Written: 24 April 1935.
First Published: The New International, Vol.2 No.4, July 1935.
Translated: By The New International.
Transcription/HTML Markup: David Walters.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2003. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.
Political life in Germany is so crushed and the consequences of the defeat are so acutely felt by the masses that the diverse groupings within the working class are still deprived of the opportunity to develop in scope and in depth and to disclose the tendencies lodged in them. During such periods, of utmost importance for the training of the advanced workers are: first, political emigration; secondly, the international problems. What has been said is not intended to minimize the importance of the internal organizations and the internal problems of the German working-class movements. The primacy and continuity of revolutionary thought and revolutionary training during even the very dullest periods is a great boon, which subsequently bears its fruits a hundredfold in the periods of the revolutionary upsurge.
It is precisely now, in the steel tentacles of the dictatorship of the Nazis, that the cadres of steeled fighters are being trained who will set their seal upon the fate of Germany. I wish only to underscore as sharply as possible the idea that our German comrades must review, today more than ever, their internal relations and groupings – not taken by themselves but in connection with the life of those countries where the revolutionary problems are posed in a more developed and clearer form. For example, it is quite self-evident that a major success of the Bolshevik-Leninists in one of the nonfascist countries of Europe would immediately have a very vigorous reaction upon the fate of our section in Germany. Nor should we forget also that the political questions in the nonfascist countries are for Germany questions relating not only to the past but also in large measure to the future; the German proletariat will have to begin all over again in many things and to repeat others anew, only within incommensurably shorter periods of time.
What has been said applies, with the necessary changes, of course, also to other organizations. With no perspectives, with no clear slogans, the Communist Party of Germany is nevertheless carrying on considerable – illegal work; this fact is evidence of how numerically large is the stratum of revolutionary workers who refuse to capitulate despite everything; knowing no other banner, they group themselves under the banner of the German Communist Party. To this we should also add the financial “factor.” Money by itself, of course, does not guarantee victory. But it can maintain the existence of an organization for a fairly long period of time, even if the latter is doomed to the junk heap.
On the other hand, the general suppression of political life in Germany and the extremely narrow limits of the working-class movement prevent the CP from revealing and drawing to a conclusion its false tendencies. The organization, the agitation, as well as the mistakes, still remain in an undeveloped form. But the CP does not stand by itself; all the pieces on the European chessboard are now linked together more closely than ever before. There is much reason to think that the fatal and criminal policy of the French Communist Party will deal the German CP a cruel blow even before the latter succeeds in undermining its own illegal organization. Today, there is even less reason to believe in the regeneration of the Comintern than a year or two ago.
It does not follow from all this, however, that it is presumably necessary to turn our backs upon the illegal organizations of the German CP. On the contrary, one must rather say that our German friends have devoted much too little attention to this organization, incomparably less, in any case, than they have to the small SAP. Were they correct?
An answer to this question is inconceivable without precise criteria. What did our comrades seek from the SAP? Was it an arena for their activity? Obviously not; the SAP, which numbers a couple of thousand members, is much too narrow to serve as an arena. The CP could sooner serve as an “arena,” not to mention the young generation of workers that is stirring for the first time to political life under the lash of Hitler. There remains another possibility: the SAP as an ally, as a co-thinker. Naturally, the merger of both organizations would result in absolutely self-evident benefits for future revolutionary work. But merger requires agreement – not on partial and second-rate questions but on the fundamental ones. Does it exist?
The leaders of the SAP often say that “in essence” their views are the same as ours, but that they are able to defend our views better, more realistically and more “wisely.” If that were the case, then a split would have been sheerest insanity; within the framework of a single organization, the leaders of the SAP would have taught us how to develop our common views much more ably and successfully. But, unfortunately, such is not the case. The leaders of the SAP calumniate themselves. If after long vacillation they shied away from unity within the national framework, if subsequently they broke off the international connections with us, then there must have been very serious causes for it, and there are such. We are separated not by nuances of tactic but by fundamental questions. It would be absurd and unworthy to shut one’s eyes to this after the experiences we have passed through. The differences between us and the SAP fall entirely into the framework of the contradictions between Marxism and centrism.
In the following lines I do not undertake to say anything new. I wish only to draw the balance sheet of the experience of the entire political period, particularly for the last year and a half. Nothing is more beneficial for political training than to check principles in the light of facts that had been evaluated in time or even forecast beforehand. If I ask the readers of this article to pay strict attention to the detailed analysis of the political nature of the SAP, it is not at all for the sake of initiating periods of new negotiations but rather in order to attempt to bring them to a close. The leaders of the SAP are not our followers nor our allies but our opponents. The attempts to draw closer to them have been exhausted for the period immediately ahead, at any rate. Naturally, it is impossible, particularly from the outside, to express oneself categorically against this or that joint action in Germany itself. But our German followers, it seems to me, must establish their interrelationship with the SAP not only with regard to a greater or lesser correspondence of views in the sphere of the undeveloped internal German questions of the Hitler underground (in the twilight of fascism, all cats appear to be gray) but also with regard to the role that the SAP plays or attempts to play upon the international arena.
It might perhaps appear strange that we should devote comparatively so large a labor to such a small organization. But the gist of the matter lies in the fact that the question revolving around the SAP is much greater than the SAP itself. Involved here, in the last analysis, is the question of correct policy towards the centrist tendencies that now play with all the colors of the rainbow within the field of the working-class movement. The conservative centrist apparatuses inherited from the past must be prevented from checking the revolutionary development of the proletarian vanguard; that is the task!
After an interval of a year and a half, a conference of the IAG was held in Paris. What were the results of this conference? Up to this moment, no one has told us anything essential upon the subject. It is true that in the report of the SAP (Die Neue Front, March 1935) there can be found not at all bad sketches of certain participants in the conference, but it is utterly impossible to find there any answer to the questions: why was the conference called and what results did it bring? The report of the conference is presented not in a Marxist manner, i.e., not with the aim of disclosing all the existing tendencies and contradictions, but in the centrist manner, with the aim of glossing over the differences and presenting a picture that all is well.
The academic theses on the world situation were accepted “unanimously.” As a matter of fact, what harm is there in repeating once again the general formulas about the collapse of capitalism and so on? It smacks of radicalism but puts no one under any obligation whatever. Such formulas have become a very cheap commodity during the years of the world crisis. But did the resolution on “the world situation” attempt to give voice to that tiny truth that the NAP, having obtained 45 percent of the votes and, consequently, having behind it the indubitable majority of the population, could, if it so desired, have transformed Norway into a working-class stronghold, could have instilled by its example revolutionary courage into the masses of Scandinavia and could have become an important factor in the development of Europe? For the NAP is still a member of the IAG! Despite this – no, precisely on this account – the conference evaded the issue of the NAP and busied itself with “higher” questions. How could Kilbom, this future “statesman,” permit tactless and sectarian criticism of his neighbors? Never! And Schwab, how could he grieve Kilbom? No! Better talk about the collapse of capitalism “in general.” Such is the spirit that pervaded this conference. And such is the spirit pervading the SAP report.
