Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History, Vol. 5 No. 2
Notes on the Conversations Between
This document comes from the Walcher Archives in the Arbetarrorelsens Arkiv in Stockholm. It consists of notes written up by Jacob Walcher on 23 August 1933. Jacob Walcher (1887–1970) was a metalworker, and a militant in the Social Democracy from 1906, and worked in the party school in 1910–11. He had been a member of the internationalist nucleus in 1914 and then of the Spartakusbund of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg. He presided at the founding conference of the KPD, of which he was one of the principal leaders, as well as of the Red International of Labour Unions up to 1923, when he shared the fate of Brandler as a scapegoat for the October defeat. Sought by the police, he was exiled in Moscow until 1926. He was removed from the leadership of the KPD at the same time as Brandler, and excluded from the party with the other Brandlerites in 1928, founding with them the Communist Party Opposition (KPO). He was in a minority in the KPO, and left it in 1932 along with about 1,000 militants to try to win the SAP (Socialist Workers Party), a left-wing Socialist party founded by nine Reichstag deputies who had been expelled from the Social Democratic Party in September 1931. He assumed the leadership of the SAP at the beginning of 1933. In March 1933 he emigrated to Paris, where he worked politically under the name of Jim Schwab, by which name he is referred to in this document. From May onwards he was in discussions with the leaders of the International Left Opposition. He arrived at St Palais on 17 August. These notes were submitted to Trotsky, who agreed them as a record of their discussions.
Walcher was interned in 1939, but he managed to escape to the USA. He returned in 1947 to the DDR, and was purged at the end of the 1940s, as were all non-Stalinists, but he was rehabilitated in 1956. He died in Berlin.
The transcript raises the question as to whether Trotsky had second thoughts about his views on the German crisis of 1923, and this may explain the lack of interest in it on the part of the modern Trotskyist movement.
The document below was not available when the Pathfinder collection of the English edition of the works of Trotsky’s last exile was assembled by George Breitman, and was first published in a French translation in Trotsky’s Oeuvres (Volume 2, July–October 1933, pp. 93–110), edited by Pierre Broué and published by EDI of Paris in 1978. This version is based upon two previous draft translations, one by John Archer, which exists in manuscript form, and the other by John Plant and Pete Flack, which appeared in a collection entitled Trotsky: Writings on Britain, 1933, produced by the East London branch of the Workers Socialist League in March 1979. They have been collated and checked against the French by Al Richardson.
THIS meeting, agreed upon long in advance, became possible because Trotsky left Turkey for France. On the fourth day Comrade Sneevliet  from Amsterdam also visited Trotsky, and the questions were then discussed by all three of us.
Comrade Trotsky made a very lively impression. He is full of optimism. His astonishing creative power is not weakened, even though he was far from well during these days.
No verbatim record was taken of the discussions; just a few notes. The following questions were especially discussed in depth:
On Point 1: On the subject of the ILP and the OSP, Comrade Trotsky was of the opinion (as was Comrade Schwab) that it was a question of parties in the process of evolving from right to left, and that from our side we must do all we can to encourage this development positively, with as much patience and perseverance as is necessary. Agreement was also reached on the idea that it would be highly desirable for the Independent Communist Party of Sweden and Mot Dag of Norway, as well as the KPO in Switzerland  to break from Brandlerite positions on the Russian question and about the creation of a new party and a new international, and to take a stand on the same principled basis as ourselves. 
On Point 2: There was no difference of opinion between Trotsky and Schwab on the main appreciation to be made of the Norwegian Labour Party (DNA), except on the tactical approach to be adopted towards it, Trotsky generally considering the fact that this party wanted to be too all-embracing, and that in this way it runs the risk of degeneration. On this point he accepted completely the opinion of Comrade Falk , when they discussed at Minnesund: that there was no winning over the DNA, which is consciously oriented towards the right-centre, and is carrying on a policy which cannot be distinguished in practice from that of numerous Social Democratic parties.  As historical experience clearly shows, the DNA will shatter into pieces.
In reply, Comrade Schwab claimed that no one in the SAP was under any misapprehension as to the true nature of the DNA, but that we must not ignore the fact that the DNA is the party of the Norwegian working class, in comparison with which the small Communist Party plays only a very secondary role. From the fact of the radicalisation of the working class, as is especially shown in trade union struggles, and from the fact that a general movement to the left is developing, the possibility exists of influencing this development in a decisive and positive way in the direction of Communism. In order to settle this question thoroughly, it is of crucial importance to know, if the DNA were to form part of an expanded community of effort, in which, besides the parties already affiliated, the International Left Opposition and the International Union of the Communist Oppositions (IVKO) were likewise represented, and consequently within which there would begin a displacement of the centre of gravity of centrism  towards Communism, whether the left wing of the DNA or its centrist leadership could be utilised. Schwab tried to show, with reference to the conduct of the leading comrades of the DNA, that such a development would influence this party in a direction favourable to its left.
