Open letter to members of the PCI and the “Fourth International” - Socialisme Ou Barbarie

Open letter to members of the PCI and the “Fourth International” - Socialisme Ou Barbarie

An open letter to the French Trotskyist Parti communiste internationaliste and the Trotskyist "Fourth International" which their recent ex-members published in issue 1 of the critical Marxist journal Socialisme ou Barbarie in March 1949. Translation and notes by David Broder.

Note - Our group was established in August 1946 as a tendency within the PCI, which at that time was preparing for its Third Congress. It progressively developed the positions today expressed in a systematic – although succinct – form in this first issue of Socialisme ou Barbarie, over the course of the Third Congress of the PCI (November 1946), its national conference on the Russian question (July 1947), the Fourth Congress of the PCI (November 1947), the preparatory conference for the World Congress of the International (March 1948), the Second World Congress of the Fourth International (April 1948) and the Fifth Congress of the PCI (July 1948).

This ideological development, distancing us further and further from the positions of official Trotskyism, led us to ask the question as to whether we should split from it. It was the experience of the Fifth Congress of the PCI which compelled us to make a definitive decision to do so. For the Congress demonstrated, without leaving room for doubt, the complete decomposition of the Trotskyist organisation; its complete inability to represent anything more than a revolving door for activists constantly joining then leaving; and above all its irrevocable political degeneration. Not only did this Congress ratify from start to finish all the opportunist decisions of the recently-held Congress of the International and the bureaucratic methods on display at it; not only did it not protest against the new line of reforming Stalinism, initiated by the International Secretariat with its ‘Letter to the Yugoslav Communist Party’; but it showed itself unable to reflect on the experience of the French organisation, which had just suffered a crisis reducing its numbers by half with the split of the rightist tendency which has joined in the establishment of the Rassemblement Démocratique Révolutionnaire [1]. The Congress also demonstrated that, apart from a few rare exceptions, the members of the PCI are deeply demoralised and incapable of political development in the current conditions. Given these circumstances, we had no choice but to make a definitive break with an organisation which had not only become completely foreign to us in its programme and ideology, but which could not even offer us a space for political and organisational development.

However, we had to prepare for this split, laying the basis for the autonomous existence of our own group. We had already declared at the PCI Central Committee meeting of October 1948 that we would from now on refuse any official post and that we would now solely work amongst the rank-and-file of the organisation. But even this proved impossible, both because of the demands of preparing our autonomous work as well as the decomposition of the PCI itself. We informed the January 1949 Central Committee meeting of our decision to leave the PCI, and we asked that we should be able to explain ourselves before an Assembly of the Paris region of the party and to publish a public statement in the party’s Internal Bulletin. The central committee replied a few days later, saying that it would allow us three pages in the IB for this statement. We are still yet to receive a reply on the issue of the Paris region Assembly.

Given these conditions, and in spite of our desire to avoid publishing such texts as will perhaps not interest some of our readers, we feel obliged to publish this declaration in these pages.


Four months ago at the last CC meeting, after explaining our understanding of the situation and the tasks of a revolutionary organisation, we presented a statement concerning the attitudes of our comrades in the party. In this statement we explained the growing incompatibility between our tendency’s views and those of the CC majority, and furthermore the impossibility of the two working together in a common leadership role.

In fact, ever since the Fifth Congress, the character of which allowed us to make a definitive decision, our tendency had unanimously decided to break with the PCI as an organisation. However we allowed ourselves a delay in order to consolidate our own organisational ties and to prepare a documented and detailed explanation of all our positions, before the split was realised. To that end, we set our comrades to continued activity in the PCI, until the right moment came. But the extreme state of disrepair the organisation has fallen into, making our presence in the party a simple waste of time and a tiresome chore; the demands of our own work as an autonomous group; and furthermore the understandable feeling amongst our comrades that it was absurd to participate in the concerns and the life of the party cells at the same time as these seemed more and more foreign to us; meant that almost all of our comrades ceased working in the PCI of their own initiative, precipitating our de facto departure from the organisation.

