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Leon Trotsky 19380729 Fusion With the Lovestoneites?

Leon Trotsky: Fusion With the Lovestoneites?

July 29, 1938

[Writing of Leon Trotsky, Vol. 14, New York 1979, p 776-778]

Weber: The Lovestoneites have been discussing in their organ the question of unity with us. My impression is that Lovestone is absolutely opposed, but the rank and file have a sentiment for unity. Shouldn't we have interfered? Do you think we should have taken this question up in our press, intervened at that point, and have said something about it?

Trotsky: I believe we must approach this question in a very calm, serious, and even friendly manner. One thing is we must continue our polemical articles against Lovestone, but if we have an objective reason for affirming that some part of the Lovestoneites are willing to merge with us, we will say, of course we should be glad to realize such a fusion. The question is only on what basis.

It is indisputable that in some very important questions the divergences are diminishing. In the very acute question of the Moscow trials, the question is whether we are revolutionary communists or fascists. The question, I believe, is a very important one, especially for a merger. Yesterday they were of the opinion that we were fascists and now, God be thanked, they understand that we are not fascists. Good. In the whole appreciation of the Stalinist regime (the appreciation of the Moscow trials is only a small part of the appreciation of the Soviet state)—yes, we see here some rapprochement to our point of view, but a very important question remains.

If we diverge only five or ten degrees, the international divergence is tremendous. Now what is our international point of view—the London Bureau or the Fourth International? That is the question. In Spain it is the POUM and a revolutionary party. That is the question. We cannot merge with the POUM and we cannot merge with the London Bureau. You must check your national orientation by its international projectives. That is for you the question and we will discuss with you frankly the questions which we have discussed with you in the past, on the basis of our existence as an independent organization. There was the Russian Revolution. Here is a test. Then it was the Chinese Revolution—we began with this. The Anglo-Russian Committee, the attitude towards the labor party and the trade unions.

Now we have had new experiences of tremendous size and it seems this time we have organized into a new International. We have a program of transitional demands. What do you say about this? Our appreciation of the centrists? Our appreciation of the POUM? The labor party? I believe most important now is the POUM because of the defeat of the Spanish revolution. I thank you very much, Mr. Bertram Wolfe, that I am not an agent of Hitler, but what do you think of the POUM?

Weber: In case of a concrete proposal for fusion, could we admit into our party such men as Lovestone, Wolfe?

Trotsky: I believe that it is excluded that we can work with these men. It is my sincere conviction that the old generation is completely consumed, used up. We see that even in our own ranks. It is difficult to work with the old people—Sneevliet, Serge, and even Rosmer. Vereecken too belongs to the old generation. Because of the catastrophes, a series of defeats, they have been ground down and now their dissatisfaction with the march of history makes them very critical and distrustful; they have no patience, and patience is a very necessary quality in a revolutionary. Every time they see the cause in our own movement, because it is not strong. That is why we must base ourselves on the youth, our only elements who are sufficiently persistent and strong to go forward after all defeats.

Now Lovestone and similar people showed fifteen years ago that they are only bureaucrats who adapt themselves to everyone in power. First Lenin and Trotsky, then Zinoviev, Kamenev, and then Stalin, and as Stalin was the last hope, they remained with him until the last moment. Now they are with Martin in the automobile union in the sense that in their trade union work they support Martin. They are absolutely incapable of going with the masses against the leaders. Their whole mentality is to adopt some leader. It is possible that they can even adapt themselves to us for a time.

That is why we must proceed in a quiet and free manner towards the rank and file and check the leaders by concrete questions in the discussion. We saw with the Musteites that the less prominent leaders were eliminated in the discussion [in 1934]. Then Muste remained a short time. Also it is possible that Wolfe and Lovestone will split. We cannot see these details, but if it is a necessary conjunctural episode we can accept even that only with the condition that he begins with our present divergences—the question of Spain.

Weber: On the question of defense groups, this question arose also in France. It arose at that time through Craipeau, and here it also has a practical significance in our attempt to build our defense group in Newark, although I think our own forces are so small that they are discouraged at the idea of forming a defense group; there are so few who would fit into that kind of work. Still we would form such a group, but would it be possible to take workers from the Workers Alliance and from unions to try to form a larger body and thus give encouragement to ours?

Trotsky: I believe it is the only one road if you have the slightest possibility to do it. Of course we can begin only with the selection of some militant elements as future organizers, not in the name of our party but in the trade unions, Workers Alliance, etc., for it is clear that they will be the first victims of fascist gangsters. Then it is only the question of forming such groups and connecting these groups together. Our comrades should try to be the link between different groups.

But this work should be put on the base of existing mass organizations. In Germany it was the question whether these organizations should fight. It was the united front. The Social Democrats had their Iron Front with Catholics, etc., with bourgeois parties. Our problem was that the Social Democratic organization should separate from the bourgeois and unite with the Red Front. Here it is the question only to inculcate the necessity of the party. There it was the question of which party to join. Here the problem is that we must inculcate into existing organizations the necessity of defending themselves. In order to overthrow society we must have these defense groups. We must for a long time give them the character of a defense organization. We must defend our rights and existence.