Once Again, Whither France?
|Written||28 March 1935|
At the time that Flandin succeeded Doumergue we posed before the vanguard of the proletariat the question: “Whither France?” The four and a half months which have since elapsed have changed nothing essentially and have weakened neither our analyses nor our prognoses.
The French people have arrived at the crossroads: one way leads to the socialist revolution; the other to Fascist catastrophe. The choice depends on the working class. At its head is the organized vanguard. Again we put the question: “Where will the proletarian vanguard lead France?”
In January, the CEC of the Socialist Party launched a program of struggle for power, the destruction of the mechanism of the bourgeois state, the setting up of the workers’ and peasants’ democracy, the expropriation of banks and heavy industry. However, up to the present, the party has not made the slightest attempt to bring this program before the masses. The Communist Party, in turn, has absolutely refused to come out for the struggle for power. The reason? “The situation is not revolutionary.”
The workers’ militia? The arming of the workers? Workers’ control? A plan of nationalization? Impossible. “The situation is not revolutionary.” What, then, can we do? Launch weighty petitions with the clergy, compete in empty eloquence with the Radical Socialists and wait? Wait how long? Until the situation becomes revolutionary of its own accord. The scholarly doctors of the Communist International have a thermometer which they place under the tongue of old lady History, and by this means they infallibly determine the revolutionary temperature. But they don’t show anyone their thermometer.
We submit: the diagnosis of the Comintern is entirely false. The situation is revolutionary, as revolutionary as it can be, granted the non-revolutionary policies of the working-class parties. More exactly, the situation is pre-revolutionary. In order to bring the situation to its full maturity, there must be an immediate, vigorous, unremitting mobilization of the masses, under the slogan of the conquest of power in the name of socialism. This is the only way through which the pre-revolutionary situation will be changed into a revolutionary situation. On the other hand, if we continue to mark time, the pre-revolutionary situation will inevitably be changed into one of counter-revolution, and will bring on the victory of Fascism.
At the present time, all that the pious mouthings of the phrase “non-revolutionary situation” can do is to crush the minds of the workers, paralyse their will and hand them over to the class enemy. Under the cover of such phrases, conservatism, indolence, stupidity and cowardice take possession of the leadership of the proletariat, and the ground is laid, as it was in Germany, for catastrophe.
In the pages which follow, we, the Bolshevik-Leninists, will submit the analyses and predictions of the Communist International to detailed, Marxist criticism. At times we will touch on the points of view of various Socialist leaders, to the extent that this is needed for our fundamental purpose: namely, to show the radical falsity of the policies of the Central Committee of the French Communist Party. To the shouts and insults of the Stalinists we oppose facts and arguments.
We shall not, of course, stop with a merely negative criticism. To the false points of view and false slogans we shall oppose the creative ideas and methods of Marx and Lenin.
We ask the reader to pay close attention. We are concerned here in the most immediate and literal sense with the lives of the French workers. No class conscious worker has the right to be passive in the face of these problems, upon the solution of which depends the fate of his class.
How a Revolutionary Situation Arises[edit source]
The first and most important premise of a revolutionary situation is the most intense sharpening of the contradictions between the productive forces and the property relations. The nation stops going forward. The arrest in the economic development and, even more, its regression signify that the capitalist system of production is definitely worn out and must give way to the socialist system.
The present crisis, which encompasses all countries and thrusts economy back decades, has definitely pushed the bourgeois system to absurdity. If, at the dawn of capitalism, ignorant and starving workers broke machines, today it is the capitalists themselves who destroy machines and factories. The further maintenance of the private ownership of the means of production threatens humanity with degeneration and barbarism.
The basis of society is economic. That basis is ripe for socialism in a double sense: modern technology has advanced to a point where it can assure a high standard of living to the nation and to all mankind; but the capitalist property system, which has outlived itself, dooms the masses to ever-increasing poverty and suffering.
The fundamental premise of socialism – that is, the economic premise – has already been present for some time. But capitalism will not disappear from the scene automatically. Only the working class can seize the forces of production from the stranglehold of the exploiters. History places this task squarely before us. If the proletariat is, for one reason or another, incapable of routing the bourgeoisie and of seizing power, if it is, for example, paralysed by its own parties and trade unions, the continued decay of economy and civilization will follow, calamities will pile up, despair and prostration will engulf the masses, and capitalism – decrepit, decayed, rotting – will strangle the people with increasing strength, and will thrust them into the abyss of a new war.
Other than the socialist revolution, there is no way out.
At first the presidium of the Comintern tried to explain that the crisis which started in 1929 was the last crisis of capitalism. Two years afterwards, Stalin declared that the present crisis, “truly understood”, was not yet the last. We also meet the same attempt at prophecy in the Socialist camp: “Is it the final crisis, or is it not?”
“It is imprudent to say”, wrote Blum in Populaire, February 23, “that the present crisis is the final spasm of capitalism, the last death throe before agony and decay.” Grumbach had the same point of view when he said at Mulhouse on February 26: “Some say this crisis is a passing phase, others see it as the final crisis of capitalism. We do not yet dare to take a definite position.”
In this manner of putting the question there are two cardinal errors: first, it confuses the cyclical crisis with the historical crisis of the whole capitalist system; second, it assumes that independently of the conscious activity of classes, a crisis can be by itself the “last” crisis.
Under the domination of industrial capital, in the era of free competition, the cyclical booms exceeded by far the crises: the first were the “rule”, the second the “exception”. Capitalism in its entirety was advancing. Since the war, with the domination of monopoly finance capital, the cyclical crises far exceed the upswings. We may say that the crises have become the “rule” and the booms the “exceptions”; economic development in its entirety has been going down and not up.
However, the cyclical oscillations are inevitable, and, with capitalism in decline, they will continue as long as capitalism exists. And capitalism will continue until the proletarian revolution is achieved. This is the only correct answer to the question: “Is this the final crisis of capitalism?”
The revolutionary worker must, before all else, understand that Marxism, the only scientific theory of the proletarian revolution, has nothing in common with the fatalistic hope for the “final” crisis. Marxism is, in its very essence, a set of directives for revolutionary action. Marxism does not overlook will and courage, but rather aids them to find the right road.
There is no crisis which can be, by itself, fatal to capitalism. The oscillations of the business cycle only create a situation in which it will be easier, or more difficult, for the proletariat to overthrow capitalism. The transition from a bourgeois society to a socialist society presupposes the activity of living men who are the makers of their own history. They do not make history by accident, or according to their caprice, but under the influence of objectively determined causes. However, their own actions – their initiative, audacity, devotion, and likewise their stupidity and cowardice – are necessary links in the chain of historical development.
The crises of capitalism are not numbered, nor is it indicated in advance which one of these will be the “last”. But our entire epoch and, above all, the present crisis imperiously command the proletariat: “Seize power!” If, however, the party of the working class, in spite of favourable conditions, reveals itself incapable of leading the proletariat to the seizure of power, the life of society will continue necessarily upon capitalist foundations – until a new crisis, a new war, perhaps until the complete disintegration of European civilization.
The imperialist war of 1914-18 was also a “crisis” in the career of capitalism, and, indeed, the most terrible of all possible crises. No book carried the prediction whether the war would be the last bloody folly of capitalism. The experience of Russia showed that the war might have been the end of capitalism. In Germany and Austria, the fate of bourgeois society in 1918 depended entirely upon the Social Democracy, but the Social Democracy revealed itself as the handmaiden of capitalism. In Italy and France, the proletariat might have seized power at the end of the war, but it did not have a revolutionary party at its head. In a word, if the Second International had not, at the time of the war, betrayed the cause of socialism to bourgeois patriotism, the whole history of Europe and of mankind might today be entirely different. Assuredly, the past is irrevocable. But one can, and one ought, to learn the lessons of the past.
The development of Fascism is, in itself, irrefutable witness to the fact that the working class has been tragically late in fulfilling the task imposed upon it a long time ago by the decline of capitalism.
The phrase “this is not yet the ‘last’ crisis” can have only one meaning: in spite of the lessons of the war and the convulsions of the post-war period, the working-class parties are not yet able to prepare either themselves or the proletariat for the seizure of power; still worse, the leaders of these parties do not yet understand the task confronting them – they reject it for themselves, their party and their class, and hand it over to “the process of historical development”. Their fatalism is a betrayal of the theory of Marxism, and a justification for a political betrayal of the proletariat, that is, the preparation for a new capitulation to a new “last” war.
The fatalism of the Social Democracy is a heritage of the pre-war period, when capitalism was advancing almost without interruption, when the number of workers was increasing, and when the number of party members, votes at elections and parliamentary representatives was growing. From this automatic rise was born little by little the reformist illusion that it was enough to continue along the old road (propaganda, elections, organization) and victory would come of itself.
The war, no doubt, interfered with this automatic development. But the war was an “exceptional” phenomenon. With the help of Geneva there would be no new war, everything would return to normal and the automatic development would be re-established.
In the light of this perspective, the words “This is not yet the ‘last’ crisis” meant: “In five years, in ten years or in 20 years, we will have more votes, more representatives, and then, let us hope, we shall take power.” (See the articles and lectures of Paul Faure.) This optimistic fatalism, which seemed convincing for a quarter of a century, today resounds like a voice from the grave. It is a radically false idea that in going towards the future crisis the proletariat will inevitably become more powerful than at present. With the further inevitable decay of capitalism, the proletariat will not grow and reinforce itself but will decompose, constantly increasing the army of the unemployed and slum proletariat. The petty bourgeoisie, meanwhile, will be declassed and sink into despair. Loss of time holds out the perspective of Fascism, and not of proletarian revolution.
It is worth remarking that the Comintern, bureaucratized to the marrow, has replaced the theory of revolutionary action with a religion of fatalism. It is impossible to fight because there is no “revolutionary situation”. But a revolutionary situation does not fall from the sky. It comes about in the class struggle. The party of the working class is the most important political factor in the development of a revolutionary situation. If this party turns its back on its revolutionary task, lulling the workers to sleep and deceiving them into playing with petitions and fraternizing with Radical Socialists, the situation that comes about will be not revolutionary, but counter-revolutionary.
The decline of capitalism, together with the extraordinary high level of the productive forces, is the economic premise of the socialist revolution. On this foundation the class struggle takes place. A revolutionary situation develops and matures in the living struggle of the classes.
How does the big bourgeoisie, master of modern society, size up the present situation? And what is it doing? The 6th of February, 1934, was unexpected only by the organizations of the working class and the petty bourgeoisie. The leading bodies of finance capital prepared the plot over a long period of time, intending, by violence, to substitute Bonapartism (“personal” rule) for parliamentarianism. That is to say, the banks, the trusts, the general staff, the capitalist press believed the danger of revolution to be so close, so immediate, they hastened to prepare for it by a “little” coup d’état.
Two important conclusions follow from this fact: 1) the capitalists, at the beginning of 1934, believed the situation to be revolutionary; 2) they were not content to await passively the development of events, to resort to “legalistic” defence at the last minute, but they took the initiative themselves by sending their gangs into the streets. The big bourgeoisie taught the workers an inestimable lesson in the strategy of class warfare.
L’Humanité maintains that the “United Front” drove Doumergue out of office. But that is hollow bombast, to say the least. On the contrary, if finance capital believed it possible and feasible to replace Doumergue by Flandin, it is precisely because the United Front, as experience proved to the bourgeoisie, does not yet represent an immediate revolutionary danger. “Since the formidable leaders of the Comintern, in spite of the situation in France, did not prepare for struggle, but trembled with fear, that means that we can wait a while before making use of Fascism. It is useless to force events and compromise the Radical Socialists prematurely, since we may still have need of them.” This is what the true masters of the situation said. They upheld the Cabinet of the National Union and its Bonapartist decrees, they terrorized parliament, but they allowed Doumergue to go back to sleep. Thus the leaders of the bourgeoisie introduced a certain correction into their first analysis, recognizing that the situation was not so much immediately revolutionary as pre-revolutionary.
A second remarkable lesson in class strategy! It shows that even finance capital, with the levers of the whole social machine under its control, cannot infallibly estimate, at a single a priori glance, the full reality of a political situation. It enters into the struggle and, in the development of the struggle, on the basis of experience gained in the struggle, it corrects its analysis and makes it more precise. This, in general, is the only possible method in political questions of being oriented correctly and at the same time actively.
And the leaders of the Communist International? In Moscow, away from the French working class, a few badly informed, mediocre bureaucrats – the majority of them even unable to read French – pronounced an infallible diagnosis, with the aid of their thermometer: “The situation is not revolutionary.” The Central Committee of the French Communist Party is obliged to close its eyes and ears and repeat this hollow phrase. The road of the Communist International is the shortest road to the abyss!
