Leon Trotsky

The First Contact with Belgium [1]

(April 1929)

Written: April 1929.
Publisher: From Revolutionary History, Vol.7 No.1.
Translated: Ted Crawford.
Online Version: Marxists Internet Archive, 2002.
Transcribed: Ted Crawford.
HTML Markup: David Walters.

30 April 1929

My dear friend [2],

I have not written to you until now for I had been told by everyone that I was going to get a letter soon and I did not wish to write to you until I had received some information from you about the situation in Belgium and on your plans and perspectives. Alas up until today I have had nothing, perhaps for the simple reason that you have sent me nothing.

I get your journal [3] but I am not sure how regularly. I will check on the issues I have received to ask you to send me those missing. I have not yet been able to study Belgian affairs, or even French, even if I am surrounded by French comrades. I am forced and will be for some time still, to spend my time on books which I am publishing in three languages.

I want to publish in the first place things which I think are most important and not be forced to pursue individual polemics so I can refer to already published writings. After doing this job I will be freer to work on present politics. However, that does not stop me from being most interested in the daily events in the international Opposition. Alas, there is a certain isolation of the national sections, not only from the point of view of organisation but also from the point of view of ideas.

We are still retreating. In such a situation international links are more important than ever. Without them everyone risks shutting themselves away, losing themselves, doing their thing in their own national corner or in their particular group. It is the greatest danger that we can imagine and from which only a new mass wave can ultimately preserve us.

As far as I know you are going to take part in the elections, independently, and are putting up candidates against the Party. Some friends are very worried about that. For my part I do not see it as a question of principle. If we are very weak, that is to say if we are only a propaganda grouping, just a few individuals, and wish to make an impression on the masses in the elections, we may easily get the opposite result, that is alienate the masses and even provoke disgust at a pretentious but powerless little group.

In similar situations it is always better and even essential to support the official Party candidates while making our detailed criticisms and our recommendations for Parliamentary and local government activity in order to remind the electors of our recommendations at the appropriate time.

But if we are strong enough we must stand candidates independently and successfully. It would be doctrinaire abstentionism not to do so. During the struggle we must throw the responsibility for splitting on the official leadership.

We can and must, even on the floor of Parliament, propose Communist unity on the basis of Marx and Lenin. So the fact that you are going to stand independent candidates in the election is for me a sign that you feel yourself to be strong enough in comparison with the official Communist party.


1. Letter to W. van Overstraeten dictated in French (10708) Houghton Library)

2. W. van Overstraeten (1891-1981) had been for some years General Secretary of the Belgium CP from which, with the majority of the central committee, he was expelled for supporting the Russian Opposition

3. The paper of the Belgian opposition was Le Communiste.

Trotsky on Belgium

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Last updated on: 22.2.2007