The struggle of the French Trotskyists against Pabloite liquidationism, October 1953

Documents 3 to 17 and 19 to 24 originally published in Internal Bulletins of the SWP and the International Bulletins of the International Committee

We shall confine ourselves in this document to a recital of the developments of Pablist activities in France and of the struggle which he waged against the French section, we shall not attempt here to examine the problem of the origins of Pablism, a subject of major importance which the International will have to submit to study and discussion, but which would require an explanatory work at least equivalent in length to the present text.

From its very nature, and contrary to the statements of Pablo and his partisans in the IS, Pablist revisionism, as is well understood in the IS and in the IFC, had an earlier development. Its first clear but incomplete manifestation, in an official document of the International, is found in the projected theses on the International situation written by Pablo and submitted by the IS to the Ninth Plenum of the IEC (November 1950) as a preparatory document for the Third World Congress. These theses which take as their point of departure the closeness of the Third World War, propose a change (not yet specified) in the tasks of the International, proceeding in the direction of abandoning the building of independent revolutionary parties as the leadership of the masses in the period prior to the war. In this document also figure the first attacks against 'pure norms,' and the improbability of a 'free development toward socialism' is broached.

The IEC was disturbed by this orientation, and in accordance with a tactic which will constantly be his from then on, Pablo agrees to integrate certain Bleibtreu amendments, presented by Thee (Holland), into his thesis which coexist with the contradictory statements of the first version in the theses bearing the name of Theses of the Ninth Plenum.

The Central Committee of the ICP had been called together at the very moment when the Plenum of the IEC ended. The uneasiness of the IEC invades it immediately. The members of the French CC, disturbed by the reading of the projected theses which had been sent them, see the members of the IEC who are present at their meeting in violent conflict with each other. Pablo is absent and it is Livingstone who takes his place and with shocking violence attacks Privas and Frank, who had indicated reservations on the theses within the IS. Except for two members of the CC (Michele Mestre and Corvin), whom Pablo has for the past two months made his direct spokesman in the ICP the CC criticizes the revisionist elements introduced into the theses and refuses to approve the draft. It agrees to meet again one month later.

At this January CC meeting, certain Bleibtreu-Frank-Privas addenda to the political resolution prepared for the Seventh Congress of the ICP and relating to its tasks in the struggle against war are adopted, despite a hysterical intervention by Livingstone, representative of Pablo. Privas proposes to the CC that he be assigned to the leadership of La Verité in place of Michele Mestre. This proposal is adopted.

From the Ninth Plenum of the IEC to the month of March, 1951, when the crisis will break out, the tendencies are in process of being defined within the leadership of the ICP and of acquiring the content which they will finally have. The opponents of Pablo within the IS (Germain, Frank, Privas) call the Parisian members of the CC of the ICP together, with the exception of M. Mestre and Corvin,in order to advise them of the threats of expulsion from the IS pronounced by Pablo against them: by a bureaucratic ruse Privas had already been expelled from the bureau of the IS, which had given Pablo the majority of three votes against two. Immediately afterward he demanded that Germain and Frank defend the line, which had become the majority line in this fashion, before the IEC and in the sections, or face expulsion from the IS.

From the outset, a difference in views shows up regarding the methods of struggle:

1. Germain, Frank, Privas, frightened by the organizational threats of Pablo, favor waging a campaign for the defense of democracy, for changing the statutes of the IFC, for the recognition of minority rights in the preparatory discussion for the world congress, etc. ...

2. Bleibtreu is against this orientation, estimating that a struggle against revisionism must be waged with political weapons, that abstract democratic demands by a 'minority,' which does not express itself politically, will interest no one. He proposes a political counterattack by the publication of a counter-thesis by the minority of the IS or by the majority of the ICP Germain alerts the ICP from its orientation, 'Pablo has been waiting for a long time to destroy the French section.

In order to divert the majority of the ICP from its orientation, Germain advises Bleibtreu (January 1951) of his projected ten theses on Stalinism, formally promising to submit them to a vote by the sections and by the world congress. With this formal promise, the majority of the ICP, when advised, agree not to wage a separate fight and to wait for the publication of the Ten Theses, considering that these theses constitute a very clear refutation of the pro-Stalinist revisionist elements in the theses of the Ninth Plenum and a noteworthy contribution to the Trotskyist analysis of Stalinism. Most of the Parisian members of the CC fall into line for these reasons, particularly since the IS is asking for a discussion with the PB, enlarged by the Parisian members of the CC, on the subject of the 'addenda' adopted in January.

