and summoning the Russian workers to overthrow such a party. But the rights did not even dream of taking this road, which is the only consistent and principled one. They have confined themselves to hints and insinuations, seeking to play on the nationalistic feelings of a certain section of the party and the working class. This flirtation with pseudo-democratism (“freedom of opinion“) and with nationalism (Paris vs. Moscow) was supplemented by lamentations over the split with the Dissidents and with probing the soil in preparation for the policy of the “Left Bloc”. In its entire spirit the right wing is thus hostile to Communism and to the proletarian revolution. The elementary requirement for the party’s self-preservation is to purge its ranks of tendencies of this sort and of those individuals who are conveyors of these tendencies. It is self-understood that party members who have openly announced their adhesion to the right wing after the Tours Convention cannot occupy any responsible posts in the Communist Party. This is the first and perfectly clear condition for surmounting the internal crisis.

b) “The Extreme Left Wing”. On the party’s opposite Rank we observe the so-called extreme left, where under fictitious, verbal radicalism there not infrequently lurk – side by side with revolutionary impatience – purely opportunist prejudices on tactical and organizational questions of the working class. Localism, autonomy and federalism, which are completely incompatible with the revolutionary needs of the working class, find their partisans among the so-called extreme left. From here have also come on occasion appeals for pseudo-revolutionary actions, obviously not in consonance with the existing situation and incompatible with the realistic policies of Communism. Among the majority of the extreme lefts there is splendid revolutionary material as was shown by last year’s experience and especially by the experience of the Seine Federation. Under a correct and firm party leadership this majority is ridding itself of pseudo-revolutionary prejudices in favour of genuine Communist politics. But unquestionably there are inside this wing isolated representatives of the anarcho-reformist type who are always eager for a bloc with the rights against Communist politics. A vigilant and strict control over the future activities of these elements is an indispensable supplement to the pedagogic work among those party circles whose inexperience is being exploited by the anarcho-syndicalists of the “extreme” left wing.

c) The Left Tendency. Ideologically and largely in point of personal composition, the left tendency represents the continuation and development of the Committee for the Third International. The left tendency has unquestionably exerted every effort to bring the party’s policy in deeds and not merely words in accord with the principles of the Communist International. There has been a certain resurgence in the activity of the left grouping because of the consolidation of the right wing and the latter’s aggressive policy against Communist principles, policies and discipline. The ECCI, which had in its day dissolved the Committee for the Third International for the sake of party unity, took all the necessary measures to avert the resurgence of a factional situation, the danger of which became perfectly clear from the moment when the right wing, in the absence of the necessary resistance, became sufficiently emboldened to trample openly upon the ideas of Communism and upon the statutes of the party and of the International. The ECCI did not and does not see in the activity of the left tendency (La Gauche) any indication that the lefts are seeking to create a closed faction. On the contrary, in complete harmony with the decisions and directives of the ECCI the left tendency is upholding the need of complete unity and fusion of all sincere Communist elements in cleansing the party of the disruptive and corrosive vestiges of its past.

d) The broadest and least defined group is constituted by the centre which mirrors most clearly the evolution of the French party, as characterized at the beginning of this letter. The rapid transition from Socialism to Communism under the pressure of revolutionary moods among the ranks has resulted in bringing within the party’s framework numerous elements whose regard for the Communist banner is quite sincere, but who are far from having liquidated their democratic-parliamentary and syndicalist past. Many of the centre representatives believe quite sincerely that a renunciation of the most discredited formulas of parliamentarism and nationalism sufficed in and by itself to convert the party into a Communist Party. In their eyes the issue was settled by the formal acceptance of the 21 conditions at Tours. Without being sufficiently cognizant of the profound internal regeneration still in store for the party before it could become the leader of the proletarian revolution in the main citadel of capitalist reaction and deeming that the Tours Convention had already resolved the main difficulties, the representatives of the centre frowned upon the raising of tactical and organizational problems in the party and were inclined to regard principled conflicts as personal squabbles and circle clamour. The ideologically insignificant and discredited right wing was able to raise its head only because the centre, leading the party, failed to immediately counteract it. Caught between the more or less crystallized right and left groupings, the centre was therewith deprived of any independent political physiognomy. Attempts by various representatives of the centre, like Comrade Daniel Renoult, to create an independent platform resulted in practice to his agreeing on some questions with the right wing and on others with the extreme lefts, thereby only adding to the ideological confusion. It is beyond doubt that some representatives of the centre gravitate entirely to the right and remain a deterrent to the party’s growth. But the task of the majority of the leading elements of the centre – and we hope that they will fulfil this task – consists in standing four-square upon the decisions of the Communist International and in cleansing the party, shoulder to shoulder with the left tendency, of all those elements who in political practice have demonstrated, are demonstrating and will continue to demonstrate that they do not belong in Communist ranks, in order in this way to strengthen the party’s discipline and turn the party into a reliable instrument for revolutionary action.