Now we are giving this definitive break public form: in a few days the first issue of Socialisme ou Barbarie, our group’s journal, will appear.

So now it is time to bring matters to a head and put an end to any ambiguity.

The decision we are now informing you of will, without doubt, surprise you very little; the disagreements which had developed between us, concerning practically all questions we could disagree on, implied an organisational split. This disagreements, even if they are now deeper, are not however new; but in addition to the time we needed to clarify our main differences, it took us some time to realise the definitive collapse of the French organisation and the hopeless state of the international organisation, which in each case denied us even the possibility of worthwhile factional activity. We moreover understood that it would be dangerous to continue participating in the organisation any longer. In this small machine, slowly running out of gas, we feared that some of our comrades might themselves be consumed by the smoke it was churning out. Those comrades who wish to will be able to find an explanation of our ideas in issue after issue of our journal. But given that we have no desire to start a public polemic with you, we must fulfil a certain task within the framework of this letter: making a critique, for us definitive, our your politics, and address the balance-sheet of the failure of the PCI in the ideological, political and organisational fields: fields which we see as tightly linked and essentially expressing one and the same thing.

There has been much talk of the crisis of the PCI and theses and counter-theses on this subject have been published by the numerous fractions which have existed within the party. For some of them, the crisis was due to the sectarian character of the party, its incapacity to go to the masses, get involved in all the existing struggles, speaking the language of the masses (whether Stalinist or reformist); for others, the crisis was due to the bad organisation of the party, the lack of work by its militants, who were unable to behave according to the norms of the Transitional Programme [2] and thus it was periodically suggested they make a mea culpa (Privas); for others the crisis was due to the chronic presence of rightist and opportunist forces in the organisation, preventing the party from devoting its energies to outward-facing work.

This chatter on the crisis in the PCI, which for long periods represented the main activity of the organisation, could do without further comment.Reflecting objectively on the activity of the French Trotskyist organisation over almost twenty years, we were compelled to realise that the “crisis” was no accident, but a determining characteristic of its very nature. There is chronic crisis, permanent crisis – the splits only represent its most characteristic moments – or, to be more precise, there is no crisis at all, since the word “crisis” would suppose the existence of an organism which functions in between the crises, whereas the essential characteristic of Trotskyism has been its inability to reach the level of an established organisation, its radical inability to secure its existence. We cannot overt our eyes as to avoid seeing that the fundamental problem for the PCI, since its formal foundation, has been its establishment as such. We must recognise that this problem, posed for fifteen years, has never been resolved.

We can only understand this failing by looking at an even deeper failing, that of finding an ideological basis for existing independently. It is because the Trotskyist organisation has been unable to separate itself fundamentally and organically from Stalinism; because it has remained nothing more than an opposition to it; or as some have said, an appendage to Stalinism; that it has never been able to build. The “Fourth International” has not secured its independence as such, because that would require a fundamental critique and a definitive analysis of the degeneration of the body which preceded it, the Third International. Only starting with this analysis and the fundamental pulling-apart of Stalinist ideology could it have laid the foundations for its own existence. That is how the Third International established itself, starting with an exhaustive economic and social characterisation of the Second International and its reformism.

In what sense does Stalinism represent a new stage of advance in the world economy? Which social stratas’ interests does it represent? What ties unite the Stalinist parties with the Russian bureaucratic society? What is the role of Stalinist politics, engaged in struggle against both the propertied bourgeosie and the proletariat? Trotskyism has not addressed these questions, and has not ceased to consider the Stalinists as a “workers’ party collaborating with the bourgeoisie”, hanging onto this definition which is every day proven wrong by facts and stopping them getting any of their message across to the vanguard of the working class; it appeared as, and effectively was, a recruiter for Stalinism, employing a revolutionary rhetoric which was nonetheless at root its partner (as demonstrated in its foundational positions of “unconditional defence of the USSR” and “PC-PS-CGT [3] government”).