The resolution of the conference on war, passed after the report by the hoary centrist, Fenner Brockway, the leader of the ILP, rings very radical. But we have known for a long time that on the question of war the most extreme opportunists are inclined to extreme radicalism, particularly those in small organizations or in “neutral” and small countries that are not involved in the actual struggle. Naturally, there can also be genuine revolutionists in small organizations and in “neutral” countries; but in order to differentiate between them and the opportunists, we must take into account their day-to-day policies and not a holiday resolution on (somebody else’s) war. Kilbom’s vote for the general strike and for an insurrection against war are rendered absolutely worthless by the opportunistic policy of this same Kilbom in Sweden. And were circumstances to draw Sweden into war, then Kilbom would surely draw his practical conclusions not from the academic resolution of the IAG but from his own opportunistic policy. Have we not seen such examples by the hundred?! Yet, not a single one of the resolutions, of course, has a word to say about the opportunistic policy of the Swedish party, the largest organization after the NAP in the IAG.
What weight has Doriot’s signature to a radical resolution on war if Doriot, “in the interests of peace,” advises the diplomats of his country to “negotiate with Hitler”! Not an alliance with the USSR but an agreement with Hitler – that is Doriot’s program. As we shall soon see, when the SAP itself passed from an academic resolution on war “in general” to the question of the “struggle for peace” under the present conditions, all the high-sounding phrases went flying to the devil; the SAP presented to the conference a second, “practical” resolution, which is permeated through and through with the spirit of pacifist philistinism.
For this reason it is impossible to read without revulsion the verbiage in Die Neue Front about how “Leninist theory and practice [!] on the question of war found its sole [!] and genuine [!!] defenders in the parties of the IAG.” To Lenin the task of a resolution of any kind was to put the opportunists to the test, leaving them no loopholes, bringing them out into the open and catching them up on the contradictions between their words and their actions. A “revolutionary” resolution for which the opportunists could also vote was deemed by Lenin to be not a success but a fraud and a crime. To him, the task of all conferences consisted not in presenting a “respectable” resolution but in effecting the selection of militants and organizations that would not betray the proletariat in the hours of stress and storm. The methods of the SAP leadership are directly opposed to the methods of Lenin.
The SAP delegation placed before the conference a draft of a principled resolution. Like all SAP documents, the draft is a collection of general, “radical” postulates, together with a diligent evasion of the most acute questions. Nevertheless, this document impinges much more closely upon the current work of the party than do the academic theses on the world situation.
What fate befell this draft of the SAP? We read: “The draft of the principled resolution presented at the conference could not be put to a vote because of lack of time [!!] and [?] because some [?] parties did not have the previous opportunity [!!] to consider it.” To Marxists, this single sentence is worth more than whole volumes. The conference was postponed for month after month; it convened after an interval of one year and a half, during which time events occurred of colossal importance; the disoriented vanguard of the working class demands clear answers ... So what? So, the conference was unable to find the time [!!] to pass on a principled resolution.
The second argument (“and”) is no whit better: some parties (what parties?) did not have the opportunity (why not?) to ponder over those principles that must serve to direct the working-class movement in our epoch. Then what, in general, are these “same parties” preoccupied with? The IAG has now existed for three years. On what principled foundation? Nobody knows. “Some” parties do not find it necessary to waste time on principled questions. The conference also cannot find the time to occupy itself with this. Is it possible to conceive a more crushing, a more deadly and more vile pauper’s plea?
As a matter of fact, the wretched balance sheet of the conference is to be explained not by lack of time but by the heterogeneity of its composition, with its preponderance of right-centrist combinationists. The very same heterogeneity distinguishes “some” of the parties that adhere to the IAG. Hence flows the internal need for not touching upon the most acute, i.e., the most important and undeferrable questions. The sole principle of the IAG is to keep mum about principles.
Let us recall that the international plenum of the Bolshevik-Leninists in its resolution of September 13, 1933, made the following evaluation of the previous IAG conference held in August 1933: “There cannot be even talk, of course, that the new International can be built by organizations that proceed from profoundly different and even antagonistic bases ... As regards the decisions that were passed by the variegated majority of the conference and that are utterly pervaded with the seal of this variegated assortment, the plenum of the Bolshevik-Leninists deems it impossible to assume any political responsibility for these decisions.” Whoever cherishes no illusions does not have to lose them subsequently!
The conference rejected the resolution presented by the Dutch delegates, Comrades Sneevliet and Schmidt, in favor of the Fourth International. Let us view a little closer the muddled explanations given by Die Neue Front.
It appears that the delegates of the SAP were ready to sign the Dutch resolution, provided it was not put to a vote, but would remain only the expressed “desire of the undersigned organizations.” But desire presupposes a will. Whoever expresses a desire seeks to realize his will. At a conference, this is achieved by means of a poll. One should imagine that the delegates of the SAP would have welcomed the opportunity to force all those to vote against the resolution who are in essence opposed to the Fourth International. But no. Schwab refuses to vote for the resolution, not because he himself is against it but because others are against it. Incidentally, the majority does not vote against it either ... but resorts cravenly to abstention. This does not prevent Doriot, who himself abstained, from writing that the conference “condemned the Trotskyist idea of the Fourth International.” Can you make head or tail out of all this? But wait, this is only the beginning.
The Dutch resolution, it seems, is distinguished by a “complete abstraction from the present actual situation” and by a lack of understanding “of the profound problem involved in the task.” Granted. Then why did the delegation of the SAP agree to sign so wretched a resolution? Schwab, obviously, does not place a very high value on his signature (incidentally, he had already demonstrated this in 1933!). But still, what is the position of the SAP in substance? “The proclamation of the new International,” we read, “despite the need for it objectively, is in the meantime rendered impossible by subjective causes.” In the first place, we find here confounded consciously, that is to say, unscrupulously, the “proclamation of a new International” and the proclamation of the need to struggle for the Fourth International. We demand the latter, and not the former.
However, wherein does the “profound problem” involved in this question lie? Observe, objectively the new International is necessary, but subjectively it is impossible. In simpler terms, without the new International the proletariat will be crushed, but the masses do not understand this as yet. And what else is the task of the Marxists if not to raise the subjective factor to the level of the objective and to bring the consciousness of the masses closer to the understanding of the historical necessity – in simpler terms, to explain to the masses their own interests, which they do not yet understand? The “profound problem” of the centrists is profound cowardice in the face of a great and undeferrable task. The leaders of the SAP do not understand the importance of class-conscious revolutionary activity in history.
Die Neue Front adduces for our edification Doriot’s argument: it is impossible “to ignore the present condition of the masses.” Then why did Doriot himself break with the Communist Party, which has behind it incomparably greater masses than has Doriot, at any rate? The abstract and hollow argument about unknown “masses” is a wretched piece of sophistry to screen the incapacity of the leaders that lurks behind it. The non-party, i.e., the numerically strongest, “masses” stand outside of any International. The party “masses” in their overwhelming majority remain in the Second and Third Internationals, and not at all behind the IAG; it is not without good cause that Zyromsky demands that the organizations of the IAG return to their old pastures, to the “masses.” Behind the IAG there are no masses whatever. The question lies not in what the masses think today but in what spirit and direction Messrs. Leaders are preparing to educate the masses.
