Founding Conference of the
Resolution On The Tasks Of The French Section
The International Conference considers that the most important problem concerning the situation of the party in France lies in the reenergizing of its activity and in the impulse to be given to an indispensable reorganization of its organizational work. As a matter of fact, Bolshevism’s superiority over Menshevism lies not only in the correctness of its policy but also in its ability to bring an organization to share the revolutionary struggles of the proletariat. Bolshevism is genuinely infused with the Marxian spirit contained in the well known formula: it’s not enough just to explain the world; one must change it.
Now the question which instantly faces us is the following: how does it happen that with a policy that has been in general correct the French section of the Fourth International has been forced into an organizational retreat, which shows itself in the loss of about 15 percent of its active membership? It cannot be explained away solely on the grounds of the objective situation: “sacred union” [of the political parties], war, the failure and disillusionment which produce in the toiling masses a distrust toward attempts at labor organization and the party’s general activity.
A close examination of the POI’s [Parti Ouvrier Internationaliste Internationalist Workers Party] activity during these last two years enables us to point out precisely one of the essential causes for the French section’s present state of disorganization. In every revolutionary organization, responsibility for the state of organizational progress and activity falls predominantly upon the leadership. Now the activity of the POI’s leadership during the period just passed has been essentially characterized by its inadequacy in the field of mobilizing the organization’s members, the absence of a constant coordination of their efforts and of a constant concern with utilizing their special abilities, and as a result, the inability to create within the organization that political, ideological, and moral cohesion and that team spirit without which any organization is in jeopardy and heads for ruin.
The inadequacies of the POI’s leadership are shown by an increasing organizational letdown, with, as sequel, the existence of a certain “revolutionary” amateurism, the lack of a serious party administration, of a normally functioning national treasury, and of a Lutte Ouvriere editorship which is stable and full of the spirit of emulation. Naturally to some extent these inadequacies result from the lack of even a modest organizational apparatus composed of comrades who devote all their time to party work.
But this need for a permanent organizational apparatus does not spare us the necessity of taking note of the fact that the POI leadership has not assimilated, in a factual living way, the idea of what a revolutionary organization really is, and what as a consequence the activity of a leadership should be. Thus this “ paddling one’s own canoe” and “everyone doing what he pleases.” Underestimation of the importance of action, i.e., of the necessity of translating into specific acts the initiatives which the members think up, is a fault in no way confined to the rank and file, but common to both the rank and file and the leadership. The situation is not that of a well functioning leadership, armed with a serious policy, which cannot find among the rank and file the necessary forces for the carrying out of its decisions: but on the contrary a leadership which above all does not know how to lead itself—whence arises the confusion and demoralization of the rank and file where the comrades’ discontent and aspirations find simultaneous expression in these two words addressed to the leadership: “Lead us!”
The failure to apply the essential principles of Bolshevism is evinced not only by revolutionary amateurism but also by the lack of system in organizational work. Bolshevism has in practice produced in the field of organization in addition to the type of professional revolutionary, a whole system of rigorous work.
The POI, and in particular its leadership, have functioned throughout their existence without any serious system of organizational work. The lack of system in the work of the POI is characterized by two features: 1) The lack of agitation, propaganda, and action concentrated on decisive points. (Thus it is that during many months important branches 18th, 19th, 20th found themselves without objectives, while the objectives in the Citroen and Renault plants were left without adequate forces.) 2) Within the party itself, there was no plan for the work, and no rigorous supervision of its execution.
The result of work done anarchically, without objective, without order or system, contributes to the growth of the impression of an activity that gets lost upon a thousand occasions and that ends in nothing, an impression which is fatal to the morale of party members. This failure to produce results also explains the party’s inability to recruit new members.
A certain improvement should however be noted, as shown in the July 1938 internal bulletin and in the decisions of the conference of June, 1938 an improvement which must be amplified in detail, accentuated, and systematized. Once more we proclaim the necessity for the POT to concentrate the essential part of its activity on the principal factories of the Paris region, and, in connection with this, to regard trade union work (treated below) as the principal branch of its activity.
