Trotskyism versus Centrism in Britain

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Questions of Perspective[edit source]

The situation in Britain can likewise be termed, with a certain degree of justification, pre-revolutionary, provided it is strictly agreed that a period covering several years of partial ebbs and flows can elapse between the pre-revolutionary and the immediately revolutionary situation. The economic situation in Britain has reached extreme in the economic acuteness. Still, the political superstructure this arch-conservative country extraordinarily lags behind the changes in its economic basis. Before having recourse to new political forms and methods, all the classes of the British nation are attempting time and again to ransack the old storerooms, to turn the old clothes of their grandfathers and grandmothers inside out. The fact remains, that despite the dreadful national decline there does not exist in Britain as yet, either a revolutionary party of any significance or its antipode – the Fascist party. Thanks to these circumstances, the bourgeoisie has had the opportunity of mobilizing the majority of the people under the “national” banner, that is, under the most hollow of all possible slogans. In the pre-revolutionary situation, the most dull-witted of conservatisms has acquired tremendous political predominance. It will in all probability take more than one month, perhaps more than one year, for the political superstructure to become adapted to the real economic and international situation of the country.

There is no ground for assuming that the collapse of the “national” bloc – and such a collapse is inevitable in the relatively near future will lead directly to the proletarian revolution (it is a matter of course, that there can be no other revolution in Britain) or to the triumph of “Fascism”. On the contrary, it may be assumed with much greater probability that on. her path to the revolutionary solution Britain will go through a lengthy period of the radical-democratic and social-pacifist demagogy la Lloyd George and of Labourism. There can therefore be no doubt that Britain’s historical development will grant British Communism ample time to transform itself into the genuine party of the proletariat by the time it is confronted with the solution. From this, however, it does not at all follow that we can afford to continue losing time with disastrous experiments and centrist[1] zigzags. In the present world situation, time is the most precious of raw materials.

From Germany: The Key to the International Situation

(dated 26th November 1931),

Byulleten Oppozitsii, November-December 1931

* * *

But there is yet another important tactical conclusion drawn from the “third period”[2] which is expressed by Molotov[3] in the following words:

“Now, more than ever before, the tactic of coalitions between revolutionary organizations and organizations of reformists are unacceptable and harmful.” (Pravda, 4th August 1929)

Agreements with reformists are impermissible now “more than ever before”. Does this mean they were impermissible before? How then can the whole policy of 1926-1928 be explained? And why exactly have agreements with reformists which are impermissible in general become especially impermissible now? – Because, as they explain to us, we have entered a phase of revolutionary upsurge. But we cannot help recalling that the formation of the bloc with the General Council of the British trade unions was in its time justified precisely by the fact that Britain was entering a period of revolutionary upsurge and that the radicalization of the British working masses was driving the reformists leftwards. Upon what occasion was yesterday’s tactical wisdom of Stalinism turned upon its head? We would seek a solution in vain. All that can be said is that the empiricists of centrism burned their fingers in the experience of the Anglo-Russian Committee[4] and wish by making a solemn oath to protect themselves from such a scandal in the future. But oaths will not help. Our strategists have to this day not understood the lessons of the Anglo-Russlan Committee.

The mistake lay not in concluding an episodic agreement with the General Council which in actual fact did “turn left” in that period (1926) under the pressure of the masses. The first and initial error lay in that the bloc was founded not upon concrete practical tasks but upon general pacifist phrases and false diplomatic formulas. But the chief error, which grew into a gigantic historic crime, lay in the fact that our strategists proved unable to break immediately and publicly from the General Council when the latter turned its weaponry against the General Strike, that is, when it turned from unsteady half-ally into an open enemy.

From The Third Period of the Mistakes of the Comintern

(dated 26th January 1930),

Byulleten Oppozitsii, January 1930

* * *

Two comrades, Ridley and Chandu Ram, have worked out theses dedicated to the situation in Britain, the Left Opposition[5] and its relations to the Comintern. The authors consider themselves supporters of the Left Opposition despite their having serious differences with it. In their document they defend several times the necessity of an open and free inner criticism. This is absolutely correct. This free and open criticism we will employ therefore in relation to their own theses.

1. “Great Britain is at the present time in a transitional phase between democracy and fascism”. Democracy and fascism are here considered as two abstractions without any social determinants. Evidently the authors wish to say: British imperialism prepares itself to free her dictatorship from the decomposing parliamentary covering, and to enter upon the path of open and naked violence. In general this is true, but only in general. The present government[6] is not an “anti-parliamentary” government: on the contrary, it has received unheard of support from “the nation”. Only the growth of the revolutionary movement in Britain can force the government to tread the path of naked, ultra-parliamentary violence. This will without doubt take place. But at the present time this is not so. To place today the question of fascism on the first plane is not here motivated. Even from the standpoint of a distant perspective one can doubt in what measure it is in place to speak of “fascism” for Britain. Marxists must, in our opinion, proceed from the idea that fascism represents a different and specific form of the dictatorship of finance capital, but it is absolutely not identical with the imperialist dictatorship as such. When the “Party” of Mosley and the “Guild of St. Michael”[7] represent the beginnings of fascism, as the thesis declares, it is precisely the total futility of both named groups that shows how unwise it is to reduce already today the whole perspective to the imminent coming of fascism.

In the analysis of the present situation in Britain, we should not preclude the variants through which the rule of conservatism will pass, not directly to the dictatorship of open violence, but will put forward, as a result of a swift parliamentary dislocation to the Left, through any block of Henderson and Lloyd George[8], a transitory government of the British Kerenskiade. Lloyd George counts, manifestly, on the inevitable Left turn of open opinion and precisely, therefore, does not fear to remain today in a futile minority.[9] In what degree the British Kerenskiade is probable, how durable it will be, etc., depends on the further development of the economic crisis, on the tempo of the bankruptcy of the “national” government, and, mainly, upon the speed of the radicalization of the masses.

Obviously, the Kerenskiade, when it appears, must for its own part uncover its insufficiency and consequently push the bourgeoisie along the road of open and naked violence. In this case, the British workers must convince themselves that their monarchy is not just an innocent and decorative institution: the King’s power will inevitably become the centre of the united imperialist counter-revolution.

2. A profound error is to be found in the second paragraph, directed against activity in the trade unions with the object of their capture, which for a Marxist and Bolshevik is obligatory. According to the thought of the thesis, the trade unions from their origin represent “imperialist organizations”. They can live so long as they benefit by the super-profits of British capitalism; now, when her privileged position is forever lost, the trade unions can only disappear. To struggle to capture the present trade unions is nonsense. The revolutionary dictatorship will, in the proper time, build new “economic organizations”.

In this judgement there is nothing new. It renews long ago clarified and rejected propositions. The trade unions are not considered by the authors as the historic organization of the British proletariat, which reflects its destiny, but as a creation which from its inception is penetrated with the sin of imperialism. But the trade unions have had their rich and instructive history. They had previously carried on a heroic struggle for the right to organization. They gloriously participated in the Chartist movement. They led the struggle for the shorter working day, and these struggles were recognized by Marx and Engels as having great historical importance. A number of trade unions entered the First International.[10] Alas, history does not exist for our authors. In all their opinions, there is not a drop of dialectics. They limit themselves under metaphysical principles: “fascism”, “democracy”, “imperialist organizations”. To the living and real processes they oppose their own inventions.

We hear from them that the leaders of the trade unions did not betray the General Strike of 1926. To acknowledge them as “betrayers’ would indicate acknowledgement that they were previously “revolutionary”. See what kind of a Derby metaphysics runs! The reformists have not always betrayed the workers. In certain periods and under certain conditions, the reformists carried through some progressive work, insufficient though it be. The epoch of imperialist decline snatches the rug from under the reformists. That is why the reformists, insofar as they are forced to attach themselves to the movement of the masses, betray it at a certain stage. Even so, the masses accept the conduct of the reformists. To this living conception of the masses, the authors oppose the theory of the original sin of the trade unions. This theory is remarkable in that it does not allow a betrayer to be called a betrayer.

Since 1920, the trade unions have lost more than 40 per cent of their membership. The authors, therefore, say that in the course of the next two years they will lose another 40 per cent. When these 80 per cent of workers come to communism, comrades Ridley and Ram have not a dozen workers behind them. The trade unions still embrace millions of workers who in 1926 demonstrated that they are capable of carrying on a revolutionary struggle. We must look for the workers where they are to be found today, and not where they may be tomorrow – the organized as well as the unorganized. The question does not go so far as the economic organizations which the future revolutionary dictatorship will create, but rather to the present British worker, without whom to speak of the dictatorship of the proletariat signifies playing with phrases. Can in reality the workers enter the path of insurrection in one leap, without in the preceding period deepening its struggle against capitalism, without radicalizing themselves, their methods of struggle and their organizations? How can the revolutionization of the working class take place outside of the trade unions, without reflecting itself inside of the trade unions, without changing its physiognomy, and failing to call forth a selection of new leaders? If it is true that the trade unions originated on the fundamentals of the capitalist super-profits of Great Britain – and this is so to a limited degree – so must the destruction of the super-profits radicalize the trade unions, understood, of course, from below and not from above, understood in the struggle against the leaders and traditions. This struggle will be all the more successful if the Communists participate in it.

The authors of the thesis go so far as to identify the struggle for the trade unions with the Anglo-Russian Committee. An overwhelming argument! The Left Opposition accused Stalin, Tomsky[11] and Company that through the political friendship with Citrine, Purcell, Cook[12] et al. the communists in the trade unions were hindered from unmasking these traitors. Comrades Ridley and Ram bring forth a new discovery: To unite with the betrayers and to unmask them before the masses – are one and the same thing. Can we take such arguments seriously?

The American comrade, Glotzer[13], in speaking of the necessity of working in the trade union organizations for their conquest, appeals in absolute correctness to the pamphlet of Lenin’s Left Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder. To this comrades Ridley and Ram answer with four objections:

  1. They ask for arguments and not appeals to authorities. This is right. But the pamphlet of Lenin’s contains many arguments which their thesis entirely fails to answer.
  2. The authors deny Roman Catholic dogmas of infallibility. We agree with that. But we counsel them to begin with a criticism of the infallibility. of their own gospel.
  3. “Lenin was neither God nor an infallible Pope!” This is a repetition of the preceding argument. Without a Pope, Lenin successfully struggled against metaphysics and sectarianism.
  4. Lenin wrote in the year 1920. The situation since then has changed considerably. But the authors abstain from explaining in what these changes really consist, aside from considering their allusion to the diminishing membership of the trade unions, which does not have a decisive significance.

We see that the arguments of the authors have an extremely abstract even a purely formal character. The allusion to the year 1920 is in direct opposition to the fundamental thoughts of the thesis. If the trade unions from their origin were and remain to this day pure imperialist organizations incapable of revolutionary deeds, the allusion to the year 1920 loses all significance. We would have to say simply that the attitude of Marx, Engels and Lenin was false to the roots.

3. The third paragraph is dedicated to the Comintern. The authors stand for the creation of a Fourth International[14], and, here too, manifest the fundamental quality of their thoughts: absolute metaphysics. We reply that Engels, after Hegel[15], understood metaphysics as considering phenomenon, fact, power, tendencies, etc., as unchangeable substances, and not as developing processes and, therefore, developing in constant contradictions. If the trade union is a vicious imperialist substance from below to above, in all epochs and periods, so likewise the Comintern is for our innovators a vicious bureaucratic substance. The inner processes of the Comintern, the inevitable contradiction between the masses of members and the bureaucratic apparatus, are entirely left out of consideration in their calculations. The authors ask us: Do we believe that the bureaucracy under the influence of our thesis will surrender their interests? And is such a supposition to be described as idealism or materialism? inquire further Ridley and Ram with inimitable irony, not observing that their own posing of the question must be characterized as lifeless metaphysics.

The bureaucracy is very strong, but it is certainly not as omnipotent as Ridley and Ram believe. In the USSR, the sharpening contradictions of economic development Pose ever more before the millions of members of the party and youth, the fundamental questions of programme and tactics. Insofar as the bureaucrats will not be able to solve these contradictions. the millions of communists and young communists will be forced to think independently of their solution. To these masses we say today, and we will say tomorrow: “The centrist bureaucracy conquered the apparatus of the party, thanks to certain historic conditions. But you, worker-communists. hold to the party. not in the name of the bureaucrats but in the name of its great revolutionary past and its possible revolutionary future. We understand you fully. The revolutionary workers do not leap from organization to organization with lightness, like individual students. We Bolshevik-Leninists are fully ready to help you worker-communists regenerate the party.”

Supporting the German Communist Party are millions of workers. The catastrophic crisis in Germany places before it revolutionary problems as problems of life or death. On this ground without doubt will develop a deeper and deeper ideological struggle in the party. If the few hundred Left Oppositionists remain on the side, they will become transformed into a powerless lamentable sect. If, however, they participate in the inner ideological struggles of the party, of which they remain an integral part despite all expulsions, they will win an enormous influence among the proletarian kernel of the party.

No; the Left Opposition has no reason to tread the path which Ridley and Ram call for. Within the Comintern – even when one does not consider the USSR – are to be found tens of thousands of workers who have lived through serious experiences, through a whole stream of disillusionments, and are forced to search for correct answers to all fundamental questions of politics. We must approach these workers and not turn our backs to them. It would be very sad if the critical members of the official British Communist Party would imagine that the opinions of Ridley and Ram represent the opinions of the Left Opposition.

4. The authors of the thesis accuse the Left Opposition, especially the American League[16], of “absurdly over-rating” the importance of the British Communist Party. In no way do we over-rate its importance. The last elections sufficiently, clearly and openly exhibited the weakness of the British Communist Party. But the Left Opposition in Great Britain is today many hundred times weaker than this weak party. Ram and Ridley have as yet nothing. Supporting them are nobody but individuals who are not bound up with the struggle of the proletariat. Have they really attempted to draw an honest criticism of the Party? Where is their activity? Where are their programme theses? Have they held discussions with the rank and file of the party? Have they tried to convert them and win them to their support? Have Ram and Ridley, out of the 70,000 voters for the official party, 700 or even 70 supporters? But in spite of this they are ready to organize the Fourth International. The proletariat must believe in them implicitly – on credit, that they are really capable of building an International and leading it.

The entire posing of the question is absolutely wrong. To this we must add that if the Left Opposition entertained this pernicious error and decided to create a Fourth International comrades Ridley and Ram who differ with us on fundamental questions, must openly and immediately build a Fourth International.

5. The paragraph which concerns itself with India, also suffers an extraordinary abstraction. It is absolutely indisputable that India can accomplish its full national independence only through a really great revolution which will put in power the Indian proletariat. Another path of development is imaginable only, in this case, if the proletarian revolution in Britain comes to victory prior to the revolution in India. In such an event, the national liberation of India would come before – one must suppose for a short time only – the dictatorship of the proletariat uniting with it the poor peasantry. But from these perspectives, which are absolutely correct, it is still a long way to say that India is already ripe for the dictatorship of the proletariat, that the proletariat have outlived their transitory illusions, etc. No: before Indian Communism stands a task not yet begun. The Bolshevik-Leninists[17] of India must accomplish an immense, audacious, daily and difficult work. They must penetrate into all organizations of the working class. The first cadres of worker-communists must be trained. There must be participation in the “prosaic” life of the workers and their organizations. There must be study of the relations existing between the cities and the rural districts.

To fulfil such a work, naturally programmatical and tactical theses are necessary. But it would be incorrect to begin to work with the convention of an international conference over the question of India, as our authors propose. A conference without sufficient preparation will produce nothing. If the Indian Left Oppositionists will occupy themselves with the selection of recent material and working it up, or at least translate it into one of the European languages (strikes, demonstrations, matters of the peasant movement, the parties and the political groups of the different classes, the activity of the Comintern, its appeals and slogans), they will do such an important work, greatly facilitate the possibility of a collective elaboration of the programme and tactics of the proletarian vanguard in India.

One must begin with the building of a serious nucleus of the Left Opposition of Indian comrades, who must stand upon the point of view of the Bolshevik-Leninists.

From The Tasks of the Left Opposition in Britain and India

(dated 7th November 1931),

The Militant, 12th December 1931

* * *

1. For an analysis of a situation from a revolutionary point of view, it is necessary to distinguish between the economic and social premises of a revolutionary situation and the revolutionary situation itself.

2. The economic and social premises for a revolutionary situation begin, generally speaking, at that moment when the productive forces of the country are going not up but down, that is diminishing; when the specific weight of a capitalist country on the world markets is systematically reduced and when the incomes of the classes are likewise systematically reduced; when unemployment becomes not a conjunctural event of fluctuation but a permanent social evil with a tendency to growth. All the foregoing characterize the situation in Britain completely and we can affirm that the economic and social premises for a revolutionary situation exist there in this form and are always becoming more and more acute. But we must not forget that the expression, revolutionary situation, is a political term, not alone sociological. This explanation includes the subjective factor, and the subjective factor is not only the question of the party of the proletariat. It is a question of the consciousness of the whole class, foremost, of course, of the proletariat and the party.

3. The revolutionary situation, however, begins only from the moment that the economic and social premises of a revolution produce a break in the consciousness of society and its different classes. What must be produced in this way for creating a revolutionary situation? (a) In every situation which we must analyse, it is necessary to distinguish three classes of society; the capitalists, the middle class (or petty bourgeoisie) and the proletariat. Those changes in the consciousness of these classes in order to characterize a revolutionary situation are very different for every one of these classes. (b) That the economic situation is very acute, the British proletariat know very well, far better than all theoreticians. But the revolutionary situation begins only at the moment when the proletariat begins to search for a way out, not on the basis of the old society but along the path of a revolutionary insurrection against the existing order. This is the most important subjective condition for a revolutionary situation. The acuteness of the revolutionary feelings of the masses is one of the most important measures for the ripeness of the revolutionary situation. (c) But a revolutionary situation is one which must, in the next period permit the proletariat to become the ruling power of society, that depends in Britain, less than in any other country, but also there to a degree, on the political thoughts and feelings of the middle class; the revolutionary situation would be characterized by the loss of confidence of the middle class in all the traditional parties (including the Labour Party, which is reformist), and its turn of hope to a radical, revolutionary change in the society (and not a counter-revolutionary change, viz., a fascist change). (d) Both the changes in the consciousness of the proletariat and the middle class correspond to the change in the consciousness of the ruling class which sees that it has not the means to save its system, loses confidence in itself, decomposes and splits into factions and cliques.

4. It cannot be foreseen or indicated mathematically at what point in these processes the revolutionary situation is totally ripe. The revolutionary party can only establish that fact by its struggles, by the growth of its forces, through its influence on the masses, on the peasants and the petty-bourgeoisie of the towns, etc., and by the weakening of the resistance of the ruling class.

5. If we adapt these criteria to the British situation we can see: (a) That the economic and social premises, as we stated, are existing and becoming more effective and acute. (b) The bridge, however, from these economic premises to the psychological results has not been crossed. For the revolutionary situation in Britain it is not necessary for great changes in the economic conditions, which are already unbearable, to come about. What is necessary is a new adjustment of the consciousness of the different classes to this unbearable catastrophic situation in Britain.

6. The economic change of society is very slow and is measured by centuries and decades. But when the economic conditions are radically changed a transformation of the retarded psychological factors can be produced very quickly. However, quickly or slowly, such changes must inevitably be effected in the consciousness of the classes. Only then can we have a revolutionary situation.

7. In political terms it signifies: (a) That the proletariat must have lost its confidence not only in the conservatives and liberals, but also in the Labour Party. it must concentrate its will and its courage for revolutionary aims and methods. (b) That the middle class must lose its confidence in the big bourgeoisie, in the lords and turn their eyes to the revolutionary proletariat. (c) That the rich classes, the ruling cliques, rejected by the masses lose confidence in themselves.

8. These phenomena will inevitably come. However, they do not exist today. They can come in a short period of time through the acute crisis. They can arrive in two or three years, or perhaps only a year. But this is a perspective and not a fact today. We must base our policy on the facts of today and not of tomorrow.

9. The political conditions of a revolutionary situation are developing more or less parallel and simultaneously but this does not signify that they all become ripe at the same moment – there is the danger of the British situation of tomorrow. In the ripening political conditions, the most retarded is the revolutionary party of the proletariat. It is not excluded that the general revolutionary change of the proletariat and the middle class. and the political decomposition of the ruling class, will develop more quickly than the ripening of the Communist Party. It signifies that it does not exclude after tomorrow a genuinely revolutionary situation without an adequate revolutionary party. It would be to a certain degree, a reproduction of the situation in Germany of 1923.[18] But to affirm that Britain is in such a situation today is absolutely false.

10. We say that it is not excluded that the development of the Party can remain retarded in relation to the other elements of the revolutionary situation, but that is not in any case inevitable. On this question we cannot make any prognosis, but the question is not merely a question of prognoses. It is a question of our own action.

11. How much time will the British proletariat need in the present state of capitalist society to break up its connections with the three bourgeois parties? By a correct policy of the Communist Party, it is entirely possible that its growth will take place in proportion to the bankruptcy and decomposition of the other parties. It is our aim, it is our duty to realize this possibility.

Conclusions: That explains sufficiently why it is totally false to affirm that Britain is now between democracy and fascism. The era of fascism begins seriously after an important and, for a certain time, decisive victory of the bourgeoisie over the working class. But the great struggles in Britain are not behind us, rather ahead of us. As we discussed in another connection, most probably the next political chapter in Britain, after the decomposition of the National Government and the Conservative government which will probably succeed it, will be a Liberal-Labour reformist era which can, namely in Britain, become in the near future more dangerous than the spectre of fascism. We called this period, conditionally, the British Kerensky phase.

But it is necessary to add that the Kerensky phase is not obliged to be in every situation, in every country, as weak as the Russian Kerensky phase. The weakness of the Kerensky phase there was a result of the great power of the Bolshevik Party. We see now, for example, in Spain[19] that the Kerenskiade – the coalition of the liberals and the “socialists’ – is by no means as weak as it was in Russia, and this is the result of the weakness of the Communist Party, which is thereby becoming a great danger to the Spanish Revolution. The Kerensky phase signifies for us the employment of reformist, “revolutionary”, “democratic”, “socialist” phrases, certain secondary democratic and social reforms, while at the same time carrying on repression against the left wing of the working class.

This method is contrary to the method of fascism, but it serves the same aim. To condemn the future Lloyd George era to a weakness, is only possible when we are not hypnotizing ourselves with the spectre of fascism which is further away than Lloyd George and his instrument of tomorrow – the Labour Party. The danger of tomorrow can become the reformist party, the bloc of the liberals and the socialists; the fascist danger is still in the third or fourth stage away. The struggle to eliminate the fascists and to eliminate or reduce the new reformist period signifies for the Communist Party the struggle for the winning of the working class.

Notes from a discussion with Albert Glotzer

of the Communist League of America,

(17th November 1931),

The Militant, 19th December 1931

The First British Trotskyists[edit source]

Dear Comrade Groves[20],

I have your letter of four weeks ago. Excuse me for not answering sooner. I am at present busy with extremely important work. Aside from this, it is very difficult for me to write in English and it would take me a great deal of time to do so. In addition I did not know whether you could read German or French. At the present time there is an American comrade here who will translate this letter into English. Because of all these reasons you can understand the exceptional delay in answering you.

The same necessary work, which will take at least one and a half months, prevents me from paying close attention to the British question, which is of immeasurable importance to us. Even with regard to reading the British papers, I find little time for it. I trust that the second volume of my History of the Russian Revolution which I am now completing will serve in good stead the communists over the entire world, and especially Britain, in the current era which will bring great tremors in Europe and the rest of the world.

The above will explain why it is difficult for me to give a precise opinion at the present time on the question of the next practical steps for the British Communists and the Left Opposition. In one or two months I shall turn my attention to this. For the present I am forced to confine myself to considerations of a most general character.

One of my English friends wrote to me on the 9th October, prior to the parliamentary elections, about the fast growth of the Communist Party, and of a certain approach of the rank and file members in the ILP towards communism. My correspondent speaks also of a regrowth of the Minority Movement[21] in the trade unions and the growing leadership of the same minority in the sporadic strike movements. These isolated instances in the background of the world crisis and the national crisis which Britain is going through allows us to accept the idea that in the last two years there has been a strengthening Of the Communist Party. The elections brought an absolute disillusionment in this respect. Of the many hundreds of thousands of votes which the Labourites lost, the Party at best swung to its support 20,000 which is, in consideration of the increased total number of voters, an invalid conjunctural fluctuation, and not by any means a serious political conquest. Where is the influence of the Party among the unemployed? Among the coal miners? Among the young generation of workers who, for the first time, voted? Actually, the election results are a horrible condemnation of the policies of the Party and the Comintern.

I have observed very little the tactics of the British party during the last year and I do not want to give judgement about what it learned, or whether it really learned anything. However, it is clear to me that independent from its recent and latest errors, the Communist Party is paying by its impotence of the past year, for the shameful and criminal politics of the Comintern, bound up with the Anglo-Russian Committee and later with the “Third Period” These errors were ruinous especially for Britain.

It surprises one anew what a terrible load of humiliation, conservatism, bigotry, conciliation, respect to the summits, to titles, to riches, to the Crown, drags in its thoughts the British working class which is at the same time capable of grand revolutionary insurrections Chartism, pre-war movements of 1911, movements following the war, the strike movements of 1926.

The British proletariat, the oldest with the most traditions, is, in its thinking methods, most empirical, carries in its chest two souls, and turns, as it were, with two faces to historical events. The contemptible mercenary and servile bureaucrats of the Trade Unions and the Labour party give expression to all that is rotten, humiliating, serf-like and feudal in the British working class. Against this, the tasks of the Communist Party consist in giving expression to the potential revolutionary qualities of the British working class, which is very great and capable of developing immense explosive Powers. But in the very critical period of British history, 1925-1927, all the policies of the British Communist Party and the Comintern consisted in the slave-like assimilation of the trade union leadership, its idealization, blotting out its treason, and fastening the confidence of the working class to it. The young British Communist Party was because of this deeply demoralized. The whole authority of the October Revolution, USSR and Bolshevism, was in this year attached to the support and solidification of the conservative and servile tendencies of the British working class.

After the Labourites had used the Stalinites to the end and kicked them aside, the chapter of Trade Unionism was mechanically substituted under the caption of the ultra-Left jump to the glory of the “Third Period”. The slogan of “Class against Class” was now issued, interpreted as a slogan of the struggle of a handful of Communists against the “social fascist” proletariat. When yesterday Purcell and Cook[22] were friends and trustworthy allies of the Soviet Union, today the workers who voted for Purcell and Cook transformed themselves into class enemies. This is the political orbit of the British Communist Party, or, rather, of the Communist International. Can we expect another surer way to trample the prestige of Communism and to undermine the confidence of the Party by the awakening workers?

The Moscow bureaucracy of the Communist International at every step runs against a blind alley with its nose, commands a turn either to the Left or to the Right. That is not difficult. All these Kuusinens, Manuilskys, Lozovskys, etc., are apparatus men[23], free not only of serious Marxist training and revolutionary horizon, but also – and this is the important thing – from every control of the masses. Its politics has a pure chancery character. A tactical turn is for them only a new circular. The CC of the British Communist Party[24], according to its strength, carries out the orders. But all of these circulars, through the corresponding politics, transport themselves into the consciousness of the workers. The bureaucratic bankrupts believe that one can mechanically fasten our leadership, on to the working class: on the one side with the aid of cash and repression, on the other side with the help of abrupt leaps, the blotting out of traces, with lies and calumnies. But this is totally untrue.

The British workers think slowly, since their consciousness is filled with the rubbish of centuries. But they think. Single articles, appeals, slogans, generally pass them by unnoticed. However, whole periods of politics (Anglo-Russian Committee, “Third Period”) in no respect pass without a trace, at least, with the most progressive, militant critical and revolutionary section of the working class. When one imagines the education of the revolutionary consciousness as the cutting of threads on a screw, one must say that the leadership of the Comintern, at each time, does not employ the proper tool nor proper calibre, and not in the direction necessary, thereby breaking the grooves, crumbling and demolishing. Without the smallest exaggeration one can confirm that from 1923 (for Britain especially from 1925) had the Comintern not existed, we would have today in Britain an incomparably more important revolutionary party. The last elections illustrate with power that frightful conviction.

Here begins the task of the Left Opposition. The English communists, among whom are naturally many devoted, honest, self-sacrificing revolutionaries, cannot but be discouraged with the results of a decade of activity, and that in exclusively opportune conditions. Pessimism and indifference can also take hold of very good revolutionaries when they do not understand the causes of their own weaknesses, nor find the way out. Criticism, i.e., in the light of Marxism that openly illuminates the path of the party, its zig-zags, its errors, the theoretical roots of these errors – that is the foremost and necessary condition for the regeneration of the party. It is especially necessary, when this has not been done to begin the publication of the Most important documents of the International Left opposition concerning the question of the Anglo-Russian Committee. This is the point of departure for the British left wing

The Left Opposition in Britain, just as communism generally, has the right to count upon a promising future: British capitalism falls from great historical heights to an abyss that is clear to all. One can, with assuredness, say that the recent elections represent the last gigantic rise of the natural “grandeur” of the British bourgeoisie. However, it is the rise of a dying lamp. For these elections, official British politics will in the coming period pay heavily.

The bankruptcy of the great national heroes of the three parties, just as the bankruptcy of British capitalism, are absolutely inevitable. Despite all obstacles from the Communist International, the mole of the British revolution burrows much too well its earthy path. One has every right to hope that these elections are the last rise of reliance of the millions of workers on the capitalists, lords, intellectuals, educated and rich persons, those united with MacDonald and the Sunday Pudding. These gentlemen will find no secret. The real secret is this: the proletarian revolution. just as the actual elections prepare to smash the conservative and servile soul of the British proletariat, it will be followed by the powerful blossom of their revolutionary soul.

Yet, immediately the victory of the conservatives brings heavy trials for the British proletariat and the deepening of international dangers. Especially does this endanger the USSR. Here we can see what little aid was brought to the USSR through the uninterrupted cry for her “defence”. For a period of two or three years, one expected this defence from Purcell, Hicks, Citrine[25] and later this defence was taken up by the Communist Party against the “social-fascist’ proletariat. And, now, it has in the defence of the USSR all in all received 70,000 votes. All that the Left Opposition demanded, the rupture of the shameful bloc with Purcell, was charged by Stalin as a refusal to defend the USSR from British imperialism. Now we can draw the balance: Nobody has given such service to the expiring British imperialism as the Stalin school. Of course, the chief of this school earned two orders of the Garter.

The British Left Opposition must begin systematic work. You must establish our staff-centre though a small one. You must build your own publication, even on a modest scale…. It is necessary to have a steady, uninterrupted activity, to educate our cadres, although in the first stages few. The fundamental power of history is in our favour. When, in Britain, more so than elsewhere, communism in a short time can conquer the consciousness of the wide masses, so can conquer, in the same short time, within the communist movement, the supremacy of the ideas of the Left Opposition, that is, the ideas of Marx and Lenin. I sincerely wish our British friends success on this path.

With best Communist greetings

Yours L. Trotsky

Letter to Reg Groves (dated 10th November 1931),

The Militant, 5th December 1931

* * *

Dear Comrades,

You have begun publication of a little monthly, The Red Flag.[26] This is a modest step forward. We must hope that other steps will follow.

The advance of communism in Great Britain in no way corresponds to the rate of decay of British capitalism. The conservative traditions of British politics, including the politics of the working class, are in themselves obviously insufficient to explain this. We only declare what is true and cannot be refuted when we say that above all, and, alas, with greater effect than any other factor, the progress of communism during the last years has been hindered by the leadership of the British Communist Party. It of course has not acted independently, but has only blindly followed the orders given by the leaders of the Comintern. But this does not free the British Communist bureaucracy from its responsibility or lessen the damage it has done.

A critical examination of the policy of the British Communist Party during the last eight or ten years constitutes a most important task in the education of the Left Opposition itself. You should study the official publications of the Party throughout this period carefully, digest them, and reveal the party line on the main strategical problems: its attitude towards the Labour Party, the trade unions, the Minority Movement, the colonial revolution; the united-front policy; the ILP, etc. The mere selection of the most striking quotations and the presentation of them in chronological order would expose not only the glaring contradictions of the “general line”, but also the inner logic of these contradictions, that is, the violent oscillation of the centrist bureaucracy between opportunism and adventurism. Each one of these tactical zigzags pushed Communists, sympathizers, and potential friends to the right, to the left, and finally into the swamp of indifference. We can say without the least exaggeration that the British Communist Party has become a political thoroughfare and retains its influence only in that section of the working class which has been forcibly driven to its side by the decomposition of both capitalism and reformism.

Along with the new printed publication, you have at your disposal a hectographed (excellently hectographed!) bulletin, The Communist.[27] It would be extremely desirable to devote the greatest possible space in this publication to an examination of the policy of the British Communist Party along the lines indicated above, and also to a discussion of controversial questions within the Left Opposition itself. While persistently striving to widen our influence among the workers, we must at the same time concentrate on the theoretical and political education of our own ranks. We have a long and laborious road ahead of us. For this we need first-class cadres.

With all my heart I wish you success,

Leon Trotsky

Letter of greetings to Red Flag (dated 19th May 1933),

The Militant, 22nd July 1933

The ILP After Disaffiliation[edit source]

To the Comrades of the Independent Labour Party. – You have published my Copenhagen speech on the Russian Revolution in pamphlet form.[28] I can of course, only be glad that you made my speech accessible to British workers. The foreword by James Maxton[29] recommends this booklet warmly to the Socialist readers. I can only be thankful for this recommendation.

The foreword, however, contains an idea to which I feel obliged to take exception. Maxton refuses in advance to enter into the merits of those disagreements which separate me and my co-thinkers from the now ruling fraction in the USSR. “This is a matter,” he says, “on which only Russian socialists are competent to decide.”

By these few words the international character of socialism as a scientific doctrine and as a revolutionary movement is completely refuted. If socialists (communists) of one country are incapable. incompetent, and consequently have no right to decide the vital questions of the struggle of socialists (communists) in other countries, the proletarian International loses all rights and possibilities of existence.

I will allow myself, moreover, to affirm that, while refraining formally from judging the struggle which split the Russian Bolsheviks, Maxton, possibly without wishing it, has nevertheless expressed himself in hidden form on the essence of the dispute and, in effect, in favour of the Stalinist fraction, since our struggle with it concerns precisely the question as to whether socialism is a national or international matter. Admitting the possibility of the theoretical and practical solution of the problems of socialism within national limits, Maxton admits the correctness of the Stalinist fraction which bases itself on the theory of “socialism in one country.”[30]

In reality, the disputes between the Russian Bolsheviks are not only Russian disputes, just as the conflicts between the Labour Party, the Independent Labour Party, and the Communist Party of Great Britain are not only British conflicts, The matter concerns not only the fate of the present Communist International but of a proletarian International in general.

The grouping of forces, not only in the USSR, but also far beyond its limits, goes along the dividing line between “socialism in one country” and International Socialism. Sections of true Internationalists, taking as the point of departure the theory of permanent revolution[31], are to be found now in almost all the countries of the world. Their number and influence grows. I consider that on the basic questions of the struggle between us and the Stalinists, every member of the ILP not only can, but is by duty bound to arrive at his independent opinion.

On my part I am ready to help as much as I can, in print, writing or orally, every British socialist, every British worker, in the study of the disputed questions of the International.

I will be very grateful to you if you will publish this letter in your organ.

Comradely yours,

L. Trotsky

Letter to the Independent Labour Party (dated 8th August 1933),

New Leader, 25th August 1933

* * *

Whither the ILP?

The latest political decisions[32] of the National Council of the British Independent Labour Party show clearly that after its break with the reformists the party continues to move leftward. Similar processes are to be observed in other countries: a left wing forms within the social-democratic parties which splits off at the following stage from the party and tries with its own forces to pave for itself a revolutionary path. These processes reflect on one side the deep crisis of capitalism and of reformism which is inseparably bound up therewith, and on the other – the inability of the Comintern to group around itself revolutionary currents within the proletariat.

In Britain, however, the situation is complicated more by an unheard of combination. Whereas, in other countries, the Comintern continues to treat the left socialist organizations as “left social fascists” and as “the most dangerous Counter-revolutionists”, a permanent collaboration has been established between the ILP and the Communist Party of Great Britain. How these leaders of the Comintern combine this collaboration with the theory of social-fascism, remains a mystery. In the July issue of the theoretical organ of the Comintern, Fenner Brockway[33], the newly appointed secretary of the ILP, is called a “counter-revolutionist” as heretofore. Why the British Communist Party made a united front this time not from below but from above moreover, with leaders who prove to be “counter-revolutionists, and a united front made not for one single practical action but for collaboration in general, – no mortal can solve these contradictions. But if the principles be left aside, the matter can be explained very simply: under the exceptionally favourable conditions of Great Britain the Comintern managed completely to isolate and weaken its British section by the ruinous policy of the Anglo-Russian Committee, the “third Period”, “social-fascism, and the rest; on the other hand, the deep social crisis of British capitalism pushed the ILP sharply towards the left; not heeding consistency or logic the totally discouraged Comintern grabbed this time with both hands the alliance proposed to it.

We could have and should have welcomed and heartily supported the collaboration of the ILP with the Communist Party had it not been based on evasiveness, suppressions and ambiguities on both sides.

Of the Communist Party the National Council says that it is “revolutionary in outlook as ourselves.” That is all we learn with regard to the appraisal of the Communist Party and of its policy. Every serious and thinking worker will inevitably ask: why are two parties necessary if they have both an equally revolutionary outlook. This worker will be even more astonished upon learning that the leaders of one of the equally revolutionary parties consider the leaders of the other Party as “counter-revolutionaries” and “left social-fascists”. Possibly the National Council refrains from a critical estimation of its ally so as not to undermine the alliance itself. But an alliance of revolutionary organizations which is based not on open mutual criticism but on diplomacy will be thrown over by the first gust of the political storm, like a house of cards.

The theses of the National Council explain the bloc with the Communist Party, first as a step towards the united front, secondly as a stage in the creation of a mass revolutionary party. Each of these two arguments has its weight; but mechanically placed side by side they contradict each other. The theses repeat that the united front should embrace any and all organizations of the proletariat insofar as they wish to participate in the struggle: the Labour Party, the trade unions, even the Co-operative Party. But we know well, and not from literature but from the tragic experience of the German catastrophe[34], that the Comintern rejects the united front with reformist (“social-fascist”) organizations. How does the ILP intend to build a united front with reformist organizations in alliance with the Communist Party: only from below and under the leadership of the communist bureaucracy guaranteed in advance? To this question there is no answer.

Mentioning in passing that the bloc with the Communist Party has pushed certain sections of the “official movement” to the right, the National Council expresses the hope that these prejudices can be conquered by an active participation in daily struggles. The fact that the reactionary prejudices of the leaders of the Labour Party and of the General Council of trade unions do not frighten the leaders of the ILP only does the ILP credit. Unfortunately, however, it is not only a question of prejudices. When the communist bureaucracy declares that reformism and fascism are twins, it not only criticizes the reformist leaders incorrectly, but it provokes the rightful indignation of the reformist workers. The theses, it is true, say that the criticism of reformism should correspond to actual facts and push the reformist workers forward and not back; but the Communist Party is not mentioned in this connection by one word. What can be made of the theory of “social-fascism”? And how can the policy of the united front be built on this theory? To pass such questions in silence in the resolution does not mean to remove them from life. An open discussion could possibly force the Communist Party to adopt a correct position; diplomatic evasiveness can only pile up contradictions and prepare a new catastrophe for the next mass movement.

Without defining in principle their attitude to official communism (Stalinism) the theses of the National Council stop midway in their relation to reformism. The reformists must be criticized as conservative democrats and not as fascists, but the struggle with them must be no less irreconcilable because of it, since British reformisin is the main hindrance now to the liberation not only of the British but also of the European proletariat. The policy of a united front with reformists is obligatory but it is of necessity limited to partial tasks, especially to defensive struggles. There can be no thought of making the socialist revolution in a united front with reformist organizations The principal task of a revolutionary party consists in freeing the working class from the influence of reformism. The error of the Comintern bureaucracy consists, not in the fact that they see the most important condition for the victory of the Proletariat in the leadership of a revolutionary party – that is entirely correct – but in that being incapable of gaining the confidence of the working masses in daily struggle, starting as a minority in modest roles, it demands this confidence in advance, presents ultimatums to the working class and disrupts attempts at a united front because other organizations are not willing to hand it over voluntarily the marshal’s baton. This is not Marxist Policy but bureaucratic sabotage. A secure and firm victory of the proletarian revolution – we repeat it again – is possible only under the condition that a revolutionary. that is a truly communist, party will succeed in gaining the firm confidence of the majority of the working class before the overthrow. This central question is not touched in the theses. Why? Out of “tact” with regard to the ally? Not only that. There are deeper causes. Insufficient clarity of the theses with regard to the united front flows from the incomplete realizations of the methods of the proletarian revolution. The theses speak of the necessity “to wrest the control of the economic system and the state from the capitalist class and to transfer it to the working class.” But how solve this gigantic problem? To this pivotal question of our epoch the theses reply with a naked phrase: “this can only be achieved through united action by the working class.” The struggle for power and the dictatorship of the proletariat remain abstractions which can be easily dissolved in the amorphous perspectives of the united front.

In the realm of ready made revolutionary formulae the bureaucracy of the British Communist Party is immeasurably better equipped. Precisely in this lies now its advantage over the leadership of the ILP. And it must be said openly: this superficial, purely formal advantage may under the present circumstances lead to the liquidation of the ILP without any gain accruing to the Communist Party and to the revolution. The objective conditions have more than once pushed tens and even hundreds of thousands of workers towards the British section of the Comintern, but the leadership of the Comintern was capable only of disillusioning them and of throwing them back. If the ILP as a whole should enter today the ranks of the Communist Party, within the next couple of months one third of the new members would return to the Labour Party, another third would be expelled for “conciliatory attitude towards Trotskyism” and for similar crimes, finally, the remaining third, disillusioned in all its expectations would fall into indifferentism. As a result of this experiment the Communist Party would find itself weaker and more isolated than now.

The ILP can save the workers’ movement of Britain from this new danger only by freeing itself from all unclarity and haziness with regard to the ways and methods of the socialist revolution and by becoming a truly revolutionary party of the proletariat. There is no necessity of inventing anything new in this field, all has been said well by the first four congresses of the Comintern. Instead of feeding on bureaucratic substitutes of the epigones it is better to put all the members of the ILP to the study of the resolutions of the first four congresses of the Comintern. But this alone does not suffice. It is necessary to open a discussion in the party on the lessons of the last decade which was marked by the struggle between the Stalinist bureaucracy and the Left Opposition. The content of this struggle was made up of the most important stage of the world revolutionary movement; economic and political tasks of the USSR; problems of the Chinese revolution; the policy of the Anglo-Russian committee; methods of the united front; problems of party democracy; the causes of the German catastrophe. This enormous cycle of problems cannot be passed by. These are not Russian but international problems.

In our epoch a revolutionary party cannot but be international. What is the position of the ILP on this? Having entered into an alliance with the Communist Party the ILP has not determined its international position. It broke with the Second International and made an alliance with the Third, but it also enters into a labour alliance with left socialist parties. This alliance, in its turn, is not homogeneous. There are elements in it which gravitate towards Bolshevism, but there are also elements which pull towards the Norwegian Workers’ Party.[35] That is, in reality towards the social-democracy. What position does the ILP take on all these questions? Is it willing to share the fate of the historically already doomed Comintern, does it want to try to remain in an intermediary position (which means to return by round about ways to reformism), or is it ready to participate in the building of a new International on the foundations laid by Marx and Lenin?

To the serious reader it is clear that our criticism is least of all inspired by animosity towards the ILP. On the contrary, we see too clearly that if this party should ingloriously disappear from the scene socialism would suffer a new hard blow. And this danger exists and it is not far removed. In our epoch it is impossible to remain long in intermediary Positions. Only political clarity can save the ILP for the proletarian revolution. The aim of these lines is to help revolutionary clarity to pave its way.

Written on 24th August 1933 and published in

Red Flag, October-November 1933

* * *

The ILP and the New International

After a brief interval I am returning again to the policy of the Independent Labour Party. This is occasioned by the declaration of the ILP delegation at the Paris Conference[36], which permits a clear idea of the general direction the ILP is heading as well as of the stage at which it now finds itself.

The delegation considers it necessary to call a world congress of “all” revolutionary parties beginning with those adhering to the Third International. “If the Third International proves unprepared to change its tactics and organization, the time will have come to consider the formation of a new International.” This sentence contains the very essence of the present policy of the ILP. Having shifted decisively to the left, to communism, the members of this Party refuse to believe that the Communist International, which has numerous cadres and material and technical means at its disposal is lost for the revolutionary movement. It is necessary, they say, to make one more test of the ability or inability of the Comintern to change its policy.

It is incorrect, even naive, to pose the question in this manner. The ability or inability of a party is not determined at a congress but in daily struggle, and particularly in times of great dangers, momentous decisions and mass action. After the victory of Hitler. for which the Comintern bears a direct responsibility, the leadership of the Comintern not only has left its policy unchanged but also has intensified its disastrous methods. This historic test has a thousand times more weight than all the declarations that the representatives of the Comintern might make at any one congress. It must not be forgotten that congresses represent elements of “parliamentarism” in the workers’ movement itself. While parliamentarism is inevitable and necessary, it cannot add anything fundamentally new above what has been actually attained in mass struggle. This refers not only to the parliamentarism of the bourgeois state but also to the “parliamentary” institutions of the proletariat itself. We must orient ourselves by the real activity of working class organizations and not expect any miracles from the proposed world congress.

During a period of ten years (1923-33), the Left Opposition acted as a faction of the Comintern, hoping to attain an improvement in its policy and regime by systematic criticism and an active participation in the life of the Comintern and its sections. The Left Opposition, therefore, has a colossal experience of an international character. There was not a single, important, historic event that did not force the Left Opposition to counterpose its slogans and methods to the slogans and methods of the bureaucracy of the Comintern. The struggle around the questions of the Soviet economy and the regime of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the Chinese Revolution, Anglo-Russian Committee, etc., etc., remained comparatively little known to the workers’ parties of the West.[37] But two chapters of this struggle passed before the eyes of the advanced workers of all the world: they deal with the theory and practice of the “third period” and with the strategy of the Comintern in Germany.

If the Left Opposition can be blamed for anything, it is certainly not for an impatient break with the Comintern. Only after the German Communist Party, which had been gathering millions of votes, proved incapable of offering even the least resistance to Hitler, and after the Comintern refused to recognize not only the erroneousness of its policy but even the very fact of the defeat of the proletariat (in reality the victory of Hitler is the greatest defeat of the proletariat in the history of the world!) and replaced the analysis of its mistakes and crimes by a new campaign of persecution and slander against real Marxists – only after this did we say: nothing can save these people any more. The German catastrophe, and the role of the Comintern in it, is infinitely more important for the world proletariat than any organizational manoeuvres, congresses, evasive declarations, diplomatic agreements, etc. The historical judgment on the Comintern has been pronounced. There is no appeal from this verdict.

The history of the Comintern is almost unknown to the members of the ILP, which has just recently taken the revolutionary path. Besides, no organization learns only by books and files. The ILP wants independently to undergo an experience that already undergone on a much larger scale. Had this involved only the loss of a few months, one could have reconciled oneself to it despite the fact that each month of our time is much more precious than years of another period. The danger, however, is that, aspiring to “test” the Comintern by drawing closer to it, the ILP may, without realizing it, follow the ways of the Comintern – and ruin itself.

The trade union question remains the most important question of proletarian policy in Great Britain, as well as in the majority of old capitalist countries. The mistakes of the Comintern in this field are innumerable. No wonder: a party’s inability to establish correct relations with the working class reveals itself most glaringly in the area of the trade union movement. That is why I consider it necessary to dwell on this question.

The trade unions were formed during the period of the growth and rise of capitalism. They had as their task the raising of the material and cultural level of the proletariat and the extension of its political rights. This work, which in Britain lasted over a century, gave the trade unions tremendous authority among the workers. The decay of British capitalism, under the conditions of decline of the world capitalist system, undermined the basis for the reformist work of the trade unions. Capitalism can continue to maintain itself only by lowering the standard of living of the working class. Under these conditions trade unions can either transform themselves into revolutionary organizations or become lieutenants of capital in the intensified exploitation of the workers. The trade union bureaucracy, which has satisfactorily solved its own social problem, took the second path. It turned all the accumulated authority of the trade unions against the socialist revolution and even against any attempts of the workers to resist the attacks of capital and reaction.

From that point on, the most important task of the revolutionary Party became the liberation of the workers from the reactionary influence of the trade union bureaucracy. In this decisive field, the Comintern revealed its complete inadequacy. In 1926-27, especially in the period of the miners’ strike and the General Strike, that is, at the time of the greatest crimes and betrayals of the General Council of the Trades Union Congress, the Comintern obsequiously toadied to the highly placed strike-breakers, cloaked them with its authority in the eyes of the masses and helped them remain in the saddle. That is how the Minority Movement[38] was struck a mortal blow. Frightened by the results of its own work, the Comintern bureaucracy went to the extreme of ultra-radicalism. The fatal excesses of the “third period” were due to the desire of the small Communist minority to act as though it had a majority behind it. Isolating itself more and more from the working class, the Communist Party counterposed to the trade unions, which embraced millions of workers, its own trade union organizations, which were highly obedient to the leadership of the Comintern but separated by an abyss from the working class. No better favour could be done for the trade union bureaucracy. Had it been within its power to award the Order of the Garter, it should have so decorated all the leaders of the Comintern and Profintern.[39]

As was said, the trade unions now play not a progressive but a reactionary role. Nevertheless. they still embrace millions of workers. One must not think that the workers are blind and do not see the change in the historic role of the trade unions. But what is to be done? The revolutionary road is seriously compromised in the eyes of the left wing of the workers by the zigzags and adventures of official communism. The workers say to themselves: the trade unions are bad, but without them it might be even worse. This is the psychology of one who is in a blind alley. Meanwhile, the trade union bureaucracy persecutes the revolutionary workers ever more boldly, ever more impudently replacing internal democracy by the arbitrary action of a clique, in essence, transforming the trade unions into some sort of concentration camp for the workers during the decline of capitalism.

Under these conditions, the thought easily arises: is it not possible to by-pass the trade unions? Is it not possible to replace them by some sort of fresh, uncorrupted organization. such as revolutionary trade unions, shop committees, Soviets and the like? The fundamental mistake of such attempts is that they reduce to organizational experiments the great political problem of how to free the masses from the influence of the trade union bureaucracy. It is not enough to offer the masses a new address. It is necessary to seek out the masses where they are and to lead them.

Impatient leftists sometimes say that it is absolutely impossible to” win over the trade unions because the bureaucracy uses the organizations’ internal regimes for preserving its own interests, resorting to the basest machinations, repressions and plain crookedness, in the spirit of the parliamentary oligarchy of the era of “rotten boroughs.”[40] Why then waste time and energy? This argument reduces itself in reality to giving up the actual struggle to win the masses, using the corrupt character of the trade union bureaucracy as a pretext. This argument can be developed further: why not abandon revolutionary work altogether, considering the repressions and provocations on the part of the government bureaucracy? There exists no principled difference here, since the trade union bureaucracy has definitely become a part of the capitalist apparatus, economic and governmental. It is absurd to think that it would be Possible to work against the trade union bureaucracy with its own help, or only with its consent. Insofar as it defends itself by Persecutions, violence, expulsions, frequently resorting to the assistance of government authorities, we must learn to work in the trade unions discreetly, finding a common language with the masses but not revealing ourselves prematurely to the bureaucracy. It is precisely in the present epoch, when the reformist bureaucracy of the proletariat has transformed itself into the economic police of capital, that revolutionary work in the trade unions, performed intelligently and systematically, may yield decisive results in a comparatively short time.

We do not at all mean by this that the revolutionary party has any guarantee that the trade unions will be completely won over to the socialist revolution. The problem is not so simple. The trade union apparatus has attained for itself great independence from the masses. The bureaucracy is capable of retaining its positions a long time after the masses have turned against it. But it is precisely such a situation, where the masses are already hostile to the trade union bureaucracy but where the bureaucracy is still capable of misrepresenting the opinion of the organization and of sabotaging new elections. that is most favourable for the creation of shop committees, workers’ councils and other organizations for the immediate needs of any given moment. Even in Russia, where the trade unions did not have anything like the powerful traditions of the British trade unions, the October Revolution occurred with Mensheviks Predominant in the administration of the trade unions. Having lost the masses, these administrations were still capable of sabotaging elections in the apparatus, although already powerless to sabotage the proletarian revolution.

It is absolutely necessary right now to prepare the minds of the advanced workers for the idea of creating shop committees and workers councils at the moment of a sharp change. But it would be the greatest mistake to “play around” in practice with the slogan of shop councils, consoling oneself with this “idea” for the lack of real work and real influence in the trade unions. To counterpose to the existing trade unions the abstract idea of workers’ councils would mean setting against oneself not only the bureaucracy but also the masses, thus depriving oneself of the possibility of preparing the ground for the creation of workers’ councils.

In this the Comintern has gained not a little experience: having created obedient, that is, purely Communist, trade unions, it counterposed its sections to the working masses in a hostile manner and thereby doomed itself to complete impotence. This is one of the most important causes of the collapse of the German Communist Party. It is true that the British Communist Party, insofar as I am informed, opposes the slogan of workers’ councils under the present conditions. Superficially, this may seem like a realistic appraisal of the situation. In reality, the British Communist Party only rejects one form of political adventurism for another, more hysterical form. The theory and practice of social fascism and the rejection of the policy of the united front creates insurmountable obstacles to working in the trade unions, since each trade union is, by its very nature, the arena of an ongoing united front of revolutionary parties with reformist and non-party masses. To the extent that the British Communist Party proved incapable, even after the German tragedy, of learning anything and arming itself anew, to that extent can an alliance with it pull to the bottom even the ILP, which only recently has entered a period of revolutionary apprenticeship.

Pseudo-Communists will, no doubt, refer to the last congress of trade unions, which declared that there could be no united front with Communists against fascism. It would be the greatest folly to accept this piece of wisdom as the final verdict of history. The trade union bureaucrats can permit themselves such boastful formulas only because they are not immediately threatened by fascism or by communism. When the hammer of fascism is raised over the head of the trade unions, then, with a correct policy of the revolutionary party, the trade union masses will show an irresistible urge for an alliance with the revolutionary wing and will carry with them onto this path even a certain portion of the apparatus. Contrariwise, if communism should become a decisive force, threatening the General Council with the loss of positions, honours and income, Messrs. Citrine[41] and Co. would undoubtedly enter into a bloc with Mosley[42] and Co. against the Communists. Thus, in August 1917, the Russian Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries together with the Bolsheviks repulsed General Kornilov.[43] Two months later in October, they were fighting hand in hand with the Kornilovists against the Bolsheviks. And in the first months of 1917, when the reformists were still strong, they spouted, just like Citrine and Co., about the impossibility of their making an alliance with the dictatorship either of the right or left.

The revolutionary proletarian Party must be welded together by a clear understanding of its historic tasks. This presupposes a scientifically based programme. At the same time, the revolutionary party must know how to establish correct relations with the class. This presupposes a policy of revolutionary realism. equally removed from opportunistic vagueness and sectarian aloofness.

From the point of view of both these closely connected criteria, the ILP should review its relation to the Comintern as well as to all other organizations and tendencies within the working class. This concerns first of all the fate of the ILP itself.

Written on 4th September 1933 and published in

The Militant, 30th September 1933

* * *

In the Daily Worker[44] of 14th September I found the letter of Comrade C.A. Smith[45], who defends the ILP from the accusation that its delegates have participated in Paris in the building of a Two-and-One-Half International. I have no basis whatsoever to interfere in the essence of this polemic. I must point out, however, that from the letter of Comrade Smith the conclusion might be drawn that in Paris there was actually laid the foundation for a Two-and-One-Half International, although without the participation of the ILP. I consider it necessary to dispel any misunderstandings that the readers of the New Leader[46] might have on this score.

It is true that certain organizations which occupy an intermediate position between the Second and the Third International, such as the Norwegian Workers’ Party, the French Party of the Proletarian Unity (PUP)[47], the Italian Maximalists[48] and others, have participated in the Paris Conference. But precisely all these organizations expressed themselves against the new International.

For the creation of the new International, not a Two-and-One Half, but a Fourth International, were the following organizations: The International Left Opposition, the Socialist Workers’ Party (SAP) of Germany[49] and two Dutch Socialist Parties, the Independent Socialist Party and the Revolutionary Socialist Party of Holland.[50]

I urge the readers of the New Leader, as, however, also the readers of the Daily Worker, to acquaint themselves with the declaration of the named organizations On the Necessity and Principles of a New International. Here I shall quote only one paragraph (8) out of eleven.

“While ready to co-operate with all the organizations, groups and fractions which are actually developing from reformism or bureaucratic centrism (Stalinism) towards revolutionary Marxist policy, the undersigned at the same time declare that the new International cannot tolerate any conciliation towards reformism, or centrism. The necessary unity of the workers movement cannot be attained by the blurring of reformist and revolutionary conceptions, or the adaptation to the Stalinist policy, but only by combating the policies of both bankrupt Internationals. To remain equal to its task the new International must not permit any deviation from revolutionary principles in the questions of insurrection, proletarian dictatorship, Soviet form of the State, etc.”

In conclusion, I allow myself to say that the International Left Opposition (Bolshevik-Leninists) is much further removed from centrism (2½) than the present Barbussized[51] Comintern.

With revolutionary greetings,

L. Trotsky

From a letter to New Leader (dated 2nd October 1933),

published 13th October 1933

* * *

It was all rather breathtaking. Driven at midnight to a station in Paris; put on a train but kept ignorant of destination; leaving the train according to instructions at a certain time; recognized by a comrade, armed with a telegraphed description of us; whirled off for a further journey; admitted past various obstacles; and finally greeted with tempestuous heartiness by Leon Trotsky himself.

We settled down to business immediately, and for over ten hours, with breaks only for meals, plied one of the world’s most distinguished revolutionaries with questions. No one could fail to be impressed by the man’s enormous vitality, or charmed by his frank and eager courtesy. Clear analytical exposition, supplemented by a wealth of vivid imagery and forceful metaphor, made his conversation both an intellectual and an aesthetic delight.

“You are aware,” I said, “that at the Paris Conference of Revolutionary Socialist Parties the ILP voted against the main resolution (because we considered the condemnation of the Comintern unbalanced or exaggerated), and also against the proposal to form a Fourth International. We are consequently particularly desirous of hearing: (a) Your chief criticism of the Comintern; (b) Why you despair of its reform; (c) What action you propose taking?”

Trotsky’s criticisms, delivered with great verve and clarity, related both to the Communist International’s policy and to its organization. The latter he declared to be bureaucratic, and corruptly bureaucratic at that. Discussion is stifled, criticism regarded as disloyalty, and all who oppose the bureaucratic tops expelled as heretics.

Bolshevik self-criticism, said Trotsky, is a departed glory. In the early days, even during the Civil War, perfect freedom of discussion was the rule. In the Red Army there was strict military discipline with severe punishment, yet even there in policy discussions private soldiers, as party members, frequently attacked Lenin (as well as Trotsky himself), or the Central Committee as a whole, and criticized them unsparingly. During the Civil War a Congress was held every year, with an additional Congress in a case of emergency; now five years pass and there is no Comintern Congress.

Functionaries of the Comintern Praesidium are changed by the decree of the Political Bureau of the CPSU (Communist Party of the Soviet Union). Brandler[52], the German CP leader, criticized the Comintern policy in Germany. He was summoned to Moscow and detained there several years, finally getting away by extraordinary methods. If a man refuses to go to Moscow when ordered thither he is immediately expelled from the party.

This suppression of internal criticism, insisted Trotsky, arises from the determination of the Stalinist faction to retain control in the teeth of a wrong policy. But the results of bureaucratic rule themselves influence policy. The bureaucratic mind has an essential distrust of the masses, and in consequence develops the usual characteristics of bureaucracies, whatever their time or place. Specifically, the present Russian bureaucracy differs from the bourgeois bureaucracies of the capitalist countries, in that the former desires to preserve the Soviet Union and the latter desire to overthrow it. Generically. however, they are identical in outlook and methods.

Decisions are taken without consulting the rank and file, and every art of lying, concealment and repression is used to compel acceptance of the line laid down by the executive, often out of touch with the situation it is attempting to control. Further, the bureaucracy never dares to admit its mistakes, which are the more grave the more the bureaucracy considers itself infallible. The most glaring instance of this refusal to admit mistakes is afforded by the German debacle.

The CI line there was tragically wrong, declared Trotsky, and many of the ablest communist leaders recognize this. It led the German workers to certain and frequently predicted disaster. Yet immediately after the disaster, the CI solemnly declared that its line had been correct!

This same distrust of the masses was revealed through the history of the Anglo-Russian Committee, when the CI recognized as the representatives of the British workers the trade union bureaucracy – even during the actual days of their betrayal of the General Strike of 1926! – and worse still, after it. Bureaucratic distrust was shown in the CI’s terrible mishandling of the Chinese Revolution[53], when they placed it under the direction of the bourgeois Kuomintang, which, as Trotsky had foretold, soon after betrayed it with massacre and torture.

Bureaucratic distrust is shown repeatedly, continued Trotsky, in the CI’s attitude to other organizations, where, despite the slogan of United Front from Below, the aim has been not so much to mobilize the revolutionary workers as to capture the organizational apparatus. All of this, reinforced by the financial control of the CI bureaucracy over its national sections, breeds a mentality of dependence, of unquestioning obedience, which is the very antithesis of the critical and independent mind required for a revolutionary “What were the Comintern errors in Germany?,” I interpolated.

“The mistakes have continued for ten years: missing the revolutionary situation in 1923 (the Occupation of the Ruhr); steering a course to armed uprising after the relationship of forces had radically changed against the proletariat; a turn towards “courting” the Social-Democracy (1926-1927); a new turn towards adventurism (“Third Period,” conquest of the streets, etc.); a radically false policy with regard to the trade unions; the replacement of educational work by “ultimatism’; the creation of tiny parallel trade unions – that is, the isolation of the party from the class; the theory of social-fascism and the renunciation of the policy of the united front; nationalistic agitation and the adaptation to fascism (“national liberation” of Germany, the participation in the Prussian plebiscite together with the Nazis)[54]; systematic destruction of all defence organizations established by local workers’ organizations.

“Social-democracy and fascism are not twins, as the CI declared,” insisted Trotsky. “True, Social-Democracy supports the bourgeoisie; but it does not (despite treacherous leaders) support fascism, whose victory signifies the extermination of Social-Democracy as a party.”

“What are your chief criticisms of the present policy of the CI?” I asked.

“Chiefly, the theory of ‘Socialism in one country’ and its resultant policy of ‘centrism’.” Trotsky defined centrism as the sum total of all the tendencies between Marxism and reformism which move from one to the other. The CI bureaucracy is predisposed to become reformist, but cannot do so because it is tied to the Soviet state. Yet it cannot be revolutionary because it has abandoned the theory of world revolution. So it swings between the two poles and remains centrist.

“Secondly, the theory of socialism in one country is not an abstract principle, but a matter of life and death. The present crisis in capitalism arises not only from the contradiction between productive forces and private property, but also from that between productive forces and national states. The task of socialism is not to push back the productive forces within the boundaries of a single state, but, on the contrary, to organize them on a world scale. And this presupposes the world revolution, which ought to be the basis of the Comintern”.

This is not incompatible with the rapid industrialization of Russia. It was Trotsky who in 1923 was pleading in speech and writing for a Five-Year Plan, when Stalin was deriding him as an optimist. When the bureaucracy was at length converted to this optimism, they swung into the opposite extreme and fell into the error of “Socialism in one country”.

“Do you support the proposal for an industrial and transport boycott of fascist Germany at the earliest possible moment?”

“Yes, at the earliest suitable moment; it is only a question of capacity.”

“At the Paris Conference,” I said, “The ILP urged an amendment calling for a protest or demonstration strike of definite and limited duration with regard to some special Nazi outrage, but this was rejected.”

“This time the ILP line was the perfectly correct revolutionary policy,” replied Trotsky.

Next I asked: “Why do you despair of the Comintern’s correcting its policy?”

“First, because there is no democracy within the party and critics who attempt to correct its line are expelled. Secondly, this fight is not of recent origin: it started ten years ago. The crucial instance is Germany. If that cannot convince the bureaucracy of its errors, then nothing can. And if the ILP is still to wait hopefully a little longer, how much longer will you wait, and what evidence will finally satisfy you? The destruction of the now endangered Soviets would surely be too high a price for the enlightenment of the ILP!”

“Then what do you think must be done?”

“Form the Fourth International” said Trotsky, “to include all revolutionaries who accept the principles of Marx and Lenin, and know that, the Second and Third Internationals are both bankrupt – the one through reactionary reformism and the other through bureaucratic centrism. We of the International Left Opposition are ready, however, to make a united front with the Comintern bureaucracy for the specific purpose of defending the Soviet Union.”

“And what is your advice to the ILP?”

To remain independent at all costs, until it has completed its movement from reformism to revolution, from an empirical to a theoretical basis. You require a firm grasp of the revolutionary theory of the capitalist state. a correct evaluation of social and economic forces. adequate information of the movement of revolution and reaction outside Great Britain and a definite plan of the revolutionary course within Britain – a plan flexible in detail but rigid in principle.”

Regretfully we took our leave to catch the night train to Paris. More than once we turned back to salute the erect figure of the former Red Army leader, who stood waving repeated farewells. While not prepared to accept all his conclusions, we were glad to have heard his own statement of his case. So, too, we believe, will be the majority of revolutionary socialists in Britain.

