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Leon Trotsky 19350812 Preface to P.J. Schmidt’s Article on Holland

Leon Trotsky: Preface to P.J. Schmidt’s Article on Holland

August 12, 1935

[Writing of Leon Trotsky, Vol. 8, 1935-36, New York ²1977, p. 74-76]

The article by Comrade Schmidt, chairman of the Dutch party, is of the greatest importance. The old OSP was closely tied to the SAP. The heads of these two organizations made the same criticisms of us many times. Both organizations signed the Declaration of Four with us at one time. But after that their development proceeded in different directions.

The OSP broke definitively with the philistines and cowards of the de Kadt clique after the shock connected with the Jordaan events. It unified with our Dutch section to take up the struggle for the Fourth International. The SAP renounced its signature and directed its activity with hostility against the left, particularly against the work for the Fourth International. The essential points in this regard have been made in the article on centrist alchemy. That article concludes by stating that the work for the Fourth International must be carried on without the SAP and against the SAP. Amazingly this prediction, which contains a value judgment about the SAP, is now taken up by the latter as a pretext for working against the Fourth International. The absurdity of this “argument” is moreover sufficiently demonstrated by Comrade Schmidt.

The facts and documents presented by Comrade Adolphe in a short document show convincingly that for two years the ICL showed the greatest patience and goodwill toward the SAP, that is, the greatest indulgence toward its centrist weaknesses, in order not to close off the possibility of further collaboration. Many times in the course of those two years, for example, Bauer personally asked me in letters to finally break with the centrists and incorrigible philistines of the SAP. Despite our patience and our truly exaggerated indulgence toward centrist susceptibility, we have subsequently been accused by various individuals of lacking flexibility toward the SAP. We have often heard such criticisms from comrades of the OSP as well.

Thus Schmidt’s article has the greatest demonstrative value. It shows that even with the best intentions of collaborating, if one has revolutionary principles, nothing can be done with the SAP, or at least with its present leadership.

The SAP, as is well known, spares all criticism of its allies on the right. It provides their left flank with a defense. But at the moment when the RSAP is taking a decisive practical step toward the Fourth International, the SAP not only launches a violent criticism against the leadership of this organization, but starts doing faction work inside its “sister party” to tear it away from the Fourth International. Here we see again a confirmation of our analysis: the SAP fights only with the left; with the right it knows only accommodation. Thus it produces a document to show unequivocally its centrist-conservative, rightward-facing character.

The most important section of this in any case important article of Comrade Schmidt is the characterization of the activity — or, more precisely, the inactivity — of the IAG. Comrade Schmidt is not a “malicious Trotskyist” and poisoned opponent of this organization; on the contrary, he is one of its founders and is still at present its general secretary. But he proves that this “Labor Community” is not a community and thus accomplishes no labor. That we foresaw and predicted. The working class cannot be served by fictions. On the contrary, fictions must be swept away in order to clear the path toward the real International.

It is a shame, the forces we expended for the sake of discussion with the SAP, a good-hearted conciliator would say. We have an opposite viewpoint. The struggle against the SAP, that is, against its vague character and vulgar pacifism, against the ambiguity of its formulations and its actions, is an important preparatory school for all the tendencies and organizations moving toward the Fourth International. We are convinced that the RSAP can only gain clarity, cohesion, and fighting capacity in its struggle against the SAP. Moreover, this struggle will also benefit elements in the SAP that are capable of developing. As for us, the hostile and often slanderous writings of the SAP against us will not at all prevent us from waging a common struggle for the Fourth International together with the revolutionary wing of this party, if it actually becomes a political force.

Comrade Schmidt also expresses himself in critical terms in relation to the ICL. His criticism concerns, as he himself says, tactical and organizational questions, and not principled ones.

We do not want to take up here his passing remarks, which we consider erroneous. On the whole we consider our organization only as a constituent part of the Fourth International, which is being built, and if we defend our ideas rather forcefully we are also ready to learn assiduously from our allies. The whole history of the workers’ movement shows that only those who put a certain value on their ideas are able to learn.