Leon Trotsky

Chen Tu-hsiu and
the General Council

(August 1935)

Written: August 10, 1935.
Source: Cannon archives, Library of Social History. From microfilm provided by the Holt Labor Library.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Andrew Pollack.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2005. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

[Letter to Li Fu-jen (Frank Glass), based on oral reports on the Chinese section. Dictated in English.]

Dear Comrade:

With the help of Comrades H. and V. [Harold Isaacs and Viola Robinson] I have plunged once more into the Chinese question. I am only at the beginning. I must in the next several days study the more important documents and you will understand that I cannot now give my opinion on the differences within the Chinese section. But I am exceedingly anxious to write you at once on the more immediate and burning question of Comrade CTH [Chen Tu-hsiu].

He is an international figure. He is in prison. He remains faithful not only to the revolution but to our tendency in particular. We are now creating the Fourth International and the General Council as its guiding theoretical and consultative body. In principle, the GC will be composed of two kinds of members: (1) direct representatives of the sections of the ICL and other adhering organizations and (2) individuals who by their past and present are fit to contribute to the elaboration of our program, strategic principles, etc. It is my conviction that Comrade CTH undoubtedly belongs on the GC, despite his important differences with the Chinese section, whose direct representative, in my opinion, should be Comrade NS [Niel Shih].

You must take into consideration the fact that the composition of the GC must be impeccable, in the sense that it will guarantee us against unfortunate crises, capitulations, treasons, etc. That is why it is necessary to recommend for the GC only comrades who are known, proved and absolutely dependable.

It may be replied – and some Chinese comrades will certainly reply – that on a number of important questions CTH has opinions which appear to them to be absolutely false. For the time being I express no opinion on differences whose content I have not yet sufficiently studied. But the Chinese comrades, like all others, must clearly understand that the creation of groupings for the Fourth International has changed the situation, in that we, the Bolshevik-Leninists, represent only one faction among these groupings. Thus the GC must reflect not only the Bolshevik-Leninist sections, but all the revolutionary forces moving in the direction of the Fourth International. I will give you an example: The well-known German comrades, Maslow and Ruth Fischer, who led the German party in 1923–25, adhere to the organization of forces for the Fourth International without adhering to the German section of the ICL, with which they have serious differences. Nevertheless, the IS has unanimously proposed Maslow as a member of the GC. There is an analogous case in Czechoslovakia, etc. Thus you see that it is not a question of making an exception for China.

I draw your attention to another aspect of the same matter. Because of its extremely difficult situation, the Chinese section remains quite weak. Arrests and persecution deprive it of organizational stability. We are all absolutely sure that the Chinese section, which has devoted and courageous comrades, will grow in the nearest future. But for the moment, to introduce into the GC a young, entirely new comrade, unknown internationally, would be imprudent. This is my personal opinion only, but I believe that the arguments I have advanced here are dictated by the whole situation. I have no need to tell you that the Chinese section has the full right to propose other candidates, just as all other sections have, but I am sure that the candidacy of Comrade CTH will be supported by all our sections, because it would be a serious blow to the authority of the Fourth International to renounce the collaboration of CTH while the possibility still remains of settling the existing differences through international organizational procedure.

The Chinese section has not formally broken with CTH and for that I sincerely rejoice. At the same time the Chinese section has formed its own Central Committee entirely independently of CTH and his partisans. This is naturally the full right of the Chinese section. The introduction of CTH into the GC need not in any way, of itself, change the situation in China, the composition of the Chinese Central Committee, its political leadership, etc. On the other hand, the GC will be able to intervene in an amicable fashion, to clarify the differences, soften the conflict and improve relations.

With the creation of groupings for the Fourth International, I again emphasize, we dispose of larger organizational cadres and of new possibilities of action. I will give you a recent example: In Belgium our section, as you know, has become a faction of Vandervelde’s opportunist party, the POB (wherein, incidentally, they have made great progress). The Vereecken group in Brussels separated from our section and thus remains outside our international organization. But after the launching of the Open Letter for the Fourth International, Vereecken declared solidarity with it, and it is quite possible that he will be admitted as a sympathizing organization. The adherence of his group to the Fourth International will give us the possibility of drawing him once more into our section and in any event to impose upon him a loyal and friendly attitude towards our section. You see by this example that we are far from considering the Fourth International as a simple reproduction of the International Communist League and this fact alone can serve to demonstrate to the Chinese comrades that CTH can and must have his place in the cadres of the Fourth International.

I do not mean by this that every group which will proclaim itself in favor of the Fourth International will be automatically admitted. I named Vereecken because his attitude toward the Bolshevik-Leninists after the split provoked by him remains loyal. He sees, besides, the great success of our section and in the last number of his journal he advocated support for the Action Socialiste faction in the POB. There is thus a vast difference between the attitude of Vereecken and that of a Weisbord or a Field, who attack our international organization and the WPUS in a venomous and disloyal fashion and who attack in the same manner our French section which today marches at the head of our whole international organization.

I regret very much that you did not come with Comrades H. and V. and that I have not had a chance to meet you. I regret it the more since I should have liked to discuss with you not only the Chinese questions but also and especially the South African question. I will ask our IS to send you all the documents thereon and we will await with interest your assessments, comments, and advice.

I ask you to transmit my most fraternal greetings to all the Chinese comrades.

Yours fraternally,
Leon Trotsky

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Last updated on: 30 May 2021