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Workers’ International News, July 1939



Whither the PSOP


From Workers’ International News, Vol.2 No.7, July 1939, p.4. [1]
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The sole hope for the French workers lies in the speedy forging of a new leadership which will be able to lead them out of the present demoralised and apathetic condition of the labour movement towards the seizure of power. The events of the past few years have conclusively proved that under capitalism there is no way out for the French masses.

Last year, the so-called “Revolutionary Left” of the SFIO (the tendency led by Marceau Pivert, split away and formed a new independent party calling itself the PSOP (Socialist Party of Workers and Peasants). It would, however, be an illusion to regard this party as a developed Marxist party capable of giving a clear and precise lead to the workers so urgently necessary in France to-day. Like the parties associated with it on the inter-national field (the ILP, the POUM, etc.) it can best be characterised as centrist, i.e. it wavers between reformism, or left reformism, and Bolshevism. Nevertheless, the fact that it had not adopted a clear position either on theory or on tactics, presented an opportunity for the far smaller organisations of the Fourth International in France to enter its ranks with the object of transforming it from a centrist to a revolutionary organisation.

It is necessary to state here that the latest developments in the PSOP can only give rise to the greatest uneasiness. Like most centrist parties, the PSOP is a conglomeration of very diverse elements. Pacifists and reformists as well as revolutionists are members of the Party. The revolutionary elements, from their entry, have directed a withering fire against the reformist and pacifist tendencies.

Rather than take the risk of losing some of its petty bourgeois hangers-on, the party leadership, in typically centrist fashion, his declared war on the revolutionists. It has answered their criticism not with political arguments, but with slander and administrative measures. Whilst attacking “Trotskyism,” Pivert remains silent upon the fundamental positions of Trotsky (the Permanent Revolution, etc.). An important section of the PSOP, which was oriented towards a return to the SFIO has constituted itself as an “anti-Trotskyist” bloc, and it was from this section, abetted or tolerated by the Party leadership, that the main fire against the revolutionary Marxists was directed.

Whilst Pivert has made certain criticisms of the organisational methods of the Fourth International he has not stated precisely what his political disagreements are, nor has he produced any reasoned alternative to the Transitional Programme of the Fourth International.

The attack on Trotskyism was particularly marked at the recent congress of the PSOP. Measures were taken to deprive all those who had not been Party members for eighteen months of the right of expression. In addition, the Federal Bureau of the Seine Youth Section of the Party (JSOP) which had shown a healthy leftward development towards a clear-cut revolutionary position on war, was expelled from the Party in a bureaucratic fashion.

Centrists have always had an inherent horror of clear and precise formulations, particularly on the question of war. “Our own” ILP is an excellent illustration of this fact. The declarations of the JSOP for revolutionary defeatism and for the fight to the end against French imperialism was too dangerous for the centrists to tolerate in the present period of imperialist repression and growing war dangers.

The equivocation of the PSOP on vital questions and its concessions to bourgeois pacifism evidenced by a recent joint manifesto with certain pacifists have resulted in a sharp decline in the circulation of its press and in its membership. From 15,000 nominal members before last September, it has dwindled, according to the Congress report, to a membership of 5,000.

Nevertheless, despite all obstacles, the PSOP contains within its ranks many of the best French working class fighters. It is for this reason that the most clear-sighted revolutionaries of France must remain inside its ranks. They must conduct a struggle for a Marxist programme, even if this can only be attained at the price of a temporary decrease in membership as the reformists and pacifists leave the organisation. They must also conduct a struggle at the same time against the internal regime which allows a considerable section of the leadership and apparently of the membership to remain connected with Freemasonry. The international orientation of the Party must be directed towards the Fourth International and away from the so-called “Marxist Centre” of the Centrists which will inevitably crumble up when faced with any real demand upon its internationalism. Two papers circulating mainly inside the PSOP have set themselves this aim. La Voie de Lenine (Lenin’s Path), published by a group of comrades centred around Jean Rous and Daniel Guèrin (author of Fascism and Big Business), and La Verité (Truth), published by former members of the International Communist Party. Upon the development of the PSOP depends the future of the French proletariat. We can only trust that our French comrades may yet be able to prevent it from coming to the same sorry end as the POUM.


Transcriber’s Footnote

1. H.R. is Harry Ratner.

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