Interview with C.A. Smith (29th August 1933),

New Leader, 13th October 1933

The “Marxist Group” in the ILP[edit source]

On the question of the ILP, the Secretariat has altered so much of my proposition that it suggests to our British section[55] – if my information is correct – that some comrades should not enter the ILP, so that they can continue publishing the paper. This plan, after a long conversation with Smith[56] (who makes the best impression personally), seems to me of no use. The ILP, and this is to its credit, has expelled two members because they were also members of the Communist Party. The ILP will also distrust us for the same reason. This distrust can only be overcome if our people get into the ILP with the desire to influence the party as a whole and to become powerful there but not to work toward breaking away a small part from the whole party.

The publication of a small, monthly paper under the circumstances is senseless, because the same articles are published at the same time or earlier in The Militant.[57] We can make good use of The Militant as a central organ” for our internal work within the ILP.

Comrade Witte is travelling to Britain[58], and it would be very good if he would discuss and examine the whole question from this point of view with the British comrades.

I am of the opinion, under the given circumstances, that the British section in relation to the ILP must use the tactic applied by the Brandlerite minority toward the SAP. If we only send a part of our membership into the ILP and keep a publication going outside of it, then we are in danger of getting our members expelled from the ILP in a very short time. Our mutual relations would be poisoned by this, and we would lose, because of our outside action, the possibility of gaining considerable influence.

From a letter on The International Left Opposition and the ILP

(dated 3rd September 1933), Internal Bulletin,

British Section of the Left Opposition, 24th October 1933

* * *

Dear Comrades

I have not yet received your letter in which you motivate your negative attitude to the entry into the ILP. But, so as not to delay this matter, I shall try to examine the principled considerations for and against the entry. If it should happen that your letter contains additional arguments I shall write you again.

In its present state, the ILP is a left-centrist party. It consists of a number of factions and shadings that are indicative of the different stages of evolution from reformism to communism. Should the Bolshevik-Leninists enter into the Official Communist Parties, which they had long designated, and with full reason, as centrist organizations? For a number of years, we have considered ourselves Marxist factions Of centrist Parties. A categorical answer – yes, yes; no, no – is insufficient also in this case. A Marxist party should, of course, strive to full independence and to the highest homogeneity. But in the process of its formation, a Marxist Party often has to act as a faction of a centrist and even a reformist party. Thus the Bolsheviks adhered for a number of years to the same party with the Mensheviks. Thus, the Third International only gradually formed itself out of the Second.

Centrism, as we have said more than once, is a general name for most varied tendencies and groupings spread out between reformism and Marxism. In front of each centrist grouping it is necessary to place an arrow indicating the direction of its development: from right to left or from left to right. Bureaucratic centrism, for all its zigzags, has an extremely conservative character corresponding to its social base: the Soviet bureaucracy. After a ten-year experience, we came to the conclusion that bureaucratic centrism does not draw nearer and is incapable of drawing nearer to Marxism, from the ranks of which it emerged. It is precisely because of this that we broke with the Comintern.

While the official Communist Parties have been growing weaker and decomposing, left flanks have separated from the reformist camp, which has grown considerably in numbers. These flanks also have a centrist character, but they move towards the left and, as demonstrated by experience, are capable of development and yield to Marxist influence. Let us recall once more that the Third International originated from organizations of this sort.

A clear example of the above is furnished by the history of the German SAP. A few hundred communists who split off from the Brandlerite opposition and entered the SAP have succeeded in a comparatively short time in placing themselves at the head of this organization, which, for the most part, consists of former Social-Democratic members. At that time we criticized the group of Walcher, Frölich, Thomas[59] and others not because they resolved to enter a left-centrist party, but because they entered it without a complete programme and without an organ of their own. Our criticism was and remains correct. The SAP bears even now traces of shapelessness. Some of its leaders even now consider irreconcilable Marxist criticism as “sectarianism.” In reality, however, if the Left Opposition with its principled criticism had not been standing at the side of the SAP, the position of the Marxists within the SAP would have been incomparably more difficult; no revolutionary group can live without a constantly creative ideological laboratory. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the movement of the centrist party (SAP) to the left was so decisive that the communist group, even without a complete programme and without an organ of its own, found itself very soon at the head of the party.

The history of the SAP is neither a chance one nor an exceptional one. For a number of years the Comintern prevented by its policy the going-over of the socialist workers to the revolutionary road. A mass of explosive material accumulated, therefore, in the camp of reformism. The frightful crisis of capitalism and the triumphal march of fascism, accompanied by the absolute impotence of both Internationals, gave the left-centrist organizations an impulsion towards communism; this is one of the most important prerequisites for the creation of new parties and of a new International.

In the area of theory, the ILP is completely helpless. This gives an advantage to the official Communist Party – herein lies the danger. This opens up the field for the intervention of our British section. It is not sufficient to have correct ideas. In a decisive moment one must know how to show one’s strength to the advanced workers. As fax as I call judge from here, the possibility for influencing the further development of the ILP as a whole is not yet missed. But in another couple of months, the ILP will have completely fallen between the gear wheels of the Stalinist bureaucracy and will be lost, leaving thousands of disappointed workers. It is necessary to act and to act immediately.

It is worth entering the ILP only if we make it our purpose to help this party, that is its revolutionary majority to transform it into a truly Marxist party. Of course, such an entry would be inadmissible if the Central Committee of the ILP should demand from our friends that they renounce their ideas, or the open struggle for those ideas in party. But it is absolutely admissible to take upon oneself the obligation to fight for one’s views on the basis of the party statutes and within the limits of party discipline. The great advantage of the Left Opposition lies in the fact that it has a theoretically elaborated programme, international experience and international control. Under these conditions, there is not the slightest basis for the fear that the British Bolshevik-Leninists will dissolve without a trace in the ILP.

Some comrades point out that the ILP has greatly weakened that behind the old front a ramshackle structure hides itself. This is very possible. But this is not an argument against entry. In its present composition, it is clear, the ILP is not viable. It is getting weaker and is losing members not only on the right but also on the left, because its leadership has no clear policy and is not capable of imbuing the party with confidence in its strength. it is Possible to stop this further disintegration of the ILP only by imparting to it Marxist views on the problems of our epoch, and in Particular a Marxist analysis of the Stalinist bureaucracy. Only the Bolshevik-Leninists can do this work. But to do this they must courageously destroy the wall that divides them today from the revolutionary workers of the ILP. If the apparatus Of the ILP should not admit our section into the ranks of its Party, this would be the best proof that the leadership has completely submitted to the Stalinist bureaucracy behind the back of the party. In this case worst case we would acquire a strong weapon against the leaders and would gain the sympathy of the rank-and file members of the ILP.

It may be objected that the small size of our British section would not permit it to play the same role with regard to the ILP that the group of Walcher-Frölich played with regard to the SAP. Possibly.

But even if the ILP is doomed to disintegrate, the Bolshevik-Leninists; can save for the revolution an important kernel of this party. It must also not be forgotten that the group of Walcher-Frölich was completely isolated, while our British friends can count on international help in their work.

I am very much afraid that our British friends, at least some of them, are restrained from entering the ILP by the fear of malicious criticism of the Stalinists. There is nothing worse in revolutionary policy than to be actuated by purely external, superficial criteria or by the fear of public opinion of the bureaucracy only because we were connected with it in the past. It is necessary to determine one’s road in accordance with the deep currents within the proletarian vanguard, to trust more in the power of one’s ideas without looking back at the Stalinist bureaucracy.

G. Gourov [Leon Trotsky]

Letter to the British Section, Bolshevik-Leninists (dated 16th September 1933),

Internal Bulletin, British Section of the Left Opposition, 24th October 1933

* * *

Dear Comrades,

Comrade Paton of the ILP offered to place my articles on the ILP in the magazine Adelphi.[60] My reply will be clear from the copy of my letter attached hereto.

No doubt you have received the extract from the minutes of the plenum of the International Secretariat from which it is clear that the suggestion to enter the ILP was adopted by the plenum unanimously. I cannot understand who could have supplied you with such false information. At any rate, it was not Comrade Witte, who participated actively in the meetings of the plenum and voted for the general resolution. It is clear, of course, that I am far from the thought that the unanimous opinion of the plenum obligates you to submit to it silently. The plenum adopted not a decision but a proposal. The proposal, however, was considered and discussed very seriously and adopted unanimously.

Comrade Fenner Brockway[61] asked my permission to print in The New Leader an article by Comrade Smith relating my conversation with him. Of course, I gave my approval. Thus you will get an idea of the general nature of my conversation which coincides almost to the dot with the contents of my article sent to you.

I continue to believe that the fate of our British section for the next couple of years depends on a correct attitude toward the ILP. It was Shakespeare who counselled taking advantage of the time of the tides so as not to remain on the strand all life long.[62] With great impatience and concern I am awaiting your final decision in this matter.

Comradely Yours,

L. Trotsky

Letter to the British Section, Bolshevik-Leninists (dated 16th September 1933),

Internal Bulletin, British Section of the Left Opposition, 24th October 1933

* * *

Dear Comrades:

I received a copy of your letter of September 5 and allow myself to express a few additional considerations on the question of entry into the ILP.

1. We do not exaggerate the significance of the ILP. In politics as in the physical world, everything is relative. In comparison with your small group, the ILP is a big organization. Your small lever is insufficient to move the Labour Party but can have a big effect on the ILP.

2. It seems to me that you are inclined to look at the ILP through the eyes of the Stalinist party, that is, to exaggerate the number of petty-bourgeois elements and minimize the proletarian elements of the Party. But if we should estimate that the workers make up only 10 per cent (an obvious underestimation since you ignore the [illegible words]), even then you will get one thousand revolutionary-minded workers, and in reality many more.

3. The jump from a thousand to ten thousand is much easier than the jump from forty to one thousand.

4. You speak of the advantages of influencing the ILP from the outside. Taken on a wide historical scale, your arguments are irrefutable, but there are unique, exceptional circumstances that we must know how to make use of by exceptional means. Today the revolutionary workers of the ILP still hold on to their Party. The perspective of joining a group of forty, the principles of which are little known to them, can by no means appeal to them. If within the next year they should grow disappointed with the ILP, they will go not to you but to the Stalinists, who will break these workers’ necks.

If you enter the ILP to work for the Bolshevik transformation of the party (that is, of its revolutionary kernel), the workers will look upon you as upon fellow workers, comrades, and not as upon adversaries who want to split the party from outside.

5. Had it been a question of a formed, homogeneous party with a stable apparatus, entry in it would not only be useless but fatal. But the ILP is altogether in a different state. Its apparatus is not homogeneous and, therefore, permits great freedom to different currents. The revolutionary rank and file of the party eagerly seek solutions. Remaining as an independent group, you represent, in the eyes of the workers, only small competitors to the Stalinists. Inside the party you can much more successfully insulate the workers against Stalinism.

6. I believe (and this is my personal opinion) that even if you should give up your special organ you will be able to use to advantage the press of the ILP, The New Leader and the discussion organ. The American Militant as well as the International Bulletin could well supplement your work.

7. Should all the members of your group enter the ILP? This is a purely practical question (if your members who work inside the Communist Party of Great Britain have a wide field for their activity, they can remain there longer, although I personally believe that the useful effect of their work would be, under the present conditions, a few times greater in the ILP).

8. Whether you will enter the ILP as a faction or as individuals is a purely formal question. In essence, you will, of course, be a faction that submits to common discipline. Before entering the ILP you make a public declaration: “Our views are known. We base ourselves on the principles of Bolshevism-Leninism and have formed ourselves as a part of the International Left Opposition. Its ideas we consider as the only basis on which the new International can be built. We are entering the ILP to convince the members of that party in daily practical work of the correctness of our ideas and of the necessity of the ILP joining the initiators of the new International.”

In what sense could such a declaration lower the prestige of your group? This is not clear to me.

Of course, the International Secretariat did not intend to and could not intend to force you by a bare order to enter the ILP. If you yourselves will not be convinced of the usefulness of such a step, your entry will be to no purpose. The step is an exceptionably responsible one; it is necessary to weigh and consider it well. The aim of the present letter, as well as of the foregoing ones, is to help in your discussion.

With best comradely greetings,

L. Trotsky

Letter to the British Section (dated 2nd October 1933),

Internal Bulletin, British Section of the Left Opposition, 24th October 1933

Cardinal Questions Facing the ILP[edit source]

I am informed that the ILP has weakened considerably in the last period. Its membership, it is claimed, has fallen to four thousand. It is possible, even very probable, that this report is exaggerated. But the general tendency does not seem to me improbable. I will say more: the leadership of the ILP bears a considerable share of responsibility for the weakening of the organization before which all the conditions opened up and – I want to hope – still open up a wide perspective.

If a worker barely awakened to political life seeks a mass organization, without distinguishing as yet either programmes or tactics, he will naturally join the Labour Party. A worker disillusioned with reformism and exasperated by the betrayals of the political and trade union leaders has attempted more than once – and to some extent is attempting even now – to join the Communist Party, behind which he sees the image of the Soviet Union. But where is the worker who will join the ILP? And exactly what political motives will impel him to take this step?

It seems to me that the leaders of the ILP have as yet not given themselves a clear answer to this cardinal question. Working masses are not interested in shadings and details but in great events, clear slogans, far-seen banners. What is the situation with the ILP’s banner? Not well. I say this with great regret. But it must be said. To suppress or embellish the facts would be rendering a poor service to your party.

The ILP broke away from the Labour Party. That was correct. If the ILP wanted to become the revolutionary lever, it was impossible for the handle of this lever to be left in the hands of the thoroughly opportunist and bourgeois careerists. Complete and unconditional political and organizational independence of a revolutionary party is the first prerequisite for its success.

But while breaking away from the Labour Party, it was necessary immediately to turn toward it. Of course, this was not to court its leaders, or to pay them bittersweet compliments, or even to suppress their criminal acts – no, only characterless centrists who imagine themselves revolutionaries seek a road to the masses by accommodating themselves to the leaders, by humouring them and reassuring them at every step of their friendship and loyalty. A policy of this sort is a road that leads down to the swamp of opportunism. One must seek a way to the reformist masses not through the favour of their leaders, but against the leaders, because opportunist leaders represent not the masses but merely their backwardness, their servile instincts and, finally, their confusion. But the masses have other, progressive, revolutionary traits that strive to find political expression. The future of the masses is most clearly counterposed to their past in the struggle of programmes, parties, slogans and leaders. Instinctively working masses are always “for unity.” But besides class instinct there is also political wisdom. Harsh experience teaches the workers that a break with reformism is the prerequisite for real unity, which is possible only in revolutionary action. Political experience teaches all the better and faster, the more firmly, logically, convincingly and clearly the revolutionary party interprets the experience to the masses.

The Leninist method of the united front and political fraternization with reformists exclude each other. Temporary practical fighting agreements with mass organizations even headed by the worst reformists are inevitable and obligatory for a revolutionary party. Lasting political alliances with reformist leaders without a definite programme, without concrete duties, without the participation of the masses themselves in militant actions, are the worst type of opportunism. The Anglo-Russian Committee[63] remains forever the classic example of such a demoralizing alliance.

One of the most important bridges to the masses is the trade unions, where one can and must work without accommodating to the leaders in the least, on the contrary, struggling irreconcilably against them openly or under cover, depending on the circumstances. But besides the trade unions, there are numerous ways of participating in the daily life of the masses – in the factory, on the street In sport organisation even in church and saloon, under the condition that the greatest heed to be paid to what the masses feel and think, how they react to events, what they expect and what they hope for, how and why they let themselves be deceived by reformist leaders. Observing the masses constantly and most thoughtfully, the revolutionary party must not, however, adapt itself passively to them (chvostism [tail-ending]); on the contrary, it must counterpose their judgement to their prejudices.

It would be particularly wrong to ignore or minimize the importance of parliamentary work. Of course, parliament cannot transform capitalism into socialism Or improve the conditions of the proletariat in rotting capitalist society. But revolutionary work in parliament and n connection with parliament, especially in Britain, can be of great help in training and educating the masses. One courageous exclamation of McGovern refreshed and stirred the workers, who had been deceived or stupefied by the Pious, hypocritical, flag-waving speeches of Lansbury, Henderson and other gentlemen of His Majesty’s Opposition” of flunkeys.

Unfortunately, having become an independent party, the ILP turned not toward the trade unions and the Labour Party, not toward the masses altogether, but toward the Communist Party, which had during a number of years conclusively proven its bureaucratic dullness and absolute inability to approach the class. If even the German catastrophe taught these people nothing, then the doors of the Comintern should bear the same inscription as the entrance to hell: Lasciate ogni speranza [Leave all hope behind].

The ILP had not freed itself by far of all the defects of the Left wing of the Labour Party (theoretical vagueness, lack of a clear programme, of revolutionary methods, of a strong organization) when it hastened to take upon itself the responsibility for the incurable failmgs of the Comintern. It is clear that in this situation new revolutionary workers will not join the ILP; rather, many of its old members will leave it, having lost patience. If semi-reformists, petty-bourgeois radicals and pacifists leave the ILP, we can only wish them a happy journey. But it is a different matter when discontented workers quit the party.

The causes for the enfeeblement of the ILP are seen with special clarity and precision when the problem is approached from the international point of view, which is of decisive importance in our epoch. Having broken with the Second International, the ILP approached the Third, but did not join it. The ILP is simply hanging in mid-air. Meanwhile, every thinking worker wants to belong to the kind of party that occupies a definite international position: in the unbreakable union with co-thinkers of other countries he sees the confirmation of the correctness of his own position. True, the ILP enters the so-called London Bureau.[64] But the chief characteristic of this Bureau consists, unfortunately, in the absence of all position. It would suffice to say that the Norwegian Labour Party, which under the leadership of the treacherous opportunist Tranmael[65] goes ever more openly along the Social Democratic road, belongs to this Bureau. Tranmael and Co. need the temporary alliance with the ILP and with other left organizations to pacify their own left-wing and gradually to prepare for themselves the way to the Second International. Now Tranmael is approaching the harbour.

On the other side, the Socialist Workers Party of Germany (SAP) and the Independent Socialist Party of Holland (OSP)[66] also belong to the London Bureau. Both these organizations stand on the point of view of the Fourth International. Their adherence to the Bureau merely reflects their past. We, the International Communist League (Left Opposition), have considered and now consider it a great mistake of our allies, the SAP and the OSP, that they have not yet broken openly and decisively with Tranmael and with the London Bureau in general. We do not doubt, however, that the hour of such a rupture is near.

What is the position of the ILP? Entering the London Bureau, it becomes by this very fact an ally of Tranmael, that is, essentially of the Second International. Through the SAP and the OSP, it becomes a sort of ally, or semi-ally, of the Fourth International. This is not all – outside the London Bureau, the ILP finds itself in a temporary alliance with the British Communist Party, that is, with the Third International. Are there not somewhat too many Internationals for one party? Can the British worker make head or tail out of this confusion?

At the Paris Conference, the ILP delegates said that they did not lose hope of attracting the Comintern to participate in the building of a broad revolutionary International. Nearly a half year has elapsed since them. Is it possible that no answer has come yet? How much time do the leading comrades of the ILP need to understand the Comintern is incapable of making one step forward, that it is completely ossified, that as a revolutionary party it is dead? If the ILP wants to continue waiting for miracles, that is, to live in hopes on the Comintern, or to remain outside of the main historic currents, its own members will inevitably lose confidence in it.

The same fate awaits the Swedish Independent Communist party.[67] For fear of making an error, it abstains from all decision, not realizing that precisely this is the greatest error. In general, there are not a few politicians who consider evasiveness and waiting for problems to solve themselves as the highest wisdom. “Do not hurry with the Fourth International,” they say, “now is not the time.” It is a matter not of bureaucraticallv “proclaiming” the new International but of uninterrupted struggle for its preparation and building. “Not to hurry” means in practice to lose time. “Perhaps the new International will not be needed,” perhaps “a miracle will happen, perhaps ...” This policy, which seems to some people very realistic, is the worst type of utoptanism, spun out of passivity, ignorance and belief in miracles. If the Swedish Independent Communist Party will not shake off its pseudo-realistic superstitions, it will weaken, waste away and finally be torn between three Internationals.

“But the masses,” object some pseudo-realists, “are as afraid of a new International as of a new split.” This is absolutely natural. The masses’ fear of a new party and of a new International is a reflection (one of the reflections) of the great catastrophe, the terrible defeat, the disillusionment of the masses, their bewilderment, their disbelief in themselves. How long these moods will last depends mainly on the course of events but to a certain extent also on us. We do not bear any responsibility for the course of events, but we answer fully for our own attitude. The advantage of the vanguard over the masses is that we illuminate theoretically the march of events and foresee its future stages. The formless “ passive longing for “unity” will receive blow after blow. The rottenness of the Second and Third Internationals will be revealed at each step. Events will confirm our prognosis and our slogans. But it is necessary that we ourselves not be afraid to unfurl our banner right now.

Lassalle used to say that a revolutionary needs the “physical power of thought.” Lenin liked to repeat these words, although, in general, he did not like Lassalle[68] much. The physical power of thought consists in analyzing the situation and perspectives to the very end and, having come to the necessary practical conclusions, defending them with conviction, courage, intransigence, not fearing someone else’s fears, not bowing before prejudices of the masses but basing oneself on the objective course of development.

The ILP of Great Britain must place itself right now under the banner of the Fourth International, or it will disappear from the scene without leaving a trace.

Letter to a member of the ILP (dated 5th January 1934), The Militant, 27th January 1934

* * *

The lack of a real ideological position on the part of Comrades Bauer and P.N.[69] appears most plainly on the question of the ILP. Bauer was in favour of the entry of the British section into the ILP from its beginning. P.N. was against this, but after his trip to Britain, 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[70], 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 Britain 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.

From a summary of discussion at a meeting of the Communist League of America (6th August 1934),

Internal Bulletin No.17 of the Communist League of America, October 1934.

The Middle of the Road[edit source]

If we were to leave aside the Revolutionary Socialist Party of Holland[71] which stands under the banner of the Fourth Internationa1 we could assuredly say that the ILP of Britain stands on the left wing of the parties that adhere to the London-Amsterdam Bureau. In contrast to the SAP[72] which has shifted recently to the right to the side of crassest petty bourgeois pacifism, the ILP has indubitably undergone a serious evolution to the left. This became definitely revealed by Mussolini’s predatory assault upon Ethiopia.[73] On the question of the League of Nations[74], on the role played in it by British imperialism, and on the “peaceful” policy of the Labour Party[75] the New Leader has perhaps carried the best articles in the entire’ Labour press. But a single swallow does not make a spring, nor do a few excellent articles determine as yet the policy of a party. It is comparatively easy to take a “revolutionary” position on the question of war; but it is extremely difficult to draw from this position all the necessary theoretical and practical conclusions. Yet, this is precisely the task.

Compromised by the experience of 1914-18, social-patriotism has found today a new source to feed from, namely, Stalinism. Thanks to this, bourgeois chauvinism obtains the opportunity to unleash a rabid attack against the revolutionary internationalists. The vacillating elements, the so-called centrists, will capitulate inevitably to the onset of chauvinism on the eve of the war, or the moment it breaks out. To be sure, they will take cover behind the argument from “unity”, the need not to break away from mass organizations, and so on. The formulas of hypocrisy are quite diversified, which supply the centrists with a screen for their cowardice in the face of bourgeois public opinion, but they all serve the self-same purpose: to cover up the capitulation. “Unity” with the social-patriots – not a temporary coexistence with them in a common organization with a view to waging a struggle against them, but unity as a principle – is unity with one’s own imperialism, and consequently, an open split with the proletariat of other nations. The centrist principle of unity at any price prepares for the most malignant split possible, along the lines of imperialist contradictions. Even today, we can observe in France the Spartacus group[76] which translates into the French language the ideas of the SAP, advocating, in the name of “unity” with the masses, the political capitulation to Blum[77] who was and who remains the chief agent of French imperialism within the working class.

After its split with the Labour Party, the ILP came into close contact with the British Communist Party, and through it, with the Communist International. The acute financial difficulties under which the New Leader labours right now indicate that the ILP was able to preserve complete financial independence from the Soviet bureaucracy, and its methods of corruption. This can only be a source of gratification. Nevertheless, the connection with the Communist Party did not pass without leaving a trace: despite its name, the ILP did not become really independent but turned into a sort of appendage to the Communist International. It did not pay the necessary attention to mass work, which cannot be carried on outside of the trade unions and the Labour Party; instead it became seduced by the Amsterdam-Pleyel masquerade, the Anti-Imperialist League[78], and other surrogates for revolutionary activity. As a result, it appeared to the workers to be a second grade Communist Party. So disadvantageous a position for the ILP did not arise accidentally: it was conditioned by its lack of a firm principled basis. It is a secret to nobody that Stalinism long over-awed the leaders of the ILP with those rubber-stamp formulas which comprise the miserable bureaucratic falsification of Leninism.

More than two years ago the writer of this article sought to arrive at an understanding with the leaders of the ILP by means of several articles, and in letters; the attempt was barren of results: during that period, our criticism of the Communist International seemed to the leaders of the ILP to be “preconceived”, and “factionally”, perhaps even “personally” motivated. Nothing remained except to yield the floor to time. For the ILP, the last two years have been scanty in successes, but bountiful in experience. The social-patriotic degeneration of the Communist International, the direct consequence of the theory and practice of “socialism in one country”, was turned from a forecast into a living, incontestable fact. Have the leaders of the ILP fully plumbed the meaning of this fact? Are they ready and able to draw all the necessary conclusions from it? The future of the ILP depends upon the answer to these questions.

From pacifism towards proletarian revolution – such has indubitably been the general tendency of the evolution of the ILP. But this development has far from reached a rounded-out programme as yet. Worse yet: not uninfluenced by the hoary and expert opportunistic combinations of the German SAP, the leaders of the ILP have apparently halted in the middle, and keep marking time.

In the following critical lines, we intend to dwell primarily upon two questions: the attitude of the ILP toward the general strike in connection with the struggle against war, and the position of the ILP on the question of the International. In the latter as well as the former question there are to be found elements of a half-way attitude: or. the question of the general strike this hesitancy assumes the guise of irresponsible radical phraseology; on the question of the International hesitancy pulls up short of the radical decision. And yet Marxism, and Leninism as the direct continuation of its doctrine, is absolutely irreconcilable both with an inclination to radical phraseology, and with the dread of radical decisions.

The question of the general strike has a long and rich history, in theory as well as practice. Yet the leaders of the ILP behave as if they were the first to run across the idea of general strike, as a method to stop war. In this is their greatest error. Improvisation is impermissible precisely on the question of the general strike. The world experience of the struggle during the last forty years has been fundamentally a confirmation of what Engels had to say[79] about the general strike towards the close of the last century, primarily on the basis of the experience of the Chartists, and in part of the Belgians.[80] Cautioning the Austrian Social Democrats against much too flighty an attitude towards the general strike, Engels wrote to Kautsky[81], on November 3, 1893, as follows: “You yourself remark that the barricades have become antiquated (they may, however, prove useful again should the army turn one third or two fifths socialist and the question arises of providing it with the opportunity to turn its bayonets), but the political strike must either prove victorious immediately by the threat alone (as in Belgium, where the army was very shaky), or it must end in a colossal fiasco, or, finally lead directly to the barricades.” These terse lines provide, incidentally, a remarkable exposition of Engels’ views on a number of questions. Innumerable controversies raged over Engels’ famous introduction to Marx’s The Class Struggle in France (1895), an introduction which was in its time modified and cut in Germany with a view to censorship. Philistines of every stripe have asserted hundreds and thousands of times during the last forty years that “Engels himself” had apparently rejected once and for all the ancient “romantic” methods of street fighting. But there is no need of referring to the past: one need only read the contemporary and inordinately ignorant and mawkish discourses of Paul Faure, Lebas and others[82] on this subject, who are of the opinion that the very question of armed insurrection is “Blanquism”.[83] Concurrently, if Engels rejected anything, it was first of all, putsches, i.e. untimely flurries of a small minority; and secondly, antiquated methods, that is to say, forms and methods of street fighting which did not correspond to the new technological conditions. In the above quoted letter, Engels corrects Kautsky, in passing, as if he were referring to something self-evident: barricades have become “antiquated” only in the sense that the bourgeois revolution has receded into the past, and the time for the socialist barricades has not come as yet. It is necessary for the army, one third, or better still, two fifths of it (these ratios, of course, are given only for the sake of illustration), to become imbued with sympathy for socialism; then the insurrection would not be a “putsch”, then the barricades would once again come into their own not the barricades of the year 1848, to be sure, but the new “barricades”, serving, however, the self-same goal: to check the offensive of the army against the workers, give the soldiers the opportunity and the time to sense the power of the uprising, and by this to create the most advantageous conditions for the army’s passing over to the side of the insurrectionists. How far removed are these lines of Engels – not the youth, but the man 73 years of age! – from the asinine and reactionary attitude to the barricade, as a piece of “romanticism”! Kautsky has found the leisure to publish this remarkable letter just recently, in 1935! Without engaging in a direct polemic with Engels, whom he never understood fully, Kautsky tells us smugly, in a special note, that toward the end of 1893, he had himself published an article in which he “developed the advantages of the democratic-proletarian method of struggle in democratic countries as against the policy of violence.’ These remarks about “advantages” (as if the proletariat has the freedom of choice!) have a particularly choice ring in our day, after the policies of the Weimar democracy, not without Kautsky’s cooperation, have fully revealed all their ... disadvantages. To leave no room for doubt as to his own attitude on Engels’ views, Kautsky goes on to add, “I defended then the self-same policy I defend today.” In order to defend “the self-same policy” Kautsky needed only to become a citizen of Czechoslovakia: outside of the passport, nothing has changed.

But let us return to Engels. He differentiates, as we have seen, between three cases in relation to the political strike:

(1) The government takes fright at the general strike, and at the very outset, without carrying matters to an open clash, takes to concessions. Engels points to the “shaky” condition of the army in Belgium as the basic condition for the success of the Belgian general strike (1893). A somewhat similar situation, but on a much more colossal scale, occurred in Russia, October 1905. After the miserable outcome of the Russo-Japanese War, the Tsarist army was, or, at any rate, seemed extremely unreliable. The Petersburg government, thrown into a mortal panic by the strike, made the first constitutional concessions (Manifesto, October 17, 1905).

It is all too evident, however, that without resorting to decisive battles, the ruling class will make only such concessions as will not touch the basis of its rule. That is precisely how matters stood in Belgium and Russia. Are such cases possible in the future? They are inevitable in the countries of the Orient. They are, generally speaking, less probable in the countries of the West, although, here too, they are quite possible as partial episodes of the unfolding revolution.

(2) If the army is sufficiently reliable, and the government feels sure of itself; if a political strike is promulgated from above, and if, at the same time, it is calculated not for decisive battles, but to “frighten” the enemy, then it can easily turn out a mere adventure, and reveal its utter impotence. To this we ought to add that after the initial experiences of the general strike, the novelty of which reacted upon the imagination of the popular masses as well as governments, several decades have elapsed – discounting the half-forgotten Chartists – in the course of which the strategists of capital have accumulated an enormous experience. That is why a general strike, particularly in the old capitalist countries, requires a painstaking Marxist accounting of all the concrete circumstances.

(3) Finally, there remains a general strike which, as Engels put it, “leads directly to the barricades”. A strike of this sort can result either in complete victory or defeat. But to shy away from battle, when the battle is forced by the objective situation, is to lead inevitably to the most fatal and demoralizing of all possible defeats. The outcome of a revolutionary, insurrectionary general strike depends, of course, upon the relationship of forces, covering a great number of factors: the class differentiation of society, the specific weight of the proletariat, the mood of the lower layers of the petty-bourgeoisie, the social composition and the political mood of the army, etc. However, among the conditions for victory, far from the last place is occupied by the correct revolutionary leadership, a clear understanding of conditions and methods of the general strike and its transition to open revolutionary struggle.

Engels’ classification must not, of course, be taken dogmatically. In present day France not partial concessions but power is indubitably in question: the revolutionary proletariat or Fascism – which? The working class masses want to struggle. But the leadership applies the brakes, hoodwinks and demoralizes the workers. A general strike can flare up just as the movements flared in Toulon and Brest.[84] Under these conditions, independently of its immediate results, a general strike will not of course be a “putsch” but a necessary stage in the mass struggle, the necessary means for casting off the treachery of the leadership and for creating within the working class itself the preliminary conditions for a victorious uprising. In this sense the policy of the French Bolshevik-Leninists is entirely correct, who have advanced the slogan of general strike, and who explain the conditions for its victory. The French cousins of the SAP come out against this slogan, the Spartacists who at the beginning of the struggle are already assuming the role of strikebreakers.

We should also add that Engels did not point out another “category” of general strike, exemplars of which have been provided in Britain, Belgium, France and some other countries: we refer here to cases in which the leadership of the strike previously, i.e. without a struggle, arrives at an agreement with the class enemy as to the course and outcome of the strike. The parliamentarians and the trade unionists perceive at a given moment the need to provide an outlet for the accumulated ire of the masses, or they are simply compelled to jump in step with a movement that has flared over their heads. In such cases they come scurrying through the backstairs to the Government and obtain the permission to head the general strike, this with the obligation to conclude it as soon as possible, without any damage being done to the state crockery. Sometimes, far from always, they manage to haggle beforehand some petty concessions, to serve them as fig leaves. Thus did the General Council of British Trade Unions (TUC) in 1926. Thus did Jouhaux in 1934.[85] Thus will they act in the future also. The exposure of these contemptible machinations behind the backs of the struggling proletariat enters as a necessary part into the preparation of a general strike.

