Leon Trotsky

The Fifth Wheel

(January 1938)

Written: 27 January 1938.
First Published: Socialist Appeal, Vol. II No. 7, 12 February 1938. p. 4.
Transcription/Markup: Christian Liebl.
Proofread: Einde O’Callaghan (April 2015).
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2004. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

The so-called International Workers’ Association (AIT) representing the Anarcho-Syndicalist groupings in various countries, convened in Paris from the 8th to the 17th of December. As is well known, the only large section of this International is Spanish CNT. All the other organizations (Swedish, Portuguese, French, Latin-American) are completely insignificant in size.

Of course, even a small organization can be quite significant if it has an independent revolutionary position which anticipates the future development of the class struggle. But, as can be seen from the brief account printed in the Information Bulletin of the AIT (No. 67 of the German edition, Boletin de Informacion), the special congress in Paris ended with the full victory of the politics of Garcia Oliver, i.e., the politics of capitulation to the bourgeoisie.

During the past year a few Anarchist publications, especially the French, have mildly criticized the Spanish CNT’s methods of action. There are quite enough bases for this criticism: instead of building stateless Communism, the leaders of the CNT became ministers in a bourgeois state! This circumstance did not, however, hinder the Paris congress of the AIT from “approving the line of the CNT.” In turn the leaders of Spanish Anarcho-Syndicalism explained to the Congress that if they had betrayed the socialist revolution in the interests of saving the bourgeoisie, that was merely due to “insufficient solidarity of the international proletariat.”

The congress invented nothing new: all reformist betrayers have always laid the blame for their betrayal upon the proletariat. If social-patriots support their “national” militarism, it is, of course, not because they are lackeys of capital, but because the masses are not “matured yet for real internationalism.” If the leaders of the trade unions appear as strike-breakers, it is because the masses “have not matured” for the struggle.

The account does not say a word about revolutionary criticism at the Paris congress. In this respect, as in many others, the gentlemen Anarchists fully imitate the bourgeois liberals. Why let the rabble hear of differences among the higher circles? This can only shake the authority of the Anarcho-bourgeois ministers. It is very likely that in answer to the “left” criticism from the French anarchists the latter were reminded of their own conduct during the last imperialist war.

We have already heard from some Anarchist theoreticians that at the time of such “exceptional” circumstances as war and revolution, it is necessary to renounce the principles of one’s own program. Such revolutionists bear a close resemblance to raincoats which “leak” only when it rains, i.e., in “exceptional” circumstances, but during dry weather they remain “leak-proof” with complete success.

The decisions of the Paris congress are entirely on the same level as the politics of Garcia Oliver and his kind. The leaders of the AIT have resolved to appeal to the Second, Third, and Amsterdam Internationals with a proposal to create a “united international anti-fascist front.” Not one word about the struggle against capitalism! The methods of battle are announced: “boycott of fascist goods” and ... “pressure upon democratic governments”; the most reliable methods with which to liberate the proletariat!

Evidently with the aim of exerting “pressure” the leader of the Second International, Blum, became premier in “democratic” France and did everything to crush the revolutionary movement of the French proletariat. Together with Stalin, and with the cooperation of Garcia Oliver, Blum helped Negrin-Prieto stifle the socialist revolution of the Spanish proletariat. In all these acts Jouhaux took a most prominent part.

With such actions the united front of the three Internationals for the struggle against the revolutionary proletariat has already been conducted for a long time. In this front the leaders of the CNT have occupied not a conspicuous place but a sufficiently shameful one!

The Paris Congress signifies the imposition of the betrayal of the Spanish anarchists upon Anarchism throughout the world. This finds its expression particularly in the fact that from now on the general secretary of the AIT will be appointed by the Spanish CNT. In other words, the general secretary will from now on be an official of the Spanish bourgeois government.

Gentlemen Anarchist and semi-Anarchist theoreticians and semi-theoreticians, what do you have to say about all this? Following the example of the Spanish Anarcho-syndicalists, do you agree to playing the role of fifth wheel on the cart of bourgeois democracy?

Many Anarchists do not, of course, feel completely at ease. But to overcome this uneasiness they change the subject of conversation. Why, indeed, occupy oneself with Spain or the Paris congress of the AIT ... when one can talk about ... Kronstadt or about Makhno? The most burning themes.

In its decomposition and decay the Anarchist International evidently does not wish to lag behind the Second and Third Internationals. All the sooner will the honest worker-Anarchists find the Fourth International.

Coyoacan, D.F.
January 27, 1938

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Last updated on: 18 April 2015