Letter to the International Secretariat, November 22, 1933

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Author(s) Leon Trotsky
Written 22 November 1933

[Writing of Leon Trotsky, Vol. 13. Supplement (1929-1933), New York 1979, p. 334-336, title: “For United Action Against Fascism”]

For United Action Against Fascism

To the International Secretariat

Dear Comrades:

I am sending you the draft of a letter to all parties and workers’ organizations on a united front against fascism. I avoid using the term “united front” as being too compromised by different interpretations. First of all, we should come to an agreement among ourselves and with our allies. It should be done without any publicity. When a preliminary agreement is reached, a letter should be released from some “neutral” organization, perhaps best of all from the NAS. If such an initiative were taken, it would be possible to gather a certain number of trade union signatures in France. After that, parties and other organizations could begin to join in.

If you agree with this plan, send the proposal to Sneevliet, to find out first of all if we can hope to obtain the signature of the NAS.

The importance of this matter needs no explanation. In such a way, we will put the ILP in England, the Swedes, the Schaffhausen organization, etc., to a new test. It is necessary only that the matter not officially originate with us. We will appear on the scene at the next stage.

★ ★ ★

On a Fighting Agreement of Proletarian Organizations Against Fascism

The undersigned organizations appeal to all workers’ parties, trade unions, sports, educational, and other organizations of the working class with the following proposal:

The experience of Germany has shown what kind of fate the further development of fascism has in store for the European and world working class. However, no changes whatsoever have occurred in the policies of the workers’ organizations since the crushing defeat of the German proletariat. Identical causes inevitably give rise to identical effects. If the workers’ organizations do not draw the necessary practical conclusions from the experience of the German catastrophe, the next years will be years of the final crushing defeat of the world proletariat.

We are far from the thought of proposing the merger of all proletarian parties, the renunciation of internal struggle in the working class, etc. Such proposals are obviously utopian. In the presence of deep differences of principle, splits and internal struggle in the ranks of the proletariat are absolutely inevitable. In practice, the only thing that can be attempted is an agreement of the different organizations against the common enemy. Without giving up either their independence or the right of mutual criticism, the workers’ organizations must enter into a fighting agreement with each other against fascism. First of all, it is a matter of defense of the basic instrument of the proletariat: its organizations. This task is equally obvious to, and close to the heart of, every organized worker regardless of the overall political direction of his organization.

Not to allow the fascists to penetrate the plants and factories; not to let them take over the streets for preparatory maneuvers; to nip in the bud every attempt on their part to break up workers’ meetings, to raid workers’ papers, clubs, etc. — such is the most simple and at the same time the most imperative program for an agreement among working class organizations.

A fighting agreement assumes, it goes without saying, the observance of military discipline on the part of all participants; but this would be discipline only with respect to definite practical actions within limits which every one of the organizations would consent to beforehand.

The organizational forms, like the practical methods of the fighting agreement, would inevitably be highly diverse, depending on national and local conditions. But even the formation of a common information bureau as a first step could produce considerable gains. In the struggle against fascism, as is generally true in all struggles, it is extremely important to know in time the actual forces, resources, and plans of the enemy. Only in such a way will the workers not find themselves taken by surprise. Only in such a way will it be possible to train combat staffs capable of mobilizing the masses for the defensive and, later on, for the offensive as well. There can be no doubt whatsoever that a broad fighting formation supported by parties and trade unions of different orientations will attract the confidence and sympathy of the unorganized industrial workers, and of working people in general; and if nothing else, it will hamper the spread of the fascist poison into the ranks of the oppressed classes.

We call upon every workers’ organization, local, national, and international, that agrees in principle with the basic idea of the present letter, to sign it, accompanying such signature, if desired, with criticisms, corrections, or additional suggestions. Thus a poll will be taken among the workers’ organizations, which in itself will have great importance for arriving at a common orientation. On the basis of the data from such a poll, it will be possible to take the necessary next steps.

Address for correspondence: