A Documentary History of the Fourth International

Leon Trotsky

An Open Letter to the
Editorial Board of La Verité

(August 1929)

Written: August 6, 1929.
Source: Fourth International [New York], Vol.7 No.8 (Whole No.69), August 1946, pp.251-252.
Translated: Fourth International.
Transcription/HTML Markup: David Walters.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2002. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

August 6, 1929

Dear Comrades!

You are about to publish a weekly newspaper based on the principles of the Communist Left Opposition. I am with you with all my heart. This is exactly what is needed.

In France the influence of the Opposition is far too slight. This is because there are too many oppositional groups in France. Many of them are stagnating. From time to time they put out an issue of a magazine containing documents of the international opposition or episodic articles on isolated questions of French life. The reader forgets the contents of the last issue by the time a new one reaches him. It is indispensable to break out of this situation. It is necessary to supply the masses with correct and systematic Marxist evaluations of all the events of social life. Politics demands the continuity of thought, words and deeds. That is why politics demands a daily newspaper.

The Opposition still lacks the resources today to undertake a daily. You are obliged to begin with a weekly. This is already a step forward; provided, of course, you do not stop here but will continue to stubbornly steer toward a daily.

Those ideas which you represent – the ideas of Marxism, enriched by the practice of Lenin’s party and the entire postwar revolutionary struggle of the international proletariat – will cut a path for themselves. There can be no doubt of this. All that is necessary is that these ideas be intimately tied to the facts of life, geared to actual events and fructified by the living experience of the masses. Your weekly will serve this end.

Thereby it will become an irreplaceable instrument for elaborating the platform of the French Opposition – a platform that is correct in principle and viable. Only pedants are capable of thinking that a platform can be hatched in an office and then proclaimed as a ready-made premise for political activity. No, a fighting program can only set down and generalize the political experience that has already been gone through, and in this way create conditions for broader and more successful experiences in the future.

Marx once remarked that a single actual step of the movement is more important than a dozen programs. Marx had in mind programs which are created outside the actual struggle, primarily for the consolation of their creators. Marx’s words, alas, apply most directly to the present position of the French Communist Opposition. Wherein lies its weakness? In this, that it has not waged a political struggle, or in those cases where this was undertaken, it was done only episodically. This inevitably leads to the formation and preservation of shut-in and conservative circles which, as everyone knows, never pass the test of events. A continuation of this condition threatens to cruelly compromise the French Opposition and for a long time to bar its road to the future. A concentration of all the forces of the Left Opposition faction is indispensable. Your Verité must become the organ for such a concentration..

It is impermissible to lose any more time; enough has been already lost.

The mistakes of official Communism are not accidental in character. They are implanted in the very nature of the ruling faction. Centrism is an intermediate tendency, intermediate between reformism and Communism. Centrism has not and cannot have its own independent line. It always gropes for a line under a rain of blows from the right and from the left. It rushes from side to side, executes zigzags, swings around a circle and falls from one extreme into the other. It ought to be added that contemporary centrism is utterly bureaucratized and completely subject to the commands of the summit of the Stalinist faction. This invests every zigzag of the leadership with an international scope, independently of the existing conditions of the labor movement in each country. As a result we witness the progressive weakening of the positions of world Communism. Individuals of the Semard and Monmousseau type are the most finished representatives of bureaucratic centrism in France.

The latest adventurist zigzag to the left – whose immediate aim is to screen from the eyes of the workers the massacre of the Communist Opposition – found its expression in a number of adventures and laid bare from Canton to Berlin both the heroism of the advanced layer of the workers as well as the political bankruptcy of the leadership. As a result of this convulsive zigzag, which brought the only thing it could, namely, defeat, one must expect a further weakening of centrism and the strengthening of the wings-the right and the left.

A moment now approaches clearly favorable for the recruitment of revolutionary workers under the banner of Marx and Lenin.

Rejecting the circle spirit, with its petty interests and ambitions, Verité must unite around itself all the virile, healthy, and genuinely revolutionary elements of the Communist Left Opposition. The vanguard of the workers needs this today as urgently as it needs its daily bread.

The attitude of the revolutionary press toward its readers is the most important test of a political line. The reformists deliberately lie to their readers in order to preserve the bourgeois system. The centrists employ lies to cloak their vacillations, their uncertainty, their capitulation and their adventures. They do not trust themselves and therefore do not trust their readers. They are of the opinion that the worker can be led only if he is blindfolded and pulled by the hand. Such is the spirit of the official press of the Comintern nowadays. It has no faith in the workers. It exercises guardianship over them, as if they were little children. When they ask awkward questions, it sternly shakes its finger at them. Precisely this engenders apathy in the ranks of the party and the growing vacuum around it.

The mass of workers does not at all consist of infants. It consists of people with the harsh experience of life. It does not tolerate nursemaids, whose strictness is as a rule directly proportional to their stupidity. The worker seeks not commands but assistance in political orientation. For this it is first of all necessary to tell him what is. Not to distort, not to tendentiously select, not to embellish, not to sugarcoat, but honestly say what is. The politics of Communism stands only to gain from a truthful clarification of reality. Untruth is needed for salvaging false reputations, but not for the education of the masses. The workers need the truth as an instrument of revolutionary action.

Your paper bears the name Verité (Truth). This name, like all others, has been amply abused. Nevertheless it is a good and honorable name. The truth is always revolutionary. To lay bare the truth of their position before the oppressed is to lead them to the highroad of revolution. To tell the truth about the rulers is to undermine the foundations of their rule. To tell the truth about the reformist bureaucracy is to condemn it in the consciousness of the masses. To tell the truth about the centrists is to help the workers assure a correct leadership of the Communist International. This is the task of your weekly. All forms and manifestations of the labor movement must be conscientiously illumined. An attentive reader must become convinced that if he wants to learn the genuine facts of the proletarian struggle in France and in the whole world he must seek them in Verité. He will in this way adopt our standpoint for it will loom before him in the light of facts and statistics. Only the tendency which together with the workers and at their head seeks a correct orientation, can create for itself conscious and devoted partisans who do not know disillusionment and lagging spirits.

Dear friends! I am with you with all my heart. I joyfully accept your proposal for collaboration. I will do everything in my power to make this collaboration regular and systematic. I will try to supply articles for each issue on the situation in Russia, on events in world life, and the question of the international labor movement. Warmly wishing you success,

L. Trotsky

P.S. Some comrades have called my attention to the fact that parallel with your weekly there is reportedly scheduled the appearance of another oppositional weekly and they ask: What is the reason for it? Let me answer briefly. If the second publication is preparing to put forward the self-same ideas that we are, then its participants ought not to multiply parallel enterprises but instead take their place in common ranks. It is otherwise if their ideas differ so profoundly from ours as to justify the publication of a competing weekly. But in that case these are opponents and against opponents one conducts a fight. At all events, my sympathy and support belong only to La Verité.

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Last updated on: 15.4.2007