Here it suffices to recall the propositions which Pierre Frank addressed to Stalin (!) in La Vérité [4], seeking agreement on the best defence of the USSR; it suffices to recall the policy the PCI leadership persevered in following on the question of government, with the slogan “PC-PS-CGT government”, which was the supreme – and also the most criminal – example of a united front with Stalinism. See how the most qualified representative of this leadership, Privas, expressed himself on this score (IB no. 37, December 1946): “The question of our support for a PC-PS-CGT government is posed. It [this support] is conditional on this government’s loyalty to an anticapitalist programme and to the masses. If it truly applied such a programme, if it truly called for the action and the organisation of the masses, we would grant it our confidence; as for our participation, this question could only be posed after it was proven that it deserved our confidence and that it was pursuing an action to destroy the apparatus of the bourgeois state. It would be absolutely false for us to engage in this before having seen the leaders of the traditional parties in action. In any case, our participation in the masses’ struggle against the bourgeoisie and its repressive forces is guaranteed in advance and without conditions”.

If we leave the “revolutionary” garnish to one side, the content of this text is clear: as of December 1946, the Trotskyist leadership “had still not seen the Stalinist and reformist leaders in action!” It was unaware of what would happen if the Stalinists took power! But it called for such a government in its day-to-day agitation: “PC-PS-CGT government” was written on the walls and appeared in La Vérité’s headlines. But let’s be careful: it called for it, it said to the masses that it must be established, but it did not support it: it would only do so if it “truly applied an anticapitalist programme”. What was its reply to the workers who asked, astonished: how can you demand such a government but not support it? A mystery. It could perhaps respond: we will support it if it applies such and such a programme. So you do not know what programme the PC is capable of realising in government? Can we imagine that the PC in government would apply a programme “appealing for action and the mobilisation of the masses”? And even if this was in principle possible, then why establish new parties and not try to persuade the PC to apply this “revolutionary programme” and to what end this distinction between the conditions for support and conditions for participation in such a government, which in Privas’s text amount to exactly the same thing?

We cannot empty out such an ocean of imbecility with a spoon. For us it suffices to say that with their most commonplace slogans the Trotskyist leaders demonstrated that they understood nothing of the current reality, but that at heart this “revolutionary leadership of humanity” never took itself seriously and considered that the tasks of revolution could well enough be accomplished by Stalinism. We will later see that this point has still more importance than it appears to at first glance.

This desperate painting-up of Stalinism translated not only into the practice whereby all of the agitation and propaganda of the PCI at at any given moment was defined in relation to Stalinism (the PC said so? So we must respond like this; the PC’s made a “turn”? So we must shoot it down, etc.) but also by the policy of united front with Stalinism.

The struggle the “orthodox-Troskyist tendency” (currently in the majority in the PCI and the Fourth International) has led against the conception of the United Front that the “right” defended, was nothing but the ideological cover for a clan rivalry and a means of promoting ideas which were fundamentally no less opportunist. Even if we leave aside the question of the “defence of the USSR” and of the Stalino-reformist government, we cannot but say that, in the main, the policies of the PCI in 1946-47 and the policies subsequently driven by the current leadership are identical. Its fundamental inability to distinguish itself from the Stalinists, the attempt to present the Stalinists as reformists, even the ridiculous idea of a “United Front” in which, if it was ever realised, the PC would represent everything and the PCI nothing, were the characteristics of all La Vérité’s campaigns on the question.

“Reinforce the proletarian front”, the leadership constantly repeated, refusing to let it be divided into two blocs where the Stalinist bloc would follow Moscow and the reformist bloc would follow Washington: this is now presented to us as the essential heritage of Leninist tactics. But this simply hides from the proletariat that the PC and the PS are not workers’ parties, that their policies are not “fundamentally mistaken”, as the majority theses at the Fifth Congress stupidly suggested: rather, they represent interests in society hostile to those of the proletariat. When the current majority says that the United Front is an “arm of political delimitation” (same thesis), we find the same argument, with the same words, as the “right” advanced when it was the leadership, and which the majority only ever fought rhetorically, as is proven in this typically opportunist statement by Bleibtreu, today general secretary of the party (political report to the Central Committee, 31st March 1946): “In developing our class-struggle programme we cast a spotlight on the Stalinists’ and reformists’ treachery. Any particular delimitation is superfluous and can only take the form of anti-Stalinism, which will lose us the ear of the masses” (!) (our emphasis).