Comrade Trotsky replied that, in his opinion, the leaders of the SAP did not have a sufficiently clear conception of the true nature of the present leadership of the DNA The nature of the DNA could be understood from Tranmael’s  quite cynical but very characteristic reply to the representative of the SAP who asked him what he thought of a rapprochement with the Swedish ICP (led by Kilbom); ‘He was interested’, so he said, ‘in maintaining good relations with the Swedish Social Democrats, but as they were hostile to Kilbom’s party the DNA would have to renounce any alliance with the latter.’
A man who used such language in reality stood on the ground of reformism, and was an enemy of the revolutionary movement. The old principle, always emphasised by Marx and Lenin, to ‘say what is’ was equally valid for Norway. Only this policy in the long run could guarantee success, and it was only by this policy that the left wing could be assisted.
We did not reach complete agreement on this question, but a certain rapprochement all the same, in that as much on our part as on that of the Left Opposition we thought it necessary to define in completely principled clarity the conditions which necessitate the creation of a new International, without making any allowances for the leadership of the DNA.
On Point 3: Comrade Trotsky vigorously opposed the proposal to invite the KPO(D), that is, its representatives, Brandler and Thalheimer, to join the workers’ International. In his opinion, we should consider the KPO(D) as a group ‘equivalent’ to the Stalinists; in reality, they were Stalinist agents, whose sole activity consisted above all in slandering the International Opposition and in defending Stalinism. 
Schwab replied that the KPO could be left on one side if it were only a question of Brandler and Thalheimer, who could not indeed be expected to abandon their erroneous positions. But it was not simply a matter of Brandler and Thalheimer, but of at least 2,000 for the most part very capable German comrades, and in the second place it was not a matter only of the KPO, but of the entire International Union of Communist Oppositions (IVKO).  This is made up of six organisations in all, that is, in addition to the KPO, the Communist Oppositions in Switzerland and in Alsace, the Norwegian group Mot Dag, the Independent Communist Party of Sweden, and the Lovestone group in the USA.  Three of these groups, and perhaps even four, are not in agreement with the international positions of Brandler and Thalheimer. If they invited the IVKO as a whole, Brandler and Thalheimer would be confronted with a choice of alternatives, of either supporting the vote of the majority of their own international organisation, that is, of abandoning the terrain which they had previously occupied, and in fact placing themselves on the same ground as those who recognised the need for a new party in Germany and for the creation of a new International, or of completely isolating themselves on the international level. Resulting from that, it is clear that Brandler and Thalheimer would also be greatly weakened by this international isolation, including in Germany, and the possibility would follow of winning the best of their supporters for the new party. 
Trotsky replied insistently that there was no advantage to be gained from extending an invitation to the Brandlerites. Even if we could envisage a refusal on their part, all possible variations of their reply to the invitation would be to their advantage. But what had to be seen clearly was that their essential preoccupation was to improve their own chances with Stalin. Even supposing that for tactical reasons they were to accept the invitation, they would only do so with the aim of bringing about a split later when conditions were more favourable.
Schwab counterposed to these arguments that Trotsky obviously had an insufficient idea of the intransigence and stubbornness of the leading comrades of the KPO. The spirit which animated this group was very clearly shown the previous week, in the course of a discussion about the project for an international supra-party theoretical magazine. In this discussion were a representative from the left Social Democrats, one from the SAP, one from the KPO, two from the Left Opposition and the editor.  Whereas all the other comrades subscribed to the conception that the object of the magazine (which would appear starting in October in the format of the Basler Rundschau, with 32 pages every three or four weeks) should be to reach reunification through clarification and to put an end to the heterogeneity which prevailed between the different groups, with a view to reaching homogeneity, the representative of the KPO declared that his group categorically rejected such a conception. As far as he was concerned, such a review would not be a matter of educating and convincing each other, but of each group presenting its own viewpoint and leaving it to the discretion of the reader to choose the one which would seem to him to be the best. Moreover, the representative of the KPO revealed the belief that his group already possessed the last word in wisdom, and that for this reason he did not think it necessary to submit its opinion to discussion.
As the KPO, like the IVKO, has not been invited to the conference which is shortly to be held , the decision on an eventual proposal to associate them with us can only reasonably be taken by the conference itself. Schwab explained that in any case the SAP would vote for the IVKO to be invited, while the representatives of the Left Opposition would reserve their decision.
On Point 4: On this point, Schwab first of all took up a position on the Platform of the Left Opposition which was adopted in the February of this year ; he declared that the SAP was in agreement with the essential principles and methods of this platform, but did not regard as correct the division of the Communist camp into three groups, as has been stated in general by the Left Opposition, and likewise in this programme. In his opinion, a very confused use was being made of the concepts of left, right and centre in the Communist camp. In fact, the KPO had been designated as on the right, and the minority of the KPO, when they joined the SAP, as a group of deserters who had gone over directly to reformism. In reality, no one can deny that the KPO, on all the German political questions, was not situated on the right, but on the left of the Central Committee of the KPD, whereas on the other hand, it was represented as a left-wing point of view the attempt to provoke the break of the widest possible masses from reformism, winning them to Communism and developing an effective revolutionary mass party. In this sense, Schwab, like his friends, were entitled to recognition of the fact that they had always been a genuine left.  The Brandlerites could be correctly characterised as cowardly opportunists, but to use the term of ‘right’ for them only confused things. On the other hand, many comrades who claimed to be ‘left’ had provoked great difficulties in the whole International, and especially in the KPD.  It would no longer be in any way acceptable for the Left Opposition if it allowed itself to be led into associating politically with comrades whom it had previously denounced to the workers as being ‘right’. This could only help the real opportunists and defenders of a false Communist policy.
