Summary of the Discussion, August 6, 1934

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Our group has appointed me to formulate certain general conclusions that we have arrived at on the basis of the information in the internal bulletin of the League and other documents.

1. Are the divergences ones of principle or of a purely practical nature? In this general form, the question is put incorrectly. The divergences have arisen over a very important question of tactics, but they have different roots in different comrades, springing from different ideological premises. Thus, for example, we maintain that the differences with Comrade Georges (to the extent that there are differences) are of a purely practical character and should be verified in the process of applying the common policy. The differences with Comrade P. N. are differences of principle.

2. Comrade Georges has undoubtedly presented the best paper on the question. Nine-tenths of his letter consists of facts throwing light on the real situation and not of general formulas that might be applied equally well to Paris or Honolulu. Nevertheless, we feel that in Comrade Georges's letter there is a grave error in evaluating the dynamics and rhythm of the development. On the basis of a very interesting analysis of the National Council of the SFIO, G. shows that the majority of the Socialist Party is still reformist, that a significant leftward trend may be found only in Paris and in the Young Socialists and, therefore, that it would be "premature" to enter the SFIO. In answer to these claims, we wish to say briefly:

a. Paris and the Young Socialists are today going through the stage that the provinces will pass through tomorrow. There is no need for us to guide ourselves by the situation in the provinces.

b. Paris and the Young Socialists are decisive fields for the League.

c. The party machine in the provinces (as in Paris) is the old one, i.e., reformist. Still, the machine found itself forced to break with Renaudel and accept the united front with Moscow. It is precisely the opportunist character of the SFIO apparatus that best indicates the power of the pressure from below, that is, the dynamics of the development. Comrade Georges is right when he says that entering the party six days too soon would mean mishandling the situation. We must merely add that entering six days too late would mean ruining it entirely.

3. How shall we determine the right moment for entry and the most reasonable form? By political reconnoitering and by actively establishing tie-ups with the Socialists, discussing political questions with them, etc.

A year has passed since we took the turn for a new party. One of the principal tasks assigned to the League was work on the inside of the SFIO. What has been accomplished during the year in Paris? Nothing. The comrades in charge of this work have not set up any relationships, have made no preparations. On the contrary, they have opposed the creation of a faction in the SFIO. This fact is of major importance for an understanding of the present difficulties, including even difficulties of discussion. These same comrades who, during the past year, have opposed working inside the SFIO are now opposed to our entering that body. In both cases they repeat the same general talk about "independence" For them the fundamental thing seems to be to remain independent of the working class, the masses, the changes in the state of affairs, of the whole reality. These comrades substitute a monologue for actual political work among the masses. Their politics follows the line of least resistance; it is politics of self-complacency disguised by formulas of imaginary intransigence

We must demand that these comrades give an accounting of the work they were entrusted with doing in the SFIO and the results of this work. The League and these comrades themselves need such a report, and not general slogans! The report will show that these comrades are afraid of the masses, are afraid of the difficulties connected with working among the masses, that they want to preserve their "purity” by a kind of self-isolation. That is why they remain unchanged through all the changes in the political situation. The psychology of passive waiting that existed before the proposal of entry into the SFIO was a powerful brake on the development of the League, especially during the past year. This psychology is now in glaring contradiction to the whole situation in this country and in the working class.

4. The only differences that are serious, important and fruitful are those that arise from the pressure of major events and changes in the state of mind of the masses. The same traits of abstract propagandism, which were to a certain extent inevitable in the initial period of the League's development (before the German catastrophe) and which have more and more checked the work during these last years, have now definitely taken on a reactionary character and in the present turmoil of events threaten to lead the League to total ruin. It is particularly now that we must put up a pitiless fight against abstract, passive propagandism, against a policy of waiting. Along this line, the differences are certainly differences of principle, although the exponents of the conservative tendency have not yet drawn the necessary ideological conclusions from their position.

5. Comrades P. N., Bauer and certain others who think as they do assume the cloak of "ideological intransigence." However in actuality, in the present policy, things are quite different. Let us consider the stand taken by La Vérité after February 6. During this entire time, La Vérité adapted itself politically to the SFIO. In his letter P. N. says: "Several documents sent to the Central Committee indicate that for the past six months we have been following a semi-socialist line. … But here is the conclusion: since you have 'adapted' yourselves so well to the SFIO, why not enter that group?”

Remarkable logic!

This declaration is the crux of P. N.'s letter. It throws a brilliant light on the real progress of the preparation of the divergences and, at the same time, reveals the non-dialectical, abstract, journalistic thinking of Comrade P. N. Yes, in a whole series of letters and conversations we did accuse Comrade P. N. and others of obscuring (toning down, blurring) the differences with the SFIO, of not openly stating the fundamental questions of the revolutionary struggle, of risking the transformation of the League into a left wing of the SFIO. We stand by this criticism without modification, even today. Members who insist upon formal independence are always inclined to capitulate before the reality when it treads upon their toes. The adaptation of the League to the SFIO has found symbolic expression in very recent happenings: in reply to the proposal that we enter the SFIO, the Political Bureau decided to make do by obtaining the floor for a representative of the League at the National Council of the SFIO!! Here again they displayed their penchant for purely diplomatic negotiations ‘with the heads of the SFIO, without any serious attempt to penetrate the mass base of the organization. (We are not speaking of the Young Socialists; among them real work has been done.) We must carefully consider what the intransigence of Comrade P. N. and the others has consisted of during the past six months:

a. external weakening of criticism of the SFIO,

b. diplomatic maneuvers with the SFIO bureaucrats,

c. refusal to create a faction inside the SFIO (because they did not want to spoil their relations with the bureaucrats?).

There you have the real picture of the relations of the "intransigents" with the SFIO during the past six months, so crowded with events. No general slogan, no gesture can change the political meaning of this picture, which demonstrates the emptiness of an intransigence that is factional or, worse still, literary. Until Comrade P. N. and the others arrive at an understanding of their own history during the last six months, they will not move one step forward in their development.

6. When we analyzed the rotten policy of the Anglo-Russian Committee, the Stalinists said: "You are opposed to working in the unions!" We replied: "We are opposed to adventurous maneuvering with the leaderships, but in favor of working with the membership." There, it is true, we were concerned with unions. But we can give a similar illustration with regard to parties. We denounced Walcher for his political complicity in the Tranmæl case. At the same time, we said: "If any revolutionary group can enter the NAP for revolutionary work among the masses, it is the duty of that group to do so, and they will have our support."

We have criticized passive adaptation to the official policy of the SFIO and, at the same time, we have upheld active participation in the internal life of that body, the building of an interned faction. In principle that does not differ at all from entry into the SFIO. Comrade P. N. sees a contradiction here. Isn't that absurd? Under the influence of that false position he has taken, the perspectives and retrospect are distorted for him, just as they always are in such cases.

7. It would, of course, be incorrect to attribute the "soft" diplomatic line of La Vérité during the last six months of the year to an error on the part of a few comrades. The truth of the matter is that the League has suddenly come under the great pressure of events. The same causes that forced the SFIO bureaucracy and the Stalinists to accept the slogan of the united front have suggested to the leadership of the League, consciously or unconsciously, the fear that they would find themselves left quite outside of things, and since there was the chance of getting the floor and selling their publications through the SFIO, there arose the hope of managing the latter, of adapting themselves to that body. The League's place in the working-class movement was more clearly and seriously decided by this policy of La Vérité than by all the talk of imaginary intransigence. The unfortunate thing is that the leadership yielded unconsciously to the events and only gropingly adapted itself to the new situation. This experience has clearly and forcefully shown up the fiction of organizational independence and verbal intransigence in the face of great historic developments, when the masses begin stirring.

8. When we criticized Comrade P. N. and others for their adaptation to the SFIO, we did not at all consider that we were confronted with irreconcilable contradictions threatening a split. We do not think so now, either. But the situation becomes tremendously more dangerous inasmuch as Comrade P. N., growing convinced of the total failure of passive adaptation from without, wishes at all costs to prevent revolutionary work from within. The progress of events now permits no delay to any of us, and particularly not to Comrade P. N. We must boldly and resolutely judge what our previous course was and start moving on the new road.

