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Leon Trotsky 19300121 A New Step Forward

Leon Trotsky: A New Step Forward

January 21, 1930

[Writing of Leon Trotsky, Vol. 2, 1930, New York 1975, p. 76-78]

La Vérité has enlarged its format. The "cell" at Prinkipo hailed this expansion. At the same time, La Lutte was converted into a monthly theoretical journal. Complementing one another, both publications serve one and the same end. This is a serious step forward!

In France right now there is an abundance of quasi-communist and ex-communist publications. One of them was frank enough to remove the label "communist" from its name. We can only welcome this. Labels must correspond to content not only in a pharmacy but also in organizations. There is absolutely no reason to refer to those who retreat to passive trade unionism in the spirit of Loriot as communists. It is true that i?.P. calls its syndicalism "revolutionary." But it is well enough known that the word "revolutionary" — without basic principles, without a program — is easy to come by, especially in France.

Le Cri du peuple falls into a second category. If we needed a mirror that would reflect all the theoretical and political confusion produced by a regime of epigones, this organ of the syndicalist opposition would be it. This publication has the significance of a passing phase. Not one of its participants will remain at this stage for long. Some of them will return to a revolutionary course; then we will see them again. Others will go all the way to "pure" syndicalism, i.e., to bourgeois trade unionism.

It is hardly worth mentioning the name of yet another almost-"communist" and almost-"Oppositionist" organ which expresses nothing and serves no one — except certain individuals with pretensions that are also based on nothing.

Even before La Vérité appeared there was no shortage of prophets who forecast its demise. Some masterminds, trying to make something "profound" out of their own acts of desertion, declared that generally speaking the conditions for a communist party do not exist at the present time. Nevertheless, La Vérité is not only growing and gaining strength, but it has also acquired such a valuable ally in the struggle as La Lutte de classes. La Vérité itself is acquiring a clearer and more distinct appearance. One cannot but agree with our Chinese Comrade N. who wrote not long ago from Shanghai that the Paris La Vérité and the New York Militant are the best publications of the International Left Opposition at the present time.

Loriot, in whom, alas, there remains nothing that is either revolutionary or Marxist, believes that communism has no future at all. The proof? The Opposition has made no progress in France in the last five years. Such is the philosophy of history of a man who has lost his grip!

More than once the proletarian vanguard, and Marxism along with it, has gone through periods of marked decline. To many Loriots of the period 1907-10 it seemed that Bolshevism was doomed to failure. The last half decade has been a time of atrocious mistakes by the Comintern and defeats for the international revolution. The results affected the left wing most severely.

We are weak today, yes; but why? Because the German proletariat suffered a terrible defeat in 1923; because the adventures in Bulgaria and Estonia ended in defeat; because in 1926 the British trade unionists, Stalin's allies, wrecked a mighty revolutionary movement of the masses; because that same year in Poland the Communist Party played a deplorable role; because in 1927 Chiang Kai-shek, with the help of Stalin and Bukharin, crushed the Chinese revolution; because in a number of other countries the proletariat suffered defeats, less dramatic but no less profound; and because in the USSR the bureaucracy has stifled the party. That is why the left wing is weak today! But no matter how large the events just enumerated may loom now, they have a transitory character. We must have the politics of the long view.

There has been, however, a more specific but very important reason for the weakness of the Opposition. In a number of countries, and most of all in France, side by side with the genuine revolutionaries, accidental elements have joined the party, i.e., those who are tired and disillusioned, or still worse, pretentious armchair communists who are unfit for any kind of serious revolutionary struggle and who by their entire conduct can only compromise the banner of the Opposition in the eyes of the workers.

The Russian Opposition has been represented abroad most often by these haphazard elements who not infrequently concluded haphazard alliances, supported haphazard publications, and helped to create haphazard reputations. All this gave rise to a state of confusion, which the workers had no opportunity to analyze. The individual concoctions of one or another malcontent who had joined the Opposition out of chance motives have been published by the official Stalinist party press as if they were the views of the Opposition as a whole. The official press thus consciously sustains and fosters ideological chaos, which is the only way the present bureaucracy can hold on.

La Vérité has introduced, or to put it more modestly, has begun to introduce, order into this chaos. During the short period of this publication's existence, it has been fully confirmed that the Vérité grouping is not accidental, that it is now the basic nucleus of the Communist Left in France, and that the consolidation of the vanguard communist elements will take place around this grouping.

After the strenuous efforts of the first period, the gathering of forces will be accomplished ever more quickly. The revolutionary workers, searching for the correct revolutionary leadership, must be convinced through their own experience that — contrary to the lies and slanders of the Stalinists — the Opposition will not pull them back to syndicalism or to the right toward reformism, and that it in no way seeks to begin history from the beginning, i.e., to build a new party in a new place as if the war, the October Revolution, and the rise of the Third International had never happened.

Not only within the party, with all its numerical weakness, but also around the party, among its sympathizers, and among the million or so who vote for the party, there are thousands and tens of thousands of workers who have learned a great deal, who have serious experience behind them, and who are deeply troubled by the disastrous policies of the Comintern leadership. They lack only the theoretical illumination of their experience to be convinced that they hold the same views as the Opposition. La Vérité hand in hand with La Lutte de classes will bring political clarity into their midst.