Nor was it correct to say, as the theses say, that the new orientation of the Communist International after 1923 had transformed it into ‘an administrative tribunal of the centrist bureaucracy to condemn the Left Opposition’. What should rather have been said is that at the beginning of 1924, in connection with the struggle against Trotsky and in Stalin’s factional interest, the central committees of the Communist parties in Germany, France, Czechoslovakia and Poland, labelled ‘right’, were at their last gasp.  Still more, it was correct to say that in the course of the years 1924–25 the Communist parties had been led to the edge of ruin by their ultra-left members. 
The dispute about 1923 had to be settled.  To begin with, it was necessary to recognise that up until 1923 the KPD had carried out a very successful policy directed to winning the broad masses. If, on the basis of the October legend, the opinion still prevailed today in the circles of members of the KPD faithful to their party that in October 1923 all the objective premises for a victorious proletarian revolution were present, and that it was only due to the lack of decisive spirit of the party leaders at the time that it was not possible to carry through a victorious insurrection, it has unfortunately to be said that this radically false interpretation was supported by the Left Opposition, even when it was not instigated by it.
In reality, Brandler at the time spoke for three or four hours at the Chemnitz Conference , and explained very fully to his audience that it was necessary, now or never, to join battle. But he did not arouse the slightest echo in the conference. In the course of a session of the Central Committee which took place immediately after the conference, a unanimous agreement was reached, including with the ultra-lefts present, to the effect that in the circumstances there was no question of joining battle.  Whilst establishing this, it has to be recognised that the leadership of the KPD and perhaps that of the Communist International did not commit a major mistake in 1923. The principal mistake had been not to have taken account in time of the financial, political and revolutionary consequences which would flow from the conflict in the Ruhr, and only to have recognised the existence of a revolutionary situation in relation to the Cuno strike , and therefore at the moment when, following the entry of the Social Democrats into the government and the news of the creation of the Rentenmark , the situation had begun to relax, and the revolutionary wave recede. The leadership of the KPD, and perhaps that of the Communist International, which in July had very seriously underestimated the situation, from that time onwards overestimated it in the same way. From that time onwards the whole party began to be prepared for the insurrection, and no notice was taken at the time of what was actually happening at the same moment within the working class. Thus the scissors opened wide between the party policy and reality, and this fact left its mark on the Chemnitz Conference: the party leadership, for wanting the impossible in the second stage of this development, was incapable of bringing off what was still possible in it. 
As far as the Anglo-Russian Committee is concerned , the SAP could not admit that the cooperation between the British and Russian trade unions constituted a mistake at that moment, and from the beginning. At that time, in association with the Third Congress of the Red International of Labour Unions, a campaign was undertaken with great success by the Communists for international trade union unity. The fact that the Russian unions were allied to the British unions with the object of stimulating and reinforcing this campaign was entirely justified and positive. The Left Opposition made the mistake of not having paid any attention to this positive initial aspect, and its criticism of the later phase of the developments, however well founded, was abusively extended to the whole of the period. 
The Left Opposition would do well to ask itself from time to time why it had so few supporters. If, to be sure, a series of objective reasons could be indicated to answer this question, it must no longer be hidden that the insufficient growth of the Left Opposition was equally in part due to bad methods.  For example, it was quite impossible that an opposition, even though it had the advantage of the sharp, fertile pen of Comrade Trotsky, could win large layers of supporters, if whenever its spokesmen were dealing with a concrete situation, they always, calmly and mechanically, dragged in the same questions: the Chinese question, the Russian question, and the Anglo-Russian Committee. Schwab gave several significant examples of this, and then remarked that, as already emphasised, the tendency to a certain schematism and to exaggerations produced harmful effects.
On the other hand, he did not wish to hide that outside the Left Opposition and even in circles which were fundamentally in agreement with its political line, there was talk of a personal regime within the Left Opposition , and for that reason there were grave reservations about it. Such reservations were expressed not only by former supporters of the Left Opposition, but also in the SAP and within its executive (PV). 
Comrade Trotsky did his utmost to prove by fairly lengthy explanations that the classification which the Left Opposition habitually operates in the Communist camp corresponded to the reality of relations. Stalinism had the typical character of centrism, and the Brandlerites could only be characterised as a ‘right’ tendency, even though they often took correct positions on current political questions. In connection with the Anglo-Russian Committee, he thought that cooperation between the British and the Soviet trade unions was altogether understandable and useful. But the criticism of the Left Opposition was in reality aimed at the inadmissible political bloc which had then been formed between the British unions and those of Soviet Russia. This bloc had strengthened the position of the British reformists and assisted their policy of betrayal during the British General Strike. He thought that it was necessary to arrive at total agreement with the SAP on this point.