On the eve of this common IS-enlarged PB meeting, the members of the French leadership receive a letter from the IS placing them under discipline to cancel their vote adopting the 'addenda' and to rewrite them along the lines of the theses of the Ninth Plenum. This letter appears shortly after 'Where Are We Going?' wherein Pablo develops his most revisionist ideas and gives some of them the most provoking tone ('We must unequivocally line up with the anti-imperialist forces,' etc. ...) At the common meeting of the IS and enlarged PB, Pablo is again absent; it is Germain who represents the IS (Livingstone has so angered the French CC by his style of intervention -- which earned him the nickname 'the cowboy' -- that Pablo can no longer use him). One surprise awaits those attending this meeting: it is Privas who is reporting in the name of the IS and who, in a long embarrassed speech, tries to justify the positions of 'Where Are We Going!' which he had sharply criticized shortly before. He concludes that it is necessary to comply with the demands of the IS. Frank and Germain speak along the same lines. It is a confession of their capitulation, to which they were brought by their idea of a soft 'struggle' by means of organizational pressures and measures. From now on, they will be compelled to outstrip themselves from day to day and to show themselves more Pablist than Pablo. The effect of this turnabout on the CC is the reverse of that anticipated by the IS. Without any prior consultation among themselves after receipt of the IS letter, the members of the CC all react alike. They readdress to the IS its demand for clear explanations, for explanations of 'bad formulations,' for more precision whether new views are involved which they consider as revisionist. The meeting decides on calling an immediate extraordinary CC session and on publication of an international resolution. It is noteworthy that the division in the CC between majority and minority leaves on the majority's side the comrades who are doing mass work (in the factories and trade unions, the youth organizations, etc.) and on the other side the flotsam which was unable to find a working milieu outside the party. The text ( of the resolution) is worked out collaboratively.

The CC reassembles in April 1951. For the first time, Pablo comes there personally, not to defend his positions but to attack the French majority, which he accuses of conservatism and which, according to him, is succumbing to the pressure of Shachtman, of the POUM, of the Yugoslavs and of the neutralists (grouped around the weekly The Observer; it is necessary to point out that these neutralists are pro-Stalinists; they will support the Pablists at the time of the split, will give publicity to their publications and their meetings; Germain is one of the acknowledged and assiduous editors of this paper).

The CC adopts the theses, prepared by the PB and Parisian members of the CC, decides to postpone the date of the Seventh Congress of the party, against the wishes of the Pablists who are afraid of clarity and are using the argument of authority. Frank drafts a criticism of the majority theses which bears all the earmarks of political capitulation. Frank covers up the revisionism with which he does not really agree and attacks positions which are really his own by trying to read into them what isn't there. The majority, after having outlined its international political position, develops all aspects and all practical consequences of its policy in the daily work of rooting the French section in the masses. A series of reports (trade union, youth, organizational) is drawn up. The Pablist faction presents an opposition document on each of them: on trade union work, it proposes abandonment of the orientation toward rallying a class struggle tendency (which, according to them, cuts us off from the Stalinist workers, who are increasingly rallying about their leadership in anticipation of imminent war), and proclaims that we must enter the CGT (90% of the wage-earning members of the party really are in the CGT), in order to do faction work within a Stalinist organization and to 'get closer to the communist workers,' a task which they believe can be fulfilled by getting closer to the policy of their (the communist workers') leadership. Similarly, the Pablist document on youth work in effect advocates giving up building the Revolutionary Youth Movement, proposing instead work in the Stalinist youth organization, the Union of Republican Youth of France; the majority supports the document on building the party which had been prepared by Privas in September. The minority, to which Privas belongs, opposes it and advocates integration of the party into the 'Fighters for Peace.'

But the conclusions of the minority on these problems have as yet none of the clarity in orientation that they will assume after the Third World Congress. Nevertheless, their direction recalls the positions developed by the right-wing tendency in our party in 1945-46 according to which we had to get closer to the politics of the Stalinist workers if we wished to get closer to the Stalinist workers themselves.

Let us recall that in the summer of 1951, after having reached the Yalu and provoked Chinese intervention in Korea, MacArthur is dismissed. The Pablists then publish a pamphlet, over the heads of the French leadership, explaining that 'we have just missed having war,' thus unveiling the impressionism of the IS; the latter does not on that account alter its perspective of 'war-revolution' in a year or at most two, of ever increasing radicalization of Stalinist policy and of seizure of power by the various CPs such as rook place in China. These 'optimistic' perspectives for tomorrow -- their optimism is relative to the future of the Kremlin bureaucracy not to that of the Fourth International -- serves in reality to conceal the most profound scepticism as regards the working class's own resources, to whom they deny the possibility of entering any large scale struggle and of raising its level of consciousness prior to the war.