9. It is true that now Comrade P. N. and others generously offer to create a faction inside the SFIO while preserving their own "independence." That means letting everything go on as before. It means continuing to swim on the sand instead of venturing into the water. There is only one way to save the "intransigents" for the revolutionary movement: force them to get into the water up to their necks.

10. Is there not a danger that the comrades adapting themselves from the outside to the SFIO policy will completely lose their political identity if they enter the SFIO? The question cannot be put in that general form. A certain differentiation will inevitably be produced; a certain number of the comrades may abandon our ideas. The experience of all countries shows that the ones who are most prone to lose their identity in the opportunistic milieu are yesterday's ultimatists. But it would be absolutely incorrect to extend this fear to the League in its entirety or even to all our present opponents in the League.

To our mind, the very possibility of bringing up the question of entry into the SFIO springs from the fact that in the body of the League we have serious cadres. If we delay too long in applying the yeast to the dough, it will go sour on us and be wasted. That is the danger threatening the League.

Look at the Bordigists with their famous Bilan (Balance), which should really be named "Balance: Zero."

11. Certain comrades are inclined to shift the center of gravity to the question of the "declaration." Some of them have in mind a declaration that would make entry into the SFIO impossible. Others are inclined to see in the declaration a talisman that will protect them from all dangers. In reality, the role of the declaration is very modest. It must show:

a. that we are not giving up our ideas,

b. that we are ready to learn from joint activity,

c. that we will fight for our ideas on the basis of democracy of the party,

d. that we will maintain discipline.

The declaration must be drawn up so as to win the confidence of Socialist workers and make it very difficult for the reactionary SFIO bureaucracy to decide on non-admission of the League.

12. Aside from retaining our ideology, the only way we can keep the Bolshevik-Leninists from dissolution once they are inside the SFIO is by means of great cohesion, creation of a factional body, adaptation to new working conditions and international control. We must direct all our efforts to that end.

13. International control must be understood in its broad sense, without limiting it to the International Secretariat. The exchange of publications and information, international discussion, should be not weakened but developed and reinforced. It is true that Comrade P. N. presents the matter as if the international organization had prevented (!) the League from working, particularly during the elaboration of the program of action. Comrade P. N. does not and cannot bring forth the slightest proof of his assertion. We propose to Comrade P. N. that he publish (only in the International Bulletin, if need be) all the correspondence devoted to the elaboration of the program of action as well as the general policy of the League during the last six months. A piece of work of this kind done in good faith would show the enormous importance of our international organization as such, and would, incidentally, refute the definitely incorrect and prejudiced assertions of Comrade P. N.

14. The lack of a real ideological position on the part of Comrades Bauer and P. N. appears most plainly on the question of the ILP. Bauer was in favor of the entry of the British section into the ILP from its beginning. P. N. was against this, but after his trip to England, having become aware of the actual situation at first hand, he recognized the incorrectness of his original position. To set up an ideological difference between the ILP and the SFIO, especially the latter's Parisian organization and the Young Socialists, is simply ridiculous. Neither P. N. nor Bauer has made any attempt to explain the difference in their ideological stand with regard to England and France.

However, the experience of the British section, on a small scale, is highly instructive. The "majority" maintaining its "organizational autonomy" actually finds itself in a state of constant internal strife and division. Certain leaders have left the organization altogether. On the other hand, the "minority" that entered the ILP has maintained its internal solidarity and its connection with the international Bolshevik-Leninists, has made large use of the publications of the League in America and has had a series of successes inside the ILP. We must learn from the example.

15. Certain comrades threaten a split in case the new line is adopted. That shows their lack of seriousness with regard to the things that unite us, the ideas and tactics we have in common, elaborated in the course of eleven years of a great collective work on an international scale. We must, of course, do everything possible to avoid a split, even the withdrawal of a single group. Every comrade is valuable to us, for he can and should become an officer in the proletarian army. But it would be ridiculous and unworthy of us to be afraid of threats of withdrawal. We have seen withdrawals of this kind before, and we know how they have ended up. Dear as our comrades are to us, the development of the organization is immeasurably dearer to us. There is no room for hesitation!