Main NI Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

The New International, May 1938


Why We Quit the Communist Party


From New International, Vol.4 No.4, May 1938, pp.137-139.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The general reaction to the Moscow frame-ups has been quite contrary to that which Stalin desired. This is especially true of the third big Moscow trial. Even the bureaucratized, iron-bound communist parties have not proved immune to the growing hostility felt towards the frame-ups. Not only are the “liberal” fellow-travelers of Stalinism now shying away from it, but hundreds of party members are silently dropping out of the ranks.

In this issue, we print two significant reactions to the third trial. Charles Rappoport, prominent figure in the Second International before the war, author of many works, including a life of Jaurès and an exposition of historical materialism, became one of the founders of the Communist Party of France after the Russian Revolution. Up to recently, he was Paris correspondent of the Moscow Izvestia. Although – or rather just because – in past years, he went along, now passively, now actively, with the reactionary campaign against the “Trotskyists” and counselled expelled anti-Stalinists, as he now writes, to make spurious recantations in order to be re-admitted into the party, his present statement has unmistakeable symptomatic significance.

Not less significant is the statement of the Palestine communists. Their names are not appended to the leaflet, which appeared originally in Yiddish, presumably because the CP is virtually illegal in Palestine. Even though neither the Palestine communists, nor Rappoport, draw the necessary political and organizational conclusions from their declarations – the need of the Fourth International – they are sufficiently important to warrant publication in the pages of our review.

The Palestine Communists Appeal

To all communists, to all workers and all those who have remained faithful to the cause of the Soviet Union and the Revolution!

THE LAND OF OCTOBER AND Socialist construction, the conduct of the struggle against fascism and imperialism, the very banner of communism, all this is at present in irresponsible and destructive hands! This is the conclusion we must draw from the trials staged by Stalin-Yezhov. Is it possible that the person who believes in socialism should at the same time believe in the whole exhibition of degeneration and fantastic treachery, as expressed in the trials? Is it conceivable that the moral power of fascism is so strong and the influence of socialism so negligible in the land of deep-going revolution that precisely the most accepted and prominent leaders and teachers together with broad masses, hundreds of thousands of communists, should betray communism and sell themselves to fascism? Only those who themselves do not feel the abyss that lies between fascism and socialism, or who are defective spiritually, can believe or even be uncertain about this.

In the last nine months alone, preceding the trial of Zinoviev-Kamenev, three hundred thousand comrades were expelled from the CP as traitors, according to official reports in the press, and it was only after the trial that the wave of mass extermination of the Party commenced. Recently examples were made public of sections in which a majority was driven out as enemies of the people and fascists. In this manner fascism is supposed to have won over, besides the 300,000, many, many more. Were all this true, were we to believe it, this would be the most shameful deathblow to socialism as an ideal and as a movement.

Fortunately, all this is an absolute frame-up and lie. But this frame-up is a diabolical provocation, which threatens extermination, destruction, degeneration and which only serves the interest of fascism. Were bourgeois reaction to procure an agent provocateur and place him at the head of the labor movement with the object of besmirching it, paralyzing it and destroying it from the inside, it could not succeed any better than Stalin with his trials and his extermination of the party. They are not enemies of the people, spies and traitors, these hundreds of thousands and all the leaders – they are communists. They cannot be exterminated without these fantastic frame-ups, in which the narrow Stalin bureaucracy is especially interested in order to bring shame to the cause of the revolution in the manner of an agent provocateur. The trials represent a concentrated expression of all the methods of those in power. The lie of the trials has its imprint also on the “democracy” which the new Constitution is supposed to have ushered in, and with which we were duped. The cynicism of this deception is all too clear now. This regime of truly absolutist autocracy, which makes a fiction of every mass organization – they compell us to designate as most democratic. The lie exceeds all limits! Shall we continue to do violence to our revolutionary conscience and justify everything?

We have passed through our most conscious years with Stalin, not because we really considered him “our father”, but because we were under the misconception that this was identical with devotion to the Soviet Union and to the cause of the class struggle and world revolution. We had all hoped that the methods were temporary and that things would change for the better. But Stalin continues ever more brazenly. He utilizes our devotion in order to continue his revolting, sinister and injurious deeds. He simultaneously deceives us and ignores us. Only if he should indeed have grounds to feel that we communists the world over will refuse to sanctify all his deeds, will he too realize that there are limits. Now however, he can no longer stop. The backward Stalin bureaucracy has bound up its faith with lies, deceit, corruption and a terror which steadily mounts not against enemy classes but against the working class and its vanguard and the left wing organizations abroad.