Side by side with the representatives of the left, who have proved their loyalty to the cause of, the proletarian revolution during the most difficult days, there must enter into the party Central Committee those representatives of the centre who have shown a genuine readiness to usher in a new era in the life of the French party.

3) The Question of the United Front

The question of the united front arose before the International in the same measure as the Communist parties of the most important countries began passing from preparatory ideological and organizational work to the road of mass action. For the above-stated reasons the French party found itself caught off-guard by the question of the united front. This manifested itself in the adoption of wrong party decisions on this question. Yet the policy of the united front, carried out by a homogeneous centralized revolutionary party, can and must assume enormous importance precisely in the French labour movement.

Prior to the war, social relations in France were the most inert of all Europe. The relative stability of economic life in the presence of a numerically large small peasantry was the fountainhead of conservatism in political life, which had its effects upon the working class as well. Nowhere else was there such a tenacious reign of revolutionary and pseudo-revolutionary sects as in the French labour movement. The dimmer were the prospects of the social revolution, all the more did each grouping, faction and sect strive to convert itself into a self-sufficient, shut-in little world. Sometimes these factions fought each other for influence, as did the Guesdeists and the Jaurèsists; at other times they delimited their influence on the principle of non-intervention, as did the Jaurèsists and the syndicalists. Each little grouping, especially its bureaucracy, regarded its very existence as an end in itself. Added to this were the ever present careerist considerations: the press became an end in itself to the journalists; parliamentary posts to the deputies. These traditions and habits, products of a long democratic past under the conditions of a conservative milieu, remain very strong in the French labour movement to this very day.

The Communist Party did not come into being so as to exist merely as one faction in the proletariat alongside the Dissidents, the anarcho-syndicalists and the rest but rather in order to shake these conservative groupings and factions to their very foundations; to lay bare their complete incompatibility with the needs and tasks of the revolutionary epoch and therewith to impel the proletariat to become aware of itself as a class, all of whose sections are dynamically joined together by the united front against the bourgeoisie and its state. A parliamentary socialist organization or a propaganda sect can remain for decades within one and the same framework which assures it a few parliamentary posts or a certain outlet for pamphlets. But the party of the social revolution is obliged to learn in action how to fuse together the majority of the working class, utilizing to this end every opportunity for mass action that opens up. The outlived groupings and factions are interested in preserving intact and immutable all the barriers dividing the working class into segments. We, on the other hand, have a vital stake in pulling down these barriers of conservatism and in teaching the working class to follow our example. Herein lies the whole meaning of the united front policy, a meaning which derives directly from the social-revolutionary essence of our party.

From this standpoint all talk to the effect that we should accept a united front with the masses but not with the leaders is sheer scholasticism. This is like saying that we agree to conduct strikes against the capitalists but refuse to enter into negotiations with them. It is impossible to lead strike struggles without entering at a certain moment into negotiations with the capitalists or their plenipotentiaries. It is just as impossible to summon the organized masses to a united struggle without entering into negotiations with those whom a particular section of the mass has made its plenipotentiaries. What comes clearly to the fore in this intransigence is political passivity, the ignoring of the most important task for the sake of which the Communist Party had been actually created.

We consider it necessary to analyse here some of the objections to the united – front which have been recently raised, particularly by Comrade Daniel Renoult, and which are ostensibly based on the experience of the Communist International and its various sections.

We are told that the attempt to convene a world-wide labour congress has not been crowned with success, but, on the contrary, has resulted only in aggravating the struggle waged by the Second and the Two-and-a-Half Internationals against Communism. An attempt is made to draw the same conclusion from the experience with the united front policy in Germany. What we really see there, we are told, is not a united front of the proletariat but a confederation of the Social Democrats and the Independents against the Communists.

