Letter to the International Secretariat, June 10, 1935

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A New Turn Is Necessary

To the International Secretariat

Dear Comrades:

We are obviously entering a new period. Two events determine it: the development of our section in France and the definite turn of the Comintern.

1. The correctness of our entry into the SFIO is now proved by objective facts. Our section, thanks to the entry, has changed from a propaganda group into a revolutionary factor of the first order. No one will dare to assert that our group, in adapting itself to the new environment, has become softer, more moderate, opportunist. Quite the contrary. We can correctly say that the Bolshevik-Leninist Group in France at the present moment surpasses all our other sections by the revolutionary precision of its slogans and by the offensive character of its entire political activity. The comrades who were opposed to our entry ought now to recognize that they were wrong. The danger of such a move is incontestable, but no less incontestable is the manner in which the facts have demonstrated that, thanks to the tempered character of our cadres and thanks to the control of our international organization, we can and we must resort to very daring moves to get out of our isolation and penetrate the masses. Vereecken and others who violently opposed the entry have demonstrated by their very position that they have not sufficiently understood the inestimable advantages of our Bolshevik education and of our centralized organization. Should they continue now, after the experience, to repeat their abstract arguments, they would only make themselves ridiculous. The best advice we can give them, if they can still be saved, is that they take cognizance of their mistakes and reenter our ranks.

2. The decisive betrayal of Stalin and of his Comintern crew opens to us great possibilities not only within the Comintern but also within all the working-class organizations, especially in the trade unions. Up to quite recently, every stage of the radicalization of the masses implied inevitably a new flow towards the Stalinists. This was precisely the cause for our isolation and for our weakness. Going to the left meant going to Moscow, and we were looked upon as an obstacle on this road. Today, Moscow has taken on an aspect which means the obligation to support the imperialism of France, Czechoslovakia, etc. For us it is no longer a question of propounding the subtleties of the theory of socialism in one country and of the permanent revolution but of putting squarely the question: Are we the willing slaves of our own imperialism or its mortal enemies? Even if the differentiation within the framework of the Communist Party does not take place quite rapidly (although we may also expect catastrophic upheavals, above all if we know how to intervene), the elementary flow of the masses toward the CP must inevitably slacken and even stop.

The latest electoral successes of the French CP in no way invalidate this assertion. The masses have not had the necessary time to assimilate the Stalinist betrayal, even in its most general aspect. Yesterday's inertia is still in effect, but Stalinism today is corroding on all sides. It must fall to pieces. Tomorrow or the day after we will appear to the masses as the only revolutionary possibility. The slogan for the Fourth International assumes under these conditions an exceptional importance.

3. The same circumstances demonstrate the necessity for the implacable struggle against the SAP that we have undertaken after two years of negotiations, attempts at rapprochement, hesitations, etc. The SAP gentry have revealed themselves to be irreconcilable and perfidious enemies. They prowl around us, pilfer our ideas, our slogans, dulling their revolutionary edge and spreading insinuations about us that we are sectarians, bunglers, diehards; one can have nothing to do with us, despite the seeming correctness of our ideas. The fact that Bauer went over to their side has supplied them with a telling argument, all the more so since our German section is not quite intransigent enough towards the SAP gentry. The more flexible, many-sided and, above all, daring our policy of penetration into the mass organizations, all the more intransigent must be our general policy, all the more aggressive must it be against all centrist ideologies, both those already hardened and those crystallizing. The banner of the Fourth International must be immutably opposed to all other banners.

4. The preparation for the Mulhouse Congress (which has opened today, at the moment these lines are being written) was a remarkable schooling not only for our French section but also for our entire international organization.

The struggle centered around three motions: the right, the centrist and ours. In all the districts in which our comrades, numerically weak as they are, have counterposed unswervingly our resolution to the others, they have gained votes and sympathizers; and, at the same time, they have compelled the centrists to draw away a little further from the right, in order not to lose their entire influence. And, on the other hand, in the few cases in which our comrades committed the grave error of entering into a combination with the centrists, they gained nothing for our tendency and, at the same time, pushed the centrists to the right.

These experiences provide us with the key for our entire policy in this period; to enter into combinations with the leaders of the SAP, of the IAG (London-Amsterdam Bureau) and so forth would imply losing our own identity, compromising the banner of the Fourth International and arresting the development of the diverse centrist currents on the road of the revolution. As regards our French section itself, the Mulhouse Congress implies, or should imply, the beginning of a new period. Not only is the SFIO not a revolutionary party but it is not even a proletarian party. It is petty bourgeois, not only in its policies but also in its social composition. This party opened to us certain possibilities, and it was correct to have formulated and utilized them. But these possibilities are limited. The Mulhouse Congress, together with the repercussions that will follow it, should more or less materially limit these possibilities. The prestige gained by the Bolshevik-Leninist Group must transform itself by flooding light upon the workers. But the workers are primarily outside of the SP: in the CP, in the trade-union organizations and among the unorganized. The Bolshevik-Leninist Group must know how to effect a new turn, which is the logical development of the previous stage. Without, of course, making the slightest concessions, it is necessary to concentrate nine-tenths of the efforts upon the denunciation of the Stalinist betrayal.

5. The struggle of the different tendencies against us coincides today almost entirely with the ideological indoctrination for the new imperialist war. Opposition to the war must coincide to an ever-increasing degree with sympathy for the Fourth International. The condition for success is ruthless struggle against the slightest concession to the theory of national defense. The inevitable regroupment in the different working-class organizations (Communist Party, trade unions, etc.) must open for us an outlet to the working-class masses. It is necessary to orient ourselves in this direction with all the required independence. This regroupment can result in the creation of a revolutionary party within a set and quite close period of time.

6. It is absolutely essential to speed up the preparatory work for the Fourth International. The revolutionary elements that will separate themselves during the general regroupment inside the working class must have the possibility of directly joining an international organization that bases itself on the entire experience of the revolutionary struggles.

Crux [Leon Trotsky]