Source: Published in Toward the United Front: Proceedings of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International, 1922 (https://www.haymarketbooks.org/books/897-to-the-masses), pp. 1194-1198.
Translation: Translations by John Riddell
HTML Markup: David Walters & Andy Blunden for the Marxists Internet Archive, 2018
Copyright: John Riddell, 2017. Republished here with permission.
1. The party’s most urgent task is to organise the resistance of the proletariat against the capitalist offensive, which is unfolding in France and in other large industrial countries. Defence of the eight-hour day, maintenance and increase of prevailing wages, the struggle for all immediate economic demands – this is the best platform with which to unite the dispersed proletariat and give it confidence in its own strength and future. The party must immediately take initiatives for common actions that are capable of halting the capitalist offensive and reuniting the working class.
2. The party must initiate a campaign to show workers the mutual relationship between maintaining the eight-hour day and defending wages, and how the one of these demands inevitably affects the other. Its agitation must take up not only the employers’ attacks but also those of the state against the workers’ immediate interests, as for example through taxes levied on wages and all other economic questions of concern to the working class: increases in rents, consumption taxes, social insurance, and so on. The party will carry on an active propaganda campaign in the working class to promote the formation of factory councils that include all the workers of every individual enterprise, without regard for whether they are already economically or politically organised. The aim of these councils is to exercise workers’ control over conditions of labour and production.
3. The slogans for struggle around the urgent material demands of the proletariat must serve as a means to achieve a united front against economic and political reaction. The workers’ united front tactic must be the governing principle of mass actions. The party must create conditions that promote the success of this tactic by taking measures to provide its own organisation and all sympathising forces with all the means of propaganda and organisation that it has available. Its press, its pamphlets, its rallies of every type, must all assist in the preparatory work carried out by the party in all the proletarian groups to which Communists belong. The party must appeal emphatically to the more significant of the rival workers’ political and economic organisations and must never cease commenting publicly on its proposals and those of the reformists, and on the acceptance of some and the rejection of others. Under no conditions must the party give up its full independence and its right to criticise participants in an action. It must always strive to take and maintain the initiative, and also to influence the initiatives of other forces in the direction of its own programme.
4. In order to be in a position to take part in worker actions of every sort, in order to contribute to orienting the working class or, under certain circumstances, to play a decisive role, the party must, without losing a single day, build its organisation for trade union work. The party must establish its network among the working masses by forming trade union commissions in the federations and sections (as was decided by the Paris congress) and Communist groups in the factories and the large capitalist or state enterprises. This will place the party in a position to disseminate its slogans and heighten Communist influence in the workers’ movement. The trade union commissions must maintain a link at every level of the party and union structures with the Communists who, with the permission of the party, remained in the reformist CGT, and lead them in opposition to the policies of their official leaders. They must register all the trade-union members of the party, supervise their activity, and transmit to them the party’s directives.
5. Communist work in all trade unions, without exception, consists first of all in struggling to re-establish trade union unity, which is essential to the victory of the proletariat. Communists must utilise every opportunity to indicate the harmful effects of the present split and to advocate unity. The party must combat any tendency toward fragmentation of the organisation, craft or local particularism, or anarchist ideology. It must proclaim the need to centralise the movement, to form large organisations based on the branch of industry, to unify strikes. In this way, it will replace localised actions, which are condemned in advance to failure, with common actions, which are effective in heightening the workers’ confidence in their own strength.
In the CGTU the Communists must combat the current that objects to affiliation of French trade unions to the Red International of Labour Unions. In the reformist CGT, it must expose the Amsterdam International and the leaders’ activity in favour of class collaboration. In both the union confederations, they must call for common demonstrations and actions, common strikes, the united front, organic unity, and the complete programme of the Red International of Labour Unions.
6. The party must utilise every spontaneous or organised mass movement of a certain scope to highlight the political character of every class struggle. It must utilise every favourable opportunity to communicate its political slogans, regarding, for example, amnesty, annulling the Versailles Treaty, and evacuation of the occupation army from the Rhineland.
7. The struggle against the Versailles Treaty and its consequences must take first place among the party’s concerns. The challenge is to achieve effective solidarity of the French and German proletariats against the bourgeoisie of both countries, both of whom draw advantage from the treaty. The French party thus has the urgent duty of acquainting workers and soldiers with the tragic conditions of their German brothers, who are groaning under intolerable living conditions caused in the main by the peace treaty. The German government can satisfy the demands of the Allies only if it heaps even greater burdens on the working class. The French bourgeoisie spares its German counterpart, negotiating with it at the expense of the workers, assisting each of its efforts to take possession of publicly owned enterprises, and proffering aid and defence against the revolutionary movement.
The bourgeoisie of both countries are preparing to unite French iron with German coal and to come to agreement regarding the occupation of the Ruhr region, which will signify the subjugation of the Ruhr coal miners. This threatens not only the exploited of the Ruhr region but also the French workers, who are unable to compete with a German working class now placed at the disposal of French capitalists at a very low cost, thanks to the depreciation of the mark.
