French Communist Party 1924
Source: Cahiers du Bolchevisme, First year, No. 6, December 26, 1924;
Translated: for marxists.org by Mitch Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) marxists.org 2005.
Our Paris Regional Congress just held its must important sessions on Saturday and Sunday.
The debates on the international situation, on the union question, and on fascism in France were serious and precise and ended in the approval of the line followed by the Political Bureau.
The great number of new delegates who had never participated in preceding Congresses showed to what extent the reorganization of the Party on the basis of factory cells has brought forth active and thoughtful forces.
Most of the interventions cast a light on the political maturity of our cells and sections in the Paris region.
Having developed an incoherent thesis on the general policy of the Party, one full of opportunist errors, Berthelin attracted the near unanimity of the Party against the ideas he expressed.
The Cahiers will publish this thesis, which it will hardly be necessary to combat, so obvious is it that it is foreign to communism.
At a time when democracy is crumbling before collapsing; at a time when fascism, at the head of the forces of the bourgeoisie, prepares to confront a communism that is in the process of assembling the proletariat and the working masses of France and the colonies in order to resist it; at a time when the Bloc des Gauches, including the Socialist chiefs, feign a fight which is in any event derisory against the bourgeois Right in order to better combat the working class and its Communist Party, to affirm as Berthelin does that we must fight with democracy against fascism is pure nonsense, pure imbecility.
Democracy, including socialism, is openly passing into the camp of fascism. The repression of strikes at Douarnez, the campaign of slander and falsification against the Communist Party, the expulsion of foreign workers suspected of being revolutionaries, the police expedition against the Leninist school in Bobigny, all of this shows that democracy, far from combating fascism, allies itself with it against the proletariat and the working masses.
The Bloc des Gauches repeats the counter-revolutionary slogan of the SR and the Mensheviks: fight on two fronts, against reaction and against Bolshevism. And this slogan serves only to veil the conjunction of the efforts of fascism and the Bloc des Gauches against the proletariat. Experience has taught us the meaning of this struggle on two fronts for a democracy backed up against the wall.
The struggle is carried out in words or through derisory acts against allied fascism, while the struggle is seriously engaged against the class’ enemy: the proletariat and its Communist Party.
We have already seen this method in Russia and Germany.
Believing that the bourgeois democratic republic really expresses the hesitations and indecisions of the peasant masses and the petit-bourgeoisie of the cities, not seeing that in France that the leaders of the Bloc des gauches, their power and their state apparatus are dragged into the camp of capitalism and fascism more strongly than in the past is to misunderstand the lessons of Germany that were clarified by the 5th Congress.
It was the error of the opportunist leadership of the German Communist Party to fight for bourgeois democracy at the moment when the latter was collapsing and when its social-democratic leaders were passing over to the right wing of fascism; it was the error of the German Communist Party to not fight for Soviet democracy, instrument of the proletarian dictatorship, against the associated forces of the big bourgeoisie and fascism.
The 5th Congress condemned the concept of Radek and Brandler according to which in Germany (1923) fascism would have defeated the November republic. Such a formula meant that democracy had really fought fascism when in fact it had fought along with it against the proletarian revolution and the Communist Party.
Berthelin commits the same error and he draws all the consequences. He has called for the Communist Party to support the Bloc des Gauches against fascism.
This is worse than the policies of Kreibich and is precisely the ideology of French socialism, arriving at the policy of supporting the left wing of the bourgeoisie.
In order to fight fascism we must not drag the proletariat along behind the chiefs of the Bloc des Gauches, but organize, using clear political watchwords, around its Communist Party the working masses who have been fooled by the Bloc des Gauches.
The vigor with which the Congress of the Paris region unanimously condemned the miserable thesis of Berthelin shows that it is not easy to make our Party deviate on important questions of the Bolshevik line.
No one will take seriously Berthelin’s accusation, which is also that of the bourgeoisie, according to which our Party will take the path of the coup de main, for a taking of power attempted by a vanguard, an acting minority.
On the contrary, the Party applies itself to conquering the working masses, to organizing them in order to crush fascism and, with them, to take power.
The Party doesn’t have the anarchist concept of the revolutionary struggle. It is not for acting minorities, but on the contrary for the method of the acting majority.
To not know this is to demonstrate that one has lost all serious contact with the Party and the International.
Nevertheless, Berthelin was not expelled for having presented his ridiculous thesis. He was expelled for having himself declared that he misled his cell concerning his true political thought in order to thus fraudulently obtain a mandate permitting him to be delegated to the Congress in order to fraudulently expose there his personal opinions.
