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The New International, December 1944

Auslandskomitee der Internationalen
Kommunisten Deutschlands

The SWP and European Revolution

Letter of the German Comrades

(October 1944)


From The New International, Vol. X No. 12, December 1944, pp. 411–416.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.



The following letter to the leadership of the Socialist Workers Party was, as may be perceived from its contents, not a private document. We sent it to the SWP with the request that it be published in a bulletin and be presented as material to its recent convention. We learn it was neither published nor presented in any form, and nobody found out that it even existed. Consequently, there is nothing left for us to do but to look after its dissemination ourselves and to treat it in accordance with its character as an “open letter.”

We gladly acknowledge that we see in its publication in The New International a great political advantage for all concerned. So far as we are concerned, we have always combated the method of “internal” and similar bulletins and we stand for the method which we have set forth in our letter. A Bolshevik organization must learn to bring its political disputes before the eyes of the broad public. There is no other way of training people in an understanding of political struggles over opinions, of gaining unreserved confidence in the sincerity of the party, of having an “intellectual life,” and thus of becoming a genuinely Bolshevik organization. Thus for example, we greet it joyfully when the SWP itself breaks for once with its custom and reprints in the Fourth International an article directed against us which first appeared in an Internal Bulletin of the English section. We shall have occasion to speak about this article, but whatever was behind its publication in the Fourth International – we see in the destruction of the “internal” secrecy-mongering the only means of obtaining a general improvement. And if, in seeming contradiction to our own principles, we ourselves proposed to the SWP to put our letter in a Bulletin, the reasons for it will be found from a reading of the letter itself. We say in it that in all political disputes we always gave our opponent the opportunity to inform himself in good time, to arrange himself according and – therewith to take over the initiative. If the opponent is capable of utilizing the opportunity, then the dispute really gets under way and must lead us (we are, to be sure, very “self-assured”) in a roundabout way to the result desired by us. If, on the contrary, he misses the opportunity, then the initiative simply falls back into our hands and the desired result (the public discussion) is there at the beginning. In both cases, the seeming contradiction is dissolved in practice. This practice has the task, now more than ever, of destroying that widely disseminated legend which is called: All evil stems from “Bolshevik principles.” It was the main purpose of our letter to rehabilitate these principles and to introduce an extensive discussion. The same purpose is pursued by the present publication, which at the same time demonstrates in favor of one of the supremest rights of a Bolshevik organization. We refer to the right to be a political faction and to present our views freely. It is only necessary to avoid confusing the right of faction with organizational maneuvers and machinations, from which we keep our good distance and with which we have nothing in common.

* * *

To the National Committee of the Socialist Workers Party

Dear Comrades:

The AK of the IKD (Committee Abroad of the International Communists of Germany) has taken cognizance of and discussed your Draft Resolution of the National Committee on ‘The European Revolution and Tasks of the Revolutionary Party’ (Internal Bulletin, Vol. VI No. 3, Sept. 1944). The question of the European revolution must be of the most particular interest to us if only because this revolution is in the last analysis the main task of the European comrades themselves. Inasmuch as an International Secretariat does not exist, we should like to try in this way to participate in the discussion and to contribute to the clarification of a problem upon the correct solution of which everything depends for us. In doing this, we do not wish to present a general criticism of the Draft Resolution, but to draw your attention to certain points which, if taken seriously into account, could improve the draft substantially.

The Main Defect of the Resolution

1. The principal defect of the draft consists at the present moment in the fact that it is in general still a draft which deals with the question of the European revolution “separately.” It is correct that the problems of the revolution in Europe are different in many respects from those in North and South America, in the colonies, etc. But at this moment, when the international perspectives are coming to the fore, it is a grievous mistake to leave out the interrelation of the European revolution with the world revolution. It is positively startling, in a document of the Fourth, not to find a single word on the colonial problem. And yet, the question, for example, of the French colonies is a question that cannot only kill the “isolated” French revolution but also the world revolution. It is altogether impossible for the French, Belgian, Dutch and English revolution to triumph without the slogan: “Immediate and unconditional independence of all the colonies.” And precisely because this slogan is already a vital necessity for the “narrower” European revolution, it applies all the more strongly to the international revolution. As things stand concretely, it is directed in the first instance against American imperialism and brings whole continents into rebellion against it. If your resolution is serious about the slogan: “Hands Off the Italian Revolution! Hands Off the European Revolution!” it must deal with this point painstakingly and do everything to extend its repercussions upon the American revolution. And therewith, a fundamental treatment of the American perspectives and immediate tasks would follow automatically. The Draft Resolution says nothing about America save the few meager phrases that make up Paragraph 38. It limits itself with great obstinacy to the European revolution, and over and over again to the European revolution, without even making the attempt to examine the independent revolutionary role of America. But ruined and hungry Europe is lost if America succeeds in putting it on short rations. The European masses, for their part, can draw no hope out of an internationalism, the American link of which is completely eliminated. The resolution, as it now stands, can only dishearten them. The American party must finally work out methods which harass its own bourgeoisie and above all bring the main prop of the latter into rebellion against it.

