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Paul G. Stevens

In the World of Labor

(23 June 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 44, 23 June 1939, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Congress of French Workers and Peasants’ Socialist Party (P.S.O.P.)

Two weeks ago, on May 28–29, the French Workers and Peasants Socialist Party held its first regular congress in the proletarian center of Saint-Ouen, a suburb of Paris. Some 160 delegates, representing close to 5,000 members, gathered there to sum up the party’s experiences since the split with Leon Blum’s S.F.I.O. and to outline a course of action for the future. Representative of the drift leftward of various strata who have broken with the parties corrupted by social reformism and Stalinism, this gathering has its importance for the development of the revolutionary movement toward the building of the new, Fourth International.

As was to be expected, the Saint-Ouen congress was not at all a homogeneous body of thought. Most of the participants had only recently left the ranks of the old parties. The centrist current of Marceau Pivert still proved to be predominant. But the revolutionary Marxist tendency made considerable headway in the course of the sessions.

On the all-important war question, the revolutionary defeatist position put forward in the motion drawn up jointly by Jean Rous (formerly of the French Fourth Internationalist party, the P.O.I.), Daniel Guerin, the author of Fascism and Big Business, and Lucien Weitz, the leader of the P.S.O.P. youth, received 59 votes, the same number as the motion of the Pivert tendency drawn up by Michel Collinet. An outright pacifist motion received 26 votes and a motion by Lucien Herard attempting to strike a middle course between the Bous-Ouerin-Weitz and Collinet motions received 45 votes.

A practical motion on anti-war activity, however, proposing to exclude in the future collaboration with such alliances in France as the Keep America Out of War Committee in this country, received 53 votes as against 120 for the Pivert motion endorsing such alliances.

Highly significant for the revolutionary current was the result of the discussion as to whether membership in the Freemasonry organization was compatible with membership in the P.S.O.P. After a heated debate, the Guerin motion for incompatibility received the highest vote, 76, while two separate motions opposing Guerin’s each polled 62 and 50 votes respectively. This problem which touches upon the very essence of the proletarian character of the party is bound to continue to agitate the P.S.O.P. in the future if one is to be guided by the great concern and dissatisfaction shown by many unattached rank and file worker delegates at the fact that the leader of the party is still a Freemason.

On the trade union question, a motion proposing the organization of party fractions received 62 votes, while one opposing organized party work in the unions received 122 votes.

Finally, on the international question, the congress voted to affiliate with “International Marxist Center” (formerly the “London Bureau”) by a vote of 120, against a motion by Weitz proposing non-affiliation for the time being which received 42 votes. An amendment by the latter recommending that an invitation to the coming conference of the “International Marxist Center” in September be extended to the Fourth International was accepted by agreement after considerable discussion.

A good deal of time was taken in a discussion of the “Trotskyist infiltration” of the party, attacks against the Trotskyists being made mainly by the defenders of the Freemasons in the course of the dispute over whether the membership in the latter organization was compatible with membership in the P.S.O.P. The attacks fell flat when the speakers of the revolutionary tendency refused to be hornswoggled into an anti-Trotskyist campaign and insisted on the discussion of the political content of the motions and resolutions proposed. The attackers did manage, however, by sheer weight of numbers to push through an organizational statute requiring eighteen months’ continuous membership in the P.S.O.P. of former members of other proletarian parties before they are accorded equal rights with the other party members. The statute received 96 votes and was opposed with 88 votes and 16 abstentions.

All in all, the congress, as recorded in the votes quoted, showed that the leftward development of the P.S.O.P. has not by any means been concluded, that consistent revolutionary sentiment within its ranks is sufficiently strong to augur well for the future. By the way, on the matter of practical party work in the period ahead, the Marxist minority declared that just as in the previous period, when it proved itself in action, it would have no difficulty in collaborating with the party leadership.

Willie Gallacher, M.P., and British Imperialism

Recently the Appeal reported the formation in England of the “Friends of the Irish Republic,” an organization which has set as its task the organization of a revolutionary socialist party in Ireland and which has already held demonstrations in London of a mass character. That such a move was in the cards goes without saying ever since the degeneration of the Communist party which has left the field in the Irish fight against British imperialism to the heroic but muddled and utopian terrorists of the I.R.A. What finally gave the impetus to the move may be gathered from such an item as the following which we reprint from the Militant of London:

“During the Great War to End War, 1914–18, the workers of the Clyde and other industrial centers insisted on fighting for better conditions and workers’ rights. They caused a great deal of annoyance to the government which denounced them as unpatriotic and disloyal. Among these disloyal and unpatriotic workers was one William Gallacher.

“Now Mr. Gallacher is Communist M.P. for West Fife – and is he loyal? When Mr. Chamberlain made a statement to the effect that Northern Ireland was to be exempted from conscription in order to give scope to its loyalism, Mr. (late comrade) Gallacher rose in his wrath. No longer was he the Clydeside militant who defied Lloyd George and the engineering bosses, but one of the boys of the bulldog breed, stirred to his innermost depths because his patriotism had been called into question. He demanded to know ‘whether the Prime Minister in making such a declaration about North Ireland is not casting a slight on Scotland, Wales and Northern England.’ Truly, as the party of which Gallacher is a member so frequently remarks, times have changed.”

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