Internal Difficulties of the French Communist League

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1. In my last circular letter I already wrote that the League's stagnation, its new conflicts and splits, have a general cause: the French labor movement has not yet emerged from its stage of ebb, and the general weakening of the revolutionary wing of the proletariat also affects the Left Opposition. Events will bring with them the necessary change, as they have in Spain and in Germany. But it is precisely the example of these two countries which shows how important it is, even before the revolutionary turn in development, to prepare as homogeneous and as solid an organization as possible, one that has passed through the serious experience of an internal struggle Hie creation of such an organization is now the main task in France

2. The League originated as a conglomeration of various groups and splinters. This was a result of the situation in France of the existence and the ingrown life of numerous groups, of the fact that there was a certain confusion in all the groups, of the absence of a group which would be able to play an authoritative role with regard to the other groups and on which it would be possible to rely with complete assurance.

The heterogeneity of the League's composition predetermined the ultimate inevitability of the selection and the cleansing of its ranks. But this process has been prolonged for reasons which I will not discuss here. I will merely say that with regard to certain "doubtful" groups or groups of an alien origin, no sufficiently consistent policy has been adopted, which would begin by attempts at loyal collaboration to put the doubtful elements to the test and, under the scrutiny of everybody, give them the possibility of correcting themselves or of discrediting themselves, and in the latter case conclude by eliminating them from the organization. In any case the time has come to draw the necessary organizational conclusions from a much too-protracted political experiment.

3. All the discussions in the League now revolve around the definition of the "faction." I have not seen the texts of the various definitions, but I greatly fear that this struggle introduces a great deal of scholasticism. Are we a faction of the party or a faction of communism? Formally we are not a faction of the party because we are outside its ranks and suppressed by it On the other hand, the conception of communism is inseparable from the conception of the party. In our situation it is a contradiction created not by fault of formal logic, but by objective historical conditions. This contradiction cannot last forever. It must be resolved in one way or another. It is not at all probable that formal exercises on the word "faction" will enable us to arrive at a solution. All that is fundamental in determining our relations with the official party and the Comintern has been said with sufficient decisiveness in the fundamental documents of the Opposition. There is no ground to change what has been said, because the objective situation in its fundamental outlines has not yet changed, neither in one sense nor another. We are continuing our struggle as before for the regeneration of the Third International, not for its replacement by a Fourth.

4. The attempt to draw the line of demarcation inside the League by proceeding exclusively, or for the most part, with new discussions on "faction" does not appear to me to be correct. Especially because it seems to ignore the entire past of the League and to try to begin its whole history once more However, correct organizational policy demands that the selection within the League take place on the basis of its entire experience, which is very precious in spite of its very restricted scope, and not merely on the basis of an isolated discussion, one which is mainly scholastic at that

5. Comrade Treint presents the thing in this fashion: on the one hand there are the "liquidators," the Jewish group, and on the other the conciliators (Naville and Gerard), and that is why it is necessary to direct bur policy toward the amputation of the liquidators now in order to take on the conciliators later. A situation of this sort, it is true, is not rare in organizations, especially in mass organizations, when the presence of a right or an ultraleft wing clearly manifests itself and leads to the formation of an intermediate layer, a conciliating faction. But this general schema does not at all cover what we have in the League. The traditions and the line of development of the Naville group have nothing in common with the traditions and the line of development of the Jewish group. In the first case we have a group of petty-bourgeois intellectuals, of ideological sideline spectators. In the second we have a group of nomad proletarians who have all the strengths and weaknesses of revolutionary emigrants. Any relations between these two groups can only be the result of personal combinations; they have no common roots. That is why it is altogether incorrect to take the question of Naville as one of a function, that is to say, of a derivative, as a quantity dependent on the question of the Jewish group.

6. Naville's point of view was originally that of two parties, and he imagined "his" party in the manner of Paz and Souvarine as a sort of Sunday discussion circle in which he would appear in the role of soloist Later Naville took the position of the "independent faction," introducing into this notion the old content. He has assimilated the point of view of the Left Opposition, but only in words. He remains petty-bourgeois, anarchic, and nonparty to the same degree against the official party as against the League. In the course of one and a half years Naville has not advanced an inch. Even while he remains within the ranks of the League, he remains our irreconcilable adversary.