If we seek the reasons for the small number of supporters of the Left Opposition, it has to be said that a Communist opposition could not count on gaining a mass audience for itself in the course of a period characterised by a general degeneration in the Communist movement (provoked by the false policy of the Stalinists). He willingly conceded that the members of the Left Opposition had not always acted in the best way, but it should not be forgotten that the witch-hunt conducted against him personally for over 10 years now had obtained some results. It was only now that it was beginning, here and there, to transform itself into its opposite.
As to his supposed personal regime and his tendency to impose himself upon the life of the organisation, he was fully prepared to produce the correspondence which he had with the comrades from whom these reproaches were coming at the present time, and leave it to Schwab to form an objective opinion on the matter himself. (Schwab then also raised the possibility of studying this correspondence with an Austrian comrade , because he could not believe the patience with which Comrade Trotsky had reacted towards quite bizarre, not to say pathological, complaints, always tirelessly exerting himself to lead the discussion towards the heart of the matter and to bring together different personalities in common work.)
In this connection Comrade Trotsky then mentioned that he would be very happy to be relieved of having to occupy himself with organisational questions, if this were to result from the organisational growth of the movement and the construction of a solid leadership: he would a thousand times prefer to devote himself exclusively to political and scientific work.
On the subject of 1923, Comrade Trotsky continued to affirm that at that time, as a result of a bad policy, great objective possibilities for revolutionary struggle had been botched up. But he did not in the slightest think that the decisive fault had been committed in October at the time of the Chemnitz Conference.  He recalled that from 1924 onwards he had compared the situation in 1923 to a rider who had held his horse on too tight a rein in front of a high hurdle, and to whom, consequently, there remained only two options: either to draw back from the hurdle, or to try the leap anyway, which could only be achieved after a great run up, and break his neck as a result. The KPD, on account of the false policy of its Central Committee, and doubtless also of the Executive Committee of the Communist International, had been exactly in the position of this rider. He stated with satisfaction that complete agreement could be recorded between his point of view and that which had been developed by Schwab.
On Point 5: Comrade Trotsky neither could nor wished to pretend that there did not exist disagreements between the Left Opposition and the SAP. But they were not of such a nature as to prevent the two organisations from understanding each another and unifying in the near future. On the contrary, he judged that with good will it would be possible to arrive at a fusion of the SAP and the Left Opposition in a short period, perhaps in two or three months, if both sides started now and resolutely went forward towards that goal. This question must now be addressed in the organs of our press. He thought it very positive that Schwab should express himself on this subject in Unser Wort.  We should not delay too long in opening the discussion, otherwise we run the risk of ending up, not with a fusion, but with a split. Comrade Trotsky declared that the creation of a joint weekly paper would be highly necessary and useful. He was deeply convinced that the unification of the SAP and the Left Opposition would be of the greatest importance, not only in Germany, but on the international plane. In Germany, the unification would benefit the new orientation of the workers who, having broken from reformism, were now taking the road to the left, and would permit them to join a newly unified party. On the international plane, this unification would likewise advance the clarification and concentration of the revolutionary forces. Trotsky summarised his opinion on this question at the end of the discussion in a letter addressed to Comrade Schwab. 
In reply to this statement, Comrade Schwab observed that the SAP, despite some of its criticisms against an alliance with the Left Opposition, and on condition of remaining within certain limits, was for the fusion. He considered that a large part of the faults which, according to him, the Left Opposition showed, were only the expression of a misunderstanding, that they arose from the organisational weakness of the Left Opposition and the exceptional personality of Comrade Trotsky, but that this would largely disappear when the organisational base was larger. Moreover, the comrades of the SAP were convinced that thanks to the new tactical orientation the methods of the Left Opposition would have to change, and that they were going to change. 
On Point 6: We can conclude from this conversation that the Left Opposition is approaching the conference and its tasks from a completely positive point of view. It has decided to develop its point of view before the conference, and to see to what extent agreement is possible. It is deeply convinced that the evolution towards a new International is a process in which the parties and the groups which already have the requisite political clarity must use all their influence for the parties and groups under consideration to arrive at conceptions homogenous with them. Comrade Trotsky, however, strongly insisted on the fact that the Party of Proletarian Unity (PUP) should not be included in this process, and that it was necessary to oppose this compromising participation , as well as that of the Socialist Revolutionary Steinberg. 
In agreement with us, Comrade Trotsky laid down two principal tasks for the conference. Firstly, from the outset, a discussion on the necessity for a new International and the proclamation of its principles. He thinks it desirable that a commission should be set up by the conference, with the task of bringing together all the material necessary for an international discussion on the programme. In this proclamation of a new International, there can be no doubt that we should base ourselves, as before, on the fundamental resolutions of the first four congresses of the Communist International, that as before we should wage an implacable struggle against reformism, and that, in order to do so, we must hold firmly onto the 21 Conditions of the Second Congress, even if these have to be amended in detail. Comrade Trotsky has expressly indicated that for us development obviously did not stop with the first four congresses, and that it is important to subject particular resolutions to the test and to take account of new experiences. It is for this purpose that the Left Opposition will submit to international discussion the 11-point platform which it adopted in February. Moreover, it will be equally prepared to examine seriously every other contribution and to publish it in its press.
As far as the second task of the conference is concerned, he was of the opinion that it would probably not be possible to obtain the calling of a world workers’ conference on the initiative of the parties represented in Paris within the foreseeable future. But since such a congress would be eminently useful for the organisation of struggle against the war danger, Fascism, and especially for the organisation of a boycott of Hitlerite Germany, mere propaganda for this congress would have fortunate consequences and would be beneficial for a new International. 
On these questions there was complete agreement between Comrade Trotsky and Comrade Schwab.
General Conclusion: The present account gives the impression that there still remain disagreements between Comrades Trotsky and Schwab. These still perceptible tensions and oppositions are no doubt all the stronger among the militants in our own organisations. Nonetheless, we believe that we can declare, in agreement with Comrade Trotsky, that the time is ripe for a unification of the SAP and the Left Opposition, and that starting now it is important to overcome the remaining obstacles as rapidly as possible.
Comrade Trotsky is completely correct when he says that the unification of the SAP and the Left Opposition would considerably facilitate the reorientation of all the Social Democratic workers who are former revolutionaries. What must be noted today with great satisfaction at the level of the SAP will then become a fact of decisive importance and with numerous consequences; everything that is of value in Germany from the revolutionary viewpoint will gather in the course of time within the united SAP-Left Opposition, which will then become in fact the point of crystallisation of the new Communist Party.
Equally on the international plane, the unification would have the effect of transforming the two groups into the nucleus of the new Communist International that is to be constructed.
Therefore, we cannot overestimate the positive result of the efforts at unification which are going on. But it is precisely for that reason that we must make every possible effort imaginable to avoid two eventualities in any circumstances.
The first, as Comrade Trotsky said, consists in the discussion dragging on to the point that it ends not in agreement, but in a split. The second is that the unification should be realised without the necessary explanations on both sides, and that too late it reveals itself not to be solid and ends in a fiasco. These two eventualities would be equally bad, and consequently we must make every effort to avoid them.
To the extent that we are united today on both sides on the objective to be reached, to the extent that we have no longer today any essential divergences, and that we are convinced that a number of sectarian characteristics and obstacles which we have met with in the Left Opposition will disappear with the widening of the base of the organisation, and consequently, with the new resolution of common tasks, we must then in every possible way apply ourselves calmly and flexibly to smoothing out the frictions and dissonances, by energetically emphasising the objective which we have set ourselves. I am convinced that the arrogance, not to say the elitism, which we have sometimes met within the circles of the Left Opposition will completely disappear when the comrades begin to know us and to appreciate us in common practical work, and when we have proved in action to them that we are no worse revolutionaries than they, because we did not allowed ourselves to be diverted either by the shoutings of the Brandlerites or by those of the German section of the Left Opposition from doing the work within the SAP that was necessary to tear this organisation from the centrists, to win it for Communism, and thus to create the necessary conditions for a fusion with the Left Opposition.
Paris, 23 August 1933
1. Henricus Sneevliet (1883–1942) was a Dutch railway worker and a Socialist militant from 1902 onwards. In 1914 he founded the first Socialist organisation in Indonesia, and was at the origin of the foundation of the Indonesian Communist Party. He was a delegate to the Second Congress of the Communist International in 1920 under the pseudonym of Maring, and became a member of the Executive Committee of the Communist International. He then carried out a mission lasting two years in China, where he presided over the foundation of the Chinese Communist Party. He then became a leader of the Dutch ‘red’ trade union, the NAS, leaving the Communist Party of Holland in 1927. In 1929 he founded the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP). He had already met Trotsky in Copenhagen in 1932, having worked with the Trotskyists in the ‘Anti-War’ congress in the same year. For some years he was opposed to the policy of ‘reform’ of the Communist parties, and therefore was to find himself practically in the same position as Trotsky and his supporters in 1933. He was jailed at the beginning of 1933 for having supported the mutinous sailors on the cruiser Zeven Provincien, but his sentence earned him election as a parliamentary deputy, which got him out of jail in April.
2. The Independent Labour Party was founded in 1893. It contributed to the birth of the Labour Party. It took a pacifist stance in the First World War. There were revolutionary currents within it, but it refused to join the Communist International, and for several years encouraged the efforts towards ‘reunification’ made by the so-called Vienna International, known as the ‘Two-and-a-half International’. It was the main force of the left in the Labour Party, and ended its affiliation with the Labour Party in 1932, following the defection of Premier Ramsay MacDonald when he joined a ‘National’ Government. The ILP was clearly moving to the left.