The Congress of the Paris region thus showed that it will allow no one to take advantage of the confidence of the cells.
The Political Commission, named by the Congress and formed almost exclusively of active comrades belonging to the most important cells, was unanimous in proposing to the Congress the future Federal Committee and the delegation to the National Congress.
How was this projected Federal Committee proposed?
The elements of the former Committee, who worked without hesitation for the application of the decisions of the 5th Congress, were kept in place in order to ensure the continuity of the leadership of the Paris region, if possible, in the face of the great struggles that are forthcoming. To these elements were added the most active comrades of the sections, those who have demonstrated the greatest political intelligence in the reorganization of the Party.
How was the delegation to the National Congress composed?
At first from the Federal Committee, and then of members of the leadership Committee who energetically worked on the basis of the 5th World Congress. In this way the Political Commission intended to show in a striking fashion its confidence in the elements of the Party leadership who are in absolute agreement with the International. Finally, the most active members of the most important cells were introduced into the delegation to the National Congress.
When the proposals of the Political Commission were brought before the Congress Metayer demagogically rose up against them by saying that the projected Federal Committee and delegation to the National Congress gave too much room to Party functionaries and that the cells had been stifled.
Suzanne Girault intervened, explaining the solid reasons that had led the Political Commission to unanimously present its propositions. She strongly showed the anarchist-like spirit expressed by Metayer’s attitude.
That part of the Congress that, ceding to Metayer’s demagogy, had applauded him, gave the impression of having rapidly regained control of itself.
The hour was late. It was impossible to vote on the proposals of the Political Commission before having completely clarified the meaning of the incidents that had just occurred.
Suzanne Girault was the interpreter of the leadership of the Party in saying that it was not a matter of hastily voting, but that a debate must be opened on the anarchist deviations expressed by Metayer. In agreement with us, and approved by all, she proposed a new session of the Congress in order to liquidate the divergences that had just come to light.
The Metayer incident can be explained in two ways. In the first place by errors in the organization of the Congress. In the second place by remnants of an anarchist and federalist spirit.
First the errors in organization. It was an error to not sufficiently tie together in one general discussion all the great questions: the international situation the national situation, the union question, the fight against fascism. It was an error to designate a rapporteur for each of these questions instead of designating one or two for all the questions together. There was a disproportion between the time consecrated to the reports and the time consecrated to discussion. And thus, though the discussion was serious it didn’t have all the desired breadth. As a result the delegates form the sections couldn’t participate in a great enough number.
It was an error to not sufficiently explain the meaning of the proposals of the Political Commission.
It was an error to bring up these proposals at the end of the Congress at the moment when many delegates had to leave, which allowed Metayer the facile demagogy of saying that we wanted to hastily call the vote at the final hour and thus impose on the Congress, without any discussion, the acceptance of the proposals of the Political Commission.
All of these errors, joined to the fatigue caused by he long session of the night before, indisputably caused a superficial upset and discontent that was expressed by a part of the Congress through the unreasoning approval given to Metayer.
Nevertheless, this does not explain everything. Metayer expressed the remnants in our ranks of the anarchist and federalist spirit which, if it no longer has a place in the Party’s ideology, still subsists in the temperament of a portion of the most devoted members of our Party.
Meatyer, who, after much stumbling has had the great merit of rallying to the Party after every crisis, and against whom no one has any intention of waging a personal struggle, did not intervene by chance.
Metayer’s backsliding is not an individual phenomenon. It expresses a collective danger which must not be either under- or over-estimated, but which must be properly appreciated and combated.
Federalism and the anarchist spirit are not eliminated in a few weeks by the wave of a magic wand in a Party where they sovereignly reigned for almost twenty years.
If we study the Metayer phenomenon it is because it perfectly expresses certain weaknesses in our Party that must be understood in order for them to be defeated.
Metayer formed a bloc in the 14th section with Meric, and supported the policies of Pioch and Frossard. He was a champion of federalism.
It took Metayer a long time to understand the meaning of Party discipline, the need for centralism and the need for the systematic organization of proletarian violence.
In February 1922 in Moscow he provoked a veritable scandal when, invited to the review of the garrison on Red Square he exclaimed: “No matter what the army, it disgusts me!”
Metayer, because he is connected to factory life, loyally rallied to the Party after Frossard’s departure and at the time of the plot of January 1923.
