MIA: History: ETOL: Documents: FI: 1938-1949: World War II: Emergency Conference: 1940

Emergency Conference Of The Fourth International

Political Report Of The Central Committee Of The French Section

The Situation in France

Adopted by the Emergency Conference of the Fourth International
May 19-26, 1940

I. The spirit of the masses in France is best described as a general defeatism in all layers of the population, principally in the working class. The restrictions, the increasing misery, the dictatorship, oppressive measures—all this has contributed towards the development of an as yet inarticulate opposition, primitive but violent, against Daladier and his regime.

Already at the beginning of the war, we pointed out several movements in the factories, several mutinies at the front. Since then this state of affairs has developed considerably. Only the blind can fail to see the explosions which will come in the process of preparation. To be sure it is not a matter of a movement developing gradually, for each strike raises itself upon the shoulders of those preceding it, as was the case in June 1936. As these events are hardly being prepared we may expect movements which will break out violently, in the midst of chaos, uprisings, resulting in partial defeats and cruel experiences. Our task, as the February conference pointed out, consists in preparing the cadres to intervene in the movements at the front as well as in the factories.

II. Within the working class the reformists have been deeply separated from the masses. They have only succeeded in reorganizing skeleton trade unions. In the Socialist Party, completely shaken up and in full flight of disintegration, oppositions are beginning to develop. On the other hand the Stalinists, after having suffered a severe blow from the Russo-German pact and the Finnish war, have regained considerable influence, mainly in the factories, because they appear as a symbol of the opposition. Undoubtedly there is a great deal o repugnance towards them among the soldiers at the front (“the Russo-German pact provoked the war”). It is also beyond all doubt that the Stalinist organization has been deeply disorganized particularly in the provinces but it has behind it today popular sympathy.

The Committees of the Fourth International

III. Events have practically cleansed the vanguard of all anarchist and centrist groupings. Among the latter the PSOP has simply exploded under the pressure of its contradictions, of its lack of technical preparations, its pacifist and democratic illusions, which it shared with the liberal bourgeoisie.

We tried in vain to save this party. The Freemason leaders opposed all illegal work, at the same time as the “left center” had itself arrested at the very first chance. Today there remains practically nothing of the PSOP, which has been reconstituted under the leadership of the Freemasons. But, unfortunately, the war surprised the Fourth Internationalists, who were engaged in a deep crisis—the Bolshevik-Leninists were divided into several groups. Their former “leaders” were deeply demoralized. Difficulties were not lacking—the necessity of improvising, lack of material means, increasing misery in the country, lack of cadres due to mobilization, imprisonment, defections, political terror, etc.

Along with the lack of cadres we suffered from the heterogeneous character of our grouping—comrades coming from the PSOP, ex-POI, left and center of the PSOP, from the “old generation of Bolshevik-Leninists” as well as recently from the Communist Party.

Nevertheless we succeeded in reconstituting an organization numerically almost equal to the former POI—without counting our contacts at the front—a young but active and evermore homogeneous organization whose seriousness has been evidenced in the little action that government oppression has left us today.

Our literature appears regularly. The Peuple admits the increasing influence of the “Trotskyists.” Syndicats polemicizes with the illegal Bulletin of the Fourth International. Together with its valets, the bourgeoisie attacks us in its press, on the radio, and in the Chamber (speechof Frossard) At the same time, the prefecture of police announces “general inquisition within Trotskyist circles."

Regarding the small dissident groups, we have attempted to establish unity—particularly for reasons of morale. Unfortunately the ex-POI (the most numerous) pursues an adventurous policy. As to the “leaders” of the ex-POI, they are attempting to justify their total inactivity by discovering “differences” with us as to perspectives, that is to say, by making a whole d’ieory out of skepticism, pessimism, and abstention. Regarding them our February conference has been forced to specify our perspectives, our means of action in a document published in No. 6 of the Bulletin of the Fourth International, together with a text presented by the ex-POI. On this document we request the criticism of the International. In addition we want to point out that within the two dissident groups (mainly the ex-POI) there is developing a current in favor of our organization. Their most active militants circulate our material, work with us often, and are pushing for affiliation with the Committees of the Fourth International.

The Crisis in the SWF

As can be seen the American crisis dominates the life of the International itself. The American comrades seem to consider the problems of the International and even of the war from the perspective of a crisis in the SWP. For us, on the other hand, the crisis in the SWP must be resolved as a function of the general situation and as a task of the International.

But the comrades must understand that the problems discussed in America are also being discussed in the other countries: the perspectives of international capitalism and the possibility of development toward bureaucratic capitalism in particular, the nature of the workers’ state in the light of present events—and the strategy flowing therefrom. These problems are posed not by American psychology but by the events. They cannot be resolved either by instituting camps of reeducation for minorityites nor by splitting with the majority. A split in America (especially on such problems) would signify a catastrophe for the International, its discreditment, and undoubtedly its pulverization. We are neither a philosophical sect nor a faction, but in its embryo the International of the revolution.

The crisis must be resolved in a progressive sense by eliminating personal problems and references to Sapronov, in deepening the discussion opened by Trotsky in The USSR in War, in developing it internationally by the workers’ vanguard. The facts will tell.

That is why, independently of the position taken by the majority of our central committee on the Finnish question (see Bulletin No. 6) and the position taken by one or another side on the Russian question we insist urgently that, on one side or another, the unity of the party (which means International unity) must be safeguarded. We believe that this unity can be achieved on the following bases:

Continuation of the theoretical discussion publicly;

Democratic rights for the minority (in the leading bodies, free expression, etc.);

Respect in action for majority discipline and democratic centralism.

In case agreement is not possible we demand that no splitting measure be taken before a world conference is called in six months.

For a world conference

Even aside from the crisis of the SWP a world conference would be very important in the present circumstances in order to conclude the discussion on world perspectives, to put a period to it, to confront it with the results of experiences and—since events will certainly have developed substantially—to arm the International for the struggle to come.

The congress could become an important factor in revolutionary regroupment You can tell better than we can to what extent such a congress can be organized in common or with the participation of other organizations, such as the groups of the left wing of the POT (in contact with Oslo). If from here the circumstances appear favorable, wide latitude may be left to the organizing committee to enlarge a part of the congress and to meet there representatives of Communist, syndicalist, colonial organizations, etc., ready to struggle with us against imperialism.

In any case, there will probably be a great international repercussion. We know full well the immense difficulties. We propose to surmount them by taking the necessary measures for political and material preparation (six months, nine months, a year if necessary).


Aside from the problem of the SWP we therefore make the following proposals:

1. In America effective support of the European comrades. We do not ask for material aid from the $6,000 war chest.” We ask that the American press follow our struggle and support it.

2. The IS must break with routine. Organize actively and responsibly the contacts, follow and guide our political struggle, a comrade of the IS being specialized for relations with France.

3. In Europe to approve the establishment of a European committee and to aid us in realizing this.

4. World Congress—to decide for it and to prepare it.

Middle of March 1940

Last updated on 12.9.2005