No one disputes these facts. But they can be employed as arguments against the united front policy only by those who entertain hopes of attaining, through the policy of the united front, a softening of political antagonisms, or a conversion of Ebert, Scheidemann, Vandervelde, Renaudel, Blum and Longuet into revolutionists. But such hopes can be cherished only by opportunists; and, as we actually see, the standpoint of Comrade Renoult and his co-thinkers represents not the position of revolutionists, but of opportunists fallen into despair. Our task is not at all to re-educate Scheidemann, Blum, Jouhaux and Co., but to blow apart the conservatism of their organizations and to cut a path to action by the masses. In the last analysis the Communist Party stands only to gain from this. Among the masses the urge to unity is great. At a certain moment our agitation forced even the Second and the Two-and-a-Half Internationals to enter into negotiations with us about convening a unified congress of labour. It is absolutely incontestable that the Social Democrats and the Independents did everything in their power to smash united action and in process of struggle on this issue against the Communists, they have drawn still closer to each other. In Germany this has led to preparations for the complete merger of these two parties. Only those who completely lack the understanding of how complex are the paths of the political development of the working class, can see in this the collapse of the united front policy. The merger of the Independents with the Social Democrats will temporarily make it appear as if they have grown stronger in relation to us. But in reality, this merger will prove wholly to our advantage. The Independents will try to hold back the Social Democrats from fulfilling their bourgeois-governmental role; with far greater success the Social Democrats will hold back today’s Independents from playing their “oppositional” role. With the disappearance of the shapeless blotch constituted by the Independents, the Communist Party will stand before the working class as the sole force fighting against the bourgeoisie and summoning the working class to a united front in this struggle. This cannot fail to change the relation of forces in our favour. It is quite probable that soon after our growing strength makes itself felt, the United Social-Democratic Party will be forced to accept the slogan of the united front in one instance or another. In such a situation the Communists, who are the most resolute fighters for the partial and overall interests of the working class, stand only to gain favour with the toilers. It therefore follows that as a consequence of this temporary collaboration, the Social Democrats will recoil from the Communists once again and even more sharply, and will launch an even more venomous campaign against them. The Communist Party’s struggle for the influence over the working class does not proceed along a straight line, but rather along a complicated curved line, whose general direction is upwards, provided there is homogeneity and discipline in the Communist Party itself.

The unquestionable political successes of the united front policy are already clear, as is attested by a report of Comrade Clara Zetkin [2], which is appended to this letter.

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Certain French comrades, who are even prepared to accept “in principle” the tactic of the united front, consider it inapplicable at the present time in France. We, on the contrary, affirm that in no other country is the united front tactic so unpostponable and imperative as in France. This is determined in the first instance by the state of the French trade-union movement.

The split of the French trade-union organizations carried out by Jouhaux and Co. out of political motives is a crime no less grave than was the conduct of this clique during the war. Every tendency and doctrine is granted the opportunity to create its own grouping within the working class. But the trade unions are the basic organizations of the working class and the unity of the trade-union organizations is dictated by the need to defend the most elementary interests and rights of the toiling masses. A split of the trade-union organizations for political motives is simultaneously a betrayal of labour as well as a confession of one’s bankruptcy. Only by isolating – through a split – a small section of the working class away from revolutionary groupings, could Jouhaux and Co. hope to retain for a little longer their influence and their organization. But for this very reason the reformist trade unions have ceased to be trade unions, that is mass organizations of the toilers, and have become instead a camouflaged political party of Jouhaux and Co.

There is no doubt that there were partisans of the split also among the revolutionary anarcho-syndicalists. Alien to the broad tasks of the proletarian revolution, these elements in the main limit their program to the creation of a clerico-anarchistic sect, with its own hierarchy and its own congregation. They enter into a “pact” of their own, a secret agreement whereby they pledge to mutually aid each other in capturing leading posts; and in this sense the split in the trade-union movement suits the affairs of these cliques in the best possible manner.

On this issue, our position has been, as it remains, absolutely intransigent. Here as in all other things, the interests of our party coincide with the genuine interests of the working class which needs unified trade unions and not splinters. Naturally the revolutionary Confederation of Labour is closer to us than the reformist Confederation. But it is our duty to fight to restore the unity of the trade-union organizations, not in the dim future but right now, forthwith, in order to repel the capitalist offensive. The trade-union split is the handiwork of the criminal trade-union bureaucracy. The rank and file in both groupings did not and does not want split. We must be with the masses against the splitting and treacherous trade-union bureaucracy.

