Minutes of the Conference of Four of December 30, 1933

From Marxists-en
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Present: from the ICL — Bauer, Crux [Trotsky], Feroci [Leonetti], Frank, Naville, Schwarz [Leon Sedov].

from the RSP — Sneevliet.

from the OSP — de Kadt.

from the SAP — Schwab [Walcher], Goldenberg.

Presiding: Bauer. Secretary: Steen [Klement].

Agenda: Preparation and perspectives

on the Fourth International

The youth conference in Holland

1. '''The ICL delegation’s proposals to create a permanent commission and a [joint discussion] bulletin and to help the youth conference were read.

2. '''Report on preparatory work.

The work for the Fourth International has so far been of a propagandist nature and without important organizational results. The joint resolution of the Paris conference in August was printed by all participating organizations in their newspapers, partly also in leaflets, magazines, and pamphlets. After the Paris conference everything was concentrated on attempts at unification within the Bloc of Four. The RSP joined the ICL. The fusion of both Dutch organizations has proved unrealizable until now because of differences of opinion as to its tempo and prerequisites; the two parties continue to work in a united front with the organizations close to them. Also the fusion of the SAP with the German section of the ICL has until now proved fruitless because of theoretical and practical differences on the questions of revolutionary tactics. The orientation of building new communist parties and a new International, as well as the IS’s attitude to the Paris conference, where it could speak only in its own name, have been approved by the majority of the ICL sections (information about their attitudes is lacking from some because of the great distances involved).

In Holland a new opposition has evolved inside and around the Communist Party which will soon publish De Nieuwe Tribune and intends to join the united Dutch party. After the capitulation of the “League” there is no longer an organized left wing in the Social Democratic Party of Holland.

In Sweden a member of the SAP spoke at the congress of the Independent Communist Youth. After the expulsion of the Independent Communist Party of Sweden from the Brandlerite International, it is subject to great vacillations on its further international orientation. The sympathies for the new International are extremely vague. Attempts to work with the NAP meet with no sympathetic response since the NAP is looking to join the Scandinavian Social Democracy.

In Norway the Mot Dag group is in full agreement with the SAP except on the question of the possibilities of winning the NAP, which it affirms. The SAP however approves the Mot Dag’s plan to enter into the NAP on certain conditions (retaining Mot Dag as a group and continuing its publishing operation, including its paper).

In Belgium the ICL carried on unity negotiations with the Hennaut group, which were broken off because of differences in appraising the experience of the last ten years.

In Switzerland the Schaffhausen KPO finds itself as heretofore in opposition to the Brandler leadership and shows strong sympathies for the Bloc of Four.

In England the ILP continues its hesitations and is decaying (according to last information, allegedly only 4,000 members at the moment). To turn it into a revolutionary party and to win it for the Fourth International, the IS of the ICL proposed that the British section enter the ILP.

In Austria after the capitulation of the left wing of the Social Democracy there are only a few weak opposition groups.

The deteriorating Communist Party in Czechoslovakia does not show any evidence of a move in the direction of new tendencies; on the other hand, this is occurring with the dissatisfied German Social Democrats in Czechoslovakia.

In Spain the Socialist Youth declared themselves for the Fourth International.

The extreme left of the Social Democracy of France around Marceau Pivert has established connections with the SAP. The August conference evoked a loud echo amongst the youth, especially the PUP youth.

The Italian Maximalists, the last remnants of the Italian Social Democracy, which seemed to lean to the NAP at the Paris conference, have nevertheless partly reprinted the Declaration of Four and commented on it.

In Poland one of the Bund organizations has strong sympathies for the orientation of the Four.

In the United States, the Gitlow group and the Muste (Lore) group are carrying on negotiations with the SAP.

All participants are in accord that these results are very modest, partly because of insufficient efforts resulting from attempts at fusion. The international connections of all the groups were more or less alike. On the London Bureau neither of the two parties belonging to it [SAP and OSP] could give any report since the bureau has limited itself to circulating information material and the first meeting after the Paris conference is scheduled for January 1934.