The party must explain this situation to the French working class and warn it to be on guard against the danger immediately threatening it. The party press must constantly portray the suffering of the German proletariat, the real victim of the Versailles Treaty, and must show the impossibility of carrying out the Treaty. Special propaganda must be undertaken in the militarily occupied territories and in the devastated regions in order to hold both bourgeoisies responsible for all the sufferings imposed on these regions, and to develop feelings of solidarity between the workers of these two countries. The Communists must call for fraternisation of the French and German soldiers and workers on the left [west] bank of the Rhine. The party must maintain intimate ties with its German sister party in order to ensure a favourable outcome of the struggle against the Versailles Treaty and its consequences. The party must combat French imperialism not only in its policy toward Germany but in its policies around the world. In particular, it must attack the peace treaties of St. Germain, Neuilly, Trianon, and Sèvres.
8. The party must carry out systematic work so that communism may penetrate the army. Anti-militarist propaganda must differ radically from hypocritical bourgeois pacifism, basing itself on the principle of arming the proletariat and disarming the bourgeoisie. The Communists must support the demands of the soldiers and the recognition of their political rights in party publications, in parliament, and whenever a favourable opportunity appears. Whenever a new levy is made for the draft, whenever there is a new danger of war, revolutionary anti-militarist agitation must be intensified. It must be led by a special party body in which Communist youth must participate.
9. The party must take up the cause of the colonial populations that are exploited and oppressed by French imperialism. It must support the national demands that bring them closer to liberation from the yoke of foreign capitalism, and fight for their right to unrestricted autonomy or independence. The party’s immediate task is to fight for unrestricted political and trade union freedom for these peoples, against the drafting of natives to military service, and for the demands of the native soldiers. It must combat unrelentingly the reactionary tendencies found even among some workers, who wish to restrict the rights of the natives. It must establish a special body attached to the Central Committee devoted to Communist work in the colonies.
10. Our propaganda among the peasantry aims to win over the majority of the agricultural workers, tenant farmers, and sharecroppers to the cause of revolution and gain the sympathy of the smallholders. It must be accompanied by a campaign for better living and working conditions for peasants who carry out wage labour or are dependent on the large landowners. Such a campaign demands that regional party organisations draw up and publicise programmes containing immediate demands adapted to the specific conditions of each individual district. The party must promote agricultural associations, cooperatives, and trade unions that counter the peasants’ individualism. It must devote special attention to creating and developing trade unions among the rural workers.
11. Communist work among women is of outstanding importance and demands a special organisation. A central commission is needed, attached to the Central Committee, with a permanent secretariat, along with a constantly growing number of local commissions, and a publication devoted to propaganda among women. The party must unify the economic demands of female and male workers. It must support equal pay for equal work, without distinction of gender, and the participation of exploited women in the campaigns and struggles of workers.
12. The party must devote far more methodical and emphatic activity to the development of Communist youth than has been the case in the past. Mutual relations must be established between the party and the Communist youth at all levels of organisation. In principle, the youth must be represented in all commissions functioning under the Central Committee. The regional and local party committees and party propagandists are obligated to help the existing youth organisations and to form new ones. The Central Committee must supervise the development of the youth publications and also make available a column for youth in the party’s official publication. The party must take up the demands of worker youth in the trade unions that accord with its programme.
13. In the cooperatives, the Communists must defend the principle of a unified national organisation. They must form Communist groups linked with the cooperative department of the Communist International through a commission reporting to the Central Committee. In every party federation, a special commission must devote its attention to Communist work in the cooperatives. Communists must strive to utilise the cooperative movement as an auxiliary force of the workers’ movement.
14. Representatives of the party elected to parliament and to municipal councils must conduct an energetic struggle closely linked to the struggles of the working class and with the campaigns being conducted outside parliament under the leadership of the party and trade unions. In accordance with the theses of the Second Congress of the Communist International, Communist parliamentary deputies must be utilised to carry out agitation and propaganda under the supervision and leadership of the party’s Central Committee. The same is true of municipal and district councillors, under the supervision and leadership of the party sections and federations.
15. In order to rise to the level of the tasks laid out in its programme and determined by national and international congresses and to carry out these tasks, the party must follow the example of the large Communist parties of other countries and the rules of the Communist International in perfecting and strengthening its organisation. It must achieve strict centralisation, unshakeable discipline, and unconditional subordination of each individual member to the responsible party unit and of each unit to higher bodies of the party. It must urgently strengthen the Marxist education of party militants by systematically increasing the number of theoretical courses in the sections and by opening party schools, which will be supervised by a commission reporting to the Central Committee.
1. In Session 28, Trotsky stated that this programme was submitted by the Left faction of the French Communist Party. However, it was subsequently included in a collection of his writings on the Comintern; see Trotsky, The First Five Years of the Communist International, vol. 2, pp. 285 – 90.
2. In France and many other European countries, union membership was voluntary; it did not come automatically with employment under a collective agreement. Many workers who benefited from union activity were not ‘organised’ as members of a union.
3. The Versailles Treaty between the Allied powers and Germany (signed 28 June 1919) was followed by the treaties of Saint-Germain (with Austria), Neuilly (with Bulgaria), Trianon (with Hungary), and Sèvres (with Ottoman Turkey).
4. ‘Federation’ refers to a regional unit of the French CP; local units are termed ‘sections’.
5. See ‘Theses on Communist Parties and Parliamentarism’, In Riddell (ed.), Workers of the World and Oppressed Peoples, Unite! (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1991), vol. 1, 470 – 9.