But the painting-up of Stalinism and the fundamental similarities with it are also demonstrated in other, even more important ways. The most important among them is perhaps the inability to initiate an autonomous working-class regroupment, and even the barely-hidden hostility the PCI leadership displayed towards those few Committees of Struggle which arose in 1947. The PCI simply tried to make these Committees of Struggle into an annex of the Trotskyists, preventing them from playing their role of grouping advanced workers outside of the parties. Obstinate orientation to the traditional trade unions (even though it has proven impossible to establish a revolutionary tendency in the bureaucratised unions) can only reflect a desire to keep the workers in the traditional organisations where they can be controlled. The objective of the PCI is not to initiate the creation of autonomous class organisations, but to take over the PC’s role in the trade unions. That is how we should interpret some of the main passages in the majority theses at the Fifth Congress: “The balance of forces within the working class implies that even if the party has a correct political line, only in a few sectors can it challenge the Stalinists for leadership.” Further still, “The Stalinist vanguard has become sensitive to our revolutionary programme, but this does not mean that it is ready to pass under the control of our party” (our emphasis).

Equally significant is the PCI’s obstinate insistence on seeing the real vanguard of the working class within the Stalinist vanguard: “As a whole the working class, or rather its most important elements , can see no political leadership other than that of the PC” (same thesis). The PCI leadership does not simply mean that the Stalinists represent the vanguard purely because of the fact that they struggle - itself wrong enough – but also that the Stalinist vanguard, because it fights following a party as well organised as the PC, is infinitely more interesting than the anarchist-leaning or leftist elements without party affiliation who today struggle against all forms of bureaucratisation and are not “ready to pass under the control of the PCI”.

But we must also address opportunism and the abandonment of revolutionary Marxism in favour of the “theoretical” conceptions of the Trotskyist leadership. First off we should say that the word “theoretical” is a strong exaggeration in this regard, as since Trotsky’s death his epigones have done nothing but vulgarise, run down and empty of all content his heritage as well as that of Marxism in general. It is astonishing to find that, over ten years, these “leaders” have been incapable of producing anything under than unreadable articles – uninviting and full of empty banalities – for “Internal Bulletins”, teaching workers who adhere to the “Fourth International” a Bukharinite mush presented as “Marxism”. It is necessary to try and extract from all these platitudes some form of overall set of ideas in order to appreciate the real worth of official Trotskyist ideology between 1940 and 1948.

In terms of the historic situation of capitalism, the leadership of the PCI and the “Fourth International” is content with the analysis Lenin made of imperialism, and often falls short even of that. For Lenin, imperialism was born out of the continued concentration of the productive forces (capital and labour), this concentration gradually reducing competition. But this concentration did not end in 1915, as all the PCI majority understanding supposes; it has continued, widened and taken on new forms, of which the fusion of various amongst the monopolies themselves, the progressive fusion of capital and the state, nationalisations in France and particularly in England, the complete statification of the economy under the aegis of an exploiting bureaucracy (as seen across the Russian zone), and the vassalisation of Europe and all capitalist countries by Yankee imperialism, are just particular expressions. All these phenomena – which are indeed the characteristic traits of the period we live in, distinguishing it from previous periods – appear unknown to the majority, or else are considered to be of no importance. For this reason, their “analyses” of the current situation ultimately end up at the level of provincial journalism. Thus, for example, when it came to characterise the crisis of capitalism following the Second World War, the majority could do nothing beyond citing production levels, hoping to “prove” this crisis through the fact that the production levels of the capitalist companies did not match pre-war figures (see the majority theses at the Third and Fourth Congresses of the PCI). What was even more ridiculous was that the reasons given for the fall in production were conjunctural ones. We demonstrated (in a May 1947 text, and more thoroughly in our theses for the Fourth Congress of the PCI) that world production figures had already surpassed those of the pre-war period; the motor of the crisis of capitalism was to be found elsewhere (in the disproportion between economic development in Europe and in America; in the disruption of the world market); and European production levels surpassed pre-war figures. Yet the leaders of the majority wrote (as in the majority theses for the Fifth Congress) “The objectively revolutionary crisis borne of the war is not over. It will not be over until the bourgeoisie manages to re-establish a new division of labour, a new world market...”, thus showing that they had understood nothing of the situation, because the basic fact of the current situation is that such a restoration of the capitalist “world market” is impossible, and the only possibility of “balance” for the exploiting classes now lies in the domination of one single imperialism over the world economy.

