Minutes of the Commission I
Trotsky: As its task the commission proposes to take up current problems of the International Left Opposition and to aid the International Secretariat, so far as possible, in the preparation of the international conference. First of all, proposals should be made for the agenda of the international conference and also on the content of the preparatory work and on the theses, resolutions, and draft programs.
Field: The international conference should, above all, set the conditions for the membership of the national sections. The present conditions are very loose.
Trotsky: Conditions for the individual members or for the sections?
Field: Both. Among these conditions the following should be mentioned:
1. A return to the twenty-one conditions of the Comintern on one hand, and on the other, a clear overview of our differences with the present leadership of the Comintern.
2. The organization’s principles — the question of the world revolution and of socialism in one country.
3. Our relationship to the party — our position as a faction. How far can differences go inside the faction while still remaining in the movement?
4. Work of the Opposition: What are its tasks? Relationship of propaganda and work among the masses, the education of the cadre, proposals to the party.
Trotsky proposes concretely that a comrade be instructed to provide and work through the twenty-one conditions and the resolutions of the [Comintern’s] first four world congresses.
Under the first point it would read approximately as follows: The Left Opposition recognizes the twenty-one conditions and the fundamental, principled resolutions of the first four world congresses.
However, that isn’t enough. We must enumerate the resolutions we consider decisive, because there are also secondary resolutions which are no longer applicable.
A small commission or a single comrade should be assigned to carry out the necessary preparation, to produce, enumerate, and write out the resolutions in question, because these must go into the resolution of the international conference.
Resolved:Comrade Frankel is unanimously chosen for this work.
Trotsky: Our differences with the Stalinists — with the epigones in general — must be laid out precisely. In the text which we are now planning it will say: “A Critique of the Resolutions of the Fifth and Sixth World Congresses and the Subsequent Plenums.” The resolutions of these meetings should be summarized as a sort of catalog of the mistakes of the epigone leadership.
Resolved:Comrade Otto [Schüssler] is unanimously chosen for this work. Comrades Frankel and Otto will form a commission to treat the work of all the world congresses, etc.
Trotsky: I believe it would be good to illustrate the questions critically through a specific example, and which example is obvious: Spain. Even in general we will have to be concrete, but Spain offers us a fresh example which has shaken up all questions again. If the current situation lasts long, we could lose a national section there.
Our tasks: First, to work out the programmatic part: the social structure of Spain, to study the programmatic line of the party and of the Left Opposition, and make our own proposals.
Other aspects of the question: to work through the resolutions of the Spanish section and their literature that we have on hand and, in the case of questions which are at issue — for example, the question of the relationship to the party, faction, work of the faction — to determine what is false in the activity of the Spanish section. That should be begun at once and at an accelerated tempo.
A resolution was passed unanimously establishing a committee consisting of Comrades Field, Frank, and Frankel to treat the Spanish question.
Trotsky: Extracts from the correspondence with the leadership of the Spanish section should be communicated to the membership of the Spanish section and the International Left Opposition. We must learn from the Spanish mistakes and experiences.
The Spanish committee has two-three parallel tasks to perform:
1. Principled political questions,
2. Internal questions, and
3. Personal-organizational questions.
After we have carried out the preparatory work, our organizational proposal should lead to the conclusion that the Spanish section should convene a new national conference to express its views on the proposals of the International Secretariat. Comrades delegated by the International Secretariat must be present when the conference takes place.
The latest issue of the Moscow Pravda [September 9] published an article by [ ] on Spain, saying among other things:
“After the defeat of the general strike in January, the Trotskyists and other renegades of communism asserted that the revolution was beaten and that the period of defeats had begun. The new waves have since repeatedly demonstrated that the renegades were wrong. The swiftness and ease with which the generals’ revolt was smashed shows that the forces of the revolution are not broken,” etc.
Thus the article contains the claim that the Spanish Trotskyists had declared that the revolution was over. Comrade Weisbord gives a similar account in a letter on Spain.
This question can become the starting point of part of our Spanish work. We can ask questions of the Spaniards and so on.
It is necessary to draw very sharp lines on this question. Sudden turns and crises appear in the course of every revolution. The question is also treated in the second Spanish pamphlet [“The Spanish Revolution and the Dangers Threatening It,” May 28, 1931, in The Spanish Revolution (1931-39)] insufficiently to be sure, and in comparison to the Russian Revolution and the Great French Revolution. The Russian Revolution reached its high point in the course of eight months — the Great French Revolution began in 1789 and reached its high point only in 1793, that is, in close to four years. Some characteristics of Spain perhaps place it closer to the old French example. In any case, the opinion is expressed in the pamphlet that it is entirely possible that the Spanish revolution will develop for some years before reaching its culmination point, especially since the Spanish proletariat is unprepared. During the Great French Revolution the programs and goals were worked out in the course of the long struggle. It was entirely different in Russia, where a revolutionary party existed for decades beforehand.
When Comrade Nin said, after the January mass strike: “Now we’ve entered into a period of slump,” that didn’t mean anything. One must determine exactly the character of this slump.
A second question, which, however, concerns the Stalinists more, is the following: the Pravda article already mentioned says that in general the positions of the party were correct, then goes on more or less:
“Not all party branches, not all provincial organizations were successful in establishing the face of the Communist Party, counterposing it to the maneuvering social fascists and Republicans, even though there was an opportunity to show that the party fights not only against the monarchists, but also against the republican government which gives the monarchists cover,” etc.
Thus, it has become evident that the party was surprised by events and that the whole theory of social fascism came to nothing. Not only had the party not differentiated itself from the Socialists, but it didn’t even differentiate itself from the republicans. The article itself expresses, in a cowardly way, the typical, opportunistic bankruptcy of the ultraleftists in confronting reality. For us it is of the greatest importance to obtain and compile the facts. For us this will be a classical example.
I will try, on the basis of the Pravda article, to write a letter in the form of an inquiry to Comrade Nin.
Field: In addition we must determine the general content of the platform of the International Left Opposition.
Trotsky: We must begin with an analysis of the current world situation, drawing up perspectives, the strategic tasks of the proletariat, and the subsequent consequences for individual countries.
Frankel: The IS should propose to the individual national sections that they send in a political and organization report. It is absolutely necessary that Comrade Trotsky give directives for this work.
Trotsky: These directives must first be worked out in discussions. It is possible to propose a short sketch of the general situation and the perspectives to each section.
Frankel: It is important to draw the lessons of the internal struggles up to now. This should be considered later.
Field: The treatment of the Russian Revolution in the framework of the permanent revolution.
Trotsky: This belongs more or less in the framework of the general platform. The Russian draft platform [“Problems of the Development of the USSR”] has not yet been discussed. Things in Russia are going very badly now. The latest newspapers bring very alarming news — economically it can’t get worse. The cumulative effect is making itself felt now.
Frankel: We should discuss the Russian draft platform here.
Field: Also the first platform of the Russian Opposition.
Schüssler: In addition, the slogans of the United Soviet States of Europe and of the Soviet Federation of the Balkan States should be taken up. Additional comrades should be drawn into the work, for example, Comrades Schürer and Neurath.Comrade Schürer on the question of the Brandlerites, their development in the course of the last years in light of events and quotations.
Frank proposes that the Italian question be taken up.
Trotsky: A practical proposal — the International Secretariat should set up a “fund for the international conference” to finance individual delegations.
At the next meeting the Spanish question will be taken up.