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H.F. Roberts

Trade Unions Merge in France

C.P. Gives Up Political Activity at Reformists Bidding

(19 October 1935)

From New Militant, Vol. 1 No. 43, 19 October 1935, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

The recent fusion of the two big French trade union federations, the C.G.T. (reformist) and the C.G.T.U. (Stalinist), which took place in line with the Comintern’s efforts to disembarrass itself of its Third Period baggage, has given a new impulsion to the negotiations underway for the organic unity of the French Socialist and Stalinist parties, as a first step toward the merging of the two Internationals. The final plunge of the Stalintern into the swamps of reformism and the social patriotism following the Seventh Congress has cleared the path toward, organic unity of all political obstacles, such as, for example, revolutionary principles.

The fusion of the two trade union organizations took place on the basis of the complete abdication by the Stalinists of all revolutionary political activity in the union ranks. A disavowal of factional activity was demanded in advance by the labor faker Jouhaux and was readily made by the Stalinist bureaucrats who announced that the Stalinist workers’ political activity would be strictly outside the unions! Speculation concerning the possibility of struggles between opposing political tendencies within the unified trade union confederation is answered by Marcel Gitton, secretary of the French Stalinist Party, with the remark:

One Happy Family Now!

“The unhappy past will not have been without its lessons. The trade union movement, it seems, has cured itself of the anarcho-syndicalism which was one moment in its history ... Comrade Jouhaux (the equivalent to Comrade William Green! – H.F.R.) said: ‘In the diversity of temperaments, in the diversity even of ideas, unity can be realized and maintained.’ This is our absolute conviction.” (Emphasis by Gitton, l’Humanité, October 2.)

The “one moment” of trade union history is past and the Stalinist bureaucrats have arrived at a common “absolute conviction” with Jouhaux as a basis for trade union unity. Thus the Stalinists arrive at their real spiritual home.

The same features characterize the course toward the organic unity between the two parties. The Stalinist party misses no opportunity now to push forward the idea of unity, and on their part, the Socialist bureaucrats are seeking guarantees that the fundamental principles of revolutionary Marxism will be left by the wayside on the path to unification. This question is frankly and unashamedly posed by Lebas in a recent article in Populaire, central organ of the French Socialist party.

Stalinists to Swallow Everything

Lebas, remarking that the trade union fusion “will facilitate, if not precipitate” political unity, recalls to the Stalinists the text issued by the latter last June as a basis for the unification of the two parties. From this text he quotes the following passage:

“The unified party of the proletariat, seeking to combat and destroy the capitalist system, generator of misery and wars, cannot admit any policy of collaboration with the bourgeoisie. None of its members can participate in a capitalist government. Its parliamentary representative has the duty to refuse to vote for military credits destined to prepare imperialist wars,” etc.

Now, says Lebas, “it is permissible to ask whether the Communist Party doesn’t believe it necessary to modify somewhat its first text.”

Since that text was issued, he goes on, “two important political facts have intervened. First there Was the Congress of the Communist International and the vote on the Dimitrov report whose conclusions sensibly modified, I believe, the position of the Communist parties toward coalition governments. Secondly, there was the formation of the Popular Front into which all the parties and fractions of republican bourgeois parties may enter for common anti-Fascist action. From this new action necessarily results a new Communist policy.” (Emphasis mine – H.F.R. [1]) And this policy, concludes Lebas with perfect justice, can scarcely be reconciled with the quoted paragraph from the Stalinist draft for a common declaration. He puts the question squarely. I quote the balance of his article:

“Exceptional Tactics” Throw Over Marxism

“Two things of importance are expressed (in this paragraph): (1) Prohibition for the unified party of tomorrow to pursue any policy of collaboration with the bourgeois parties, and even more especially of collaboration taking the form of participation in ‘a capitalist government.’ (2) Refusal of military credits, of credits for colonial conquests and the whole of the budget.

“A Socialist can ask me: What objection have you to this?

“For me, none, or almost none. These two imperative ideas are found in the charter of the Socialist party founded in 1905. But the founders of the party were careful to foresee the possibility of exceptional circumstances, creating for the proletariat and its Party an exceptional situation justifying an exceptional tactic. They also introduced into the charter this simple phrase: ‘Even in the case of exceptional circumstances, the elected representatives of the party cannot involve the party without its consent.’ Which means that the policy of the party, even in such a case, is fixed only by the party itself.

“Doesn’t the Communist Party believe that this phrase or a similar one should have its place in the charter of tomorrow?

“Doesn’t the Communist Party agree that it cannot maintain the text of the unity charter presented to us at a time when it is making the greatest effort to extend to the whole country die policy of rapproachment of the working class parties and the bourgeois republican parties for the fight against Fascism and to conserve democratic liberties?

“Doesn’t the Communist Party consider,” asks Lebas finally, “that the common struggle against the decree laws ... poses, the question of a coalition government to which it would be impossible to reply in the negative?

The Way Is Cleared

“In any case, the Communist International recently in session at Moscow itself posed this question and by Dimitrov’s report answered it in a favorable sense. The stronger then the reasons for us to believe,” concludes Lebas, “that the Communist Party will not maintain too absolutely its text at the forthcoming commission, whose work will thereby be facilitated.” (Populaire, Oct. 2. Emphasis inserted.)

And we may be sure that Lebas. has put the matter in a nutshell. The Stalinist call for unity of the two Internationals is a call for the submergence and rejection of intransigent proletarian independence, of the concept of class struggle and revolutionary defeatism – in short, of revolutionary Marxism. The logic of. their course will not even permit them to maintain these principles in words. No prediction could be safer than the prophecy that the French Stalinists will submit without murmur to the principles of Vandervelde, Blum, Lebas & Co. For such submission is now the sanctified “line” of the International which once, long ago, knew the leadership of Lenin.

Note by ETOL

1. In the printed version the initials “R.F.R.” are used here.

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