We too are to a degree responsible for the results. And precisely because of our deep feeling of responsibility, we cannot and must not keep silent. We must no longer be misled by the fear that the bourgeoisie will utilize such exposures. On the contrary, it is our silence that it utilizes in order to identify all communists, and communism itself, with the falsehoods of the trials which are already so clear and so pronounced. Stalin’s slander of the Soviet Union as a land which is permeated with ever-mounting fantastic crimes, serves only the bourgeoisie. With all our power we hurl back this Stalin-Vishinsky slander. We are deeply convinced that the Soviet Union is much higher and basically different from the way it is reflected in the trials and through the regime of such a backward and vulgar absolutism. The present identification not only of socialism but also of the Soviet Union with this government-by-trials is a great discreditment of the socialist cause; it is counter-revolutionary. And we are precisely the ones who must break with the methods of the trials, decisively and irrevocably. And the more demonstrations of this kind there will be, the less will the bourgeoisie be able to utilize the trials and besmirch socialism in order to curb the working class.

But already acute are the dangers of the present defeats of the Soviet Union and of the world working class – the direct result of Stalin’s policy of trials and of the demoralization of the world communist movement, which is actually ruled by those who staged the trials. It must be thoroughly clear that Stalin’s permanent struggle against the cadres of the party, of the army and of economy, are liquidating the foundations of the October Revolution and paralyzing the general state of the country. It must be clear that the continuation of the fascist methods and provocations within the labor movement of the world, discourages and disarms the working class in its struggle against fascism. The continuation of such methods will assure the victory of fascism, and then the Soviet Union itself will collapse.

Communists, workers! We call upon you to save the Soviet Union!

Raise your voice against the danger which threatens the land of October – against Stalin’s policy of defeats!

Struggle against the trials which are driving the Soviet Union to the abyss! Back to Leninism!

For revolutionary struggle of the international working class! Down with the provocative trials! Down with the hangmen of the October Revolution! Long live the Soviet Union! Long live the world revolution!

Signed: Members who resigned from the Communist Party of Palestine and its organizations.

Charles Rappoport’s Statement

PROPERLY SPEAKING, I should correct two inexactitudes in the title of my article, a title imposed upon me by circumstances. For it to be exact, two conditions are necessary: 1) that a communist party exists in France; 2) that I really and actively belonged to this party. These indispensable conditions do not exist. Instead of an independent communist party, there exists a 120 rue Lafayette [1] (or somewhere near the big boulevards, center of bourgeois life), a bureau for registering the orders of Stalin or of his loudspeaker, comrade Dimitroff.

As to my activity in the communist party, you will seek in vain for my name in the organs and the annals of the French communist party for the last dozen years.

Like 99% of the members of the communist party, I was a simple dues-payer, as they say in theatrical slang, “on the sucker list”, without the right of discussion, and simply fulfilling in silence “the tasks” prescribed by the executive organs of the party.

That is all I have “left”, or to put it differently, the moral responsibility and complicity for everything that is unanimously decided in the upper circles.

The Moscow Trials

For several decades, off and on, I was intimately acquainted with the principal accused in all the large trials of the last two years. From the turn of the century I knew Kamenev and Zinoviev, Lenin’s closest lieutenants, Karl Radek, Sokolnikov, former ambassador and member of my group in Paris during the war; Pyatakov and Krestinsky since 1922. I always had the greatest esteem for their revolutionary activity, even if I was not always in agreement with their methods. In my consciousness and in my spirit I know them to be absolutely incapable of the monstrous crimes they were made to admit. Their alleged confessions, often in contradiction with known material facts (imaginary voyages, non-existing hotels and fabulous interviews, denied by the persons to whom they are imputed, etc.), can only be explained by a sort of moral torture, by fear for the fate of dear ones, by the slightest chance of surviving and being able to act as a revolutionist, and by other similar causes. The head of the GPU, Yagoda, proclaimed by the Stalin government itself as a common criminal and executed as such, dominated Russia for a dozen years and was, it should not be forgotten, the stage-manager of the preceding big trials. One can imagine what methods this sinister personage was capable of employing.

No serious person, having a critical mind and judging things coldly and objectively, attaches any importance to these alleged confessions. They are rather considered as “enigmas” which must be solved.

To the above-mentioned causes of the famous confessions must be added the special psychology of the present Russian revolutionary circles.