The revolutionary Confederation of Labour calls itself united (“unitaire”). For the anarcho-syndicalists this is only a hypocritical statement. But for us, Communists, it is a banner. We are obliged, each time an opportunity offers, and especially at every opportunity for mass action, to explain that the existence of the revolutionary Confederation of Labour is not an end in itself, but only a means to attaining the speediest possible unification of the trade-union movement. In connection with the Havre strike did the party turn publicly to both Confederations with a proposal that they co-ordinate their demands in order to aid this strike? It did not; and this was a major blunder. The circumstance that the CGTU itself was opposed to this, can in no case serve as an alibi. For we are not obliged to do only what the CGTU wishes. We happen to have our own Communist views on the tasks of trade-union organizations, and when a union organization commits an error we must, on our own responsibility, correct this error openly, before the eyes of the toiling masses so as to help the working class avoid similar mistakes in the future. We were obliged to ask both confederations openly, before the eyes of the whole proletariat, whether they were willing to get together in order to elaborate a joint program to aid the Havre strike. Such concrete proposals, such programs of action elaborated by us in advance must be tirelessly advanced on every suitable occasion, on a national or local scale depending upon the character of the issues and the scope of the movement. The CGTU cannot and will not throw obstacles in the way of such initiative. The CGT will, in order to keep its followers from coming in contact with the revolution, keep shying away. So much the worse for the CGT. The united front policy will become a battering ram that will breach the last fortifications of Jouhaux and Co.

But this is not enough. As a party, we cannot remain on the side lines during such major events as the Havre strike. Nor can we permit the Messrs. Dissidents to sit them out or keep silent on the side lines. We should have likewise made a direct and public proposal to them, the Dissidents, for a conference. There is not and there cannot be a rational, serious argument against such a proposal. And if, under the influence of the situation and under our pressure, the Dissidents had taken a half-step forward in the interests of the strike, they would have thereby rendered the workers a real service, and the majority of the working masses, including those who follow the Dissidents, would have understood that it was our pressure that made them take this political step. Had the Dissidents refused, they would have discredited themselves. On the other hand, we would not only have fulfilled our duty toward a section of the proletariat engaged in active struggle at the time, i.e., the Havre strikers, but we would also have raised our authority. Only a tireless, persistent and flexible propaganda in favour of unity, on the soil of the living facts of mass action, is capable of breaking down the barriers of sectarianism and of shut-in circles within the working class, raising its feeling of class solidarity and thereby necessarily increasing our own influence.

On the basis of all this activity, the slogan of a workers’ government, raised at a proper time, could generate a powerful attractive force. At a suitable time, prepared for by events and by our propaganda, we shall address ourselves to the working masses who still reject the revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat or who have simply not yet matured sufficiently for these questions, and speak to them as follows: “You can now see how the bourgeoisie is restoring its own class unity under the sign of the .Left Bloc’ and is preparing its own .left’ government which actually unifies the bourgeoisie as a whole. Why shouldn’t we, the workers, belonging to different parties and tendencies, create together with non-party workers our own proletarian bloc in defence of our own interests? And why shouldn’t we put forward our own workers’ government?” Here is a natural, simple and clear statement of the whole issue.

But can we Communists conceivably participate in the same government with Renaudel, Blum and the rest? – some comrades will ask. Under certain conditions this might prove temporarily unavoidable, just as we Russian Communists were willing, even after our October victory, to permit Mensheviks and SRs to enter the government, and we actually did draw in the Left SRs. But at the present time the question does not, unfortunately, arise in France in such a practical manner. At issue is not the immediate or impending formation of a workers’ government with the participation of Frossard and Blum, but rather the question of counterposing agitationally a workers’ bloc to the bourgeois bloc. For matters to reach the point of creating a workers’ government, it is first necessary to rally the majority of the working class around this slogan. Once we achieve this, that is, the moment when the worker-Dissidents and the members of the General Confederation of Labour demand a united labour government, the stock of Renaudel, Blum and Jouhaux would not be worth much, because these gentlemen are able to maintain themselves only through an affiance with the bourgeoisie, provided the working class is split.