As regards Paris, it may be said by way of a simple general indication that all present and immediately future forces should be centered on Renault Boulogne, Citroen 15th, Citroen 17th, 14th Montrouge, and Suburbs Colombes.
In the provinces, where a certain progress has been made in the building of cadres, there is nevertheless a need for the party to make its efforts effective, because of the remarkable possibilities there, in the important northern region.
It is outstandingly correct to state and constantly to repeat, as all the POI’s conventions have done, that improvement in the POI’s work, and especially improvement in the quality of the leadership, is directly dependent upon its recruiting among the proletariat, i.e., upon its efficiently carrying out the directive already announced a hundred times: “orientation toward the trade unions and the factories.”
In this field, however, the widespread and indeed solemn recognition that this is vitally necessary has not been enough. It is in spite of the fact that U generally recognizes the need of this that the POT stagnates. It is hence absolutely necessary that, with all the strength of which they are capable, the most conscientious militants should force with the greatest administrative rigor the application of the general measures which have been recommended and admitted to be correct in principle, and should require the necessary sacrifices. It is only if the organization receives the shock necessary to this practical accomplishment that U will improve its social makeup and, as a result, the work of its leadership.
It is with the POI’s leadership that genuine organizational reform should begin. It is the leadership itself which must radically change its working methods. Consequently, the International Conference is of the opinion that the most urgent practical measures to be taken in order to obtain good results are:
a) Setting up, within the Political Bureau, a secretariat composed of three comrades who can meet regularly at least one hour a day. This secretariat should take the necessary political initiatives in between meetings of the Politburo and make sure that decisions taken by itself, by the Politburo, and by the Central Committee are carried out.
b) Organizing commissions (organizational work, agitprop, trade union work, factory work, management of the newspaper, finances, etc.) and putting at the head of each a member of the Politburo or the Central Committee. To fill these commissions, call on party comrades according to theft inclinations and abilities. Each member of a commission ought to have one particular task determined on the basis of the commission’s plan of work and according to the needs that may arise between meetings. The leadership of the POT ought not to hesitate to call on new forces, even if they are inexperienced.
c) Drawing up the proper limits of the tasks of Politburo and Central Committee members, thus avoiding overlapping on the jobs of others.
d) Making sure that all comrades in the different party bodies (regional committees, branches) each have their specific job to do from week to week, on the basis of each body’s plan of work.
e) Organizing well prepared meetings of branch functionaries and general membership meetings, all having as their purpose some precise activity to be carried out. (Reports worked out in advance, brief and precise, and with concrete proposals for work to be done.)
f) Publishing a political and organizational weekly circular addressed to the secretaries of all party bodies; a monthly internal bulletin at the service of internal democracy in the organization. The work of getting out these circulars and internal bulletins should be done at the International Secretariat in order to enable U to supervise the activity of the POL.
g) Guaranteeing a special fund for the fulltime functionary. The Financial Situation
The POI’s financial situation has always been very bad. The dues are either not paid at all, or if they are, it is just by luck, without supervision by the leadership. The leadership has as its duty the choosing of a serious national treasurer who will be active and vigilant. In this way all the comrades will form the habit of paying their dues regularly, and the branch treasurers of also paying regularly that part of the dues which goes into the national treasury. The national treasury’s vigilance should be demonstrated by the periodic publication of nonfulfillments in a monthly treasurer’s report sent out to the whole organization. In this way anyone who will not pay his dues regularly should after due warning have his membership in the POI cut off.
The system of pledges provided by each member’s special dues requires the national treasurer’s extremely close attention; this system will be reinforced and added to by the party’s improving its work and activity, a thing that will produce a great resurgence of revolutionary devotion and the spirit of sacrifice. It is equally necessary to organize systematically the collection of funds from sympathizers and friends.
The national treasurer’s task is thus to energize the financial commission, to divide up the various tasks, supervise their execution and point out to the party any failures to carry them out.
