Letter to the Conference of the French Communist League, September 25, 1931
Your national conference, delayed so long because of the League's internal crisis, finds the League still not extricated from the crisis situation. The conference cannot accomplish miracles. It would be naive to expect it to overcome the crisis and eliminate the internal struggles at one stroke. But the conference can take an enormous step in this direction. What is required to do this?
Above all, the principled political questions must be separated in a decisive fashion once and for all from personal collisions and frictions. A revolutionary organization that wants to live must not let itself be poisoned by quarrels. There is a normal organizational way to solve personal questions, through a Control Commission. Whoever avoids that way, whoever replaces the solving of personal accusations through organizational channels with the launching of poisonous rumors, condemns himself. A progressive current does not need such methods. The entire history of the revolutionary movement in all countries shows that groups that resort to bitter personal quarrels in ideological struggles are groups that have become an obstacle in the organization and hold it back instead of advancing it.
It is difficult to give advice from afar on the organizational question. But perhaps you will find it useful to elect alongside the Executive Committee a Control Commission composed of a few levelheaded and objective comrades, and give it the responsibility from now on of pursuing with the severest methods, including expulsion from the League, anyone who tries to replace political struggle with personal quarrels.
Only the blind can deny the principled character of the struggle that is developing in the League. It is obvious that all members of the League recognize certain programmatic and tactical principles common to all. But experience shows that it is one thing to recognize them formally and it is another thing to understand them and above all to apply them correctly. There is a big step between the two, sometimes two and even three steps.
The circumstance that the Opposition finds itself outside the party is very detrimental to the party, as it is to the Opposition itself. This state of split is artificially maintained by order of the Stalin center in Moscow. The French CP would never have expelled the Left Opposition if the party conducted itself according to the interests of the French and international labor movement. But the Stalinist faction in the USSR can maintain itself in power only by stifling the party. The Stalinist bureaucracy is all the more haunted by fear of the Left Opposition because events confirm the correctness of our program. In the USSR Stalin represses the Bolshevik-Leninists with the GPU. To prevent the Opposition from becoming dangerous in the Comintern, the Stalinist apparatus commands the central committee of every party to expel the Left Opposition, to hunt it down, and slander it In Spain, the Stalinists are now preparing a communist congress of unification to which all groups will be admitted on one condition: that they repudiate the Russian Left Opposition. Maurin, in whom the social democrat is united with the trade unionist and the anarchist, can attend this unification congress. Nin, Lacroix, and the other Bolshevik-Leninists cannot This fact alone characterizes better than any other the unprincipled struggle of the Comintern apparatus against us. Nevertheless, we have to recognize that in the past the policies of the different opposition groupings in France have greatly helped the Stalinist bureaucracy to present the Left Oppositionists as opportunists, semi-syndicalists, and enemies of the party.
On this essential question of relations with the party, La Vérité, despite its great merits in other domains, was not able for a long time to find the correct line. Sectarian contempt for the party, an excessively haughty spirit of a circle accustomed to living on abstract criticism and not caring what is happening around it, a tendency towards "independence," that is, isolation — these are the traits that from the beginning slipped into the articles of La Vérité, permitting disparate elements to gather around it: those who were tired of revolutionary politics, and the elements who in reality are foreign to us, the semi-syndicalists, the semi-reformists, the political dilettantes, etc.
The struggle to transform La Vérité from the paper of an isolated circle into an instrument destined to have an impact on the CP was an inevitable and indispensable struggle It led to a differentiation among those who had been the earliest supporters of La Vérité. The base of the Left Opposition was thus narrowed, giving certain people a pretext to cry out that the Left Opposition was falling apart in France. As far as I can tell, the people most inclined to utter these cries are those who from the beginning tended to give La Vérité a false face and who are responsible for the weakening of the organization and its crisis.
If La Vérité had not flirted from the beginning with the syndicalists and with the idea of a second party (openly or under the pseudonym of an "independent faction"), it would not have created unnecessary fears about itself or unnecessary obstacles on its path, it would not have relied on presumed friends, and it would not be forced to lose them.
Every ideological current, every factional grouping, must be verified not only nationally but internationally: it is only then that its character is precisely defined. The picture of international relations is extremely complex from this point of view: it is a fact that the elements of the French Opposition who were blocking the progressive development of the League were at the same time supporting in Germany, Austria, and other countries, organizations and groups that are in reality foreign to the Left Opposition and that are not in its ranks. This must not be forgotten for one instant. It would be a real crime after the experience we have just had to allow ourselves to be pulled back toward old mistakes.
Obviously it is extremely desirable to safeguard the unity of the organization. But there are situations, especially in young and weak organizations, in which two groups pull in opposite directions in so obvious a fashion that it paralyzes the life of the organization. What remains to be done? Above all, every possibility of an honest accord must be thoroughly pursued. But if these attempts have no result, there remains only to say to each other: let us try to work separately and in six months or more, we will see which of us is right, and then perhaps we will meet each other seriously on the common path. Such an action is called a split But at times a split is a lesser evil. An organization that is smaller but more unanimous can have enormous success with a correct policy, while an organization which is torn by internal strife is condemned to rot.
Do I mean by this that the only way out for the League under present conditions is a split? No. I would not choose to speak so categorically. But one cannot shut one's eyes to the fact that a split could become the only way out of the situation. It seems to me that much will depend on the way your conference unfolds. As I have already said, it cannot accomplish miracles. But the conference is nonetheless a very important event in the life of the League. After it, a return to the past will no longer be possible.
Either the conference will take account of the experience, work, and mistakes; will sketch out the plan of work, distribute forces, elect a center that is able to function; and will take measures to again transform La Vérité into a weekly — in that case the conference will be an enormous step forward and the danger of a split will automatically be dissipated. Or else the conference will take place under the sign of the demoralizing and sterile internal struggle — in which case it is better not to delay the split
I am giving you my opinion with total frankness and sharpness because I think that revolutionaries have no need for internal diplomacy and because experience shows that chronic crises are not solved by sugary speeches.
Need I add that if the two basic groups of the League, the one that I have supported on the essential questions and the one that I have fought, come to a loyal agreement for effective common work, I would be happy to cry out: "The peace of Prinkipo is dead, long live the peace of Paris!" All of us, including myself, would very gladly consider the past errors, equivocations, and conflicts as over and done with, because it is necessary to live not with the past but with the future
I hope with all my heart that your conference will take place under the sign of the future and not of the past.