As a matter of fact, in the parties of the IAG not the masses but the leaders are opposed to the Fourth International. Why? For the very same reason that they are opposed to the principled resolution. They don’t want anything that would restrict their centrist liberty to vacillate. They want to be independent from Marxism. For reasons very easily understood, they label Marxism as the “Trotskyist idea of the Fourth International.”
The SAP leaders were able to find a common language with everybody except the Dutch. In the report, there is to be found a polemic only against Sneevliet and Schmidt. Not a word of criticism against the opportunists who composed the majority at the conference! Is it not evident from this alone that Schwab and Co. are centrists who have turned their backs to the Marxists and their faces to the opportunists?
In addition to all its other achievements, the conference has inaugurated a “struggle” for peace. By what methods? By old German methods: it created ... a Verein (union), a Verein of the Friends of Peace. This “Verein” consists as yet of the representatives of three (as many as three!) parties and is called the “Initiative Committee.” [As usual, we are not told which parties.] This Initiative Committee has for its task the creation of a new “Verein” which is to be called – mind you! – the International Committee for the Struggle for Peace. Why, the name alone will make the imperialists shiver in their boots. As Die Neue Front reports, the task of the International Committee for the Struggle for Peace is “the inauguration and fulfillment of a world-embracing mass movement for a genuine [my! my!] disarmament and for peace.” As is its custom, the SAP introduced a special resolution “for spreading the international struggle for peace.” As usual, the conference was in no condition to accept this resolution either (obviously for lack of time). But since a committee of as many as three people had been established, the most important thing has been achieved. Schwab is right; the conference has “achieved all it was possible to achieve in the given situation.” We are ready to subscribe to this melancholy remark.
The SAP resolution For the Struggle for Peace, which was not adopted by the conference, was – to give it its due – the most pathetic piece of opportunistic thinking that we have had the occasion to meet during the recent period. For its authors, there exists neither the history of Marxism nor the age-long struggle of tendencies within the working class nor the fresh experience of wars and revolutions. These alchemists have newly discovered their philosopher’s stone.
As we have already learned from Die Neue Front, the central slogan of the future “world-embracing” struggle is “genuine disarmament.” Litvinov’s slogan is “correct.” The only fault with Litvinov is that he turns with his slogan “only to the government.” Thus, our alchemists, without suspecting it, overthrow in passing all the conquests of revolutionary experience and of Marxist theory. Whoever said that the slogan of disarmament was correct? The Kautsky of the decline, Leon Blum, Litvinov, Otto Bauer and Bela Kun “himself.” But how did Marx, Engels, Lenin and the Third International, in its period of bloom, view this question? We do not hear a single word about this. Yet, Engels counterposed to the program of disarmament the program of a people’s militia, and he demanded – horror of horrors! – the military training of the student youth. Lenin irreconcilably denounced the slightest concession to the idea of “disarmament.” In 1916, in a special article written for the youth, Lenin explained that so long as oppression and exploitation continue to exist, weapons will remain a necessary factor in the relation between classes, as well as between states. Today, the bourgeoisie militarizes the youth. Wrote Lenin: “Tomorrow, it may perhaps resort to the militarization of women; to this, we must say, so much the better ... so much the nearer to the armed insurrection against capitalism.” Are we to curse war and to demand disarmament? The women of the revolutionary class will never reconcile themselves to such an ignoble role. They will say to their sons: “... you will be given weapons. Take your gun and learn well the art of war. This science is necessary for proletarians ...” Lenin goes on to explain, “An oppressed class that does not strive to learn how to handle weapons and to possess guns, such an oppressed class would only merit being treated as slaves.” (Slaves of the Communist International, take note!) At this same period, Lenin jotted down in his notebook, in German: “Disarmament – is castration. Disarmament – is a reactionary, Christian jeremiad. Disarmament implies not the struggle against imperialist reality but an escape from it into the entrancing future, which will follow after the victorious socialist revolution.”
Consequently, there is no harm in the fact that Soviet diplomacy has proposed disarmament to capitalist governments. The harm and the crime lie in the fact that the Communist International and, today, the SAP have transformed this proposal into a slogan for the proletariat. Indeed, it is necessary to utilize the experiment of Soviet diplomacy in order to expose and explain the unrealness, the falseness and the illusion of both bourgeois and socialist pacifism.
Even if, by dint of a given historical correlation of circumstances, this or that capitalist government were compelled to effect “disarmament” in one shape or another, then this military-diplomatic “reform” would in no measure at all guarantee peace. The theses of the Bolshevik-Leninists, War and the Fourth International, state, among other things, the following: “Disarmament is not a measure against war for, as we have seen from the experience of Germany itself, episodic disarmament is only a stage on the road to new armament. The possibility of a new and, moreover, a very rapid arming is lodged in the modern, industrial technology. ’Universal’ disarmament, even if it could be realized, would imply only the strengthening of the military preponderance of the more powerful industrial countries ... To advance disarmament as the ’sole, real method of preventing war’ implies fooling the workers for the sake of achieving a common front with petty-bourgeois pacifists.” This point is aimed directly at the Stalinists, but it applies wholly to the SAP as well .
Let us allow that Marx, Engels, Lenin and their pupils, the Bolshevik-Leninists, were mistaken. But why didn’t the theoreticians of the SAP so much as take the trouble to explain to us precisely where the mistake of our teachers lies? Our innovators, without any commentaries, simply stepped over the revolutionary traditions of Marxism in one of the most important questions. How explain this astonishing fact? Very simply. Our alchemists are interested neither in theory nor in historical experience nor in tradition. They operate by making estimates by means of their eyes, their olfactory organs and their sound horse sense. They wish to discover the philosopher’s stone for every particular case.
In addition, it must be said that the demand that the capitalist governments disarm in order to escape war lies on the same political plane as the demand that the fascist leagues be disarmed [by the capitalist government] in order to escape the physical phase of the class struggle. Both these “demands” flow from petty-bourgeois cowardice and serve not to disarm the bourgeoisie but to demoralize the proletariat.
Thus, in the very center of the SAP resolution, there are lodged, to use Lenin’s words, “nice, humane and almost-left phrases about peace, disarmament, etc.” The very committee that will be created by means of the committee already created at the conference of the IAG will have as its duty to develop “a large-scale struggle for peace.” A large-scale struggle! ...
From the sectarian conception of the class struggle, the resolution passes over to an appeal to “the opponents [!] of war the whole world over.” The Marxist vocabulary does not contain, as yet, the political meaning of “the opponents of war.” The professional “opponents of war” are the Quakers, the Tolstoyans, the Gandhists; and then too, there are the parlor pacifists, the democratic windbags, the acrobats and the charlatans. The Marxists are the class enemies of the bourgeoisie and of imperialist wars, but they are the supporters of national-liberationist and revolutionary wars, both defensive and offensive. Have the leaders of the SAP really heard nothing at all on this score? Or have they succeeded in refuting these antiquated views? If so, in what books and what articles?
The section of the resolution that is devoted to the description of the future activity of the future “world-embracing” committee is an entirely unsurpassed blob of phrasemongering. To counteract the preparation for war, the committee will have to “draw in specialists [!] and in this [!] sense gather together all of the effective forces for joint and planned labor who even today remain still [!] outside any organizational ties.” The “specialists” and the “forces,” which remain anonymous, are to utilize the “yearning for peace that imbues millions and millions of people as a lever to set in motion a world-embracing antiwar movement borne by the national masses of all countries ...” And so forth and so on.
The governments that would attempt to crush the world-embracing movement for peace will be “morally condemned and branded” – an extremely tangible weapon against Hitler, Mussolini and the others. The liberal governments will, in all probability, receive laudatory diplomas. And besides, the SAP has in reserve the “universal economic boycott” to be used against especially vicious governments. In order that the boycott be really “universal,” the International Peace Committee will evidently have to enter into an alliance with pacifist banks and trusts and, on the other hand, “condemn” those capitalists who reap profits from war. But even this does not exhaust the entire arsenal of the SAP. The resolution recommends taking the example of “the experiment tried in England by the pacifists,” i.e., arranging for demonstrative “national polls.” One need only add petitions addressed to the general staffs; then peace would really find itself encircled!
The SAP “committee” will wage a struggle for “international democratic control over war preparations,” and to this end – hark! hark! – it will create in every country “special commissions.” After that, there will be nothing left for Hitler to do except drown himself in the bucket of water that he could easily squeeze out of the SAP resolution.
“Democratic [!] control [!] over war preparations.” Even Henderson himself could not have put it more eloquently. This strikes a particularly fine note coming, at the present time, from the pen of a German Socialist. Where, oh where, are the beautiful days of Weimar? Their shades have come to life again in the headquarters of the SAP.
During the last war, there existed in England the “Verein of Democratic Control” (that was actually its name: the Union of Democratic Control), under the leadership of the well-known left-liberal Morel. In 1916, Lenin wrote upon this occasion:
“Only the immaturity of political relations and the absence of political freedom in Germany hinders the formation there as rapidly and as easily as in England of a bourgeois League for Peace and Disarmament, with Kautsky’s program.”
The SAP evidently deems that the political relations in Germany today are sufficiently “mature” for the creation of a democratic Verein with the program of Morel-Kautsky-Schwab.
But we are in favor of democratic slogans! the author of the resolution may perhaps attempt to object, who snitched some things from the Bolshevik-Leninists that he understood badly. Yes, revolutionists defend even the sorriest remnants of democratic liberties, so long as they are unable to pass to the offensive for the seizure of power. But revolutionists never promise to transform these sorry remnants into a world-embracing sovereignty of democratic control by means of “special commissions,” consisting of nobody knows whom. It is one thing to defend the real democratic trenches of the working class in the revolutionary struggle; it is something entirely different to build democratic castles in Spain after losing all the democratic trenches. It is precisely along this point that there passes the line of demarcation between revolutionary realism and illusory pacifism.
The SAP resolution is not at all original; as a matter of fact, it is merely a counterfeit of the Communist International. Why create this world-embracing committee when it has already been created? Its name is the Amsterdam-Pleyel Committee! It unifies all the specialists and all the “forces”: Barbusse, the world-embracing Münzenberg, Hindu liberals, petty demagogues, colossal windbags, English lords and American widows, in short, “all the forces” suffering from the disease that is called the “yearning for peace ...” This committee manufactures much more beautiful documents than does the SAP, because at Muenzenberg’s disposal there are the very best specialists ... The great plan of Schwab and Co. is a provincial handmade forgery of the bureaucratic adventurism of the Stalinists. Aided by ringing coin, the Stalinists at least arrange pompous parades (they arranged them yesterday; they will hardly arrange them tomorrow), while the IAG could not even do as much. No new committee will come out of its present committee. Peace, perhaps, will not even notice that it has been surrounded on all sides.
It is no accident that in the policy of the Comintern, as well as that of the reformists, purely negative formulations predominate, like anti-imperialism, anti-fascism, anti-war struggle, without any class delimitations and without a revolutionary program of action. Such formulations are absolutely necessary for the policies of masquerade blocs (the Anti-Imperialist League, the Amsterdam-Pleyel Committee Against War and Fascism and so on). All these blocs and congresses and committees have as their task to screen the passivity, the cowardice and the incapacity to solve those tasks that compose the very essence of the class struggle of the proletariat. Following in the footsteps of the Stalinists and the reformists, the IAG has taken to the same road. The very same leaders sit down on different stools in the hope that the masses will fail to recognize them and will come flocking to them. This self-abnegation is a voluntary confession of one’s own worthlessness.
Some comrades reason as follows: The leaders of the SAP are, of course, not Marxists, but the Third International did not spring up spontaneously either; it was preceded by conferences in Zimmerwald and Kienthal, in which Lenin participated side by side with the centrists. But is the IAG a new “Zimmerwald”? In this argument, there are no less than four fundamental mistakes.
First, Zimmerwald took place during the war. The overwhelming majority of the centrists who during peacetime spoke about the struggle for peace and disarmament went over to the camp of nationalism in the very first days of the war. Only an insignificant minority of prewar centrists, isolated individuals, evinced their readiness to confer with the “enemies” of their country. Thus the composition of Zimmerwald was subjected to the ruthless selection under war conditions.
In the second place, outside of Russia and partly Germany (R. Luxemburg, K. Liebknecht), in no country were there at that time real revolutionists who understood the tasks of the struggle to their ultimate conclusion. The Social Democrats, who were drawn into the struggle against war (not a future war, not war in general, but a given, actual war), were then passing through the centrist stage almost in their entirety. There were no other political partners to be found to take the first steps.
In the third place, under war conditions when entry into relations with working-class organizations of enemy countries was punished as a crime, the very fact of an international conference, convoked illegally, was a political event and a revolutionary signal, independent of even what decisions it reached.
In the fourth place, Lenin participated in the conference not to reach conciliation with the centrists, not to present hollow “resolutions,” but to struggle for the principles of Bolshevism. No sooner did the “Zimmerwald Left” consolidate itself than Lenin, despite its extreme weakness (it was incomparably weaker than the present international organization of the Bolshevik-Leninists), posed the question of a break with Zimmerwald. The break lagged against the wish of Lenin who, however, was not mistaken in his estimate; the majority of the participants at Zimmerwald soon took their place in the ranks of the Second International.
Our present situation is fundamentally different from that of the past. There is no war as yet. Ninety-nine percent of the reformists and centrists who are now harping on the pacifist phrases (“against war,” “for disarmament”) will turn out on the side of their governments in the event of a new war. Today, in times of peace, a doubly strict revolutionary selection is necessary. The criteria for this selection are clarity in theory and a practice corresponding to theory. Leaders, who en route to an “international” conference, forget to take along their “principles” (these are not cigarette cases or matches!) do not give the slightest guarantees for revolutionary conduct in times of war.
Moreover, the year 1935 is not the year 1915. We have behind us the experiences of the last war and of Zimmerwald. The Schwabs and the Kilboms, Doriot and the others are no children. They are not even youth. They were leading participants in the Communist International. If from the experience of the last two decades they have drawn not revolutionary but centrist and pacifist conclusions, then we must seek for other allies.
Finally, we must not forget also the fact that we have already participated once before in the “Zimmerwald” of peace times; in August 1933 we participated in the conference of the IAG, which refused even to put to a vote our resolution on the Fourth International. The pretext was that “the participants were not sufficiently acquainted with it.” A year and a half has elapsed. The attempt of Sneevliet and Schmidt produced the same result. Isn’t it at last time to draw the necessary conclusions?