A Russian revolutionist holds up his head courageously and is capable of enduring anything in face of a declared enemy like czarism or capitalism. But the situation changes when he finds himself before former comrades and friends supported by the popular masses whose idol he once was, and who are fighting for the cause to which he has given his life. For these latter, he is capable of sacrificing everything, even his honor. In any case, he loses his countenance, his indomitable pride. He feels himself weak and demoralized ...

In January 1928, during the 15th Bolshevik congress which expelled Trotsky, Kamenev and Rakovsky from the party, I myself advised my friend Kamenev, who has since been executed, to fulfill the formality or the rite of “retracting” or of “repenting” in order to be able, I said, “to live and act as a revolutionist”. It was in the Kremlin. Today, I regret this advice.

The Consequences of the Moscow Killings

They are frightful. Already in the period of the civil war and up to Stalin’s arrival in power, Russia lost its intellectual elite, the “famous intelligentsia”, the noblest and most enlightened in Europe, dispersed in western Europe, or dead either in prison or in poverty. The mass executions, known and unknown, of the revolutionary communist Old Guard, of the highest functionaries of the State or of industry and the army, have terribly impoverished the USSR. The terror paralyzes the minds. The policeman and the stool-pigeon become the masters. One’s own relatives and friends are distrusted.

It becomes impossible to breathe in this atmosphere. As under the regimes of the sordid Roman Empire, informing is taking on such scope that the Stalin government itself is beginning to be disturbed by it and, after having engendered it, seeks vainly to restrict it. Toadyism and baseness flourish. The best independent writers refuse to write under the lash of the State, or do not dare to publish. The press, all of it official, has a desolating uniformity and banality. The absence of freedom, which Stalin himself treats as rotten liberalism, unfailingly kills off all intellectual development and all literary creation.

Instead of carrying out the famous Stalinist Constitution which in articles 125 and 130, guarantees “all liberties” (of speech, press, assembly, etc.), they execute Bukharin, its principal inspirer, and almost all the old revolutionists. The high functionaries tremble before the accusation of “sabotage”, always suspended over their heads and, sometimes, they demote and condemn themselves to subordinate positions in order to evade responsibilities. No Soviet citizen who goes to bed is sure of not waking up in prison.

Stalin can boast of having demonstrated by facts, on one-sixth of the globe, that socialism without freedom leads to the most abject tyranny, and let us add, the most formidable tyranny, for it extends not only over the political, intellectual and moral domain but also in the economic field, for the State becomes the absolute master of all the means of existence. The socialists before the Bolshevik revolution proved triumphantly that freedom without bread is a bad joke. Stalin has made the whole world understand that bread – and how meager even that – without freedom is too bitter ...

The Causes of the Decay of the Bolshevik Revolution

They are numerous and I shall not cite them all. Here are the principal ones: the former czarist regime plunged Russia into poverty and ignorance. The revolution emerged from a military debacle and it retains the ineffaceable traces of it. The Stalinist State is a police and military State. The exercize of absolute and police power has corrupted the characters and completely derailed the minds. With the aid of unheard of sacrifices it was possible to create new economic and technical conditions, transforming old agricultural Russia into modern industrial Russia. But it goes without saying that you cannot, within a few years and with the aid of well-paid German, American or French engineers, create new intellectual and moral conditions in a population of 175,000,000 speaking a hundred different languages and dialects. The terroristic policy of Stalin, instead of promoting the intellectual development of Russia, deliberately strangles it and treats democracy, an export article for the West, with a supreme disdain.

Some Perspectives

Many minds, even in the ranks of the communist parties and its sympathizers, have understood the obvious truths which I have just set forth. The cause of their silence? It is always the eternal Noah’s cloak, terribly torn, which has been misleading people since the deluge. They do not want to play the game of the opponents of socialism and Soviet Russia, fortress of world peace. I too am of this opinion, but it is Stalin who, better than anyone else, plays the game of the opponents of the USSR by his hecatombs and his regime of terror. As in the days of the domination of the Church, it must and should be said that it is not those who denounce the scandal that constitute the scandal.

The hundred peoples of vast Russia are suffering atrociously and may be imprisoned, forced to confess and shot at the whim of the absolute master. We must cry out in a strong, loud voice, in one of the rare countries of Europe, poisoned by fascism and doomed to slavery, where it is still possible to make a free and independent voice heard.

In the interest of socialism, of world peace and of the peoples of the USSR, it is urgent that Stalinist despotism, which disgraces and ruins a sixth of the globe, disappears forever.


PARIS, March 1938



1. Address of the headquarters in Paris of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of France.

Top of page

Main NI Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on 4.8.2006