To which type does a general strike belong which is specially intended by the ILP in the event of mobilization, as a means to stop war at the very outset?[86] We want to say beforehand: it pertains to the most inconsidered and unfortunate of all types possible. This does not mean to say that the revolution can never coincide with mobilization or with the outbreak of war. If a widescale revolutionary movement is developing in a country, if at its head is a revolutionary party possessing the confidence of the masses and capable of going through to the end; if the government, losing its head, despite the revolutionary crisis, or just because of such a crisis, plunges headlong into a war adventure – then the mobilization can act as a mighty impetus for the masses, lead to a general strike of railwaymen, fraternization between the mobilized and the workers, seizure of important key centres, clashes between insurrectionists and the police and the reactionary sections of the army, the establishment of local, workers’ and soldiers’ councils, and, finally, to the complete overthrow of the government, and consequently, to stopping the war. Such a case is theoretically possible. If, in the words of Clausewitz[87], “war is the continuation of politics by other means”, then the struggle against war is also the continuation of the entire preceding policy of a revolutionary class and its party. Hence follows that a general strike can be put on the order of the day as a method of struggle against mobilization and war only in the event that the entire preceding developments in the country have placed revolution and armed insurrection on the order of the day. Taken, however, as a “special” method of struggle against mobilization, a general strike would be a sheer adventure. Excluding a possible but nevertheless an exceptional case of a government plunging into war in order to escape from a revolution that directly threatens it, it must remain, as a general rule, that precisely prior to, during, and after mobilization the government feels itself strongest, and, consequently, least inclined to allow itself to be scared by a general strike. The patriotic moods that accompany mobilization, together with the war terror make hopeless the very execution of a general strike, as a rule. The most intrepid elements who, without taking the circumstances into account, plunge into the struggle, would be crushed. The defeat, and the partial annihilation of the vanguard would make revolutionary work difficult for a long time in the atmosphere of dissatisfaction that war breeds. A strike called artificially must turn inevitably into a putsch, and into an obstacle in the path of the revolution.

In its theses accepted in April 1935 the ILP writes as follows: “The policy of the party aims at the use of a general strike to stop war and at social revolution should war occur.” An astonishingly precise, but – sad to say – absolutely fictitious obligation! The general strike is not only separated here from the social revolution but also counterposed to it as a specific method to “stop war”. This is an ancient conception of the anarchists which life itself smashed long ago. A general strike without a victorious insurrection cannot “stop war”. If, under the conditions of mobilization, the insurrection is impossible, then so is a general strike impossible.

In an ensuing paragraph we read: “The ILP will urge a General Strike against the British Government, if this country is in any way involved in an attack on the Soviet Union ...” If it is possible to forestall any war by a general strike, then of course it is all the more necessary to stop war against the USSR. But here we enter into the realm of illusions: to inscribe in the theses a general strike as punishment for a given capital crime of the government is to commit the sin of revolutionary phrase-mongering. If it were possible to call a general strike at will, then it would be best called today to prevent the British government from strangling India and from collaborating with Japan to strangle China. The leaders of the ILP will of course tell us that they have not the power to do so. But nothing gives them the right to promise that they will apparently have the power to call a general strike on the day of mobilization. And if they be able, why confine it to a strike? As a matter of fact, the conduct of a party during mobilization will flow from its preceding successes and from the situation in the country as a whole. But the aim of revolutionary policy should not be an isolated general strike, as a special means to “stop war”, but the proletarian revolution into which a general strike will enter as an inevitable or a very probable integral part.

The ILP split from the Labour Party chiefly for the sake of keeping the independence of its parliamentary fraction. We do not intend here to discuss whether the split was correct at the given moment, and whether the ILP gleaned from it the expected advantages. We don’t think so. But it remains a fact that for every revolutionary organization in England its attitude to the masses and to the class is almost coincident with its attitude toward the Labour Party, which bases itself upon the trade unions. At this time the question whether to function inside the Labour Party or outside it is not a principled question, but a question of actual possibilities. In any case, without a strong faction in the trade unions, and, consequently, in the Labour Party itself, the ILP is doomed to impotence even today. Yet, for a long period, the ILP attached much greater importance to the “united front” with the insignificant Communist Party than to work in mass organizations. The leaders of the ILP consider the policy of the opposition wing in the Labour Party incorrect out of considerations which are absolutely unexpected: although “they (the Opposition) criticize the leadership and policy of the party but, owing to the block vote and the form of organization of the Party, they cannot change the personnel and policy of the Executive and Parliamentary Party within the period necessary to resist capitalist reaction, fascism and war” The policy of the opposition in the Labour Party is unspeakably bad. But this only means that it is necessary to counterpose to it inside the Labour Party another, a correct Marxist policy. That isn’t so easy? Of course not! But one must know how to hide one’s activities from the police vigilance of Sir Walter Citrine[88] and his agents, until the proper time. But isn’t it a fact that a Marxist faction would not succeed in changing the structure and policy of the Labour Party? With this we are entirely in accord: the bureaucracy will not surrender. But the revolutionists, functioning outside and inside, can and must succeed in winning over tens and hundreds of thousands of workers. The criticism directed by the ILP against the left-wing faction in the Labour Party is of an obviously artificial character. One would have much more reason for saying that the tiny ILP by involving itself with the compromised Communist Party and thus drawing away from the mass organizations, hasn’t a chance to become a mass party “within the period necessary to resist capitalist reaction, fascism and war.”

Thus, the ILP considers it necessary for a revolutionary organization to exist independently within the national framework even at the present time. Marxist logic, it would seem, demands that this consideration be applied to the international arena as well. A struggle against war and for the revolution is unthinkable without the International. The ILP deems it necessary for it to exist side by side with the Communist Party, and consequently, against the Communist Party, and by this very fact it recognizes the need of creating against the Communist International – a New International. Yet the ILP dares not draw this conclusion. Why?

If in the opinion of the ILP the Comintern could be reformed, it would be its duty to join its ranks, and work for this reform. If, however, the ILP has become convinced that the Comintern is incorrigible, it is its duty to join with us in the struggle for the Fourth International. The ILP does neither. It halts midway. It is bent on maintaining a “friendly collaboration” with the Communist International. If it is invited to the next Congress of the Communist International – such is the literal wording of its April theses of this year! – it will there fight for its position and in the interests of the “unity of revolutionary socialism”. Evidently, the ILP expected to be “invited’ to the International. This means that its psychology in relation to the International, is that of a guest, and not of a host. But the Comintern did not invite the ILP. What to do, now?

It is necessary to understand first of all that really independent workers’ parties – independent not only of the bourgeoisie, but also of both bankrupt Internationals – cannot be built unless there is a close international bond between them, on the basis of self-same principles, and provided there is a living interchange of experience, and vigilant mutual control. The notion that national parties (which ones? on what basis?) must be established first, and coalesced only later into a new International (how will a common principled basis then be guaranteed?) is a caricature echo of the history of the Second International: the First and Third Internationals were both built differently. But, today, under the conditions of the imperialist epoch, after the proletarian vanguard of all countries in the world has passed through many decades of a colossal and common experience, including the experience of the collapse of the two Internationals, it is absolutely unthinkable to build new Marxist, revolutionary parties, without direct contact with the self-same work in other countries. And this means the building of the Fourth International.

To be sure, the ILP has in reserve a certain international association, namely, the London Bureau (IAG). Is this the beginning of a new International? Emphatically, no! The ILP comes out against “split” more decisively than any other participant: not for nothing has the Bureau of those organizations who themselves split away inscribed on its banner ... “unity”. Unity with whom? The ILP itself yearns exceedingly to see all revolutionary-socialist organizations and all sections of the Communist International united in a single International, and that this International have a good programme. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. The position of the ILP is all the more helpless since nobody else shares it inside of the London association itself. On the other hand, the Communist International, having drawn social-patriotic conclusions from the theory of socialism in one country, seeks today an alliance with powerful reformist organizations, and not at all with weak revolutionary groups. The April theses of the ILP console us: “... but they (i.e. the other organizations in the London association) agree that the question of a new International is now theoretical (!), and that the form (!) which the reconstructed International will take will depend upon historical events (!) and the development of the actual working class struggle.” (p.20). Remarkable reasoning! The ILP urges the unity of the “revolutionary-socialist organizations” with the sections of the Communist International; but there is not and there cannot be any desire on the part of either for this unification. “But”, the ILP consoles itself, the revolutionary-socialist organizations are agreed upon ... what? Upon the fact that it is still impossible to foresee today what “form” the reconstructed International will take. For this reason, the very question of the International (“Workers of the World Unite!”) is declared to be “theoretical”. With equal justification one might proclaim the question of socialism to be theoretical, since it is unknown what form it will take; besides, it is impossible to achieve the socialist revolution by means of a “theoretical” International.

For the ILP, the question of a national party and the question of the International rest on two different planes. The danger of war and fascism demands, as we were told, immediate work for the building of a national party. As regards the International, this question is ... “theoretical”. Opportunism reveals itself so clearly and incontestably in nothing else as in this principled counterposing of a national party to the International. The banner of “revolutionary socialist unity” serves only as a cover for the yawning gap in the policy of the ILP. Are we not justified in saying that the London association is a temporary haven for vacillators, waifs, and those who hope to be “invited” to one of the existing Internationals?

While acknowledging that the Communist Party has a “revolutionary and theoretical basis”, the ILP discerns “sectarianism’ in its conduct. This characterization is superficial, one-sided, and fundamentally false. Which “theoretical basis” has the ILP in mind? Is it Marx’s Das Kapital, Lenin’s Works, the resolutions of the first Congresses of the Comintern? – or the eclectic programme of the Communist International accepted in 1928, the wretched theory of the “Third Period”, “social-fascism”, and, finally, the latest social patriotic avowals.

The leaders of the ILP make believe (at any rate, such was the case up to yesterday) that the Communist International has preserved the theoretical basis that was lodged by Lenin. In other words, they identify Leninism with Stalinism. To be sure, they are unable to make up their minds to say it in so many words. But, in their passing silently over the enormous critical struggle that took place first inside the Communist International and then outside it; in their refusal to study the struggle waged by the “Left Opposition” (the Bolshevik-Leninists) and to determine upon their attitude towards it, the leaders of the ILP turn out to be backward provincials in the sphere of the questions of the world movement. In this they pay tribute to the worst traditions of the insular working class movement. As a matter of fact the Communist International has no theoretical basis. Indeed, what sort of theoretical basis can there be, when yesterday’s leaders, like Bukharin[89], are pronounced to be “bourgeois liberals”, when the leaders of the day before yesterday, like Zinoviev, are incarcerated in jail as “counter-revolutionists”, while the Manuilskys, Lozovskys, Dimitrovs[90] together with Stalin himself never generally bothered much with questions of theory.

The remark in relation to “sectarianism” is no less erroneous. Bureaucratic Centrism which seeks to dominate the working class is not sectarianism but a specific refraction of the autocratic rule of the Soviet bureaucracy. Having burnt their fingers, these gentlemen are abjectly crawling today before reformism and patriotism. The leaders of the ILP took for gospel the assertion of the leaders of the SAP (poor counsellors!) that the Comintern would rest on the pinnacle, if not for its “ultra-left sectarianism”. In the meantime, the Seventh Congress has spurned the last remnants of “ultra-leftism”; but, as a result, the Communist International did not rise higher but fell still lower, losing all right to an independent political existence. Because the parties of the Second International are in any case, more suitable for the policy of blocs with the bourgeoisie and for the patriotic corruption of workers: they have behind them an imposing opportunist record, and they arouse less suspicion on the part of the bourgeois allies.

Aren’t the leaders of the ILP of the opinion that after the Seventh Congress they ought to reconsider radically their attitude toward the Communist International? If it is impossible to reform the Labour Party, then there are immeasurably less chances for reforming the Communist International. Nothing remains except to build the new International. True, in the ranks of the Communist parties quite a few honest revolutionary workers are still to be found. But they must be led out from the quagmire of the Comintern onto the revolutionary road.

Both the revolutionary conquest of power and the dictatorship of the proletariat are included in the programme of the ILP. After the events in Germany, Austria and Spain[91], these slogans have become compulsory. But this does not at all mean that in every case they are invested with a genuine revolutionary content. The Zyromskis of all countries find no embarrassment in combining the “dictatorship of the proletariat” with the most debased patriotism, and besides, such fakery is becoming more and more fashionable. The leaders of the ILP are not social-patriots. But until they blow up their bridges to Stalinism, their internationalism will remain semi-platonic in character.

The April theses of the ILP enable us to approach the same question from a new standpoint. In the theses two special paragraphs (27 and 28) are devoted to the future British Councils of Workers’ Deputies. They contain nothing wrong. But it is necessary to point out that the Councils (Soviets) as such are only an organizational form and not at all a sort of immutable principle. Marx and Engels provided us with the theory of the proletarian revolution, partly in their analysis of the Paris Commune, but they did not have a single word to say about the Councils. In Russia there were Social-Revolutionary and Menshevik Soviets (Councils), i.e. anti-revolutionary Soviets. In Germany and Austria the Councils in 1918 were under the leadership of reformists and patriots and they played a counter-revolutionary role. In autumn 1923, in Germany, the role of the Councils was fulfilled actually by the shop committees that could have guaranteed fully the victory of the revolution were it not for the craven policy of the Communist Party under the leadership of Brandler[92] and Co. Thus, the slogan of Councils, as an organizational form, is not in itself of a principled character. We have no objection, of course, to the inclusion of Councils as “all-inclusive organizations” in the programme of the ILP. Only, the slogan must not be turned into a fetish, or worse yet – into a hollow phrase, as in the hands of the French Stalinists (“Power to Daladier![93]” – “Soviets Everywhere!”).[94]

But we are interested in another aspect of the question. Paragraph 28 of the theses reads, “The Workers’ Councils will arise in their final form in the actual revolutionary crisis, but the Party must consistently prepare for their organization” (our italics). Keeping this in mind, let us compare the attitude of the ILP toward the future Councils with its own attitude toward the future International: the erroneousness of the ILP’s position will then stand before us in sharpest clarity. In relation to the International we are given generalities after the spirit of the SAP: “the form which the reconstructed International will take will depend upon historic events and the actual development of the working class struggle.” On this ground the ILP draws the conclusion that the question of the International is purely “theoretical”, i.e., in the language of empiricists, unreal. At the same time we are told that: “the Workers’ Councils will arise in their final form in the actual revolutionary crisis, but the Party must consistently prepare for their organization”. It is hard to become more hopelessly muddled. On the question of the Councils and on the question of the International, the ILP resorts to methods of reasoning that are directly contradictory. In which case is it mistaken? In both. The theses turn topsy-survy the actual tasks of the party. The Councils represent an organizational form, and only a form. There is no way of “preparing for” Councils except by means of a correct revolutionary policy applied in all spheres of the working class movement: there is no special, specific “preparation for” Councils. It is entirely otherwise with the International. While the Councils can arise only under the condition that there is a revolutionary ferment among the many-millioned masses, the International is always necessary: both on holidays and weekdays, during periods of offensive as well as in retreat, in peace as well as in war. The International is not at all a “form” as flows from the utterly false formulation of the ILP. The International is first of all a programme, and a system of strategic, tactical and organizational methods that flow from it. By dint of historic circumstances the question of the British Councils is deferred for an indeterminate period of time. But the question of the International, as well as the question of national parties, cannot be deferred for a single hour: we have here in essence two sides of one and the same question. Without a Marxist International, national organizations, even the most advanced, are doomed to narrowness, vacillation and helplessness; the advanced workers are forced to feed upon surrogates for internationalism. To proclaim as “purely theoretical”, i.e. needless, the building of the Fourth International, is cravenly to renounce the basic task of our epoch. In such a case, slogans of revolution, of the dictatorship of the proletariat, Councils, etc., lose nine-tenths of their meaning.

The August 30 issue of the New Leader carries an excellent article: Don’t Trust the Government! The article points out that the danger of “national unity” draws closer with the approaching danger of war. At the time when the ill-fated leaders of the SAP call for the emulation – literally so! – of British pacifists, the New Leader writes: “It (the government) is actually using the enthusiasm for peace to prepare the British people for imperialist war.” These lines, which are printed in italics, express with utmost precision the political function of petty-bourgeois pacifism: by providing a platonic outlet for the horror of the masses to war, pacifism enables imperialism all the easier to transform these masses into cannon fodder. The New Leader lashes the patriotic position of Citrine and other social-imperialists who (with quotations from Stalin) mount upon the backs of Lansbury and other pacifists.[95] But this same article goes on to express its “astonishment” at the fact that the British Communists are supporting Citrine’s policy on the question of the League of Nations and the “sanctions” against Italy (“astonishing support of Labour line”). The “astonishment” in the article is the Achilles heel of the entire policy of the ILP. When an individual “astonishes” us by his unexpected behaviour, it only means that we are poorly acquainted with this individual’s real character. It is immeasurably worse when a politician is compelled to confess his “astonishment” at the acts of a political party, and what is more, of an entire International. For the British Communists are only carrying out the decisions of the Seventh Congress of the Communist International. The leaders of the ILP are “astonished” only because they have failed up to now to grasp the real character of the Communist International, and its sections. Yet, there is a twelve years’ history behind the Marxist criticism of the Communist International. From the time the Soviet bureaucracy made as its symbol of faith the theory of “socialism in one country’ (1924), the Bolshevik-Leninists forecast the inevitability of the nationalist and patriotic degeneration of the sections of the Communist International, and from then on they followed this process critically through all its stages. The leaders of the ILP were caught off guard by events only because they had ignored the criticism of our tendency. The privilege of becoming “astonished” by major events is the prerogative of a pacifist and reformist petty-bourgeois. The Marxists, especially those claiming the right to leadership, must be capable not of astonishment but of foresight. And, we may remark in passing, it is not the first time in history that Marxist misdoubt turned out more penetrating than centrist credulity.

The ILP broke with the mighty Labour Party because of the latter’s reformism and patriotism. And today, retorting to Wilkinson[96], the New Leader writes that the independence of the ILP is fully justified by the patriotic position of the Labour Party. Then what are we to say about the ILP’s interminable flirtation with the British Communist Party that now tails behind the Labour Party? What are we to say about the ILP’s urge to fuse with the Third International that is now the first violinist in the social patriotic orchestra? Are you “astonished”, comrades Maxton, Fenner Brockway[97], and others? That does not suffice for a party leadership. In order to put an end to becoming astonished, one must critically evaluate the road that has been travelled, and draw the conclusion for the future.

Back in August 1933, the Bolshevik-Leninist delegation issued a special declaration officially proposing to all the participants in the London Bureau, among them the ILP, that they review jointly with us the basic strategic problems of our epoch, and in particular, that they determine their attitude to our programmatic documents. But the leaders of the ILP deemed it below their dignity to occupy themselves with such matters. Besides, they were afraid they might compromise themselves by consorting with an organization which is the target of a particularly rabid and vile persecution at the hands of the Moscow bureaucracy: we should not overlook the fact that the leaders of the ILP awaited all the while an “invitation” from the Communist International. They waited, but the awaited did not materialize ...

Is it conceivable that even after the Seventh Congress the leaders of the ILP will be so hardy as to present the matter as if the British Stalinists turned out to be the squires of the little honoured Sir Walter Citrine only through a misunderstanding, and only for a split-second? Such a dodge would be unworthy of a revolutionary party. We should like to entertain the hope that the leaders of the ILP will come at last to an understanding of how lawful is the complete and irremediable collapse of the Communist International, as a revolutionary organization, and that they will draw from this all the necessary conclusions. These are quite simple:

  • Work out a Marxist programme.
  • Turn away from the leaders of the Communist Party and face towards ... the mass organizations.
  • Stand under the banner of the Fourth International.

On this road we are ready to march shoulder to shoulder with the ILP.

A Necessary Addition: In my article I approved the attitude of this party on the question of sanctions. Later, friends sent me a copy of an important letter of Comrade Robertson to the members of the ILP. Comrade Robertson accuses the leadership of the party of maintaining pacifist illusions, particularly in the matter of “refusal” of military service. I can only associate myself wholly with what is said in Comrade Robertson’s letter. The ILP’s misfortune is that it doesn’t have a truly Marxist programme. That too is why its best activities, such as sanctions against British imperialism, are always influenced by pacifist and centrist mixtures.

ILP and the Fourth International, Written on 18th September 1935

(postscript dated 20th October), New International, December 1935

* * *

The POUM[98] is a member of the celebrated London Bureau of “Revolutionary Socialist Parties” (the former IAG). The leadership of this bureau is now in the hands of Fenner Brockway, secretary of the Independent Labour Party (ILP). We have already written that, despite the antiquated and apparently incurable pacifist prejudices of Maxton and others, the ILP has taken an honest revolutionary position on the question of the League of Nations and its sanctions. Each of us has read with pleasure a number of excellent articles in the New Leader. During the last parliamentary elections, the Independent Labour Party refused to give even electoral support to the Labourites, precisely because the latter supported the League of Nations. In itself this refusal was a tactical error. Wherever the ILP was unable to run its own candidates, it should have supported a Labour candidate against a Tory. But this is incidental. In any case, even talk of any “common programmes” with the Labourites was excluded. Internationalists would have combined support in elections with an exposure of the crawling of the British social patriots before the League of Nations and its “sanctions.”

We take the liberty of putting a question to Fenner Brockway: just what is the purpose of this “International” of which he is the secretary? The British section of this “International” rejects giving even mere electoral support to Labour candidates if they support the League of Nations. The Spanish section concludes a bloc with bourgeois parties on a common programme of support to the League of Nations. Is not this the extreme in the domain of contradictions, confusion, and bankruptcy? There is no war as yet, but the sections of the London “International” are already pulling in completely opposite directions. What will happen to them when the ominous events break?

From The Treachery of the Spanish POUM (dated 23rd January 1936),

New Militant, 15 February 1936

Once Again the ILP[edit source]

Interview with Robertson

Question – What do you mean specifically when you say, at the conclusion of your article, that the ILP must still “work out a Marxian programme”?

Answer – My whole article was a documentation of the instances in which ILP policy still fails to be Marxist, to be revolutionary: its failure to break sharply with pacifism and with Stalinism, and to turn its face fully to the British masses and to reach a clear position on international organization. These defects are one and the same. Take, for example, pacifism. Despite the revolutionary phraseology of What the ILP Stands For, it is still possible in the ILP that Maxton, McGovern and Campbell Stephen[99] can issue an authoritative statement urging the workers not to bear arms when war comes. This is a bankrupt policy; this is only defeatism against the workers, not revolutionary defeatism against capitalism. Moreover, war is an international product of capitalism and can be fought only internationally. Which are the workers’ organizations in other countries that the revolutionists in the ILP must unite with? Not the CI as your pacifist leaders had fondly imagined, for the CI is committed to social-patriotism. Not with the International Bureau of Revolutionary Socialist Unity (IAG, i.e. London Bureau) for of the ten groups forming this Bureau some have expired, others are pacifist or even social-patriotic, and only the Dutch party (RSAP)[100] is in agreement with the ILP on the fight against sanctions and for independent workers’ action only. This party has long since declared for the Fourth International and this week (about November 21, 1935) declared also for a break with the Bureau. It is, then, the Dutch party and the other parties openly fighting for the Fourth International with whom the ILP must of necessity solidarize itself if it is to join in the international revolutionary fight against war.

In the New Leader I read that the Lancashire and London and Scottish divisions of the ILP have already declared themselves to be in opposition to the pacifist statements of the Inner Executive, and the similar utterances of McGovern in the House of Commons. But this is not enough. Their fight can succeed only if it is positive – not simply “against pacifism”, but for revolutionary defeatism. This can only mean that the main fight will be for the Fourth International.

Question – Was the ILP correct in running as many candidates as possible in the recent General Elections, even at the risk of splitting the vote?[101]

Answer – Yes. It would have been foolish for the ILP to have sacrificed its political programme in the interests of so-called unity, to allow the Labour Party to monopolize the platform, as the Communist Party did. We do not know our strength unless we test it. There is always a risk of splitting, and of losing deposits but such risks must be taken. Otherwise we boycott ourselves.

Question – Was the ILP correct in refusing critical support to Labour Party candidates who advocated military sanctions?

Answer – No. Economic sanctions, if real, lead to military sanctions, to war. The ILP itself has been saying this. It should have given critical support to all Labour Party candidates, i.e., where the ILP itself was not contesting. In the New Leader I read that your London Division agreed to support only anti-sanctionist Labour Party candidates. This too is incorrect. The Labour Party should have been critically supported not because it was for or against sanctions but because it represented the working class masses.

The basic error which was made by some ILPers who withdrew critical support was to assume that the war danger necessitated a change in our appreciation of reformism. But as Clausewitz[102] said, and Lenin often repeated, war is the continuation of politics by other means. If this is true, it applies not only to capitalist parties but to social democratic parties. The war crisis does not alter the fact that the Labour Party is a workers’ party, which the governmental party is not. Nor does it alter the fact that the Labour Party leadership cannot fulfil their promises, that they will betray the confidence which the masses place in them. In peace-time the workers will die of hunger if they trust in social democracy; in war, for the same reason, they will die from bullets. Revolutionists never give critical support to reformism on the assumption that reformism, in power, could satisfy the fundamental needs of the workers. It is possible, of course, that a Labour government could introduce a few mild temporary reforms. It is also possible that the League could postpone a military conflict about secondary issues – just as a cartel can eliminate secondary economic crises only to reproduce them on a larger scale. So the League can eliminate small episodic conflicts only to generalize them into world war.

Thus, both economic and military crises will only return with an added explosive force so long as capitalism remains. And we know that social democracy cannot abolish capitalism.

No, in war as in peace, the ILP must say to the workers: “The Labour Party will deceive you and betray you, but you do not believe us. Very well, we will go through your experiences with you but in no case do we identify ourselves with the Labour Party programme.”

Morrison, Clynes[103], etc., represent certain prejudices of the workers. When the ILP seeks to boycott Clynes it helps not only Baldwin[104] but Clynes himself. If successful in its tactic, the ILP prevents the election of Clynes, of the Labour government, and so prevents their exposure before the masses. The workers will say: “If only we had Clynes and Morrison in power, things would have been better.”

It is true, of course, that the mental content of and Baldwin is much the same except, perhaps, that Baldwin is a little more “progressive” and more courageous. But the class content of the support for Clynes is very different.

It is argued that the Labour Party already stands exposed by its past deeds in power and its present reactionary platform. For example, by its decision at Brighton.[105] For us – yes! But not for the masses, the eight millions who voted Labour. It is a great danger for revolutionists to attach too much importance to conference decisions. We use such evidence in our propaganda – but it cannot be presented beyond the power of our own press. One cannot shout louder than the strength of his own throat.

Let us suppose that the ILP had been successful in a boycott tactic, had won a million workers to follow it, and that it was the absence of this million votes which lost the election for the Labour Party. What would happen when the war came? The masses would in their disillusionment turn to the Labour Party, not to us. If Soviets were formed during the war the soldiers would elect Labour Party people to them, not us. Workers would still say that we handicapped Labour. But if we gave critical support and by that means helped the Labour Party to power, at the same time telling the workers that the Labour Party would function as a capitalist government, and would direct a capitalist war – then, when war came, workers would see that we predicted rightly, at the same time that we marched with them. We would be elected to the Soviets and the Soviets would not betray.

As a general principle, a revolutionary party has the right to boycott parliament only when it has the capacity to overthrow it, that is, when it can replace parliamentary action by general strike and insurrection, by direct struggle for power. In Britain the masses have yet no confidence in the ILP. The ILP is therefore too weak to break the parliamentary machine and must continue to use it. As for a partial boycott, such as the ILP sought to operate, it was unreal. At this stage of British politics it would be interpreted by the working class as a certain contempt for them; this is particularly true in Britain where parliamentary traditions are still so strong.

Moreover, the London Division’s policy of giving critical support only to anti-sanctionists would imply a fundamental distinction between the social-patriots like Morrison and Ponsoriby or – with your permission – even Cripps.[106] Actually, their differences are merely propagandistic. Cripps is actually only a second-class supporter of the bourgeoisie. He has said, in effect: “Pay no attention to my ideas; our differences are only small.” This is the attitude of a dilettante, not a revolutionist. A thousand times better an open enemy like Morrison. Lansbury[107] himself is a sincere but extravagant and irresponsible old man; he should be in a museum not Parliament. The other pacifists are more duplicitous – more shifty: like Norman Angell[108], who demands more sanctions now, they will easily turn into social-patriots as war develops. Then they could say to the workers: “You know us. We were anti-sanctionists. Even the ILP supported our struggle. Therefore you can have confidence in us now when we say that this war is a just war.’ No, the ILP should have applied the same policy of critical support to the whole of the Labour Party, only varying our arguments to meet the slightly varied propaganda of pacifists and social-patriots. Otherwise illusions are provoked that pacifism has more power to resist than has social-patriotism.

This is not true; their differences are not fundamental. Even among the Tories there are differences on sanctions and war policies. The distinction between Amery[109] and Lansbury is simply that Amery is more of a realist. Both are anti-sanctionists; but for the working class, Lansbury with his illusions and sincerity is more dangerous.

Most dangerous of all, however, is the Stalinist policy. The parties of the Communist International try to appeal especially to the more revolutionary workers by denouncing the League (a denunciation that is an apology) by asking for “workers’ sanctions” and then nevertheless saying: “We must use the League when it is for sanctions.” They seek to hitch the revolutionary workers to the shafts so that they can draw the cart of the League. Just as the General Council in 1926 accepted the General Strike but behind the curtains concluded a deal with the clergy and pacifist radicals and in this way used bourgeois opinion and influence to “discipline” the workers and sabotage their strike, so the Stalinists seek to discipline the workers by confining the boycott within the limits of the League of Nations.

The truth is that if the workers begin their own sanctions against Italy, their action inevitably strikes at their own capitalists, and the League would be compelled to drop all sanctions. It proposes them now just because the workers’ voices are muted in every country. Workers’ action can begin only by absolute opposition to the national bourgeoisie and its international combinations. Support of the League and support of workers’ actions are fire and water; they cannot be united.

Because of this, the ILP should have more sharply differentiated itself from the CP at the elections than it did. It should have critically supported the Labour Party against Pollitt and Gallacher. It should have been declared openly that the CP has all the deficiencies of the Labour Party without any of its advantages. It should have, above all, shown in practice what true critical support means. By accompanying support with the sharpest and widest criticism, by patiently explain ing that such support, only for the purpose of exposing the treachery of the Labour Party leadership, the ILP would have completely exposed, also, the spurious “critical” support of the Stalinists themselves, a support which was actually whole-hearted and uncritical, and based on an agreement in principle with the Labour Party leadership.

Question – Should the ILP seek entry into the Labour Party?

Answer – At the moment the question is not posed this way. What the ILP must do, if it is to become a revolutionary party, is to turn its back on the CP and face the mass organizations. It must put 99 per cent of its energies into building of fractions in the trade union movement. At the moment I understand that much of the fractional work can be done openly by ILPers in their capacity of trade union and co-operative members. But the ILP should never rest content; it must build its influence in the mass organizations with the utmost speed and energy. For the time may come when, in order to reach the masses, it must enter the Labour Party, and it must have tracks laid for the occasion. Only the experience that comes from such fractional work can inform the ILP if and when it must enter the Labour Party. But for all its activity an absolutely clear programme is the first condition. A small axe can fell a large tree only if it is sharp enough.

Question – Will the Labour Party split?

Answer – The ILP should not assume that it will automatically grow at the expense of the Labour Party, that the Labour Party left wingers will be split off by the bureaucracy and come to the ILP. These are possibilities. But it is equally possible that the left wing, which will develop as the crisis deepens, and particularly now within the trade unions after the failure of the Labour Party to win the elections, will be successful in its fight to stay within the Labour Party. Even the departure of the Socialist League[110] to join the ILP would not end these possibilities, for the Socialist League is very petty bourgeois in character and is not likely to organize the militancy within the Labour Party. In any case, the history of the British General Strike of 1926 teaches us that a strong militant movement can develop in a strongly bureaucratized trade union organization, creating a very important minority movement without being forced out of the trade unions.

Instead, what happens is that the labour fakers swing left in order to retain control. If the ILP is not there at the critical moment with a revolutionary leadership the workers will need to find their leadership elsewhere. They might still turn to Citrine, for Citrine might even be willing to shout for Soviets, for the moment, rather than lose his hold. As Scheidemann and Ebert[111] shouted for Soviets, and betrayed them, so will Citrine.[112] Leon Blum[113], rather by the revolutionary pressure of the French masses, runs headlines in his Populaire Sanctions – but the workers must control, etc. It is this treacherous “heading in order to behead” which the ILP must prevent in Britain.

Question – Is Stalinism the chief danger?