In all countries there now exist genuine revolutionary organizations and groups that took form in the struggle against reformism and Stalinism. Their numbers and strength are growing. The vicious persecution and calumny of the enemies steel them. Their ideological equipment has been tested in colossal historical events. All this was entirely lacking during the last war. The Bolsheviks have no reason for uniting with the centrist leaders (“unity” ... once every year and a half at a conference!). Hollow international parades are of no use to us. Revolutionists do not flirt with centrists at conferences but carry on tireless day-to-day work against them in their own countries, and they participate at their own revolutionary international conferences, where they do not blow soap bubbles but discuss and decide the questions of the class struggle.
In order to estimate correctly the political physiognomy of a given group, we must know its past. The leadership of the SAP emerged from the ranks of the Right Opposition of the German Communist Party (Brandler, Thalheimer, Walcher and others). In 1923, this group led the Communist Party, and, under the conditions of the greatest revolutionary crisis connected with the occupation of the Ruhr district, it revealed its utter incapacity. The blame for letting slip the revolutionary situation falls not upon the “masses,” as the opportunistic leaders asserted, but upon the Brandler-Walcher faction, which vacillated, let time slip during the most critical months and shifted the revolutionary obligations upon “the historical process.” After the revolutionary situation had turned into a counterrevolutionary situation, the leadership, as usual, evinced a false optimism (“the revolution is approaching“!), and by its entire subsequent policies it generally demonstrated that it had completely failed to understand its “mistake” of 1923, which became a colossal signpost in the history of the triumph of German fascism.
The entire opportunistic policy of the Communist International (the strategy of the Chinese Revolution, the “workers’ and peasants’ parties” in the Orient, the Anglo-Russian Committee, the “Peasant International,” placing all stakes on the kulak in the USSR, the struggle against Marxism under the guise of a struggle against “Trotskyism”) occurred with the participation or with the direct support of the Brandler-Walcher faction. Involved here is not the question of minor tactical episodes but the question of the strategy of the proletariat during events on a colossal historical scale.
We do not at all mean to say that a group carrying upon its shoulders such a heavy burden of opportunistic crimes against the revolution is doomed once and for all; there are not a few instances in history where revolutionists turned opportunists and opportunists became revolutionists. But in any case the passage to the road of revolutionary policy could have only implied for the representatives of the Brandler-Thalheimer school a profound internal crisis, a revaluation of values and a break with their own past. The split of the Walcher group, in connection with its entry to the SAP , from the Brandler group, which continued obediently and assiduously to pin hopes upon the mercy of the Stalinist bureaucracy, created the most favorable conditions for the review of their own past by Walcher and the others. The tragic annihilation of the German proletariat made such a review necessary and undeferrable, and, as a matter of fact, the Walcher group, which assumed the leading posts in the SAP, did sway to the left on the eve of emigration.
It is precisely to this period that date back the attempts of Bolshevik-Leninists to impel the leadership of the SAP to review, in the light of new events, the experience of 1923 in Germany, of the Chinese Revolution, of the Anglo-Russian Committee, etc. The leaders of the SAP evinced the minimum of interest in all these questions. Our theoretical insistence appeared to them to be sectarian “hairsplitting.” They indicted the Communist International, at any rate up to its latest ultraopportunist turn, for one single sin: ultra-leftism. They could not at all digest the definition bureaucratic centrism. Generally speaking the term centrism has a bad effect on their nerves. Nevertheless, under the fresh impression of the bankruptcy of the Second and Third Internationals in Germany, the Walcher group went so far as to admit the need for beginning to build the Fourth International.
In August 1933 the SAP leadership signed jointly with us the well-known Declaration of Four. The leaders of the SAP proclaimed, together with us, that “in full realization of the great historical responsibility that devolves upon them, the undersigned ... obligate themselves to direct all their forces to the formation in the shortest possible time of this [Fourth] International on the firm foundation of the theoretic and strategic principles of Marx and Lenin.”
This resolution was the extreme left point to which the leadership of the SAP was able to oscillate under the blows of events. After this, the pendulum of centrism began its downward swing to the right. Without openly removing their signatures from the resolution, the leaders of the SAP opened an undercover, an equivocal and a disloyal struggle against the idea of the Fourth International. On what grounds? On the ground that “the Trotskyists want to proclaim the new International immediately.” Foreseeing the possibility of such insinuations on the part of the centrist slowpokes, a special declaration of the Bolshevik-Leninists was presented at the conference of the IAG in August 1933, declaring that: “The course towards the new International is dictated by the entire course of development. This does not mean to say, however, that we propose to proclaim the new International immediately ... The creation of the new International depends not only upon the objective course of events but also upon our own efforts.”
Isn’t this manifestly clear enough? One should imagine that the precise written declaration would leave no room for stupid insinuations and calumnies. And finally, if someone else were proposing an incorrect, hasty and adventuristic road, how could that change the content of my own task?
As a matter of fact, the leadership of the SAP had the same superficial, trifling, verbal attitude toward the declaration for the Fourth International as centrists generally have toward theoretical principles. While signing the declaration, they had the following idea in back of their heads: “We shall sign this very unpleasant document in order to preserve the harmonious cover of our left wing; but we shall continue to do what Seydewitz and we ourselves have been doing up to now, i.e., to seek allies from the right.” It goes without saying that this was a remarkable plan. It fell through because the Leninists refused to play the role of an honorary revolutionary guard at opportunist deals. Hence, the split.
The situation received its most brilliant clarification on the question of the NAP. Without in any way overestimating the international role of the SAP, we, however, pointed insistently to the fact that its bloc with the NAP, through the medium of the IAG, aided the opportunist leadership of the NAP to tame its own left-wing opposition. it is precisely for this, and only for this, reason that the leaders of the NAP kept up their “compromising” connections with the left. We forecast that Tranmæl would unceremoniously break with the IAG as soon as he has reached the harbor: “Der Mohr hat seine Schuldigkeit getan ...” [The Moor has done his duty]. We advised the leaders of the SAP to ponder over the experience of the Anglo-Russian Committee, which in 1925-27 literally broke the neck of the very promising opposition movement in the British trade unions (the Minority Movement). How smugly did the leaders of the SAP wave our arguments aside! “Masses ... masses ... masses ... historical process ...” We were not astonished: if centrists were able to understand the interrelationships between the “masses” and the vanguard, between the vanguard and the leadership, between “the historical process” and the initiative of the minority, then they would not be centrists.
The actual course of events developed even more clearly and convincingly than we had forecast. Directly and immediately from the ranks of the IAG, the leaders of the NAP transplanted themselves to the government benches and, as their first act, they passed the king’s civil list. “The historical process” can play dirty tricks! Yet, it is an incontestable fact that the leaders of the SAP broke with the grouping for the Fourth International precisely in order to be able to maintain, without any hindrance, their friendship with the leaders of the NAP and their like.