3. The review Mot Dag (The Dawn) was founded in Norway in 1920, and was the nucleus of a small, highly disciplined organisation in the form of a network. Its founders had the ambition of copying the model of the Bolshevik faction, and devoted themselves to theoretical work and high level education. The group was expelled from the Norwegian Labour Party, of which it had been part until 1925, for refusing to renounce the anti-militarist struggle as against the majority of the party. In 1927 it joined the Communist Party of Norway, and was in turn expelled again in the course of the Third Period. It had about 250 members.
4. Karl Kilbom (1885–1961) was a metal worker, a leader of the Socialist Youth in Sweden, and a resolute supporter of a revolutionary internationalist line between 1914 and 1917. In 1917 he was one of the founders of the Left Social Democratic Party in Sweden, which was to become the Communist Party of Sweden. He was one of its principal leaders, as well as being a member of the ECCI. In 1929 there occurred an unprecedented historical event when the congress of the Communist Party of Sweden refused to apply the directives of the Communist International to exclude Kilbom and his principal collaborators, whom it described as ‘opportunists’. The leadership around Kilbom kept control of the apparatus (the press and property) and the majority of the members (about 10,000 out of 18,000), and Kilbom himself retained his seat as a parliamentary deputy. The Swedish Communist Party (Sveriges Kommunistika Parti, SKP), which was known as the Independent Swedish Communist Party, or the Communist Party (Kilbom), was attached to the Brandlerite International Opposition, the IVKO.
5. The Onafhankelijk Socialistische Partij (OSP) of Holland was formed in 1932 following a split of the left from the Social Democratic Party of that country. Peter J. Schmidt (1896–1952), from 1928 onwards the editor of the left Socialist journal De Socialist, was the President of the OSP. Jacques de Kadt (born in 1897) had been a member of the Communist Party of Holland from its foundation, and left it in 1924 to support a ‘centrist’ organisation, the BKSP (Bond van Kommunistische Strijd en Propagandaclub). In 1929 he returned to the Social Democratic Party and joined its left wing led by Peter Schmidt. He likewise collaborated in De Socialist. He took part in the foundation of the OSP, and wrote in its journal De Fakkel.
6. The evidence all suggests that the conversations between Trotsky and Walcher were not confined to the forthcoming conference in Paris. This is proved by the mention in the above list of the Brandlerite opposition, the KPO(D). In July 1933 the enlarged congress of the leadership of the IVKO had in fact decided not to take part in the Paris conference.
7. The Norwegian Labour Party (Det Norske Arbeiderparti, DNA) was a party of the British Labour Party type, based upon individual membership as well as on the affiliation of the trade unions. It joined the Communist International in 1919 and left it in 1923. In 1927 it absorbed the Norwegian Social Democratic Party, but did not return to the Second International. It obtained 37 per cent of the votes in the 1928 elections.
8. For Heinrich Brandler, cf. n55, Jakob Reich article in this issue of Revolutionary History. The formation of the Kommunistische Partei Opposition (KPO) in December 1928 was itself was the origin of the formation of the IVKO. The ‘Brandlerite’ position – a refusal to criticise the Soviet party – was one of reform.
9. An article published in Arbeiterzeitung, the daily paper of the Swiss KPO in Schaffhausen, declared in favour of the construction of a new party in Germany by the fusion of all the oppositional groups with the SAP. The leadership of the IVKO at once mobilised against this manifestation of ‘Trotskyism’ in its own ranks.
10. Organisations, groups and individual members hitherto linked to the IVKO called into question the Brandlerite positions of ‘neutrality’ on Russian questions and the maintenance of the attitude of ‘opposition’ in the Communist International. We should mention in particular Paul Thalmann (born in 1901), a former leader of the Communist Youth in Switzerland and editor of Arbeiterzeitung in Schaffhausen, as well as Willy Schlamm (born in 1904), the former leader of the Austrian Communist Party, who later came towards the positions of Trotsky, and published Trotsky’s principal articles when he became the chief editor of the prestigious weekly journal Die Neue Weltbühne.
11. Erling Falk (1887–1940) was born in Norway and emigrated to the USA in 1907. There he followed various occupations and became a member of the Industrial Workers of the World, which at the time represented the revolutionary wing of the workers’ movement in North America. He returned to his Norwegian homeland, joined the DNA, and pursued the study of law and economic science at Oslo. In 1921 he founded the review Mot Dag, around which he worked to create a nucleus of militants within the party affiliated to the Communist International who would be well educated on the theoretical level and organised in a ‘fraction’ on the Bolshevik model. In the summer of 1923 he supported Martin Tranmael (note 14) in his resistance to and break from the Communist International. Two years later, however, he promoted the split of the Mot Dag group from Tranmael’s party, which was renouncing its anti-militarist past. It appears that he was very pessimistic about the evolution of Tranmael and his party, and told Trotsky so when they met in 1932.
12. This appreciation was shared generally by every observer at the time: cf. Fenner Brockway, Inside the Left, London 1942, pp. 282–3.