Answer – Of all the radical phrasemongers, the ones who offer the greatest danger in this respect are the Stalinists. The members of the CPGB are now on their bellies before the Labour Party – but this makes it all the easier for them to crawl inside. They will make every concession demanded of them, but once within – they will still be able to pose as the left-wing because the workers still retain some illusions about the revolutionary nature of the Comintern – illusions which the ILP in the past has helped to retain. They will use this illusion to corrupt the militants with their own social-patriotic policy. They will sow seed from which only weeds can sprout. Only a clear and courageous policy on the part of the ILP can prevent this disaster.

Question – Would you recommend the same perspective for the ILP Guild of Youth as the adult party?[114]

Answer – Even more. Since the ILP youth seem to be few and scattered, while the Labour Youth is the mass youth organization.[115] I would say: “Do not only build fractions – seek to enter.” For here the danger of Stalinist devastation is extreme. The youth are all-important. Unlike the older generation they have little actual experience of war; it will be easier for the Stalinists and the other pseudo-revolutionary patriots to confuse the youth on the war issues than to confuse those who survived the last war. On the other hand, the willingness of the Stalinists to drive these same youth into another actual war will make the young workers properly suspicious. They will listen more easily to us – if we are there to speak to them. No time must be lost. Out of the new generation comes the new International, the only hope for the world revolution. The British section will recruit its first cadres from the 30,000 young workers in the Labour League of Youth. Their more advanced comrades in the ILP youth must not allow themselves to be isolated from them, especially now at the very moment when war is a real danger.

Question – Should the ILP terminate its united front with the CP?

Answer – Absolutely and categorically – yes! The ILP must learn to turn its back on the CP and towards the working masses. The permanent “unity committees” in which the ILP has sat with the CP were nonsense in any case. The ILP and the CPGB were propaganda organizations not mass organizations; united fronts between them were meaningless if each of them had the right to advance its own programme. These programmes must have been different or there would have been no justification for separate parties, and with different programmes there is nothing to unite around. United fronts for certain specific actions could have been of some use, of course, but the only important united front for the ILP is with the Labour Party, the trade unions, the co-operatives. At the moment, the ILP is too weak to secure these; it must first conquer the right for a united front by winning the support of the masses. At this stage, united fronts with the CP will only compromise the ILP. Rupture with the CP is the first step towards a mass basis for the ILP and the achievement of a mass basis is the first step towards a proper united front, that is, a united front with the mass organizations.

Question – Should the ILP forbid groups?

Answer – It can scarcely do that without forbidding its leadership, which is also a group, a centrist group, protected by the party machinery, or without denying the very fractional principle by which it must build its influence in the mass organizations.

Factions existed in the Bolshevik party as temporary groupings of opinion during its whole life – except for a brief period in 1921 when they were forbidden by unanimous vote of the leadership as an extreme measure during an acute crisis.

Question – How far can factions develop with safety to the party?

Answer – That depends on the social composition of the party, upon the political situation and upon the quality of the leadership. Generally it is best to let petty-bourgeois tendencies express themselves fully so that they may expose themselves. If there are no such tendencies, if the membership is fairly homogeneous, there will be only temporary groupings – unless the leadership is incorrect. And this will be shown best in practice. So, when a difference occurs “ a discussion should take place, a vote be taken, and a majority line adopted. There must be no discrimination against the minority; any personal animosity will compromise not them but the leadership. Real leadership will be loyal and friendly to the disciplined minority.

It is true, of course, that discussion always provokes feelings which remain for some time. Political life is full of difficulties – personalities clash – they widen their dissensions – they get in each other’s hair. These differences must be overcome by common experience, by education of the rank and file, by the leadership proving it is right. Organizational measures should be resorted to only in extreme cases. Discipline is built by education, not only by statutes. It was the elastic life within it which allowed the Bolshevik party to build its discipline. Even after the conquest of power, Bukharin and other members of the party voted against the government in the Central Executive on important questions, such as the German peace, and in so doing lined themselves with those Socialist-Revolutionaries who soon attempted armed insurrection against the Soviet state. But Bukharin[116] was not expelled. Lenin said, in effect: “We will tolerate a certain lack of discipline. We will demonstrate to them that we are right. Tomorrow they will learn that our policy is correct, and they will not break discipline so quickly.” By this I do not advise the dissenting comrades to imitate the arrogance of Bukharin. Rather do I recommend that the leadership learns from the patience and tact of Lenin. Though when it was necessary, he could wield the razor as well as the brush.

The authority of the national leadership is the necessary condition of revolutionary discipline. It can be immensely increased when it represents an international agreement of principles, of common action. Therein lies one of the sources of strength of the new International.

Question – What do you think of the ILP colonial policy?

Answer – So far, it seems to be mainly on paper. Fenner Brockway[117] has written some very good articles on the Mohmand struggles[118] and upon Ethiopia. But there should be many more – and beyond words, there should be action. The ILP should long ago have created some kind of colonial bureau to co-ordinate those organizations of colonial workers who are striving to overthrow British imperialism. Of course, only the real revolutionists in the ILP will bother to work for such policies. It is the test of their revolutionary understanding.

Question – What should be the basic concept of illegal work?

Answer – Illegal work is work in the mass organizations – for the ILP it is systematic entry and work in the trade unions, co-operatives, etc. In peace-time and in war, it is the same. You will perhaps say: “They will not let us in. They will expel us.” You do not shout: “I am a revolutionist,” when working in a trade union with reactionary leadership. You educate your cadres who carry on the fight under your direction. You keep educating new forces to replace those expelled, and so you build up a mass opposition. Illegal work must keep you in the working masses. You do not retire into a cellar as some comrades imagine. The trade unions are the schools for illegal work. The trade union leadership is the unofficial police of the state – The protective covering for the revolutionist is the trade union. Transition into war conditions is almost imperceptible.

Question – What specifically do you think the ILP should do in order to build a new International?

Answer – The ILP, if it intends to become a genuine revolutionary party must face honestly the question of the new International.

The Second International is bankrupt, the ILP has already said. It now recognizes the betrayal of the Third International. It should also realize that the International Bureau for Revolutionary Socialist Unity is a myth. It should draw the only possible conclusion and add its name to the Open Letter for the Fourth International.

Question – You mention that the IBRSU offers no basis for the struggle against war. What is the policy of this Bureau? What is its future?

Answer – The Bureau has no common policy; its parties are going in all directions. The SAP of Germany now marches steadily rightwards toward social democracy and Stalinism. Today I have news that the congress of the RSAP, one of the largest parties in the Bureau has voted by an overwhelming majority to sever its old close co-operation with the SAP and also to break off completely with the Bureau and to associate with parties which work to build the Fourth International. It even passed a vote of censure on the Central Committee for having maintained a connection with the SAP as long as it did.

The Spanish POB[119] is, in a certain sense, similar to the ILP. Its leadership is not internationalist in perspective but its membership includes an important section who are for the Fourth International. The USP of Rumania[120] is also developing towards a revolutionary internationalist position. Recently it expelled the tiny Stalinist faction within it, and it is already being accused of “Trotskyism”. I hope that in the near future they will recognize the necessity of joining in the great work of building the Fourth Internatlonal.

As for the other members of the Bureau, they are either nonentities or they have no real relation to the Bureau. The Italian SP (Maximalist)[121] is not a party, only a microscopic group living for the most part in exile. The Austrian Red Front[122] only two years ago had 1,000 members in illegality. Today it is non-existent, dissolved. Why? Because it had no programme – no banner! The Polish ILPZ is only a topic for humour, a caricature organization of no political importance, while the Bulgarian LSG[123] is never heard of. Like the Norwegian “Mot-Dag” – another “member” of the Bureau – it is only a small left-wing group of intellectuals which is in process of decomposition. Here in Norway, the only workers’ party is the NAP.[124] It belonged to the Bureau for two years, but does so no more and is in no way desirous of building a new International. Just now, I have received word that the NAP decided (on the very same day that the Dutch party withdrew from the Bureau) to sever even formal connections – for opposite political reasons. Only two parties of consequence remain to be considered – the ILP and the Swedish SP.[125] Already the latter grows cold to the Bureau as the SP turns to the right like the NAP. It is altogether likely that it will follow.

The Bureau suffers the fate of all centrist organizations in times of acute class struggle; it is destroyed by the release of the centrifugal forces within itself. We predicted that the IAG would lose both to the right and to the left. It is happening before our eyes, and even more quickly than we had expected. History could not arrange a better demonstration of the correctness of our analysis of centrism. If the ILP does not soon make up its mind it will find itself sitting in lonely possession of the Bureau.

Question – Was not Doriot also a member of the “Seven Lefts”?[126]

Answer – Certainly. He may never, for his own reasons, have adhered formally, but he was chosen with Schwab and Gorkin[127] to form the Bureau’s World Committee for Peace Work. The committee, of course, never functioned. Later, when Doriot came to terms with Laval[128] he slipped out of the Committee as quickly as possible. Before, the IAG had met in St. Denis, under his protection. Later, when they called him on the ’phone it was always busy – connected with the government. Doriot is quite openly a traitor. It is interesting that at the last IAG conference Doriot was the loudest in condemning the Trotskyists for their slogan of the new International, and the SAP quoted him with enthusiastic approval.

Question – May not the Bureau recoup its losses from other forces?

Answer – The course of events is not that way. Zyromski[129], in France, has been the great hope of the IAG. He was, together with Pivert, a year in the Bataille Socialiste.[130] Since that time, the Bataille Socialiste has ceased to exist. The reason? Like the Austrian Red Front, it had no clear programme, no banner. Pivert has moved further left and Zyromski has had to solidarize himself with the right, with Blum himself. Zyromski now plays the perfidious role of Stalinist social-patriot within the SFIO.

Pivert has now built up another left group, but this too will not last six months. It is composed of one element afraid of the patriots and another afraid of the Bolshevik-Leninists. The group calls itself “Revolutionary Left”. It is a little left, but it is not yet revolutionary.

Question – What do you think of the Lovestoneite argument, which we hear in the ILP, that the CPSU must still be a good party because it exists in a workers’ state.

Answer – That is not a Marxian argument, that is metaphysics. If a workers’ state automatically produced a good government there would be no need for a communist party within it. The fact is that the CP as the government of the workers’ state is not a “thing-in-itself” but is subjected to the play of different historical forces. it can deviate, degenerate, become a danger to the existence of the workers’ state. That is precisely what has happened in Russia.

Interview with Robertson (November 1935),

New International, February 1936

Open Letter to an English Comrade[edit source]

Dear Comrade,

The article written against me in the New Leader of March 20 of this year is sharp but incorrect. The sharpness is good. One must always welcome it when a revolutionary defends his ideas with sharpness and precision. Unfortunately, in spite of all the sharpness I fail to notice the necessary precision.

The polemical article sets itself the task of protecting the “International Bureau for Revolutionary Socialist Unity” against my attacks. My criticism of the parties affiliated to the Bureau is said to be totally wrong. These parties are said to be by no means disintegrating, but on the contrary to be showing themselves more and more unified in the international struggle

Let us try to verify these assertions. As far as I am concerned I know of only one single common international action of the London Bureau. That is the creation of the “World Committee for Peace.” I carefully criticized at the time the programme of this committee proposed by the SAP[131] on the basis of their document, and branded it with perfect justification, I think, as an expression of the shallowest petty-bourgeois pacifism. No one, not even the leaders of the SAP, has ever given to this criticism a material and pertinent answer. My point of view, consequently, remains valid. The parties which on the question of war adopt a pacifist attitude cannot be looked upon by a Marxist as revolutionary proletarian parties. Maxton[132], for instance, is a pacifist and not a Marxist. His war policy can perhaps contribute much to the saving of his soul but scarcely to the liberation of the working class.

The above-mentioned Committee was formed of three people: the German Schwab, the Frenchman Doriot (!), and the Spaniard Gorkin.[133] Since then Doriot, the host of the last conference of the so-called Socialist Revolutionary Parties, has gone over with his clique to the reaction. Gorkin fought his election in Spain with a miserable democratic-pacifist programme of the People’s Front. And, the third member, Schwab, has up to now not yet explained that the Committee for Peace was an anti-revolutionary undertaking and that the programme laid down by him, Schwab, of the “Fight for Peace” mocks the whole tecahing of Marx and Lenin in every word. (Incidentally there are still a few lamb-like people who think that they can still convince the minority of the SAP by endless, totally abstract discussion. We certainly believe that Schwab and some other leaders with their reactionary ideas are in the minority – but that this minority is to be won by good words, no, we are really not so naïve as to believe that.)

This, then, is at present the growing capacity of the London Bureau for “united international action.”

I have never put a low value on small organizations merely because they are small. Even here the New Leader twists the Marxist criterion. The mass organizations have value precisely because they are mass organizations. Even when they are under patriotic reformist leadership one cannot discount them. One must win the masses who are in their clutches: whether from outside or from inside depends on the circumstance.

Small organizations which regard themselves as selective, as pioneers, can only have value on the strength of their programme and of the schooling and steeling of their cadres. A small organization which has no unified programme and no really revolutionary will is less than nothing, is a negative quantity. In this sense I have spoken very contemptuously of the small groups in Bulgaria, Rumania and Poland. Their confusion is really too big for their small compass. The revolutionary movement is only injured by them. On the other hand, the smallest of our groups are valuable because they know what they want and because they look back on the great tradition of Bolshevism with which they are internationally closely bound. Sooner or later every one of these groups will show its value.

The Austrian “Red Front”, which had united in itself the really militant worker elements, has united itself ostensibly with the Revolutionary Socialist Party of Austria, i.e., with the old Austro-Marxist Party.[134] Fenner Brockway’s bulletin affirms: “The united party, although it is affiliated to the Second International, supports the anti-war policy of the IBRSU”. This representation of Austro-Marxism is utterly wrong and confusing. Anyone who has read the theses of Messrs. Otto Bauer, Dan and Zyromski[135] knows that Austro-Marxism represents even now nothing else than a cowardly, wretched falsification of Marxism, i.e., has remained completely true to its tradition. The “Red Front” could accomplish revolutionary work in the Austro-Marxist Party under two closely related conditions: firstly, it must itself have clear principles, secondly, it must see clearly the rottenness of Austro-Marxism. Both conditions are completely missing (incidentally, one might mention that the Neue Front, the organ of the SAP, makes propaganda for Der Kampf, the Austro-Marxist organ). Actually the point is that the “Red Front” is being absorbed in the Austro-Marxist slough.

The Norwegian group “Mot-Dag”[136] adopts the point of view of the Locarno Powers[137] and is now preparing to be absorbed in the Labour Party. This group too has been for years nothing else but confusion worse confounded.

It is really hardly worthwhile losing any more words about the Italian section (the Maximalists).[138] It is enough to say that this “revolutionary” organization, together with the Italian Socialist Party (Second International) and the Italian Communist Party (Third International), has signed a common appeal in which it calls on the League of Nations to widen sanctions, and tries to instil into the Italian people that imperialist sanctions are a means of peace! Perhaps Fenner Brockway does, not know of this appeal? Let him become acquainted with it. And if he does know why does he treat these people as revolutionary friends and not as traitors to proletarian internationalism?

The policy article of the New Leader maintains that the Swedish Socialist Party feels itself more closely connected with the London Bureau than I have maintained. It is quite possible that this connection has recently become somewhat closer. But that the Swedish Socialist Party has an international attitude – that is either a naïve or consciously false legend. It is of course anti-war and it declares itself to be anti-League of Nations. But its “fight” against war leads it hand-in-hand with the peace companies in the form of petitions. One could with the same success hold divine services for peace. But this method of action which manifests a shrieking contradiction between goal and method is enough to make us understand that the leaders of the Swedish Socialist Party with all their phraseology, which by the way changes very easily, are pacifistic philistines and certainly not proletarian revolutionaries, The peace policy of Kilboom[139], like that of a Schwab, is in the final analysis a small edition of the policy of Lord Cecil.[140] Every important event in Sweden will confirm this explanation.

The ILP cannot and will not admit that the Swedish Party is an anti-Marxist organization, because its own leadership shows that it itself is through and through a pacifist-centrist party. We have heartily welcomed the series of truly revolutionary New Leader articles about sanctions with Unser Wort, Nos.6 and 8, without any of those mental reservations with which the critic has reproached us. But one swallow does not make a summer. But even these articles bestow no Marxist halo upon the ILP. Maxton and the others remain what they were: petty-bourgeois pacifists and they decide the party’s course today as yesterday.

May I be permitted to point out that I publicly warned the ILP more than two years ago against the sterile alliance with the CPGB, as this alliance only multiplies the defects of both parties and diverts the attention of the ILP from the workers’ mass organizations. Were these warnings right or not? The CPGB is ending in the slough of opportunism. But the ILP is now politically weaker than ever, and its own ideas remain as indefinite and hazy as they were two years ago.

Lastly a few more words about what the New Leader says concerning the organizations of the Fourth International: it calls them “merest cliques”. In this characterization ignorance surpasses dishonesty. Clique is the word used by us Marxists for a group of individuals who have neither programme nor high aim but who cluster round a leader in order to satisfy personal and certainly not praiseworthy desires. (“Sect,” on the other hand, is the designation of a group with definite ideas and methods.) “Clique” also implies lack of honour. Does the New Leader believe that our party, organizations and groups possess no principles, no programme and no revolutionary consciousness? It would be really interesting to hear this sometime from Maxton or Fenner Brockway.[141] On our side we maintain: we are the only international organization which has developed in a struggle of many years an absolutely definite programme, which the greatest events confirm and strengthen every day. The passion with which all our organizations enter into discussion in order to clarify all the questions of the international workers’ movement, the independence with which they develop their opinion, proves how seriously they understand Marxism and how many miles distant they are from an unprincipled clique spirit.

According to figures, too, they do not stand in any way inferior to the organizations around the London Bureau. A short time ago I proved, using the official Soviet press, that in the last few months of the year 1935 about 20,000 Bolshevik-Leninists had been expelled from the official Communist Party. I believe that in the Soviet Union alone we have more followers than the London Bureau has in the whole world. According to figures the Dutch party stands hardly inferior to the ILP. We have a courageous and militant section in France[142], the focal point of European politics. Although the French comrades of the Fourth International have no representative in Parliament they play a much more important part today in French political life. The fascist and capitalist press of France is an irrefutable proof of this. And this is not to be wondered at: the Bolshevik-Leninists put forward in a revolutionary situation a really revolutionary programme. It is true that our earlier Spanish section has declined into the worst opportunism. But why? Because it has fused with the section of the London Bureau in order to pursue “big politics” in the wake of Señor Azaña.[143] Our friends in Belgium have fought their way to a significant influence.[144] Even in South America we have important and growing sections. Our American section, which has now joined the Socialist Party[145], has gained within it considerable sympathy for its ideas. Incidentally, it seems to me that the flag of the Fourth International has some supporters even inside the ILP. And the number of these is systematically increasing.

The difference between the London Bureau and the association of the Fourth International is as follows: in the first case it is a question of different hybrid organizations with quite a different past, with different ideas and a different future which, being without a roof, have temporarily associated themselves with the International London Bureau; in contrast to this the sections of the Fourth International are selective bodies which came into existence on the basis of quite definite ideas and methods worked out in the struggle with the Second and Third Internationals and the London Bureau. That is the reason why we increase systematically in spite of enormous difficulties, why the influence of the Fourth International grows stronger and stronger, why the two old Internationals have entered into a holy alliance against it, and why, when all is said and done, the sections of the London Bureau associate themselves everywhere with this holy alliance. The article in the New Leader is only one of the many proofs of these circumstances.

With the same certitude with which we some years ago warned the ILP against the alliance with the CPGB we affirm today that the ILP under its present leadership and on its present course is marching directly towards the abyss. We are at the same time no less certain that the best elements of the English workers’ movement will group themselves around the standard of the Fourth International, for it is now the only flag of the proletarian revolution.

Written 3rd April 1936 and published in Unser Wort, May 1936

The Decline of the ILP[edit source]

On Dictators and the Heights of Oslo

Dear Comrade,

It is with great astonishment that I read the report of the conference of the Independent Labour Party in the [London] New Leader of April 17, 1936. I really never entertained any illusions about the pacifist parliamentarians who run the ILP. But their political position and their whole conduct at the conference exceeds even those bounds that can usually be expected of them. I am sure that you and your friends have drawn approximately the same conclusions as we have here. Nevertheless I cannot refrain from making several observations.

1. Maxton[146] and the others opine that an Italo-Ethiopian war is conflict between two rival dictators. To these politicians it appears that this fact relieves the proletariat of the duty of making a choice between two dictators. They thus define the character of the war by the political form of the state, in the course of which they themselves regard this political form in a quite superficial and purely descriptive manner, without taking into consideration the social foundations of both “dictatorships”. A dictator can also play a very progressive role in history. For example: Oliver Cromwell, Robespierre, etc. On the other hand, right in the midst of the English democracy Lloyd George[147] exercised a highly reactionary dictatorship during the war. Should a dictator place himself at the head of the next uprising of the Indian people in order to smash the British yoke – would Maxton then refuse this dictator his support? Yes or no? If no, why does he refuse his support to the Ethiopian “dictator” who is attempting to ward off the Italian yoke?

If Mussolini triumphs, it means the re-enforcement of fascism, the strengthening of imperialism and the discouragement of the colonial peoples in Africa and elsewhere. The victory of the Negus[148], however, would mean a mighty blow not only at Italian imperialism but at imperialism as a whole and would lend a powerful impulsion to the rebellious forces of the oppressed peoples. One must really be completely blind not to see this.

2. McGovern[149] puts the “poor little Abyssinia” of 1935 on the same level with the “poor little Belgium” of 1914; in both cases it means support of war. Well, “poor little Belgium” has 10,000,000 slaves in Africa, whereas the Abyssinian people is fighting in order not to become the slave of Italy. Belgium was and remains a link of the European imperialist chain. Abyssinia is only a victim of imperialist appetites. Putting the two cases on the same plane is sheerest nonsense.

On the other hand, to take up the defence of Abyssinia against Italy in no way means to encourage British imperialism to war. At one time this is just what was very well demonstrated in several articles of the New Leader. McGovern’s conclusion that it should have been the ILP’s task “to stand aside from quarrels between dictators”, is an exemplary model of the spiritual and moral impotence of pacifism.

3. The most shameful thing of all, however, only comes after the voting. After the conference had rejected the scandalous pacifist quackery by a vote of 70 to 57, the tender pacifist Maxton put the revolver of an ultimatum at the breast of the conference and forced a new decision by a vote of 93 to 39. So we see that there are dictators not only in Rome and in Addis Ababa, but also in London. And of the three dictators, I consider most harmful him who grabs his own party by the throat in the name of his parliamentary prestige and his pacifist confusion. A party that tolerates such conduct is no revolutionary party; for if it surrenders (or “postpones”) its principled position in a highly important and topical question because of threats of resignation made by Maxton, then at the grave moment it will never withstand the immeasurably mightier pressure of the bourgeoisie.

4. By an overwhelming majority, the conference forbade the existence of groups inside the party. Good! But in whose name did Maxton put an ultimatum to the conference? In the name of the parliamentary group which regards the party machine as its private property and which actually represents the only faction that should have been sharply drubbed into respect for the democratic decisions of the party. A party which dissolves the oppositional groups but lets the ruling clique do as it jolly well pleases, is no revolutionary party. It will not be able to lead the proletariat to victory.

5. Fenner Brockway’s[150] position on this question is a highly instructive example of the political and moral insufficiency of centrism. Fenner Brockway was lucky enough to adopt a correct point of view in an important question, a view that coincides with ours. The difference lies in this, however, that we Marxists really mean the thing seriously. To Fenner Brockway, on the contrary, it is a matter of something “incidental”. He believes it is better for the British workers to have Maxton as chairman with a false point of view than to have a correct point of view without Maxton. That is the fate of centrism – to consider the incidental serious and the serious thing incidental. That’s why centrism should never be taken seriously.

6. In the question of the International, the old confusion was once more sealed, despite the obvious bankruptcy of the previous perspective. In any case, nothing more is said about the “invitation” from the Third International. But the centrist doesn’t take anything seriously. Even when he now admits that there is no longer a proletarian international, he nevertheless hesitates to build one up. Why? Because he has no principles. Because he can’t have any. For if he but once makes the sober attempt to adopt a principled position in only one important question, he promptly receives an ultimatum from the right and starts to climb down. How can he think of a rounded-out revolutionary programme under such circumstances? He then expresses his spiritual and moral helplessness in the form of profound aphorisms, that the new International must come “from the development of socialist movements”, that is, from the historical process which really ought to produce something some day. This dubious ally has various ways, however: he even got to the point of reducing the Leninist International to the level of the Second. Proletarian revolutionists should therefore strike out on their own path, that is, work out the programme of the new International and, basing themselves on the favourable tendencies of the historical process, help this programme gain prevalence.

7. Fenner Brockway, after his lamentable capitulation to Maxton, found his courage again in struggle against the undersigned. He, Brockway, cannot allow a new International to be constructed from “the heights of Oslo”. I leave aside the fact that I do not live in Oslo and that, besides, Oslo is not situated on heights. The principles which I defend in common with many thousand comrades, bear absolutely no local or geographical character. They are Marxian and international. They are formulated, expounded and defended in theses, brochures and books. If Fenner Brockway finds these principles to be false, let him put up against them his own. We are always ready to be taught better. But unfortunately Fenner Brockway cannot venture into this field, for he has just turned over to Maxton that oh-so-paltry parcel of principles. That is why there is nothing left for him to do save to make merry about the “heights of Oslo”, wherein he promptly commits a threefold mistake: with respect to my address, to the topography of the Norwegian capital and, last but not least, to the fundamental principles of international action.

My conclusions? The cause of the ILP seems to me to be hopeless. The 39 delegates who, despite the failure of the Fenner Brockway faction, did not surrender to Maxton’s ultimatum, must seek ways of preparing a truly revolutionary party for the British proletariat. It can only stand under the banner of the Fourth International.

Leon Trotsky

A letter to a British comrade (dated 22nd April, 1936),

published in Unser Wort, May 1936

* * *

Collins[151]: Should the Marxist Group[152] oppose or favour Communist Party affiliation to the Labour Party?

Trotsky: The question becomes sheer pedantry and completely meaningless in view of the smallness, the weakness and lack of clear perspective in the group itself. However, whatever the position of the group, it is essential to support critically the affiliation of the Communist Party – for two reasons. 1) If we refuse to support, we shall be riding against the mass desire for unity. 2) That the mistakes of the Communist Party in the Labour Party and their inevitable alliance with the bureaucracy will give us the opportunity of winning their best elements. But only if we are inside the Labour Party ourselves. The whole question revolves around the italicized sentence. If that is ignored, all speculation is metaphysical and has nothing in common with Marxism.

Collins: Whom do you think is correct – Cooper or Matlow[153] – on the question of the group perspective?

Trotsky: In my opinion, Matlow is 100 per cent correct. In view of the international situation England must inevitably develop in common with the rest of Europe. That must give rise to a strike wave in the near future, which will drive the last nail into the coffin of the ILP. The ILP is not a mass but a propaganda organization, and since their propaganda is centrist and not revolutionary, this dying corpse must be completely swept away during a working class resurgence. I consider that the rigid, formalistic position of the Cooper paper has no relationship to Marxism at all. It shows a complete lack of comprehension of the class struggle. The idea of remaining inside the ILP for a further period in order to win a few more wavering elements, whilst the Communist Party is rapidly penetrating into the mass organizations, is ridiculous. We can only win these wavering elements in the ILP by our entry into the Labour Party and the effective work we will do in there. The waverers remaining in the ILP will inevitably leave in disgust as the ILP disintegrates further, and in their attempt to find a new orientation must inevitably come to us in the Labour Party, if we adopt a correct line at once. The argument that it is still possible to win a few more of the waverers in the ILP is sheer formalism, as for every one that we might win in the ILP there are hundreds in the Labour Party. The argument that we may be able to capture the apparatus of the ILP is at best hypothetical, and even if successful must mean a struggle of years in view of the strength of the bureaucracy. We have not eternity before us. We are too generous with our time, which is very precious; and we are not rich enough to spend it at such a rate. The experience of the Belgian and French sections[154] demonstrates conclusively the tremendous possibilities that unfold themselves inside the mass reformist organizations. Unless we accept that perspective we can play no significant revolutionary role in the history of Great Britain.

Collins: Since we have already missed the opportunity of the plebiscite issue, what issue can we raise in order to split from the ILP?

Trotsky: It is essential to choose a political issue comprehensible to the broad mass of workers. To raise a fight on the existence of legal groups within the ILP would be completely useless. I can only offer some suggestions from this distance. A struggle raised to commit the ILP on our theses at our recent conference is one possibility, particularly the thesis on the revolutionary upsurge already printed in the French paper. Possibly, however, a better example would be the question of the ILP affiliation to the Labour Party. That question we must pose immediately and as strongly as possible.

Collins: Should the group place any conditions upon the entry of the ILP into the Labour Party?

Trotsky: That kind of knightly courtesy has no place in politics. Since the ILP bureaucracy have made our group illegal and have suppressed our paper[155], it would be ridiculous for us to fight for privileges on behalf of the ILP. Our duty is to get into the Labour Party, with or without the ILP, as rapidly as possible. It is not possible for me from this distance to choose either the precise issue or the time to be taken in the struggle for the split. If we remember that time is precious and the matter is extremely urgent, we will not go far wrong. In any event, the suggestion of a time limit such as the next annual conference of the ILP in April is incomprehensible to me. The European situation is developing so rapidly that history will not wait for the ILP conference.

Collins: How shall we enter the Labour Party and how shall we work within it?

Trotsky: In view of the weakness of the Marxist Group, it may be necessary to cater as individuals first and spend one, two or three months in exploring the avenues of work. The important thing is to get in. Once in, opportunities will rapidly unfold. It is understood that regardless of how we enter, we will have a secret faction from the very beginning. Our subsequent actions will depend on our progress within the Labour Party. It is very important that we do not lay ourselves open at the beginning to attacks from the Labour Party bureaucracy, which will result in our expulsion without having gained any appreciable strength. Our first attacks must be directed against the inconsistency of the centrists and not the bureaucracy. That again must be determined by what we find once we are inside. Obviously, we will not be able to raise the issue of the Fourth International immediately. History will provide the opportunity for raising that issue. The question of the Fourth International is not a burning issue to the masses of Great Britain today. If we take a revolutionary position on the popular issues that concern the masses today, then inevitably we will be able to develop towards the question of the Fourth International. At all costs we must be very careful to avoid either sectarianism or opportunism – we must continually have our fingers on the pulse of the masses. It is well to remember that as the political situation develops, revolutionary work will be increasingly dangerous and we will be better protected within the broad masses of the Labour Party than in the isolated and rotting corpse of the ILP, if even a corpse remains by then. It will undoubtedly be correct to leave a few capable comrades within the ILP to do fraction work. As regards the Marxist Group when we enter the Labour Party, a situation may rapidly arise requiring one or two of our best speakers to bring forth our complete revolutionary position thus deliberately inviting expulsion for themselves, as martyrs are useful to every movement. Such expelled comrades will find useful avenues of work, e.g., in the Lenin Club.

Collins: Do you think that the idea of the Lenin Club, as developed by the ILP group, will be useful in our future work within the Labour Party?

Trotsky: That will also depend on the concrete conditions that we find in the Labour Party, but from this distance it would appear that it could serve a useful function. But if it is to be of any use, it must be democratically controlled with representatives from all the Bolshevik-Leninists and not merely the ILP group. Anything else would be pure sectarianism.

Collins: Should the paper proposed by James be run as an independent organ of the acknowledged Trotskyists within the political organizations such as the Labour Party or as the organ of the Lenin Club without party affiliation?

Trotsky: That is difficult to say, as it must obviously depend on objective conditions. In any case, we must first make every effort to merge with the Groves-Dewar group.[156]

I understand from Comrade Collins that previous approaches to Groves-Dewar have met with rebuffs. Even if that remains true once we are inside the Labour Party, the supporters of Groves-Dewar must realize that we are 100 per cent with them and further rebuffs from their two leaders should result in their coming over to us. In the event of our failure to secure the Red Flag as the organ of our tendency, then we will have to decide which is better for our work – an independent Lenin Club organ, or a group paper within the Labour Party. To me this question is not of first rate importance, as in any case the Stalinists would expose our connection with a Lenin Club paper. This development on the part of the Stalinists we can anticipate without any question. Just as the Labour bureaucracy serves as the police of capitalism within the ranks of the working class, so the Stalinist leaders will act as the police of the Labour Party bureaucracy. This identification of the Labour Party and Communist Party bureaucracies will afford us an excellent opportunity to win over the rank and file of the Communist Party. The entire question of a paper and of a Lenin Club becomes formalistic and unreal while we remain outside the Labour Party and isolated from the masses.