3. Perspectives of further work.

Goldenberg declares that he is against a premature setting up of the Fourth International, but in favor of propaganda for it, which in form and essence must correspond to the development of the workers.

Bauer: We must place at the center of our attention the left socialists and especially the youth. In the Social Democracy as well as in the Comintern conciliatory tendencies are trying to contain the opposition. In the struggle with them we must pose the question of the possibility of reforming the treacherous party in the foreground. Side by side with it, naturally, a sharp struggle against the strengthening right-wing tendencies is needed. In addition, a clear position on national and international organizations outside the two Internationals (the London Bureau, NAP, etc.) is needed. On this we first of all must be clear ourselves. Two points of view are counterposed. Break with them or join them.

Trotsky: The pamphlet by Miles, “Neu Beginnen,” steals the entire criticism that Marxists have made of the Second International and at the same time demands that the left wing be disciplined, that is, give a free hand to Wels. To these people we can speak only with the whip; the least concession to them would be a crime.

For the new orientation of the world labor movement there are two centers, one that is being prepared and does not yet exist (ours) and one that exists but is based totally on illusions (the London Bureau). We can come out of this dilemma only through permanently maintaining our ties with each other and breaking openly with the London center. The Swedish party wants to lean on the NAP, the NAP on the Social Democracy, but the Social Democracy has been leaning for a long time on bourgeois society, so now we should lean on the Swedish party? This chain is of tremendous social and political importance.

Comrade Brandt of the SAP appropriately calls Tranmæl the Louis Blanc of 1933 and evaluates the NAP admirably but draws from it very hazy conclusions: to break with them internationally but not nationally. This alliance harmed the ILP because it did not place the ILP before the alternative; nationally it demands the creation of a left NAP wing; in short for Sweden and England clarity is essential, but for the Norwegians only confusion. Tranmæl is looking for a time and a pretext to get rid pf the allies who have now become burdensome. That practically no left wing exists in the NAP is first of all due to the clever maneuvers of Tranmæl, and secondly to his guardian angels, the SAP and the OSP. When the Norwegian workers see their Tranmæl internationally in the company of honest people they do not think of going over into opposition to him.

A speech by Schwab is listened to by a hundred workers but the Schwab-Tranmæl alliance is decisive. If the Norwegian workers are to learn the real reason for the split, the initiative for it should not be left to Tranmæl Like the English reformists in the Anglo-Russian Committee, he will choose for it an occasion and a time which are advantageous to him. A break is necessary precisely for the building of a left wing. The Labor Community [IAG] hinders it, however, and has therefore become a reactionary factor.

The bankruptcy of the CP is decisive in the defeat of Germany since the way out could only be a revolutionary one. Against victorious fascism the advantages of democracy stand out in full relief. Because of this the working masses who are now in motion find their way predominantly to the Social Democracy and only in very small part to us. But the catastrophic character of this movement will soon place the Social Democracy before new splits. To help the Mileses and Louis Blancs to play hide-and-seek means to retard this process.

In times of crisis the working class is always permeated by moods against splits and for unity. At the Bolshevik conference of [April] 1917 Lenin received only one vote for the Third International, his own. We must persistently continue to convince the workers of the necessity of the new International, and in the first place the most advanced workers. To say that the Fourth International is premature is to say that the class struggle is premature. Between these moods and the facts there is an open gap. We ask our allies for a razor cut [with the London Bureau], but of course make no ultimatum of this.

The joint theoretical journal has unfortunately been sabotaged by the SAP.

Schwab: After the political turn by the Left Opposition, the SAP waited in vain for a turn in their tactics. In this it was disappointed. At the Paris conference the Left Opposition comrades, by the same well-known, barren, and sectarian methods, hindered a united closed-ranks appearance of the four organizations, which would have been possible if we had abstained from voting on the Brussels resolution of the majority. Had the SAP followed the advice of the Left Opposition we would not have the signature of the OSP today.