Europe and the “National Question”

2. A further defect of the resolution, which involves all the others, is the absence of an adequate general orientation. A correct estimation of the world capitalist evolution is lacking, from which the international perspectives first follow. It is no accident that the resolution bases itself upon the example of Italy, though Italy, as always in history, is not “typical.” The French example which can now be utilized fully as a “model,” does not play the slightest role in the draft. To be able to draw the lessons of the French events, it is, to be sure, necessary to have a clear position on the “national” question which is so important for Europe (and not there alone). The French example, the Polish movement, the events in the Balkan countries, in Norway, etc., have shown irrefutably that the whole movement was compelled to group itself around the national question. Nobody can doubt that the best and most progressive social elements of Poland were to be found among the 250,000 Poles who, according to the statement of Osubka-Morawski, fell in the Warsaw uprising alone. Stalin and Hitler and the Allies were very well aware of this and they behaved accordingly. Which is precisely why there were 250,000 victims in Warsaw alone. Well now: this genuine people’s movement, these magnificent, passionate fighters, greatly disturbed the London government-in-exile as much as they “exasperated” Stalin by the declaration that they would refuse to recognize any compromise that would sacrifice the independence of the Polish people, and that any agreement made in Moscow would have to be ratified in Poland itself. One must be completely blind not to recognize: all of Europe is obliged to defend its national freedom, first against Hitler but then against the Allies and Stalin. Any resolution that does not see this central point and which, like the draft (under the pressure of the indisputable facts), passes over it with a couple of casual “acknowledgments,” is necessarily false. The draft says, for example: “The German Revolution is the key to the European revolution.” We for our part believe that it does not make much sense today to speak of Germany as the “key.” In addition, the motivation which the draft gives for the key position are dubious in the highest degree, especially from the economic standpoint. But be that as it may, the German masses are fighting desperately for their national independence – the key position will be characterized wholly and completely by the national question. Only an energetic, clear, unambiguous treatment of the national question by the international movement can give the German masses the perspective they need in the struggle for their national independence and against their own bourgeoisie. The United Socialist States of Europe cannot be organized without there first existing the autonomous and independent states of Europe. The events of the last three years have proved irrefutably: the strategical transitional point for the victory over Hitler, the Allies and Stalin is the national question. The fact that the draft places the general propaganda slogan of the United Socialist States of Europe at the top, turns the practical relationships upside down. It displaces the center of gravity of the whole real movement and thereby makes it useless in practice. Moreover, it is high time, in our opinion, to raise the slogan of the United States of the World for the general propaganda of the vanguard. America, Japan, the colonies must be drawn into consideration. The objective conditions for world socialism are ripe – Europe and Asia can no longer live without America.

The Movement Is “National” – But Not Nationalistic

3. Back in August 1941, we wrote (Report on the French Situation) that while the French movement would necessarily be national, it would in no way be “nationalistic.” The effect upon the American comrades of this and many other declarations (see our Three Theses) was as if they had suddenly been doused with cold water. Today, at any rate, there can no longer be the slightest doubt that the broad masses of Europe are “national” in the sense of their demand for independence, but that they reject the capitalist system either instinctively or consciously. France, which is much further developed, shows this to be the case more clearly than does backward Italy and it gives the Allies correspondingly greater worries. When we contended so unswervingly that while the European movement must flare up on the national question, it will, from the very outset, have to go beyond these limits and reveal itself as an integral part of the social question – where did we get this certainty from?

With this we return to lack of a correct estimation of the world-capitalist evolution characterized under point 2. For such an estimation, we can only refer you here to our study: Capitalist Barbarism or Socialism, which we submitted to you as far back as last year and which has now been published in The New International. Whatever may be the position taken on the views presented there – it remains a fact that it was precisely these views that enabled us to predetermine the course of developments correctly. It does not suffice, either for the members of the party or for the masses, to tell them day-in and day-out about the “wicked” imperialists. On the contrary, it must be elucidated to them that it does not lie in the “wicked” will of these imperialists that, for example, the aims of Hitler and of American imperialism are entirely the same. Only by means of a firm position on the whole character of the development in decaying capitalism, can we reach conclusions that make possible an adequate practice. We have been too long in the ranks of the Fourth, and we would not deserve the name we bear, if we were to be silent at this moment about the fact that: the practice of the draft is confined to paper. The resolution exhausts itself in hollow phrases about the United States of Europe, about the necessity of a revolutionary party, in optimistic observations on all the things that are to “come,” etc. Here is just where we can see how monstrous the confusion and the failures of the SWP in the last three years have been. If the SWP is really to be made an instrument of the proletarian struggle, one thing above all is necessary in the resolution: an open, honest, clear squaring of accounts with its theoretical conscience for these last three years. Lenin steadfastly emphasized that the most important criterion for the seriousness of a revolutionary party is its attitude toward its own mistakes. There cannot be a practice, nor can one’s own party (let alone the masses) be educated politically, if political and theoretical questions are dealt with as if they were contraband. Still less, however, can an international organization be built up if a section (in this case, us) is abused for holding views which the others themselves were forced to accept – secretly, confusedly, shamefacedly, unscrupulously, smuggled-in – under the pressure of the facts. The political, theoretical and moral prestige of the SWP, its consciousness of responsibility toward the International, cannot be great if it light-mindedly destroys the prestige of other sections. In what follows, we present a few important examples of the line that the correction of the resolution should take.