The Radical Socialist Party represents that political instrument of the big bourgeoisie which is the best adapted to the traditions and prejudices of the petty bourgeoisie. In spite of this, the most responsible leaders of Radical Socialism, under the whip of finance capital, bowed humbly before the coup d’état of February 6, though it was directed in the first instance against them. For they recognized that the development of the class struggle threatened the fundamental interests of the “nation”, that is to say, of the bourgeoisie, and they felt obliged to sacrifice the parliamentary interests of their party. The capitulation of the most powerful parliamentary party before the guns and knives of the Fascists is an external expression of the complete upset in the political equilibrium of the country. But to say this – is to say that the situation is revolutionary, or, more exactly, pre-revolutionary.
The development which is taking place among the masses of the petty bourgeoisie has exceptional importance for an understanding of the political situation. The political crisis of the country is above all a collapse of the confidence of the petty-bourgeois masses in their traditional parties and leaders. The discontent, the nervousness, the instability, the fluidity of the petty bourgeoisie are extremely important characteristics of a pre-revolutionary situation. As a sick man, burning with fever, tosses from right side to left, so the feverish petty bourgeoisie can turn to the right or to the left. In the coming period, the side towards which millions of French peasants, artisans, small merchants and minor officials turn will determine whether the present pre-revolutionary situation will develop into a revolutionary or a counter-revolutionary situation.
The alleviation of the economic crisis might – though not for long – retard, but not stop, the shifting of the petty bourgeoisie to the right or the left. On the other hand, if the crisis becomes intensified, the bankruptcy of Radical Socialism and of all the parliamentary groupings around it will proceed with redoubled speed.
It must not be thought that Fascism has to become a strong parliamentary party before it can take over power. This was the case in Germany, but not in Italy. In order that Fascism should succeed, it is not necessary that the petty bourgeoisie should break beforehand with the old “democratic” parties. It is enough if the petty bourgeoisie has lost its confidence in these parties, and looks uneasily about it for new roads.
In the next municipal elections the petty bourgeoisie may still give a large number of votes to the Radicals and similar groupings, in the absence of a new political party which could succeed in gaining the confidence of the peasants and the urban middle classes. And, nevertheless, a Fascist military coup, with the aid of the big bourgeoisie, might take place a few months after the elections; and by its influence attract the sympathies of the most desperate layers of the petty bourgeoisie.
That is why it would be a serious illusion to take consolation in the thought that the Fascist banner has not yet become popular in the provinces and the villages. The anti-parliamentary tendencies of the petty bourgeoisie, after breaking away from the channel of the official parliamentary politics of the old parties, may directly and immediately support a military coup d’état when that becomes necessary for the safety of finance capital. Such a method of action is most closely adapted to the traditions and temperament of France.
The outcome of elections has, of course, a symptomatic importance. But to rely on this index alone would be to fall victim to parliamentary cretinism. We are dealing with much more profound processes which, one fine day, will catch our friends, the parliamentarians, off guard. Here, as in other matters, the question is settled not by arithmetic, but by the dynamics of the struggle. The big bourgeoisie does not register passively the evolution of the middle classes, but, rather, prepares tentacles of steel with which to seize these tortured and despairing masses at the opportune moment.
Marxist thought is dialectical, it considers all phenomena in their development, in their transition from one state to another. The thought of the conservative petty bourgeois is metaphysical; its conceptions are fixed and immovable, and between phenomena it supposes that there are unbridgeable gaps. The absolute opposition of a revolutionary situation to a non-revolutionary situation is a classic example of metaphysical thought, according to the axiom: whatever is, is: whatever is not, is not: and anything else is the Devil’s doing.
In the processes of history we find stable situations which are altogether non-revolutionary. We find likewise situations which are obviously revolutionary. And again, there are counter-revolutionary situations (we had better not forget them!). But the most striking features of our epoch of capitalism in decay are intermediate and transitional: situations between the non-revolutionary and the pre-revolutionary, between the pre-revolutionary and the revolutionary or . the counter-revolutionary. It is precisely these transitional stages which have a decisive importance from the point of view of political strategy.
What would we say about an artist who could distinguish only between the two opposite colours in the spectrum? That he had no sense of colour or was half-blind, and that he ought to give up the easel. What will we say about a political strategist who can distinguish only between the two states: “revolutionary” and “non-revolutionary"? That he is not a Marxist, but a Stalinist, who might make a good functionary but never a proletarian leader.
A revolutionary situation develops out of the reciprocal action of objective and subjective factors. If the party of the proletariat is incapable of analysing in time the tendencies of a pre-revolutionary situation we shall inevitably have a counter-revolutionary situation. The French proletariat now faces this danger. The short-sighted, passive, opportunist policies of the United Front – above all of the Stalinists, who have become its right wing – are the chief obstacle in the path of the proletarian revolution in France.
Immediate Demands and the Struggle for Power[edit source]
The Central Committee of the Communist Party rejects the struggle for the nationalization of the means of production as a demand incompatible with the existence of the bourgeois state. But the Central Committee likewise rejects the struggle for power in order to create the workers’ state. To these tasks it opposes a program of “immediate demands”.
As a matter of fact the United Front now has no program at all. At the same time, the experiences of the Communist Party itself in the struggle for “immediate demands” has been of an extremely unfortunate character. All speeches, articles and resolutions on the necessity of combating capitalism by strikes have up to now resulted in nothing, or almost nothing. In spite of the situation in the country, which is becoming more and more acute, the working class is in a state of dangerous stagnation.
The Central Committee of the Communist Party accuses everybody except itself of being guilty of this stagnation. We do not want to whitewash anybody. Our point of view is well known. But we believe that the chief obstacle on the path to the development of the revolutionary struggle right now is the one-sided, almost maniacal program of “immediate demands”, which contradicts the whole situation. We wish now, at sufficient length, to throw some light on the considerations and the arguments of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. Not that these arguments are either serious or profound: on the contrary, they are miserable. But we are dealing with the question upon which the fate of the French proletariat depends.
The most authoritative document on the question of “immediate demands” is the programmatic resolution of the Central Committee of the Communist Party (see l’Humanité, Feb. 24, 1935). Let us examine this document.
The outline of the immediate demands is given in vague general terms: against wage cuts, for increased social insurance, for collective bargaining, “against inflation”, etc. Nothing is said about the character that the struggle for these demands can and must have under the conditions of the present social crisis. However, every worker knows that with two millions of partially or wholly unemployed, the ordinary trade-union struggle for collective bargaining is utopian. Under present conditions, in order to force the capitalists to make important concessions, we must break their wills; this can be done only by a revolutionary offensive. But a revolutionary offensive, which opposes one class to another, cannot be developed solely under slogans of partial economic demands. We have here a vicious circle. This is the principal reason for the stagnation of the United Front.
The general Marxist thesis, “Social reforms are only the by-products of the revolutionary struggle,” has in the epoch of the decline of capitalism the most immediate and burning importance. The capitalists are able to cede something to the workers only if they are threatened with the danger of losing everything.
However, even the greatest “concessions” of which contemporary capitalism – itself in a blind alley – is capable, are completely insignificant in comparison with the misery of the masses and the depth of the social crisis. This is why the most immediate of all demands must be for the expropriation of the capitalists and the nationalization (socialization) of the means of production. But is not this demand unrealizable under the rule of the bourgeoisie? Quite so! That is why we must seize power.
The resolution of the Central Committee recognizes in passing that “the Party has not yet succeeded in organizing and extending the resistance to the offensive of capitalism,” but the resolution does not stop at all to consider the question why, in spite of the efforts of the Communist Party and the CGTU, the successes in the defensive economic struggles are completely insignificant. Millions of workers and wage earners participated in the general strike of February 12, which did not make any “immediate demands”. However, up to the present, only a small fraction of this number has participated in the defence against the offensive of capitalism. Does not this astonishingly clear fact lead the “leaders” of the Communist Party to draw any conclusion? Why is it that millions of workers risked participation in a general strike, in violent demonstrations in the streets, in battles with the Fascist gangs, but refuse to participate in strikes of a purely economic character?
“We must understand”, says the resolution, “the feelings which agitate the workers, who want to proceed to action.” We must understand, but the misfortune is that the authors of the resolution themselves understand nothing. Whoever goes to workers’ meetings knows as well as we that general talk about immediate demands usually leaves the audience in a state of complete indifference; on the other hand, clear and precise revolutionary slogans get a sympathetic response. This difference in the reaction of the masses characterizes the political situation in the country in the clearest possible manner.
“In the present period,” the resolution unexpectedly states, “the economic struggle requires heavy sacrifices on the part of the workers.” It ought to have added further: and it is only in exceptional cases that the sacrifices promise any positive results. However, the struggle for immediate demands has for its task the alleviation of the condition of the workers. By putting this economic struggle at the head of the list and by renouncing revolutionary slogans for its sake, the Stalinists no doubt believe that it is precisely the partial economic struggle which can best arouse large masses. The truth is just the opposite: the masses make hardly any response to appeals for strikes on a purely economic plane. In politics, how can anyone avoid facing the facts?
The masses understand or feel that, under the conditions of the crisis and of unemployment, partial economic conflicts require unheard of sacrifices which will never be justified in any case by the results obtained. The masses wait for and demand other and more efficacious methods. Messrs. strategists, learn from the masses: they are guided by a sure revolutionary instinct.
Basing themselves on badly assimilated citations from Lenin, the Stalinists repeat: “Strike struggles are possible even in times of crisis.” They do not understand that there are crises and crises. In the epoch when capitalism was on the ascendant, both industrialists and workers, even during an acute crisis, looked forward toward the next boom period. But the present crisis is the rule, not the exception. On the purely economic level, the working class is thrown into a disorderly retreat by the terrific pressure of the economic catastrophe. On the other hand, the decline of capitalism, with all its weight, pushes the proletariat on the road toward the revolutionary mass struggle for political power. However, the leadership of the Communist Party tries with all its force to bar this road. Thus in the hands of the Stalinists the program of “immediate demands” becomes an instrument for the disorientation and disorganization of the proletariat. But a political offensive (a struggle for power) with an active defence army (militia) would at once alter the relationship of class forces and would at the same time, even for the most backward layers of the working class, open up the possibility for a victorious economic struggle.
Capitalism in its death throes, as we know, also has its cycles, but these cycles are declining and diseased. Only the proletarian revolution can put an end to the crisis of the capitalist system. The cyclical crisis will inevitably give way to a new and brief upturn, if neither war nor revolution intervenes.
In case of an upturn in the business cycle, the strike struggles no doubt will have more extensive possibilities. This is why it is necessary to follow closely the movement of trade and industry, particularly the changes in employment, without capitulating to the meteorologists of the school of Jouhaux and all the while giving practical help to the workers in applying pressure to the capitalists at the necessary moment. But even in the case of extensive strike struggles it would be criminal to have them limited to partial economic demands. The upturn in the business cycle can be neither considerable nor of long duration, for we now are confronted with the cycle of a capitalism which is irremediably diseased. The new crisis, after a brief upturn, will be found to be more devastating than the present. All the fundamental problems will rise up anew with redoubled force and sharpness. If we lose time, the growth of Fascism will be found irresistible.
But today the economic upturn is no more than a hypothesis. The actuality is a deepening of the crisis, the two-year term of military service, the rearmament of Germany, the danger of war.
This actuality must be our point of departure.
The last idea in the programmatic resolution of the Central Committee worthily crowns the whole structure. Let us quote literally: “While fighting every day in order to relieve the toiling masses from the misery which the capitalist régime imposes upon them, the Communists emphasize that final emancipation can be gained only by the abolition of the capitalist régime and the setting up of the dictatorship of the proletariat.” This formula did not sound so bad at the dawn of Social Democracy half a century or more ago. At that time, and not without success, the Social Democracy guided the struggle of the workers for immediate demands and isolated reforms, for what they called the “minimum program”, all the time emphasizing that the final emancipation of the proletariat could be realized only by the revolution. The “final goal” of socialism was at that time seen across the cloudy distance of the years. It is this conception, which was completely outworn already at the beginning of the war, that the Central Committee of the Communist Party has unexpectedly transported into our epoch, repeating it word for word to the last comma. And these people invoke the names of Marx and Lenin!
When they “emphasize” that “the final emancipation” can be obtained only by the abolition of the capitalist régime they manipulate this elementary truth in order to deceive the workers. For they give the workers the idea that a certain alleviation, even an important alleviation in their condition can be obtained within the framework of the present régime. They picture rotting and declining capitalism in the same way that their fathers and grandfathers pictured robust and ascending capitalism. The fact is indisputable: the Stalinists have taken over the refuse of reformism.
The Marxist political thesis must be the following: “While explaining constantly to the masses that rotting capitalism has no place either for the alleviation of their situation or even for the maintenance of their customary level of misery, while putting openly before the masses the tasks of the socialist revolution as the immediate task of our day, while mobilizing the workers for the conquest of power, while defending the workers’ organizations with the help of the workers’ militia – the Communists (or the Socialists) will at the same time lose no opportunity to snatch this or that partial concession from the enemy, or at least to prevent the further lowering of the living standard of the workers.”
Compare this thesis carefully with the lines cited above from the resolution of the Central Committee. The difference, we hope, is clear. In one instance, Stalinism; in the other, Leninism. Between them lies an abyss.
