Article paru dans le Socialist standard (journal du S.P.G.B.) de novembre 1930 qui traite du Bureau de Londres et de sa section française, le Parti socialiste communiste (qui devenait en décembre le Parti d’unité prolétarienne). Nous nous efforcerons de traduire prochainement ce texte en français.
Our readers will be familiar with the Socialist Party’s attitude towards the "Labour and Socialist International," which is a loose association of parties like the Labour Party and the I.L.P., and towards the "Third (Communist) International." We are hostile to the national parties on account of their failure to accept and apply the principles of Socialism, and equally hostile to the international federations which cannot be more advanced than the affiliated organisations themselves.
The "Labour and Socialist International" is composed of parties which are prepared to support the capitalist class in their wars, and are prepared either alone or in coalition with Liberals and Tories, to carry on the administration of the capitalist system.
The "Third International" differs from its rival in several important respects, but its aims and methods are no less dangerous to the working class. It is rigidly centralised, but the control of the organisation is not in the hands of the affiliated parties. These latter are in the position of having their policies, dictated to them by the Russian party. The policies are in line with the wishes of the Russian government, but not necessarily in line with working-class interests. So we see the Communists advocating the dangerous tactic of violence and giving support to capitalist parties (e.g., the Labour Party). The Socialist movement is not helped, but hindered, by such methods.
It is an encouraging sign that there are now quite a number of parties abroad whose experiences during and since the war have taught them that neither of the international federations is deserving of the support of Socialists. While such an attitude is not of itself proof of sound Socialist principles, it is full of promise for the future. An attempt has been made by some of these parties to lay the foundation for
THE INTERNATIONAL BUREAU OF REVOLUTIONARY SOCIALIST PARTIES.
The International Bureau has affiliated to it parties in France, Germany, Italy, Rumania, Russia, and Jugo-Slavia. In addition, a Norwegian party endorses its attitude towards the existing internationals. Reports of the Bureau’s Congresses show that, for most of the delegates, association with either of these bodies is unthinkable, and it is claimed by the Secretary of the Bureau, Angelica Balabanoff, that the constituent parties, that "at least the majority," are Marxist. It is important to notice, however, that the Bureau has no formal constitution. That being so, it is difficult to see how the International Bureau can take the very necessary steps to see that its affiliated bodies are parties which conform to the essentials of Socialist principles and policy. We read, for example, that Maxton and Brockway, of the I.L.P., have indicated their "interest and sympathy." If the Bureau had a formal constitution based on Marxian principles, these two advocates of alliance with the parties of capitalism would have known that they could not give support to it.
In the absence of such a constitution, the soundness of the organisation can only be tested by an examination of its affiliated parties. The principles of one of them, the French party, are examined below.
THE SOCIALIST-COMMUNIST PARTY OF FRANCE.
The Socialist-Communist Party was formed in 1922 by members of the Communist Party who found intolerable the way in which the Moscow organisation habitually ignored and countermanded the decisions arrived at by the Congresses of the French party, especially in view of the fact that Moscow’s orders were not of a kind to further the interests of the working class. The new organisation at its Congress in 1923 adopted the following declaration as a basis of "reconstituting the unity of the working class" :—
“The formation of a class political party for the revolutionary conquest of power by the workers, with a view to securing, by means of a temporary and impersonal dictatorship of the whole working class, the disappearance of the State and the substitution of socialism or communism for capitalism. The utilisation of all means for ameliorating the workers’ conditions of life ; the refusal to vote for capitalist budgets and refusal to participate in the government of capitalism ; opposition to war making, accepting the principle of ‘insurrection rather than war’.”
The party’s attitude to political action is rather obscure. It repudiates the Communist policy of a violent seizure of power by a minority, and it takes part in national and local elections, but "without attaching to elections exceptional importance . . . attributing to them chiefly a propaganda value."
The Socialist-Communist Party’s views on many questions are set out in a pamphlet, "L’Unité Ouvrière Nationale et Internationale" (Working Class Unity, National and International), written by the General Secretary, Paul Louis, and published by the party at 12, Rue Rochambeau, Paris 9.
