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In France

The Impending Crisis in the Party

(May 1930)

From The Militant, Vol. III No. 22, 7 June 1930, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Communist Party of France and the French revolutionary trade unions have had, ever since their foundation, a considerable handicap in the struggle for influence among the workers. The powerful wave of post-war revolution carried an enthusiastic majority of the old Socialist Party over into the ranks of communism, at the scission of Tours. The splitting, bureaucratic policy of the Jouhaux-led C.G.T. drove still more workers toward the revolutionary trade union center, the C.G.T.U., born under the United Front slogan. Thus, organizationally, the original post-war conditions favored the revolutionary movement, gave the Communists a considerable advantage over the yellow reformists.

The Stalinist Course in France

However the vacillating, equivocal, adventurist character of the Comintern “line” after Lenin’s death, initiated, as elsewhere, in France too, a serious disintegration of the revolutionary ranks particularly as far as the political side of the movement is concerned. The membership of the Party has been almost decimated. (From well over 120,000 members after Tours, there remain now from 15 to 30,000.) The influence of the press has immensely fallen. The socialists have been able to recover and strengthen their positions – at the expense of the Communists.

An example of passive reaction among the rank and file, was offered to view on the First of May. The Party and the C.G.T.U. issued a manifesto, calling for a “Day of Struggle” appealing to their adherents to come “All into the Streets”. What actually happened, was this:

In Paris and in the suburbs several hundreds of thousands of workers struck, obeying the call, not only of the C.G.T.U. and the Communists, but also that of the C.G.T. and the S.P. There were, however, no demonstrations, no meetings, whatsoever,

At the Grange-Aux-Belles, the C.G.T.U. headquarters, only the flics (cops) were to be seen in appreciable numbers. Rue Lafayette (the Party office) was likewise deserted. At the Sante prison, where the Party called for a demonstration in the evening, there was instead a veritable demonstration – of flics ...

Rise of Left Opposition

Why this inactivity, why this apathy among workers organized in hundreds of thousands in mass revolutionary organizations? The apparachiki, the greater and the lesser bureaucrat, explain this away with “self-criticism”. They didn’t make a “bon boulot” (good job) of the preparation! They are in general imbued with an entirely non-Communist, non-Marxist spirit of subjectivism. Revolution to them is merely an administrative affair, a matter of stereotyped routine. As a result: Among the youth a positive abhorrence for theory, a strong inclination for “revolutionary gymnastics”, for the many times over discredited and unmasked “Hervéism”. Among the adults, slavish execution of “instructions”.

The more serious, the more sincere elements in the Party and the League have, however, lately begun to be affected by the meager results of their work. They are beginning to think things over. In the C.G.T.U. these element are rapidly developing into a principled, pro-Party. anti-bureaucratic opposition, grouping themselves about our comrades of the Verité and the Ligue Communiste. Among the youth, a similar process is taking place,

The Stalinist apparatus-men have, in fact, become alarmed already. They are now groping about for a suitable label to tag on to these new oppositionists, before proceeding with the customary suspensions and expulsion measures. And this groping about displays a pitiful intellectual confusion, a true reflection of chained intelligence.

The editorial of the May number of the Cahiers du Bolshevisme sets itself the task of “analyzing” the new opposition. The objectives that guide the “analysis” are clear. One, to discover a scape-goat upon which to cast the guilt for the errors committed by the bureaucrats themselves since the inauguration of the “third period” – and lately condemned by the infallible Manuilsky-Stalin. The other, to discredit the real opposition as much as possible in the eyes of the workers.

The second objective produces only a barrage of abuse and slander, which the workers will hardly tolerate. The new oppositionists are called “centrists”, allies of the “Popists”, “hidden opportunists”, “agents of the reformist minoritaires” and similar epithets. But it is well known, that the militants of the new C.G.T.U. opposition have always fought the syndicalists and opportunist tendencies of the Monatte group as well as of the Rights. Comrades like Aulas, Douemanget, Villatte possess a prestige among the workers for that. After “analyzing” the opposition “currents” into “pessimists” and “left phrase mongers” (the discovery, then, of some ephemeral “Merker” group in France?!) the editorial writer proceeds with illuminations.

Finding a Scape-Goat

“As to the latter,” he writes, “they displace the practical work by bombast and by mechanical procedure (!) and surrender themselves to Leftist demagogy (exaggeration of the crisis (!!) slogan of the conquest of power as a practical task (so!) etc.).” A perusal of the Humanité of the “third period” in any arrangement of days whatsoever would enable anyone to call these mysterious “latter” by their real given names. But – it seems – the “texts” were, nevertheless, correct; the question here deals, with such “latter” phrase-mongers, who “... interpreted the texts, falsely denatured our estimations” etc. It is clear that” this to date non-existent ultra-Left “group” is to be picked in the main from the conscientious lower layers of functionaries who simply took the slogans issued by the directing organs on good faith. To those are to be attributed all the sins of the “Left turn” in the first section of the third period just finished.

However, it is extremely difficult to find an “important” personage who has gained the disfavor of the council of the All-High, to attach to this group as a sort of a lodestone. Even Vassart, among the leading until recently in the Party and the C.G.T.U. can only merit the label “pessimist” (despite his well-known attack against Chambelland of the “forty years of social peace”). This is a real dilemma for the analyst. Yet, the new opposition has been “proven” an ally of the Right wing: Vassart as “skeptic” and “pessimist” has been created a confederate of Chambelland, in the Party ranks and even those ephemeral Leftists are some sort of opportunists anyway. And so, our writer trembling for his own hide (as Lovestone, for instance, did for his, in the days of our own Trotskyist Right danger) concludes:

“In our Party we cannot speak of two battle fronts (this is already sacrilege) as among the youth (reference to Manuilsky). The few Left errors, which might have been committed by good revolutionary workers ought to be eliminated, but they should not to be confused with the ‘Left’ bombast of several braggarts (!) who by that means attempt to disguise their opportunism. There is only one opportunist front with different shadings which we have underlined above.”

The Perspectives

This confusion, this uneasiness in the ranks of the bureaucracy, marks an impending crisis. Couple this bureaucratic uneasiness with the growing dissatisfaction among the better rank and file elements who watch in pain and despair, the fluctuation and the diminution of the Party influence, who begin to recognize the disrespect, the neglect of revolutionary theory, as the source of the evil, and we perceive the dawn of a fierce inner struggle in the French Party, an important opportunity to lead to the rehabilitation of the Party as the party of the proletariat. The French section of the International Left Opposition, under the leadership of L.D. Trotsky and the Russian Leninist-Bolaheviks, will be at its post in the days to come. Under the banner of Leninism, it will fight to lead the French Parly on to the correct Communist path, as part of the struggle for the renovation of the Comintern.

Paris, May 10


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