13. A clear divergence appeared here. Trotsky was seeking partners in the Paris Conference to construct an organisational framework to prepare the formation of the new International. Walcher, on the other hand, was seeking to enlarge the IAG (Internationale Arbeitsgemeinschaft) to include the Left Opposition and the Brandlerite IVKO.
14. Martin Tranmael (1879–1967) was an agricultural worker and one of the leading figures in revolutionary Syndicalism in Norway before the First World War. As a member of the DNA and a parliamentary deputy, he became editor-in-chief of its journal, Arbeiderbladet. He was an internationalist in 1914 and became a leader of the left, which in 1918 gained a majority, and he became the General Secretary of the party and chief editor of its organ, Ny Tid (New Times). In 1919 he pressed for affiliation to the Communist International, but in 1923 he obstinately rejected the organisational demands of its Executive Committee, and assumed responsibility for a split. He was the DNA’s undisputed chief, and was principally responsible for its evolution to the right and its parliamentary orientation.
15. For August Thalheimer, cf. introduction to Thalheimer’s article in this issue of Revolutionary History. Trotsky thought that the Brandlerites were willing to do the most ignoble tasks in the hope that they would one day again be installed by Moscow at the head of the Communist parties.
16. Walcher had been one of the founders and leaders of the IVKO.
17. The Communist Party of Alsace, which was led principally by Charles Hueber (1883–?), the Mayor of Strasburg, had developed important disagreements with the Brandlerite leadership. Jacob Liebstein, known as Jay Lovestone (born in 1898), a Socialist since 1917, was a student when he joined the Communist Party of the USA. After the reunification of the two American Communist Parties he became the new party’s National Secretary in January 1922. He was a leader of one of the three contesting factions in this party, and although he was in a minority, he had been installed in a leading position by the Communist International in 1927, when he became General Secretary. In 1929 he was expelled, and founded the Communist Party (Opposition), a section of the IVKO, which he was about to transform into the Independent Labor League, also breaking from Brandler’s attitude of ‘opposition’.
18. In fact Brandler and Thalheimer were already weakened, but the majority of those who left them went in a Social Democratic direction. This, however, was not the case at the time with the Kilbom Communist Party or Mot Dag.
19. The editor in question was an American of German origin, Julian Gumperz (1899–1972), a former editor of Die Rote Fahne and a former collaborator in the Institut für Sozialforschung at Frankfurt and former director of the publishing firm Malik Verlag. He took refuge in Switzerland, had a substantial private fortune, and offered to finance the review.
20. In fact, the KPO and the IVKO had been invited, but had refused to take part in the Paris Conference.
21. Walcher was talking about the pre-conference of the Left Opposition. The resolution which was adopted was drafted by Trotsky, and distinguished three fundamental tendencies in the Communist movement, the bureaucratic centrism of the Stalinists, the Left Opposition itself, and the Brandlerite Right Opposition.
22. The minority of the KPO led by Walcher and Frölich numbered about 800 members when it joined the SAP in March 1932, which had about 14,000 members at the time, and undertook to win it to a Communist programme. It was partly as a result of its success that in February 1933 the leaders of the SAP called upon their members to join the Social Democracy as individuals, after postponing their congress several times. The minority then called the congress, which was held in secrecy in Dresden on 11–12 March 1933, which placed in the leadership the leaders of the opposition. In June 1933 a clandestine plenum of the SAP adopted the position of ‘the creation of a genuine Communist Party in Germany, and a genuine Communist International’.
23. This attack was not directed at Trotsky’s comrades, but against the German ‘Left’ of Ruth Fischer and Arkady Maslow, which was linked to Zinoviev. They had fought against Brandler in the opposition of 1921–23, and then for a time controlled the leadership of the KPD.
24. The central committees of the Communist parties of these countries had all been replaced in the course of 1924 on the initiative of the ECCI under Zinoviev’s leadership. Zinoviev encouraged replacing them with ‘Left’ majorities. Therefore, Walcher’s defence here is rather clumsy. In fact, it was only the leadership of the Polish party and certain individuals in the French Communist Party (Souvarine, Rosmer and Monatte) who had the courage to stand up to the reprisals and the attacks on Trotsky and to a ‘Bolshevisation’ which amounted to little more than imposing military discipline. On the other hand, the German ‘Right’, and Brandler and Thalheimer in particular, had tried to save their positions by attacking ‘Trotskyism’, but to no avail.
25. This is an allusion to the period during which the ‘Zinovievist’ leaderships had been installed by the Communist International at the head of the Communist parties, for example, that of Treint in France, and of Fischer in Germany, etc.
26. The debate on the ‘German October’ of 1923 has never been settled, and is in general the subject of a great deal of controversy. In his Lessons of October Trotsky traced a parallel between the retreat of Zinoviev and Kamenev on the eve of the October Revolution of 1917 and that of the Brandlerite leadership in Germany in October 1923.
