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Paul G. Stevens

In the World of Labor

(27 April 1940)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. IV No. 17, 27 April 1941, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

A Controversy Regarding the Facts on France

We have received this week a letter from Marceau Pivert, leader of the French Socialist Workers and Peasants Party (P.S.O.P.), respecting some facts we have printed in this column recently about his party and its actions against the revolutionary minority within it. Since comrade Pivert, who is at present in this country, challenges our information, we feel it is our duty to air the controversy before the readers of the Socialist Appeal. We confine ourselves here to the bare essentials. Should further developments require it, we are quite prepared to go further lengths in proving that every bit of information printed here, on French matters as well as in general, is based on sources whose reliability is uncontestable.

The letter of Marceau Pivert and the reply by the author of this column follow below:

* * *

Pivert’s Letter

The Socialist Appeal
116 University Place
New York City

April 16, 1940


Once again, in your issue of April 6, you make such a fantastic presentation of events in regard to the Socialist Workers and Peasants Party of France (P.S.O.P.) that a simple comparison of this article with that of December 2nd suffices to characterize your method. Yesterday, you announced that your friends had captured the leadership of the P.S.O.P.; today, you are obliged to confess that this leadership was struck by the suppression. You use this occasion to slander the imprisoned militant revolutionists. You accuse them, in a word, of having capitulated at a time when they have remained faithful to their Party, to its program, and when they are brutally condemned for having courageously carried out its decisions in time of war. You find in that an occasion for irony. Nevertheless, you cannot be unaware of the terrible conditions in which they are placed, as, for instance, the tubercular Emile Rouaix, former general secretary of the Party. Enough said! We merely register our opinion that your incurable pretentions to the monopoly of revolutionary action leads you to the use of the same methods as Stalinism in relation to other sectors of the working class movement which are not subservient to your exigencies. But bluff and lies can last only a limited time. Before the French proletariat, all accounts will some day be reckoned.


With socialist greetings,
Marceau Pivert

P.S.: Because of a discretion (which you will no doubt be incapable of understanding) I will refrain from discussing your information in regard to Lucien Weitz and Daniel Guerin. One thing, however, is certain; that is, that they have not been expelled from the Party.

* * *

Our Reply

Marceau Pivert

April 18, 1940

Dear Comrade:

Your letter of April 1 is at hand and has been turned over to me for reply.

First of all, I am sorry that the first occasion for contact between us is one which involves a dispute on minor matters of fact. However, let us hope that we will be able to straighten out these lesser disagreements and establish a relationship that will permit of a fruitful political discussion between you and us.

As to the actual matter under dispute, allow me to state the facts as they are. You say that in my column in our December 2nd issue of the Appeal, we announced that our “friends had captured the leadership of the P.S.O.P..” A reading of that column will reveal that we announced nothing of the sort. We merely said that rumors had reached us to the effect that some of the leading Freemasons in the P.S.O.P., including yourself, had been expelled by the leadership of the organization with the participation of Jacquier, the secretary.

This information I received by word of mouth from a reliable Spanish militant passing through the States at that time. I have since checked the information with the comrade in question and he insists that that information was correct for that time. Furthermore, I have received direct word from France substantiating that same information. Should you persist in denying that the incident occurred, I shall furnish adequate evidence.

The expulsion of the Freemasons and yourself was later revoked. Just how that was done and how the Right Wing in your party resumed control is not as yet clear to me. Under the conditions under which our correspondence with France – which, let me assure you, is quite ample and quite regular in other respects – is being carried on, it is impossible to check on every detail at once. But we will get around to clearing that up, too, in good time.

Next, you say in your letter:

“Today you are obliged to confess that this leadership [the Right Wing of the P.S.O.P.] was struck by suppression. You use this occasion to slander the imprisoned militant revolutionists. You accuse them, in a word, of having capitulated at a time when they have remained faithful to their party and its program,” etc.

Let me remind you of the actual facts:

  1. In the April 6 issue of the Appeal we called attention to the arrests of three of the leaders of the P.S.O.P. To my knowledge, that is the first publicity given to these arrests in the United States. We consider that kind of publicity a duty inspired by international working class solidarity.

    In this respect, it seems to me that, instead of complaining, you should commend us for reacting more quickly and with greater efficiency than others.
  2. Solidarity with our co-fighters against French imperialism in the P.S.O.P. leadership cannot and must not blind us, however, to mistakes made by them, some almost fatal. Such blindness, to our mind, could only nullify that solidarity.
  3. We said about the imprisoned P.S.O.P. leaders in the April 6 Appeal that they “refused to prepare for illegal work and insisted on carrying on as if the war had not broken out.”

    Is that slander, comrade Pivert? Do you deny this fact? If you do, I am quite ready to furnish undisputed evidence in this respect, which I am sure you have at hand also, by now.
  4. You say of the leadership of the P.S.O.P. (referring, of course, to those who have the formal leadership and have expelled the militants of the “minority”) that they have remained faithful to the party program. Allow me to correct you. In the same issue of the Appeal that you refer to, my column says:

“In fact, they (the P.S.O.P. leaders) had voted to expel the revolutionary minority because the minority [demanded] that the party carry out in action its resolution for revolutionary struggle against war (revolutionary defeatism), adopted at the last convention of the P.S.O.P.

Do you deny that the St. Ouen Congress of your party officially made revolutionary defeatism the party position?

Do you deny that, instead, the “leadership” of your party carried out a social-pacifist policy? Who was it, then, that remained “faithful to the program of the party”? Are you going to oblige me to republish the well-known documents in this matter also? I am quite ready to do so.

In any case, I regard it as the highest duty of a revolutionist, while maintaining complete solidarity with those struck down by imperialist suppression, to state the real facts. That is all I have done.

Finally, you object that we “find in that (the arrests) an occasion for irony.” Let me set you straight on this also. What we find ironical, as any objective reader will attest, is not the action of the bourgeois government. Not that – but the criminally stupid policies of kowtowing to the legality of that same government; policies pursued by your friends who, by refusing to prepare for illegal work, thereby not only endangered the lives of the revolutionary militants in the rank and file, but eventually fell as victims themselves.

One last point – with regard to my information on Lucien Weitz and Daniel Guerin. Nowhere in the column mentioned have I said that these two specific persons are among those actually named as expelled. I do not know whether they are, in fact.

It may be that your friends who are left in charge of the party are attempting a sorry maneuver to split these two excellent militants from the rest of the minority. But in vain – that shabby maneuver will not succeed. The fact is that the P.S.O.P. minority, including Guerin and Weitz have, as stated in that column “joined in a body with the Committees of the Fourth International (our French section) for joint work in the building of a united party on the program of the Fourth International.” Let me assure you that I have word from Guerin himself to this effect and I am ready, if you oblige me, to substantiate that also.

Your reference to the condition of comrade Rouaix and others of your comrades now under arrest is, of course, in spite of the fact that you manipulated this situation very crudely against us in place of an argument, of deepest concern to us. We are prepared, let me assure you, in spite of the deep-going differences existing between us, to join with you at once in a close collaboration to bring immediate aid to all of our French class war prisoners, as well as to the comrades now hit by the spasmodic spread of the war in other countries. We are prepared to discuss this with you, and others of the F.O.I. (International Workers Front Against War), either informally or formally, and await word from you at your earliest convenience.

Assuring you of my most cordial respect, I remain,


Fraternally yours,
(signed) Paul G. Stevens

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