Leon Trotsky

An Open Letter
[to the Italian Left Communists]

(April 22, 1930)

Written: April 22, 1930.
Originally published (in English): Pertinent Questions to the Prometeo Group, The Militant, vol. III No. 23, 14 June 1930, p. 4 (diffferent translation).
Source: Fourth International (New York), Vol. 8 No. 6 (Whole No. 81), June 1947, pp. 189–190.
Translated: Fourth International.
Transcription/HTML Markup: David Walters.
Proofreading: Einde O’Callaghan (October 2012).
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.

Dear Comrades,

A few months ago you addressed an open letter to me to which I replied at the time. Now it seems to me the time has come to address an open letter to your group.

A pre-conference of the International Left Opposition was recently held in Paris. This pre-conference is a serious step forward because it was made possible only as a result of long preparatory work of an ideological character. Your group, before whose eyes all this work unfolded, did not find it, however, possible to take part in this conference. This extremely important fact of absenteeism prompts me to pose the following questions before you:

1. Do you conceive that communism can be nationalistic in character? This is, for example, the position of Urbahns, who while ritualistically repeating the formulas of internationalism, has created a purely German sect, without any connections throughout the world, and therefore without any revolutionary perspectives. And so, do you regard yourselves as a national tendency or as part of an international tendency?

2. If your answer to this question were to read that you are entirely satisfied with your isolated national existence, then there would be no room for any further questions. But I have no doubt that you consider yourselves internationalists. In that case a second question arises: to what particular international tendency do you belong? Today there are three basic tendencies in international communism: the Centrist, the Right and the Left (Leninist). In addition there are all sorts of ultra-Left splinters floundering between Marxism and anarchism. Until now we considered that you stood closest to the Left Opposition. Your dilatory position we ascribed to your desire to acquaint, yourself with the development of the Left Opposition. But a dilatory position cannot be maintained permanently. Life does not wait, neither in Italy nor throughout the world. In order to join the International Left there is no need whatever for false “monolitkism” in the spirit of the Stalinist bureaucracy. What is needed is genuine solidarity on the basic questions of international revolutionary strategy that has stood the test of the last few years. Partial tactical disagreements are absolutely unavoidable and cannot serve as an obstacle for close common work within the framework of an international organization. ’What are your disagreements with the Left Opposition? Are they of a principled or episodic character? A clear and precise answer to this question is indispensable.

3. Your non-participation in the international pre-conference can be interpreted politically that you are divided from the Left Opposition by differences of a principled character. If that is so, then a third question arises: Why don’t you proceed with the organization of an international faction of your own tendency? Because you cannot possibly hold the view that the revolutionary principles which are good for the whole world are no good for Italy, or vice versa. A passively conciliatory attitude toward the Left Opposition coupled with a reluctance to join it and with a refusal to intervene in the life of the communist vanguard in other countries is characteristic of nationalistic socialism or nationalistic communism which has nothing in common with Marxist communism.

Your answer to these questions is of serious importance not only from the international but, in the first instance, from the Italian point of view, insofar as these two viewpoints can be counterposed in general. The illegal character of the Italian Communist Party makes it difficult to follow its development closely. Nevertheless it is possible to accept as unquestionable that within the framework of Italian Communism there are in addition to the official faction, your own group and the group of Rights (Tasca), numerous revolutionary elements who have not yet openly defined their positions. Under these conditions you represent one of the factors of indefiniteness. Yet it is precisely the illegal existence of the party that demands with doubled force the full principled clarity of the leading groups. Your reply is bound to facilitate and hasten the ideological crystallization within the proletarian vanguard in Italy. Needless to say, the Russian Opposition would be happy to learn of your decision to join the International Left. With Communist greetings,

L. Trotsky
Prinkipo, April 22, 1930

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Last updated on: 13.10.2012