The Change in Political Positions

4. Taking into account the opposition of the SWP leadership to our conception of the “national question,” we underscored with special sharpness in the Report on the French Situation and in the Three Theses that the oppressed countries would depend upon the struggle for their liberation from the foreign yoke, and that the movement bears the character of a people’s movement, with all strata participating. We cannot set forth here what the comrades in the IS (which at that time still held, at least as a sort of “waste-basket,” regular “Secretariat sessions”), comrade M., comrade Daniel Logan, Stewart and others, made out of our conception, how we were “interpreted,” etc. The unwillingness of the SWP leadership to conduct an open, loyal, unprejudiced discussion and to make possible a correct orientation for the international movement, is the reason why all these “interpretations’ have remained unclarified and why we are now compelled, with clarifying polemic eliminated, to present our views “purely theoretically” in The New International. We wish, however, to note here that one of our main opponents was comrade Daniel Logan. At the beginning of the discussion, he went so far as to set down in print that the national movement in Europe is an obstacle for us. A few months later, in the IS, he notified us literally: “The more I read your documents, the more I am against them. We will discuss and then we will see if we have to part company.” What’s important now is this: Comrade Logan, comrade M. and all the others were forced, as things went on, to change their position. Comrade Logan especially made himself a sort of “champion” of the national question. Unfortunately, neither he nor others possessed the courage to revise their position openly; unfortunately neither were they able to contribute anything to the clarification of the question. Again, comrade Logan especially practiced a “championship” which surrounded the whole question with 90% moral prescriptions and pedantic “conditions” (on “what to do,” “if” de Gaulle, “if” this or that “tactic,” etc.), and which consisted of 10% verbal “support.” Everybody was concerned with one thing above all others, to make the “revolutionary” leadership of the whole movement the precondition of participation in it. And the result? The real movement simply swept this whole mess of abstract observations, prescriptions, fantasies about the “leadership of the Fourth International,” about de Gaulle and the intentions of the Allies, aside for what it is: a heap of trashpaper. Today, the draft declares simply:

“The Yugoslav Partisan movement originated as an indubitable [!] movement of the masses, whose workers-peasant sections [!] aspired not only [!] to drive the Nazi conquerors out of their country, but to abolish the rule of the rapacious and reactionary landlord and capitalist cliques represented by King Peter and his government-in-exile. The determination of the masses [!] to drive out the imperialist invaders and to win national freedom [!] was fused [!] with the social struggle against the native exploiters.”

This is the only attempt made in the draft to analyze in closer detail the situation which is otherwise handled first and foremost on the basis of the slogan of the “United Socialist States of Europe.” In this connection, it is of the highest interest to give the floor to comrade Daniel Logan on France, about which the draft is so curiously silent. In the Fourth International of September 1944, comrade Logan says in an article entitled Whither France?:

“Undoubtedly, the Parisian workers carried along with them large strata of the petty bourgeoisie, not only its lower ranks, but also civil servants, students, sons and daughters of bourgeois families. The insurrection, the immediate objective of which was the overthrowing of the German yoke, thus took a ‘popular’ and ‘unanimous’ aspect. With its democratic and patriotic illusions the atmosphere was somewhat reminiscent of that of the 19th century revolutions.”

What the draft and comrade Logan (who has long been acquainted with our study on Capitalist Barbarism or Socialism) “record” here after the fact, is what we wrote three years ago and what we maintained in oral discussions until we were sick to the stomach. The miracle has occurred: the development took the course that was forecast, without caring in the slightest about the views, prescriptions, claims to leadership and conditions of the American comrades and of comrade Logan. As is always the case when neither the real situation nor one’s own strength is taken into account, the “leadership” of the Fourth was neither at hand, nor did anybody accept any moral or other “prescriptions,” nor did anybody whosoever concern himself about the Fourth. And what is worse: neither the resolution nor Comrade Logan has given any sort of sign of rehabilitating the position of the Three Theses which they brought into such ill-repute. On the contrary, we will see a continuation of the business of making shift from day to day with half-measures, and at the same time of constant talk about “responsibility” toward the International organization. But the practical damage and the failures of such an attitude are immeasurable. If it were not for the confusion, the lack of sincerity, the inconsistency of the American leadership in all these questions, it would be impossible for even a single party branch to declare itself in favor of the draft resolution. The confusion is complete; nobody has the slightest idea any longer of what is involved. And this is only part of the damage. Had our thesis been acknowledged that the democratic demands and especially the demand for national liberation should be supported “unconditionally,” and that (given the absence of organizations in the various countries) we should place ourselves at the head of the movement at least propagandistically and agitationally, entirely different results could have been achieved.