The inter-party character of the proposed journal was long since recognized by all. But for the Left Opposition the idea of an inter-party journal as well as that of the Brussels resolution in August suddenly became reactionary. We must also call on the KPO [Brandlerites] to work in it [the journal] because behind the leaders stand thousands of excellent comrades. Certainly they will decline but as a result the rank and file will just as certainly come into conflict with their leadership]. But when Comrade Trotsky alone held to his stubborn point of view, even the publisher [of the proposed journal] withdrew.

We cannot recognize the question: either the London Bureau or the Bloc of Four. The razor cut will help only those who are interested in hindering the revolutionization of the NAP. The international working alliance with Tranmæl plays no role in Norway but a break would find the greatest echo. According to the rules, the KPO minority never should have entered into the SAP [in 1932]. In this are reflected only the abnormal conditions. In the London Bureau we must make the maximum influence felt. But one must have the courage to disregard seemingly justified protests as we had to in coming into the SAP. Experience showed that we were right. As such, reformist parties are not impregnable; see the example of the USPD. This will certainly not be the case with the NAP, but if we do not aim at winning it over, we will find no echo.

De Kadt: More important than what was discussed until now is the basic outlook of the future International. The Left Opposition wants to make its principles internationally accepted and regards the Fourth International as an extension of the ICL. The OSP and the SAP do not stand between the ideas of the new International and the London Bureau but unequivocally behind the first.

We do not at all want to remain unconditionally in the London Bureau. Concrete facts will lead to a break. The election victory telegram to the NAP was more of a threat than a congratulation. We must not attack the left reformists in such a way that even trained workers do not understand it. The Declaration of Four must he extended to include tactical principles.

The outstanding article by Trotsky, “Our Present Tasks,”stands in contradiction to the Left Opposition’s attitude to the NAP, etc. You can’t do everything with the whip. Behind the dogs stand the people from whom we anticipate everything. For the whip more opportune moments will come. Criticism need not because of this be less irreconcilable. Also the program is not everything. Many subscribe to it only to ignore it in practice. In the new International we have a special International (ICL plus RSP). This state of affairs would be impossible if a new International were to be built in earnest. We do not stand as near to each other as we thought we did in Paris. I support the technical center [proposed permanent commission] and the bulletin. The International to be should not be measured by the yardstick of a completed one. At the youth conference in February it is possible that a few good decisions will be adopted but we must not forget that the youth are very weak and not at all symptomatic for the working class.

Sneevliet: At the Paris conference seven organizations were for the idea of a new International — three of them, however, against the Declaration of Four (Kilbom, Maurin, Leninbund). Inside the Bloc of Four there are two groups, one of which stands with one foot on a resolution that so contradicts the Declaration of Four that Tranmæl could actually interpret it as being against the new International and agreed with it. But also this group is not unanimous. The SAP demands the entry of all four organizations [into the London Bureau], the OSP is ready to leave and predicts the death of the London Bureau. In essence the OSP and the SAP want to keep the door open for themselves in case of another eventuality.

The Comintern has finally declared that a world congress will be called for 1934. We must transcend the platonic recognitions of the new International and impart to the February conference a positive content, then we will govern the Comintern congress. The debates on sectarianism, tactics with regard to the NAP, etc., are absolutely secondary —

Schwab: Even without the NAP and the London Bureau there would have been the same differences.

Sneevliet: The program of the new International is not ready made but is to be elaborated in the course of the intellectual preparatory work. I support the [ICL’s] proposal. It was through “sectarianism” that world history was made! Not later than March a conference must be prepared.

The [Dutch] youth organization inviting organizations to a youth conference is totally independent of the OSP. Without our help this congress will be a caricature.

