From Fourth International, Vol.6 No.9, September 1945, pp.286-287.
Transcribed, marked up & formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for ETOL.
With the formal end of hostilities between the Imperialist powers, and the reestablishment of international communications, it is becoming more obvious than ever before that the Fourth International has come through the tests of war-time terror with flying colors. News reports and letters coming to us now with greater frequency and from constantly new sources, prove that the sections of the Fourth International not only survived but grew and became hardened in struggle wherever they existed before the war. Under the repressive measures of the “democracies” as well under the very noses of the totalitarian police in the Fascist countries. Even amidst the tortures of Hitler’s concentration camps, the Trotskyist persisted in the struggle and went forward to new gains!
Terrible and irreplaceable losses accompanied this fierce fight against the stream. Leading militants of the International, headed by Leon Lesoil, the valiant spokesman of the Belgian Trotskyist and Marcel Hic, the secretary of the French party – both members of the Executive Committee of the Fourth International – fell as martyrs for our ideas in the Nazi hell holes. But their inspiring example of fearless devotion to the revolutionary program of Trotskyism has brought to our ranks new fighters tempered in the hard and tenacious school of the underground, to carry on the struggle with ever greater enthusiasm.
Almost everywhere in Europe, the practical tasks of the Trotskyist are at present confined to the reconstitution of their organizations and the struggle for a legal existence. For the so-called “liberation” of the Allied imperialists has not brought any basic change in the conditions of existence of the revolutionary Marxists. The Anglo-American and Stalinist rulers of Europe hate and fear the proletarian revolution no less than the Nazi and Fascist imperialists whom they conquered. They are no more inclined to grant the Trotskyist freedom to fight for the revolutionary proletarian ideas of the Fourth International than their predecessors. But, in reorganizing their forces for the great mass struggles ahead, in pursuing their fight for free and full agitation among the workers and peasants, the European Trotskyist have gone over to the offensive in the struggle for legality against their “democratic” persecutors.
We are confident that in this task, too, our European comrades will achieve success. They have been prepared for it by their whole past. The same tenacity and courage which helped them to survive the raging terror of Hitler and Mussolini, will undoubtedly enable them to overcome the persecutions of de Gaulle, of Van Acker, of all the puppets of the Anglo-American imperialists and their Stalinist allies. Their voices will be heard and their program, the program of the Fourth International – which the European masses today only feel gropingly as their own – will tomorrow find a clear and conscious echo among the oppressed of that tortured continent.
Below and in coming issues under this heading, we are recording the progress of the European Trotskyists, country by country.
Repeated requests by the Internationalist Communist Party (Parti Communist Intemationaliste), French section of the Fourth International, for authorization to publish its organ, La Verité, under the same legal conditions as the rest of the press, have been refused by the de Gaulle government ever since the “liberation” in August 1944. Instead, the government, spurred on particularly by its Stalinist ministers, Tillon and Billoux, has hung the threat of prosecution for “conspiracy” over our comrades. With the GPU frame-up machine in the van, a furious campaign against the “Hitlero-Trotskyists” was unleased. In the Spring, the campaign in the press was followed up by arrests of Trotskyist comrades and sympathizers.
Several militants were arrested for “plotting against the state,” La Verité of July 25 informs us. The worker La Poumeyroulie was interned on the charge of “intent to sabotage” after 500 fellow workers in his plant signed petitions solidarizing themselves with him against this false charge. The former party member Fred Zeller was arrested after police “seized” a document in his apartment which was obviously planted there – a document which has “disappeared” from the police files, following demands of the defense to examine it. In the departmental General Council of the Seine, the Stalinist councillor Bossus demanded action against the PCI for “attacks against the morale of the nation”. La Verité of the above date writes:
“He read as emanating from the PCI statements published by an adventurist ultra-left group inciting to desertion and rejecting defense of the Soviet Union.