Where Lenin argued that monopolies suppressed competition, this was not without value or out of a desire to paint a pretty picture. Suppression of competition means the suppression of the world capitalist market in the established meaning of the term; to speak of “re-establishing a new world market” means wanting to reverse the dominant tendency of capitalist development.
Another significant case study was the majority’s attitude to the “Marshall Plan”. Faced with this situation, the only response its Marxist politics could inspire was to say that, “in any case, its effects will not be seen until 1949”! But what effects? Could capitalism achieve “relative stabilisation” via the Marshall Plan? Without it, would new economic relations between Europe and America be established, and could the European imperialisms thus maintain their independence ? On each of these questions of great theoretical and practical importance, the most absolute silence continued to reign in the majority’s texts.

Here we touch on an important theoretical point. For Lenin, the essence of imperialism was that many, or at least two, rival imperialist blocs were constantly in struggle (whether “peaceful” or violent) to redivide the world. What is happening now? According to the majority, Russia is not an imperialist state but a “degenerate workers’ state” which we must defend. As for the rest of the world, one would be hard pushed to predict the French or the English embarking on a war with the USA, even far in the future. We thus now have a single imperialist bloc! How can this be reconciled with the Leninist analysis of imperialism?

But for the current Trotskyist leadership, these are just nuances, not worthy of attention. All that they ask is that no-one rouses them from their ideological sleep.

Nor do we want to expound on our differences with the majority on the Russian question: differences which were sufficiently well-known within the PCI. But it is necessary to clearly explain the meaning of the majority’s stance from a class-struggle and Marxist point of view.

According to the majority, Russia is a “degenerated workers’ state” which must be “unconditionally” defended. What does this mean? First and foremost, that the majority identifies the total monopolisation of the productive forces by one class (the Russian bureaucracy) under the cover of nationalisation with socialist collectivisation.

Yet for the majority the bureaucracy is not a “class” but a “parasitical caste”. This because the bureaucracy’s only role is in the distribution of the Russian economy’s output, without any independent position of its own in the relations of production. What does this mean? Pure and simple, a break with the foundation of Marxist political economy, according to which “production” and “distribution” are nothing but two inseparable aspects of the same process. According to Marx there is no “revenue” beyond the relations of production. Indeed even Adam Smith knew what Germain, Frank etc. are unaware of: wages, profit and rent as “revenues” are inevitably tied to labour, capital and land, the “productive forces”.

This also represents utter abandonment of Marx and Lenin’s understanding of the state: according to their ideas, the monstruous totalitarian advance of the Russian bureaucratic state could only result in the division of society into classes and an ever-aggravated opposition between these classes.
‘But the bureaucracy cannot be a class in just one country’, the majority complain. Indeed, it cannot. The proof is that after the latest war the bureaucracy came to power in most of the countries of central Europe and the Balkans and is establishing itself in power in China. The majority’s reaction faced with developments in the countries of the Russian zone are, frankly, laughable. To summarise, they make the stunning claim: in the “opposite-facing” countries, the traditional bourgeoisie is still the ruling class! Never mind that this bourgeoisie no longer exists, that it has long been buried, that they are liquidating its last survivors (Mindszenty [5], etc.): according to the majority this changes nothing. We will preserve our schemas, the world can go to hell: that is their motto.

