French Trotskyism 1928

Open Letter to Opposition Communists

Source: Contre le Courant, June 28, 1928;
Translated: for by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) 2010.

The prospect of the bourgeoisie’s impending aggressive policy against the proletariat imposes ever more important tasks on communists. Given the incapacity and failings of the Communist Party it is thus up to communists of the Opposition, reduced to silence in the party and expelled for having fought against its opportunism and corruption, to provide a more vigorous and coherent effort by adopting new modes of action.

It’s a fact that there exist several groups of Opposition Communists. We designate by this those groups which, remaining within revolutionary Marxism and seeing the need for a class party, irreducibly oppose the Stalinist course. The dispersion of Oppositionists is explained by the fact that the Communist Party always contained various tendencies within itself; this same diversity is found in the Opposition. In addition, the different Opposition groups did not always react either at the same moment or in response to the same problems in the degeneration of the party.

Despite the important differences in their analyses of the current situation these groups, in agreement on the essential principles, also have this in common: they are all carrying out a left struggle against the opportunist deviation of the Communist International and all are irreducible adversaries of a policy that leads to the capitulation of the Russian Revolution and the liquidation of the international communist movement.

But at the current time each of these groups acts in isolation. There exist several Opposition Communist organs. The militant who leans towards the Opposition, not able to read all of them, chooses based on his personal relations with this or that comrade of the Opposition, or even abstains and at least provisionally renounces activism in a splintered Opposition.

Let us remove any ambiguity: we do not for one minute propose an immediate fusion of the Opposition Communist groups. We must and do aspire to fusion among communists, but it would be an error in the current circumstances to want to realize this fusion in a mechanical and artificial fashion. The deviation of the Communist International, proceeding from the move to the right of the Russian Revolution, poses a series of questions to the communist conscience which must be answered. It is only the common labor for the elaboration of a platform that will allow the bringing together into one organization of Opposition Communists. It is not yet a question of this fusion, but it is no less true that the Opposition groups cannot continue to fight in a state of dispersion.

None of the existing organs has the material means – editing, regularity, distribution – that would allow them to achieve results of any breadth. They each live and progress modestly while the situation demands rapid and decisive trials. Is it not indispensable to create or tighten the ties between the groups? Has the moment not come to create a unified organ that would be the political and doctrinal organ of the bloc of Opposition Communists? These are the questions we pose our comrades of the Opposition, and this is the object of the current letter.

We do not forget that there are prejudices between groups, prejudices both political and personal. This is all the more natural given that certain of our groups bitterly fought each other inside the Communist Party. But we also know that the effectiveness of Opposition activity demands the sacrifice of prejudices and grievances, however justified they might have been in the past.

But, it will be objected, how is it possible to conceive of a united newspaper without prior agreement on a platform? The response is simple: the common organ will, in a certain measure, be a juxtaposition of various tendencies. To be sure, such a situation can’t be considered ideal; it is the product of a transitional period which the party has gone through in the past. Who doesn’t remember seeing l’Humanité shared by the International among tendencies who each disposed of it a certain number of days of the week? And who could maintain that the tendencies that shared l’Humanité at the time – one of which was profoundly social-democratic – didn’t have serious differences among themselves that were every bit as serious as those that currently divide our Opposition groups?

Even more, not so long ago the comrades of our different groups all belonged to the same Communist Party. The different tendencies already existed inside the party, and yet none of us thought to refuse to collaborate in the party organs because comrades from other tendencies expressed themselves in their pages.

Can’t what was possible in the party be realized in the Opposition, when we have the advantage of not counting in our ranks opportunists like Cachin and that of having cast aside faint-hearted Oppositionists like Suzanne Girault? This greater cohesion of the Opposition that we ask you to realize responds, as you know, to the wishes of a great many communists.

Let us reassure those who might think that our proposal is inspired by a dangerous eclecticism. Within our own group we recently demonstrated how intransigent we are on matters of principles, but it is not at all a question here of the sacrificing of principles. We want to work together with all those communists from whom we are only separated by tactical appreciations, however important they might be.

There’s no need to insist on the political advantages that would result from a strengthening of our cohesion. The Opposition would thus be able to increase its reach and to touch an ever greater number of communists. In addition, the contacts established by the collective leadership of a unified organ will prepare the road to unity during the transitional period, when the organ will be shared among its various tendencies.

Only those lacking in confidence in the worth of their arguments will fear confrontations within the same organ. Only those inspired by individual ends and who reduce the historic mission of the Opposition to the success of their group or newspaper could refuse a collaboration proposed with the sole aim of serving the proletariat.

Practically, we suggest a national conference of the Opposition in Paris on July 14-15, to which all Opposition communist groups will be invited, and in particular the recipients of this letter. After a confrontation of their points of view, this conference will allow for the verification of agreements on principles, which are the condition for all work, and to determine those who will be the participants in the common task.

The agenda of the conference will be the following:

  1. The economic and social situation;
  2. The problem of the Opposition;
  3. The unified organ of the Opposition

We ask you to answer as quickly as possible, making known your suggestions so that we can prepare in advance the work of this conference. Can you please also designate a rapporteur who will make known your point of view on the questions on the agenda?

This letter and the responses we receive will be published in “Contre le Courant.”

Fraternally yours,
The Communist Opposition

This letter is addressed to:
Marcel Body and the Oppositionists of Limoges;
Cercle Marx et Lénine
Left fraction of the Italian comrades;
Groupe Barré-Treint
The Lyon Opposition group (Souzy)
La Lutte de Classes;
Réveil Communiste;
Rosmer and his comrades of Révolution Prolétarienne