OF THE SIXTH ECCI PLENUM
ON THE FRENCH QUESTION
14 March 1926
Thesen und Resolutionen, VI Plenum, p. 112
THE ECONOMIC SITUATION
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The roots of the permanent parliamentary crisis lie in the disparity between the shrunken economic role of the petty bourgeoisie and their political influence.
The masses who followed the left bloc and were demoralized by its impotence have begun to lose faith in its policy and are turning more to the left. It is the task of our
party to take advantage of this leftward movement of the working masses in order to unite with them in the coming class struggles.
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The Role of the Proletariat and the Party
The changes which have taken place in the structure of the national economy and in France's political position raise in acute form the question of the role of the proletariat in the coming events. The proletariat cannot remain a passive observer of the struggle now being waged between large-scale capital and the petty bourgeoisie it has dispossessed. Already in the fight against the war in Morocco and Syria the proletariat showed that it is the only class which consistently resists the imperialist policy of the French bourgeoisie and seizes the initiative in this movement.
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Our party must realize that unless it wins the unions, and unless the overwhelming majority of the working class enters its ranks, the proletariat cannot wage its class struggle successfully. It must be frankly admitted that until now the CPF has had influence only over the vanguard of the labour movement. The socialist party follows in the wake of the petty bourgeoisie and the politically backward working strata. Out of this situation the right wing in the French party has constructed an entire theory, according to which the fight between the big and petty bourgeoisie about inflation, taxes, inter-allied debts is of no concern to the proletariat.
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In France we are faced with the following alternatives:
Either the proletariat will succeed in winning the majority of the petty bourgeoisie and the peasants and solve the present crisis in a revolutionary way at the expense of largescale capital, or, as in Italy, the petty bourgeoisie will follow large-scale capital, which will establish a reactionary regime resting on the intensified exploitation of the proletariat and the petty bourgeoisie and transferring the entire burden of the crisis on to them.
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THE SITUATION WITHIN THE PARTY AND THE TASKS OF THE
The dissensions in the French party go beyond the limits of the typical crises which have occurred in various sections of the CI in the last few years. We are faced with a wholly peculiar disorder in a party which has undoubtedly made a great advance in the last three years towards bolshe-vization but has not yet faced the test of civil war.
The Ideological Weaknesses of the Party
Three years ago the party went through a very severe crisis, in which it cleansed itself of opportunist elements of the Frossard type. In its social composition it has become a real workers' party.
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But since it is composed mainly of the younger generation who came to communism after the war without serious Marxist training, and since this younger generation has not yet assimilated in the course of class struggles the necessary experience in the application of Leninist tactics, the ideological basis of the party is still insecure.
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The Lack of Experience in Revolutionary Struggle
In addition to this ideological weakness the French party lacks politically trained cadres, lacks the firmness which is won in the course of hard struggles.
It has known neither civil war nor defeats; it lives under a regime of legality; its political experience is extremely limited and its mass movements take the form of strikes and
street demonstrations which at the most lead to collisions with the police. That is why bolshevization has not penetrated as deeply in France as in those parties which have conducted mass struggles.
Underestimating the Right
The right danger is not felt so acutely in France as in those countries which have gone through a period of civil war. The workers in France have not had the opportunity of judging the attitude of a Souvarine at the moment of armed struggle, as their German brothers could judge Paul Levi during the March action. The French communists still have only an abstract idea of Souvarine's treachery. Hence we are threatened by an underestimation of the right danger. Nevertheless this danger is knocking loudly on the party's door. It comes less from Souvarine's group of petty-bourgeois intellectuals than from certain syndicalists who are allied with the right and who have not yet given up their outdated ideas about the autonomy of the trade union movement. Their ideology is expressed in the organ published by Rosmer and Monatte.
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Lack of experience in class struggle has held up the development of the party and prevented it from fully grasping its ultra-left mistakes.
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Since these ultra-left mistakes had no serious practical consequences for the mass of the party, it could not evaluate them correctly.
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Relations between Party and Trade Unions
The basic prerequisites for contact with the broad masses which will enable the party to play its leading part in the labour movement are good contacts between party and trade unions and a precise understanding of the role of trade unions.
