Resolution of the ECCI on the French Communist Party (June 1922)
(Adopted on the report of Comrade Trotsky)
The enlarged Plenum of the ECCI convened in June 1922. The resolution in reference was adopted at the June 11 session.
Program, Tactics, Statutes[edit source]
The most important task before the coming French party convention is the adoption of a program, tactics and statutes in complete consonance with the party’s tasks in the present epoch preparatory to the social revolution. It is necessary to proceed immediately to elaborate corresponding drafts and to publish them both in the organs of the French party as well as in the organs of the entire International, so that the knowledge and experience of all Communist parties and of the ECCI may be drawn into the discussion and elaboration of basic documents which will assure the complete fusion and combat capacity of the party of the French working class.
The Party’s Structure[edit source]
The Central Committee. The creation of a homogeneous Central Committee, capable of assuring party leadership on the basis of the decisions of International and national Communist congresses, must be carefully prepared right now, and then submitted to the next party convention.
It must be recognized as unconditionally indispensable that more than half of the members of the Central Committee be composed of workers really tied up with the masses.
All members of the Central Committee are obliged to devote themselves full-time either to party work or to trade-union work; or they must be workers whose trade binds them with the life of the working masses. Selecting candidates in line with these conditions, checking up on their past, and on their political stability, and making them known in one form or another to local party organizations – all this is the most important part of the preparatory work which naturally falls upon all those members of the present Central Committee who base themselves completely on the resolutions of the Comintern and who want to assure their being carried out organizationally.
In a Central Committee with such a composition, the majority of its members will embody the ties between the Central Committee and the local organizations, the trade unions, the press, etc. At the same time a permanently functioning Political Bureau must be selected from among the personnel of the Central Committee. This body shall reside in Paris; gather in its hands all the threads of leading party work; prepare all the necessary material for elucidating the most principled and important decisions of the full Central Committee; and see to it that these decisions are realized in life by the General Secretary of the Central Committee.
The Central Committee must be empowered to eject from the party any member or any group, in every instance where this is warranted by the situation and by political considerations.
In cases which require a thorough investigation of violation of discipline or other acts and crimes against party interests, the Central Committee may refer the question to the Committee on Conflicts and Grievances.
But in cases where the political character of the question is beyond dispute and where the elementary interests of the party demand expulsion, the Central Committee itself acts on the expulsion and its decision can be appealed only to the party convention.
The Seine Federation[edit source]
The Seine organization is of extraordinary importance to the destiny of French Communism and, consequently, to world Communism. Proceeding from this appraisal the International deems it necessary to call upon the Communists in the Seine Federation as well as in our French party as a whole to make a drastic change in the foundations on which the Seine organization is built today.
The federalistic principle is completely incompatible with the actual interests of the revolutionary organization. References to the federative constitution of the soviet republic must be recognized as false to the core, because the organization of the Communist Party cannot be identified with the organization of the soviet state. In all the Federated Republics the Communist Party is unified and rigidly centralized. Communists in the Ukraine, in Georgia, in Azerbaijan and elsewhere are linked with Communists in Moscow, Petersburg and so on, not by elements of federalism but by elements of strictest democratic centralism. Only thanks to the unity of this centralized organization of the working class was soviet Russia able to defend herself in the struggle against her countless enemies. The International categorically warns against the application of the principles of federalism and autonomy inside a revolutionary party which must be the mighty lever of revolutionary action.
To place a committee of a hundred members at the head of party organization is to actually deprive the organization of any consistent and firm leadership.
In consonance with the organizational principles of the Communist International, the Seine organization must have at its head a committee small in number, whose members are elected on the principle of democratic centralism and who are unconditionally responsible for the political and organizational leadership of the Seine organization.
At the same time, in view of the above-mentioned extraordinary importance of the Seine organization, it must be recognized as absolutely necessary for two or three members of the Central Committee to likewise serve as members of the Seine Committee (either by the election to the Central Committee of corresponding workers of the Seine organization or by inclusion of Central Committee members in the Seine Committee by a special decision of the Central Committee). This will assure the necessary ties between the leading party centre and its most important organization.
The Trade-Union Question[edit source]
The International affirms that the greatest danger to the French working class and especially to the trade-union movement is represented by individualistic, petty-bourgeois elements, hostile to the spirit of proletarian discipline and artful in dodging all organizational control over their activities. In the person of Verdier, Quinton and others, we see a type of activists who under a smoke screen of phrases about trade-union autonomy organize their own tiny cliques inside the unions and seek to seize the leadership of the movement, without offering the organized working class any guarantees not only of a correct leadership but even of ordinary loyalty to the interests of labour. The activity of petty-bourgeois individualists of this type is all the more dangerous since they, like the Verdiers, Quintons and the rest, worm their way even into the ranks of our party. And while cloaking themselves with its authority, but without submitting to its control, they carry on profoundly demoralizing work, counterposing the trade unions to the party and poisoning the reciprocal relations between them.
Having exploited for their own ends the hospitality of the party, these elements afterwards cheerfully leave its ranks because the régime of ideological consistency, of discipline and responsibility, that is, the party régime, is alien to the spirit of these poachers upon the labour movement.
