Leon Trotsky

Alfred Rosmer’s Book

(March 1936)

Written: March 21, 1936.
First Published: New International [New York], Vol.3 No.3, June 1936.
Translated: 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.

Le Mouvement ouvrièr pendant la guerre: De l’Union sacrée et Zimmerwald [The Labour Movement During the War: From the Sacred Union to Zimmerwald]
By Alfred Rosmer
Paris. Librairie du Travail.

Here is a book that comes just at the right time! What an invaluable source of historical information and revolutionary education! In truth our old friend Rosmer could not have found better use for his capacities and his knowledge, and the Librairie du Travail could not have published a book more urgently required at the present time.

The first thing that ought to be said is that it is an honest book. The Communist International is flooding the literary market with productions in which ignorance mingles with dishonesty. The productions of the school of Leon Blum and his consorts are more “subtly,” more “decently” false in appearance, but none the less so for that. These people have something to hide. They justify their past deceptions or prepare new ones for the future. With Rosmer there are no secret thoughts or hidden designs: he expounds that which was. Between his ideas and the facts there is no contradiction and he is naturally interested in expressing the whole truth. An extraordinarily scrupulous personal conscience – which is not, alas, a quality frequently found among writers – causes him to verify the facts, the dates, the quotations at first hand. Feuilletonist improvisation is foreign to him. He penetrates into his material like an explorer.

But that is precisely why his book has a gripping interest. The historical sketch of the French labour movement after the Commune; the preparation of the imperialist war; the conduct of the various proletarian organizations before the war and at the moment it broke out; the epidemic treason of the trade union and parliamentary bureaucracies; the first voices of protest and the first acts of struggle; the attempts at international regrouping and the Zimmerwald Conference – these are the contents of a volume of almost six hundred pages.

This historical work seems at the same time to be a devastating political pamphlet: in the pages of Rosmer’s book the social patriots, of the Second International as well as of the Third, can find ready-made almost all the falsifications that they are now putting in circulation to dupe the workers. Leon Blum, Marcel Cachin, and their similars are now reliving a “second youth,” more shameful and more cynical than the first. That is precisely why every serious proletarian revolutionist ought to read – more exactly, to study – Rosmer’s book. To be sure, the book, due to its size, is expensive; but this obstacle should be overcome by gathering together in groups to buy a copy jointly. Every revolutionary organization ought to provide its propagandists with this book in order to arm them with facts and invaluable arguments. The rule should be established: nobody in our ranks who has not studied Rosmer’s work ought to be allowed to speak publicly on the question of war.

These lines are not a critical evaluation of the book; or else we would have pointed out also some points on which we are not in agreement or in full agreement with the author. At present we want only to draw the attention of all internationalists to this work about which the press of the two patriotic Internationals is maintaining silence, just as it preserves an ignominious silence about every serious and honest production of revolutionary thought. With all the greater vigour and friendliness should the press of the Fourth International acclaim this work.

Let us add in conclusion that the book is written in excellent language – calm, clear, and precise – and is very well presented.

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Last updated on: 19.4.2007