The main argument of the pamphlet is that, were the working class re-united, Socialism would be obtainable. Unity is to be achieved largely through the instrumentality of an international organisation. The writer, Paul Louis, entirely overlooks the point, which is of the utmost importance, that the working class have never yet been united in any country on a Socialist programme. If they had, the existing divisions could never have arisen.
He makes the serious mistake of supposing that the British Labour Party and the I.L.P. are parties of Marxians. Let us therefore repeat that the Labour Party in this country has never at any time had Socialism as its objective. Its aim has been, and is, some form or other of nationalisation or State capitalism. The Labour Party and the I.L.P. have never even claimed to be Marxian bodies, in which respect they are superficially unlike the Labour Parties in the Continental countries which have made that claim. The difference is, however, one of appearances only. Neither in France nor Germany has the nominal acceptance of Marxian principles meant the application of those principles to policy. The behaviour of the German and French parties in 1914 sufficiently demonstrated that.
When, therefore, Paul Louis writes of "re-uniting" the working class, he is overlooking the fact that the working class have not been won over to Socialism in any country. The majority of them do not want Socialism and do not understand it. That being so, it is mere illusion to imagine that working-class unity on a Socialist basis is attainable at present. A Socialist Party cannot yet be more than a minority party.
Paul Louis is similarly mistaken when he writes of the International having broken down only in 1914.
The International had not been built up on a Socialist basis, as was shown before 1914 by its admission to membership of such parties as the Labour Party, the I.L.P., and the French and German Parties, none of which were based on Socialist principles and policy. The anti-Socialist character of the International was perceived by the Socialist Party of Great Britain long before 1914. We foretold that it would be as useless in war as in peace, and we withdrew long before the outbreak of war proved the correctness of our condemnation.
Paul Louis may say that it is not that kind of unity which his party seeks to reconstitute. But if that is the case, then it is essential that each national party and the International itself should be firmly based upon a clear declaration of essential Socialist principles. The objective of common or social ownership, must be clearly understood (this alone would rule out the parties now in the Labour and Socialist International, all of which are supporters of nationalisation or State capitalism).
There must be no room for policies of minority action and armed revolt.
There must be no collaboration with capitalist parties. (This would rule out not only the Labour Party and the I.L.P., both of which are prepared to co-operate with Liberals and Tories in the administration of capitalism, but would also rule out the Communist Parties, which for years have urged the workers to vote for the Labour Parties.)
There must be no room in a Socialist International for any but Socialist parties. And this being so, there could be no purpose in forming an international organisation except upon a definitely constituted Socialist basis. If the affiliated parties are Socialist parties then they can and will undertake to conform to Socialist principles.
The work of making Socialists has to precede the growth of the separate Socialist parties, and their construction on a sound basis must precede the formation of an effective international.
If Paul Louis envisages the reverse process, he has failed to read aright the lessons of past attempts at building national and international Socialist organisations.
We would welcome some further information on the aims and methods of the French Socialist-Communist Party.
First we would like to know exactly what is its objective. It ought, of course, to be unnecessary to ask such a question of a party which declares its aim to be Socialism and declares its acceptance of Marxian theories. Unfortunately, the Labour Parties in all countries have misused the word Socialism, and applied it to their aim of state capitalism, which leaves intact the division of society into a propertied class and a class of property-less wage-earners.
Secondly, we would like to know exactly where the Socialist-Communist Party stands with regard to the use of the vote. If, as appears to be the case, they regard elections as having chiefly a propaganda value, how do they propose to gain control of the political machinery, without which Socialism cannot be achieved ?
Thirdly, does the Socialist-Communist Party rule out entirely the policy of collaboration with the non-Socialist parties, including the parties in the Labour and Socialist International and the parties in the Third International?
The Socialist Party of Great Britain is not prepared to join with parties whose aims and methods are contrary to the interests of the working class and a hindrance to the achievement of Socialism. The Labour and Communist Parties are parties to which that condemnation applies. It is our experience that any other policy is fatal for a Socialist organisation.
- Le Parti d’unité prolétarienne (Paul Louis, 1936)
- Bureau de Paris et bureau de Londres: le socialisme de gauche en Europe entre les deux guerres (Michel Dreyfus, 1980)
- Les maximalistes italiens dans l’émigration (Michel Dreyfus, 1986)