It is perfectly obvious that once the majority of the French working class unites under the banner of a workers’ government, we shall have no cause whatever to worry about the composition of this government. A genuine success for the slogan of a workers’ government would already signify, in the nature of things, the prelude to the proletarian revolution. This is what those comrades fail to understand who approach slogans formally and assay them with the yardstick of verbal radicalism, without taking into account the processes occurring within the working class itself.

To put forward the program of the social revolution and oppose it “intransigently” to the Dissidents and the syndico-reformists, while refusing to enter into any negotiations with them until they recognize our program – this is a very simple policy which requires neither resourcefulness nor energy, neither flexibility nor initiative. It is not a Communist policy. We Communists seek for methods and avenues of bringing politically, practically and in action the still unconscious masses to the point where they begin posing the revolutionary issue themselves. The unification of the workers’ vanguard under the banner of the social revolution, has already been accomplished in the shape of the Communist Party. This party must now strive to unify the entire working class on the soil of economic resistance to capitalism as well as on the soil of political resistance to the bourgeoisie and its governmental bloc. We shall thus actually bring the social revolution closer and prepare the proletariat for victory.

4) The Cardinal Political Task of French Communism

The struggle against the Versailles Treaty and the drawing of ever broader masses into this struggle, while investing it with an ever more resolute character – this is the central political task of the French Communist Party.

The French bourgeoisie is able to maintain the régime instituted by the Versailles peace, which is so monstrous and fatal to Europe, only through straining militarily the energy of the French people and through unremittingly pillaging and ruining Germany. The constant threats to occupy German territory constitute one of the biggest obstacles in the way of the growth of the proletarian revolution in Germany. On the other hand, the material resources stolen from the German people serve to strengthen the position of the French bourgeoisie, which is today the main counter-revolutionary force not only in Europe but the world over.

At the same time, it is unquestionable that the French bourgeoisie is using German reparations to create a privileged position for the largest possible section of the French working class so as to make it easier for French capitalism to crack down on the French proletariat as a whole. We have observed this same policy for decades in Britain, but on a somewhat larger scale. The British bourgeoisie, while pillaging its colonies and exploiting the more backward countries, expended a small fraction of its global booty to create a privileged layer of labour aristocrats who helped the bourgeoisie to exploit the working masses all the more cruelly and with impunity. This was how the utterly corrupt bureaucracy of the British trade unions received its training. Naturally the imperialist efforts of the French bourgeoisie come belatedly in this field as in all others. European capitalism is no longer in the cycle of progressive growth; it is in the cycle of decay. And the struggle of French capitalism to maintain the Versailles régime occurs at the price of the further disorganization and increasing impoverishment of economic life of Europe as a whole. It is, however, perfectly obvious that the interval during which French capitalism will retain the possibility of continuing its fatal labours depends in large measure on how energetically the Communist Party will be able to foster throughout the country an active struggle against the Versailles peace and its author, the French bourgeoisie.

There is not and there cannot be any doubt that the Dissidents and the syndico-reformists have active and conscious partisans among that tiny section of the working class which has a direct or indirect stake in the robber régime of reparations. The economics and the psychology of these elements is essentially parasitic in character. Messrs. Blum, Jouhaux, et al are the consummate political and trade-union expressions of this parasitic spirit which binds certain elements among the labour aristocracy and bureaucracy to the Versailles régime in Europe. These cliques are incapable of waging a serious struggle against the existing thievish hegemony of France, because this struggle would inescapably deal them blows, too.

The struggle for the social revolution in France today confronts the proletariat above all as the struggle against the military hegemony of French capitalism, as the struggle against the continued pillage of Germany, as the struggle against the Versailles peace. The genuinely internationalist and genuinely revolutionary character of the French Communist Party must be demonstrated and unfolded precisely on this issue.

During the war the internationalist character of the proletarian party found its expression in the rejection of the principle of national defence, because at that time this rejection was dynamic in character, denoting the mobilization of the working masses against the bourgeois fatherland. At the present time when the French bourgeoisie is devouring and digesting unprecedented booty, the rejection by the Communist Party of the principle of national defence is in and of itself necessary, but it is absolutely insufficient. The bourgeoisie can readily reconcile itself with a declamatory anti-patriotism up till the outbreak of a new war. Today only a struggle against the robber fruits of national defence, a struggle against indemnities and reparations, against the Versailles peace can acquire actual and genuine revolutionary content. Only in this struggle will the party be able at one and the same time to test and temper its membership, ruthlessly sweeping aside all elements infected with the plague of national parasitism, if such elements still lurk in some nook and corner of the Communist Party.

