Throughout the World of Labor, The Militant, Vol. III No. 18, 3 May 1930, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
We have not hurried to give our opinion on the journal of Henri Barbusse, Monde, the darling of l’Humanité in France as well as the Daily Worker and New Masses in the United States. We wanted to wait serenely to see this journal adopt a fairly clear line of conduct Now it seems that we have waited in vain, and that Monde continues to be what it always was, that is, a literary publication of the democratic, whining phrase-mongering petty bourgeoisie who are so well personified by Barbusse. There is no doubt that Monde is not a journal of the Communist Party, neither is it a social democratic publication; it is something worse and more inoffensive at the same time, that is, a miscellany of the swampiest, the most confused, in short, the most anti-proletarian slops produced by the politico-literary circles of the petty bourgeoisie.
The quality of the principal editors already tells a good deal. Of course, the Directing Committee which appears under the head is only a pure front. The director, Barbusse, is already known as a notorious anti-Marxist. For some time his lucrative literary activity has been divided between works of a Christian mysticism (novels, criticisms, plays on Jesus) and crude plagiarisms from the official Soviet economic press in praise of Stalin. The politics of the journal are directed by Paul Louis a veritable living statue to the glory of “democracy”, a scribbler at the service of every political sheet which offers a trough, be they republican, radical, socialist or Communist, from Soir to Monde, traversing a multitude of sheets of every species. This venerable leader of the Socialist-Communist Party spins out a vaguely radicalizing and pacifist prose every week in Monde on international politics.
The economic questions are dealt with in the pedantic manner by Delaisi and Laurat. The first of these two authors is notoriously ignorant of the ABC of Marxist economic science. In his recent works, like The Two Europes, amiably commented upon by Monde, he shows himself a complacent critic of some “imperfections” of imperialism, which according to him, the trusts and alliances between the capitalists can remedy. Monde publishes from time to time comic, economic controversies between Delaisi and Laurat, the one explaining himself in the liberal and free-trader’s tone, and the other replying with extracts from Das Kapital purged of any catastrophic consequences. If we add that the other collaborators are people like Habarau, Berl, Alrand Bernard, etc., etc. ... the question arises as to how, why, in what respect and in what manner Monde can really be a journal which speaks, if not to the revolutionary proletariat, at least simply to the proletariat.
The real face of Monde, its pseudo-theoretical countenance, appeared at the time it undertook a so-called inquiry On the Doctrinal Crisis of Socialism. The manner in which this inquiry was presented and the replies that were made to it, put Monde in its precise place. In the introduction, one could read: “In speaking of the doctrinal crisis of socialism, we understand the term in its vastest conception, detaching it from the daily struggles to which the various proletarian organizations devote themselves in the name of their respective doctrine”. This phrase has only one meaning: The doctrinal crisis of socialism is above the class struggle. We are therefore not wrong in saying that Monde placed itself outside of revolutionary Marxism, outside of the proletarian struggle, in order to take refuge in the nebulous world of literary discussions. This does not prevent the editor of the introduction to the inquiry, who is no longer a Marxist – if he ever was one – from writing: “The doctrine (socialist) is passing through a crisis because it is in fact or in appearance – our inquiry will enable us to judge – in conflict with reality on a goodly number of points:” What reality? We ask because it is not a question of the reality of political parties, nor consequently of classes, nor, finally, of the principal elements of capitalist society in which we are now living. That is to say that we, the Marxists and Communists, who ask it, for evidently the editor of Monde, lost in his abstractions, does not. Doesn’t he write further that he intended to submit to his readers “the opinions of the most qualified representatives of the tendencies confronting each other in contemporaneous socialism, right as well as left, in the second and third international”?