Trotsky: If one speaks of tactical errors at the Paris conference, one must not forget that the voting on our resolution was prevented by the English with the help of the OSP and with the toleration of the SAP. Consequently, the game was made easier for those who did not want to show their true colors. The Brussels resolution was from the beginning as meaningless as only a resolution can be when it is agreed to by organizations with diverging tendencies, and was compromising as long ago as June. With the NAP we can enter into practical agreements, but to sign a resolution with Tranmæl, the speculator and scoundrel, on the fate of the international working class movement borders on the criminal.

Schwab: The SAP would also never have signed the Declaration of Four had it known what the Left Opposition really had in mind.

Trotsky: Now you have taken an orientation to the right. To the lefts you use threats and show the fist, with the rights you are good friends. [In such matters] it’s not ourselves but the public we are thinking about.

With regard to the journal, only the decision of the IS can stand. Gumperz gave the impression that he was in complete agreement on publishing the discussion journal on the basis of the Declaration of Four with an editorial majority of adherents of the Fourth International and a minority not hostile to it. Then Schwab demanded an invitation to the Brandlerists. Why not Manuilsky, the boss, instead of the lackey, Brandler? Behind him also undoubtedly stand many fine people. A journal without a platform is an illusion. We are ready to consider any other platform than yours and that of the Four.

(Schwab declares that he is ready on this basis to negotiate once more with Gumperz.)

Trotsky: Moreover, Gumperz was ready, in case the journal falls through, to publish pamphlets.

What would our comrades have said if we were connected with the Amsterdam antiwar congress? The latter is just as much an agent of the Third International as Tranmæl is of the Second International. The question now is not when to establish the Fourth International but of doubling our efforts to create it. It would be nonsense to proclaim something that is not ripe. Everyone has the right and duty to try to persuade the other. No one would take us seriously if we did not strive to make our principles the principles of the new International. We cannot and do not want to force anything on anybody, nor do we want to smuggle it through. By taking a principled and timely position on all questions we will gain a thousand times more than by running after Tranmæl No one outside of us can do it, not because they are dumb, but because they are, collectively and individually, compromised and must betray the workers. The timing of the establishment of the Fourth International also depends on events. Let us be impatient of the work and not of the results!

Goldenberg: With the lefts with whom we want to fuse we can speak as we do among ourselves, but with the rights we must be polite without giving up our point of view, so as to get the ear of the masses who are with them. Even if the Brussels resolution says nothing to the vanguard, it does to the masses. Because the vanguard is ahead of the masses, the resolution cannot become reactionary. When Seydewitz signed the SAP’s declaration of principles he compromised himself and not we ourselves, since by this he came into contradiction with his deeds. The whip can only repel the readers of Miles. With all sharpness in essence we must be flexible in form. In reality the Third International was built up on the October Revolution.

Trotsky: If not for Lenin’s persistent work for the Third International the October Revolution would have been impossible. The establishment [of the Third International] itself was only a formal crowning act.

Goldenberg: The discussion in the NAP will take place upon Tranmæl's break from us, not upon our break with him.

Bauer: It must be emphasized that the organizations which signed the declaration already base themselves on certain principles. To hold on to them is not to be made a reproach to the Left Opposition. The fear of occupying a second place in the joint work and unification unjustifiably plays a deterrant role with some leaders.

Even the SAP recognizes that a lasting coexistence of both centers is impossible. But the London Bureau is nothing but an unprincipled, paralyzed heap of centrifugal tendencies. On the basis of the Declaration of Four an entry would have been impossible. The ILP cannot go to the Second International —

De Kadt: But to the Third.

Trotsky: Even that would be a step forward. After a few months a split would occur and a part would inevitably come to us.

Schwab: The London Bureau will remain only a source of information and can go under if the ICL remains outside of it. But three of the organizations belonging to it have gone through a revolutionizing process. Together with them the London Bureau could be made into a functioning body. If it dies, no one will profit from it.