27. At the time of the conference of the Saxon factory committees held in Chemnitz, Brandler, who was a minister in the Social Democratic ‘workers’’ government in Saxony led by Dr Zeigner, had the task, according to the plan drawn up by Moscow, of convincing the delegates to issue the call for a general strike in reply to the ultimatum addressed to the Saxon government by General Müller in the name of the Reichswehr. Brandler did not succeed in convincing them, and Trotsky thought that it was because his own hesitations could be perceived. The debate took place on 21 October 1923.
28. Walcher was probably referring to the meeting of the Central Committee of the KPD on 25 October, which unanimously adopted a resolution on the situation.
29. The ‘Cuno Strike’ – a strike against the Cuno government at the beginning of August 1923 – had swamped all the trade union and political leaderships of the German workers’ movement, and had led to the fall of the government, which had only just got into office. Trotsky was on holiday in the Crimea at the time, and sought information from two of the German delegates who were in Moscow for a meeting of International Red Aid, Auguste Enderle and Walcher himself, and had convinced them that they should go back to Germany to bring back precise information. It was principally on the basis of this initiative that the Political Bureau of the Russian Communist Party had then taken the decision to prepare for an early insurrection in Germany.
30. The adoption by the Stresemann government of a new currency, the Rentenmark, with the support of the USA, in fact marked the beginning of the stabilisation.
31. Here Walcher gives an interesting explanation of the decision to retreat which the KPD leadership took in the autumn of 1923, but this explanation was never put forward inside the Communist International.
32. Let us recall that Trotsky believed that the Anglo-Russian Trade Union Committee, formed at the top between the leaders of the British and the Russian trade unions, had provided a cover for the bureaucracy of the Trades Union Congress, and that it was a policy of opportunist combinations. Walcher was a member of the leadership of International Red Aid, and a qualified specialist in ‘trade union work’. He had a big share in this policy, and could not accept that he had been wrong.
33. Here Walcher makes a slight self-criticism. His tendency, and later the KPO, had never acknowledged that the policy of the Anglo-Russian Trade Union Committee could have taken on opportunistic aspects at any particular moment.
34. Here Walcher takes up criticisms which were often later used by other opponents or even political allies of the Left Opposition, not excluding its own members.
35. Here he is talking about Trotsky’s personal influence and his intervention by letter into the lives of the sections.
36. ‘PV’ indicates the leadership of the SAP, the ‘Partei-Vorstand’.
37. Here he is in all probability talking about the correspondence between Trotsky and the Austrian Josef Frey (1882–1957), a founder of the Austrian Communist Party and then of the Left Opposition in that country, who complained that Trotsky supported Kurt Landau’s group and the Neuer Mahnruf against his, later supported unification with the pro-Stalinist Graf-Frank, and then supported and even inspired the efforts of the German section and of Polzer, its special envoy in Austria, for a ‘unification’ which ended with the formation of … yet another organisation. Trotsky rejects these complaints in his various reports on the state of the Left Opposition during 1932–33, but the correspondence itself does not seem to have been so far published.
38. None of Trotsky’s criticism on this question had in fact ever been directed against the decision to retreat in October 1923, but rather against the previous policy of the KPD, which made this policy necessary.
39. Unser Wort (Our Word) was the organ of the German section of the Left Opposition, the IKD, which had recently begun to appear in Paris.
40. Cf. L.D. Trotsky, The German Opposition and the SAP Should Unite, 18 August 1933, Writings of Leon Trotsky, 1933–34, New York 1975, pp. 46–7.
41. After the failure of the Communist International to prevent Hitler’s coming to power, and its refusal to acknowledge that this represented a catastrophic defeat for the working class, the Left Opposition changed its orientation from one of reforming the Communist International to that of forming a new International.
42. The PUP, Parti d’unité proletarienne, was formed in October 1930 by the fusion of two organisations arising from the right of the French Communist Party (PCF), the Socialist-Communist Party founded by Paul Frossard, and the Workers and Peasants Party of Louis Sellier. Its principal leader was Paul Louis (1872–1948), a journalist and author of books on labour history, who left the PCF in 1933 along with the right wing. He declared himself for the ‘organic unity’ of the Second and Third Internationals. The PUP was focused upon an electoral perspective, and though far less strong than the DNA, formed along with it the right wing at the Paris Conference. We should note here the concern of Trotsky to distinguish himself from the representatives of the International Bureau of Revolutionary Socialist Parties, the political heir of the Union of Socialist Parties, the ‘Two-and-a-half International’, to whom he did not want to make the slightest concession that might appear compromising in the eyes of the Communist workers whom he wished to win over.
43. Isaac N. Steinberg (1888–1957), one of the leaders of the Left Socialist Revolutionaries in 1917, had been the People’s Commissar for Justice in the coalition government presided over by Lenin from October 1917 to May 1918. In the emigration he led the remains of the party, which he represented on the Paris Bureau.
44. We know that in view of the conference Trotsky had requested the preparation of a special resolution to organise a boycott of Hitlerite Germany.
Updated by ETOL: 20.9.2011