Observe that we bitter-end “sectarians” did not put any ultimata to Schwab and Co. We said to our temporary centrist semiallies: “You say that the experience of the Anglo-Russian Committee is insufficient for you? Very well, go on with your experience with Tranmæl; we will patiently wait for the results, reserving to ourselves only the full freedom to criticize.” But it is precisely this that the leaders of the SAP could not tolerate. The policies of centrist combinationism demand a diplomatic backstage; to think their own thoughts out to their conclusion and to say openly what is implies nipping the centrist delusions in the bud. It is true that in order to “disarm” us they also “criticized” Tranmæl, but just enough so as not to expose before their readers the rottenness and falseness of their alliance with Tranmæl; they roared angrily like lovesick doves.
Much more important is the fact that for the Norwegian workers there existed only the alliance between the NAP and a whole number of “revolutionary” foreign parties standing outside the Second International; under the banner of this alliance, the “leaders” of the NAP were able to perform their business excellently. And since it was much too uncomfortable for the leaders of the SAP to admit to their own followers that they broke a semialliance with revolutionists for the sake of an alliance with opportunists, they put in circulation a stupid piece of gossip that “the Trotskyists want to proclaim the Fourth International next Thursday,” whereas the SAP, as a rational cautious body alien to any kind of adventurism, wants to ... incidentally, what does it want? To marry the “historical process.” The address of this famous and rich bridegroom is well known to old and experienced centrist marriage brokers.
At the present moment, the SAP leaders are most concerned with getting the workers to forget the entire story of the affair with the NAP. Why bring up old questions? Tranmæl is going away from us anyway ... fortunately without any undue noise. We have on hand many German affairs ... Hitler ... the war danger ... and so forth and so on. No, we shall not permit these wiseacres to hide under the table the ignominious collapse of their ignominious policy with the NAP. We will compel them to give an accounting to the workers. We will call the advanced workers to study thoroughly the question as to who was correct, we or the SAP?
The Bolshevik-Leninists in Germany are all the more bound to carry on an energetic campaign on this question since this new scandalous experience has taught the smug strategists of the SAP nothing. On the contrary, they have swung still further to the right, into confusion, into the morass. In their innermost thoughts, they consider that they repelled Tranmæl by their unbridled leftism (under the insidious influence of the “Trotskyists”). Ah, but now they will conduct themselves differently. They will not permit Kilbom to escape from their embraces, no matter what he does. But what hinders these people from learning from their own mistakes? Their firmly ossified, their thoroughly conservative centrist political psychology.
In the sphere of the youth movement, the grouping took shape – at any rate up to the present – somewhat differently than it did in the IAG, but the policies of the SAP leaders bear here, too, the very same, that is to say, an unprincipled and horse-trading character, especially harmful in the midst of the revolutionary youth. The Stockholm Bureau in its present composition was created by means of fictitious magnitudes, by means of the great phantom of the NAP and the minute clique of de Kadt that “represented” the OSP (Holland). The SAP united with the shadow of the NAP and with the all-too-real petty-bourgeois philistine de Kadt (against the Bolsheviks, all alliances are good!) in order to seize the leadership of the Stockholm Bureau into its hands. It is necessary to state the truth; the young Leninists evinced an impermissible submissiveness at the conference. They were insufficiently imbued with the understanding of the most important trait of centrism: its eternal readiness to put its foot in the way of revolutionists or to strike them a blow in the back in order to retain the favor of the opportunists.
At the last conference of the IAG, the representative of the Stockholm Youth Bureau accused Comrades Sneevliet and Schmidt of sectarianism and, in order to give them a lesson in “realism,” this young combinationist voted for two resolutions at once: for the Dutch resolution in favor of the Fourth International – and for the SAP resolution against the Fourth International. To tolerate such mockery of principles is to trample underfoot the elementary requirements of revolutionary hygiene!
The French Bulletin issued by the Stockholm Bureau (No.1, April 1935) represents a new political scandal. The editorial article seems to have been specially written with a view to confuse, to mislead and to fool the readers. The summary of the participating organizations in the article is based upon equivocations; the opportunist wing is monstrously exaggerated, while all the organizations of the Bolshevik-Leninist youth except for the American Spartacus Youth League are consciously skipped over in silence. Messrs. Centrists are always embarrassed to appear in “respectable” (i.e., opportunist) society alongside revolutionary allies!
The task of the Stockholm Bureau is set forth in a purely negative manner: “Its task does not lie in preparing a new split.” To this Zyromsky correctly replies: but the very fact that the bureau exists is a split, for the grouping of the youth must henceforth proceed along not two but three axes. One should and one must propose a new “axis” only in case the old axis is worthless, whereas the new is trustworthy, solid and able to meet its historical purpose. The misfortune lies, however, in the fact that centrism has and can have no axis of its own.
The editorial suddenly states the following: “Together with the Socialist youth of Spain, the Stockholm Bureau demands [!] a new International.” But don’t rush to rejoice. Having blown a kiss to the Spaniards, our diplomatist reminds himself of Doriot, the PUPists, Zyromsky and all the prophets of “complete unity,” and he immediately adds: “its [the Stockholm Bureau’s] task is to overcome the split ... in order to obtain the one and only genuine International.” Ergo, not a new International but the merger of the two old Internationals. Ergo, the SAP expresses itself in principle for unity with reformists and patriots, entirely after the manner of its teacher, Miles.
But what about Lenin, to whom Die Neue Front so inappropriately refers, who taught that “unity with opportunists is the alliance of the workers with ’their’ national bourgeoisie and the split of the international working class.” What will the leaders of the SAP say on this score? Naturally, a temporary organizational tie-up with opportunists, under specific concrete conditions, may be forced by the circumstances . But to turn it into a principle is a betrayal! it is, first of all, the renunciation of the international unity of the proletariat, for in time of war the opportunists will once again destroy that fiction that they call the International and that they keep up during peacetimes to soothe the centrist boobies. “Universal,” “complete” unity implies the worst possible split under the most difficult conditions.
A few lines further down we read: “This International will be the result of the historic process, and it will be able to take form only through the actions of the masses.” Very well! But why then do you butt into somebody else’s business; you haven’t been given the power of attorney for this either by the “historic process” or by the “masses,” have you? ... The author of the article is the accomplished pupil of Russian Mensheviks who were in the good old days the virtuosos in the field of correlating “revolutionary” formulas with the practice of fatalism and prostration. But how much crasser, weaker and more impotent, indeed, is this pupil from the SAP than such classical figures of left centrism as the deceased Martov!
The task at present is to prepare the cadres of Leninist youth, to raise them to the level of the tasks of our epoch. In this sphere, the requirements are special theoretical clarity, ideological honesty and an irreconcilability to opportunism and to diplomacy. The policies of the SAP in the Stockholm Bureau are a downright mockery of the fundamental demands of the revolutionary education of our successors! This cannot be tolerated.
Those optimists who pin hopes upon the “evolution of the IAG” must answer for themselves the following question: how and why must this evolution proceed to the left and not to the right? The initial positions of the participants in the IAG are far removed from Marxism. Kilbom, Doriot, the PUPists, Maurin (a petty-bourgeois Catalan nationalist) are the open enemies of Leninism. In their current work, these parties do not exert the least influence upon one another. Once every year and a half, their delegates come together in order to reveal “the lack of time” for discussing principled questions. How then, ultimately, is the “regeneration of the working-class movement” to take place and, first of all, the regeneration of the members of the IAG itself? The only answer reads: by dint of the “historical process.”