Higher wages, collective bargaining, against inflation. But what about unemployment? The resolution of the Central Committee will come to our help here also. Let us quote:
“They (the Communists) demand public works. To this end, they have elaborated specific proposals adapted to each local and regional situation, and have prescribed the means for financing them (a capital levy, government loans, etc.).”
Isn’t this astonishing? This charlatan’s recipe is copied almost word for word from Jouhaux: the Stalinists reject the progressive demands of his “plan”, and adopt the most fantastic and utopian parts.
The principal productive forces of society are paralysed or half-paralysed by the crisis. The workers are in a stupor before the machines which they have created. Our saviour, the Central Committee, proposes: outside of the real capitalist economy, alongside it, we shall create another capitalist economy on the basis of “public works”.
Don’t let anyone tell us that we are dealing here with temporary undertakings: present unemployment does not have a temporary character; it is not merely cyclical unemployment, but structural unemployment, the most deadly expression of the decline of capitalism. To do away with it, the Central Committee proposes to create a system of public works adapted to each region of the country, with the help of a special system of financing, alongside of the disarranged finances of capitalism. In a word, the Central Committee of the Communist Party proposes quite simply that capitalism change its residence. And it is this “plan” that is counterposed to the struggle for power and a program of nationalization! There are no worse opportunists than frightened adventurists.
On the problem of how to get public works, a capital levy, government loans, etc., the resolution says not a word. No doubt, with the help of . petitions. This is the most opportune and the most efficacious method of action. Neither crises, nor Fascism, nor militarism, can put up a fight against petitions. Moreover, petitions will revive the paper industry and thus relieve unemployment. Let us take note: the organization of petitions is a fundamental part of the system of public works according to the plan of Thorez and company.
Whom are these people making fun of? Of themselves, or of the working class?
“It is astonishing that the proletariat endures passively such privations and such terror after a class struggle of more than a century.” On every occasion we hear this lofty phrase from the mouth of a Socialist or a Communist in his study. Is there insufficient resistance? The blame is put on the backs of the working masses. As if the parties and the unions stood apart from the proletariat and were not its organs of struggle! It is precisely because the proletariat, as the result of its more than a century-old struggles, has created its political and trade-union organizations, that it is difficult and almost impossible for it to carry on the struggle against capitalism without them and against them. What was built as the main spring of action has become a dead weight, a brake.
The whole situation imbues the workers with the idea that revolutionary actions are necessary to change all the conditions of existence. But precisely because it is a question of a decisive struggle, which must include millions of men, the initiative naturally rests with the directing organizations, with the working-class parties, with the United Front. From them must come a clear program, slogans, the mobilization for battle. In order to rouse the masses, the parties must themselves be aroused, and must launch a strenuous revolutionary campaign throughout the country. But the directing organizations, the Communist Party included, haven’t the courage. The Communist Party tosses its tasks and its responsibilities on to the masses. It wants millions of men, left by it without revolutionary leadership, to engage in isolated struggles for partial demands and to show sceptical bureaucrats that they are ready to do battle. Perhaps after that the big chiefs will consent to command an offensive. In place of directing the masses, the bureaucratic Central Committee examines the masses, flunks them, and thus justifies its own opportunism and cowardice.
During the time of relative economic and political stability in France (1929-33), the Central Committee of the Communist Party proclaimed the “Third Period”, and would not be satisfied with anything less than the conquest of the streets at the barricades. Now, at the time of the economic, social and political crisis, the same Central Committee is satisfied with a modest program of “immediate demands”. This absurd contradiction is the complex product of many factors: fright at former errors, inability to understand the masses, the bureaucratic habit of laying down a blue print for the proletariat – and, finally, intellectual anarchy, the result of zigzags, falsifications, lies and repressions without number.
The first author of the new program is, no doubt, the present “leader” of the Comintern, Béla Kun, who goes day by day further on the road from adventurism to opportunism. After reading in Lenin that the Bolsheviks were for strikes under certain conditions, and the Mensheviks against them, in the wink of an eye Béla Kun founded his “realistic” policies on this discovery. But to his misfortune, Béla Kun had not opened Lenin . at the right page.
During certain periods, purely economic strike struggles did in fact play an enormous role in the revolutionary movement of the Russian proletariat. Now, Russian capitalism was not rotting at that time, but was growing and advancing rapidly. The Russian proletariat was a virgin class, and the strikes were for it the first form of awakening and activity. Finally, the extensive spread of the strikes coincided each time with a rise in the business cycle.
None of these conditions exists in France. The proletariat has behind it a mighty schooling of revolution, of trade-union and parliamentary struggle, with the whole positive and negative heritage of this rich past. From this, one would hardly expect a spontaneous strike wave in France, even in a period of a rise in the business cycle, and still more so while the cyclical crisis deepens the misery of declining capitalism.
The other side of the question is not less important. At the time of the first impetuous strike wave in Russia, there was only a single fraction of the Russian Social Democracy which tried to restrict it to partial economic demands: this was the group called the “Economists”. In their opinion, it was necessary to reject the slogan, “Down with Autocracy!” until the appearance of a “revolutionary situation”. Lenin thought that the “Economists” were miserable opportunists. He showed that a revolutionary situation must be actively prepared, even during a strike movement.
In general, it is absurd to try to carry over mechanically into France the various stages and episodes of the Russian revolutionary movement. But it is even more absurd to do it after the manner of Béla Kun, who understands neither Russia, nor France, nor Marxism. In the school of Lenin, we must learn the method of action, and not try to change Leninism into citations and recipes, good for every occasion in life.
Thus, the situation in France, in the opinion of the Stalinists, is not revolutionary; revolutionary slogans, on this analysis, are out of place; we must concentrate all attention on economic strikes and on partial demands. This is the program. It is an opportunist and a lifeless program, but still, it’s a program.
Alongside it there is, however, another. L’Humanité repeats every day the triple slogan: “Peace, Bread, Freedom”. It was under this slogan, l’Humanité explains, that the Bolsheviks conquered in 1917. Following the example of the Stalinists, Just repeats the same idea. Very good. But in 1917, in Russia, there was a situation notoriously revolutionary. How then can this slogan, which assured the success of the proletarian revolution, be any good along with “immediate demands” in a non-revolutionary situation? Let the seers of l’Humanité explain this mystery to us simple mortals.
On our part, we recall that “immediate demands” reinforced the triple slogan of the Bolsheviks.
“For Peace”. That meant in 1917, under the war conditions, struggle against all the patriotic parties from the monarchists to the Mensheviks, the demand for the publication of the secret treaties, the revolutionary mobilization of the soldiers against the general staff, and fraternization at the front. “For Peace!” That meant defiance of the militarism of Austria and Germany on one side, and of the Allies on the other. The slogan of the Bolsheviks thus meant the most daring and revolutionary policy ever known in the history of mankind.
To “struggle” for peace in 1935, in alliance with Herriot and the bourgeois “pacifists” (that is to say, the hypocritical imperialists), means simply to uphold the status quo, which is satisfactory at the present moment to the French bourgeoisie. It means to put the workers to sleep and to demoralize them with illusions about “disarmament” and “non-aggression pacts”, with the lie of the League of Nations, while preparing a new capitulation of the working-class parties at the moment when the French bourgeoisie or its rivals choose to upset the status quo.
“For Bread!” That meant for the Bolsheviks in 1917 the expropriation of the land and of the grain reserves belonging to the landlords and speculators, and the monopoly of the grain trade in the hands of the workers’ and peasants’ government. What does “For Bread!” mean to the Stalinists in 1935? A mere verbal formula!
“For Freedom!” The Bolsheviks showed the masses that freedom was an illusion while schools, press and meeting halls remained in the hands of the bourgeoisie. “For Freedom!” meant: the seizure of power by the soviets, the expropriation of the landlords, workers’ control of production.
“For Freedom!” in alliance with Herriot and the old ladies of both sexes in the League for the Rights of Man means to uphold the semi-Bonapartist, semi-parliamentarian government, and that is all it can mean. The bourgeoisie needs right now not only the gangs of la Rocque, but likewise the “left” reputation of Herriot. Finance capital is busy arming the Fascists. The Stalinists are restoring the left reputation of Herriot with the help of the masquerading “People’s Front”. This is what the slogans of the October revolution are used for in 1935!
As the single example of the new style “realistic” policies, the resolution of the Central Committee tells how the unemployed of Villejuif are eating the Croix de Feu’s soup, and yelling: “To the stake with la Rocque!” How many are eating soup and how many yelling, they don’t tell us: the Stalinists are never able to endure figures. But that is not the question . To what point has a “revolutionary” party fallen when, in a programmatic resolution, it can find no other example of proletarian policies than the impotent yells of harassed and starving workers, forced to nourish themselves on the crumbs of Fascist philanthropy? And these leaders feel neither humiliated nor ashamed!
Once, while talking about certain of his disciples, Marx quoted the words of Heine: “I have sown dragons, and I have harvested fleas.” We are very much afraid that the founders of the Third International will have to repeat these same words . However, our epoch needs not fleas, but dragons.
The Struggle Against Fascism and the General Strike[edit source]
The program of the Communist International, written in 1928, during the period of the theoretical decline of the CI, states, “The epoch of imperialism is the epoch of capitalism in its death throes.” By itself, this statement, which was formulated by Lenin a long time ago, is absolutely incontestable, and is of decisive importance for the policies of the proletariat in our epoch. But the authors of the program of the Communist International failed utterly to understand the thesis on capitalism in its death throes or in decay, which they had mechanically adopted. This lack of comprehension stands revealed with especial clarity in respect to what is to us the most burning question, namely, Fascism.
The program of the Communist International has the following to say on this subject: “Side by side with the Social Democracy which assists the bourgeoisie to stifle the proletariat and to lull its vigilance, Fascism appears.” The Communist International failed to understand that it is not the mission of Fascism to function side by side with the Social Democracy, but to destroy all the existing workers’ organizations, including the reformist. The task of Fascism, in the words of the program, is to “annihilate the Communist strata of the proletariat, and their leading cadres.” Fascism, then, does not at all threaten the Social Democracy and the reformist trade unions; on the contrary, the Social Democracy itself plays a “Fascist” role to an ever increasing degree. Fascism achieves nothing more than the consummation of the labours of reformism, by functioning “side by side with the Social Democracy”.
We are quoting not from an article by some Thorez or Duclos who contradicts himself at every step, but from the basic document of the Communist International, its program. (See Chapter II, paragraph 3: The Crisis of Capitalism and Fascism.) We have here before us all the basic elements of the theory of social fascism. The leaders of the Communist International failed to understand that capitalism in decay is no longer able to come to terms with the most moderate and most servile Social Democracy, either as a party in power, or as a party in opposition. It is the mission of Fascism to take its place not “side by side with the Social Democracy”, but on its bones. Precisely from this there flows the possibility, the need and the urgency for the united front. But the miserable leadership of the Communist International made no attempt to apply the policy of the united front except during the period when it could not be forced upon the Social Democracy. As soon as the position of reformism was shaken, and when the Social Democracy began to fall under blows, the Communist International rejected the united front. These people have the grievous habit of wearing their overcoats in the summer and of venturing out in the winter without so much as a fig leaf!
Despite the instructive experience of Italy, the Communist International inscribed on its banner the genial aphorism of Stalin, “Social Democracy and Fascism are not opposites, they are twins.” Herein lies the main cause for the defeat of the German proletariat. True, the CI has made a sharp turn on the question of the united front: facts proved themselves more potent than the program. But the program of the Communist International has been neither suppressed, nor modified. Its fundamental mistakes have not been explained to the workers. The leaders of the Communist International, who have lost confidence in themselves, are preserving against possible eventualities an avenue of retreat towards the position of “social fascism”. This has invested the policy of the united front with its unprincipled, diplomatic and unstable character.
The inability to understand the meaning of Lenin’s thesis on “capitalism in its death throes” has invested the present policies of the French Communist Party with its character of noisy impotence, supplemented by reformist illusions. Although Fascism represents the organic product of capitalist decay, the Stalinists have suddenly become convinced of the possibility of putting an end to Fascism without touching the foundations of bourgeois society.
On March 6, Thorez wrote for the one hundredth time in l’Humanité:
“In order to assure the decisive defeat of Fascism, we again propose to the Socialist Party joint action in defence of immediate demands”
Every class conscious worker must ponder well this “programmatic” phrase. Fascism, as we know, is born out of the union between the despair of the middle classes and the terrorist policy of big capital. The “immediate demands” are those demands which do not transcend the framework of capitalism. How, then, by remaining upon the arena of capitalism in decay, is it possible to “assure the decisive (!) defeat” of Fascism?
When Jouhaux says that by putting an end to the crisis (easier said than done!) we shall by this very thing vanquish Fascism, Jouhaux, at least, remains faithful to himself: he is again as always the watchdog of the hopes in the regeneration and rejuvenation of capitalism. But the Stalinists recognize, verbally, the inevitability of the progressive degeneration of capitalism. How, then, can they promise to render the political superstructure healthy, by assuring the decisive defeat of Fascism, and at the same time leave intact the decaying economic base of society?
