Leon Trotsky‎ > ‎1930‎ > ‎

Leon Trotsky 19300925 Letter to the Executive Committee of the French League

Leon Trotsky: Letter to the Executive Committee of the French League

September 25, 1930

[Writing of Leon Trotsky, Vol. 2, 1930, New York 1975, p. 386-388, title: “The Internal Situation of the French League”]

To the Executive Committee of the French League

Dear Comrades,

I have received a letter dated the twenty-ninth from Comrade Naville in which he says, referring to the comrades of the EC:

"They are unanimous in thinking that it is absolutely necessary that I contact you about international questions that are of particular importance in Paris. As far as the League's situation is concerned, they thought that although it would be useful for me to go over the situation with you, it is on the other hand indispensable that the political questions be presented and settled out in the open at a national conference of the French Opposition. At present we are oriented toward the preparations for this conference."

Unfortunately Comrade Naville explains the decision of the EC instead of citing it. This always impairs accuracy. But if the explanation is correct, comrades, I cannot hide my astonishment from you. On Comrade Naville's initiative, as I understand it, you have found it necessary to inform me that questions arising in the French League can only be settled by the French League (its conference, its executive committee, etc.). That means that you suppose I am capable of asserting that I can solve questions in private which can only be resolved out in the open by a national conference. This supposition or, if you will, this suspicion so openly contradicts all elementary ideas about organizational life that I cannot but repeat my astonishment and my regret at not having received the full text of your decision.

For a long time I have carried on correspondence with Comrade Naville on the April international conference and I found that it was necessary to dwell at length upon the impermissibility of resolving questions in the corridors instead of formally presenting them to the body in question.

The question I emphasized most sharply during Comrade Naville's most recent visit was not the international question, precisely because personal "contact" could not accomplish much in this area. The question which preoccupied me in connection with Comrade Naville's visit (aside from the personal desire to see him here) was that of attempting through an absolutely private and personal intervention to aid in lessening the internal crisis, which flows from differences in methods, but which can lead to very serious personal conflicts and frictions. This was not, I repeat, a case of my infringing upon the rights of the League in any way. It is the conference which should speak on all questions that are placed before it. But, comrades, there is also the way the conference is prepared and the way questions are put before it. If there is a serious but not irresolvable conflict, if there is goodwill on both sides for avoiding the most discouraging and demoralizing forms of personal struggle, one can always obtain results that are altogether preliminary and provisional, but of great importance. This was the task I set myself for the encounter in question.

I can testify that I found there was no question of Comrade Molinier's goodwill. Unfortunately I cannot say as much about Comrade Naville.

Your resolution and Comrade Naville's attitude during this last period might really give the impression that I intervened in this conflict on my own initiative. Even though I believe that such an initiative would not in any way be reprehensible, I must underline the fact that I only intervened in this question on the initiative of the French comrades, Comrade Naville above all. He was the one who sent me a letter with three signatures (Naville, Gourget, Gerard), which informed me in general terms about the conflict. Even my first impression, based almost entirely on my rather abundant correspondence with Comrade Naville, was not only extremely painful, but allowed me to anticipate the altogether disastrous consequences the conflict could have for the young organization. For me it was not a question of the political fate of a single comrade who faced expulsion (an important enough question in itself). It was a question of the methods of the leadership of the organization, which I found far more dangerous than the evil, real or imaginary, that they were supposed to counteract. I did not hide my preliminary, summary opinion from Comrade Naville, but being called upon to intervene by Comrade Naville I found it my duty to obtain more complete information on the matter, that is, to establish contact with Comrade Molinier regarding these questions. I must emphasize that this whole episode, including Comrade Molinier's journey, was the result of Comrade Naville's initiative, since Comrade Molinier had never written anything to me about the conflict before then and did not ask for my intervention, and that I invited him on my own initiative, just as I had Comrade Naville before him.

Even if Comrade Naville subsequently found my intervention to be an intrusion (which of course does not mean to me that I would call a halt to activity I had already begun in order to serve the League), he had no reason to initiate your resolution because I don't believe that by inviting me to intervene he himself envisaged infringing in this way on the rights and duties of the League.

Comrade Naville writes: "At the present time, the interned crisis in the League is somewhat localized." No, on the contrary, it is in the process of being internationalized. I have been able to verify this at every step during the past month. In the last few days I have been able to verify it once again, in the Hungarian episode, the Landau letter, etc. Since you believe that these questions should be settled out in the open at the national conference, I will have no other choice but to follow your lead and present to the members of the League my opinion on the whole complex of questions, just as I am following Comrade Naville's lead in addressing myself to you for this explanation.

As for the situation of our international organization, we have elaborated proposals here that I see as a minimum of necessary reforms for bettering the compromise situation that has existed since the month of April. Of course I would be more than happy to discuss this question again with Comrade Naville, but I ask you to analyze our proposals in your official capacity as the Executive Committee and to communicate your opinion to us, so that later the necessary course of action can be undertaken in an energetic and cooperative fashion before all the sections in order to activate and normalize our international work.

In regard to Comrade Landau's letter and the position taken by Comrade Naville on somewhat analogous questions on the internal conflict in Germany — I feel it is necessary that representation in the bureau (?) or the provisional secretariat (?) not be one-sided. If Comrade Naville represents the point of view of the majority of the EC, I feel it is necessary that there be representation from the Russian Opposition. Naturally both can present themselves as representatives of the International Opposition and act in full accord.