Leon Trotsky

Against the Confusion
of the Antwerp Comrades [1]

(January 1936)

Written: January 1936.
Publisher: From Revolutionary History, Vol.7 No.1.
Translated: Ted Crawford.
Online Version: Marxists Internet Archive, 2002.
Transcribed: Ted Crawford.
HTML Markup: David Walters.

4 January 1936

Dear comrades [2]

The last issue of the Spartacus (Belgium) [3] of 28 December 1935 makes the business of the Antwerp comrades [4] public and forces me to put the problem to you a formal manner.

The Antwerp comrades whom you know have indicated their unhappiness with our Belgian comrades attitude and with our international organisation to Vereeken [5] as they are entitled to do. But not content with using their right to criticise, they wanted to change things by “direct action”, that is to say, they wanted to belong simultaneously to the LCI and the rival Spartacus organisation. This type of democracy goes very well with intellectual anarchists but it has nothing to do with democratic centralism. In this situation comrade Polk [6] had no alternative but to break with the intellectual anarchists who do not respect either the rules or the decisions of the organisation. If not, how else can an organisation of revolutionaries be maintained? In Belgium things are evolving quite rapidly. The Lesoil-Dauge group will probably be expelled soon. [7] We may concede that they will come out much stronger than when they went in, which would show the correctness of entry. But that is not the problem. The expulsion can and must create conditions for a fusion with the Vereeken group, at least if Vereeken takes his responsibilities to the organisation seriously.

In this matter the Antwerp comrades are a problem because they [...] the normal relations between organisations and encourage Vereeken’s negative attempt. At the very moment that negotiations can be started for fusion, this must be stopped. We must know precisely where our organisation starts and the other ends. I have already pointed out that the impatient and the conciliatory anarchists stay outside a real fusion. Since I am involved in this unpleasant affair, I will give you a little example of the mood among the Antwerp comrades: in my first letter on the subject of their objections I justified the impossibility of an immediate collaboration in the following terms: “the Charleroi [8] group does not want to appear in the eyes of the left wing to be the agent of a group outside the party”. The Antwerp hard men tell us that they “have no stupid conditions” that I am “attributing” all this to them and so on etc. The phrase quoted above, with the word appears, excludes this interpretation. There would not then be a question of “allegations” in this context. But in their writings the Antwerp people allow themselves the sort of methods used between two rival organisations. They show that they feel closer to Vereeken’s group than to us. For it is he that they defend and we that they attack, disloyally, in their letter and through Vereeken in Spartacus

They explain to us that they had envisaged a “narrow and illegal organisational collaboration” between the Charleroi group and Spartacus. I would not want to be brutal, but I cannot help saying that any such conception of things is childish. Would a secret meeting between Vereeken and Lesoil be the only collaboration between the two organisations? If it is a question of illegal contacts at the top how can the Antwerp people know anything and control it? They do not belong [...] [9] Belgians. Perhaps such a thing has taken place without their knowledge. And if they demand to be informed of this illegal collaboration the same right must be guaranteed to each member of the two organisations. What is then left of yesterday’s great “secret”? In the eyes of the Dauge group it might look as if Lesoil is secretly plotting with Vereeken against them. And the ASR would collapse immediately. You must also consider the existence of middlemen who collect document after document and put down on paper all the secrets before they have seen the light of day.

The comparison with the relations between Lesoil and the IS is ridiculous. That fact that Lesoil writes once a month to old friends in Geneva [10] or a letter to me, that he can calmly show to any organisation that he wishes, is something else. It is something quite different to practise secret collaboration between two organisations in Belgium. In this case the absolute loyalty of everyone must be counted on. The attitude of the Antwerp people shows all by itself that such a thing would be dangerous.

These examples of childish lack of comprehension of the real difficulties are enough to make us say again: the comrades must be called to order.


1. Letter in German to the Ausland-Komitee (Foreign Committee) of the IKD. 7905 Harvard Library.

2. The letter is addressed to the leadership of the German section in exile as it concerns the attitude of the Antwerp comrades, in particular one of the exiled leaders, Fritz Besser alias Brink (1908-1977)

3. Entry in to the POB had been decided by a general meeting of the Belgian section on 10 March 1935. Those in the minority, more or less all the Brussels branch, decided to keep an independent organisation and after publishing four issues of the Voix Communiste in a period of two months started to publish a fortnightly Spartacus, subtitled Organ of the International Communist League (Trotskyist) in Belgium

4. The group of the Belgian section in Antwerp were strongly influenced by the Dutch party of Sneevliet which had been, like the Belgian minority, hostile to the policy of entrism in France and Belgian. A minority had supported the demand for unity between the “entrist” and “independent” groups. It had been expelled on the initiative of Polk. Spartacus had made this expulsion and the position of the minority public in an article A Reconciliation Which Is Not Without Danger about a reconciliation occurring between the ASR and the Liga as a result of the attacks on the two of them by the POB.

5. Georges Vereeken (1898-1978), taxi driver, central committee member of the Belgian CP, had been one of the pioneers of the Left Opposition in Belgian and until 1934 one of the principal leaders of the Belgian section (Brussels Federation) and member of the IS. He led the minority hostile to entrism in France and Belgium and had been the main leader of the LCI who put out Spartacus and had signed the Open Letter in August 1935

6. Lodewijk Polk (1902-1942) once a worker in the Bell Telephone company and then a diamond cutter in Antwerp was one of the leading workers in the Opposition then the Belgian League at Antwerp where he was active at this time , on behalf of the Belgian section in the POB and the Liga.

7. Leon Lesoil (1892-1942) mining technician, won to communism in Russia where he was serving as a soldier, had been one of the founders and first leaders of the Belgian CP and then the Left Opposition and the leader of the Worker’s federation of Charleroi. He had led the famous miners’ strike in this region in 1932 and then was the leader of the Belgian section after its split with the “Bruxellois” Van Overstraeten and Hennaut. He had been a supporter of entrism and had been the real leader of the group that was active in the POB and which had grouped round Action socialist revolutionnaire. Trotsky had a particularly high opinion of this real working class communist. Walter Dauge (1907-1944), an ex-student and then a radio announcer who was sacked, was a member of the national committee of the Jeunes Gardes socialistes and secretary of their federation in the Borinage and one of the young leaders of the Left in the POB. His attachment to proletarian anti-militarism and a trip to the USSR in 1935 had brought him closer to the Trotskyists in the POB. He became the standard bearer of the tendency which, in the summer of 1935, had regrouped around the weekly Action socialiste revolutionnaire. He was in league with the Trotskyists but had not totally won their confidence, that of Trotsky in particular.

8. The expression “Charleroi group” meant the entrist Belgian section, the Lesoil group.

9. Several illegible words.

10. “Geneva” is the code for the HQ of the International Secretariat and sometimes the IS itself.

Trotsky on Belgium

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Last updated on: 22.2.2007