Collins: What should our attitude be towards Peace Councils?[157]

Trotsky: The question of the Peace Council bears a certain resemblance to that of the People’s Front. For example, in France, we tell the workers that we know that the People’s Front is all wrong. While the workers support it, we say to them that we are perfectly willing to collaborate loyally with the working class organizations, the Communist Party and the Socialist Party, but we refuse under any circumstances to have anything to do with the bourgeois participants in the People’s Front. We do not shout: “Down with the People’s Front!” at present because we have nothing to replace it as yet. In the same manner, we cannot turn our backs on the Peace Councils and say “Down with the Peace Councils!” because as yet there is no revolutionary party to give a clear lead on the question of war and peace. In the analogy, however, there is this fundamental difference. One is a question of state power in a revolutionary situation. The other is a question of using existing committees as long as they are supported by mass workers’ organizations. Therefore, it is necessary to get representatives wherever possible on the Peace Councils and to direct our attacks in the beginning against certain of the bourgeois participants (who these will be depends on the reaction of the workers to our propaganda). It is understood, of course, that the very first task of revolutionaries in any mass organization is to demand that it be democratically controlled by the workers. That agitation will give us our first opportunity of attacking the private invitations given out by the Communist Party bureaucrats to so-called progressive bourgeois figures. By attacking the leading bourgeois pacifists and subsequently the participation of all bourgeois elements, we will inevitably run counter to the class-collaborationist policies of the LP-CP bureaucrats. We can then say to the workers: “We have our differences with Comrades Morrison, Pollitt and Lansbury[158], but we are perfectly willing to work loyally with them. They, however, wish to expel us because we refuse to work with open class enemies.” This will have the effect of making the LP-CP bureaucrats bear the responsibility of open class collaboration before the workers. This situation correctly used will discredit not only the bureaucrats but also the entire idea of Peace Councils. But it is first necessary to get on to them.

Collins: How can we best deal with the very important colonial question, a fundamental question which we have so far almost entirely ignored?

Trotsky: A study of the first four congresses of the Comintern is essential. In addition, the general theses of the Fourth International of the colonial question will serve to indicate the general line, but the concrete application will be determined by the special situation.

Collins: Is it even possible to consider at this stage an independent existence outside the mass organizations?

Trotsky: The fact that Lenin was not afraid to split from Plekhanov in 1905 and to remain as a small isolated group bears no weight because the same Lenin remained inside the Social Democracy until 1912 and in 1920 urged the affiliation of the British Communist Party to the Labour Party. While it is necessary for the revolutionary party to maintain its independence at all times, a revolutionary group of a few hundred comrades is not a revolutionary party and can work most effectively at present by opposition to the social patriots within the mass parties. In view of the increasing acuteness of the international situation, it is absolutely essential to be within the mass organizations while there is the possibility of doing revolutionary work within them. Any such sectarian, sterile and formalistic interpretation of Marxism in the present situation would disgrace an intelligent child of 10.

Interview with Collins, Internal Bulletin of the Marxist Group, Summer 1936

* * *

Let us take the ILP question. I really cannot reproach myself with any precipitateness on this question. For years I followed the evolution of this party, quite calmly and objectively. After Schmidt’s and Paton’s visit to me[159], from which I learned a great deal, I wrote a series of articles and letters of an entirely friendly kind to the ILP people, sought to enter into personal contact with them and counselled our English friends to join the ILP in order, from within, to go through the experience systematically and to the very end. Since the last visit of Comrades R. and A.[160], I formulated my observations in this sense, that there isn’t much to be done with the ILP. The three of us worked out a definite proposal for our British comrades (a manifesto to the party, collection of signatures, etc.). Comrade Schmidt went to England and judged the plan to be incorrect. Naturally, this was not without its influence on the comrades, as well as on me. I immediately said to myself: Schmidt knows the situation in the ILP better than I do; perhaps he sees in the ILP such aspects as escape me; therefore the decision should perhaps be postponed in order to see the effect of the latest big events (the war in Abyssinia, etc.) at the coming party conference of the ILP. To lose two to three months in a critical period is always a great loss. But it seemed to me, after comrade Schmidt’s intervention, that it is necessary to go through this new experience. Well, it is now already behind us. To continue now with an effort to revive the illusion which has been shattered to bits, would be nothing less than to inflict a bad service on the cause. In times of calm, one can live on illusions for a long period; in a period of crisis, if one does not take into account the hard facts, that is, the actual policy of centrism and pacifism, and consequently their deeds, but considers one’s own wishes and sentiments, one courts the danger of becoming the shadow of the centrists and pacifists and of compromising and destroying one’s own organization. That is why I deem it absolutely necessary for our comrades to break openly with the ILP and to transfer to the Labour Party where, as is shown especially by the experience in the Youth, much more can be accomplished.

From a letter to the Central Committee of the RSAP (Holland)

(dated 15th July, 1936), Informatie en Discussie Bulletin, 1st July 1937

* * *

Trotsky: Great Britain and the ILP? It is also a special task. I followed it a bit more closely when I was in Norway. It seems to me that our comrades who entered the ILP had the same experience with the ILP that our American comrades made with the Socialist Party. But not all our comrades entered the ILP and they developed an opportunistic policy so far as I could observe and that is why their experience in the ILP was not so good. The ILP remained almost as it was before while the Socialist Party is now empty. I do not know how to approach it now. It is now a Glasgow organization. It is a local machine and they have influence in the municipal machine and I have heard that it is very corrupt. It is a separate job of Maxton. Rebellions of the rank and file are a familiar thing in the ILP. In preparing for a new convention Fenner Brockway becomes a patron of the rebellious section and secures a majority. Then Maxton says he will resign. Then Fenner Brockway says, “No, we will abandon our victory. We can give up our principles, but not our Maxton.” I believe that the most important thing is to compromise them – to put them in the mud – the Maxtons and the Brockways. We must identify them with class enemies. We must compromise the ILP with tremendous and pitiless attacks on Maxton. He is the sacrificial goat for all the sins of British movement and the especially the ILP. By such concentrated attacks on Maxton, systematic attacks in our press, we can expedite the split in the ILP. At the same time we must point out that if Maxton is the lackey of Chamberlain[161], then Fenner Brockway is the lackey of Maxton.

James[162]: What do you think of an independent paper for the work of slashing at Maxton, etc?

Trotsky: It is a practical question. In France, if our section enters the PSOP I believe that the International Secretariat should publish the Quatriéme Internationale for all French-speaking countries twice-monthly. It is simply a question of the juridical possibility. I believe that even if we work inside the Labour Party we must have an independent paper, not as opposed to our comrades within, but rather to be outside the control of the ILP.

From the transcript of a discussion with C.L.R. James, held in April 1939,

published in the Internal Bulletin (Socialist Workers Party),

20th December 1939

* * *

Of the ILP it is not worth while speaking at length. I will only recall a very recent fact. The leader of this party, Maxton, thanked Chamberlain in Parliament after the Munich pact and declared to astonished humanity that by his policy Chamberlain had saved the peace – yes, yes, had saved the peace! – that he” Maxton, knew Chamberlain well and he assured that Chamberlain had “sincerely” fought the war and “sincerely” saved the peace, etc., etc. This single example gives a conclusive and what is more a pretty crushing characterization of Maxton and of his party. The revolutionary proletariat rejects Chamberlain’s “peace” just as it does his war. The “peace” of Chamberlain is the continuation of the violence against India and other colonies and the preparation of the war in conditions more favourable for the British slaveholders. To take upon himself the slightest shadow of responsibility for the policy of “peace” of Chamberlain, is not possible for a socialist, for a revolutionist, but only for a pacifist lackey of imperialism. The party that tolerates a leader like Maxton and actions like his public solidarization with the slaveholder Chamberlain is not a socialist party but a miserable pacifist clique.

From a letter to Daniel Guerin (dated 10th March 1939),

Byulleten Oppozitsii March-April 1939

* * *

Trotsky: What is … dangerous is the sectarian approach to the Labour Party. You say that I put forward the slogan of Blum-Cachin[163] without reservations. Then you remember, “All power to the soviet!” and you say that the united front has no soviet. It is the same sectarian approach.

James: We have had difficulty in Britain with advocating a Labour government with the necessary reservations.

Trotsky: In France in all our press, in our archives and propaganda, we regularly made all the necessary reservations. Your failure in Britain is due to lack of ability; also lack of flexibility, due to the long domination of bourgeois thought in Britain. I would say to British workers, “You refuse to accept my point of view. Well, perhaps I did not explain well enough. Perhaps you are stupid. Anyway I have failed. But now, you believe in your party. Why allow Chamberlain to hold the power? Put your party in power. I will help you all I can. I know that they will not do what you think, but as you don’t agree with me and we are small, I will help you put them in.” But it is very important to bring up the questions periodically. I would suggest that you write an article discussing these points and publish it in our press.

From the transcript of a discussion with C.L.R. James held in April 1939,

published in the Internal Bulletin (SWP), January 1940

Stalinism and Centrism[edit source]

Fenner Brockway – Pritt Number Two

The Secretary of the Independent Labour Party of Great Britain, Fenner Brockway, runs to the aid of Pritt, the King’s Counsellor[164], with a plan to save the Moscow falsifiers. Pritt Number One tried to resolve the task juridically. Pritt Number Two considers the task politically. An international inquiry into the Moscow trials, according to Fenner Brockway’s way of thinking, is impermissible because it might arouse “prejudice in Russia and in Communist circles.” Fenner Brockway thus recognizes beforehand that an impartial verification could not confirm the Moscow accusations and justify the executions. On the contrary, Brockway is convinced that an honest and open inquiry can only “prejudice” Stalin’s clique and “Communist circles.” That is precisely why Pritt Number Two proposes to organize an “inquiry into the role of Trotskyism in the Working Class Movement.” In other words: instead of establishing the objective truth regarding the monstrous, criminal accusations, Brockway proposes a partisan political trial against his ideological adversary. Furthermore, Brockway considers – and who can know Brockway better than himself – that he is marked in advance by the finger of fate to assume an initiative of this nature. He even points magnanimously to a future jury of “4 or 5 persons” who have “objective analytical minds.” As candidates Brockway names: the Austrian social-democrat Otto Bauer, the “Danish” (Swedish?) lawyer Branting[165], the head of the Socialist Party of the United States, Norman Thomas[166] and ... a “good Frenchman.” This commission, to which he hopes, according to his own words, to assure the indispensable finances, will pass a judgement on the “role of Trotskyism in the Working Class Movement.” It is difficult to imagine a more ridiculous and, at the same time, a more cunning project! My “attitude in respect to the Working Class Movement,” leaving aside my forty years of revolutionary activity, is expressed at present in the following formula:

The guiding apparatuses of the Second and Third Internationals have become obstacles on the road of the emancipation of the proletariat. If a new war is bearing down on humanity with implacable force, the responsibility for that circumstance falls on the leadership of the Second and Third Internationals. I believe that the creation of a new International is inevitable and necessary, on the basis of the programme which is explained and developed in my books and articles as well as in the works of my ideological friends. At the same time the so-called Trotskyites are always and everywhere ready to sustain every practical step of the Second and Third Internationals against fascism and reaction in general, when it is a question of real acts of struggle and not of cheap parades, deceitful shows of unification, or in general, of all those things which throw dust in one’s eyes.

With bureaucratic charlatanism and “democratic” verbiage we have nothing in common! For these ideas I fight entirely openly. My adversaries have the full right and the full possibility to submit me to the most severe criticism. Up to now they have made great use of this right. I have never complained on that score. The struggle goes on for the supreme ends of humanity. Only the ultimate advance of the historical process can resolve these implacable discords. I patiently await its Verdict. If, however, Brockway, together with Otto Bauer and the anonymous “good Frenchman”, wishes to anticipate the verdict of history, I can only wish them great successes. It is not the first time that such attempts have been made.

Messrs. Fenner Brockway and Otto Bauer have more than once judged Lenin, especially from 1914 to 1917, and also later, together with the Russian Mensheviks, as a sectarian, a splitter, a disorganizer and an auxiliary of counter-revolution. Such men, in alliance with “good Frenchmen” and also “good” Germans, in the middle of the 19th century, more than once judged and annihilated Marx and Engels. I am ready to submit to the same fate to which my great masters were very often subjected.

However, Brockway’s plan takes on a manifestly dishonest character at the point where he tries to replace a juridical inquiry into the criminal accusations and the trials, more exactly, into the greatest frame-ups in the world[167], with a factional political intrigue to avoid the “prejudice” of Stalin and his agents. Here the advanced workers will say: Stop! Brockway’s fears, whatever may be their source, will not hinder the truth from triumphing over the lie!

As to the candidates indicated by Brockway for his political intrigue, I can say the following: in the last years I wrote a dozen articles in which I attempted to explain in a friendly manner to Fenner Brockway himself and to his friends that their unprincipled politics, zig-zagging from right to left under the whip of the Stalintern, would inevitably destroy the Independent Labour Party. Now this prognosis, alas, is completely confirmed. I have known Otto Bauer for thirty years as a political invertebrate, who has always adapted himself to the class enemy: to the defunct Hapsburg monarchy, to the Austrian bourgeoisie, to Wilson, to the Entente[168], and who, precisely because of the fact, has become chiefly responsible for the crushing of the Austrian proletariat. Again, in 1922 Bauer thought that the Soviet dictatorship arrested “progress”, which, in his opinion, then demanded the return of Russia to the road of capitalism. Now Bauer bows low before the Soviet bureaucracy, which is arresting progress toward socialism. The analysis of Otto Bauer’s rotten politics is given in dozens of my writings. Bauer himself has never tried to reply to them. I cannot say anything about Branting, who is recommended as a “lawyer”, although it is not a question of juridical, but of theoretical and political, problems. As for Norman Thomas he has never hidden his disagreements with me, and on my part I have no reason to attenuate their profundity. But Norman Thomas thinks that however profound these differences may be, and however acute the struggle of tendencies and fractions, certain methods are inadmissible, criminal, corrupt, menacing equally all parts of the proletariat. Without purging the workers’ ranks of terror, sabotage, espionage, etc. – if they exist – or of frame-ups, falsifications, despicable juridical assassinations – and they certainly exist! – the working class movement as a whole is menaced by gangrene. Here there is common ground between myself and Norman Thomas and all those who seriously concern themselves with the internal morale of the working-class movement. With Brockway such a common ground does not and cannot exist. As a political man, Brockway can judge Trotskyism as he likes; that is his right. But as Pritt Number Two he must be met with a merciless counter-thrust.

Written on 6th March 1937 and published in the Information Bulletin of the British Committee for the Defence of Leon Trotsky, July 1937

London Bureau Aids Stalin Frame-ups[edit source]

Once More on Fenner Brockway

“The London Bureau of Revolutionary Socialist Parties” was invited, together with the Second and Third Internationals, to participate in the International Commission of Inquiry on the Moscow trials.[169] On May 21 Fenner Brockway[170], in the name of the London Bureau, rejected the invitation. The pertinent section of his reply reads verbatim as follows:

“The International Bureau is not able to endorse the American Commission of Inquiry or to be represented on it because it takes the view that a disastrous mistake has been made in initiating the inquiry through a Committee which describes itself as a ‘Committee for the Defence of Trotsky’.”

The London Bureau, it would seem, is vitally concerned in the success of the inquiry and if it refuses to give any assistance it is solely due to the fact that the investigation was initiated by the “Defence’ Committee. However, Mr. Brockway fails to specify just who should have initiated the inquiry. The new head of the GPU Yezhov?[171] Or the secretary of the Comintern, Dimitrov?[172] Or the King’s Counsellor, Pritt?[173] Or the secretary of the London Bureau, Fenner Brockway? Or, finally, the Archbishop of Canterbury? The most “impartial” of the above-listed candidates, one should imagine, is Brockway himself. But, as is obvious from his letter of last February to the American Socialist, Devere Allen[174], none other than Brockway himself not only refused to initiate the inquiry but did everything in his power to prevent others from taking the initiative, and, furthermore, adduced arguments involving not the interests of impartiality but those of the Moscow bureaucracy. Here is what Brockway wrote to Allen: The inquiry “... will merely arouse prejudice in Russia and in Communist circles.” Isn’t it astonishing? In a letter not intended for publication Brockway incautiously spoke up as a member of the “Committee for the Defence of – Stalin, Dimitrov, Vyshinsky and Yagoda.”[175] I pointed this out in the press at the time. Not a word came in reply from Brockway. Several months elapsed. In his letter of May 28, Brockway again came out against the inquiry, but this time with a completely different set of arguments. But in essence he still remains a member of the undercover “Committee for the Defence” of the falsifiers against their victims.

There is no juridical or moral ground whatever for the suspicion which Brockway, in the name of the London Bureau, seeks to cast over the inquiry. All that the American Committee did was to take the initiative. Furthermore, the sum and substance of its initiative consisted precisely in this: to assure, in collaboration with other organizations, an objective and a conscientious investigation through a special International Commission, entirely independent of the initiators.

The composition of the American Committee is not a homogeneous one. There are individuals in it who understood from the very outset the absurdity and vileness of the Moscow accusations. Other members had no settled opinions on this score but they were either alarmed by or indignant over the “totalitarian” character of Moscow justice and over the fact that the Norwegian “Socialist” flunkeys of the GPU had placed me behind lock and key at the very moment when I needed freedom most to defend not only myself but hundreds of others. It goes without saying that had the American Committee been composed of hypocrites it might have called itself “The Committee for the Defence of Eternal Precepts of Morality.” But it chose to act openly. By “Defence of Trotsky” the Committee had and has in mind not to provide the alliance between Trotsky and Hitler with a cover but to provide Trotsky with an opportunity to publicly refute the accusation made against him. Nothing more! It is quite sufficient.

The members of the Committee understood from the first just as well as Brockway did that the verdict of the International Commission would carry weight only if the inquiry were conducted with all the requisite guarantees for thoroughness and objectivity, in particular, with the participation in the Commission of representatives of the different trends in political thought. The Committee began by inviting publicly the representatives of the Moscow government, the Comintern, “Friends of the Soviet Union”, the Second International, the London Bureau, etc. It was, naturally, not a question of the political or moral evaluation of Stalinism, Trotskyism, Bolshevism or Marxism. No political tendency would agree to serve as the object of appraisal by an inter-party commission; no rational commission would undertake such an insuperable task. The appraisal of political tendencies is made by the masses in the course of the political struggle. The final verdict is brought in by history.

The task of the inquiry of the International Commission did and does consist only of verifying certain specific charges made against certain individuals. The political conclusions from the verdict of the Commission will be drawn by each tendency in its own way. This made it all the more essential for every organization interested in bringing out the truth to participate in the investigation. But the direct and indirect agents and “friends” of the GPU and the friends of friends flatly refused to participate. Some of them, in the spirit of Fenner Brockway’s first letter argued that it was impermissible to arouse any prejudice against Stalin and his Comintern; others, in the style of Fenner Brockway’s second letter, adjudged the commission not “impartial” enough. Both the former and the latter had ample justification for fearing an investigation. The London Bureau protected their rear.

To reveal more vividly the unworthy role played by this Bureau we shall dwell on another, and more recent case. The gangsters of the GPU in Spain murdered Andres Nin, the leader of the POUM.[176] Nin was an opponent of mine. Fenner Brockway, on the contrary, considered Nin a co-thinker. If the London Bureau and other “impartial” Pontius Pilates had joined in an investigation of the Moscow frame-ups immediately after the Zinoviev-Kamenev[177] trial, the GPU might not have dared to put in circulation the palpably false charge that the leaders of the POUM are collaborating with General Franco. But this was not done. The “impartial” ones shielded the GPU. As a result, Nin has been murdered, together with scores and hundreds of others. The POUM has been crushed. What has been let slip cannot be retrieved. Do Messrs. Brockway think that the time has now come for an international investigation of the crimes of the GPU in Spain – of the frame-ups, pillages and murders? Or are they waiting for the sterilized priests of impartiality to initiate the investigation? Let Brockway supply me with their addresses and telephone numbers. I will immediately get in touch with them. But if, as I suspect, they do not exist in nature, let the London Bureau take upon itself the initiative of calling the inquiry. Let the Bureau, emulating the example of the American Committee, turn to all the existing labour Internationals and to outstanding individuals in science, literature and art who are known for their honesty and integrity. If someone were to say that Fenner Brockway would make a “disastrous mistake” by initiating the inquiry instead of allowing matters to rest with Stalin or Negrin[178], every rational and honest person would call such an “accuser” a brazen hypocrite.

In conclusion, I consider it necessary to recall here another not unimportant circumstance. In the very same February letter in which he expressed his touching concern for the interests of Stalin, Yagoda and Dimitrov, Fenner Brockway proposed to create an international commission of inquiry … into my political activity and, furthermore, with rather strange “precipitancy” proposed to include in this commission Norman Thomas, Otto Bauer, Branting[179], and other bitter political enemies of mine. The very idea of an “official” appraisal of the political activity of an individual or a party through the medium of a commission of inquiry is so absurd that it properly belongs only on the pages of a provincial humorous magazine. Of course, Fenner Brockway himself could not have failed to understand this. But he attempted to make use of the gory Moscow amalgams in order to deal a blow at Bolshevism (“Trotskyism”) which he hates so much; in addition he tried to cover up his factional struggle with the cloak of an impartial “investigation”. Specialists in morals are notoriously fond of fishing in troubled waters.

We, the “amoral” Bolsheviks, proceed differently. We openly criticized Nin’s policies when he was alive. We did not alter our evaluation of him after he died. But inasmuch as we never for a moment doubted the integrity of this proletarian fighter, we stand ready to do everything in our power to rehabilitate his name and mercilessly brand his executioners. We declare in advance to Fenner Brockway and all other specialists in morals that not a single one of our friends and co-thinkers will attempt to use the investigation of Nin’s murder as a pretext to settle scores with Nin’s policies. To wage a struggle against opportunism and centrism we have no need to hide behind a “commission”, created for a totally different purpose. We leave such methods to the Tartuffes[180] of idealistic morality. We, gross materialists, prefer to call a “nettle but a nettle and the faults of fools but folly.” We deal blows to our adversaries openly and in our own names.

Written on 5th September 1937 and

published in Socialist Appeal, 18th September 1937

* * *

In Great Britain the Comintern is nowadays conducting agitation in favour of creating a “People’s Front” with the participation of the liberals. At first glance such a policy appears to be absolutely incomprehensible. The Labour Party represents a mighty organization. One could easily understand an urge on the part of the social-patriotic Comintern to draw closer to it. But the liberals represent an utterly compromised and politically second-rate force. Moreover they are split into several groups. In the struggle to maintain their influence the Labourites naturally reject any idea of a bloc with the liberals, so as not to infect themselves with a gangrenous poison. They are defending themselves rather energetically – by means of expulsions – against the idea of a “People’s Front.”

Why then doesn’t the Comintern confine itself to fighting for a collaboration with the Labourites? Why does it instead invariably demand the inclusion of the liberal shadows of the past into the united front? The crux of the matter lies in this, that the policy of the Labour Party is far too radical for the Kremlin. An alliance between the Communists and the Labourites might assume some shade of anti-imperialism and would thereby render more difficult a rapprochement between Moscow and London. The presence of liberals in the “People’s Front” signifies a direct and an immediate censorship exercised by imperialism over the actions of the Labour Party. Under the cover of such a censorship Stalin would be able to render all the necessary services to British imperialism.

From Hitler and Stalin (dated 6th March 1939),

Byulleten Oppozitsii, March-April 1939

* * *

At first sight the conduct of the French and English sections of the Communist International appeared to be diametrically opposite.[181] In contradistinction to the Germans, they were compelled to attack their own government. But this sudden defeatism was not internationalism, but a distorted variety of patriotism – these gentlemen consider their fatherland to be the Kremlin, on which their welfare depends. Many of the French Stalinists behaved with unquestionable courage under persecution. But the political content of this courage was besmirched by their “embellishment of the rapacious policy of the enemy camp. What must the French workers think of it?

Revolutionary internationalists have always been portrayed by reaction as agents of a foreign enemy. The Comintern created a situation for its French and English sections that made them provide the very grounds for such an accusation, and thereby forcibly drove the workers into the patriotic camp or condemned them to confusion and passivity.

From the Manifesto of the Fourth International on the Imperialist War and the World Proletarian Revolution,