On this question, too, your convention must open a new era of revolutionary mass struggle against Versailles and against the supporters of Versailles.

5) Organization Questions

From the foregoing consideration the organizational questions flow automatically. What is at issue is to assure the Communist Party its character as a genuine proletarian organization, intimately bound up with all forms of the labour movement, extending its connections into all workers’ associations and groupings, controlling and directing in equal measure the activity of Communists in parliament, in the press, municipalities, cantonal councils, trade unions and co-operatives.

From this standpoint the draft amendments to party statutes and on the régime in the press submitted by the Central Committee unquestionably represent a step forward. It goes without saying that these statutes and formal organizational changes can acquire meaning only if the entire activity of the party’s leading bodies corresponds to them in its content. In this connection, the question of the composition of the party’s Central Committee is of exceptional importance. In determining this composition, two criteria are paramount, in our opinion: First, the Central Committee must personify the unification of the left and centre against the right, i.e., against opportunism and in favour of centralism, for the sake of promoting revolutionary political mass activity. Second, the majority of the Central Committee must be composed of workers, and moreover, of workers intimately connected with the trade-union organizations. The meaning of the first criterion has already been explained; concerning the second it is necessary to say a few words.

To assure the party’s ties with the masses means in the first instance to assure these ties with the trade unions. It is necessary once and forever to put an end to the view, which is fantastic and suicidal from the standpoint of revolution, that the party has no business in the trade unions or in their functioning. Naturally a trade-union organization as such is autonomous, that is, it directs its own policies on the basis of workers’ democracy. But the party, too, is autonomous in the sense that no anarcho-syndicalists dare prescribe for it what issues it may or may not touch. The Communist Party has not only the right but the duty to seek the leading position in the trade unions on the basis of the voluntary trust of the union members in the party’s slogans and tactics. An end must be put once and for all to a régime where the trade unions have been controlled by anarcho-syndicalist cliques, mutually bound by secret agreements in the spirit of Masonic careerism. The party enters the trade unions with its visor open. All the Communists work in the trade unions as Communists and are bound by party discipline in the Communist cells. On questions involving trade-union actions the Communists naturally submit to trade-union discipline. From this standpoint an enormous importance attaches to drawing a large number of trade-union activists into the personnel of the Central Committee. They will assure the ties between the Central Committee and the mass organizations; and on the other hand, the Central Committee will become for them the highest school of Communist politics; and our French party is in dire need of educating revolutionary proletarian leaders.

* * *

Such are the main tasks before the coming convention of the French Communist Party. The Communist International will follow its proceedings and results with the greatest attention. The exacting attitude of the International toward the Communist Party of France is actually an exacting attitude toward itself, inasmuch as the French party constitutes one of its important sections. The profound contradictions inherent in the situation of the Republic of French Capitalism open up before the French proletariat in the near future, we hope, the possibilities for the greatest historical actions. In preparing for them it is necessary that we have the most vigilant and exacting attitude toward ourselves. This letter is inspired by the idea of the great historical mission of the French proletariat. The exacting attitude shown by the International toward its parties rests on a profound confidence in the revolutionary development of the world proletariat and, above all, of the proletariat of France.

The French Communist Party will surmount its internal crisis and will rise to the level of its boundless revolutionary tasks.

(Enclosure) The United Front in Germany [1*]

The impending merger of the SPG and ISPG [3] is not the product of the united front policy but a caricature of it. The merger has been imposed upon the leaders of these two parties by the need to cover up their bankruptcy by means of a new deception. Taking into cognizance the need of uniting the proletarian forces, a need that is felt by the masses, the reformist leaders in both parties are utilizing it for an evil purpose: For uniting with the bourgeoisie against the Communists. This unification is the natural and unavoidable consummation of the replacing by both of these parties of the program of class struggle by a policy of “national unity”, a policy of class collaboration. The whole remaining difference between them comes down only to this, that the followers of Scheidemann have discarded revolutionary phrase-mongering while the followers of Ditman still resort to it. Between these two reformist parties there are no principled or tactical differences, and therefore nothing hinders their merger. Indeed they must merge in order to regain some strength or at least an appearance of strength. The Socialist Party of Germany (SPG) lost last year 46,000 members, a huge loss even for its first-rate organization. The Independent Socialist Party of Germany (ISPG) has not yet made public its report, but it is an open secret that this party doesn’t know how to meet its deficit and that its central organ Freiheit is on the rocks. But the main thing is that both these parties must strain all their efforts in order to regain, even if only partially, their former popularity, compromised as they are by their reformist policies which have thrown them into the embraces of Stinnes. And so they have proceeded to make malicious use of the slogan most popular among the masses. But the masses will soon discover how profound and basic is the difference between an organic unity of these two parties and the unification of the proletarian masses for their own struggles.

