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Leon Trotsky 19390214 Letter to the POI Central Committee

Leon Trotsky: Letter to the POI Central Committee

February 14, 1939

[Writing of Leon Trotsky, Vol. 14, New York 1979, p 822 f.]

Dear Comrades:

We are very worried here about the situation in France. During the international conference [in September 1938] it was decided, as I understood it, that the POI would assign a significant part of its membership to work within the PSOP. There was talk of a third or a quarter. Unfortunately, nothing was done. Why? Here we do not know. We were prevented from being able to go through an important experience during recent months, and perhaps from heading off the split.

The split is now a fact. I don’t regard this as a tragedy. While it is an important question, it remains despite everything a purely tactical one. Our comrades have enough character not to get lost in the PSOP. It seems there was a certain danger from the other side. The split was determined by the long stagnation (for which there are good reasons) and by the recent error noted above. We must politically adjust to this fact.

It seems however that some comrades among you are inclined to consider the entry into the PSOP as a betrayal. That would be a very great error, which could isolate you in France and in the International. You have the newspaper, a powerful tool; you can influence the activities of the faction in the PSOP provided that you set yourselves the task of aiding them, not compromising them.

Do not forget, dear comrades, that everyone is wondering how and why this stagnation and even decline came about in such favorable conditions. Everyone is inclined in advance to approve and uphold the faction that is seeking new, practical ways to act. If you were to appear to the International as simple conservatives and especially as “saboteurs” of the initiative of the other part of the section, the results would be fatal for the POI.

Nothing is lost or compromised if our friends of the POI do not let themselves be carried away by a purely formal intransigence or a sectarian spirit.

The Americans have made a magnificent effort to help you. They have demonstrated their ability to maneuver in very complicated conditions. They have not experienced any stagnation. On the contrary, they have grown. In passing, they have practically liquidated the Socialist Party. They are moving forward. In these conditions the French section can indeed profit not only from their money, but also from their experience. Cannon has an excellent political flair. I am sure he can be very useful to the French section during the period of this delicate turn.

We would be very happy here to learn your current thinking on the situation, and your plans for the future.