Do they suppose that big capital is capable of turning the wheels of history back at its whim, and once again resuming the road of concessions and “reforms”? Do they think that the petty bourgeoisie can be saved by means of “immediate demands” from growing ruin, from being declassed and from despair? And how then to reconcile these trade-union and reformist illusions with the thesis on capitalism in its death throes?
Taken on the theoretical plane, the position of the Communist Party sums up, as we have seen, to a most complete absurdity. Let us see how this position appears in the light of the actual struggle.
On February 28, Thorez expressed in the following words this very same central and radically false idea of the present policies of the Communist Party:
“To beat down Fascism decisively, it is necessary to put a halt, in no uncertain terms, to the economic offensive of capitalism against the living standards of the toiling masses.”
Why then the workers’ militia? What need of a direct struggle against Fascism? We must strive to raise the living standards of the masses, and Fascism will disappear, as if by magic.
Alas, along these lines, the entire perspective of the struggle immediately ahead is completely distorted, and the actual relationships are turned topsy-turvy. The capitalists arrive at Fascism not at their own whim, but through necessity: they cannot any longer preserve the private ownership of the means of production save by directing an offensive against the workers, save by strengthening the oppression, by sowing misery and despair around them. At the same time, fearing the inevitable resistance on the part of the workers, the capitalists, through the medium of their agents, arouse the petty bourgeoisie against the proletariat and, while accusing the latter of prolonging and aggravating the crisis, they finance Fascist gangs to annihilate the workers. Should the resistance of the workers to the offensive of capital increase on the morrow, should the strikes become more frequent and important, Fascism, despite what Thorez says, will not evaporate but instead grow with redoubled force. The growth of the strike movement will impel the mobilization of strikebreakers. All the “patriotic” thugs will participate in the movement. Daily attacks against the workers will be put on the order of the day. To close our eyes to this is to walk toward certain defeat.
Do you mean to say, Thorez and his colleagues will demand, that there must be no resistance? (And they will append the customary insults addressed to us, which we pass by as we would a cesspool.) No. It is necessary to resist.
We are no adherents of that school which thinks that the best means of safety lies in silence, retreat and capitulation. “Don’t provoke the enemy!” “Do not defend yourselves!” “Don’t arm yourselves!” “Roll over on your backs and play dead!” Theoreticians from among this school of strategy should be sought not among ourselves but among the editors of l’Humanité! It is necessary for the workers to resist if they do not wish to be annihilated. But in that case no reformist and pacifist illusion is permissible. The struggle will be ferocious. It is necessary to foresee beforehand the inevitable consequences of resistance and to prepare for them.
By its present offensive the bourgeoisie invests with a new and incommensurably more acute character the relation between the economic conditions and the social situation of capitalism in decay. Just so, the workers must invest their defence with a new character which corresponds to the methods of the class enemy. In defending ourselves against the economic blows of capital, we must know how to defend at the same time our organizations against the mercenary gangs of capital. It is impossible to do this save by means of the workers’ militia. No verbal assertions, no shrieks, no insult on the part of l’Humanité can invalidate this conclusion.
In particular we must say to the trade unions: comrades, your branches and your publications will be pillaged, your organizations reduced to dust, if you do not immediately proceed to the formation of trade-union defence squads (“trade-union militia”), if you do not demonstrate by actions that you will not surrender a single inch of Fascism without a struggle.
In the same article (Feb. 28), Thorez laments:
“The Socialist Party has not accepted our proposals for wide scale action, including the strike, against the decree laws which are being ever more enforced.”
Including the strike? What strike? Since the abolition of the decree laws is involved here, what Thorez apparently has in view are not partial economic strikes but a general strike, that is to say, a political strike. He does not utter the words “general strike” in order not to make it obvious that he is repeating our long-standing proposal. To what humiliating subterfuges must these poor people resort in order to mask their vacillations and contradictions!
This procedure has become, it seems, a method. In the open letter of March 12, the Central Committee of the Communist Party proposed to the Socialist Party to inaugurate a decisive campaign against the two-year term of military service, “through all methods available, including the strike”. Once again the same mystic formula! The Central Committee has in mind evidently the strike as an instrument of political struggle, that is to say, as a revolutionary weapon. But why then does it fear to utter aloud the word general strike and simply speak of “a strike”? With whom is the Central Committee playing hide and seek? Is it with the proletariat, or no?
But putting aside these unbecoming manoeuvres to maintain “prestige”, there remains the fact that the Central Committee of the Communist Party proposes the general strike for the struggle against the Bonapartist legislation of Doumergue-Flandin. With this we are in full accord. But we demand that the leaders of working-class organizations themselves understand and explain to the masses the meaning of the general strike under the present conditions as well as how it must be prepared.
Even an ordinary economic strike requires, as a rule, a militant organization, specifically, pickets. Under the present aggravated conditions of the class struggle, faced with the Fascist provocation and terror, a real organization of pickets is the essential prerequisite for all important economic struggles. Let us imagine, however, that some trade-union leader would assert, “Pickets are not necessary, that would be a provocation – self-defence will suffice the strikers!” Isn’t it obvious that the workers would amiably advise such a “leader” to go to a hospital; if not directly to an insane asylum? The fact is that pickets are precisely the most important organ of self-defence of the strikers!
Let us view more closely the line of reasoning relating to the general strike. We have in mind not an ordinary demonstration, nor a symbolic strike of an hour’s or even 24 hours’ duration, but a war manoeuvre, with the aim of forcing the enemy to submit. It is not difficult to understand what a terrific aggravation of the class struggle the general strike would imply under the present conditions! The Fascist gangs would sprout on all sides like mushrooms after a rain and they would attempt with all their might to bring confusion, provocation and demoralization among the ranks of the strikers. How else can we guard the general strike against needless sacrifices and even complete annihilation if not by means of military and strictly disciplined workers’ detachments? The general strike is the generalization of the partial strike. The workers’ militia is the generalization of the picket squads. Only windbags and pathetic braggarts can play with the idea of the general strike under the present conditions, and refuse at the same time to carry on the stubborn work for the creation of the workers’ militia!
But the wretched members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party do not stop with this.
The general strike, as every Marxist knows, is one of the most revolutionary methods of struggle. The general strike is not possible except at a time when the class struggle rises above particular and craft demands, and extends over all occupational and district divisions, and wipes away the lines and the parties, between legality and illegality, and mobilizes the majority of the proletariat in an active opposition to the bourgeoisie and the state. Nothing can be on a higher plane than the general strike, except the armed insurrection. The entire history of the working-class movement proves that every general strike, whatever may be the slogans under which it occurs, has an internal tendency to transform itself into an open revolutionary clash, into a direct struggle for power. In other words: the general strike is not possible except under the conditions of extreme political tension, and that is why it is always the incontestable expression of the revolutionary character of the situation. How then can the Central Committee propose a general strike in this case? “The situation is not a revolutionary one!”
Might not Thorez perhaps retort that he had in mind not a real general strike, but a little strike, quite peaceful, just exactly suited to the personal requirements of the editors of l’Humanité? Or perhaps may he not add indiscreetly that, foreseeing the refusal of the leaders of the SFIO, he risks nothing by proposing a general strike to them? But most probably Thorez, in refutation, will merely accuse us of entering into a conspiracy with Chiappe, ex-Alfonso XIII and the Pope: this is the sort of rejoinder that suits Thorez best!
But every Communist worker who has a head on his shoulders, must ponder over the crying contradictions of his hapless leaders: it is impossible, you see, to build workers’ militias because the situation is not revolutionary, it is impossible even to carry on propaganda in favour of the arming of the proletariat, that is to say, of preparing the workers for a revolutionary situation in the future; but it is possible, it appears, even today to call the workers to a general strike despite the absence of a revolutionary situation. In truth, we find transcended here all the boundaries of giddiness and absurdity!
At all meetings we hear the Communists repeating the slogan which they have inherited from the “Third Period” – “Soviets Everywhere!” It is absolutely clear that this slogan, if one takes it seriously, bears a profoundly revolutionary character: it is impossible to establish the soviet régime otherwise than by means of an armed insurrection against the bourgeoisie. But an armed insurrection presupposes arms in the hands of the proletariat. Thus the slogan of “soviets everywhere” and the slogan of “arming the workers” are intimately and indissolubly bound with one another. Why then is the former slogan being incessantly reiterated by the Stalinists while the latter is proclaimed a “Trotskyist provocation”?
Our bewilderment is all the more legitimate since the slogan of arming the workers most closely corresponds to the present political situation and the state of mind of the proletariat. The slogan of “soviets” is, by its very essence, offensive in character and presupposes a victorious revolution. The proletariat, however, finds itself today in a defensive situation. Fascism threatens it directly with physical annihilation. The necessity for defence, even with arms in hand, is actually more comprehensive and more within the grasp of the widest strata of the masses than the idea of a revolutionary offensive. Thus the slogan of arming could at the present stage count upon a response much greater and much more active than the slogan of soviets. How then could a working-class party, unless it has really betrayed the interests of the revolution, let slip so exceptional an opportunity and so dishonestly compromise the idea of arming instead of ardently popularizing it?
We are ready to allow that our question is prompted by our “counter-revolutionary” nature, in particular, by our hopes of provoking military intervention; everyone knows that as soon as the Mikado and Hitler become convinced by our question that air currents are whistling through the heads of Béla Kun and Thorez, they will declare war against the USSR.
All this has been irrefutably established by Duclos and needs no proof. But all the same, deign to reply: how can one come to soviet power without an armed insurrection? How can one come to an insurrection without arming the workers? How can one defend oneself against Fascism without arms? How can we achieve armament, even partial, without propaganda for this slogan?
But is the general strike possible in the immediate future? To a question of this sort there is no a priori answer possible, that is to say, none ready made. To obtain an answer it is necessary to know how to question. Whom? The masses. How question them? By means of agitation.
Agitation is not only the means of communicating to the masses this or that slogan, calling the masses to action, etc. For a party, agitation is also a means of lending an ear to the masses, of sounding out its moods and thoughts, and reaching this or another decision in accordance with the results. Only the Stalinists have transformed agitation into a noisy monologue. For the Marxists, the Leninists, agitation is always a dialogue with the masses.
But in order that this dialogue give the necessary results, the party must estimate correctly the general situation within the country and outline the general course of the immediate struggle. By means of agitation and probing the masses, the party must bring into its concepts the necessary corrections and exactitude, particularly in everything relating to the rhythm of the movement and the dates for major actions.
The situation in the country has been described above; it bears a pre-revolutionary character along with the non-revolutionary character of the leadership of the proletariat. And since the policy of the proletariat is the principal factor in the development of a revolutionary situation, the non-revolutionary character of the proletarian leadership checks the transformation of the pre-revolutionary situation into an open revolutionary situation and by this very thing contributes towards transforming it into a counter-revolutionary situation.
In objective reality there are, of course, no sharp boundaries between the different stages of the political process. One stage interpenetrates with another, and as a result of this the situation reveals various contradictions. These contradictions certainly make diagnosis and prognosis more difficult but they do not at all make it impossible.
The forces of the French proletariat remain not only un-exhausted, but are indeed still intact. Fascism as a political factor among the petty-bourgeois masses is relatively feeble as yet (much more powerful, nevertheless, than it seems to the parliamentarians). These two very important political facts allow us to say with firm conviction: nothing has been lost as yet, the possibility for transforming the pre-revolutionary situation into a revolutionary situation is still entirely open.
But in a capitalist country such as this there can be no revolutionary struggles without the general strike: if working men and women remain in the factories during the decisive days, who then will do the fighting? Thus, the general strike is on the order of the day.
But the question of the moment for the general strike is the question of knowing whether the masses are prepared to struggle and whether the workers’ organizations are ready to lead them to battle.
Is it true, however, that the only thing lacking is the revolutionary leadership? Does not there exist a great force for conservatism within the masses themselves, within the proletariat? Such voices are raised from different sides. And there is nothing astonishing about it! When a revolutionary crisis approaches, many leaders, fearful of the responsibilities, hide themselves behind the pseudo-conservatism of the masses. History has taught us how a few weeks, even a few days prior to the October insurrection, such distinguished Bolsheviks as Zinoviev, Kamenev and Rykov (it is needless to mention such people as Lozovsky, Manuilsky, etc.) asserted that the masses were worn out, and did not want to fight. And yet as revolutionists, Zinoviev. Kamenev and Rykov tower in stature far above the Cachins, Thorezes and Monmousseaus.
Whoever declares that the proletariat does not want to wage or is incapable of waging a revolutionary struggle, himself spreads calumny by ascribing his own feebleness and his own cowardice to the toiling masses. Up to the present moment there has been not a single case either in Paris or the provinces where the masses remained deaf to a call from above.