First, the international organization, in so far as it exists at all, could have been equipped theoretically, politically, propagandistically and agitationally in a unified way.

Second, it could thereby have won, in the course of these three years, a substantial influence upon the consciousness of the masses and especially of the masses-in-arms. Three years of united, energetic, audacious work have carried the ideas of the Fourth anywhere and made it appear as a “vanguard.” Our papers, which go all over the world in various ways, could have furnished the proof in this important question alone (which profoundly affects the entire world, Europe and Africa, Asia and South America, Japan and Canada, the Poles and the Negroes in the U.S.A.) that we are not only able to talk about the “United Socialist States of Europe” week in – week out, but that we also know “the need of the hour.”

Third, the Fourth would have won therewith the capacity for action that it now needs more than ever before. English, French, “German,” American, Canadian and Negro friends have spread throughout the world and have also reached France, Italy, etc. In France and Italy especially, there are “native” comrades. Do all these comrades possess the necessary equipment, and do they find a support in the orientation of the International? To put the question differently: Do they know what to do now? The “national question’ is in no wise resolved with the driving out of the Germans; with the coming of the Allied armies of occupation, it only enters its second stage. The soldiers of the United Nations were told that they are fighting for the Atlantic Charter, we must on the contrary beat Allied imperialism by demanding that the charter be carried out unconditionally. We will show below by means of the Italian example that the Fourth is incapacitated. First, we record the result that was obtained in reality. Namely: theoretical and political confusion, international disunity and discreditment of one of the most important sections of the Fourth; elimination of America and of the colonies from the horizon of the draft resolution.

The Example of Italy

5. The example of Italy. In view of the confusion of the SWP in the question of Italy, we submitted to you last year certain “Political Proposals.” Here we wish only to state that you did not even consider it necessary to give us an answer, let alone to discuss these proposals with us amicably (as we proposed). (Parenthetically: comrade Logan was “of course” against.) Even as far back as that time, it was no accident that our proposals referred mainly to the activity of the American section, which we found, as early as then, to be completely out of the picture with regard to Italy. In any case: with reference to the line to follow in Italy itself we pointed to the importance of the so-called “free elections.” Today the draft resolution says in paragraph 22: “It [the Bonomi government] cannot purge the fascists and give democratic rights to the Italian people because the Allies are returning the fascists to the seats of power and are determined to prevent the masses from exercising their democratic rights and electing a government of their own choosing.” (Our emphasis.) – A fine and correct statement. But in paragraph 33, which is buried negligently beneath the heap of protestations and pretty useless phrases and speaks sort of in passing of the “bold program of transitional and democratic demands corresponding to the consciousness of the masses and the tempo of developments,” there is no trace of the important question of the election of a government “of their own choosing.” It says shamefacedly: “free election of all officials.” If, however, the Allies prevent the election of a native government, you cannot talk around this in practice but must make this question the axis of all the practice. For this is the only question, moreover, with the help of which internationalism can become directly active. An energetic, clear, stubborn propaganda in favor of free elections in Italy, in “liberated” Poland, France, etc., would be a direct blow against the Allies. To employ a sharp formulation: The whole population must be positively “infested” with the demands or the “principles” of the Atlantic Charter. These demands which the Atlantic Charter raises hypocritically, are a part of our own transition program. We cannot play hide and seek with them. But further: in France, for example, free elections cannot be propagandized without proclaiming the independence of the colonies. An additional blow against the Allies, which involves America directly in the action. We have no better means of pushing forward the class differentiation and of pushing back the other tendencies, than the consistent pursuit of the democratic tasks. And the elections are of special importance because they automatically set all the other questions in motion, which are important for the freedom of self-determination of peoples, the freedom of parties (of the revolutionary party, too, consequently), the freedom of revolution, etc. No free elections without complete freedom of the press, of speech and of assembly – no revolutionary party without free agitation and propaganda, that is, without the possibility of convincing the masses step by step of the correctness of its program and its tactics. The draft sidesteps all these questions, and instead of solving them it covers them with declamations about the party.