However, some extreme manifestations of pro-Stalinism, which should have served as a warning signal, showed up in weak sectors of the party. A young provincial militant, Maurice Burguiere, went over to the Stalinists, and was only won back by the arguments of the January 'addenda'; at Lyon on the other hand, another young militant, LeFort, drew up theses which he considered, and not without reason, as the logical conclusions of the Tenth Plenum theses and which declare that the Stalinist bureaucracy will stop playing a counter-revolutionary role as soon as war breaks out. Burguiere will completely go over to Stalinism after the split, denouncing Trotskyism as an imperialist agency.

The theses of Germain ('Ten Theses on Stalinism') which Frank had proclaimed as the document which should straighten Pablo out, are published in the month of May, but as a discussion document and with a preface which places them under aegis of the Ninth Plenum. This obviously does not prevent Pablo from calling this document 'untimely.' The Political Bureau of the French section adopts them as a resolution for the Third World Congress (without the preface). The seventh congress of the party will likewise adopt them, to the unusual and comic indignation of their author.

As a supplement to the theses of the CC majority Bleibtreu publishes 'Where is Comrade Pablo Going?', and article critically analyzing 'Where Are We Going". This text, published by La Verite after the split under the title 'Defense of Trotskyism,' but submitted as far back as this time to the IS as a document for the preparatory discussion for the Third World Congress, is not distributed by the IS in the International; the other French documents, notably the theses on international orientation, are also not distributed.

From the still confused and timid character of the revisionism, certain majority comrades are inclined to conclude that what is involved is not a revisionist course -- Pablism -- but certain revisionist errors, and that although an energetic struggle against them is of course necessary, they can be corrected without serious losses at the Third World Congress. This is the reason for a certain weakness in the struggle by the majority at the Seventh Congress of the party, which takes place in July 1951, and at the Third World Congress. Despite that, the Seventh Congress of the party confirms the decisive weight of the majority which counts two thirds of the militant forces on its side (it will be over three quarters at the time of the split). The struggle there was a violent one. The minority tried to use the argument of authority, in anticipation of the decisions of the world congress. Naturally, the liquidationist revisionists circulate the rumor that the majority wants a split. The congress reaffirms the principle of discipline toward the decisions of the world congress. The IS declares that it is impossible to postpone the date of the world congress as requested by the ICP so that discussion on the new positions of the IS can take place. Although the main French texts have been published within the discussion period, they will not be distributed in the International. This prepares the maneuvers of the world congress.

The Third World Congress takes place in France. The delegates from distant countries are called a month before its sessions and are 'insulated' by the IS. They are prepared by a campaign of slander against the French majority, which is pictured to them as splitters (it is even insinuated that some are 'captives of the Yugoslavs'). The three days of general discussion in the congress boil down to a series of violent attacks against the French section, contradictory attacks, the Pablist delegates attacking it one after another on the basis of imaginary positions. The Pablists are not afraid, in the course of their criticisms of the ICP positions, to attack the theses of Germain on Stalinism, characterized by a Dutch leader as a reflection of imperialist pressure!

The ICP presented three documents to the congress: its theses on international policy adopted by its Seventh congress, the 'Ten Theses on Stalinism,' then, during the course of the congress, numerous amendments to the theses of the Ninth Plenum correcting all the revisionist declarations in that document. The vote of the congress, without precedent in our movement, motivates the refusal to declare itself on the French theses (after a night of reflection) by the fact that the delegates were not informed on them (although they were able to polemicize against them during two out of three days); and the refusal to take a position on the 'Ten Theses' on the score that Germain, their author, 'did not write them with the object of having them voted on.'

Pablo wants to get rid of the majority by means of a French Commission set up as a tribunal. Some delegates are opposed to this procedure. The report made by Frank to this commission is a slanderous attack against the majority without counterposing program and conception of building the party. His sole aim is to have the congress hand over the real leadership of the ICP to its Pablist minority. The majority does not accede to this and Pablo cannot carry out his operation successfully, failing in an attempt to split the majority by the offer of a dubious compromise. .. .The last session of the French commission and of the congress saw a relaxation of the hostile atmosphere organized by Pablo against the French delegates. Pablo has to yield and accept the fact that there is no precedent for the violation of democratic centralism in the designation of leadership of national sections; the ICP retains the leadership which its own congress has established.