“We shall not slander this group, even if they do commit the crookedness of claiming to belong to the Fourth International. Against bourgeois oppression we are in solidarity with them as with every other tendency in the labor movement. But we will not take responsibility for their sectarian outpourings (some among them even go so far as to accuse members of the CP of having done roof-top sniping in August 1944). We shall combat them politically because we believe that we have been right in advocating for the past 15 years unconditional defense of the USSR against all imperialism as well as against the reactionary actions of the Stalinist bureaucracy and because we believe that we have been right in remaining faithful to the politics of Lenin in the question of military service as well as in other questions.”
The workers Brunet and Lefevre, from the Amiot aircraft factory, were arrested on charges similar to those used against La Poumeyroulie, at the direct instigation of Tillon, the Stalinist Minister for Air in the de Gaulle government. Other comrades were arrested on charges of distributing La Verité, “an illegal organ.” The arrests appeared to be inspired in part by Bogomolov, Stalin’s ambassador to France, who is known to have discussed the Trotskyists with various government authorities.
Our comrades of the PCI replied to this wave of persecution by a defense campaign among the workers in the factories. La Verité was the first underground paper published under Hitler and became well known among the workers under the Nazi occupation. The PCI militants were defended by workers in the shops, large numbers of workers signing petions for the release of the imprisoned Trotskyists. Last June, the PCI publicly challenged the government by registering the organization with the authorities. It published the names of its Executive Committee in La Verité and defied the government to prosecute them.
The bold action of our comrades has taken the government by surprise. They do not dare initiate prosecution because every one of the members of the PCI Executive Committee is a veteran of Petain’s and Hitler’s concentration camps, with unchallenged records of struggle against Vichy and Nazi occupation. They are:
Forced out into the open by the party’s challenge the government has also had to drop its charges against the comrades arrested, all of whom have been “temporarily released” for lack of evidence. The campaign against “Hitlero-Trotskyism” is boomeranging against its Stalinist initiators. But the struggle of our comrades has only begun.
Authorization for the legal publication of La Verité is still being withheld. Public meetings of the PCI are being dispersed by de Gaulle’s police. The government has placed itself in the ludicrous position of recognizing the French Trotskyist party as legal without granting it the right to a legal press and without permitting it to exercise the right of free assembly.
The PCI is taking advantage of the partial victory achieved in the formal legalization of the party and the liberation of its imprisoned members and sympathizers by pressing forward its campaign for full legality – for a free La Verité, for free assembly, for full rights to participate in the coming elections. The PCI is also calling for a public hearing before a workers’ jury on the slanderous charges made by the Stalinists and their allies in the government. The French Trotskyists have taken the offensive in the struggle for full legalization of their party.
In Belgium, La Voie de Lenine (Lenin’s Path), central organ of the Revolutionary Communist Party (Parti Communiste Revolutionnaire), section of the Fourth International, was suspended by the government in April for an editorial calling for fraternization with the German workers. Our comrades of the PCR replied to this attack by publishing La Lutte Ouvrière (The Workers’ Struggle), in the name of their Charleroi district, doubling the format and the size of their suppressed paper. The strength and influence of the Belgian Trotskyists among the miners and metal workers of this highly industrialized section of the country is so substantial that the Van Acker government has been constrained to stop in its tracks with the indicated campaign it contemplated against the PCR.
In the crisis around the question of the return of King Leopold, comrades of the PCR-among them Trotskyist miners’ leaders like comrade Jules Davister – led a tremendous demonstration at Charleroi. Originally called by the reformists and Stalinists, the demonstration was transformed under the leadership of our comrades from a pure and simple anti-Leopold action into a demonstration against the monarchy and for a republic with the workers’ parties in power, a Socialist-Communist government. A leading article in La Lutte Ouvrière of July 14, which describes the demonstration and a subsequent battle between the demonstrators and royalists, points out that the attempt to bring Leopold back is merely the façade for a whole campaign to establish a totalitarian dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. Reactionary forces, it points out, have been arming all over the country and in one locality after another armed bands have conducted terrorist raids against labor militants and victims of the German concentration camps. Despite the abject servility displayed by the Stalinists in the monarchical crisis, the bourgeois press has launched a violent anti-Communist tirade.
“The masses want to reply,” says the leading article, “they want to struggle, they want to prevent a victory of the Bourgeoisie, the establishment of a reactionary dictatorship ....