The greatest example in point is the general strike of February 12, 1934. Despite the complete division of the leadership, the lack of any serious preparation, the tenacious efforts of the leaders of the CGT to reduce the movement to a minimum, since they could not evade it altogether, the general strike achieved the greatest success possible under the given conditions. It is clear that the masses want to struggle. Every class-conscious worker must say to himself that the pressure from below must have been extremely powerful if Jouhaux himself had to bestir for a moment out of his immobility. True, involved here was not a general strike in the proper meaning of the term, but only a 24-hour demonstration. But this restriction was not put by the masses; it was dictated from above.
The demonstration of February 10 of this year in the Place de la République confirms the very same conclusion. The only weapon which the leading centres utilized to prepare for it was the cold water bucket. The only slogan which the masses heard was, “Hush! Hush!” And nevertheless the number of demonstrators surpassed all expectations. In the provinces things have been and remain during the past year in exactly the same state. It is impossible to adduce a single serious fact that would prove that the leaders wanted to struggle and the masses refused to follow them. Always and everywhere just the reverse relationship is to be observed. It preserves its full force even today. The rank and file want to fight, the tops apply the brake. It is here that the chief danger lies and it may end in a real catastrophe.
The same relationship is to be found not only between the parties (or the trade unions) and the proletariat but also within each of the parties. Thus Frossard has not the least support among the rank and file in the SFIO; the only ones who support him are the deputies and the mayors who want everything to remain as in the past. On the other hand, Marceau Pivert, thanks to his stand which is becoming more and more clear and resolute, has become one of the most popular figures with the rank and file. We recognize this all the more readily since we have never renounced in the past, as we shall not refrain in the future, from speaking out openly when we are not in agreement with Pivert.
Taken as a political symptom this fact by its importance far transcends the question of personalities of Frossard and Pivert: it indicates the general tendency of development. The rank and file of the Socialist Party, as of the Communist Party, is more to the left, more revolutionary, more audacious than the upper crust: this is precisely why it is ready to place confidence only in the left-wing leaders. Still more: it is pushing the sincere Socialist always further to the left. Why does the rank and file itself become radicalized! Because it finds itself in direct contact with the masses of the population, with their misery, their revolt and their hatred. This is an infallible symptom. We can rely on it.
The leaders of the Communist Party can, indeed, cite the fact that the masses failed to respond to their appeals. But this fact does not invalidate, instead it confirms our analysis. The working masses understand what the “leaders” do not understand, that is to say, that under the conditions of a very great social crisis, a partial economic struggle alone, which requires enormous efforts and enormous sacrifices, cannot achieve any serious results. Worse yet, it can weaken and exhaust the proletariat. The workers are ready to participate in fighting demonstrations and even in a general strike but not in petty, exhausting strikes, without any perspective. Despite the appeals, manifestos and articles in l’Humanité, the Communist agitators hardly appear at all before the masses to preach strikes in the name of “partial immediate demands”. They sense that the bureaucratic plans of their leaders do not correspond at all either to the objective situation or the mood of the masses. Without great perspectives, the masses cannot and will not begin to struggle. The policy of l’Humanité is the policy of an artificial and false pseudo-“realism”. The failure of the CGTU in calling partial strikes is the indirect but very actual confirmation of the profundity of the crisis and of the moral tension in the workers’ districts.
One should not think, however, that the radicalization of the masses will proceed by itself, automatically. The working class waits for initiative on the part of its organizations. When it arrives at the conclusion that its expectations have been false – and this moment is, perhaps, not so very distant – the process of radicalization will break off and be transformed into manifestations of discouragement, apathy and isolated explosions of despair. At the periphery of the proletariat, anarchist tendencies impinge upon Fascist tendencies. The wine will turn to vinegar.
The shifts in the political mood of the masses demand the greatest attention possible. To probe this living dialectic at every stage – that is the task of agitation. So far, the United Front criminally continues to lag behind the development of the social crisis and the mood of the masses. It is still possible to make up for lost time. But we must not lose any more time. Today history is to be reckoned not in terms of years, but in months and weeks.
To determine to what degree the masses are ripe for the general strike and at the same time to strengthen the militant mood of the masses, it is necessary to place before them a program of revolutionary action. Partial slogans such as the abolition of the Bonapartist decree laws and of the two-year term of military service will find, of course, an important place in such a program. But these two episodic slogans are entirely inadequate.
Above all the tasks and partial demands of our epoch there stands the QUESTION OF POWER. Since February 6, 1934, the question of power has been openly posed as a question of armed force. The municipal and parliamentary elections can be of importance insofar as the evaluation of forces is concerned – but nothing more. The question will be settled by the open conflict between the two camps. Governments of the type of Doumergue-Flandin, etc., occupy the forefront only up to the day of the decisive climax. On the morrow, either Fascism or the proletariat will govern France.
It is precisely because the present intermediate state régime is extremely unstable, that the general strike can achieve very great partial successes by forcing the government to take to the road of concessions on the question of the Bonapartist decree laws, the two-year term of military service, etc. But such a success, extremely valuable and important in itself, will not re-establish the equilibrium of “democracy”: finance capital will redouble its subsidies to Fascism, and the question of power, perhaps after a brief interlude, will be posed with redoubled force.
The fundamental importance of the general strike, independent of the partial successes which it may and then again may not provide, lies in the fact that it poses the question of power in a revolutionary manner. By shutting down the factories, transport, generally all the means of communication, power stations, etc., the proletariat by this very act paralyses not only production but also the government. The state power remains suspended in mid-air. It must either subjugate the proletariat by famine and force and constrain it, to set the apparatus of the bourgeois state once again in motion, or retreat before the proletariat.
Whatever may be the slogans and the motive for which the general strike is initiated, if it includes the genuine masses, and if these masses are quite resolved to struggle, the general strike inevitably poses before all the classes in the nation the question: Who will be the master of the house?
The leaders of the proletariat must understand this internal logic of the general strike, unless they are not leaders but dilettantes and adventurers. Politically this implies that from now on the leaders will continue to pose before the proletariat the task of the revolutionary conquest of power. If not, they must not venture to speak of the general strike. But by renouncing the general strike, they renounce thereby all revolutionary struggle, that is to say, they betray the proletariat to Fascism.
Either complete capitulation or revolutionary struggle for power – such is the alternative which flows from all the conditions of the present crisis. Whoever has not understood this alternative, has no business in the camp of the proletariat.
The question of the general strike is complicated by the fact that the CGT proclaims that it has a monopoly on declaring and conducting the general strike. From this it follows that this question does not at all concern the working-class parties. And at first sight, what is most astonishing is that there are to be found Socialist parliamentarians who consider this claim to be quite in order: in reality, they merely wish to rid themselves of the responsibility.
The general strike, as the name itself already indicates, has for its goal the inclusion, in so far as it is possible, of the entire proletariat. The CGT includes in its ranks probably not more than 5 to 8 per cent of the proletariat. The influence of the CGT itself outside the confines of the trade unions is absolutely insignificant to the extent that on general questions it does not equal the influence of the working-class parties. Is it possible, for example, to compare the influence of Le Peuple to the influence of Le Populaire or l’Humanité?
The leadership of the CGT, in its conceptions and methods, is incomparably still further away from the tasks of the present epoch than the leadership of the working-class parties. The lower one passes from the upper crust of the apparatus to the rank and file of the trade unions, the less confidence one finds in Jouhaux and his group. The lack of confidence changes more and more into open distrust. The present conservative apparatus of the CGT will be inevitably swept away by the subsequent development of the revolutionary crisis.
The general strike is, by its very essence, a political act. It opposes the working class, as a whole, to the bourgeois state. It assembles together union and non-union workers, Socialists, Communists and non-party men. It requires an apparatus with a press and agitators, such as the CGT alone does not have at its disposal.
The general strike poses directly the question of the conquest of power by the proletariat. The CGT has turned and is turning its back on this task (the leaders of the CGT turn their faces towards the bourgeois power). The leaders of the CGT themselves know that the leadership of the general strike is beyond their forces. If they, nevertheless, proclaim their monopoly to direct it, it is solely because they hope in this way to stifle the general strike even before its birth.
And what about the general strike of February 12, 1934? It was only a brief and peaceful demonstration imposed upon the CGT by the Socialist and Communist workers. Jouhaux and his colleagues themselves took over the nominal leadership of the resistance precisely in order to prevent it from transforming itself into a revolutionary general strike.
In its instructions to its propagandists, the CGT said, “On the morrow after February 6th, the labouring population and all the democratic elements, at the appeal of the CGT, demonstrated their firm will to bar the road to the factionalists.” On its own part, the CGT took note neither of the Socialists nor of the Communists – only of the “democrats”. In this single phrase, Jouhaux is summed up. That is precisely why it would be criminal to place confidence in Jouhaux to decide the question of knowing whether it should or should not be a revolutionary struggle.
Of course in the preparation and conduct of the general strike the trade unions will play a very influential role; yet not by virtue of a monopoly, but side by side with the working-class parties. From the revolutionary standpoint it is particularly important to collaborate intimately with local trade-union organizations without the slightest injury, of course, to their autonomy. As regards the CGT, it will either take its place in the common proletarian front by cutting away from the “democrats”, or remain on the sidelines. Shall we co-operate loyally with equal rights? Yes! Shall we decide jointly the time and the methods of conducting the general strike? Yes! Shall we recognize Jouhaux’s monopoly to stifle the revolutionary movement? Never!
Socialism and Armed Struggle[edit source]
On February 6, 1935, the Fascist leagues prepared to demonstrate on the Place de la Concorde. And what did the United Front and, in particular, the Central Committee of the Communist Party do? It called the workers of Paris to demonstrate at the Place de la Concorde at the same time as the Fascists. Were the Fascists perhaps to be without arms? No. After a year’s time they were armed twofold. Did the Central Committee of the Communist Party propose adequately to arm the defence squads? Oh, no. The Central Committee is against “putschism” and “physical struggle”. How, then, is it possible to throw tens of thousands of workers without arms, without preparation, without defence, against Fascist gangs excellently drilled and armed who bear a bloody hatred towards the revolutionary proletariat?
Let no malicious people tell us that the Central Committee of the Communist Party did not want to place the workers under the guns of the Fascists; that its sole desire was to give Flandin a convenient pretext to prohibit the Fascist demonstration. For that is worse yet. The Central Committee of the Communist Party, it then appears, gambled with the heads of the workers, and the outcome of this gamble depended entirely upon Flandin, more exactly upon the chiefs of police from the school of Chiappe. And what would have been the outcome had the police prefecture decided to profit by the excellent occasion and teach the revolutionary workers a lesson through the medium of the Fascists, moreover making responsibility for the butchery fall upon the leaders of the United Front? It is not difficult to imagine the consequences! While no bloody massacre resulted this particular time, in the event of the continuation of the same policy, it will result inevitably and infallibly upon the next similar occasion.
The conduct of the Central Committee was the purest form of bureaucratic adventurism. Marxists have always taught that opportunism and adventurism are two sides of one and the same coin. February 6, 1935 has shown us with remarkable clarity how easily the coin may be reversed.
“We are against putschism, against insurrectionism!” Otto Bauer used to repeat year after year and spared no effort to rid himself of the Schutzbund (Workers’ Militia) which was left as a heritage by the 1918 revolution. The powerful Austrian Social Democracy retreated in a cowardly manner, it adapted itself to the bourgeoisie, it retreated again, issued foolish “petitions”, created a false appearance of struggle, placed its hopes upon its own Flandin (his name was Dollfuss), surrendered position after position, and when it saw itself at the bottom of abyss it began to shriek hysterically, “Workers, to the rescue!” The best militants, without any contact with the masses who were disoriented, overwhelmed and duped, threw themselves into the struggle and suffered an inevitable defeat. After which, Otto Bauer and Julius Deutsch declared: “We behaved like revolutionaries but the proletariat did not support us!”
The events in Spain unfolded after a similar pattern. The Social-Democratic leaders called the workers to an insurrection after they had surrendered to the bourgeoisie all the conquered revolutionary positions, and after they had exhausted the popular masses by their policy of retreat. The professional “anti-putschists” found themselves compelled to call for armed defence under such conditions as invested it to a large degree with the character of a “putsch”.
February 6, 1935 was a minor repetition in France of the events in Austria and Spain. During the course of several months the Stalinists lulled and demoralized the workers, they ridiculed the slogan for the militia and “rejected” the physical struggle. Then all of a sudden, without the slightest preparation they commanded the proletariat, “To the Place de la Concorde. Forward, march!” This time the good Langeron saved them. But if on the morrow, when the atmosphere will become hotter still, the Fascist thugs should assassinate scores of workers’ leaders or set fire to l’Humanité – who will declare that this is improbable? – the wise Central Committee will infallibly shriek out, “Workers, to arms!” And then, either when committed to a concentration camp, or while promenading along the streets of London, if they get that far, the same leaders will haughtily declare, “We called for the insurrection, but the workers did not support us!”