But during the Congress of Bourges he created difficulties by fighting using anarchist methods against the federal anarcho-syndicalist opposition. Metayer wanted to defend Communist-spirit majority at Bourges. But his individual interventions, outside the control and the discipline of the Party and the majority at Bourges, were in most cases tactical blunders.
Metayer has always approached the question of functionaries and the apparatus of the Party and the unions from an anarchist point of view. He has always looked favorably upon the disorganizing principle of the non-re-electibility of functionaries.
And so the position taken by Metayer at the congress of the Paris region is neither unexpected nor surprising.
He thinks there are too many former Party functionaries in the new Federal Committee and the delegation to the National Congress foreseen by the Political Commission.
He places in opposition to each other the party functionaries and the cells.
He treats the Party’s functionaries and men of the apparatus as if they were reformist bureaucrats, constituting a separate caste detached from the mass of members and ruling over them.
This proves that Metayer has not yet assimilated democratic centralism.
For Metayer, a cell secretary recently chased from the Galeries Lafayette because of his Communist activities and who had become secretary of the editorial board of La Voix Paysanne is nothing but a functionary unworthy of representing the Seine at the National Congress.
Metayer flatters the localism of the cells just as he once flattered the localism of the 14th Section. He thus seeks, even within the new structure of the Party, to give rebirth to federalism. It isn’t by chance that a good comrade from the cell of the abattoirs demanded, following Metayer’s intervention, the federalist representation of his cell instead of proceeding to the political representation of the Paris Region at the National Congress.
There is in this a mass of deviations that could disorganize our forces at a time when we will need to tighten our discipline in order to confront the political and violent combat against fascism.
Do our functionaries form a separate caste or do the live the life of the cells to which they belong?
Do our functionaries participate in factory meetings?
At meetings, weekdays and Sundays, do our functionaries carry out Communist and revolutionary agitation?
If yes (and it’s yes) how can we oppose functionaries to cells. How, without contradicting reality, represent the comrades of the apparatus as constituting a separate caste?
Yes or no: does Metayer admit the re-electibility of functionaries who actively work at applying with initiative and intelligence the decisions of the national and world congresses?
Is Metayer for the continuity of an experienced leadership eliminating hesitant or insufficient elements and little by little assimilating the best elements of the cells?
Yes or no: in the face of the perils that threaten the party and the proletariat, is the continuity of an experienced leadership taking the Party down the right political and organizational road necessary?
The automatic sabotage of the leadership of worker organizations by the application of the stupid principle of non-re-electibility , does it reinforce or weaken our influence over the masses?
Meatyer also takes off after those union functionaries who have been proposed for membership on the Federal Committee. If this committee is to be the headquarters of the whole workers movement in the Paris region how can Metayer want to remove all those who, by their presence in our leading organisms, assure the ever tighter unity between the Party and the unions?
Metayer’s attacks against the Party apparatus at a time when the reinforcement of this apparatus is so necessary in the anti-capitalist struggle, in the antifascist struggle, is something very dangerous for the development of the Party and its capacity to teach and lead the working masses in struggle.
Without wanting to, Metayer with his anarchist spirit reproduces the errors of Trotskyism as concerns the apparatus during the Russian discussion of last year.
Does Metayer complain of the apparatus? No. he is in political agreement with the Party leadership and its apparatus. he has declared this. And so his attitude appears to be nonsensical. Metayer fights against the apparatus with anarchist sportiveness and not because the apparatus is the instrument of a policy he has judged wrong.
Metayer and those who allowed themselves to be dragged along by him will certainly understand their error.
But it’s necessary that the incidents at the Congress of the Paris region serve to teach the whole Party.
The spirit of Bolshevism is beginning to penetrate minds and produce acts. But among too many comrades the spirit remains anarchist and federalist.
A constant effort is needed, constant vigilance is needed on the part of the whole Party and every member in order to defeat the old remnants and to avoid backsliding.
Bolshevism is not a good that one acquires once and for all. It’s a good that must be re-conquered every day.
Even a Bolshevik party, and the example of the Russian party is there to teach us of this, even a Bolshevik party must ceaselessly work at re-Bolshevising.
The Federation of the Seine has always shown the way to he rest of the Party. It will continue to do so.
We don’t fear to lay out our errors. Out external enemies can find reason for joy in this, but they'll be sorry. Once an error is recognized, it’s already half way to being repaired!
Our Party comes out of small and great difficulties more firm and more capable of leading the proletarian and the working masses.
The Federation of the Paris region, by the clarity of its debates and decisions, will certainly demonstrate this at the next and last session of its Congress.