adopted by the Emergency Conference of

the Fourth International, 26th May 1940

  1. The Marxist term for those political tendencies in the working class movement which oscillate between a revolutionary and a reformist position. Trotsky used the phrase “bureaucratic centrism” of the Stalinist bureaucracy, before the experience of 1933 demonstrated conclusively that it had gone over to the side of counter-revolution.
  2. In 1928 the Stalinists in the Communist International declared that following the “first period” of revolutionary upsurge, and the “second period” of capitalist stabilization, the world was now entering the epoch of the final crisis of capitalism. The policies carried out by the Stalinists at this time included the forced collectivization in the Soviet Union, and ultra-left policies in the capitalist world when the reformists were called “social fascists” and the centrists “left social fascists”. The Stalinists thus refused to co-operate with any other sections of the working class movement in the struggle against real fascism and reaction. For Trotsky’s account of the most disastrous manifestation of these policies see his articles in Germany 1931-32
  3. Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov (1890-1986), Bolshevik from 1909 and editor of Pravda in 1917 until Kamenev and Stalin returned from Siberia in February and attacked him for his opposition to the Provisional Government. Under Stalin he became a Politburo member in 1924 and president of the Comintern in 1929. In 1939 he became foreign minister negotiating the pact with Hitler. Under Khrushchev he was expelled as one of the “anti-party” group of old Stalinists.
  4. The Anglo-Russian Trade Union Unity Committee, established in April 1925 as a result of efforts to heal the split between the Amsterdam-based International Federation of Trade Unions and the Red International of Labour Unions. A delegation of British trade union leaders headed by Purcell visited the Soviet Union in November 1924 and closer unity was suggested by Tomsky on behalf of Soviet Union leaders. In the following April a conference was held in London, a Joint Declaration was issued, and this Committee was established. At the Scarborough TUC of September 1925 this policy was endorsed, and Tomsky was received as a fraternal delegate. Although the Committee met twice before the General Strike of May 1926 it did little even to carry out the limited aim of uniting the two trade union centres. The role of the TUC in the General Strike, among other things returning the contributions of Soviet trade unionists, inevitably provoked a crisis. Three further meetings were held, in Paris in July 1926, in Berlin in the following month and in April 1927. Instead of breaking from the policies of betrayal of the British trade union leaders, the Soviet representatives under the instructions of Stalin argued that the Committee should be made more effective and should campaign on such questions as the threat of war. In the end the Committee was broken up by the action of TUC leaders in 1927 when they refused to hold a full meeting, abandoning their militant cover and entering into a period of even closer collaboration with the employers in the Mond-Turner talks.
  5. F.A. Ridley (1897-1994) and Chandu Ram, members of a small group of socialist intellectuals who held meetings in a trade union club in Soho in 1930-1, under the auspices of a Marxist League, not to be confused with a later organization of the same name. Within the group they put forward a series of positions in the wake of the 1931 General Election disaster which were even to the left of the Stalinists during their ultra-left phase. These views, which were sent to Trotsky, are the objects of his attack in this extract. Ram was the name used by an Indian law student who was a member of the Indian National Congress and who died in 1932. Further details on Ridley can be found in the biographical glossary. The tendency represented by their views had only a fleeting and temporary existence.
  6. In August 1931, at a time of enormous international economic crisis, a section of the minority Labour government led by MacDonald and Snowden joined the Tories and Liberals to form a so-called “National” government. On 27th October MacDonald called an election, and in an atmosphere of red-baiting and the demoralisation of the working class leadership, the coalition secured a majority of 497 seats, dramatically reducing the number of Labour MPs to 46. The National Government then set about cutting the dole and making various other attacks on working class which its predecessor had found it impossible to carry out. The coalition survived a further General Election in 1935, though it had long since given up the pretence of being anything other than a creature of the Tories who dominated it.
  7. The New Party was formed in February 1932 by Oswald Mosley (see biographical glossary). In the 1931 election the party contested 24 seats losing all. The New Party was joined by a number of leading intellectuals such as Harold Nicholson, later National Labour MP, who reports in his diary that Harold Macmillan expressed support for the New Party’s policies although remaining within the Conservative Party. Financial help was given by Viscount Nuffield (William Morris). In 1932 the New Party was renamed the British Union of Fascists after Mosley had been to Italy to study “modern movements” and it lost some of its “respectable support”, at least openly. The “Guild of St. Michael” was a short-lived right wing group that soon disappeared after the formation of British Union of Fascists.
  8. Arthur Henderson (1863-1935), a leader of the British Labour Party, who rallied the party to support World War I and became a government minister. He later served as Home Secretary in the first Labour government (1924) and Foreign Secretary in the second Labour government (1929-1931). – David Lloyd George (1863-1945), Welsh Liberal politician, responsible as Chancellor of the Exchequer (Finance Minister) for the introduction of old age pensions, unemployment benefit and sickness benefits; prime minister from 1916 to 1922.
  9. I have just received the Resignation Letter of Lloyd George to his parliamentary party, which totally confirms this supposition. – L.T.
  10. The International Working Men’s Association, established in London on 28th September, 1864, largely on the initiative of British and French trade union leaders, but also with the participation of a number of socialist exiles who were in London at the time, notably Karl Marx. It was Marx who gave the Inaugural Address saluting the struggles of the working class, particularly in securing the legal ten hour day in 1847. He also drafted the rules which asserted that “the economical emancipation of the working classes is ... the great end to which every political movement ought to be subordinated.” Further congresses were held in London in 1865, Geneva in 1866, Lausanne in 1867, Berne in 1869, and The Hague in 1872. By this time, when sections had been established throughout Europe and the United States, a split had developed between the supporters of Marx and the anarchist Bakunin, who opposed, among other things, the struggle for the legal restriction of working hours. Furthermore, Marx separated himself from some of his conservative trade union supporters for his strong support for the Paris Commune of 1871, expressed in his pamphlet, Civil War In France. Thus by the time of the 1872 conference, police repression had ended what internal divisions had begun, and the seat of the International was moved to the United States, its final meeting taking place in Philadelphia in 1876.
  11. Leaders of the Comintern at that stage. Mikhail Tomsky (1886-1936) was an old Bolshevik and a trade unionist. Always on the right wing of the Party, he opposed the 1917 insurrection and was closely involved in Stalin’s policies in the mid-20s, particularly on the Anglo-Russian Trade Union Committee. He opposed the left turn in 1928 along with Bukharin and Rykov and committed suicide after the first of the Moscow Trials.
  12. Walter Citrine (1887-1983), British trade unionist; Acting General Secretary of the TUC 1925-26, General Secretary of the TUC 1926-46. – Alfred Purcell, left-wing member of the General Council of the TUC; president of the TUC 1924. – A.J. Cook (1883-1931), British coal miner and militant trade union leader; General Secretary of the Miners’ Federation of Great Britain 1924-31.
  13. Albert M. Glotzer (1905-1999) was a member of the American Trotskyist movement, closely associated with Shachtman, with whom he left it in 1940. He played a prominent role in organising the Dewey Commission hearings.
  14. Trotsky opposed early calls for such an organization made by some of those who considered themselves to be his supporters. It was only when Stalin’s policies in Germany split the working class and allowed Hitler to come to power that the Third International showed it had without qualification gone over to the side of counterrevolution. It was at this point that he began to oppose those, like the ILP and their supporters in the “London Bureau”, who would not break decisively from Stalinism as well as from social democracy. From 1933 until his death Trotsky considered the establishment of the Fourth International, which ultimately took place in 1938, to be the most important task he had to perform.
  15. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831), German idealist philosopher and dialectician; his method and his philosophy if not his idealism had a major influence on Marx and Marxism.
  16. Communist League” was the title adopted by sections supporting the International Left Opposition in the period before the call to establish a new International in 1933. It was adopted by Trotsky’s followers in the United States under the leadership of James P. Cannon, Martin Abern and Max Shachtman after their expulsion from the CPUSA in 1928. In 1933 the American Communist League changed its name to the Workers’ Party when it fused with A.J. Muste’s Conference for Progressive Labor Action.
  17. The name used by Left Oppositionists in the early period to draw the line against the Stalinists’ break from Leninist theory and practice.
  18. On 12th October, 1923, amid economic collapse and revolutionary upsurge by the working class throughout Germany, the Communist Party joined the social-democratic governments of the states of Saxony and Thuringia, partly in order to have access to state arsenals to arm the workers. On 21st October a conference of workers’ organisations was called at Chemnitz to organise a general strike against the impending invasion of Saxony by the Reichswehr. The proposal was defeated by the social-democrats and Brandler, the leader of the Communists, called off hastily made plans for a workers’ insurrection by armed detachments throughout Germany. On the 24th Reichswehr units under General Müller entered Dresden, the capital of Saxony, and deposed the state government and disarmed the communist workers’ detachments. The fatal nature of the vacillation and indecisiveness of the immature Communist Party, the responsibility of the Comintern leadership, and the need to draw the lessons of the Russian Revolution, are discussed by Trotsky in Lessons of October, which effectively opened the battle with Stalin through the “literary discussion” it initiated.
  19. The 1929 economic crisis was reflected in Spain in the following year the collapse of the military dictatorship of Primo de Rivera. During the course of 1931 the constitution was restored, the King followed Rivera into exile and a government was established which consisted of a coalition of liberal bourgeois parties and the Spanish Socialist Party of Francisco Caballero and Indalecio Prieto.
  20. Reg Groves (1908-1988), left-wing British journalist and historian; one of the leading members of the Balham Group, the first Trotskyist group in Britain.
  21. A body of trade unionists was organized under the leadership of the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1924 from the militant rank and file in many industries. It built up support and its conferences secured increasing representation up to the 1926 General Strike. However, it never really broke from its syndicalist antecedents and came under the control of Stalinist policies, collapsing under the suicidal dual unionist policies of the Comintern in the late 1920s.
  22. Alfred Purcell, left-wing member of the General Council of the TUC; president of the TUC 1924. – A.J. Cook (1883-1931), British coal miner and militant trade union leader; General Secretary of the Miners’ Federation of Great Britain 1924-31.
  23. Otto Kuusinen (1881-1964) was a Finnish social democrat who fled to the Soviet Union after the collapse of the Finnish Revolution of 1918. He became a Comintern functionary and a consistent supporter of Stalinist policies. He was Comintern Secretary from 1922 to 1931. Dimitri Manuilsky (1883-1952) was at one time a member of the independent Marxist organization, Mezhrayontzi, along with Trotsky, and with him joined the Bolsheviks in 1917. In 1919 he became one of the leaders of the Ukrainian government. Thereafter he was a supporter of Stalin, being particularly associated with the “left” phases of his policies, replacing Kuusinen as Secretary of the Comintern in 1931, and himself giving way to Dimitrov in 1935. Details of Trotsky’s assessments of these and other Comintern leaders of the period can be found in his article Who Is Leading the Comintern To-day?, in Trotsky’s The Third International After Lenin.– Solomon Lozovsky (1878-1952), Russian revolutionary of Jewish origin, official in Soviet government and Soviet government; joined RSDLP in 1901 and supported the bolshevik faction after the split; General Secretary of the Profintern 1921-1987; Deputy Foreign minister from 1939; arrested in 1948 during Stalin’s anti-semitic campaign against “rootless cosmopolitans” and executd in 1952.
  24. The term “Central Committee” for the leading body of the CPGB came into use only in the late 1920s. The same body was at first called the “Executive Committee” and then “Central Executive Committee” after the 1922 Reorganization Report. By the 1950s there had been a reversion to the original title reflecting the CP’s pretensions to Bolshevik forms of organization.”
  25. George Hicks (1879-1954), British trade unionist; originally a lewft-winger, but moved to the right during the 1920s; member of General Council of the TUC 1921-1941. Labour MP 1931-1950. – Walter Citrine (1887-1983), British trade unionist; Acting General Secretary of the TUC 1925-26, General Secretary of the TUC 1926-46.
  26. This was the first printed paper produced by the British Trotskyist movement. It appeared monthly from May 1933 to November 1934, under the rubric “Organ of the Communist League”, and from the late summer of 1936 to June 1937 as the voice of the Marxist League.
  27. This was the first publication of the British Trotskyist movement, appearing in May 1932 and being described as the “Monthly Theoretical Organ of the British Section of the International Left Opposition”.
  28. In Defence of the October Revolution lecture to an audience of Social-Democratic students in Copenhagen, 27th November, 1932
  29. James Maxton (1885-1946), Scottish socialist and leader of the Independent Labour Party; joined ILP in 1904; active opponent of World War I, close associate of John Maclean and leading figure in the Red Clydeside movement; elected to parliament in 1922; led the ILP out of the Labour Party in 1931/32.
  30. The theory of “socialism in one country” was developed by Bukharin and taken up in 1924 by Stalin as the platform of the rising bureaucracy in the Soviet Union, and represented a complete break from Marxism. In the next period it became the programme of betrayal of revolutionary opportunities in Germany and China, and also led to the failure of the General Strike in Britain, further consolidating the position of the bureaucracy within the Soviet Union. This same theory was used to impose the needs of the Soviet bureaucracy on the Communist International as a whole, in the form of the draft programme for the Sixth Congress in 1928. Trotsky’s reply to this document, which analyses the class roots of “socialism in one country”, is contained in The Third International after Lenin.
  31. This was Trotsky’s most important contribution to Marxist theory in the period before 1917. It was a view he formulated in 1906 that because of the weakness and backwardness of the Russian bourgeoisie, any revolutionary upheaval would be forced to go beyond the anti-feudal (bourgeois) phase to the anti-capitalist (socialist) one. Furthermore, the revolution which thus took place could only develop in co-operation with the more advanced capitalist countries where the initial revolutionary thrust might be weaker. This view was in all essentials accepted by Lenin and the Bolsheviks in 1917, and the Russian Revolution of November 1917 was based on its assumptions.
  32. A year after breaking from the Labour Party, the ILP’s NAC meeting in July 1933 attempted to hammer out a programme in which the parliamentary struggle would be secondary to a campaign of agitation industrially. The ILP was to intervene more forcibly in trade unions, trades councils, the NUWM, and to set up “Workers’ Councils” to agitate against wage cuts etc. and “to act for the working class in a revolutionary crisis”.
  33. Fenner Brockway (1888-1988), British socialist and leader of the Independent Labour Party; joined ILP in 1907; editor of Labour Leader, the ILP paper, 1912-16; a militant pacifist during World War I, he was jailed several times; Editor of New Leader, the renamed ILP paper; 1926-29 and 1931-46; Chairman of ILP 1931-33 and General Secretary of ILP (1933-39); member of parliament 1929-31 and 1950-1964.
  34. When Hitler came to power in 1933 the German working class was not only disarmed by the refusal of the Social Democratic leaders to fight (they went so far as to offer to participate in the Nazi Labour Front), but by the ultra-left policy of the Stalinists, who branded the Social-Democrats as “social fascists” and wrecked the possibility of uniting social-democratic and communist workers in defence of rights.
  35. The Norwegian Workers’ Party (NAP) referred to elsewhere as the Labour Party, first won representation in the National Assembly in 1906, and in the following period was influenced by syndicalism under its leader Martin Tranmael (1879-1967), who was for a time associated with some of the groups that set up the Industrial Workers of the World in the United States. In 1919 the majority of the party supported the call for a Third International and delegates were sent to early congresses, but they never really agreed with its basic principles, and in 1923 they left, a minority seceding to form Norwegian CP. The NAP did not at first re-join the Second International being associated with the Paris conference of 1933 and other centrist international movements. In 1934 they opposed the establishment of a new International and began to co-operate with social-democratic parties in the other Scandinavian countries. In the following year, as the governing party in Norway, they granted asylum to Trotsky, but under Soviet pressure they soon interned and silenced him for four months and then deported him to Mexico. Finally, in 1938, the party returned to its spiritual home in the Second International.
  36. This was the meeting in August 1933 of the group of centrist organizations then known as the International Labour Community but more usually as the “London Bureau” (see note). These organizations in some cases rallied to the Fourth International, but mostly disintegrated or liquidated themselves into Stalinism or social democracy.
  37. This material is in print, however, in a series of studies and documents published partly also in foreign languages. For the British comrades, the publications of the American League (Pioneer Publishers) are of great importance. Whoever wishes to study seriously the ten-year struggle of the Left Opposition for the reform and improvement of the Comintern must study all these documents. – L.T.
  38. The Minority Movement: A body of trade unionists was organized under the leadership of the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1924 from the militant rank and file in many industries. It built up support and its conferences secured increasing representation up to the 1926 General Strike. However, it never really broke from its syndicalist antecedents and came under the control of Stalinist policies, collapsing under the suicidal dual unionist policies of the Comintern in the late 1920s.
  39. The Profintern (Red International of Labour Unions) was founded on the initiative of the Communist International in July 1921, bringing together trade unions and trade union federations opposed to the Amsterdam reformist trade union international. Like the Comintern, it degenerated into an instrument of Stalinist policy and collapsed long after it had ceased to pursue revolutionary aims.
  40. These were parliamentary seats before the Reform Act of 1832 where very small electorates were controlled by rich patrons who could decide on the MP and his policies.
  41. Walter Citrine (1887-1983), British trade unionist; Acting General Secretary of the TUC 1925-26, General Secretary of the TUC 1926-46.
  42. Oswald Mosley (1896-1980), British politician best known as the founder of the British Union of Fascists; originally elected as a Conyervative MP in 1918, he became dissatisfied with the party’s politics and became an Independent MP in 1922; in 1924 he joined the Labour Party and the Independent Labour Party, aligning himself witht he left; by 1930 he had became dissatisfied with the lack of radicalism of the second Labour government and left the party in early 1931 to found the New Party, which initially attracted support from various sections of the political spectrum, including a number of well-known left-wingers; following a tour of Europe Mosley became attracted to fascism and set up the British Union of Fascists modelled on Mussolini’s Fasist Party in 1932.
  43. Trotsky refers to the July-August period of the Provisional Government when Petrograd was threatened by the counter-revolutionary General Kornilov. The reformist Mensheviks and petty-bourgeois Socialist-Revolutionaries were forced to unite against him.
  44. Paper of the Communist Party of Great Britain, founded 1st January 1930 and ever since reflecting every twist and turn in the policies of Stalinism. Its name was chnaged in 1966 to Morning Star, to facilitate its orientation to middle class circles and the Labour “lefts”.
  45. C.A. Smith, British socialist; member of the Independent Labour Party; advocate of Fourth international with#in ILP until about 1935; Chairman of ILP 1931-41; later drifted to the right.
  46. The original name of the ILP paper was Labour Leader. In 1922 when Brailsford took over as editor, the name was changed to New Leader. It was published as such until 1946, when the much depleted ranks of the ILP began to produce Socialist Leader, which still appears.
  47. In November 1929 six Parisian CP municipal councillors, including Louis Sellier (1885-1978), Party General Secretary six years previously, were expelled for opposition to the party’s ultra-left line. In the following month they established an organization known as the “Parti Ouvrier et Paysan”. They soon afterwards joined with a group also expelled from the CP to form the “Parti d’Unité Prolétarienne” (PUP), publishing a paper called Que Faire? (What is to be Done?). Trotsky characterized them as a rightward-moving group comparable to the followers of Brandler and Lovestone, and unable to answer the question they posed in the title of their paper.
  48. A centrist tendency within the Italian Socialist Party which continued to exist in exile after Mussolini’s suppression of the working class movement. Affiliated to the London Bureau.
  49. Formed in October 1931 by several left-wingers who had been expelled by the Social Democrats. Early in the following year the Party was joined by a group of German right oppositionists (Brandlerites) led by Jacob Walcher (1887-1970) who soon assumed the leadership. Though they supported the call for a New International in 1933, the SAP later became actively hostile to it. They even supported the popular front in the mid-30s and soon afterwards disintegrated altogether. Walcher became a minor functionary in the East German Stalinist regime after 1945. The leader of the SAP’s Youth Section whose activities prevented the establishment of a youth international under the auspices of the London Bureau, was the future Chancellor of West Germany Willi Brandt.
  50. The Dutch Revolutionary Socialist Party was established in 1929 by Henryk Sneevliet (1883-1942), a leading revolutionary of both the Netherlands and Indonesia who had left the Dutch CP in 1927. It supported the 1933 call in the London Bureau for a new international. It was joined in this by the Dutch Independent Socialist Party, which then split from its own right wing and merged with Sneevliet’s organization in 1935 to form the Revolutionary Socialist Workers Party of the Netherlands. It continued, however, to remain associated with the London Bureau, breaking all connections with Trotskyism in 1938.
  51. Henri Barbusse (1873-1935) was a talented French who produced a fine anti-war novel, Le Feu (Under Fire), in 1916. He established a literary magazine in 1917 called Clarté, which generally supported pacifist and leftist causes, and in 1921 declared that Communism sprang from “the eternal truths of reason and conscience”. On this idealist basis he joined the Communist Party in 1923 and became a notorious Stalin-worshipper. He was associated with the earliest steps in Popular Front policy such as the 1932 Amsterdam conference. He died in Moscow at the Seventh Comintern Congress when such policies were being given the final Stalinist seal of approval.
  52. Heinrich Brandler (1881-1967) was a building worker from the Sudetenland. Active in the left wing of the German Social Democratic Party before 1914, he played a major role in the Communist Party from its foundation, assuming the leadership in 1923. Blamed for the defeat of that year, he was removed from his post and spent a long period in Moscow. He set up the Communist Party Opposition, which associated itself with Bukharin’s criticisms of Stalin’s ultra-left turn of 1928. Expelled from the German CP and the Comintern in 1929, he operated as part of an International Right Opposition with Lovestone, Pepper and others, and maintained a political organization, mainly in exile in France, at least until the outbreak of the Second World War, showing little ability to adopt a consistent criticism of Stalinism – particularly over the Moscow Trials. After the war, he returned to live in West Germany.
  53. In this period the Comintern leadership under Stalin forced the young Communist Party to work under the control of the bourgeois nationalist Kuomintang, then coming under the leadership of the reactionary Chiang Kai-shek. CP members pushed the revolution forward in the cities and were murdered in their thousands by Chiang. All efforts to come to terms with the Kuomintang, including its left section under Wang Ching-wei, came to nothing. Wang became a Japanese puppet and died in 1934 and Chiang ultimately accepted the patronage of the American imperialists to be dictator of a regime set up in the island of Taiwan. The full story of the Comintern’s role in the events of 1926-7 can be found in Trotsky’s Problems of the Chinese Revolution.
  54. In 1931 the Nazis and their me right wing allies managed to get a plebiscite in Prussia in an effort to force out of office the regional government, then run by the social democrats. Although the German Communist Party leaders at first wanted to oppose this, under the direct orders of the Comintern they decided to vote with the Nazis against the social democrats. This incident represented for Trotsky one of the most criminal results of the “third period” policies of Stalin.
  55. After their expulsion from the CPGB in August-September 1932, mainly for their opposition to the Amsterdam conference’s policies, the so-called “Balham Group” formed themselves into the “Communist League” and in May 1933 began to produce the Red Flag. At this point the group began to discuss Trotsky’s suggestion that they should enter the ILP and though by the end of the year only a minority agreed they nevertheless proceeded to do so.
  56. The interview reported in extract 27.
  57. The first paper ever produced in English by the Trotskyist movement, and the one with the greatest continuity. It began as a twice-monthly in November 1928, shortly after the expulsion of Cannon, Shachtman and Abern from the CPUSA, and was. published in New York.
  58. Though not himself Greek, the man who used this name represented the Greek section of the International Left Opposition on the International Secretariat based in Paris. He came to Britain in the autumn of 1933 in part to discuss with Trotsky’s British Supporters the view of the IS that they should enter the ILP and in part to inform Trotsky on the general situation of the left in Britain. Shortly after his return to Paris he came into sharp conflict with Trotsky leading to considerable disruption of the Greek section and not long after to Witte’s disappearance from the movement for good. [Note by TIA: The biographical information in this note is incorrect. “Witte” was the pseudonym of Demetrios Giotopoulos (1901-1965).]
  59. These were all Brandlerites who assumed the leadership of the SAP in 1933. The political itinerary of Jakob Walcher is outlined in a previous note. Paul Frölich (1884-1953) later wrote a biography of Rosa Luxemburg; in 1950 he returned from exile in the United States to West Germany, where he joined the Social Democratic Party. Bernhard Thomas, who was of Russian origin, went into exile in Sweden.
  60. Founded in 1923 by John Middleton Murry (1889-1957) as a quarterly and published in London. Primarily a literary journal at the outset, from 1932 it took an increasing interest in left-wing politics, particularly those within the ILP, and was one of the few open forums in the period where the Stalinists never managed to prevent the appearance of articles sympathetic to Trotskyism.
  61. Fenner Brockway (1888-1988), British socialist and leader of the Independent Labour Party; joined ILP in 1907; editor of Labour Leader, the ILP paper, 1912-16; a militant pacifist during World War I, he was jailed several times; Editor of New Leader, the renamed ILP paper; 1926-29 and 1931-46; Chairman of ILP 1931-33 and General Secretary of ILP (1933-39); member of parliament 1929-31 and 1950-1964.
  62. There is a tide in the affairs of men/ Which taken at the flood leads onto fortune;/ Omitted, all the voyage of their life/ is bound in shallows or in miseries.” Brutus’ speech, Julius Caesar, IV iii 217.
  63. The Anglo-Russian Trade Union Unity Committee, established in April 1925 as a result of efforts to heal the split between the Amsterdam-based International Federation of Trade Unions and the Red International of Labour Unions. A delegation of British trade union leaders headed by Purcell visited the Soviet Union in November 1924 and closer unity was suggested by Tomsky on behalf of Soviet Union leaders. In the following April a conference was held in London, a Joint Declaration was issued, and this Committee was established. At the Scarborough TUC of September 1925 this policy was endorsed, and Tomsky was received as a fraternal delegate. Although the Committee met twice before the General Strike of May 1926 it did little even to carry out the limited aim of uniting the two trade union centres. The role of the TUC in the General Strike, among other things returning the contributions of Soviet trade unionists, inevitably provoked a crisis. Three further meetings were held, in Paris in July 1926, in Berlin in the following month and in April 1927. Instead of breaking from the policies of betrayal of the British trade union leaders, the Soviet representatives under the instructions of Stalin argued that the Committee should be made more effective and should campaign on such questions as the threat of war. In the end the Committee was broken up by the action of TUC leaders in 1927 when they refused to hold a full meeting, abandoning their militant cover and entering into a period of even closer collaboration with the employers in the Mond-Turner talks.
  64. The name usually given to the group of centrist organizations which split from the and Second International in 1931. After the failure of the “Vienna Union” or Two-and-a-half International in 1923 to fulfil the role of intermediary between the reformist and revolutionary internationals, some of those involved, particularly Fenner Brockway cherished the idea of forming a similar body for some time afterwards. Thus when the ILP began its left-moving phase during the second Labour Government, he got the leadership to agree in 1930 to approach other “left’ organizations for the establishment of such a body. This was discussed with some of the parties involved at the July 1931 meeting of the Second International in Vienna, and during a continental tour made the following year by Brockway and McGovern. In April 1932 a loose federation of centrist organizations was set up in Berlin under the name International Labour Community. This body, which would probably have been entirely forgotten otherwise, assumed some importance in 1933 when a number of those associated with it began to call for the establishment of a Fourth International. Thus Brockway and his allies began their balancing trick between Stalinism and Trotskyism which sometimes earned their organization the title of the “Three-and-a-half International”. The official name was changed to the International Bureau for Revolutionary Socialist Unity in 1935, though they were most usually known as the “Seven Left Parties” or the “London Bureau”. Although a number of groups did join the Fourth International, most of them, if they had any significant following, supported the popular front line – the SAP in Germany being one example – or else evolved into a familiar variety of left reformism, as in the case of the Norwegian Labour Party. Perhaps the most disastrous result of the activities of the London Bureau was to lend a certain credibility to the Spanish POUM, which made itself a prisoner of the Popular Front, with terrible consequences for the Spanish working class.
  65. The Norwegian Workers’ Party (NAP) referred to elsewhere as the Labour Party, first won representation in the National Assembly in 1906, and in the following period was influenced by syndicalism under its leader Martin Tranmael (1879-1967). In 1919 the majority of the party supported the call for a Third International and delegates were sent to early congresses, but they never really agreed with its basic principles, and in 1923 they left, a minority seceding to form Norwegian CP. The NAP did not at first re-join the Second International being associated with the Paris conference of 1933 and other centrist international movements. In 1934 they opposed the establishment of a new International and began to co-operate with social-democratic parties in the other Scandinavian countries. In the following year, as the governing party in Norway, they granted asylum to Trotsky, but under Soviet pressure they soon interned and silenced him for four months and then deported him to Mexico. Finally, in 1938, the party returned to its spiritual home in the Second International.
  66. the Socialist Workers Party of Germany (SAP) originated in a split to the left from the SPD in 1931. It managed to attract the support of other individuals and groupings including aprt of the Brandlerite KPO, most notably Paul Flich and Jacon Walcher. It argued strongly for a united front against fascism, but was unabloe to win the argument. After the Nazi seizure of power the party leadership was taken over by the left. After initial discussions with Trotsky about the formation of a new Fourth international the SAP became a mainstay of the London Bureau, which Trotsky characterised as centrist. - Independent Socialist Party of Holland (OSP) was founcded in 1932 after the leadership of the SDAP (the Dutch Social Democrats) had banned De Fakkel, the internal opposition publication of the left of the party. In 1935 it merged with Henk Sneevliet’s RSP to form the RSAP.
  67. Established by Karl Kilboom (1885-1961) and most of the former leaders of the Swedish Communist Party after their refusal in 1929 to support the ultra-left turn of the Comintern. It was later known as the Socialist Party of Sweden and was actively associated with the centrist London Bureau before it eventually turned to social democracy.
  68. Ferdinand Lassalle (1825-1864), German writer and lawyer. In 1848-9 he took part in the democratic movement in the Rhenish province and early in the 1860s joined the German working class movement, becoming one of the founders of the General Association of German Workers (1863). He stood for the unification of Germany from above under Prussian hegemony, negotiated with Bismarck behind the backs of the workers’ movement, and advocated state-financed co-operatives, foreshadowing the later opportunist trends in the leadership of the German working class. Remained an idealist all his life. His theory of “the iron law of wages” was strongly attacked by Marx.
  69. These were members of a tendency within the international Trotskyist movement who were opposed to the entry of the French section into the social democratic party. Eugene Bauer – pseudonym of Erwin Ackerknecht (1906-1988) –, though a member of the International Secretariat, broke from the movement on this question, and in October joined the SAP. He later became a noted medical historian. Pierre Naville (1904-1993) was one of Trotsky’s earliest supporters in France and eventually followed the rest of the section into the Socialist Party. After further disagreements, he left the Trotskyist movement during the Second World War, and after it was a member of various centrist organizations, most recently the PSU (Unified Socialist Party).
  70. After the chief organizations of French social democracy (the Socialist Party of France led by Jules Guesde and the French Socialist Party of Jean Jaurès) were united in 1905, they adopted the title French Section of the (Second) Workers’ International, partly to symbolize the role of the International in the fusion. The majority of this party seceded at the Tours Congress of 1920 to form the French Communist Party and those reformists who remained kept this title.
  71. Revolutionary Socialist Party of Holland (RSP) was founded in 1929 by members of the Revolutionary Socialist Union (RSV), a dissident Communist group led by Henk Sneevliet (1883-1942), and of the Socialist Party, a syndicalist grouping. In 1935 it united with the Independent Socialist Party (OSP) to form the Revolutionary Socialist Workers Party (RSAP). The party was associated with the International Left Opposition.
  72. Formed in October 1931 by several left-wingers who had been expelled by the Social Democrats. Early in the following year the Party was joined by a group of German right oppositionists (Brandlerites) led by Jacob Walcher (1887-1970) who soon assumed the leadership. Though they supported the call for a New International in 1933, the SAP later became actively hostile to it. They even supported the popular front in the mid-30s and soon afterwards disintegrated altogether. Walcher became a minor functionary in the East German Stalinist regime after 1945. The leader of the SAP’s Youth Section whose activities prevented the establishment of a youth international under the auspices of the London Bureau, was the future Chancellor of West Germany Willi Brandt.
  73. The invasion of this feudal kingdom on 3rd October, 1935 by the Italian fascists precipitated a crisis in the so-called ‘collective security’ Policy of the League of Nations. The Stalinists and social democrats called for ‘sanctions’ by the League. The Trotskyist movement on other hand tried to develop working class opposition to the war and fought for this perspective, for example within the ILP.
  74. Which Lenin called a ‘thieves’ kitchen’. Established in 1919 at Geneva by the victors of the imperialist war, it nevertheless admitted the Germans in 1926. The Stalinist government of the Soviet Union joined in 1934 as part of its coming to terms with the imperialist nations. The League was at the centre of many pacifist, social democratic and also Stalinist illusions as a method of preventing further imperialist war, which it only helped to prepare.
  75. The attitude of the executive of the Labour Party was that full support should be given to League of Nations sanctions against Italy, including military ones. This view, though not shared by Lansbury, the party leader nor by Cripps, won majority support at the 1935 Party Conference.
  76. Apparently a group of French supporters of Brandler Right Oppositionists, though they were very small and insignificant.
  77. Léon Blum (1872-1950), the leader of the French Socialist Party (SFIO) from 1920 after the split which let to the majority forming the Communist Party. A characteristic reformist politician of the Second International, bitterly opposed by the Stalinists until the became advocates of the Popular Front. Prime Minister in the Popular Front government elected in 1936 as “honest manager” for the bourgeoisie. Attacked by the Stalinists for his part in non-intervention in Spain. Imprisoned by the Germans and put on trial at Riom in 1942. Resumed position in French politics after the war, shifting even further to the right. Bitterly attacked by the Stalinists in this period.
  78. In May 1932, in an early anticipation of policies of the popular front, the writers Henri Barbusse and Romain Roland launched the call for a conference against war which was ultimately held in August in Amsterdam. This put forward a succession of semi-pacifist policies, winning the support of many radicals and “fellow travellers”. A further conference along the same lines was held in Paris in the Salle Playel in June 1933. (The real instigator of all this was the German Stalinist agent Willi Münzenberg who broke from the Stalinist movement in 1938, and was found dead in mysterious circumstances two years later.)
  79. The statements by Engels quoted in this paragraph were only beginning to see the light of day at the time this paragraph was written. The Introduction to The Civil War in France, for example, was only published in full in English in 1933.
  80. This was called by the Belgian Labour Party on the demand for manhood suffrage at 25. About 300,000 workers came out and major changes in the electoral law were introduced.
  81. Karl Kautsky (1854-1938) was one of the leading theoreticians of the German Social Democratic Party and the Second International. By the outbreak of the First World War he had abandoned revolutionary Marxism and took up an indecisive position between revolutionary opposition to the war and patriotic support for the German bourgeoisie. As such he became the theorist of “centrism” in the socialist movement and strongly opposed the Russian Revolution.
  82. The leaders of French social democracy in this period. Paul Faure (1878-1960) was General Secretary of the SFIO throughout the inter-war period, though later expelled for collaborating with the Vichy regime. Jean-Baptiste Lebas (1878-1944) was also a functionary of the SFIO, a member of Blum’s 1936 cabinet and a resistance martyr.
  83. After Louis Auguste Blanqui (1805-1881), the French revolutionary of the 19th century, who stood at the extreme left of the turbulent Parisian movement of his time. In contrast to Marxism, Blanquism favoured an insurrectionary movement organized conspiratorially and conducted by a small, active minority which, without basing itself on a broad working class movement, would seize power by a single, sudden stroke, establish a proletarian party dictatorship and inaugurate the new social order by the decrees of the revolutionary government. Lenin, accused in 1917 of Blanquism, even by many of his own party friends, dealt in his writings at great length with the distinctions between Blanquism and the Marxist conception of “insurrection as an art” based upon the preparation, guidance and active participation of a broad mass movement.
  84. The scene of massive local strike action and demonstrations in the period before the election of the 1936 Popular Front government. At Brest, where the town was taken over for a time, the Trotskyists played an active part.
  85. Léon Jouhaux (1879-1954) began his career as a revolutionary syndicalist and became general secretary of the CGT in 1906. A supporter of the war in 1914, he joined the government and became a Commissioner of the Nation gearing the working class to the war effort. Supported a reformist policy after the war. Opposed the Bolshevik Revolution. Dominant figure in the CGT and supported by the Stalinists after the 1935 re-unification. Negotiated the end of the strike wave that followed the election of the Popular Front government in 1936. Arrested and deported by Vichy regime. Organized split in 1948 which led to the formation of “Force Ouvrière” unions. Advocate of class collaboration. Awarded Nobel Peace Prize, 1951.
  86. Cf. What the ILP Stands For, a compendium of the basic party documents. – L.D.T.
