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Boris Souvarine

The French Proletariat and
the Situation in Germany

(20 September 1923)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 3 No. 61 [39], 20 September 1923, pp. 673–674.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The first German revolution was crushed, and this was not only due to the treachery of the social democracy, which took sides with the defenders of capital, and joined forces with the bourgeoisie, for the purpose of accomplishing the bloody suppression of the working class vanguard gathered around the Spartacus group, but it was also due to the fact that the foreign aid which could have freed it from the pressure of the imperialist armies of the Entente was not given. In the years 1918 and 1919 the then majority of the French Socialist Party still made common cause with the bourgeoisie. And the then left wing of the Party, which gained the majority later on and developed into the Communist Party, was incapable of any foreign political action. Things were practically the same in the trade unions, although here the left wing was considerably more powerful.

Neither the Party nor the C.G.T. (General Confederation of Labor) was at that time inclined to manifest practically its solidarity with the German working class, although, theoretically, they proclaimed such solidarity very eloquently in their congress resolutions. But even had they been so inclined, they were not in a position to do so. As to the proletariat as a whole, the great majority of this class was completely under the influence of every kind of nationalist feeling. It was tired of war, in need of rest, and remained for the most part deaf to the warnings and appeals issued by the revolutionary minorities in the Party and the trade unions.

Five years have passed since then, and the tide of revolution is rising again in Germany. But now the small Spartacus group has become a great Communist Party, counting over 300,000 members. The German bourgeoisie is divided against itself, social democracy becomes weaker from day to day, falls more and more into discredit, and loses more and more the confidence of the broad masses of the workers. The impending civil war begins under very different conditions to those of the years 1918 and 1919.

But what changes have taken place since then outside of Germany, and, in particular, in France?

One striking fact at once forces itself upon our attention – the existence of a Communist Party which did not exist at all five years ago, a proletarian party well disciplined and led as no labor party in France has been led since the Commune. A party which has been taught and tempered by several internal crises, which has already given many proofs of its fighting capacity and initiative, and which is developing from day to day into a really militant section of the Communist International. Without doubt, this fact is in itself an excellent witness to the awakening of revolutionary consciousness in an important part of the French proletariat and is at the same time a guarantee of its real solidarity with the German proletariat. Neither friend nor foe has any right to doubt that the Communist Party of France will at all costs do its duty when the time comes.

But what can this party, with its 60,000 members, do against the powerful, rich and well organized bourgeoisie, unless it finds allies among the other political or so-called non-political tendencies of the French working class, particularly of the revolutionary trade unions? What role does the C.G.T.U. think to play in the coming struggle? Up to now our comrades in the C.G.T.U., or at least a part of them, do not seem to have clearly recognized the situation in Central Europe. While at the present time there could be nothing more important than the solution of the question as to how best and most effectually to aid the German proletariat in its hard struggle, the latest conference of the national committee of the C.G.T.U. did not even adopt any definite attitude with regard to this problem, but permitted itself,to be completely dominated by internal conflicts. There is no doubt that the C.G.T.U. possesses a large majority fully aware of its duties and responsibilities, and this will not allow itself to be led astray by the immoral anti-communist coalition. And France possesses today a Communist Party which has already shown itself capable of taking the initiative against reaction and imperialism under the united front of the proletariat. The influence of this party on the unorganized masses increases from day to day, and it will be able to mobilize a magnificent army for the defence of the German revolution.

This task is doubtless very difficult in a country where the working class has not yet suffered in its own person the effects of the post-war crisis, where natural egoism easily gains the upper hand over the spirit of solidarity and self-sacrifice, where the reformists of the Socialist Party and of the C.G.T. increase the inertia of the masses by every available means, and the demagogues of every shade of opinion are united in throwing dirt at every truly revolutionary fighter and in spreading confusion. But events have also an eloquence of their own. They shed such a bright light oil the actual situation that any attempt to sabotage the struggle being carried on by the Communist Party is bound to appear to the class conscious workers in its true colors – as a purely counter-revolutionary action.