Side by side with this organic unity of the two reformist parties, the Communist Party continues its unremitting work for the united front against the leaders of these parties and against the trade-union bureaucracy. Successes were already evident in the campaign launched in connection with the assassination of Rathenau. [4] In the Rhine and Westphalian provinces, with their large industrial centres, Committees of Action, in many cities and districts, have been organized, composed of representatives of the two reformist parties, the Communist Party and the trade unions. (In some cases, committees were organized in the Gewerkschaftliche Kartelle of particular localities or districts and representatives of the three workers’ parties were elected to them.) Under the pressure of the organized masses, the leaders of the reformist parties, particularly the DAGB (Executive Committee of the German Trade-Union Alliance), found themselves compelled to establish relations with the Communist Party. Notwithstanding the brief duration of this joint activity, two large demonstrations were held in quick succession in Germany; and thanks to these negotiations and demonstrations the Communist Party made intimate contacts with the working masses in rather large areas. Committees of Action set up for the purpose of disarming counter-revolutionary elements continued to function after the protest movement had waned so quickly owing to the treachery of the reformists.

The idea of the united front is again marching forward with giant strides. It is aided by the current crisis. The economic struggle is driving the workers and employees to unite and to demand that their representatives in the unions and in the political parties work jointly and harmoniously. To illustrate we cite the joint meeting of the factory delegates in Berlin. More than 6,000 of these delegates attended despite the warning by the trade-union bureaucracy, by the ISPG and SPG, that it was impermissible for their members to attend this meeting.

This gathering, which was a real event, elected a committee of 15 to arrange an All-German conference of factory and shop delegates. This committee is composed of members from all the workers’ parties. It is instructed to call the convention if the Executive Committee of the Trade-Union Alliance fails to do so. The aim is to establish “Control Committees” to supervise production, distribution, prices and so on. In many industrial centres such Control Committees have already been formed. There is quite a large number of cities where the workers have called meetings of factory and shop delegates at which committees were organized demanding control over production Everywhere the Communists were at the head of this movement whose aim is to bring about unity in the struggle.

Certain elements in our party, it is true, hold views opposed to the united front. However these views are aimed chiefly against mistakes that have been made and against the incorrect application of the united front. In the future there will be fewer and fewer mistakes. The party must learn how to manoeuvre in the new conditions and how to establish a common front, while simultaneously preserving and expressing its own political physiognomy.

The Executive Committee
of the Communist International

Moscow, September 13, 1922


1. This ECCI letter, drafted by Trotsky, was sent to the Paris Convention of the French CP which was held in October 1922. The ECCI representative to this Convention was the notorious Manuilsky.

2. Klara Zetkin (1857-1933) – a veteran of the German labor movement, who joined the Socialist ranks in the days of Bismarck’s “emergency laws” against the Socialists. From 1822, she was editor of Gleichheit (Equality), a periodical specially aimed at women. Outstanding in her work as the founder, theoretician and activist in the women’s movement. She participated in the Spartacus League with Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht. In March 1915 organized the International Socialist Women’s Conference in Berne. She served as member of the ECCI and as General Secretary of the International Women’s Secretariat attached to the Comintern. After Lenin’s death, she was used as a pawn by the Stalinist machine.

3. The unification of the Independent Socialist Party of Germany (ISPG) and of the German Socialist Party (SPG) took place on September 24, 1922.

4. Rathenau was one of the prominent leaders of the German liberal bourgeoisie. In 1922 he held the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs, advocating a close alliance between Germany and Russia. He was murdered in the summer of 1922.


1*. This enclosure consists of teh text of a letter written by Clara Zetkin to the Executive Committee of teh Communist International. – Ed.

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