  87. Karl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) was the outstanding military theoretician of the early 19th century. His best known work, On War, shows strong Hegelian influence. Participated in the campaigns against Napoleon and later served as head of the Prussian General Staff (1831). In the service of the Russian army 1812-1813.
  88. Walter Citrine (1887-1983), British trade unionist; Acting General Secretary of the TUC 1925-26, General Secretary of the TUC 1926-46.
  89. N.I. Bukharin (1888-1938), Bolshevik who joined the Party in 1906, worked with Stalin against the opposition since 1923. In 1928, in launching his ultra-left turn, Stalin broke with Bukharin removing him in the following year from his posts as editor of Pravda and chairman of the Comintern. On capitulating to Stalin he was assigned to “educational work”. Framed and murdered by Stalin in the last of the Moscow Trials, 1938.
  90. In August 1935 the Comintern held its seventh, and last Congress declaring its support for the policies of the Popular Front. – Dimitri Manuilsky (1883-1952) was at one time a member of the independent Marxist organization, Mezhrayontzi, along with Trotsky, and with him joined the Bolsheviks in 1917. In 1919 he became one of the leaders of the Ukrainian government. Thereafter he was a supporter of Stalin, being particularly associated with the “left” phases of his policies, replacing Kuusinen as Secretary of the Comintern in 1931, and himself giving way to Dimitrov in 1935. – Solomon Lozovsky (1878-1952), Russian revolutionary of Jewish origin, official in Soviet government and Soviet government; joined RSDLP in 1901 and supported the bolshevik faction after the split; General Secretary of the Profintern 1921-1987; Deputy Foreign minister from 1939; arrested in 1948 during Stalin’s anti-semitic campaign against “rootless cosmopolitans” and executd in 1952. – Georgi Dimitrov (1882-1949), Bulgarian socialist; Joined Bulgarian social Democrats in 1902; from 1903 member of the so-called “Narrow party”; opposed World War I; founder member of the bulgarian Communist Party in 1919; arrested in Berlin in 1933 and accused of complicity in the Reichstag fire; his defence won him wordwide renown; released to the Societ union in an exchange of prisoners; appointed general Secretary of the Comintern in 1934 and remained in this post until the dissolution of the Comintern in 1943; prime minister of bulgaria 1949-49.
  91. This refers to the coming to power of reactionary groups in all three countries. Hitler had come to power in Germany in 1933. In Austria in February 1934 the labour movement had been subjected to violent attack and most of its leaders imprisoned or exiled by the clerical-fascist Chancellor Dolfuss. Though Dolfuss was murdered in an unsuccessful Nazi coup in July 1934, a similar regime under Schusnigg remained in power until the Nazis eventually did take over in 1938. In Spain, the right-wing government of Leroux from 1933 began to dismantle the democratic reforms won from previous administrations and to smash strike and insurrectionary movements of workers and peasants.
  92. Heinrich Brandler (1881-1967) was a building worker from the Sudetenland. Active in the left wing of the German Social Democratic Party before 1914, he played a major role in the Communist Party from its foundation, assuming the leadership in 1923. Blamed for the defeat of that year, he was removed from his post and spent a long period in Moscow. He set up the Communist Party Opposition, which associated itself with Bukharin’s criticisms of Stalin’s ultra-left turn of 1928. Expelled from the German CP and the Comintern in 1929, he operated as part of an International Right Opposition with Lovestone, Pepper and others, and maintained a political organization, mainly in exile in France, at least until the outbreak of the Second World War, showing little ability to adopt a consistent criticism of Stalinism – particularly over the Moscow Trials. After the war, he returned to live in West Germany.
  93. Edouard Daladier (1884-1970), leader of the Radical Socialists, the main bourgeois party in the early 1930s. Prime Minister during the fascist riots of February 1934. Denounced by the Socialists and Stalinists as a “murderer”. Much courted by the Stalinist Thorez in the course of forming the Popular Front, and became Minister of War in the Blum government. Prime Minister again April 1939 to March 1940, in which capacity he signed the Munich capitulation with Hitler, banned the Communist Party, and was deported by the Vichy regime.
  94. This slogan of 1934 expressed an attempt to cover over the new right wing policies of the Popular Front era with a verbal leftism inherited from the “third period”. They were calling for the formation of organs of dual power – to install a government of the main bourgeois party. The position of the CP was soon clarified by a sharp shift to the right.
  95. The policy of Citrine and the TUC at this stage was for full support for the League of Nations sanctions against Italy over the threatened invasion of Ethiopia. Such policies won the support of Stalinism internationally, and had nothing in common with Lenin’s denunciation of the League as a “thieves’ kitchen” of imperialism.
  96. Ellen Wilkinson (1891-1947), British Labour politician; joined the Independent Labour Party in 1907; dounder member of the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1920 but left in 1924; member of parliament 1929-31 and 1935-1947; most famous for organising the Jarrow March in 1936.
  97. James Maxton (1885-1946), Scottish socialist and leader of the Independent Labour Party; joined ILP in 1904; active opponent of World War I, close associate of John Maclean and leading figure in the Red Clydeside movement; elected to parliament in 1922; led the ILP out of the Labour Party in 1931/32. – enner Brockway (1888-1988), British socialist and leader of the Independent Labour Party; joined ILP in 1907; editor of Labour Leader, the ILP paper, 1912-16; a militant pacifist during World War I, he was jailed several times; Editor of New Leader, the renamed ILP paper; 1926-29 and 1931-46; Chairman of ILP 1931-33 and General Secretary of ILP (1933-39); member of parliament 1929-31 and 1950-1964.
  98. The Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification was formed in 1935 by Andres Nin (1892-1937), a leader of the Spanish Communist Party who had worked with the International Left Opposition from the time of his expulsion in 1927. He broke with Trotsky and united with the Workers’ and Peasants’ Bloc of Joaquin Maurin (1893-1976). Though labelled “Trotskyist” by the Stalinists, the POUM remained a centrist grouping, supporting the Popular Front. Some of its members, including Nin, joined the Catalan government for a time. (See also other notes).
  99. James Maxton (1885-1946), Scottish socialist and leader of the Independent Labour Party; joined ILP in 1904; active opponent of World War I, close associate of John Maclean and leading figure in the Red Clydeside movement; elected to parliament in 1922; led the ILP out of the Labour Party in 1931/32. – John McGovern (1887-1968), Scottisch socialist politician; sctive opponent of World War I; joined the Independent Labour Party in 1924; Chairman of the ILP 1941-43. – Campbell Stephen (1884-1947), Scottish socialist politician; strong supporter of James Maxton; ILP MP 1922-31 and 1935-47.
  100. The Revolutionary Socialist Workers Party of Holland (RSAP) was fonded in 1935 by the merger of the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) and the Independent Socialist party (OSP). It was initially associated with the movement for the establishment of the Fourth International Henk Sneevliet (1883-1942), the leader of the party, developed differences with Trotsky over the party’s trade union federation (NAS), which led to a split in 1938. After the German invasion in 1940 the RSAP was formally dissolved and its members set up an underground resistance movement called the Marx-Lenin-Luxemburg Front.
  101. In the 1935 General Election the ILP stood 17 candidates of whom four were elected, all in Glasgow. In Bradford East the Conservatives were elected on a minority vote as the result of the ILP intervention, but in most cases the ILP received very few votes.
  102. Karl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) was the outstanding military theoretician of the early 19th century. His best known work, On War, shows strong Hegelian influence. Participated in the campaigns against Napoleon and later served as head of the Prussian General Staff (1831). In the service of the Russian army 1812-1813.
  103. Herbert Morrison (1888-1965), British Labour politician; Minister of Transport in the second Labour government (1929-31); Home Secretary 1940-45; deputy prime minister 1945-51. – J.R. Clynes (1869-1949), British trade unionist and Labour politician; supporter of British involvement in World War I; became leader of the Labour Party 1921-22; served as Home Secretary in the second Labour government (1929-31), but split with Ramsay MacDonald in 1931 over the proposed austerity measures.
  104. Stanley Baldwin (1867-1947), British Conservative politician; prime minister three times 1923-1924, 1924-1929 and 1935-1937; prime minister during the General Strike.
  105. The Labour Party conference of 1935, held in Brighton, approved an NEC resolution supporting the League of Nations measures against Italy’s attack on Abyssinia. This was the main discussion, and the lengthiest in the party’s history. The resolution was opposed by Lansbury from a pacifist position and by Cripps on the principle that the League was in “International Burglars’ Union”, and that Labour ought not to “join without power in the responsibility for capitalist and imperialist war that sanctions may entail”. Cripps was opposed to demanding that a Tory government exercise sanctions. Ernest Bevin attacked Cripps and the resolution to support sanctions was carried by 2,168,000 votes to 102,000. Lansbury resigned as leader of the parliamentary party, to be followed by Attlee.
  106. Stafford Cripps (1889-1952), British Labour politician and lawyer; joined the labour party in 1930; moved rapidly to the left; founded the Socialist League in 1932; dissolved Socialist league in 1936 rather than face expulsion from the Labour Party; Chancellor of the Exchequer 1947-50.
  107. George Lansbury (1869-1940), British socialist politician and newspaper editor; helped found the Daily Herald in 1912; edotor (1912-22); opposed World War I and welcomed the February and October Revolutions; as Mayor of Poplar in East London he led the Poplar Rebellion in 1921, when councillors refused to forward rates (property taxes) collected to the london County Council and distributed them to alleviate poverty – the councillors were jailed and council meeting had to be held in Brixton Prison; the revolt led to changes in local government financing to the benefit of poorer areas; leader fo the Labour Party 1932-1935.
  108. Norman Angell (1972-1967), English journalisst and politician; Paris editor of the Daily Mail; founder member of the union of Democratic Control in 1914 – this organisation demanded an open examination of the country’ war aims and opposed conscription, but was not a pacifist organisation; joined the Labour party in 1920 and was a labour MP 1929-31.
  109. Leo Amery (1873-1955), British Conservative politician and journalist; helped draft the Balfour Declaration in 1917; First Lord of the Admiralty 1920-24 and Colonial Secretary 1924-29;
  110. A left-wing organization affiliated to the Labour Party. Established in October 1932 initially by those members of the ILP who had not agreed with its recent disaffiliation, the Socialist League soon became a focus for a disparate group of largely middle-class Labour Party activists, including Charles Trevelyan and Stafford Cripps. J.T. Murphy, now out of the CP but still an admirer of Stalin, was secretary 1934-6. Members also included Reg Groves and others who had been associated with the Trotskyist movement but were not working in the Labour Party as communists. It is hardly surprising that such a group proved unable to provide any serious alternative to the right-wing Labour leaders. Early in 1937 the Socialist League supported a Popular Front unity manifesto with the ILP and CP. In March the Labour Party executive decreed its disaffiliation and in May agreed to disband. This did not happen before the establishment of the magazine Tribune which continues some of its traditions to this day.
  111. Leaders of the German Social Democratic Party responsible for the bloody suppression of the revolutionary movements of the German working class in 1918-19. Philip Scheidemann (1865-1939) was Chancellor briefly in 1918. Frederick Ebert (1871-1925) was secretary of the SPD in 1905, a fervent social-patriot from 1914, Chancellor 1918-19 and President from then until his death.
  112. Walter Citrine (1887-1983), British trade unionist; Acting General Secretary of the TUC 1925-26, General Secretary of the TUC 1926-46.
  113. Léon Blum (1872-1950), the leader of the French Socialist Party (SFIO) from 1920 after the split which let to the majority forming the Communist Party. A characteristic reformist politician of the Second International, bitterly opposed by the Stalinists until they became advocates of the Popular Front. Prime Minister in the Popular Front government elected in 1936 as “honest manager” for the bourgeoisie. Attacked by the Stalinists for his part in non-intervention in Spain. Imprisoned by the Germans and put on trial at Riom in 1942. Resumed position in French politics after the war, shifting even further to the right. Bitterly attacked by the Stalinists in this period.
  114. Formed at the York Conference of 1924, the ILP Guild of Youth had 171 branches by 1925. Catered for young people between 14 and 21, organized football leagues, swimming, hiking as well as meetings. Penetrated by CP. Attended “National Left-Wing Movement Conference” in 1927 inspired by CP. In April-May 1928 the majority of Scottish Guild of Youth joined the Young Communist League. When in May 1934 the English section decided to “seek sympathetic affiliation to the YCL” the ILP EC took measures to dissolve it.
  115. This was established by the Youth sections of the Labour Party in 1926, largely in response to the initial successes of the ILP Guild of Youth. In the following period there was continual conflict between the League of Youth and the Party apparatus about whether the youth organization should even be allowed to discuss the policies of the adult party. The view of the Party leaders was that the League of Youth had no function other than to recruit obedient and submissive Labour Party members. At first the League of Youth was not even allowed a national organization, though in 1935 a paper was established and representatives were elected to the Labour Party National Executive. In 1936 a National Administrative Council of the League was disbanded for criticizing Party Policy, and a national Conference was allowed only on condition that such criticisms could not be voiced. In the following year the League was again placed under the direct control of Head Office and local Labour Parties. In 1939, despite all the efforts of the Party bureaucrats, they were forced to cancel a national conference of the League because of the sympathy that continued to be shown within its ranks to various left Policies, including those of the now expelled Stafford Cripps. It declined during the War, but was revived in 1946 and began once again on its familiar cycle of conflict with the Party authority. In 1960 the Labour Party Young Socialists was established.
  116. N.I. Bukharin (1888-1938), Bolshevik who joined the Party in 1906, worked with Stalin against the opposition since 1923. In 1928, in launching his ultra-left turn, Stalin broke with Bukharin removing him in the following year from his posts as editor of Pravda and chairman of the Comintern. On capitulating to Stalin he was assigned to “educational work”. Framed and murdered by Stalin in the last of the Moscow Trials, 1938.
  117. Fenner Brockway (1888-1988), British socialist and leader of the Independent Labour Party; joined ILP in 1907; editor of Labour Leader, the ILP paper, 1912-16; a militant pacifist during World War I, he was jailed several times; Editor of New Leader, the renamed ILP paper; 1926-29 and 1931-46; Chairman of ILP 1931-33 and General Secretary of ILP (1933-39); member of parliament 1929-31 and 1950-1964.
  118. The Mohmands are a tribe on the North-West frontier of India who engaged in spasmodic battles with British imperialism from the middle of the nineteenth century onwards. The area they inhabit, north of the Khyber Pass, was under British control from 1896 to 1947. It is now a special area attached to North Western Pakistan.
  119. The Workers’ and Peasants’ Bloc established by Joaquin Maurin (1896-1973) in 1931 after his expulsion from the Spanish Communist Party. It joined in 1935 with the Left Opposition group of Andres Nin (1892-1937) to form the POUM. It is known as the BOC from its Spanish initials, and POB more usually refers to the Belgian Social Democratic party.
  120. This organization was in fact so insignificant that nothing can be found out about it in any reference book or available histories of the socialist movement.
  121. The Italian SP (Maximalist) was a faction within the exile Italian Social Democracy that aligned itself with the London Bureau.
  122. The Austrian Red Front was a faction within the underground Austrian Social democracy that aligned itself with the london bureau.
  123. An organization of no significance in the history of Bulgarian socialism. A small Trotskyist movement did however have some influence in the period 1931-3, under the leadership of Stefan Manov and Sider Todorov, when it published a paper called Osvobozhdenie (Liberation).
  124. Mot Dag (Towards Day) is the name of a left-wing magazine which existed from 1921 to 1936, and of the group of intellectuals which formed round it under the leadership of Erling Falk. In the early period, from within the Labour Party (NAP) Falk was a particularly virulent opponent of its affiliation to the Communist International. The group was expelled from the NAP in 1925, but eventually re-joined it in 1936.
  125. Formerly known as the Swedish Independent Communist Party (see note).
  126. Jacques Doriot (1898-1945) was a leader in turn of the Communist Party and of fascism in France. As a leader of the Young Communists he was active in campaigns against militarism and was a Comintern agent in China in 1927. A great orator, he built up a political base as Mayor of St. Denis, and from 1934 he wanted to proceed to the Popular Front even more rapidly than the Stalinists. For a short period between 1934 and 1936 he took a centrist position, supporting the London Bureau (the “Seven Lefts”), but winning no approval from Trotsky. He set up a fascist party in 1936, became a leading Vichy collaborator, involved in military activity on behalf of that regime when he was killed.
  127. Schwab was the real name of J. Walcher (1887-1970), a leader of the German SAP (see note). Gorkin (1901-1987), whose real name was Julian Gomez, was a leading member of the Spanish CP during the 1920s, though he left – according to his own account – because he was ordered to assassinate the dictator Primo de Rivera. After supporting the Spanish Left Opposition for a time, he left to join Maurin’s Workers’ and Peasants’ Bloc, later becoming a leader of the POUM.
  128. Pierre Laval (1883-1945), French politician and lawyer; originally a socialist he moved to the right during World War I; a prominent figure in French governments of the 1930s, he was prime minister four times (1931-32 and 1935-36, then under the Vichy regime 1940 and 1942-44); tried for treason after World War II and executed.
  129. Jean Zyromski (1890-1975) joined the SFIO in 1912, remaining a member after the 1920 split in order, as he said, to fight reformism. He founded the “Bataille Socialiste”, a centrist group within the Socialist Party from 1929-1940 and advocated “organic unity” of the Socialist and Communist Parties. He eventually joined the Stalinists in 1945.
  130. Marceau Pivert (1859-1958) was a left social democrat throughout his long political life. He joined the SFIO in 1924, supporting Zyromski for a time and founding the Revolutionary Left group within the SFIO in 1935. This was dissolved in 1937 and in the following year Pivert left the social democrats to set up the Workers and Peasants Socialist Party (PSOP). For the Bataille Socialist see note.
  131. The SAP was formed in October 1931 by several left-wingers who had been expelled by the Social Democrats. Early in the following year the Party was joined by a group of German right oppositionists (Brandlerites) led by Jacob Walcher (1887-1970) who soon assumed the leadership. Though they supported the call for a New International in 1933, the SAP later became actively hostile to it. They even supported the popular front in the mid-30s and soon afterwards disintegrated altogether. Walcher became a minor functionary in the East German Stalinist regime after 1945. The leader of the SAP’s Youth Section whose activities prevented the establishment of a youth international under the auspices of the London Bureau, was the future Chancellor of West Germany Willi Brandt.
  132. James Maxton (1885-1946), Scottish socialist and leader of the Independent Labour Party; joined ILP in 1904; active opponent of World War I, close associate of John Maclean and leading figure in the Red Clydeside movement; elected to parliament in 1922; led the ILP out of the Labour Party in 1931/32.
  133. Schwab was the real name of J. Walcher (1887-1970), a leader of the German SAP (seen note 1). – Jacques Doriot (1898-1945) was a leader in turn of the Communist Party and of fascism in France. As a leader of the Young Communists he was active in campaigns against militarism and was a Comintern agent in China in 1927. A great orator, he built up a political base as Mayor of St. Denis, and from 1934 he wanted to proceed to the Popular Front even more rapidly than the Stalinists. For a short period between 1934 and 1936 he took a centrist position, supporting the London Bureau (the “Seven Lefts”), but winning no approval from Trotsky. He set up a fascist party in 1936, became a leading Vichy collaborator, involved in military activity on behalf of that regime when he was killed. – Gorkin (1901-1987), whose real name was Julian Gomez, was a leading member of the Spanish CP during the 1920s, though he left – according to his own account – because he was ordered to assassinate the dictator Primo de Rivera. After supporting the Spanish Left Opposition for a time, he left to join Maurin’s Workers’ and Peasants’ Bloc, later becoming a leader of the POUM.
  134. This was the name adopted by the Austrian Social Democrats when they were made illegal by the clerical-fascist regimes of Dollfuss and Schuschnigg from 1933 onwards, and after they had broken from some of the older and more discredited right-wing leaders like Renner and Bauer.
  135. Otto Bauer (1881-1938) was one of the chief theorists of Austro-Marxism. – Fedor Dan (1871-1947) was a founder of the Russian Social Democratic Party and a leader of the Menshevik faction. During the First World War he was a pacifist and a member of the Petrograd Soviet. After engaging in various political activities hostile to the Bolshevik Revolution, he left the Soviet Union in 1921 and thereafter remained prominent in various centrist and reformist international organizations. – Jean Zyromski (1890-1975) joined the SFIO in 1912, remaining a member after the 1920 split in order, as he said, to fight reformism. He founded the “Bataille Socialiste”, a centrist group within the Socialist Party from 1929-1940 and advocated “organic unity” of the Socialist and Communist Parties. He eventually joined the Stalinists in 1945.
  136. Mot Dag (Towards Day) is the name of a left-wing magazine which existed from 1921 to 1936, and of the group of intellectuals which formed round it under the leadership of Erling Falk. In the early period, from within the Labour Party (NAP) Falk was a particularly virulent opponent of its affiliation to the Communist International. The group was expelled from the NAP in 1925, but eventually re-joined it in 1936.
  137. Locarno was the venue for the conference held in 1925 of the main European powers except for the Soviet Union, i.e., France, Germany, Belgium, Britain and Italy. It resulted in the non-aggression pact known as the Locarno Treaty.
  138. The Italian Maximalists were a faction within the exile Italian Social Democracy that aligned itself with the London Bureau.
  139. Karl Kilboom (1885-1961) was a founder of the Swedish Communist Party and represented it on the Executive Committee of the Comintern. After being attacked in 1929 for failing to call the social democrats “social fascists”, he set up the Independent Communist Party (later known as the Socialist Party) which participated in the London Bureau en route to going over to social democracy.
  140. Robert, Lord Cecil (1864-1958), British lawyer and Conservative politician; major advocate of the League of Nations.
  141. Fenner Brockway (1888-1988), British socialist and leader of the Independent Labour Party; joined ILP in 1907; editor of Labour Leader, the ILP paper, 1912-16; a militant pacifist during World War I, he was jailed several times; Editor of New Leader, the renamed ILP paper; 1926-29 and 1931-46; Chairman of ILP 1931-33 and General Secretary of ILP (1933-39); member of parliament 1929-31 and 1950-1964.
  142. Trotsky was well known to many of the leaders of French Communism and he secured the support of some of their number as early as 1923 when he warned in The New Course of the bureaucratic degeneration of the Russian Revolution. Various of them were expelled from the CP and began to produce the documents of the Soviet Left Opposition in different magazines. Eventually they came together to produce La Verité from August 1929, and in April 1930 established the “Ligue Communiste”. Trotsky took a close interest in the development of his French supporters after that, and considered that the issues raised there had a significance that went well beyond France itself. In August 1934, with strong encouragement from Trotsky, the group entered the SFIO (see note). Twenty-six prominent Bolshevik-Leninists were expelled from the SFIO in September 1935 as the party leadership lined up with the Popular Front. This led to further debate among the Trotskyists about how to proceed, and Trotsky gave firm support to those in favour of establishing an independent organization, which was achieved with the founding of the Parti Communiste Internationaliste in March 1936.
  143. Manuel Azaña (1880-1940) was a leading bourgeois radical politician in Spain. He was Prime Minister in the republican government in June 1931 and again in 1936, and President of the Republic from May 1936 until his resignation in 1939.
  144. The Belgian Workers Party (POB) which entered the Social Democratic party in 1935.
  145. In June 1936 the American Trotskyists dissolved their organization and joined the Socialist Party, at Trotsky’s prompting. After fighting on major questions, in particular the failure of the SP to break from the politics of the Spanish Popular Front, they re-established their paper Socialist Appeal in August 1937 and were all expelled by the end of the following month. Details can be found in James P. Cannon, History of American Trotskyism.
  146. James Maxton (1885-1946), Scottish socialist and leader of the Independent Labour Party; joined ILP in 1904; active opponent of World War I, close associate of John Maclean and leading figure in the Red Clydeside movement; elected to parliament in 1922; led the ILP out of the Labour Party in 1931/32.
  147. David Lloyd George (1863-1945), Welsh Liberal politician, responsible as Chancellor of the Exchequer (Finance Minister) for the introduction of old age pensions, unemployment benefit and sickness benefits; prime minister from 1916 to 1922.
  148. Haile Selassie (1892-1975), Emperor of Ethiopia 1930-1974.
  149. John McGovern (1887-1968), Scottisch socialist politician; sctive opponent of World War I; joined the Independent Labour Party in 1924; Chairman of the ILP 1941-43. – Campbell Stephen (1884-1947), Scottish socialist politician; strong supporter of James Maxton; ILP MP 1922-31 and 1935-47.
  150. Fenner Brockway (1888-1988), British socialist and leader of the Independent Labour Party; joined ILP in 1907; editor of Labour Leader, the ILP paper, 1912-16; a militant pacifist during World War I, he was jailed several times; Editor of New Leader, the renamed ILP paper; 1926-29 and 1931-46; Chairman of ILP 1931-33 and General Secretary of ILP (1933-39); member of parliament 1929-31 and 1950-1964.
  151. Sam Collins was a member of the Marxist Group in the ILP.
  152. This was the name adopted by the main group of Trotsky’s supporters in Britain in this period. At this point, in mid-1936, their period of entry in the PO was just coming to an end. The same name was then taken over by one of the main groups to emerge, under the leadership of C.L.R. James. (See also notes.)
  153. Arthur Cooper, member of the Marxist Group in the ILP. – Bert Matlow (1898-1987), founder member of the Marxist Group in the ILP.
  154. In July 1934 Trotsky proposed that the members of the French Communist League join the SFIO – the tactical change known as the “French turn”. At that time the SFIO (cf. note) was about five times larger than the CP, with much greater trade union influence. In November 1933 the right-wing “Neos” had split away. The left-wing groupings expelled by them were invited to return, factions were permitted to operate and to produce their own papers. Centrist and leftward-moving currents were rapidly developing, especially among the youth. Trotsky saw, not only the possibilities for the building of a revolutionary tendency, but also the danger of not intervening, as the Stalinists dropped their ultra-left “social-fascist” line and began moving towards making a pact with the social-democratic leaders. Later in 1934, Trotsky made similar proposals in relation to the Spanish Socialist Party and the Socialist Party of Belgium. He also supported the merger of the Communist League of America with A.J. Muste’s American Workers’ Party. In 1936, the fused organization entered the American Socialist Party. The tactic of “entry” into social-democratic parties aimed at enabling the groups adhering to the ICL to make important experiences within the developing struggles of the working class in the fight for the Fourth International. It was fiercely opposed within the ICL, especially by the followers of Oehler in the American group. Some of these opponents later found their way into the centrist parties of the IAG. But when the opportunities arose in each case of “entry” to break from the social democracy and form open revolutionary parties as sections of the Fourth International, there was opposition to the break, in some cases from those who had opposed “entry”.
  155. At the ILP National Conference in Keighley, Easter 1936, the bloc of Brockway and Maxton secured a majority for prohibiting the existence of organized factions in the party. Its purpose was to prevent the Marxist Group in the ILP from circulating Trotskyist material through their journal, The Marxist Bulletin.
  156. Ex-members of the CPGB expelled in August 1932 as supporters of Trotsky, who formed the majority of the Communist League, opposing the entry into the ILP advised by the International Secretariat in 1934. They remained as an “open party”, continuing to produce Red Flag (see also notes 165, 109 and 87). During the course of 1935 they re-joined the Labour Party and in 1936 declined to accept the advice of the Geneva pre-conference of the Fourth International that they should unite with others in the Labour Party claiming allegiance to Trotskyism. They were considered to be acting in an opportunist manner. – Reg Groves (1908-1988), pioneer of the British Trotskyist movement as founder member of the Balham Group. – Hugo Dewar (1908-1980), pioneer of the British Trotskyist movement as founder member of the Balham Group.
  157. CP front organizations, which appear never to have achieved mass support.
  158. erbert Morrison (1888-1965), British Labour politician; Minister of Transport in the second Labour government (1929-31); Home Secretary 1940-45; deputy prime minister 1945-51. – Harry Pollitt (1890-1960), British Communist; General Secretary of the National Minority Movement 1924-29; General Secretary of the Communist Party of Great Britain 1929-39 and 1941-56; fervent defender of the Moscow Trials. – George Lansbury (1869-1940), British socialist politician and newspaper editor; helped found the Daily Herald in 1912; edotor (1912-22); opposed World War I and welcomed the February and October Revolutions; as Mayor of Poplar in East London he led the Poplar Rebellion in 1921, when councillors refused to forward rates (property taxes) collected to the london County Council and distributed them to alleviate poverty – the councillors were jailed and council meeting had to be held in Brixton Prison; the revolt led to changes in local government financing to the benefit of poorer areas; leader of the Labour Party 1932-1935.
  159. Peter J. Schmidt (1896-1962), who in the 1920s had been a leader of the Dutch social democrats and associated with the Stalinists, in 1932 split away and formed the Dutch Independent Socialist Party (see note). He acted as chairman of the Paris conference of the “London Bureau” in August 1933 (see note). John Paton (1886-1976) was at that time secretary of the ILP and also of the Paris conference. They visited Trotsky, who was in France at the time, while the Paris conference was taking place, discussing with him the building of a new International. For Trotsky the role of the Comintern in Hitler’s rise to power earlier that year had proved the necessity for this.
  160. R. is possibly Robertson, who had visited Trotsky in December 1935. The identity of his companion A. is more obscure. – Robertson was the pseudonym of Earle Birney (1904-1995), a Canadian journalist living in England during the 1930s. Birney later became famous as a poet.
  161. Neville Chamberlain (1869-1940), British Conservative politician; prime minister 1937-1940; most famous for his notorious remarks about “peace for our time” on his return from the Munich conference with Hitler after the effective annexation of the Sudetenland in 1938.
  162. C.L.R. James (1901-1989), Trinidadian sportsman, journalist writer and Marxist theoretician; joined the Trotskyist movement in britain in 1934; moved to US in 1938; forced to leave the US in 1953; after that he lived in Britain, Trinidad and also for another period in the USA. Click here for a fuller biography.
  163. The call for a government of the main working class parties, at that time the SFIO led by Leon Blum (see note), and the PCF, whose leaders included Marcel Cachin (1869-1958).
  164. Fenner Fenner Brockway (1888-1988), British socialist and leader of the Independent Labour Party; joined ILP in 1907; editor of Labour Leader, the ILP paper, 1912-16; a militant pacifist during World War I, he was jailed several times; Editor of New Leader, the renamed ILP paper; 1926-29 and 1931-46; Chairman of ILP 1931-33 and General Secretary of ILP (1933-39); member of parliament 1929-31 and 1950-1964. – D.N. Pritt (1887-1972), British lawyer and labour politician; an uncritical defender of Stalin, he justified the Moscow Trials.
  165. Hjalmar Branting (1860-1925) was the right wing leader of Swedish social democracy, its first MP and head of a number of minority social democratic administrations in the early 1920s. It seems unlikely that even Brockway was unaware that he had been dead for ten years, but it is not clear who else he could be referring to.
  166. Norman Thomas (1883-1968) was leader of the Socialist Party of the United States and eight times candidate for President. Considered a “left’ socialist in the early 1930s, he later became a defender of US foreign policy.
  167. The assassination in December 1934 of Sergei Kirov (1886-1934), boss of the Leningrad party machine, which was believed to have been engineered by the GPU itself, was the signal for a succession of murderous attacks on former leaders of the Russian Bolshevik Party, including Lenin’s closest collaborators. This culminated in a series of show trials held in Moscow at which the leaders of all sections of the Russian Bolsheviks, including those who had at one time been the strongest supporters of Stalin himself, were forced to confess to crimes both fantastic and inconceivable. The first of these was held in August 1936 and the chief defendants were Zinoviev, Kamenev and Smirnov. A second trial took place in January 1937, where the defendants included Radek and Pyatakov, and a third began at the end of February 1938, when Bukharin, Rykov, Rakovsky and Yagoda appeared in the dock. In nearly all cases the main defendants were executed, though it seems that Radek may have survived in prison for a number of years. (For more details see The Moscow Trials – An Anthology, New Park Publications, 1967 and M. Shachtman, Behind the Moscow Trials, New Park Publications 1971.)
  168. i.e. Woodrow Wilson, President of the USA, and those European powers led by Britain and France with whom he had been in alliance in the First World War.
  169. In order to counter the lies of the Moscow Trials, Trotsky decided after his arrival in Mexico in February 1936 and the beginning of the second trial to run a “counter-trial” at which publicity could be given to the unstated case for the defence. In March 1937 a Joint Commission of Enquiry was set up by American, British, French and Czech bodies for the defence of Trotsky. Its chairman was John Dewey, the American pragmatist philosopher and educationalist, and other members included American writers and academics and former Communist Party members of the German Reichstag. After a meticulous consideration of the evidence, the Commission decided that the first two Moscow Trials were frame-ups and that Trotsky and his son were not guilty of all the numerous charges against them which had been mentioned there. (For Trotsky’s speech to the Commission, see the Moscow Trials Anthology, 1967)
  170. Fenner Brockway (1888-1988), British socialist and leader of the Independent Labour Party; joined ILP in 1907; editor of Labour Leader, the ILP paper, 1912-16; a militant pacifist during World War I, he was jailed several times; Editor of New Leader, the renamed ILP paper; 1926-29 and 1931-46; Chairman of ILP 1931-33 and General Secretary of ILP (1933-39); member of parliament 1929-31 and 1950-1964.
  171. The GPU (State Political Directorate) was the Soviet political police, established in 1923, theoretically with less powers than its predecessor, the Cheka. From 1934 the organization was merged more closely with the ministry of the interior (NKVD) and its policing activities are sometimes referred to under the name of that body.
  172. Georgi Dimitrov (1882-1949), Bulgarian socialist; Joined Bulgarian social Democrats in 1902; from 1903 member of the so-called “Narrow party”; opposed World War I; founder member of the bulgarian Communist Party in 1919; arrested in Berlin in 1933 and accused of complicity in the Reichstag fire; his defence won him wordwide renown; released to the Societ union in an exchange of prisoners; appointed general Secretary of the Comintern in 1934 and remained in this post until the dissolution of the Comintern in 1943; prime minister of Bulgaria 1946-49.
  173. D.N. Pritt (1887-1972), British lawyer and labour politician; an uncritical defender of Stalin, he justified the Moscow Trials.
  174. Devere Allen (1891-1955), American Quaker and pacifist. Worked in Europe and Latin America as a journalist during the 1930s and 1940s and participated in various pacifist and liberal causes. Stood for the US senate as a candidate on behalf of the Socialist Party in 1932 and 1934 and for state governor in 1938 for the Labor Party, all in Connecticut.
  175. Vyshinsky was prosecutor at the Moscow Trials and Yagoda was head of the GPU during the 1930s. Andrei Vyshinsky (1883-1955) was a leading Menshevik until 1920. From 1935 to 1939 he was Public Prosecutor or Deputy Prosecutor and led the prosecution at all the Moscow Trials. He was later Foreign Minister during Stalin’s last years in 1949-53. Genrikh Yagoda (1891-1938) was a Bolshevik from 1917, a member of the military inspectorate, and a supporter of the right wing Bukharin tendency and later of Stalin. He organized the mass deportation of kulaks during the forced industrialization, and prepared the first two Moscow Trials, though at the third he was sentenced to death.
  176. Andres Nin (1892-1937) was a founder member of the Spanish Communist Party and of the International Left Opposition. He broke with Trotskyism in 1935 and joined with Maurin’s Workers’ and Peasants’ Bloc to form the POUM. Despite his centrist politics he put up a firm resistance to Stalinist terror, and when he was was arrested by the Stalinists in Barcelona he refused under the severest pressure to sign any documents asserting his guilt. After the failure of this attempt to set up a “Moscow Trial” in Spain German CP members of the International Brigade took him away one night and shot him.
  177. Grigory Zinoviev (1883-1936), Russian Bolshevik; joined RSDLP in 1901 and supported the Bolshevik faction in the split in 1903; on of Lenin’s closest collaborators between 1903 and 1917; opposed the seizure of power in october 1917 along with Kamenev but nevertheless remained in the Central Committee of the party; Chairman of the Comintern 1919-26; allied with Stalin againhst Trotsky after Lenin’s death, but the alliance collapsed in 1925; gradually removed from all positions of influence Zinoviev joined forces with Trotsky to form the Joint Opposition; expelled from the party after their defeat at the 15th Party Congress in December 1927; capitulated to Stalin in early 1928 and eventually readmitted into the party; arrested in December 1934 after the Kirov assassination and put on trial in January 1935; admitted “moral complicity” in the assassination and sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment; put on trial with Kamenev and 14 other Old Bolsheviks in August 1936, the First Moscow Show Trial, and sentenced to death; executed immediately after the trial. – Lev Kamenev (1883-1936), Russian Bolshevik and Trotsky’s brother-in-law; joined the RSDLP in 1901 and and supported the Bolshevik faction after the 1903 split; directed the workd of the bolshevik daily Pravda and the Bolshevik faction in the Duma from January 1914; arrested after outbreak of World War I and exiled to Siberia; after Fewr#bruary Revolution retruned to petrograd and took control of Pravda, adopting a conciliatory attitude towards the Provisional Government; opposed seizre of power in October 1917 along with Zinoviev; became chairman of Moscow Soviet in 1918; allied with Zinoviev and Stalin against Trotsky adfter Lenin’s death until the collapse of the alliance in 1925; joined forces with Zinoviev and Trotsky to form the Joint Opposition; expelled from the party after their defeat at the 15th Party Congress in December 1927; capitulated to Stalin in early 1928 and eventually readmitted into the party; arrested in December 1934 after the Kirov assassination and put on trial in January 1935; admitted “moral complicity” in the assassination and sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment; put on trial with Zinoviev and 14 other Old Bolsheviks in August 1936, the First Moscow Show Trial, and sentenced to death; executed immediately after the trial.
  178. Juan Negrin (1889-1956) was a Spanish bourgeois politician. Born into a prosperous family, he was a doctor of medicine and a Professor of psychology. He was a strong opponent of nationalization, but joined the Socialist Party, becoming active only during the Civil War in buying arms from the Soviet Union. He became Finance Minister in Caballero’s government in September 1936 and Spain’s last Republican Prime Minister in the following May. He worked closely with the Stalinists, who played an important part in his rapid rise to power.
  179. Norman Thomas (1883-1968) was leader of the Socialist Party of the United States and eight times candidate for President. Considered a “left’ socialist in the early 1930s, he later became a defender of US foreign policy. – Otto Bauer (1881-1931), Austrian Social Democrat, leading theoretician of the Austro-Marxist school. – Hjalmar Branting (1860-1925) was the right wing leader of Swedish social democracy, its first MP and head of a number of minority social democratic administrations in the early 1920s.
  180. Tartuffe is the main character in the comedy of the same name by the 17th century French playwright Molière. He is a pious crook, outwardly ascetic but actually a sensual glutton, who inveigles his way into a respectable household for the purpose of seducing the daughter.
  181. This was written during the period of the Nazi-Soviet pact when Stalinists in every country were opposing the Allies’ war plans. In Britain the Daily Worker was suppressed for a time, while in France, especially after surrender and occupation, the CP had to face even greater difficulties.