For Monde, then, the only difference between social democracy and Communism is that of being the right and left wings of “socialism”. This statement would be quite in place from the pen of an editor of Temps. But one wonders what it is doing in the pages of a journal which speaks in the name of Communism and the teachings of the Russian revolution. Moreover Monde has not been able up to now to publish anything but propaganda texts from Vandervelde, De Man, Renner, Deat and a few others, that is, of the theoretical screens for the bankruptcy of the second international and its irrevocable passage to the side of the democratic bourgeoisie. The opinions of the theoreticians of the Communist movement are still forthcoming. This could only be the consequence of the fact that the best leaders and theoreticians of the Communist movement are today expelled from the International by the Stalinist apparatus, in which M. Barbusse participates directly, while only the perverters of Marxist thought have the right to speak there today. But such is not the case, for no Communist belonging to the Left Opposition movement would want to soil himself in the Barbussian pot. It is in reality the result of another fact whose developments we shall soon see: it is that the bureaucracy of the International is beginning to tire of the lucubrations of M. Barbusse, of the hotch-potch of slops of the revolutionary movement which he has made of Monde, and that it has begun the rupture with this journal. We are not afraid of any denial. The Soviet bureaucracy of the C.I. has despised Barbusse for a long time. This contempt re-arose at the time when Lenin was astounded because the French Communist Party distributed so idiotic a pamphlet as The Knife between the Teeth. But now this contempt for the man it utilized has taken on a new form.
In the Viestnik Inostranoy Literaturi (No. 5, December 1929), Bruno Jazhinsky administers a superb bureaucratic reproof to the director of Monde. This reproof is naturally accompanied by organizational measures: The sale of Monde is prohibited on the news-stands and the book-stores in Russia and the journal no longer comes to the subscribers in the U.S.S.R. Mezhrapom has even offered to reimburse the subscribers for their money. This time it is clear: Molotov has had enough of the journal of Paul Locis and Delaisi. With the same gracefulness he exercized in supporting Monde when it was first established he is preparing today to issue a bull against it.
It is likely that our new Christ Barbusse will suddenly cry out at dictatorship, bureaucracy, dogmatism. After having held his tongue till 1930, he will denounce the sectarian spirit of the leaders of the Communist Party, etc. Under such conditions, it is also likely that Monatte will be astounded that we are repulsing an eventual ally, an “Opposition to the Party”. But for us the matter stands differently. We are not with everyone who is against the Party or against the International and the Soviet Union. We are not with those who desert the sinking ship, with those who abandon a freely embraced cause when it no longer profits them. We repulse and fight against those who, after having wholly approved up till now the methods and the action of the C.I., turn sharply upon it without seriously founded political reason. For we know that this type of capers always conceals a retreat fixed long ago, and a more or less bashful return into the petty bourgeois democratic ring. We know that the whole evolution in this sense of Barbusse and his journal will not signify an evolution beyond the domain of the C.I. apparatus towards a more consistent revolutionary activity, but quite simply the removal of a veil which concealed from the eyes of a pretty numerous public the essentially retrogressive, petty bourgeois and confusionist nature of Barbusse and his enterprises. Today only one mask gives them a proletarian revolutionary aspect and that is the Stalinist bureaucracy which itself is about to undertake the unmasking.
Unfortunately, a certain working class public lets itself be taken in by the phrases and the literary jargon of Monde. Doubtlessly this corresponds to their very comprehensible need to read something besides, their ordinary political press, to educate themselves while being amused. A journal with such a goal cannot be a bad thing. But it must be realized seriously and with sincerity. It is these two qualities that are lacking in Monde. At present it is necessary that the revolutionary workers know that Monde is an organ of petty bourgeois literature and education and that, if it can sometimes divert them, it can aid and support them in no wise in their struggle. The bureaucrats of the Party who supported and encouraged Monde know this as well as we. And perhaps they are now preparing to say so. For they must certainly answer this question: Why is Monde, prohibited in the U.S.S.R. and therefore poor reading for the Soviet citizenry, recommended in France by the same bureaucracy which leads the Russian and French Communist Parties?
Pierre F. Naville
Last updated: 13.10.2012