J. V. Stalin
Source: Works, Vol. 8, January-November, 1926, pp. 106-113
Publisher: Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1954
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2008). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
Comrades, I am unfortunately not very well acquainted with French affairs. Hence I cannot deal with this subject as exhaustively as is required here. Nevertheless I have formed a definite opinion of French affairs from the speeches I have heard here at this plenary session of the E.C.C.I., and on these grounds I consider it my duty to make a few remarks in this commission.
We have several questions before us.
The first question concerns the political situation in France. I am somewhat disquieted by the complacency to be detected in the speeches of comrades concerning the present political situation in France. One gets the impression. that in France the position is more or less balanced—that, in general, things are getting along so-so; there are certain difficulties, it is true, but they will most likely not lead to any crisis, and so forth. That is wrong, comrades. I would not say that France is on the eve of her 19232 crisis. All the same, I believe that she is moving towards a crisis. In this respect, I regard as correct both the commission’s theses and the remarks of certain of the comrades.
This is a special kind of crisis, because in France there is no unemployment. The crisis is alleviated by the fact that France is just now being nourished with gold from Germany. But these are temporary phenomena—firstly, because German gold will not suffice to cover France’s internal deficiencies and to meet her debts to Britain and America; and, secondly, because unemployment in France is inevitable. So long as there is inflation, which stimulates exports, perhaps there will be no unemployment; but later, when the currency finds its level and international debt settlements make their effect felt, concentration of industry and unemployment will be unavoidable in France. The surest symptom that France is moving towards a crisis is the consternation prevailing in French ruling circles, the ministerial reshuffles which are taking place there.
The development of a crisis should never be represented as an ascending line of increasing collapses. Such crises do not occur. A revolutionary crisis as a rule develops in the form of zigzags: first a small collapse, then an improvement, then a more serious collapse, then a certain rise, and so on. The existence of zigzags should not lead to the belief that the affairs of the bourgeoisie are improving.
In this matter, therefore, complacency is dangerous. It is dangerous, because the crisis may advance more swiftly than is anticipated, and then the French comrades may be caught unawares. And a party that is caught unawares cannot direct developments. Accordingly, I consider that the French Communist Party should steer its course in anticipation of a gradually mounting revolutionary crisis. And the French Party must conduct its agitation and propaganda in such a way as to prepare the minds and hearts of the workers for this crisis.
The second question is the growing danger from the Right within the Party. I believe that both around and within the French Communist Party there is an already fairly solid militant group of Rights, headed by individuals expelled or not expelled from the Party, a group which all the time will be sapping the Party’s strength. I have just been talking to Crémet. He told me something new: he said that not only in the Party, but also in the trade unions there are groups of Rights who are working surreptitiously, and here and there are conducting an outright attack on the revolutionary wing of the Communist Party. Even Engler’s statement today is symptomatic in this respect, and the serious attention of the comrades must be drawn to this fact.
The Rights always raise their head in a period of growing crisis. That is a general law of revolutionary crises. The Rights raise their head because they are afraid of a revolutionary crisis and are therefore ready to do everything in their power to drag the Party back and not allow the growing crisis to develop. Hence I think that, since the French Communist Party has to mould new revolutionary cadres and prepare the masses for the crisis, its immediate task is to rebuff the Rights and to isolate them.
Is the French Communist Party prepared to administer such a rebuff?
I pass to the third question—the state of affairs in the leading group of the French Communist Party. Voices are to be heard saying that, if the Rights are to be isolated, the leading group of the French Communist Party must be rid of two comrades who have fought the Rights, but who have committed serious errors. I am referring to Treint and Suzanne Girault. I shall speak frankly, for the best thing is to call a spade a spade.
I do not know how advisable it would be to open the attack on the Rights by removing from the leading group those who are fighting the Rights. I thought, on the contrary, that a different proposal would be made, something like this, for instance: since the Rights have grown insolent, since they, when they closed down their organ Bulletin Communiste,3 published a declaration which was a slap in the face to the Party, would it not be possible to consider exposing some of the Rights politically, if not expelling them from the Party altogether? I thought that that was how the question would be put in view of the Right danger. I thought that I would hear just that sort of statement here. Instead, we are asked to begin isolating the Rights by isolating two non-Rights. I do not see the logic of that, comrades!
But interwoven with this question of the struggle against the Rights is another question, namely, the absence of a closely-welded majority group in the Political Bureau of the French Communist Party. It is perfectly true that the Party cannot wage a struggle either against the Right group or against the “ultra-Left” group unless there is a compact majority in the Party’s leading group capable of concentrating fire on one point. That is perfectly correct. I consider that such a group is bound to take shape, and I believe that it has already taken shape, or will take shape in the near future, around such comrades as Semard, Crémet, Thorez and Monmousseau. To set up such a group, or to establish teamwork, so to speak, between these comrades, in a single leading body, would mean a concentration of forces in the fight against the Rights. You cannot defeat the Rights—because the Rights are multiplying, and they apparently have certain roots in the French working class—you cannot, I say, defeat the Rights unless you unite all the revolutionary Communists within the leading group which is prepared to fight the Rights to a finish. To start the fight against the Rights by dividing your forces is irrational, unwise. If there is no concentration of forces, you may both weaken yourselves and lose the fight against the Rights.