If Gumperz is the publisher of the paper we do not assume any responsibility for it. Couldn’t the Brandlerists be invited as an editorial minority?

Trotsky: No. You prefer to break with us rather than with the Brandlerists. (Trotsky asks the opinion of de Kadt. No answer.) But one cannot hide behind Gumperz’s back. Politically we would be held responsible.

Schwab: By their unmaskings, the CP and the Left Opposition only isolated themselves. We must take into account what the audience or readers will stand for. Despite even odds the Left Opposition has gotten nowhere in the SAP. Trotsky too, despite his great personality, stands all alone in the world. It became clear that the barrenness of the Left Opposition is not to be attributed only to its having been a faction of the CP. We do not dispute the intentions of the Left Opposition nor their right to realize them. But we note the gap between these good intentions and the small organizational achievements.

Trotsky: The revolution is isolated and all of us with it. In the SAP you were a necessary stage. You all know that we’re not talking about a dictatorship in our organization. Our great teachers were also at first surrounded by small circles of young comrades.

De Kadt: The RSP only plays with Trotsky; in reality it stands much below Trotskyism. It will yet be seen that it really consists of trade unionists who stand quite to the right. These questions are more important than that of the NAP. Since so far we have to do with an International that is yet to be created we will still have to remain for a certain length of time in the London Bureau until its natural end. A split resolution would not find much of an echo in the working class. Entirely too much importance is attributed here to resolutions; the practical work cannot be neglected out of sheer programmatic radicalism.

The ICL has the full right to fight for its point of view but the events of the last years have proved that by far not all of their positions have been the correct ones. At the Seventh World Congress [of the Comintern] we will hardly play a big role. Programmatic work is of course of great importance, but if we will not tend also to practical work we will not win the elite of the proletariat but discussion fanatics.

De Nieuwe Weg in Holland is almost the realization of the idea of a discussion journal; the basis is revolutionary socialism, the Declaration of Four is being defended, the editorial board consists of a majority of OSP and RSP.

Sneevliet: The Holland experiences were inevitable. At present it means to activate the united front work. Then we will see who is to the right and who is to the left.

Trotsky: I appeal to both Dutch parties not to contribute to the disappointment of the workers in their mass papers but rather to stress the still hoped for common perspectives and unity after a thoroughgoing discussion.

4. Decisions.

1. The representatives of the undersigned organizations, after a thorough analysis and discussion of the effects of the Bloc of Four entered into at the Paris August Conference had on the international working class movement, decided the following, in order to intensify, spread, and coordinate the unprecedentedly great tasks in the sphere of clarification as well as of the necessary organizing of the preparations for the new International:

(a) Immediate establishment of a technical permanent commission, the first task of which is to prepare the Conference of Four for the end of February. The commission charges two of its members residing in Paris to carry on the current work.

(It was agreed that only unanimous decisions of the commission are valid and that when important decisions are to be made in current work the two comrades charged with it, one of the SAP and one of the ICL, are to obtain the opinion of the other members of the commission.)

(b) The publication of a common bulletin that will publish all documents in connection with the work of the conference (among them also discussion articles of the adhering organizations).

(It was decided to name it “The Bulletin of the Commission for the Preparation of the Fourth International.”)

2. The technical commission is instructed to ascertain whether the creation of a discussion journal will be possible with the participation of Comrade Gumperz.

3. It would be desirable to create in Amsterdam a sub-commission of representatives of the four youth organizations so as to lend assistance to the initiators of the youth conference.

4. The conference will take place on February 25. The corresponding theses of the ICL are to be sent out to the other organizations by January 15. The replies, supplements, etc., are to be delivered by February 1.

5. The technical commission is to work out the agenda for the February conference by January 28. It must however contain at least the following points:

1. Work on the Fourth International

2. Programmatic theses

3. Manifesto

6. The technical commission is to issue a questionnaire on the work concerning the survey of the working class movement in individual countries, as provided for in the Declaration of Four.