Leon Trotsky

Letter to Paul-Henri Spaak

(April 1934)

Written: April 1934.
Publisher: From Revolutionary History, Vol.7 No.1.
Translated: Ted Crawford.
Online Version: Marxists Internet Archive, 2002.
Transcribed: Ted Crawford.
HTML Markup: David Walters.

14 April 1934

Dear comrade,

I got your letter rather late because unfortunately it had the wrong address. Perhaps my reply will arrive after the decision. Too bad, I hope all the same that the decision was the right one.

As elsewhere things are moving rapidly in Belgium. The working class has only got a few months for the first stage of its regroupment. You say the situation is difficult for the Action Socialiste group: the internal enemy makes horrible progress, the Workers Party is in decline and thus any new party will have a hard beginning. That is true but we do not choose our historical circumstances. The unequalled difficulties in which the working class now finds itself take a sharply concentrated form for the working class left wing but nevertheless this working class is the only key to salvation. To resolve any practical question we must start from general principles. The POB is in a bad way and it worsens from one week to another. Since the lessons of Germany and Austria have not been addressed, things have got even worse and the more the party declines the more it becomes and will become hostile towards the left. Each day lost by the left will be won by the right, that is to say by Fascism.

The union bureaucracy is most limited, reactionary and corrupt. That is precisely why it dominates the party as the contradictions sharpen and demand a clear response.

It is of course regrettable that the Lefts have not created organised strong points in the unions but nothing is lost; the questions posed at the present time are not those of parties and unions. These are questions which affect the fate of the entire working class. They include the workers party and the unions. That is why the union bureaucracies are terrified of being overwhelmed by the masses if the latter can find some leadership and it is precisely because of this that these corrupters and corrupted are afraid of you. They have to push you out, smash you and destroy you. Making concessions to them signifies a repetition on a smaller scale of Austro-Marxist politics towards Dollfuss. The reactionary bureaucracies will use your concessions to discredit you, to grab more concessions from you and to strangle you the day after tomorrow in conditions much more unfavourable for you than those today.

Do not give way. On the contrary, take the offensive. Explain to the working class vanguard that it is the worst capitalist reaction which uses union bureaucracies and “socialists” to strangle preventively all spirit of revolt and revolutionary dignity in the proletariat and thus to help the Fascist killers to do their job.

Without the least hesitation my most profound conviction tells me: do not concede an inch of ground. Naturally you will not take the formal initiative in a split, you will push the responsibility for it on the bureaucrats, but you will agitate with full freedom and steer your course by high political objectives and not the little legal ambushes of the bureaucracy. The left must be mobilised to help the Party without losing an instant, otherwise in a few months you will be under the steam-roller of fascism and then you will only be able to curse the oversights made and time wasted in the present phase.

Dear Comrade, Belgium and France are the last line of defence of the proletariat. If my opinion has the slightest influence on the decision to take I say to you “Do not give way! There is no second chance! Mobilise your supporters! Launch the offensive! Be pitiless to the cowardice and corruption which paralyse from on high the excellent and powerful Belgian working class! Your group can play an historic role, now or never”

Please excuse the tone of near pathos of these lines. The tone is naturally dictated by the gravity of the circumstances as well as by the absolute clarity with which the consequences of your attitude appear to my eyes.

My best greetings and wishes.

P.S. Your interview in Le Matin assures me that my letter is more or less superfluous. You must have taken the decision to fight to the end. I congratulate you.

Trotsky on Belgium

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Last updated on: 22.2.2007