But the historical process “engenders” everything, Bolshevism as well as centrism as well as reformism as well as fascism. “Mass actions” are also of diverse kinds: there are the pilgrimages to Lourdes, the Nazi plebiscites, the reformist polls, the patriotic demonstrations, the strikes under the leadership of traitors and, finally, the revolutionary battles doomed to defeat because of centrist leadership (Austria, Spain). And, in the interim, an entirely different question is posed before us, namely, what content does the small propagandist organization called the SAP prepare to bring into the “historical process” and into the future “activities of the masses”? How absurd to pin behind oneself a pompous peacock’s tail of future (!) mass activities in order to distract attention from the absence of clear ideas in one’s head. The past of the leading group of the SAP (1923!) is not at all of such a kind as to enable us to take its word for it that it is capable of leading the revolutionary masses. In any case, at the given preparatory stage, the leaders of the SAP must prove their right to leadership by a correct theoretical position, by the clarity and consistency of their revolutionary line. Alas, there is not even a sign of such qualities among them!
Having no axis of their own, they attempt to “combine” somebody else’s axes, which extend in different and even in opposite directions. The NAP is, in essence, a party of the Second International; the ILP hesitantly gravitates towards the Third; the Dutch party stands firmly for the Fourth; Doriot and the PUPists stand for “complete unity”; whereas the alchemists from the SAP assure the German workers that out of such diversified elements there will be distilled just what is needed.
Theoretically speaking, a second inception of the Two-and-a-Half International is, of course, not excluded. But in view of the existence of the pathetic initial experience of this sort, and particularly in view of the extreme sharpening of the class struggle, the second experiment could only prove much weaker and much more insignificant than was the first. This prognosis already finds sufficient confirmation in the brief history of the IAG, the centrifugal forces of which have shown themselves up to now to be more powerful than all the centrist formulas. Let us once again recall several fresh facts.
The NAP is a serious opportunist party; the bourgeoisie even entrusts it with the management of its state. That is why the NAP broke with the SAP. The Bolshevik-Leninists are a serious revolutionary organization; they have their own tradition and their own principles. That is why the SAP broke with the Bolsheviks. The de Kadt clique (in the OSP), upon which Schwab leaned, left the revolutionary ranks at the very first serious test. Schwab cannot find a common language with the leading group of Schmidt, which really stands for the Fourth International. Schwab and his friends considered the American Workers Party (Muste) almost as their “own” organization; yet, the AWP merged with our section. Schwab almost succeeded in luring the Belgian, Spaak, into the IAG. But Spaak suddenly became the minister of His Majesty. And things will proceed similarly in the future. The centrist diplomatists of the ILP will not save their party from further disintegration. An internal differentiation is inevitable within the Swedish party (Kilbom). In order to entrench oneself in the working-class movement, one must have, today more than ever before, clear principles and a distinct banner, one easily to be distinguished from afar.
In France, the leaders of the SAP support centrists of the type of Zyromsky and Doriot against the Bolshevik-Leninists. While so doing, they whisper in their ears about our “sectarianism,” our intolerance, our tendency to split each hair into four parts and so forth and so on. (“Please, for God’s sake, don’t think we are like those fanatics – far from it ...”) They shut their eyes to a single fact: the Bolshevik-Leninists are the only group that made a timely and correct analysis of the situation and of the tendencies of its development, that drew from its analysis all the necessary practical conclusions and that actually does fight irreconcilably against the epidemic of lightmindedness on the part of the “leaders,” against their irresponsibility and against their faith in miracles. The difference is not at all that Zyromsky and Doriot are “kinder,” “more broad-minded,” more “realistic” than the Bolsheviks. No, the difference, or rather the misfortune, is that they, Zyromsky, Doriot and the like, do not understand the character of the situation, that they dare not open their eyes as Marxists do and that they lack the resolution to draw the necessary revolutionary conclusions. In other words, Zyromsky and Doriot are passing through the very same political phase as did Brandler, Walcher and Co. in 1923. Under these conditions, the influence of the leaders of the SAP is all the more dangerous because in the struggle against revolutionary policies they exploit not unskillfully the Marxist vocabulary and even utilize the ready-made formulas of the Bolshevik-Leninists.
This new and most important stage of the struggle of the leaders of the SAP against the Bolshevik-Leninists must be attentively and seriously plumbed to its very conclusion; this time the stakes are much too great.
In all those a countries where fascism is just beginning to assume the offensive, the chief danger lies not at all in the “passivity” of the masses but in the fact that the reformists and centrists of various shades continue to put a brake on the mobilization of the proletariat. “Objectively,” to use the language of Die Neue Front, revolutionary resistance is necessary. “Subjectively,” it is impossible ... to the extent that the centrists, fearing a break with the reformists and among themselves, dare not take to the revolutionary road and in their own justification invoke the “masses.” While so doing, the centrists wage a struggle against the Leninists. We have here the very same groupings, the very same interrelations and even the very same arguments as in the question of the Fourth International. This is no accident; these are only the two sides of one and the same question. When the matter in question happens to be the building of the International, the centrists from the SAP – and it is precisely they and not we – think abstractly, abstracting themselves from historical reality: somehow, sometime the work will be done, the working-class movement will be “renovated.” It seems to them that they have an unlimited credit as to time. But when the question is posed of fascism or of war, it is more difficult to hoodwink oneself and others, for the perspective is not distant and amorphous but very close and distinct. Fascism is now assuming the offensive, and it assumes the offensive at its own tempo, independently of centrist calculations. It is necessary to resist by revolutionary methods, right now, immediately. It is necessary not to adapt oneself to the subjective condition of the neighbors on the right who invoke the argument about the “masses” but to explain openly to the masses the objective acuteness of the danger. Whoever actually fulfills this labor thereby prepares the Fourth International; he does not have and he cannot have any reasons for hiding his banner. These are the two sides of one and the same labor.
As regards the leaders of the SAP, insofar as they have any influence, let us say in France, they direct it everywhere and always in the support of centrists, who stand marking time, and against the Bolsheviks, who say what is, i.e., disclose the demands of the objective condition of things. The reactionary character of the work of the leaders of the SAP in this case stands revealed with special clarity because involved here is the question of the objective danger that is drawing closer on heels of steel. The leaders of the SAP repeat, under new conditions, the very same fatal blunder that resulted in and that brought defeat to their ill-fated policies in Germany in 1923: they lack the resolution to draw the practical revolutionary conclusions when the objective situation pressingly demands this.
The aim of the present article consists, first of all, precisely in dispelling any illusions whatever as regards the fitness of the SAP leaders to lead the revolutionary movement of the masses. This is not because they are personally incapable people. No, in this group there are to be found smart, serious and worthy activists, sincerely devoted to the interests of the proletariat. They are capable of giving advice that is not at all bad on the trade-union movement or an election campaign during a comparatively peaceful period. But, by habit of mind, they remain on the surface of events. They seek for the line of least resistance. They shut their eyes to real obstacles. They are absolutely incapable of seizing upon the logic of the struggle in the period of revolutionary – or counterrevolutionary – swirl-tide. They tragically proved it in 1923; since that time they have learned nothing, as demonstrated by their entire conduct in the years of emigration. Inveterate centrists, politicians of the golden mean and combinationists, they become hopelessly lost in difficult and responsible situations; they lose their positive traits and play a negative role. Our warning reduces itself to a brief formula: with all their incontestable merits, the leaders of the SAP are absolutely worthless pilots in stormy weather. And Europe today stands under the sign of storms.