But even if we leave to one side the great theoretical importance of all these points, it is impossible to refrain from commenting on the political significance of such attitudes.

In reality, the main thing is not only that all this represents a political and ideological capitulation to Stalinism. It is that with these positions, the PCI and the “Fourth International” become supplementary instruments of the mystification of the masses. Having such attitudes really means: using sophistry to justify exploitation and oppression; teaching the masses to accept exploitation under the pretext of “objective” arguments (the “progressive” character of nationalisation and planning), given that it is under “socialist” forms; preparing for tomorrow a fresh degeneration of the Russian Revolution, and more concretely, recuperating part of the vanguard disillusioned with Stalinism and preventing it from understanding the latter’s true meaning.

This objective function of the “Fourth International” as a supplementary instrument of the mystification of the masses was fully apparent as the Tito crisis broke. With its infamous ‘Open Letter from the Secretariat of the Fourth International to the Yugoslav Communist Party’ it clearly explained the true political course of contemporary Trotskyism, orientated towards the recovery, and not the revolutionary destruction, of the Stalinist parties and Stalinism in general. They hope to justify this line with a series of lies, some more cynical than others, and by the shameful idealisation of the exploitative régime that Tito and his bureaucratic clique have imposed on the workers and peasants of Yugoslavia. So the only thing – near enough – that could be criticised in the Tito régime was... the decorations he gave his generals! Apart from that Tito had clocked up a series of triumphs (such as having “resolved the national question”, etc.) and it was let on that a decision of the Central Committee of the Yugoslav Communist Party was enough to transform it into a revolutionary party and Tito’s authority into workers’ state (of course, not a degenerated one). However, right up to that point official Trotskyism had constantly reiterated that Yugoslavia remained a “fundamentally capitalist” state. So what had happened? The public revelations of a fight between the two bureaucratic cliques in Moscow and Belgrade, a fight which had been pursued for a long time behind the scenes, were deemed sufficient to transformthe character of Yugoslavia and the Titoite bureaucracy overnight. At least, it was enough for the Trotskyist leadership to put its own previous “analyses” on ice and adopt this paradoxical position, that the government and ruling party of Yugoslavia, a “capitalist state”, were leading a “progressive struggle” against the government and ruling party of Russia, which as everyone knows was still a “workers’ state”. It was also sufficient cause for the Trotskyist leadership to cast aside the fundamental idea which Trotsky recognised a thousand times – the Fourth International’s raison d’être –that Stalinism as a whole and each individual Stalinist party taken separately was unreformable, thus creating the need for new revolutionary parties in each country. It was moreover sufficient cause for the Trotskyist leadership to completely destroy the principle of any revolutionary politics: that of always telling the truth to the class and its vanguard.

One of the most instructive moments in the whole affair was seeing the greater part of the French PCI majority – which had rhetorically distanced itself from the International Secretariat’s stance – not only abstain from any real political struggle against this ultra-opportunist orientation, but rather positively contribute to it by burying the matter during October’s International Executive Committee meeting. This malign comedy once again proved the lack of political seriousness and clan-connivance which reign in today’s Trotskyist leaderships.

For us the Tito affair proved the irremediable degeneration of modern Trotskyism and the positively harmful role it plays in the struggle for the demystification of the proletariat.

The question which all advanced workers are now asking, anxiously, is the question of the character of the Stalinist “communist” parties and their politics. Having long hesitated, Trotsky’s epigones finally, in 1947, arrived at a “theoretical” response to this question: Stalinism is “reformism of a new type”. If the “new type” in this slogan – and these “theoreticians” have never explained what they mean by that – does not mean “non-reformist type”, then the stupidity of this claim is obvious. These intrepid “Marxists” have passed over every opportunity, day after day, to explain how a new reformism without reforms can be born amidst the era of the fatal crisis of capitalist democracy; how and why this “reformism” has come to expropriate the bourgeoisie in all the countries of the Russian zone; how and why it has today come to overthrow the order of Chinese society. Worse still, they have also passed over the opportunity to explain to the masses how Stalinism and its struggle against the bourgeoisie generate confusion, given that the destruction of the bourgeoisie in the countries where the “Communist” Parties have taken power does not at all represent social liberation, but rather the establishment of a régime of exploitation and oppression at least as severe as the bourgeoisie’s.