The secret of success, obviously, is not in the “physical struggle” itself but in correct policies. But we call correct that policy which meets the conditions of the time and place. By itself, the workers’ militia does not solve the problem. But the workers’ militia is an integrally necessary part of the policy which meets the conditions of the time and place. It would be absurd to shoot guns over a ballot box. But it would be still more absurd to defend oneself against Fascist gangs with a ballot.
The initial nuclei of the workers’ militia will inevitably be weak, isolated and inexperienced. Pedants and sceptics shake their heads with scorn. There will be found, cynics who will not be ashamed to poke fun at the idea of workers’ militia in a conversation with the journalists of the Comité des Forges. If they think thus to insure themselves against concentration camps they are fooling themselves. Imperialism has no use for the grovelling of this or that leader; it must annihilate the class.
When Guesde and Lafargue, as youths, began to agitate for Marxism they appeared in the eyes of sage philistines to be impotent, solitary, and naïve utopians. Nevertheless it was they who excavated the channel for that movement which carried along so many parliamentary routinists. Within the literary, trade-union and co-operative spheres, the first steps of the working-class movement were feeble, tottering, very uncertain. But despite its poverty, the proletariat, thanks to its numbers and its spirit of self-sacrifice, has created mighty organizations.
The armed organization of the proletariat, which at the present moment coincides almost entirely with the defence against Fascism, is a new branch of the class struggle. The first steps here too will be inexperienced and maladroit. We must expect mistakes. It is even impossible to escape completely from provocation. The selection of the cadres will be achieved little by little and this all the more surely, all the more solidly, as the militia is closer to the factories where the workers know one another well. But the initiative must necessarily come from above. The party can and must provide the initial cadres. The trade unions must also take to this same road – and they will inevitably take it. The cadres will become fused and strengthened all the more rapidly as they meet with an increasing sympathy and increasing support within the workers’ organizations, and afterwards within the masses of the toilers.
What are we to say about those gentlemen who, in the guise of sympathy and support, vilify and poke fun at or, worse yet, depict to the class enemy the detachments of working-class self-defence as detachments of “insurrection” and of “putsch”? See in particular the Combat (?) Marxiste (!). The witty and half-witted pedants, the theoretical lieutenants of Jouhaux, led by the Russian Mensheviks, ridicule maliciously the first steps of the workers’ militia. It is impossible to give these gentlemen any other name save that of direct enemies of the proletarian revolution.
But here the conservative routinists interject their final argument: “Do you really think that by means of squads of poorly-armed militia of the proletariat you can conquer power, that is to say, win a victory over the army with its modern technique (with its tanks; aeroplanes! poison gases!!)?” It is difficult to conceive of an argument more hollow and trite, which, moreover, has been a hundred times refuted by theory and by history. Nevertheless it is served up each time as the last word of “realistic” thought.
Even if we allow for a moment that the detachments of militia will tomorrow turn out to be inept in the struggle for power, they are none the less necessary today for the defence of the workers organizations. The leaders of the CGT reject, as every one knows, all struggle for power. This does not at all hinder the Fascists from annihilating the CGT. The trade unionists who do not take timely defence measures commit a crime against the trade unions, regardless of their political orientation.
Let us inspect more closely, however, the chief argument of the pacifists: “The armed detachments of workers are powerless against a contemporary army.” This “argument” is aimed, fundamentally, not against the militia but against the very idea of proletarian revolution. Should one allow for a moment that the army, equipped to its teeth, will under all conditions be found on the side of big capital, then one must renounce not only the workers’ militia but socialism in general. Then capitalism is eternal.
Fortunately, this is not so. The proletarian revolution presupposes the extreme aggravation of the class struggle in city and country and consequently also within the army. The revolution will not gain victory until it has won over to its side, or has at least neutralized, the basic nucleus of the army. This victory, however, cannot be improvised: it must be systematically prepared.
At this point the pacifist doctrinaire will interrupt us in order to express agreement (in words). “Obviously”, he will say, “it is necessary to win over the army by means of sustained propaganda. But that is what we are doing. The struggle against the high death rate in the barracks, against the two-year term, against war – the success of this struggle makes needless the arming of the workers.”
Is this true? No, it is fundamentally false. A peaceful, placid conquest of the army is even less possible than the peaceful winning of a parliamentary majority. Already the very moderate campaigns against the death rate in the barracks and against the two-year term are leading without any question to an understanding between the patriotic leagues and the reactionary officers, to a direct conspiracy on their part and also to a redoubled payment of the subsidies which finance capital gives to the Fascists. The more successful the anti-militarist agitation becomes, the more rapid will be the growth of the Fascist danger. Such is the actual, and not fanciful, dialectic of the struggle. The conclusion is that, in the very process of the propaganda and of the preparation, we must know how to defend ourselves arms in hand, and more and more vigorously.
During the revolution, inevitable oscillations will occur in the army, an internal struggle will take place. Even the most advanced sections will not go over openly and actively to the side of the proletariat unless they see with their own eyes that the workers want to fight and are able to win. The task of the Fascist detachments will be to prevent the rapprochement between the revolutionary proletariat and the army. The Fascists will strive to annihilate the workers’ insurrection at its outset in order to destroy among the best sections of the army any idea of the possibility of supporting the insurgents. At the same time the Fascists will come to the aid of reactionary detachments of the army to disarm the most revolutionary and the least “reliable” regiments.
What will be our task in this case?
It is impossible to tell in advance the concrete course of the revolution in any given country. But we can, on the basis of the entire experience of history, state with certainty that the insurrection in no case and in no country will assume the character of a mere duel between the workers’ militia and the army. The relationship of forces will be much more complex and immeasurably more favourable to the proletariat. The workers’ militia – not by its armaments but by its class consciousness and heroism – will be the vanguard of the revolution. Fascism will be the vanguard of the counter-revolution. The workers’ militia, with the support of the entire class, with the sympathy of all the toilers, will have to smash, disarm and terrorize the bandit gangs of reaction and thus open up the avenue to the workers for revolutionary fraternization with the army. The alliance of workers and soldiers will be victorious over the counter-revolutionary section. Thus victory will be assured.
The sceptics shrug their shoulders with scorn. But the sceptics have made the same gestures in the past on the eve of all victorious revolutions. The proletariat would do well to invite the sceptics to run away before things start. Time is too precious to explain music to the deaf, colours to the blind and the socialist revolution to sceptics.
The Proletariat, the Peasantry, the Army, the Women, the Youth[edit source]
Jouhaux has borrowed the idea of the plan from de Man. Both of them have the very same goal in mind; to disguise the final collapse of reformism and to instil new hopes in the proletariat, in order to sidetrack it away from revolution.
Neither de Man nor Jouhaux are the inventors of their “plans”. They merely took fundamental demands from the Marxist program of the transition period – the nationalization of banks and key industries, threw overboard the class struggle, and in place of the revolutionary expropriation of the expropriators substituted the financial operation of purchasing.
The power must remain, as previously, in the hands of the “people”, that is to say, of the bourgeoisie. But the state purchases the most important branches of industry (we are not told which ones precisely) from their present proprietors, who become parasitic bond-holders for two or three generations: the pure and simple private-capitalist exploitation is replaced by an indirect exploitation through the medium of state capitalism.
Since Jouhaux understands very well that even this emasculated program of nationalization is absolutely unfeasible without a revolutionary struggle, he announces in advance that he is ready to change his “Plan” into the small change of parliamentary reforms after the manner of planned economy now in fashion. The ideal of Jouhaux would be to scale down the entire operation, by means of arrangements made behind the scenes, to the seating of the trade-union bureaucrats in the different economic and industrial boards without power and without authority but with suitable fees.
It is not without good cause that Jouhaux’s plan – his actual plan, which he hides behind the paper “Plan” – has received the support of the Neo-Socialists and even the approval of Herriot! However, the sober ideal of “independent” trade unionism cannot be materialized unless the working masses submit to bondage. But what if the capitalist decline continues? Then the plan, which was projected to sidetrack the workers away from “evil thoughts”, can become the banner of a revolutionary movement.
Obviously frightened by the Belgian example, Jouhaux made haste to retreat. The most important point on the agenda of the National Committee of the CGT in the middle of March – propaganda for the plan – was unexpectedly shuffled away. If this manoeuvre proved more or less successful, the blame for it falls entirely upon the leadership of the united front.
The leaders of the CGT projected their “Plan” in order to obtain the possibility for competing with the parties of the revolution. Thereby Jouhaux has demonstrated that, following in the wake of his bourgeois inspirers, he estimates the situation as revolutionary (in the wide sense of the word). But the revolutionary adversary has not appeared upon the arena. Jouhaux decided not to involve himself further on a course which is full of risks. He retreated and today he is biding his time.
In January the Central Committee of the Socialist Party proposed to the Communist Party a joint struggle for power under the slogan of the socialization of banks and heavy industry. Had there been revolutionists seated in the Central Committee of the Communist Party, they would have grabbed this proposal with both hands. By opening a large scale campaign for power they would have accelerated the revolutionary mobilization within the SFIO, and at the same time they would have compelled Jouhaux to carry on an agitation of his “Plan”. By following this course the CGT could have been forced to take its place in the United Front. The specific weight of the French proletariat would have increased greatly.
But within the Central Committee of the Communist Party preside not revolutionists but mandarins. “There is no revolutionary situation,” they responded, contemplating their navels. The reformists of the SFIO sighed with relief – the danger was over. Jouhaux made haste to withdraw, from the agenda, the question of propaganda for the plan. The proletariat remains in a great social crisis without any program. The Communist International has played a reactionary role once again.
The crisis of agriculture provides today the principal reservoir for the Bonapartist and Fascist tendencies. When misery seizes the peasant by the throat he is capable of turning the most unexpected somersaults. He views democracy with a growing distrust.
“The slogan of the defence of democratic liberties”, wrote Monmousseau (Cahiers du bolchevisme, September 1, 1934, page 1017), “perfectly suits the spirit of the peasantry.” This remarkable assertion demonstrates that Monmousseau understands as little concerning the peasant question as he does concerning the trade-union question. The peasants are beginning to turn their backs to the parties of the “left” precisely because the latter are incapable of proposing anything to them except frothy phrases about “the defence of democracy”.
No program of “immediate demands” can give any serious results to the village. The proletariat must speak the language of the revolution to the peasants: it will not find another language in common. The workers must draw up a program of revolutionary measures for the salvation of agriculture jointly with the peasants.
The peasants dread war above all. Should we, perhaps, together with Laval and Litvinov delude them with hopes in a League of Nations and in “disarmament"? The only way to escape war is by overthrowing one’s own bourgeoisie and by sounding the signal for the transformation of Europe into the United States of Workers’ and Peasants’ Republics. Outside of revolution, there is no safety from war.
The toiling peasants are overwhelmed by the usurious terms of credit. There is only one way to change these conditions: expropriate the banks, concentrate them in the hands of the workers’ state and, at the expense of the financial sharks, provide credit to small peasants and to peasant co-operatives in particular. Peasant control must be established over agricultural banks of credit.
The peasants are subjected to the exploitation of the fertilizer and grain trusts. There is no way out other than the nationalization of fertilizer trusts and the big flour mills, and of subordinating them completely to the interests of peasants and consumers.
The various strata of the peasantry (the tenant farmers and the sharecroppers) are crushed beneath the exploitation of the great landed proprietors. There is no method of struggle against landed usury other than the expropriation of the landed usurers by peasants’ committees under the control of the workers’ and peasants’ state.
None of these measures is realizable under the rule of the bourgeoisie. Meagre charity will not save the peasant, he has no use for palliatives. He needs bold revolutionary measures. The peasant will understand them, approve them and support them, if the worker makes him a serious proposal to struggle jointly for power.
We must not wait for the petty bourgeoisie to decide for itself but we must mould its opinions, strengthen its will – that is the task of the working-class party. It is solely in this that the union of workers and peasants can be achieved.
The mood of the majority of the army officers reflects the reactionary mood of the ruling classes of the country, but in a much more concentrated form. The mood of the mass of the soldiery reflects the mood of the workers and peasants, but in a much weaker form: the bourgeoisie knows much better how to maintain contact with the officers than the proletariat with the soldiers.
Fascism impresses the officers very much because its slogans are resolute and because it is prepared to settle difficult questions by means of pistols and machine guns. We have quite a few disjointed reports regarding the tie-up between the Fascist leagues and the army through the medium of reserve as well as active officers, yet we obtain knowledge only of a minute portion of what is going on in reality. Today the rule of re-enlisted men in the army is growing. In them the reaction will find quite a number of supplementary agents. The Fascist nucleus of the army, under the protection of the general staff, is marching ahead.
The young class-conscious workers in the barracks could put up a successful resistance to the demoralizing Fascist influence. But the great misfortune is that they are themselves politically disarmed: they have no program. The unemployed youth, the son of a small peasant, of a small trader or of a petty functionary, carry into the army the discontent of the social strata from which they come. What will the Communist in the barracks say to them – “the situation is not revolutionary"? The Fascists pillage the Marxist program, successfully transforming certain of its sections into an instrument of social demagogy. The “Communists” (?) as a matter of fact, disown their own program, substituting for it the rotten refuse of reformism. Can one conceive of a more fraudulent bankruptcy?