The Question of the Revolutionary Party

6. The question of the revolutionary party is one of the weakest and most illusory points of the entire draft. The reasons why the Fourth is in a not-at-all “brilliant” position precisely in this all-decisive field, and why it has failed in the steeling of its ranks, already follow from what is said above. It is impossible to take even one step forward without telling the whole truth, without destroying the existing illusions and embellishments of reality. Let us first take paragraph 29 of the draft:

“The Trotskyists have prepared themselves during the years of reaction for the revolutionary upsurge. The Trotskyist movement has a tested program, a firm cadre and an international organization. Upon its shoulders rests an historic responsibility. It must render every assistance to our Italian and European co-thinkers to assemble the forces for the revolutionary Marxist parties and strengthen those that already exist. Toward this end, the Trotskyists will pay the closest attention to all the new manifestations of the European labor movement, and work with the greatest energy to attract all leftward-moving groups to the Trotskyist program and banner. This work the Trotskyists will carry through with the greatest tactical flexibility and in a comradely spirit.” (There follow the usual declarations on the struggle against all deviations and on programmatic intransigence.) —

If this paragraph is taken as a promise, as a good resolve, and as an abstractly admissible declaration, no objection can be made to it. But all this has value only if full account is taken of the reality. It is true that we have a “tested program.” Have we reflected, however, as to what it means when Lenin writes: “We do not at all regard the theory of Marx as something terminated and inviolate: we are, on the contrary, convinced that it has only laid the foundation stone of the science whose all-sided further development is a necessity for socialists if they want to keep abreast of life”? (Our emphasis.)

It is clear that there can be no talk of the “all-sided further development” of theory. On the economic side, nothing. Or rather: on this score the leadership of the SWP consistently sabotaged the only systematic attempt to fix a political line on the basis of the economic evolution. We refer here to our study: Capitalist Barbarism or Socialism. Regardless of the merits of this attempt, it is characterized by the fact that it does not fold its hands before an “unalterable” reality and does not repeat abstractly-correct formulas, but seeks to “keep abreast.” It was up to you to clarify us on any mistakes that may have been made in our attempt, whereas what you actually did was to lead the movement around without the compass that is so needed in the present period.

In the question of Russia, nothing. Trotsky reexamined precisely this question periodically (if necessary, every week), and on the basis of the fact that there was anything but a “finished prototype” for the Russian question, he introduced his corrections. We shall return to the Russian question under a separate heading – the point here is that the International is stuck fast in the results of the discussion of 1939. This is an altogether untenable situation, which has led in the literary practice of the SWP to the worst empiricism. The confusion in this question (produced, again, by the pressure of wicked facts) may be checked by anyone from the pages of the Militant and the Fourth International. And inasmuch as it is a question of establishing the truth, whose acknowledgment must not be neglected even with regard to a political opponent we must say: the helplessness and tragic ridiculousness we cannot fail to mention, the percentage of malicious demagogy which reminds us strongly of the mutual accusations of Naville-Molinier) with which the SWP confronts the attacks of Shachtman, can be a secret only for those whose eyes are filled with dust. Some comrades (for example, Morrow and Morrison a year ago) have felt the need of a reexamination of the Russian question. This question ought to be placed upon the agenda of the convention in order to bring the present confusion to an end.

In the national question, nothing; nothing besides tne confusion, the indecisiveness, the incidental and shamefaced “acknowledgments.” We insist, however, the national question will dominate Europe, Africa, Asia and even America – the revolution will find itself to an ever greater degree in the mere preparatory stage, the greater the lack of revolutionary parties. The SWP must create complete clarity in its mind on what the slogan of the “United Socialist States of Europe” is in the present period. It is a propaganda slogan, which should be supplemented by the slogan of the Socialist World Union, but it is completely unsuitable for solving as much as a single question of the preparatory period. There are slogans, political and theoretical generalizations, yes, whole “programs,” which, if practiced falsely, become all the more false in practice the more they are right according to the letter. The SWP, is living proof of how, with the best program, the most correct principles, the grandest demands, everything can be turned wrong-side-up in practice, and the theory can be degraded to a dead schema. The draft must finally concern itself with the real course of the historical movement, with the national question, and must seek to settle the problems of the transition period that has inevitably lasted “longer than desired.” It will then finally situate the slogan of the “United Socialist States of Europe” in the place where it belongs: at the end, where the entire revolutionary movement is summarized.

What Our “Historical Responsibility” Means

7. Thus far we have touched only on the most important questions, on questions relating to the draft. However, these questions dominate the field. They alone suffice to necessitate a very critical attitude toward the abstract propaganda assertions of Paragraph 29. The statement: “The Trotskyists have prepared themselves during the years of reaction for the revolutionary upsurge,” can be subscribed to only with the greatest reservations. We absolutely acknowledge the subjectively sincere will in the preparation, but between what people think of themselves and what they are in reality, there often exists, by virtue of iron laws of class society, a tremendous difference. These laws inevitably become operative as soon as you fail to understand how to “keep abreast” of the living development. We have seen too many crises and degeneration, in our ranks too, to be able to pass over in silence the fact that we “prepared” ourselves for “the revolutionary upsurge” in a highly defective, irresolute, inadequate and incomplete way. We should come together on the basis of the subjectively indubitable sincere will and recognize the truth that our movement, in political and theoretical respects, has neither “a firm cadre” nor an “international organization.” On the other hand, it is, true that upon our shoulders “rests an historic responsibility.” And this consists among other things in taking into account the situation as it really is. We “must render every assistance to our Italian and European co-thinkers to assemble the forces for the revolutionary Marxist Parties and strengthen those that already exist.” That is what it says in one single paragraph about the “international organization,” as if it were an entirely incontestable fact, and right thereafter about “those” parties that “already exist.” We should rather start out with the honest declaration: As a result of unfavorable historical conditions and the devastating effects of the war, there “exists” unfortunately very little, and above all there is not one single “party.” The thoughtless contradictions in which the draft indulges, injure our standing in the eyes of the world infinitely more than the practice of our principle: Speak out what is. More than a year has passed since the collapse of Italian Fascism. Another year will go by (we forecast this here) and we will hear the same “indestructible” phrases. Will we be taken seriously at all? Will we ever reach an understanding of where the real tasks lie?

