Leon Trotsky‎ > ‎1935‎ > ‎

Leon Trotsky 19350500 Laval and the French CP

Leon Trotsky: Laval and the French CP

May 1935

[Writing of Leon Trotsky, Vol. 14, New York 1979, p. 578-580]

During the municipal election campaign in France at the end of April, minister of foreign affairs Laval had a peculiar run-in with the Communist Party in the electoral district of Aubervilliers, the municipality where Laval is the mayor. The Communists accused Laval of not wanting to sign the pact with the Soviet Union, of not wanting to help assure peace in that way. In a special poster, Laval reproached “the representatives, authorized or not, of the Third International” for violently attacking him just at the time of his negotiations with the Soviets; and at the same time he denied that his opponents had the right to speak in the name of the Soviet government. This electoral squabble interests us only insofar as it brought into the open for a moment a delicate question that by all appearances has occupied and continues to occupy no small place in the diplomatic negotiations of the West European states with Moscow: the question of the relationship between the Soviet government and the Third International.

For the past sixteen years, i.e., from the day the Comintern was founded, in Europe and America it has become firm tradition to identify the Comintern with the Soviet government. This identification — of course not accidental — had two versions: the White Russian emigres have declared the “anti-national” Kremlin government to be simply an agent of the International; on the other hand, foreign governments and especially the press have declared that the International is simply an agent of Soviet national diplomacy. No matter how logical the purely juridical arguments used by the Kremlin to refute both versions might have been, the opponents did not feel the least convinced. They knew that the founder and inspirer of the International was Lenin, the head of the Soviet government; and that the Bolshevik Party — through its Central Committee, which formed not only the Council of People’s Commissars but also the presidium of the Comintern — had played a decisive role in the life of the International as well as of the Soviet state. By comparison with those facts, the question of monetary subsidies from the Bolshevik Party to foreign sections was only secondary.

How sensitive and irritating this question is to the government of Great Britain is well known. A careful reading of the official communique on the results of Eden’s visit to Moscow makes it possible, even without the aid of the British press, to suppose that the question of the subsequent fate of the Comintern, persistently raised by the lord privy seal [Eden], prompted a reassuring enough explanation from the Soviet government. The French foreign minister’s election poster, denying that the French Communists have the right to speak in the name of the Soviet government, seems to mark a new stage of development in an area that has also troubled French official opinion more than a little. The fair share of irony that can be seen in the poster by the mayor of Aubervilliers does not lessen the fact that the French minister of foreign affairs, in the midst of the process of negotiating with Moscow, is making a political declaration whose meaning can be expressed roughly as follows: there is no reason to fear that French Communists can in any way influence future relations between Paris and Moscow.

We will say it straight out: we believe that the French minister of foreign affairs is absolutely right in his statement. We have in mind, in this regard, not the juridical side of the matter, which has remained, if you will, unchanged; but the political side, which for the past ten to twelve years has changed radically.