For the IS the international discussion has definitely ended with the congress. This includes the discussion on the Chinese revolution ('the most important event which has occurred since October 1917') which did not take place at the world congress and which the IS will open only after it will place the French majority outside the possibility of participating in it. By making a forbidden ground of every problem which poses the question of Stalinism anew, Pablo leaves the field free for the development of his pro-Stalinist revisionism.

An IS-ICP commission had been formed for drafting a program applying the line of the Third World Congress to France. Germain represents the IS there. The world congress confirmed for France the line of building an independent party. The resolution drawn up by the commission scarcely goes beyond this decision and proclaims the maintenance of what has been achieved. Pablo, in the course of a visit to the PB of the ICP states: 'it was not Pablism which the Third World Congress adopted!' Nevertheless, hardly have the delegates left France when the Pablist offensive is renewed; each sphere of activity of the party supplies an occasion for defining the turn toward the line of the 3rd World Congress. The special point of this offensive will first be trade union work. The Pablist minority is connected with all sectors of party work. By virtue of this, the proposed document of orientation in trade union work presented to the PB had been drawn up with the participation and agreement of Pierre Frank. Nevertheless we see the latter supporting an amendment by Privas at the PB which, by its tendency toward total alignment on Stalinism, by that very fact alone, brings into question (by extension) the necessity for an independent party in France. The PB asks the IS for its opinion on the Privas amendment. The 'enlarged IS' at which this question is placed on the agenda is a star-chamber affair at which Frank makes a fraudulent report on the activity of the party in the trade union group of 'Unity.' By means of this report Pablo succeeds in obtaining full Power to settle this question. In this manner he is able to make up for all the time lost at the world congress. The document on trade union orientation which he draws up concretizes 'Where Are We Going?' in the direction of pro-Stalinist and liquidationist revisionism. He writes: 'Stalinist policy surely becomes in practice a policy of militant mobilization of the working class masses against the war preparations Of imperialism. .. .It constitutes ...not an episodic or transitory turn, but rather the expression of a forced march which the evolution of imperialism toward the counter-revolutionary war imposes on the Stalinist leaders.

The Pablist offensive continues on the level of youth policy and that of the paper. The leadership (majority), in various documents on these questions, denounces the transition from the positions of the Third World congress (and of the resolution of the French commission appointed by the congress) to liquidationist Pablist positions. This entire battle, however, takes place in the PB. It is closed to the party which the PB does not have the right to keep informed. An extraordinary congress is consequently the only way out. Pablo cannot again run the risk of nullifying his bureaucratic successes before a representative assembly. That is why, on the eve of the Central Committee called for January 20, 1952, an ultimatist document (dated January IS) unveils his batteries. This is the 'entry sui generis turn.' This text will be minutely analyzed by the French majority. It is the program of liquidation. The PB must accept it or resign. The CC denounces it, driving Pablo to decisive admissions: 'We cannot today discuss what the Stalinists are doing ...nor with those who cling to the formulas of the transition program... .We will discuss with those who agree ... etc. .. ' As a matter of discipline 'the leadership agrees to begin carrying out entrism into the CP but demands an extraordinary congress in order that the party can be clarified on this 'unprecedented turn.' In order to avoid the destruction of the party, the leadership refuses to agree to the principal point of the Pablist ultimatum: surrender of the leadership to the minority.

Pablo thereupon declares the majority of the CC suspended, without the IS having met during the course of the CC sessions.

The Pablists had prepared an act of violence against the party along the lines of taking over locals, files, etc....but they fail. The majority refuses to submit to the illegal suspension, to the sole leadership of Pierre Frank, appointed gauleiter for the IS.

Emergency measures assure the security of the party. The majority publishes all the documents of the discussion and prepares the 8th Congress.

In these difficult circumstances the party shows its political maturity and its clear attachment to the principles of Trotskyism. All the living elements condemn the Pablist act of violence. The meetings called by Pierre Frank only manage to gather a few Pablists.

The extraordinary congress is prepared. The Pablists have to resign themselves to coming to meetings called by the majority. The general discussion confounds and discredits them. Their sole strength lies in using the threat of expulsion and in using the bond of international organization to play upon the sentiments of militants bred in the most profound internationalism. The period of suspension (January 20-beginning of March) witnesses an intensive political life. Numerous writings unveil the real pro-Stalinist liquidationist face of Pablism.