Let us recognize, in order to prepare a better future: we are worse off than was necessary. We failed in the past “to render every assistance to our Italian and European co-thinkers”; we often acted otherwise than “to strengthen those that already exist”; only the least of our work was carried through “with the greatest tactical flexibility and in a comradely spirit.”

As to Italy, we recall particularly the cheerless Editorial in the Militant, composed entirely of dried-out, hollow, fantastic and hard-shell phrases, which made up the “answer” to the manifesto of the Italian comrades. At the time, we transmitted through the IS our opposition to this Editorial – it was scandalous to throw the “Russian Question” as a monkey-wrench among the Italian comrades, and to hand them, in a not very appealing way, worries that they need not have. Once and for all, it should be noted: It is absolutely possible to be a member of the Fourth without sharing our views in the Russian question – indeed, we have the unconditional right to propagate views that are contrary to your own.

How the German Section Was Treated

In so far as we ourselves are concerned, our experiences are extremely dreary. When we inquired in the IS last year about what the Plenum would take up at its sessions in October, comrade Logan gave us the embarrassed reply: “Trade-union questions.” To our surprise, the result of the meeting was the Resolution on the European Revolution, with everything that went along with it. Thus, it was not only deemed necessary to keep us uninformed and to “cut us out,” but we were tricked in the shabbiest way in a political question which (as stated) concerns us primarily. This is the “comradely spirit” that animated the whole attitude toward us in all political questions. It so happens that we are one of the few sections that “already exist.” We are one of the oldest and most stable organizations of the Fourth. Under conditions and difficulties about which the American comrades do not have the slightest notion, we issued a paper in the emigration and up to the outbreak of the war, published brochures, books and, documents, and helped conspicuously to decide all the political questions. We attach great importance to saying to the convention: The leading American comrades are quite especially aware of the fact that Leon Trotsky greatly esteemed our work and never corrected us in a single political question. But anybody who knows the methods and aims of German Fascism will know that we do not have the slightest outlook of once more finding “remnants” of the German organization inside Germany when we return there. Our organization exists only abroad and is scattered all over the world. Following Erwin Wolff and Rudolph Clement, Walter Held, one of our greatest hopes, also fell into Stalin’s hand.

We often contemplated the idea of submitting a memorandum on the German section to the Americans. Some day we shall perhaps be forced to do so, but for the moment we should like to say only this: We were called upon by the SWP leadership and by the IS to write articles, theses and replies. They were rejected without grounds being given, or else made public only after fourteen months of “working” on the organization (our Three Theses). In view of our situation, we sought for support – this was rejected on “grounds” about which a highly instructive brochure could be written. We submitted proposals – it was not even “deigned” to give us an answer. And we do not wish to be silent about this: we addressed an Open Letter to Max Shachtman and placed it at the disposal of the SWP. After we had waited long enough for a decision and had once more remained without a reply, we put the Open Letter in the hands of him to whom it was addressed. The “indignation” of the SWP leadership over our step and the miserable bureaucratic subterfuges of comrade Logan are adequately characterized by two simple facts.

First, comrade Logan, to whom as the then secretary of the IS, we had given the letter for transmission, understood his assignment very well and transmitted it to the SWP leadership. Second, the SWP leadership conferred on the letter and decided against its publication, but again it did not deem it necessary to communicate this to us. Precisely because we learned of this, we refused at any cost to make inquiries of our own in the IS on how things stood. On the contrary, after having exercised patience for a long time, we were resolved to give the SWP leadership a first lesson in the simplest “comradely spirit.”