The International considers it the unconditional duty of all the advanced and conscious elements of the working class and, above all, of the leading bodies of the Communist Party, to wage merciless war against this manifestation and its culprits. The party itself must naturally be purged thoroughly and completely of the spiritual brothers of Verdier and Quinton, if any still remain in its ranks.
It is therefore necessary during the Saint Etienne Convention to identify and expose, with the collaboration of the Communist faction and of its bureau, those pseudo-Communists who regard both the party and the trade unions as an arena for the operation of irresponsible cliques. They must be mercilessly ejected from our ranks, lest in the future they cause the working class the same incalculable harm as they did in the past and do today.
* * *
Taking into cognizance the fact that there are Communists, members of the party, inside those trade unions which have remained in the CGT, it must be recognized as the unconditional duty of the party to maintain correct organizational ties with these comrades.
Communists inside the reformist trade unions must organize correctly functioning party cells, intimately bound up with the corresponding party bodies.
Independently of how the reciprocal relations between the CGT and the CGTU are finally resolved, and independently of the party’s future conduct in its struggle against the reformists, the Communists must wage a struggle from the inside to win all the organs of the CGT.
The United Front[edit source]
The International affirms that the press and the leading bodies of the French Communist Party have given completely incorrect information to the party concerning the meaning and importance of the tactic of the united front. The International simply sweeps aside the superficial judgements of journalists who strive to see a revival of reformism where there is an enhancement in the method of struggle against reformism.
The attempt to picture the formation of the Committee of Nine as the creation of a leading body standing above the three Internationals, stems from a complete misunderstanding of the spirit and character of the Communist International. To do so is to confound the Communist International with the old and purely parliamentarian reformist organizations, whose delegates and representatives climb on the back of the organized working masses and dictate their will to them. Given the character of the Communist International and the spirit of proletarian discipline, the three delegates, assigned to the Committee of Nine, constituted merely a provisional executive body with a definite goal and under the unconditional control of the Comintern.
The most glorious page in the history of the French proletariat – the Paris Commune – was nothing else but a bloc of all the organizations and shadings within the French working class, united against the bourgeoisie. If, despite the establishment of the united front, the Commune was quickly crushed, then the explanation for this is above all to be found in the fact that the united front did not have at its left flank a genuine revolutionary, disciplined and resolute organization, capable of quickly gaining leadership in the fire of events.
In just this sense the Commune was a workers’ government – a bloc of the working-class parties and groupings, counterposed to the bourgeoisie. As a workers’ government the Commune represented nothing else but a stage toward the establishment of the socialist order. The class conscious French proletariat need only profoundly ponder over the experience of the Commune, in order to find in its own heroic past all the necessary arguments in favour of the genuinely revolutionary tactic of the united front, together with the demand for a workers’ government which flows from this tactic.
* * *
The idea of the “Left Bloc” under the present conditions can corrupt a great many workers who have little or no political experience. The French Communist Party must bear in mind this perspective which represents a very serious danger. To the idea of the “Left Bloc”, in its entire day-to-day propaganda it must systematically counterpose the idea of a bloc of all workers against the bourgeoisie. It is self-understood that during elections the party must everywhere run its own Communist ticket, independent of all others.
Only such a tactic, persistently carried out in all spheres (economic, political, municipal, and so on), can reduce to a minimum the number of workers who might be sucked into the orbit of the “Left Bloc”; only such a tactic can extend the influence of the party over the circles of workers left untouched by it.
On the Party Press[edit source]
It is possible to raise the political and theoretical level of the mass of the party members only on one condition, namely: provided that the leading party press breaks completely with the habits and customs of bourgeois journalism, leaving its columns, not at the disposal of this or that journalist expressing his own personal inclinations but at the disposal of the party which systematically and planfully transmits its own thoughts and its own will through its own journalists. To this end, leading editorials devoted to a principled and consistent elucidation of world events as well as of domestic economic and political life must appear unsigned, i.e., not as the opinion of individuals but as the voice of the party itself. The Central Committee through its corresponding bodies must constantly control and supervise the press, assigning it definite tasks which flow from the political situation; and thus assure complete harmony between the work of its press and its own work both inside the party as well as in the political struggle as a whole. In no case can there or should there appear in the guise of leading editorials, even if signed, articles that criticize decisions of the Communist International or of the French party which have already been adopted and which must be carried out. If publication of such articles is deemed expedient by the leading party bodies for the sake of completely clarifying a question, then these articles may appear only as discussion articles, accompanied by a precise presentation by the editorial board of the already adopted party decisions on this question, and by a vigorous defence of these decisions in leading editorials.
The Question of Factions[edit source]
The International affirms that in the French party, alongside of other manifestations of the crisis, there are observable symptoms that factions are being revived.
The extreme right wing of the party, whose point of concentration is the Journal du Peuple, gained an influence among leading party circles and in the party press which did not at all correspond to its actual ideological and political weight. The absence of decisive countermeasures by the Central Committee inexorably led to attempts to revive a left wing faction. In its turn, a struggle between these two factions is inevitably bound to drain the party’s combat capacity, and it may in the future become a menace to its unity.