L’Humanité concentrates upon “the immediate demands” of the soldiers: that is necessary but that is only one one-hundredth of the program. Today more than ever before the army lives a political life. Every social crisis is necessarily a crisis in the army. The French soldier is waiting and seeking for clear answers. There is not and there cannot be a better answer to the questions of the social crisis and a better rejoinder to the demagogy of the Fascists than the program of Socialism. It is necessary to spread it boldly throughout the country, and it will penetrate through a thousand channels into the army!
The social crisis, with its train of calamities, weighs most heavily upon the toiling women. They are doubly oppressed: by the possessing class and by their own families.
There are to be found “socialists” who dread giving the women the right to vote in view of the influence which the Church has upon them. As if the fate of the people depended upon a lesser or greater number of municipalities of the “left” in 1935, and not upon the moral, social and political position of millions of workers and peasants during the next period!
Every revolutionary crisis is characterized by the awakening of the best qualities in the women of the toiling classes: their passion, their heroism, their devotion. The influence of the Church will be swept away not by the impotent rationalism of the “free thinkers”, not by the insipid bigotry of the Freemasons, but by the revolutionary struggle for the emancipation of humanity and, consequently, first of all, of the working woman.
The program of the socialist revolution must resound in our time as the tocsin for the women of the working class!
The most terrible condemnation of the leadership of the political and trade-union working-class organizations is the weakness of the youth organizations. In the sphere of philanthropy, amusements and sports, the bourgeoisie and the Church are incomparably stronger than we are. We cannot tear away the working-class youth from them except by means of the socialist program and revolutionary action.
The young generation of the proletariat needs a political leadership but not irksome guardians. The conservative bureaucratism stifles and repels the youth. Had the régime of the Young Communist League existed in 1848, we would not have had the Gavroche. The policies of passivity and adaptation reflect in a particularly disastrous fashion upon the cadres of the youth. The young bureaucrats grow old before their time: they master all sorts of behind-the-scenes manoeuvres, but they do not know the ABC of Marxism. They embrace “convictions” upon this or another occasion, depending upon the exigencies of the manoeuvre. Those among us who participated in the last congress of the Seine Alliance have seen plenty of this type.
It is necessary to pose the problem of the revolution in its full scope before the working-class youth. In addressing ourselves to the younger generation we must know how to appeal to its audacity and its courage without which nothing great has ever been achieved in history. The revolution will open the gates wide for the youth. The youth cannot fail to be for the revolution!
Why the Fourth International?[edit source]
In its letter to the National Council of the Socialist Party, the Central Committee of the Communist Party proposed as the basis for unification “the program of the Communist International, which has led to the victory of socialism in the USSR, whereas the program of the Second International was unable to stand up to the tragic test of the war and resulted in the disastrous balance sheet of Germany and Austria”. Revolutionary Marxists announced in August 1914, that the Second International had failed. All subsequent events have only confirmed this estimate. But in showing the incontestable bankruptcy of the Social Democracy in Germany and Austria, the Stalinists forgot to reply to one question: what became of the German and Austrian sections of the Communist International? The German Communist Party fell before the test of history as ignominiously as the German Social Democracy. Why? The German workers wanted to struggle, and believed that “Moscow” would lead them to battle; they were moving steadily to the left. The German Communist Party was growing rapidly; in Berlin it was larger than the Social-Democratic Party. But before the hour of test came, it was ravaged from within. The stifling of the interior life of the party, the wish to give orders instead of to convince, the zigzag policies, the appointment of leaders from the top, the system of lies and deception for the masses – all this demoralized the party to its marrow. When danger approached, the party was found to be a corpse. It is impossible to erase this fact from history.
After the shameful capitulation of the Communist International in Germany, the Bolshevik-Leninists, without hesitating a moment, proclaimed: the Third International is dead! There is no need to recall the insults that were thrown at us by the Stalinists in all countries. L’Humanité, even after Hitler’s definitive victory, kept saying in issue after issue: “There has been no defeat in Germany”; “Only renegades will talk about defeat”; “The German Communist Party is growing by the hour”: “The party of Thälmann is getting ready for the seizure of power”. There is nothing surprising in the fact that this criminal bombast in the face of the greatest of historical catastrophes has still further demoralized the other sections of the Communist International. An organization which has lost the capacity of learning from its own defeats is irrevocably condemned.
Proof was not long in coming. The Saar plebiscite was, we might say, an experiment expressly designed to show how much confidence the German proletariat had left in the Second and Third Internationals. The results are known: facing the necessity of choosing between the triumphant violence of Hitler and the rotten impotence of the bankrupt working-class parties, the masses gave Hitler 90 per cent of their votes and (if we leave out the Jewish bourgeoisie, certain interested business men, the pacifists, etc.) probably no more than 7 per cent to the united front of the Second and Third Internationals. This is the combined balance sheet of reformism and Stalinism. Alas for those who have not understood this lesson!
The working masses voted for Hitler because they saw no other road. The parties which for decades had aroused and organized them in the name of socialism, deceived and betrayed them. That is the general conclusion that the workers came to. If the flag of the socialist revolution had been raised higher in France, the Saar proletariat would have turned its eyes to the West and would have put class solidarity above national solidarity. But, unfortunately, the crow of the French cock did not announce a revolutionary dawn to the people of the Saar. Under cover of the United Front in France, there reigned the same policy of feebleness, of indecision, of marking time, of lack of confidence, that lost the cause of the German proletariat. That is why the Saar plebiscite is not merely a test of the results of the German catastrophe, but a formidable warning for the French proletariat. Disaster awaits the parties which slide over the surface of events, lull themselves with words, hope in miracles and allow the mortal enemy to organize without hindrance, to arm, to occupy the advantageous positions and to choose the most favourable moment for launching the decisive blow!
This is the lesson of the Saar.
Many reformists and centrists (that is, those who hesitate between reformism and a revolutionary position) in turning to the left are now trying to move towards the Communist International: some of them, especially the workers, sincerely hope to find the reflection of the October revolution in Moscow’s program: others, especially bureaucrats, are merely trying to establish friendly ties with the powerful Soviet bureaucracy. Let us leave the careerists to their own fate. But we say to those socialists who sincerely hope to find a revolutionary force in the Communist International: you are cruelly deceived. You do not understand the history of the Communist International, which for the past ten years has been a history of errors, catastrophes, capitulations, and bureaucratic degeneration.
The present program of the Communist International was adopted at the Sixth Congress, in 1928, after the crushing of the Leninist wing. There is an abyss between the present program and that with which Bolshevism achieved victory in 1917. The program of Bolshevism started with the point of view that the fate of the October revolution is inseparable from the fate of the international revolution. The program of 1928, in spite of all its “internationalist” phrases, starts with the perspective of the independent building of socialism in the USSR. The program of Lenin declares: “Without revolution in the West and in the Orient, we are lost.” This program, by its very essence, precludes the possibility of sacrificing the interests of the world workers’ movement for the interests of the USSR. The program of the Communist International means in practice: the interests of the proletarian revolution in France can and ought to be sacrificed to the interests of the USSR (more strictly, to the interests of the diplomatic deals of the Soviet bureaucracy). The program of Lenin warns: Soviet bureaucratism is the worst enemy of socialism: bureaucratism, which reflects the pressure of bourgeois forces and tendencies, can lead to a revival of the bourgeoisie; the success of the struggle against the scourge of bureaucratism can be assured only by the victory of the European and the world proletariat. Contrary to this, the present program of the Communist International states: socialism can be built independently of the successes or defeats of the world proletarian movement, under the guidance of the infallible and all-powerful Soviet bureaucracy; anything directed against the infallibility of the bureaucracy is counter-revolutionary and should be exterminated.
In the present program of the Communist International there are, of course, plenty of expressions, formulas, phrases, etc., borrowed from the program of Lenin (the reactionary bureaucracy of Thermidor and the Consulate in France used Jacobin terminology in the same way) but at bottom the two programs are mutually exclusive. In practice, indeed, the Stalinist bureaucracy long ago replaced the program of the international proletarian revolution with a program of soviet national reforms. Disorienting and enfeebling the world proletariat by its policies, which are a mixture of opportunism and adventurism, the Communist International thereby likewise undermines the fundamental interests of the USSR. We are for the USSR but against the usurping bureaucracy and its blind instrument, the Communist International.
Manuilsky, yesterday head of the Communist International, was submerged without leaving a trace in the “third period” (in which, alas, he had only an insignificant position). Manuilsky was replaced, for no ostensible reason, by Béla Kun. It is necessary to say a few words about this new ruler of the Communist International. As Hungarian prisoner of war in Russia, Béla Kun, like many other prisoners, became a Communist, and on his return to Hungary, head of a small party. The prostration of the government of Count Karolyi before the Entente, ended in the peaceful transfer of power by consent to the workers’ parties without any revolution. The Communists of the party of Béla Kun hurried to unite with the Social Democrats. Inspirer of soviet Hungary, Béla Kun gave evidence of a complete bankruptcy, especially on the peasant question, which led rapidly to the collapse of the soviets. After his return as an émigré in the USSR, Béla Kun always had positions of minor importance, because he did not at all enjoy the political confidence of Lenin. One is aware of the very violent speech of Lenin at the Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Communist International, on the eve of the 3rd Congress: almost every sentence recalled the “follies of Béla Kun”. In my booklet on the leadership of the Communist International I have related how Lenin explained his violent attack on Béla Kun to me: “It is necessary to teach people not to have confidence in him”. Since this time, not only did Béla Kun learn nothing, but he even forgot what little he had assimilated in the school of Lenin. One can see to what extent this man was cut out for the role of the head of the Communist International, and in particular of the French proletariat.
We grant that the Communist Party even now is growing. This is not thanks to its policies, but in spite of them. Events push the workers to the left. The Communist Party, in spite of its present opportunist turn, represents in their eyes the “extreme left”. The numerical growth of the Communist Party carries with it no guarantee whatever for the future: the German Communist Party, as we said before, grew up to the moment of its capitulation, and even more rapidly.
In any case, the fact of the existence of two working-class parties, which makes a policy of united front in the face of common danger absolutely necessary, likewise suffices to explain the aspirations of the workers for organic unity. If there were a genuine revolutionary party in France we should be firm opponents of fusion with an opportunist party. Under the conditions of the sharpened social crisis, the revolutionary party, in a struggle against reformism, would unquestionably rally under its banner the overwhelming majority of the workers. The historical problem is not to unite mechanically all the organizations, which continue to exist as representatives of different stages of the class struggle, but to rally the proletariat in struggle and for struggle. There are two absolutely different and even contradictory problems.
But it is a fact that in France there is no revolutionary party. The ease with which the Communist Party – without the least internal discussion – went over from the theory and practice of “social fascism” to a bloc with the Radical Socialists and the repudiation of revolutionary tasks for the sake of “immediate demands”, demonstrates that the apparatus of the party is completely shot through with cynicism, and its membership disoriented and unaccustomed to thinking. It is a diseased party.
We have criticized the position of the SFIO openly enough not to need a repetition of what we have already said more than once. But it is nevertheless unquestionable that the revolutionary left wing of the SFIO little by little is becoming the laboratory in which the slogans and methods of proletarian struggle are forming. If this wing fortifies itself and becomes hardened, it can become the decisive factor in arousing the Communist workers. It is along this road alone that salvation is possible. On the other hand, the situation will be irrevocably lost if the revolutionary wing of the Socialist Party falls into the meshes of the apparatus of the Communist International, which smashes backbones and characters, destroys the power of thinking and teaches blind obedience; this system is frankly disastrous as a means of making revolutionists.
Some comrades will ask us, not without indignation, “Would you be against organic unity?”
No, we are not against unity. But we are against fetishism, superstition and blindness. Unity in itself solves nothing. The Austrian Social Democracy rallied almost the entire proletariat, but only to lead it to ruin. The Belgian Labour Party has the right to call itself the sole party of the proletariat, but that does not prevent it from going from capitulation to capitulation. Only people hopelessly naïve can hope that the Labour Party, which completely dominates the British proletariat, is capable of achieving victory. What decides the issue is not unity in itself but its actual political content.
If the SFIO should unite this very day with the Communist Party, that would not guarantee victory any more than the United Front guarantees it: only correct revolutionary policies can bring victory. But we are ready to grant that unification, under present conditions, would facilitate the regrouping and reorganization of the genuinely revolutionary elements now scattered throughout the two parties. It is in this sense, and in this sense only, that unification would be a step forward.
But unification – let us be clear about this point – would be a step backward, even a step towards the abyss, if in the new party the struggle against opportunism were directed in the channels of the Communist International. The Stalinist apparatus is capable of exploiting a victorious revolution, but it is organically incapable of assuring the victory of a new revolution. It is conservative to its marrow. Let us repeat once again: the Soviet bureaucracy has as much in common with the old Bolshevik Party as the bureaucracy of the Directory and of the Consulate had with Jacobinism.