The only organization that has developed during the past years is our organization, the Bolshevik-Leninists. Both Internationals know only of defeats, decline and shambles; in the sphere of theory, they have fallen below zero. A few years ago, side by side with them there stood a very influential organization of the Communist Right Opposition (Brandler-Thalheimer-Walcher). Today only chips of this organization remain; the cadres of the SAP are one of these chips.
The international organization of the Bolshevik-Leninists came into being only in the spring of 1930, on a foundation that was still weak and unstable. The brief history of the work of the Leninists was, at the same time, the history of an internal ideological struggle. A whole number of individuals and groups, seeking a haven among us from the vicissitudes of life, have succeeded, fortunately, in leaving our ranks. At this very moment, the Belgian section is passing through an acute crisis. Undoubtedly, there will be crises in the future too. Philistines and snobs, who are ignorant of how a revolutionary organization takes shape, shrugged their shoulders ironically over our “splits” and “cleavages.” Yet, upon the whole, our organization has grown numerically; it has established sections in most countries; it has become steeled ideologically; and it has matured politically. During that period, the Revolutionary Socialist Party of Holland (Sneevliet) joined our ranks. The Dutch OSP, after purging itself of the de Kadt clique (the staunch ally of Schwab against us), merged with the RSP on a Marxist program. In America, the AWP (Muste) merged with our American section on rigidly principled bases. The French Bolshevik-Leninists who have completed a very bold organizational step (entry into the Socialist Party) now stand with their slogans in the center of the proletarian vanguard of France. It is impossible not to point out also the new wild campaign against the “Trotskyists” in the USSR, where the underground work of the Bolsheviks is immeasurably more difficult than even in Italy or Germany. Tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of expulsions from the party, mass arrests and exile testify that the Stalinist bureaucracy lives under the constant fear of the sympathies to our banner it has been unable to uproot. At the first revolutionary successes in the West, we shall reap at once a rich harvest in the USSR.
The Bolshevik-Leninists are far from being self-satisfied; our internal discussions are sufficient evidence of this. We are ready to learn from all those who have anything at all to teach. Our numerous publications in all parts of the world are evidence that our sections learn diligently and successfully. The viability of our international organization, its capacity for development, its readiness to surmount its own weaknesses and ills have been proved to the hilt.
Our Dutch friends (the majority of the party) still apparently deem it necessary to remain in the IAG. Let them pass through this experience! We have no qualms as to the conclusions they will draw on the morrow. But it would be a mistake to postpone, even for a single additional day, the work for the further building of the Fourth International. If the revolutionary Marxists of all countries, together, of course, with our Dutch friends, will establish at once an international joint body under their own banner, they will speed the inevitable disintegration of the IAG, as well as of the two old Internationals, and they will become the center of attraction for all the genuinely revolutionary groupings in the proletariat.
As happens often, attempts are made to invest a personal struggle with a principled character. But sometimes the contrary happens: when one cannot very well wage a principled struggle, then it is screened by personal motivations. Schwab has dozens of explanations why he and his friends are able to work with opportunists but cannot work with the Bolsheviks: among us, you see, “personal influences” are much too strong; there is too little “counterbalance” and so on and so forth. We shall try to overcome our revulsion and to pause on this argument.
The excessive personal influence of X or Y, if it actually exists, can be (and should be) scaled down by the one and only method: by counterposing to the false or inadequately conceived views of X or Y other views that are more correct and better formulated. This road is open to everyone; we have no censorship, no bureaucracy, no GPU and no treasury to employ for corruption. The question of “personal influences” can thus be solved only en route, as a result of political collaboration, the clash of opinions, checking them by experience, etc. Whoever poses the question of “personal influences” as an independent question that must be solved by some special measures, apart from the ideological struggle and political checks, will find in his arsenal no other weapons except ... gossip and intrigues.
Consequently, it is not difficult to understand that the raising of the bogey of “personal influence” is the product of the centrist incapacity to give battle on the plane of principles and methods. A particular “personal influence” is hateful and inimical to us when it stands at the service of ideas inimical to us. All the revolutionary teachers of the proletariat, both great and small, were accused of wielding excessive personal influence by those who did not share their views. All centrists, all muddleheads who run away from clear, open, bold and honest ideological struggle always seek for an indirect, an accidental and a personal psychological justification for the not-at-all accidental fact that they themselves happen to be in an alliance with opportunists against the revolutionists.
As a matter of fact, no other organization discusses questions so openly and democratically, in full view of friends and foes, as we do. We are able to permit this only because we do not substitute horse trading and diplomacy for the analysis of facts and ideas. To put it in simpler language, we do not hoodwink the workers. But it is precisely our principle of saying what is that is most hateful to the leaders of the SAP, for the policy of centrism is inconceivable without mouthfuls of water, tricks and ... personal insinuations.
For a long period of time, we tried the experiment of drawing closer to the leadership of the SAP; we did it loyally and patiently, but the results are nil. Thanks precisely to the methodical character of our experience, we obtained the possibility of plumbing the full depth of the centrist conservatism of this group. In our criticism, we have dealt only with a part of the controversial questions involved. But we trust that what has been said will suffice to refute utterly the naive or hypocritical assertions that the differences between us and the SAP seemingly only touch upon partial tactical or “personal” questions. No, the differences cover the fundamental questions of theory, strategy, tactics and organization: and, moreover, during the most recent period, after the temporary leftward vacillations of Schwab and his friends, these differences have increased enormously and have broken into the open.
The leadership of the SAP represents the classic type of conservative centrism.
It is clear that the work of fusing the revolutionary forces under the banner of the Fourth International must proceed apart from the SAP and against the SAP.
1. When the Bolshevik-Leninists formulated their position on the war question in their draft theses (War and the Fourth International), they submitted, in good time, the manuscript of the draft to the leaders of the SAP and invited them to participate in discussing it. A Promise was given, but no reply was forthcoming. The leaders of the SAP obviously “didn’t have the time.” They never have time for problems of the revolution, and besides what would Tranmæl say? What would Kilbom say? ... From this instance, the reader can see for himself that we have passed through a serious experience with the SAP.
2. Incidentally, one of the leaders of the group asked me by mail for my opinion on the entry into the SAP. My reply was that one could not say anything in principle against such an entry, the whole point in question being under what banner and for what aims the entry was made.
3. Let us recall that after the war, the French adherents of the Third International, during a considerable period of time, participated, together with the SFIO, in the Berne (Two-and-a-Half) International. On this score an instructive polemic broke out between Lenin and Martov. Here is what we read in Lenin: “Martov has somewhere written, ’You Bolsheviks inveigh against the Berne International, but “your” own friend Loriot belongs to it.’ This is the argument of a swindler. For, as everyone knows, Loriot is fighting for the Third International, openly, honestly and heroically.” We trust that Lenin’s argument requires no commentaries.
Last updated on: 18.4.2007