The fundamental reason for these lamentable contradictions is this: contemporary Trotskyism denies the problem of bureaucracy; it denies that the bureaucracy represents an independent social force and that it itself exploits the proletariat in the countries where it takes power; and that it fights for power in all countries. Given such terms, there is no question of a real struggle against the bureaucracy. According to contemporary Trotskyism the proletariat’s objective has remained unchanged for more than a century: expropriate the bourgeoisie. But this objective is now being accomplished: not by the proletariat, but by the bureaucracy. Trotskyism cannot admit this, since to do so would mean that the existence of a “Fourth International” with the expropriation of the bourgeoisie as its basic programme would thus be worthless, given that in reality Stalinism also has such a programme, and indeed is constantly accomplishing it. Unable to recognise this basic truth, the “Fourth International” is not only obliged to constantly lie about the true course of Stalinism, but also to attach imaginary characteristics to it. This is the reasoning behind such ideas as “Stalinism=reformism”, “countries in the Russian zone=capitalist countries”, “Russia=a workers’ state we must defend”, etc. This also explains why the “Fourth International”, given its programmatic and ideological basis, is unable to carry out the fundamental task of a revolutionary organisation in the current period, which is to explain and make clear to the masses that the goal of the proletarian revolution cannot just be the expropriation of the bourgeoisie and “planning”: but rather, the abolition of both the bourgeoisie and the bureaucracy, the abolition of the distinction between order-givers and order-takers in the economy and across society, and workers’ self-management of the economy.

The same attitude of empty chatter passes for the Trotskyist leadership’s “position” on the question of perspectives for war. Since March 1948, the month when our tendency explained to the party why the perspective of a third world war was objectively written into reality – an absolute inevitability – a crucial moment expressing the global tendency towards the concentration of the productive forces in the hands of a single imperialism, we watched with astonishment and disgust as the majority “theorists” addressed the idea of the coming war independently of any theoretical context, resorting to a base demagogy in order to attack us, declaring that war was not “inevitable”, that we had a defeatist attitude as regards the [potential for] revolution, etc. The passage devoted to this question in the majority theses for the PCI Fifth Congress was itself eloquent enough on this score: “It is clear that in the absence of a victorious proletarian revolution, ultimately war is inevitable, but the timing and its pace are yet to be determined... world war is the result of the whole social and economic process whose most important conditions are the absence of any immediate danger of revolution (defeat, or acceptance of the war) and economic impasse, conditions which today are yet to be fulfilled. Moreover, the Kremlin bureaucracy continues its policy of peaceful co-existence, preferring compromise to a test of strength. Recent diplomatic events demonstrate this. Without wanting to exaggerate their importance nor hide the difficulties of such a compromise, we are not faced with imminent war”. Even beyond the level of discussion – on the terrain of bad punditry – we must note the superficial and gratuitous character of these claims, which are deliberately blurred and ambiguous. What “timing and pace” needs to be determined? Since when has Marxist analysis of the fundamental dynamics at work been replaced with weather forecasts for the next few days? In what sense is there no economic impasse? And how can this idea be reconciled with the understanding which is the foundation for all the majority’s theses, according to which “capitalism has not managed to overcome the crisis emerging from the Second World War”? Why is war only possible after the defeat of the proletariat? For example, where was such a defeat in 1914? Where, in what country is there an “immediate danger of revolution”? Why does the Stalinist bureaucracy prefer (what a turn of phrase) compromise? Is war a question of the “preferences” of the ruling cliques?