Take La Lutte de classes [Class Struggle]. Even after we had driven out Landau from our ranks, Naville published an article by him in that magazine, which he considers his private property. (The anarchistic petty bourgeois always gives an enormous importance to the question of property.) The last issue of La Lutte de classes bore the following subtitle: Theoretical review of the Communist Opposition in France. A fierce struggle has been carried on for several months on the question of the transformation of La Lutte de classes into an official organ of the Left Opposition (the League). And what follows: Naville once more demonstratively shows that he does not want to identify "his" publication with this organization to which, it appears, he belongs. Doesn't this suffice to eliminate such a clearly alien and hostile person from our ranks? The fact that the League and its leadership have not yet reacted to his revolting provocations is in itself a disquieting symptom. For the first characteristic of a revolutionary is his firm attachment to his organization, his patriotism toward the organization, his sensibility toward all attacks against the banner of his organization.

How does Naville today define the conception of a faction? I do not know that and I admit it does not interest me very much. It is possible to give a theoretically false definition of the Left Opposition and, at the same time, to prove by all of one's work one's ardent attachment to it In this case one can calmly and in a comradely manner correct the false definition. It is possible to give a correct definition of the Left Opposition and, at the same time, to trample its banner underfoot.

7. I have insisted for a long time now that we ought to link adherents to the League in general with the achievement of a definite and systematic task. This is, apart from the rest, a rule to exclude all the amateurs, the loafers, the windbags, the political parasites. Certain ones among them are sufficiently adroit not to allow themselves to be caught in an anticommunist formulation. But that does not prevent them from carrying on daily sabotage, under cover of the very best formulations, and at a favorable moment betraying the organization.

8. The situation of the Jewish group, as has already been said, has nothing in common with the situation of the Naville group. No matter what the combinations at the top are, the members of the Jewish group are linked together by uniformity of language and by insufficient knowledge of France. This permits some of the leaders of the group to play an exaggerated role and to cultivate a stifling atmosphere, one of isolation. Only a few months ago Mill was fulminating against the Jewish group as the principal source of all the misfortune. Now he is siding with Felix in cultivating its negative characteristics, the emigrant features of the group, and in stifling its positive proletarian traits.

It is quite evident that the group has been too isolated in the past. The leaders of the League thought that the support of this group was assured for them; they took very little trouble to keep each member of the Jewish group in touch with what was happening in the League. The group has become the victim of the maneuvers of its present leaders. It is difficult for me to judge from here to what degree it is possible to correct the mischief caused by the leaders. In any case we must do everything to aid the group to liberate itself from its present leadership and to preserve within the League all the healthy proletarian elements of the group. The difference between the Jewish group and the Naville group is expressed in a somewhat trenchant manner on the plane of our practical relations toward these two groups. While the partisans of Naville who took his declarations more or less seriously have long ago quit the League and await their chief outside its ranks, we are inclined to think that the revolutionary elements of the Jewish group will renounce its temporary and accidental leaders and remain within the League. All our efforts must be turned in that direction.

9. To pose the question of faction in a purely formal manner, disregarding the whole past of the League and independently of the social and personal content of each group, not only makes the demarcation from the alien elements more difficult, but also creates the danger of a new splintering of the fundamental nucleus of the League. I do not at all want to entirely deny in advance the theoretical and political importance of the differences which are associated with the question of the faction. But it would be criminal to emphasize these differences by separating them from the political activity of the League. If under the shadings of definitions of the word "faction" there are really concealed two different tendencies, then they ought to manifest themselves more clearly on the fundamental questions of the International, and above all of the French labor movement. The faction is formed not by defining itself at each step, but in action. The need to rehash again and again the question of the faction is undoubtedly called forth by the stagnation of the League. To obstinately and endlessly continue in this direction signifies the disruption of the fundamental nucleus and, at that, along an accidental and largely scholastic line.