The Lutte Quvriere
The Lutte Quvriere, in trying to become a socalled “mass newspaper,” has become too superficial—indeed, even boring. The stupid ideology held on this subject was such that certain party members even objected to publishing Trotsky’s articles sometimes on the grounds that they were too long and incomprehensible for the masses, sometimes that they were too violent against the Stalinists. The editorship, especially at the beginning, was thereby paralyzed by the fear of falling under the blows of such criticisms. A certain improvement in recent months, from this point of view, ought to be noted.
The result has been that there has been an alienation from La Lutte of those vanguard readers who used to find in our organ serious revolutionary news from the national and international point of view as well as an instrument for Marxist education which took daily events as a starting point. Working class readers found no substantial answer to their troubles in its hastily edited articles. Our organ thus abandoned its mission as an educator of the cadres and builder of the Fourth International.
Furthermore it is apparent that the articles in La Lutte were often written without much attention either to form or content. The language is not the result of a conscious effort to adapt the articles to the workers’ concerns; and is on that very account abstract and devoid of straightforwardness. It is important to remedy this state of affairs as quickly as possible, the more so inasmuch as a serious organization of this work would make it possible to obtain fruitful results, in view of the possibilities in this field.
First of all, it is necessary to fight against the stupid and primitive ideology which has crept in under the borrowed label of “mass newspaper.” It is time to learn the lesson of the French experience on this point, in the spirit of the excellent brochure by our lamented Comrade Erwin Wolf. A real mass newspaper is one which tries to take as its starting point daily happenings, to bring explanations of them and slogans about them to the workers, and first of all to the advanced workers, to the vanguard. The basis of the news should be objective events in the factories, on the farms, etc., up-to-date national and international political news, clearly expressed and analyzed. But this aim is above all interrelated with the aim of the party itself: to forge cadres, provide the explanation of the situation, and not to stop at merely agitational slogans which, lacking explanation and political generalization, are powerless to make the best workers understand the Fourth International’s reason for existence, just at the moment when, disgusted with bureaucrats and with the Popular Front, they are looking for a new way out. In the second place, the editing of La Lutte must be completely reorganized to facilitate supervision by the International on the one hand and the rank and file on the other. One means of supervision will be the giving up of anonymity, with the exception of the editorial and of certain party articles. Subjects [departments] will be divided among various members, and the leading articles will be signed, either with names or with pseudonyms. By its supervision the editorship will press for a deeper study of questions and for specialization. It shall be arranged to have one day to intervene between the delivery of the articles to the editors and their delivery to the printer, to allow correction and selection. Failures will be communicated to the entire party. Each local group of the Parisian Region shall be permitted to send a delegate to the plenary meeting of the editorial board. Thus every time that a certain spirit of “ the hell with it” camouflaged itself behind the spirit of collective anonymous communism, recourse was had to the old procedures for supervision and competition. Finally the editorship shall make a deliberate effort to adapt its language to that of the workers and peasants. It is true that only stubborn and fruitful work in the factories and trade unions, involving practical collaboration in the vanguard organ by workers who are actually engaged in the struggle, can produce a really radical change in the paper’s language and tone. Nevertheless, far from merely waiting passively for this change, which is properly the work of the party, the editors in reporting the daily events and the lessons of the struggle should systematically try to obtain the direct participation of those who are taking part in that struggle, with all their interests and language. In a word, the organ of the POI is its material instrument for agitation, information, education, i. e., the building of the Fourth International.
To keep up its regular weekly appearance is an absolute duty.
Despite certain individual efforts, it can be said that on the whole the leadership let the whole administrative and financial work of the paper fall on one single administrative functionary, without creating around the commission of management that spirit of “permanent mobilization” of the whole party which would have enabled it to find financial resources and material aid. The result has been that financial stability based on pledges has been progressively endangered, and that on the other hand material aids in administrative tasks failed one by one.