In Trotsky’s epigones’ “analyses” we have found nothing beyond such journalistic descriptions, gratuitous assertions and superficial concerns which are cut off from any real content in terms of a class standpoint: advance or retreat, offensive by the bourgeoisie or by the proletariat, war or no war. It is easy to see that any serious bourgeois journalist’s analyses are much more profound than those of these “Marxists”. There is nothing surprising in this: the bourgeoisie bases itself on a realistic point of view, because this expresses the interests of a class which represents a social reality. From this point of view, the Trotskyist “theorists” represent nothing: long having abandoned Marxism, which even without contact with the mass of the working-class could have given them an objective view of reality, they are in the last analysis nothing but an appendage of the Stalinist bureaucracy, whose efforts at mystification they assist in.

As for the building of a revolutionary organisation: the PCI leadership, following sustained mocking of the “intellectualism” of those who, like us, want to make the education of militants a primary task, now discover its value, forgetting however that it is impossible to educate others without first educating yourself. Moreover, fixing organisational objectives with no concern for either one’s potential or indeed the pressing demands of the moment, such as the superficial, general yet persistent agitation for years promoted by the Trotkyist leadership, represents the fact that they are much more concerned with maintaining the fiction – better, the bluff – of a “party” (which is in fact nothing more than an extremely small, and politically very weak, group) rather than effective revolutionary activity within the framework of existing possibilities.

To summarise, it is clear that we diverge from contemporary Trotskyism on almost every point on which disagreement is possible, including historic developments since 1914, the programme of proletarian revolution, the current circumstances and immediate tasks.

So, when we today split with Trotskyism it is not on the simple basis of “disagreements”, however important or however numerous; it is at a deeper level, an understanding of its role in the workers’ movement and its incompatibility with the revolutionary vanguard. For ten years Trotskyism played on the great blank cheque of Trotsky’s heritage and the prestige of Bolshevism. With its rhetoric it attracted advanced workers, but it did not in return supply anything which could allow them to understand the nature of the period and to struggle against the bourgeoisie; on the contrary, its politics regarding the USSR and Stalinism threw these workers into disarray and led them to demoralisation.

The great convulsions among the ranks of the party in recent years are themselves important. As we wrote in our March 1948 text, “The Fourth International is a cog in the machine of the mystification of the proletariat. It is as if its role was to recuperate the vanguard which has broken with the treacherous parties, and to hide from it the question of emancipation from the bureaucrats by presenting the myth of a Bolshevik golden age. This role is concretely played out in the organisational sphere, as we see the tragic swallowing-up of vanguard workers who, having been attracted by the revolutionary rhetoric of the Trotskyist parties, are consumed by its practical work, reduced to the role of functionaries of the intellectual cliques’ decisions and finally pushed out of the organisation by exhaustion, most of them lost to any further political activity”.

As for ourselves: we have drawn the lessons that needed to be drawn from our experience in the PCI. We feel that for the first time a group has broken from Trotskyism in understanding its mystification in a global sense, crystallising not over a particular analytical detail but a full understanding of modern society and the dynamics of history. We have not left in order to rally to some centrist movement like the RDR or to go back home, but rather to lay the foundations for a future revolutionary proletarian organisation. Those still in the PCI who later discover that we have taken the right course will know it is right to join us.

Communist greetings,
Paris, 28th February 1949.

[1] RDR: a short-lived attempt to unite the left outside the social democrats and Stalinists on the basis of hostility to both Washington and Kremlin. Initiated by Jean-Paul Sartre, Georges Altman and David Rousset, the group attracted thousands of members including almost half of the Trotskyists, but soon collapsed due to its ideological vagueness.

[2] The 1938 programme of the Fourth International, setting out a series of demands supposed to represent a "bridge" from capitalism to socialist transformation.

[3] PC: Parti Communiste, Stalinist; PS: Parti Socialiste, social-democratic; CGT: the main trade union federation, largely controlled by the PC.

[4] The PCI newspaper.

[5] József Mindszenty, head of the Hungarian Catholic Church, tortured and subsequently imprisoned after a notorious 1949 show trial.

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Oct 12 2010 07:27


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Oct 12 2010 05:58

Some of the best reading I've laid eyes on in awhile. Aside from the effective rhetoric, I thought a large number of the points could be just as applicable to what currently passes for radical politics, particularly in its activist and academic modes.