The unification of the two parties would not lead us forward unless there is a break with illusions, blindness and outright deception. The left Socialists must have a heavy inoculation of Leninism in order not to fall victim of the disease of the Communist International. This, among other reasons, is precisely why we are following the evolution of the left groupings so attentively and so critically. Some feel offended by our attitude. But we believe that in revolutionary matters the rules of responsibility are incomparably more important than the rules of etiquette. Likewise, we accept criticism directed against us, from a revolutionary and not from a sentimental point of view.
In a series of articles, Zyromsky has tried to indicate the fundamental principles of the future unified party. This is a much more serious matter than repeating general phrases about unity in the manner of Lebas. Unfortunately, Zyromsky, in his articles, has a reformist-centrist tendency whose direction is not towards Leninism but towards bureaucratic centrism (Stalinism). This comes out clearly, as we shall show, in the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
For some reason or other, Zyromsky, in a whole series of articles, repeats with especial insistence the idea (moreover pointing to Stalin as original source) that “the dictatorship of the proletariat can never be considered as an end in itself.” As if there were somewhere in the world insane theoreticians who thought that the dictatorship of the proletariat was an “end in itself”! But in these odd repetitions there lurks an idea: Zyromsky is making his excuses to the workers in advance for wanting a dictatorship. Unfortunately, it is difficult to establish the dictatorship if we begin by apologizing for it.
Much worse, however, is the following idea: “This dictatorship of the proletariat . must be relaxed and progressively transformed into workers’ democracy in proportion to the extent of the development of socialist construction.” In these few lines there are two profound errors in principle. The dictatorship of the proletariat is set up against workers’ democracy. However, the dictatorship of the proletariat by its very essence can and should be the supreme expression of workers’ democracy. In order to bring about a great social revolution, there must be for the proletariat a supreme manifestation of all its forces and all its capacities: the proletariat is organized democratically, precisely in order to put an end to its enemies. The dictatorship, according to Lenin, should “teach every cook to direct the state”. The heavy hand of dictatorship is directed against the class enemies: the foundation of the dictatorship is workers’ democracy.
According to Zyromsky, workers’ democracy will replace the dictatorship “in proportion to the extent of the development of socialist construction”. This is an absolutely false perspective. In proportion to the extent that bourgeois society is transformed into socialist society, the workers’ democracy will wither away together with the dictatorship, for the state itself will wither away. In a socialist society, there will be no place for “workers’ democracy”, first of all, because there will be no working class, and secondly because there will be no need for state repression. This is why the development of socialist society must mean not the transformation of the dictatorship into a democracy, but their common dissolution into the economic and cultural organization of the socialist society.
We should not have spent time on this error if it had a purely theoretic character. As a matter of fact there hides behind it a whole political scheme. Zyromsky tries to adapt the theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat (which, according to his own admission, he has borrowed from Dan) to the present régime of the Soviet bureaucracy. Moreover, he deliberately shuts his eyes to the following question: why is it that, in spite of the enormous economic successes of the USSR, the proletarian dictatorship has developed not towards democracy but towards a monstrous bureaucratism which definitely is taking on the character of a personal régime? Why is it that, “in proportion to the extent of the development of socialist construction”, the party, the soviets and the unions are strangled? It is impossible to answer this question without a decisive criticism of Stalinism. But this is exactly what Zyromsky wishes to avoid at all costs.
However, the fact that an independent and uncontrolled bureaucracy has usurped the defence of the socialist conquests of the proletarian revolution testifies that we are confronted with a diseased and degenerating dictatorship which, if left to itself, will end not in “workers’ democracy”, but in the complete collapse of the soviet régime.
Only revolution in the West can save the October revolution from defeat. The theory of “socialism in one country” is false in every root and branch. The whole program of the Communist International is just as false. To adopt this program would be to throw the train of the revolution off the tracks. The first condition for the success of the French proletariat is the complete independence of its vanguard from the nationalist and conservative Soviet bureaucracy. Naturally, the Communist Party has a right to propose the program of the Communist International as the basis for unification: it could hardly offer any other. But revolutionary Marxists, who understand their responsibilities for the fate of the proletariat, must submit the program of Bukharin-Stalin to pitiless criticism. Unity is a magnificent thing, but not on a rotted foundation. The progressive task is to rally the Socialist and Communist workers on the foundation of the international program of Marx and Lenin. The interests of the world proletariat as well as the interests of the USSR (they are not different) demands the same struggle against Stalinism as against reformism.
The two Internationals, not merely the Second but also the Third, are tainted to the marrow. The proofs of history do not deceive. Great events (China, England, Germany, Austria, Spain) have given their verdict. From this verdict confirmed in the Saar, no further appeal is possible. The preparation for a new international, resting on the tragic lessons of the last ten years, is on the order of the day. This mighty task is closely bound up with the whole progress of the proletarian class struggle, above all with the struggle against Fascism in France. To conquer the enemy, the vanguard of the proletariat must assimilate the methods of revolutionary Marxism, methods incompatible both with opportunism and with Stalinism. Will we succeed in fulfilling this task? Engels once wrote: “The French always take on new life at the approach of battle.” Let us hope that this time we shall fully justify the estimate of our great teacher. But the victory of the French proletariat is conceivable only if, from the fire of struggle, there emerges a truly revolutionary party which will become the keystone of the new international. This road will be the shortest, the most advantageous and the most favourable for the international revolution.
It would be stupid to say that success is assured. If victory is possible, defeat too, unfortunately, is not excluded. The present policies of the United Front, like those of the two trade-union organizations, do not facilitate but jeopardize victory. It is completely clear that in the event of the crushing of the French proletariat its two parties will definitely disappear from the scene, The necessity for a new international, on new foundations, would then become evident to every worker. But it is likewise completely clear in advance that, in the event of the triumph of Fascism in France, the building of the Fourth International would encounter a thousand obstacles and would proceed with extreme slowness; and that the centre of the entire revolutionary movement, from every indication, would be transferred to America.
Thus the two historical alternatives – victory or defeat for the French proletariat – lead equally, though with different rhythms, toward the road to the Fourth International. It is precisely this historical tendency that the Bolshevik-Leninists express. We are strangers to adventurism in any form. We are not talking about “proclaiming” in an artificial manner the existence of the Fourth International, but of preparing for it systematically. By the test of events, we must show and demonstrate to the advanced workers that the programs and methods of the two existing internationals are in insurmountable contradiction to the requirements of the proletarian revolution, and that the contradictions will not grow less but will, on the contrary, continually increase. From this analysis flows the only possible general line: we must, theoretically and practically, prepare for the Fourth International.
In February there took place an international conference of several organizations belonging neither to the Second nor to the Third Internationals (two Dutch parties, the German SAP, the British ILP, etc.). Except for the Dutch, who have a revolutionary Marxist position, all the other participants represent different varieties – on the whole, conservative varieties – of centrism. J. Doriot, who attended the conference, wrote in his account of it: “At the time when the crisis of capitalism offers startling verification of the Marxist theses. The parties created in the name of Marxism, whether by the Second or by the Third Internationals, have all failed in their mission.” We will not linger over the fact that Doriot himself, in the course of a ten year struggle against the Left Opposition, helped to disintegrate the Communist International. In particular, we will not stop to recall the sad role played by Doriot in the matter of the Chinese revolution. Let us concern ourselves merely with the fact that in February 1935, Doriot understood and recognized the failure of the Second and Third Internationals. Does he conclude from this failure the necessity for preparing the new international? To suppose so would be failing entirely to understand centrism. Doriot writes on the question of the new international: “This Trotskyist idea was formally condemned by the conference.” Doriot lets himself be carried away when he talks about “formal condemnation”, but it is true that, against the two Dutch delegates, the conference rejected the idea of the Fourth International. In this case, what then is the real program of the conference? It is to have no program. In its daily work the participants in the conference put aside the international tasks of the proletarian revolution and think about them very little. But every year or so they hold a congress to soothe their hearts and to say: “The Second and Third Internationals have failed.” After having nodded their heads sadly, they break up. We had better call this “organization” a “Bureau for the annual celebration of a funeral service for the Second and Third Internationals”.
These venerable people believe themselves to be “realists”, “tacticians”, even “Marxists”. They do no more than to scatter around aphorisms: “We must not anticipate events “: “The masses do not yet understand “; etc. But why then do you anticipate events yourselves by declaring the bankruptcy of the two internationals: the “masses” have not yet understood it? And the masses who have understood it – without your help – they vote for Hitler in the Saar. You subordinate the preparation of the Fourth International to a “historical process”. But are you not yourselves part of this process? Marxists must always be at the head of the historical process. Just what part of the process do you represent?
“The masses do not yet understand”. But the masses are not homogeneous. New ideas are first assimilated by the advanced elements, and, through them, penetrate the masses. If you yourselves, lofty, wise men that you are, understand the inescapable necessity for the Fourth International, what right would you have to hide this conclusion from the masses? Worse still: after having recognized the failure of the existing internationals, Doriot “condemns” (!!!) the idea of the new international. What concrete perspective, then, does he give to the revolutionary vanguard? None! But this means to sow confusion, trouble and demoralization.
Such is the nature of centrism. We must understand its nature to its roots. Under the pressure of circumstances, centrism can go far in analysis, evaluation, criticism: in this realm, the leaders of the SAP, who led the conference about which we have been speaking, repeated, scrupulously, much of what the Bolshevik-Leninists said two, three or ten years ago. But the centrist stops short fearfully when faced with revolutionary conclusions. A family celebration of a funeral service for the Communist International? Why not? But preparation for the New International? No, indeed . Much better to “condemn” Trotskyism.
Doriot has no position. And he doesn’t want to have any. After his break with the bureaucracy of the Communist International, he might have played a progressive and weighty role. But up to now he has not even approached it. He casts off revolutionary tasks. He has chosen, for his teacher, the leaders of the SAP. Does he want to be enrolled permanently in the corporation of centrists? Let him understand that a centrist is a knife without a blade!
“Wait”, “Endure”, “Gain Time” – these are the slogans of the reformists, the pacifists, the trade unionists and the Stalinists. This policy thrives upon the idea that time works in our favour. Is this true? This is fundamentally false. If in a pre-revolutionary situation, we do not conduct a revolutionary policy, then time works against us.
Despite the hollow hymns sung in honour of the United Front, the relationship of forces has changed during the last year to the detriment of the proletariat. Why? Marceau Pivert has given a correct answer to this question in his article “All Things Wait”, (Populaire, March 18, 1935.) Directed behind the scenes by finance capital, all the forces and all the detachments of reaction are carrying out an unceasing policy of offence, capturing new positions, strengthening them, and marching forward (industry, agriculture, the schools, the press, the courts, the army). On the part of the proletariat there are only phrases heard about taking the offensive; as a matter of fact, there is not even a defence put up. The positions are not being strengthened, but being surrendered without a battle, or are being prepared for surrender.
The political relationship of forces is determined not solely by the objective factors (the role in the productive process, numerical strength, etc.) but by subjective factors: the consciousness of strength is the most important element of actual strength. While, from one day to the next, Fascism raises the self-confidence of the declassed petty bourgeoisie, the leading groups of the United Front weaken the will of the proletariat. Pacifists, disciples of Buddha and of Gandhi, but not of Marx and Lenin, exercise themselves in preaching against violence, against arming, against physical struggle. The Stalinists preach basically the very same thing, invoking solely the “non-revolutionary situation”. Between the Fascists and the pacifists of all shades, a division of labour has become established: the former strengthen the camp of reaction, the latter debilitate the camp of revolution. Such is the naked truth!
Does this mean that the situation is hopeless? . Not at all!
Two important factors militate against the reformists and the Stalinists. First: the fresh lessons of Germany, Austria and Spain are before the eyes of everybody; the working-class masses are alarmed, the reformists and the Stalinists are embarrassed. Secondly: the Marxists have succeeded in posing in time the problems of the revolution before the proletarian vanguard.
We, Bolshevik-Leninists, are far removed from the desire to exaggerate our numbers. But the power of our slogans flows from the fact that they reflect the logic of the development of the present pre-revolutionary situation. At each stage events confirm our analysis and our criticism. The left wing of the Socialist Party is growing. In the Communist Party, criticism is stifled, as hitherto. But the growth of the revolutionary wing in the SFIO will inevitably open a breach in the deadly, bureaucratic discipline of the Stalinists: the revolutionists of the two parties will extend their hands to one another in joint activities.
Our rule remains what it always was: to say what is. That is the greatest service that one can now perform for the revolutionary cause. The forces of the proletariat have not been expended. The petty bourgeoisie has not made its choice as yet. We have lost a good deal of time, but the last extensions of time have not yet been exhausted.
Victory is possible! Even more: Victory is certain – in so far as victory can be made certain in advance – provided only that: we have the will to victory. We must aspire to victory, we must surmount the obstacles, we must overwhelm the enemy, knock him down and put our knee on his chest.
Comrades, friends, brothers and sisters! The Bolshevik-Leninists summon you to struggle and to victory!