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Leon Trotsky 19380121 Letter to the International Secretariat

Letter of Trotsky, January 21 1938

[Internal Bulletin [SWP] No. 5, New York, August 1938, p 25 f.]

Coyoacan, D. F. January 21, 1938

To the International Secretariat,

Copy to all Sections:

Dear Comrades,

It is quite possible that my last letter was not sufficiently explicit, since you have suggested the idea that I retain some illusions on the attitude and on the plans of Comrade Sneevliet, No, unfortunately, after five years of uninterrupted experience, I am not able to permit myself the least illusion. The sole reproach that we can make against ourselves, and I am not excluded in this, is the same as that in the case of Nin: we have been too patient, too indulgent, too tolerant towards the attitude of Comrade Sneevliet, It is always difficult in cases of this nature to ascertain the moment when it is necessary to pass to open struggle, I believe that this moment was determined by the intervention of Sneevliet on the Spanish question. His attitude in this question was an open betrayal of the most elementary principles of revolutionary Marxism and of all our decisions. It is he and his kind who have prompted on the part of the P.O.U.M, added confidence in their own confusion and added distrust toward revolutionary Marxism, We know the result.

Unfortunately, it was precisely at this time that the Moscow trials supervened, the internment, etc, All our sections were absorbed over these new questions and the Dutch problem continued to drag on. The I.S. has done its duty, All that the I.S. has written about and against Sneevliet was and still is absolutely correct. That is precisely the reason why Sneevliet has never dared to respond with political arguments, utilizing instead, and that is his manner, abusive language absolutely intolerable and not at all justified, Sneevliet does not take the least interest in Marxism, in theories, in a general orientation. What, interests him is the N.A.S., a tiny bureaucratic machine, a parliamentary; post, Sneevliet utilizes the banner of the Fourth International above all in order to protect his opportunistic work in Holland. Since the N.A.S. depends financially entirely upon the government, Sneevliet has evaded all precise politics, that is to say, Marxist politics, in order not to provoke the thunder of the government against the N.A.S. The R.S.A.P. has been .and still is nothing more than a political appendage of the N.A.S. which itself is not viable and which has fallen in the last years from 25,000 to 13,000 members and very likely still lower.

On the Spanish question, on the question of the Popular Front, not to speak of internal dutch politics, Sneevliet occupies a posltion that is not in any way superior to that of the parties adhering to the London Bureau. Moreover, he has never concealed having a double connection with the I. S. and with the London Bureau. Practically, ho broke connections with the I.S., it is my belief, a year ago or more. He has utilized this time in order to prepare his organization for the definitive rupture. He has always refused to engage in an honest discussion of: the differences. On the question of Reiss he behaved in an absolutely disloyal manner toward the Russian section, greatly contributing to the tragic denouement.

The l.S. in my opinion has done all that it could in order to facilitate collaboration, and we cannot reproach it with not having succeeded in changing the nature of the leadership of the R.S.A.P., thoroughly opportunistic, syndicalist, and anti-Marxist. That is the incontrovertible conclusion of a long experience, if I proposed that you write a letter once more to Sneevliet, inviting him to participate in the International Conference and demanding the participation of his party in the international discussion, this was not because I personally have the slightest illusions but because I am under the impression that the other sections, particularly those of the New World, have not sufficiently followed the involved development of this problem and that someone might entertain the impression that it could possibly be the incorrect “methods” of the I.S. and not organic opportunism on the part of the R.S.A.P. leadership which has pushed Sneevliet into preparing a break from the Fourth International and eventual adhesion to the London Bureau, (no one has forgotten, I hope, that Sneevliet obstinately fought the resolution of our last International Conference on the London Bureau. This is not astonishing; he felt himself concerned over this resolution.) On December 3, 1937, I sent Sneevliet a personal letter where I made a final endeavor to extract his reply.

He has not responded to this letter. Hence I send a copy of this letter to all sections.

It is necessary that the Dutch question take its place in the international discussion preceding the Conference. It is a question in the first place of analysing the trade union experience of Sneevliet in order to exclude once for all the possibility of analogous policies in other sections. We see that they toy here and there with the idea of their own trade unions.

This policy signifies inevitable ruin. The Fourth International cannot tolerate such a policy in its ranks without inviting death. On this question as on others, the Dutch experience teaches us what must not be done.

I am simultaneously sending an open letter to the press of the R.S.A.P, and I enclose a copy for you

Leon Trotsky