We were naive and thought: We not only have the “duty” to understand our great American brother in all his “peculiarities” – but for once he, on the other hand, must also learn to understand a bit the little European brother. As we said in the open letter to Max Shachtman: “The horse philosophizes over the whip one way and the driver another.” When comrade Frank, for example, is defending the viewpoints of the SWP leadership, he likes to use the phrase: “That’s the way we build our party – that’s the way it runs.” We freely admit: Our organization “runs” in a “different” way. We believe that this whole system of bulletins (for “Committee members only,” etc.), of prohibition of discussions, of concealment of differences of opinion (fear of public criticism the minute it touches “us”) has not the slightest thing in common with Bolshevism, and must sooner or later ruin any organization. Bolshevism consists, on the contrary, in the most open discussion of all political and party-organizational questions before the eyes of the broadest masses (and primarily of the masses of workers), in the freedom of expression of all shadings and standpoints within one and the same basic tendency. Political questions (which include precisely all party questions) must not be dealt with “secretly” or “confidentially.” The working methods of the SWP leadership only leads to having, at every moment, a “betrayed secret,” an inner-organizational scandal which weakens the prestige of the organization inside and outside, and strengthens the tendency toward bureaucratization which is present in every organization. (In passing: We have just looked through a lot of convention material and found in it some outstanding contributions by comrade Lydia Bennett. Comrade Bennett – similarly comrade Morrison – feels exactly where the nub of the whole question lies. Her arguments are the finest and most striking proof that as a result of the procedure of the SWP leadership, there is not a single person who still understands how differences of opinion arise, what they signify, etc. Neither the members nor the masses can be trained in this way; still less can they gain unconditional confidence in the organization. But comrade Bennett is still laboring under the mistake that it is necessary to punish the “guilty one” who transmitted a “secret document” to an opponent organization. The “guilt” lies entirely and solely in the system that prevails. It is necessary to demolish this whole system from top to bottom, and to grasp this idea: Only such prohibitions should be made as are correct and as can be carried out. All other “prohibitions” should be violated, and their violation is a boon for the party which would otherwise learn nothing to the end of its days. We, for example, fought out a whole series of factional fights with a “method” which would look like “sheer madness” to you. That is, we did not have a single “internal” bulletin, we did not write a single letter or take a single measure without informing our opponent about it even before our friends, presenting him with copies, etc. It so “happened” always that our opponent had material resources at his disposal, whereas all we had was our ideas. The result, on every occasion, was that our opponent disappeared radically from the political surface. It will be said: “Emigrant politics.” But we ask: Why did the others disappear, and not we? We believe (to answer our question exactly): We really learned something from the “emigrant” Lenin, whereas others think they are “Bolsheviks.”

To summarize: We do not complain about the insinuations against us made from Minneapolis to London: “Emigrants – very nice fellows; – unfortunately, suffered a lot of defeats; – have a certain psychology; – a little bit screwy; – nice fellows.” But we ask the convention: Do you think that we write open letters and (upon request) documents about our views in order to have them buried unceremoniously – without so much as letting us know why it was that we “died”? What European “co-thinkers” is it that you propose to “strengthen,” and who is it you want to make the European revolution with, if not those rare specimens, who have survived the European catastrophe physically and politically? Do you believe that the best way of promoting the European revolution consists of gagging and discrediting these rare specimens?

8. In connection with the question of the party, we point further particularly to the tautological formulation of paragraph 26. This and the following paragraphs up to the end of the section on Italy are especially empty, abstract, weak, useless. Not a word in paragraph 1 corresponding to the reality. It should be replaced by the frank admission that the SWP needs an ideological and political reorientation.

Russia and the “Red Army”

9. Without entering into the Russian question itself, we should merely like to call attention to the untenable inconsistency which the draft reveals in this respect, too, due to the lack of a sound theoretical foundation. You cannot (as is done in paragraph 50 and elsewhere) underscore the unequivocally counter-revolutionary character of the Stalin-policy, exclusively reactionary in all and every respect, completely interwoven with and – overtrumping the imperialist policy of the Allies – and then evade the consequences. The draft endeavors to reconcile the old theoretical position and the reality by means of a quotation from Trotsky which has been outstripped by the reality. The least that the draft must say is: “Red Army” appears and can appear only as Stalin’s agent. Everywhere it will only be the armed weapon of the counter-revolution. It must be treated with the same methods as all the other imperialist armies.

10. Therewith stands the question of the destruction of Stalinist influence in general. Especially in the oral discussions with the European comrades we have steadfastly emphasized that the “Stalinist influence” is more of a phantom than a solid reality. The whole question reduces itself in the last analysis to the weakness of the opponents of the Stalinists – a phenomenon which we were able to study only too well in Germany and in France. In the Three Theses, we sought with great deliberateness only to outline the situation, appraise the forces and to set down the task that towers above all the others. We wrote especially: “However one views it, the transition from fascism to socialism remains a utopia without an intermediate stage, which is basically equivalent to a democratic revolution.”