“The immense majority of the workers wants class objectives for its struggle. The ‘democratic coalition’ forbids them from fighting for anything but the abdication, that is, the replacement of Leopold by Baudoin (his son) under the regency of Charles (his brother).
“The immense majority of the workers knows that only the action of the masses can bring about a real solution of the crisis by broadening the objectives of the struggle.”
That’s what Van Acker and Co. fear, the article continues, as much as the return of Leopold III. That’s why they refuse to arm the masses. That’s why they cling to the monarchists’ shirttails. But the workers will overcome the resistance to struggle of their leaders just as they will defeat the plots of the bourgeoisie.
“The action of the masses will arm workers’ militias by disarming the reactionary bands. That’s the surest way to make the bourgeoisie retreat.
“The action of the masses will prepare the general strike by means of vigilance committees organized in the shops and pits That’s the surest way to prevent the capitulation of the ‘leaders’ of the Communist Party and the Belgian Labor Party.
“The action of the masses will throw out the capitalist ministers. That’s the surest way to force the CP and the BLP to assume full power.
“The action of the masses will force a CP-BLP government to undertake a bold program of nationalization without indemnity under workers’ control. That’s the surest way of disarming the banks and the trusts, of rebuilding the country by plan, for the benefit of the masses and not of the capitalist hyenas.
“The action of the masses will realize a complete workers’ democracy. That’s the only way to prevent conscription, to prevent every new attempt by the bourgeoisie to establish a dictatorship.”
“On the basis of this program, the article concludes, the PCR calls upon the masses to come out in force to the demonstrations called for July 15.
Stalinist attempts to frame-up and smear our comrades have met with dismal failure. But the success of the PCR impels the Stalinists to frenzied efforts again and again. At the town of Gilly, for instance, the Stalinists held a mass meeting with an announcement: “We accuse the Trotskyists of having collaborated with the Nazis.” Naturally, the Trotskyists came to the meeting in force to defend themselves. The Stalinist chairman announced that there would be no debate. The audience vigorously protested and would not be silenced until assured that Comrade Davister, National Secretary of the PCR, would be given the floor. The Stalinists preferred to disband the meeting rather than meet the challenge of our comrades. Numerous rank and file Stalinists, disgusted with these tactics, openly declared their sympathy with the Trotskyists.
The PCR is on the offensive against the Stalinists, with continual demands for united front action against the reactionary monarchist bands and for the transformation of the “People’s Front” Vigilance Committees” into workers’ front committees of action. In Charleroi, for instance, the PCR addressed the Stalinists, explaining that it demands affiliation to the regional Vigilance Committee on the following basis:
“the immediate broadening of the Vigilance Committees by representatives from the shops, the mines, the public services, delegates of housewives’ committees, handicraftsmen’s and small merchants’ committees, youth organizations;
“serious action against the blows of reaction, against the return of Leopold, against formation of a reactionary government;
“Build the united front of all parties claiming to represent the working class, which are threatened by the slander campaigns in the press ....”
“The press of the PCR is replete with articles on specific issues before the workers in all localities and testifies to the proletarian roots which the Trotskyists have already struck in Belgium. The comrades of the heroic Lesoil are doing full justice to his memory. They honored him last May with a magnificent cortege of workers on the anniversary of his tragic death at the hands of the Nazis. But it is their constant and persistent headway among the revolutionary miners and metal workers, whose imperishable love he gained in his own lifetime, that he would undoubtedly have been most proud of.
The Belgian comrades, like the French, have recently had the joy of seeing tested old comrades return alive to them from Hitler’s torture camps. Among them are comrade Florent Galloy who came back from Buchenwald and Gaston Maes returned from Dachau. We join with the PCR in greeting warmly these valiant revolutionary warriors.
The following information concerning the Danish section of the Fourth International was transmitted to us from Stockholm:
“... The group in Copenhagen did excellent work for many years and had three illegal newspapers. They were smashed by the Gestapo in the summer of 1944. Some of the members succeeded in escaping to Sweden. The leader was the first to he caught by the Gestapo. He was badly tortured. No news of what happened to him later on has been received.”
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Last updated on 12.9.2008