Taking into account the putting into practice of the financial measures recommended above, the leadership of the POT should take the running of the paper in hand as a cardinal task, draw up a plan of reorganization on the occasion of the party convention, have the branches discuss it, appeal to their spirit of emulation and devotion; guarantee the daily supervision of the execution of these tasks, and the public nature of this supervision, throughout the entire party. It is necessary within three months from the date of the convention to undertake a campaign to double the number of subscribers and readers. And this is a matter, not so much of offering prizes, as of having good articles and good documentary investigations.
The Magazine: La Quatrieme Internationale
The progress made in this field consists in the very existence of the magazine. That fact in itself is already a success for the POI. The magazine, the theoretical arm of the Fourth International, must also apply itself to the task of carrying contents adapted to the problems of union struggles, the problems of recent events, and to specifically workers’ union problems. Thus it will become not only an arm of theoretical and ideological clarification, but also a fighting weapon that can be used by the present cadres of the labor movement.
To reach this goal, a serious editorial committee should function with regularity, and be under the supervision of the Central Committee.
Trade Union Work
This is the part of the party’s activity that deserves the greatest care and the maximum concentration and specialization of those forces which the party has at its disposal, without withdrawing them from the performance of those other important organizational tasks which may not have a direct connection with their specific trade union work. While one notes fragmentary and episodic efforts in this direction, the fact must nevertheless be noted that it is today this branch of the party’s activity which has been the most abandoned and left to itself without directives. The trade union work of the POT requires a total reorganization of the party’s activity, beginning with the leadership. It is here that we shall have the greatest success if the work is properly organized. This shall be the task of the Trade Union Commission.
Factory Work Since June 1936 the POT has felt the need of directing its forces towards work in the factories. Together with the straight trade union work, it is there that the party should stand forth as a fighting weapon of the working class.
The accomplishments already made in this work allow it to be noted in the activity of the POI branches as the principal task. But the lack of directed trade union work has failed to make the development of the workers’ struggles and the exact understanding of their demands really living subjects in the party. Thus it comes about that, with its weak forces, the POI has weak connections in the factories work insufficiently tied up with the workers’ day-to-day lives.
The Struggle Against Provocateurs
The honesty of the present leadership of the POI has enabled it to fight back against various provocations that might have cost the party its life.
In estimating the’weaknesses of the POI one must also take into account the fact that it has been the party most aimed at by the enemy; but that is only an additional reason for requiring it to have a rigorous and serious organization, which is the best weapon in the fight against provocateurs. In the second place the POT must see to the creation of special bodies for vigilance against the enemy as well as for the protection of militants, especially leading functionaries and the entire party.
The International Conference expresses its confidence in the possibilities of a radical rectification of the activity and the organization of the Fourth International’s French section. It has paid particular attention to the French organization’s situation because it considers that it is in this country that the interest of the socialist revolution has at the moment principally concentrated. It notes the resolution of the POI leadership tending to put into practice one of the essential bases of Bolshevism, revolutionary professionalism (the choosing of full-time functionaries), and to reorganize the whole party in accordance with a system of rigorous work.
By an enthusiastic application of the conference’s directives, the POI will go forward. It will draw a rigorous line of demarcation between its ranks and fair-weather revolutionary amateurs. Centrist political and trade union organizations will thus witness the disappearance of one of the principal causes for their development: the organizational weakness of the French section of the Fourth International. But if, in spite of the most favorable symptoms and possibilities which justify a strong hope of successful rectification, the POI does not succeed in surmounting its grave organizational deficiencies, then a policy, however abstractly correct, will not succeed in wiping out the temporary successes of political and trade union centrism.
Lastly, the conference, putting internationalism into practical effect, decides to guarantee regular financial aid to the POI from those sections which are in a position to cooperate,
in order that the French section may get its paper out with regularity and assure the functioning of its activities and its organizational work according to the general measures herein recommended. The International Conference asks the Central Committee of the POI while taking into account previous experience and concrete facts, to take these general measures as bases in working out a detailed plan of reorganization, and to concentrate thereupon the attention and the discussion of its national convention.
Last updated on 11.5.2005