Of course, it is possible that the French comrades do not consider feasible a concentration of all forces, including in it both Treint and Suzanne Girault; it is possible that they consider this out of the question. In that case, let the French comrades, at a plenum of their Central Committee or at their congress, make the appropriate changes in the composition of their Political Bureau. Let them do this themselves, without the E.C.C.I. They have the right to do so.
Quite recently, at the Fourteenth Congress of the Party, we Russian comrades passed a resolution to the effect that the sections should be given greater opportunity to govern themselves. The way we understand it is that the E.C.C.I. should refrain as far as possible from directly interfering in the affairs of the sections, in particular in the formation of the leading groups of our Comintern sections. Don’t compel us, comrades, to infringe a decision we have only just adopted at our Party congress. Of course, there are cases when repressive measures against individual comrades are necessary, but I see no such necessity at the present moment.
I think, therefore, that what is required of our commission is the following:
Firstly, to draft a clear-cut political resolution on the French question, calling for a determined struggle against the Rights, and pointing out the mistakes of those comrades who have committed mistakes.
Secondly, to advise the French comrades to rally the leading group within the Central Committee of the French Communist Party around this resolution, spearheaded against the Rights, that is, to bind the members of that, group to carry out this resolution conscientiously by their joint efforts.
Thirdly, to advise the French comrades that in their practical work there should be no infatuation for the method of amputation, the method of repressive measures.
The fourth question is that of the workers’ trade unions in France. I have gained the impression that some French comrades take this matter too lightly. I admit that errors have been committed by representatives of the trade-union Confederation, but I admit also that errors have been committed by the Central Committee of the French Communist Party in regard to the Confederation. It is quite natural that Comrade Monmousseau would like the Party to exercise less tutelage. That is in the nature of things, since there are two parallel organisations—the Party and the trade-union Confederation—and at times there is bound to be a certain amount of friction between them. This also happens with us, the Russians, and in all Communist Parties—it is unavoidable. But the less the Central Committee of the French Communist Party intrudes in every detail of trade-union affairs, the less friction will there be. The trade unions should be led by Communists who work permanently in the trade unions, and not independently of them. There have been instances of hypertrophy in the leadership of the trade unions in our Party, the Russian Party. You can find in the records of our Party quite a number of resolutions adopted by our Party congresses laying down that the Party should not exercise tutelage over the trade unions—that it should guide them, not exercise tutelage over them. I am afraid that the French Party—I trust the comrades will forgive me for saying so—has also sinned somewhat against the trade unions in this respect. I consider the Party the highest form of organisation of the working class, and precisely for this reason more must be demanded of it. Consequently, the errors of the Central Committee must be eliminated in the first place, so that relations with the trade unions may be improved and strengthened, and so that Comrade Monmousseau and the other trade-union leaders may be in a position to work along the lines required from the point of view of the Communist Party.
The Party cannot develop further, especially in the conditions existing in the West, the Party cannot grow stronger, if it does not have a very important bulwark in the shape of the trade unions and their leaders. Only a party that knows how to maintain extensive connections with the trade unions and their leaders, and which knows how to establish genuine proletarian contact with them—only such a party can win over the majority of the working class in the West. You know yourselves that without winning over the majority of the working class, it is impossible to count on victory.
Well then, what do we find?
We find that:
a) France is moving towards a crisis;
b) sensing this crisis and fearing it, the Right-wing elements are raising their head and trying to drag the Party back;
c) the immediate task of the Party is to eliminate the Right danger, to isolate the Rights;
d) in order to isolate the Rights, a concentration is needed of all the genuinely communist leaders within the leadership of the Party who are capable of waging a fight against the Rights to a finish;
e) in order that the concentration of forces may yield the desired results in the fight against the Rights and in preparing the workers for the revolutionary crisis, it is necessary that the leading group should have the backing of the trade unions and should be able to maintain proletarian contact with the trade unions and their officials;
f) there should be no infatuation in practical work for the method of amputation, the method of repressive measures against individual comrades, but that use must be made chiefly of the method of persuasion.
1. The Sixth Enlarged Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Comintern was held in Moscow, February 17 to March 15, 1926. It discussed reports on the work of the E.C.C.I. and the Communist Party of Great Britain, reports on the immediate tasks of Communists in the trade-union movement, and on the results of the Second Organisational Conference, and reports of the twelve commissions which were working at the plenum. The plenum devoted special attention to the tasks of Communists in the fight for the revolutionary unity of the international trade-union movement on the basis of united front tactics. J. V. Stalin was elected a member of the Presidium, a member of the Political, Eastern and French Commissions of the plenum, and chairman of the German Commission.
2. The reference is to the profound revolutionary crisis in Germany in the autumn of 1923.
3. Bulletin Communiste—a fortnightly newspaper, the organ of the Right wing of the French Communist Party, published in Paris. The first issue appeared in October 1925, and the newspaper ceased publication after the fifteenth issue, in January 1926. The last issue carried an anti-Party declaration of the Right wing of the French Communist Party.