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Leon Trotsky 19300510 Letter to Klorkeit and to the Jewish Workers in France

Leon Trotsky: Letter to Klorkeit and to the Jewish Workers in France

May 10, 1930

[Leon Trotsky, On the Jewish Question. New York 1970, p. 14 f., other title "The Role of the Jewish Workers Within the General Workers' Movement in France."]

Dear Comrades

Many thanks for your thorough and interesting letter which for the first time gave me a review of the Jewish workers' movement in Western Europe. I rejoice at the tone of active optimism which emerges from the lines and which certainly reflects the spirit of your organization. In addition, Comrade Fr. [Pierre Frank] has already related to me with great sympathy the militant spirit of the Jewish Opposition Group in Paris.

The idea of transforming Klorkeit into an international Jewish organ is an interesting one. But as yet I have no clear view of the relationship this would have to the national movements and to the Opposition organizations involved. The more Klorkeit becomes "international" in the technical sense, the more it will have to assume a theoretic-propagandistic character, because it will naturally not be able to deal with the specific political questions of each separate country.

I maintain that it is without a doubt the greatest obligation of the Jewish workers in France, just as in other countries, to participate in the workers' movement of the land in which they live, work and struggle. Do the Jewish workers in France, in their majority, consider themselves permanent immigrants, or do they expect to leave the country in the near future? I believe the first is more correct. If this is the case, it is very important to acquire the French language. In the given situation, this is not only in the individual interest of each person, but also in the political interest of the French and international working class. Sixty thousand Jewish workers in Paris is a great force. The foreign workers in France will represent above all a very great factor in the development of the country, even more powerful than the Negroes in America, with whom they have in common only their pariah status.

Traditionally the purely French organizations do not have a mass character. To an extent they are based on a political and trade union "aristocracy” of the working class. The overwhelming majority remain unorganized and distant from the activities of the political and trade union organizations. In France this is the cardinal question. It seems to me that the role the foreign workers play in France today will shake up the country's strong conservatism, Since the foreign workers represent in their greatest majority the lower layers of the country's proletariat, they are thereby close to, tied to, and share the same fate as the bottom layers of the native proletariat, which remains, however, most distant from the official organizations. The foreign workers are of a different mind, just because they are foreign; of an emigrant spirit, more mobile, more receptive to revolutionary ideas. That is why the ideology of communism can gain the respect of the foreign workers and can make them a powerful instrument in penetrating the whole French working class.

Your group as well as the other groups must have a clear appreciation of this great historic mission. Naturally, not in the spirit of some national messianic pride —there can be no talk of that —but in the spirit of a great international obligation. In this connection I posed the question of the character of Klorkeit. It will of course not serve to tear away the Jewish workers from the workers' movement of the specific countries, as was previously the case with the press of the Jewish "Bund," but on the contrary — to bring them into the life of that working class.

As regards the general Opposition, it must find among the foreign workers a field of work that is not only important but also very opportune. The bureaucratism of the official party [Communist Party—Ed.] organization, which devastates everything, must first of all hit hardest at the weakest part, and these are naturally the foreign workers. Since the latter are, because of their socially inferior position, more inclined to be critical, I believe that it is possible through a great, conscious, and truly self-sacrificing action to build up the Opposition as the crystallized center of the majority of the foreign workers.

My heartfelt greetings to all the members of the group. Yours,

L. Trotsky

(Prinkipo, Turkey)