On the basis of his formulation, comrade Morrow ascribed to us a “false theory of stages,” which we never even dreamed of. (It is to the merit of comrades Morrow and Morrison that they at least honestly wanted to discuss.) The senior schoolmaster, comrade Logan, discovered in his dictionary that the German word “Umwaelzung” should be translated into “revolution.” And a “democratic revolution,” he rejects. (Comrade Logan was “mistaken” on the word “Umwaelzung” in spite of the dictionary, but we calmly made him a present of it.) Since then, much paper has been wasted on the profound question: Will the Allies install fascist or “democratic” governments in the occupied countries; will the bourgeoisie seek to save itself by a “restoration” of “democracy”; can that last for a long or a short time? We think, as we did before, that these are idle jests. Today, just as three years ago, the problem is to formulate the fundamental task and to analyze the situation. Fourteen months after the overthrow of Italian Fascism can very conveniently be accommodated in a “theory of stages” – even if nobody has noticed up to now that in discussing all the things the bourgeoisie and the Allies are going to do next, he is already practicing our alleged “theory.” In any case: the bourgeoisie and the Allies have already sought to deceive in the Fascist and in the “democratic” way in Italy. Are we finally ready to come forward in favor of free elections in order to expose the Allies before the whole world and to permit the camp of their adversary to crystallize? If not, the phantom of the “Stalinist influence” will continue to exist thanks to our past and present narrowness, and we may as well be resigned to all kinds of “stages.” Today, the opponent of the “democratic revolution,” comrade Logan, writes: “With its democratic and patriotic illusions the atmosphere was somewhat reminiscent of that of the 19th century revolution.” This is the finest “shamefaced” acknowledgment of our position and of the “democratic revolution” we have met with up to now. But comrade Logan also writes:

“A more and more loudly voiced opposition to de Gaulle will come from his left. A possible variant is an increasing Socialist and Stalinist participation in the cabinet. We may even see a Stalinist-Socialist cabinet, with de Gaulle relegated to the democratic post of president of the Republic.”

Hence, following the “democratic revolution” – other “stages.” We think that this time comrade Logan is calculating more correctly even if what we continue to see unfold is. exclusively that process “which is basically equivalent to a democratic revolution.” We ask unrelentingly: Are we finally going to concern ourselves with this process and simply dissolve into thin air the Stalinist influence (which is untenable in a world in which it encounters real opponents)? And we ask: Where are the infinite recipes, prescriptions, “tactics,” etc., which comrade Logan scattered so amply on all sides when things had not yet gone “so far”? The French section of the Fourth is not even mentioned in his article. As to our own tasks, he suddenly has nothing to say. A fanfare of trumpets concludes his observations: “Victory will not be easy. But the French workers have made a good start: coming out of the political primitivism of German oppression, they have immediately started to storm capitalist society.”

That is how, on the one side, the reality plays us nothing but dirty tricks; and on the other side, everything moves “spontaneously.” The same picture in every other question. Everyone now speaks of the Balkanization and colonization of Europe – our Three Theses were burned because of it. Everyone now speaks of “slave labor” and of the intentions of the Russians to perpetuate slave labor – the Three Theses were abused for it. But today the development to the slave state is no longer a secret, and the Russians must be opposed under all circumstances with armed resistance. And the Fourth is still non-existent in most countries. Do you want to continue to acknowledge this in concealed form in certain Editorials, and act in practice as if the Three Theses committed blasphemy in asserting that, at least in Europe, there is no organized labor movement?

11. In conclusion: the factual dissolution of international collaboration is expressed most crassly in the IS. It has ceased to exist even as a formal and absolutely impotent body – the SWP decides everything sovereignly. There has never been such a state of affairs – although a well-functioning IS was never more necessary than now. The convention must take up this question, in which is summarized all the misery of the Fourth.

“When the Heart Is Full, the Mouth Speaketh”

A German proverb has it: When the heart is full, the mouth speaketh. We beg the comrades to excuse us if this letter has grown longer than was intended. There is no time left to go over it editorially or for style. But we hope that it will be understood in the way it is meant: as an expression of the concern of old and experienced comrades, who have spent all their conscious life in the movement, and can keep silent no longer. We would not have written had we thought: the situation is “hopeless.” On the contrary, we believe that with the silencing of Trotsky, upon whose counsel and judgment we all depended, great difficulties and a severe setback were inevitable. We are acting in the spirit of our murdered comrade if we cast up the balance sheet of the period since his death. It will be impossible for the convention to do such a job – it can only start on it and make preparations to finish it. If we may give advice, it is this: preparation and energetic carrying-out of the discussion for at least half a year. The entire discussion should be conducted as publicly as possible, so that everyone can be convinced of the seriousness of your work, form an independent judgment and acquire confidence. It hurts neither the prestige of the leadership nor that of the organization when it speaks openly about everything – on the contrary, it destroys the legend that all evil stems from “Bolshevik principles.” Let the convention, at the beginning of its sessions, take the resolve: No discussion on questions of discipline, on bureaucratism and the like. Lenin showed for the 100th time in his Infantile Malady, that “discipline” can never be the precondition but always only the result of a long-lastingly correct policy. If the convention keeps rigorously to the political questions and derives from them the most urgently needed measures (with regard to the methods of work as well), the question of discipline will solve itself in practice. There is no other road to success – the abstract question of discipline can only poison everything. In this spirit, we wish the convention a fruitful labor with all our heart, and send it our comradely greetings.


Auslandskomitee der Internationalen
Kommunisten Deutschlands
(Committee Abroad of the International
Communists of Germany)

October 22, 1944


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