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The active members of the party and the CGTU must understand that the normal development of the trade union movement and the party can be ensured only by cooperation based on a correct policy and on mutual confidence. Comrades working in the unions must realize that they remain party militants within the unions, carrying
out the general directives of the party.
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Through Trade Unions to the Masses
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The absence of normal relations between the party and the unions is proof of a crisis in the attitude of the party and the CGTU to the masses. The failure of our party to increase in numbers, and the loss of members by many unions—and this at a time of severe financial crisis, of inflation, of impoverishment of the middle strata, of disintegration in the old parties, of a breakdown of parliamentarism, of two colonial wars and of increasing mass discontent—are extremely disquieting for the entire party and the CGTU, and must bring home to them that there is something that needs to be changed in their attitude to the masses.
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The Tactical Mistakes of the Party
The party should not renounce partial demands, which may become the starting-point, within the capitalist framework, of a great mass move-ment, simply because they appear immediately realizable in the eyes of the masses. Such partial demands could include:
(a) cancellation of the internal debt at the expense of the banks and large-scale capital;
(b) the entire burden of taxation to be transferred to the rich;
(c) strict measures against the flight of capital abroad, etc. These slogans cannot be embodied in the programme of revolutionary measures to be taken by a workers' and peasants' government, for they would deprive it of its truly revolutionary character. Although in fact they cannot be put through by any bourgeois government, they seem to the masses to be capable of immediate realization, and they are therefore appropriate for mobilizing the masses, carrying them along, and convincing them of the need for a workers' and peasants' government and of the more radical revolutionary measures contained in its programme.
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The wars in Morocco and Syria give the party the opportunity of continuing its activities against war by intensifying its anti-militarist work. It must also utilize these convulsions in French imperialism to place its work in the French colonies, particularly those in the Mediterranean, on a broad footing.
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Within the Party
In this sphere the party must first of all liquidate what remains of the old group disputes within the leadership, by concentrating its attention on the dangers from the right.
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Any attempt to place the leadership of the party in the hands of a single group would inevitably encounter active resistance from the party. The task of the leading group of the CPF requires that the basis of the party leadership be expanded.
It must also rally all the forces of the party on the platform laid down by the ECCI against the right-wing elements, which disorganize the party at the moment when it is preparing for immediately forthcoming struggles.
(a) Realization of democracy within the party; abandonment of exaggerated centralism in the party apparatus; more initiative in the local organizations, closer contact between these and the centre; appointment of a secretary at the centre to maintain contact with provincial organizations.
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(c) The party centre, as the organ of party leadership, must supervise the work of the political bureau more effectively.
(d) Establishment of normal relations between all party bodies and members of the trade union organizations on the basis of closest collaboration and the
fundamental directives issued by the party.
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(f) Practical leadership of the parliamentary fraction by the centre, which must pay greater attention to the political work of the deputies.
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Resolution on the Right Wing
The party must come out emphatically against the ideological deviations of the right wing, against their disruptive activities, and against their lack of discipline. But in this struggle it must bear in mind that the right is by no means uniform.
The former policy of the party made a certain number of members discontented, and they attached themselves to the right, not because they agreed with its socialdemocratic or syndicalist programme, but because they were critical of the mechanization of the party's internal life, of its failure to adopt a correct attitude to the unions, of its left slogans and left policy.
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There is no doubt that the changes made by the conference of 2 December in the policy and the internal regime of the party, as well as in relations with the trade union movement, endorsed and expanded by the plenum, give all those who were justifiably dissatisfied, but who remained faithful to their party and the International, the possibility of working for their party.
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The right have raised the question of the readmission of those expelled. The International has never refused to readmit those who, when expelled, remained loyal and disciplined communists, or who recognized and condemned their errors and expressed the wish to return to the International. Certain conditions were made to Souvarine after the fifth world congress; he did not keep to them and the presidium has rejected his request for readmission; the enlarged Executive endorses the decision of the presidium.
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The enlarged Executive summons the right categorically to abandon all solidarity with these elements whose aim is to disintegrate the party from outside, to break with them finally, and to work loyally within the party on the basis of the political line laid down by the party and the International.