Nevertheless, at the 10th Plenum of the IEC, the majority of the ICP accepts the distorted proposals made by Pablo (the extraordinary congress will take place, but the leadership is changed: it is to be dominated by Germain, who is to have a major vote. The majority accepts this formulation, because it hopes that in the light of the new developments of Pablism, French isolation will cease and that sections will join it in order to put a brake on revisionism. It agrees to a heavy sacrifice in the interests of international Trotskyism, to which it sends out an appeal.

The period lasting from the 10th to the 11th plenum, under the leadership of this new two-headed political bureau (Germain constantly acts along Pablist lines, but the majority keeps the levers of command in its hands) is a dark period. [1]

Except for the 'Unity' conference which takes place at the same time as the Tenth Plenum, it is a period of party atrophy and decline.

In the 'Unity' conference, the majority won a striking success, dealing a crushing defeat to the Yugoslav agents, readily isolating and scattering them, whereas the Pablist tactic sought to isolate us, in order, in the final analysis, to destroy two years of work, much to the advantage of the Yugoslav agents.

But seeing the leadership of the Fourth International abandon Trotskyism, many militants abandon their militant work. The party is paralyzed. The IS refuses the majority elected by the 7th Congress the right to present its political report to the 8th Congress which is in preparation. On the eve of the Eleventh Plenum of the IEC, Germain presents a new Pablist ultimatum: complete capitulation (not to defend our positions at the congress, the latter being transformed into a conference for carrying out entry sui generis) or outright removal from the leadership. There is no further choice. Pablo, through Germain's mouth, is demanding our self-destruction. The Eleventh Plenum gives him a free hand. The majority then decides to call the congress. The Pablists know that the CC, with the support of the entire party, will reject the ultimatum. Consequently, a few days before the meeting of the CC, they ransack the technical apparatus of the party, and issue a pamphlet, which they distribute to the congress of the Indo-Chinese B.L. (a group which will be criminally but needlessly split on this account on the very eve of its return to Viet-Nam), accusing the majority of preparing a split. Secretly, two months previously, they had filed a statement with the police department establishing an ICP with a completely Pablist leadership. By this splitting tactic they think they have put an end to the party. At the CC they refuse to retract their splitting actions. The central committee suspends them. They organize a minority congress.

The Eighth Congress of the party finds that the split, so far as numerical forces are concerned, is of slight importance. All the working class elements of the party remain attached to its program and completely understand the pro-Stalinist liquidationist character of Pablism, but the split isolates us physically from the International for a period, because of the tactic of isolation which Pablo had employed concerning us, in order to first get rid of the main obstacle which the French section represented. This isolation initially discourages some militants. However, the majority does not lose its hope in the strength which lies in the attachment to principles.

Historical dialectic serves the Marxists and events come to our aid. The brief course of Stalinist adventurism in France has brought the Pablists to madness. After the disastrous demonstration of May 28, 1952, they proclaim: 'The French revolution has begun under the leadership of the men from the Kremlin' and they demand of the Eleventh Plenum that it expel the majority which 'is deserting the revolution.

While the split is taking place, the last Stalin course of United National Front comes as a brutal contradiction of all the prophecies of Pablism.

The first CC after the congress (September 1952), reaffirming its unalterable attachment to the Fourth International, drafts its plan of struggle for its reintegration in conjunction with a struggle against liquidation within the whole International.

Just as the party was able, upon being freed from the debilitating factional struggle, to turn outward and during the course of the year 1952-1953 to achieve a series of important successes (thanks to which we will win back many militants lost during the struggle against Pablism and before), so on the international level, our new situation allows us to establish direct contact with many Trotskyists in the International, as a starting point for the realignment of the International.

Disappointed in its hope to destroy Trotskyism in France by the split, Pablism resorts to the most odious means for accomplishing its work of destruction: police actions, slanders, collaboration with the Stalinists. These operations dealt serious blows to our cause but are finally turning against their authors, who are discredited from now on.

With the struggle against Pablism, the French section of the International experienced its longest and most painful crisis in (party) building. Heavily proletarianized during the last few years,tempered in the class struggle, it has magnificently survived this trial and demonstrated both its political maturity and its capacity for action. In this three-year struggle the incomparable value of our program has once again been verified.


[1] A period marked specially by the publication in 'Quatrieme Internationale' of the report by Pablo on 'entry sue generis.' Pablo thereby publicly offers his collaboration with the Kremlin.

Trotskyism Versus Revisionism Document Index | Toward a History of the Fourth International | Trotsky Encyclopedia Home Page

Last updated 17.8.2003