The International is profoundly convinced that only the complete consolidation of the crushing majority of the party against the paltry right wing and the vigorous enforcement of all the decisions adopted by the present conference will cut the ground from under all factional groupings.
At the same time the International strongly urges the left wing, while continuing its defence in the future of the principles of revolutionary Communism, not to crystallize itself in any case into a separate faction but to conduct its work within the framework of the common party institutions and organizations, doing everything in its power to promote collaboration with the central core of the party in all practical work and particularly in the struggle against the reformist, pacifist and anarcho-syndicalist deviations.
The Daily l’Internationale and its editor Comrade Daniel Renoult[edit source]
The editor-in-chief of the Parisian evening daily, l’Internationale, and member of the party’s Central Committee, Comrade Daniel Renoult, took a most active part in the work of the February session of the enlarged ECCI; furthermore, on all questions, with the exception of the united front, the ECCI reached complete agreement with all the members of the French delegation, including Comrade Renoult.
On the question of the united front Comrade Renoult, who spoke as the reporter, and who later voted with the majority of the French delegation against the tactic of the united front, declared, nevertheless, most categorically and solemnly that the French Communists will, as loyal soldiers of the revolution, submit without reservations to the decisions adopted after a lengthy and loyal discussion.
The obligations, assumed by the delegation of the Central Committee, remained unfulfilled in their most essential aspects owing to inadequate energy and decisiveness of the Central Committee itself in carrying them out. However, the most important reason for the failure to fulfil the adopted decision and for the tension between the International and its French section, this conference finds in the conduct of the daily l’Internationale and its editor.
Directly counter to the accepted obligations and to his own solemn pledge, Comrade Daniel Renault, instead of explaining the adopted decisions and instead of calling for their unanimous fulfilment, has engaged in a bitter campaign against the tactic of the united front and against the Communist International as a whole. Not confining himself to a literary polemic, Comrade Daniel Renoult has taken the floor at such authoritative gatherings as the conference of the Seine organization to appeal for a demonstrative vote against the policy of the united front.
In view of the crass violation by Comrade Daniel Renoult of his duties as member of the Communist International and in view of his trampling upon obligations he himself assumed and solemnly pledged to fulfil, the enlarged Plenum votes to censure Comrade Daniel Renoult, in his capacity as delegate of the French party to Moscow and as editor of the daily l’Internationale.
At the same time, the International proposes to the Central Committee and its General Secretary that it adopt all necessary measures to convert the daily l’Internationale, during the months still remaining before the party convention, into an organ that actually carries out the decisions of the Communist International.
The Fabre Case[edit source]
The expulsion of Fabre and his newspaper from the party constitutes one of the moments in the struggle against the spirit of intellectual anarcho-journalistic bohemia which consistently assumes, especially in France, all the forms and all the colourations of anarchism and opportunism in order invariably to conclude by stabbing the working class in the back. This is the laboratory from which emerged Briand and Hervé and hundreds of others. The International firmly expects that the Central Committee and the party press alike will explain to the working masses the political meaning of Fabre’s expulsion. On this condition alone will the adopted measure prove to be a death sentence to Fabreism in the party; and the Communist public opinion will gain the revolutionary tenacity in the face of which journalistic adventures will always and without difficulty be ejected from the ranks of the party.
The Coming Party Convention[edit source]
The preparation of the next party convention must be conducted under the banner of struggle for the ideological and organizational consolidation of the party – against the tendencies of petty-bourgeois pacifism, anarcho-syndicalism and verbal revolutionism, against the theories which identify the proletariat with the peasantry and which are thereby directed against the class character of the party, etc. In view of the fact that the foregoing tendencies have already succeeded in introducing extreme confusion into the consciousness of the party, the party press must introduce clarity into all these questions, refreshing the party’s memory with the corresponding resolutions of the Communist International, in particular the 21 conditions for parties adhering to the Third International. All these decisions must be illuminated by last year’s experience or illustrated by examples of literary and political declarations of a number of prominent party workers, which are obviously incompatible with these resolutions.
The date for the convention call must be fixed by agreement between the Central Committee and the ECCI.
Appeal of the Central Committee[edit source]
Taking into consideration the need of a profound shift in the internal policy of the French party, which can be realized in life only with the conscious co-operation of the overwhelming majority of its members, the International deems desirable the publication of a corresponding solemn appeal by the Central Committee addressed to the entire party. This appeal shall explain the substance of the decisions which the present enlarged Plenum has adopted, and which are designed to inaugurate a new era in the life of the French Communist Party.
- Gustave Hervé, erstwhile anarchist, headed, prior to World War I, the extreme left inside the French SP. Editor and publisher of a periodical Guerre Sociale (Class War), he signed his articles in those days with the pen-name Sans-Patrie (The Man Without a Fatherland). When World War I broke out Hervé renamed his periodical Victoire and converted his “revolutionary anarchism” into “republican” monarchism, hailing the Czar on the day hostilities started. After the war he came forward as a rabid monarchist and reactionary.