How to support Spanish workers in 1936?: Pivert & Ferrat


Discussion à propos du rapport sur l’Espagne présenté au Congrès socialiste révolutionnaire international de Bruxelles, le 1° novembre 1936: résumés d’intervention de Marceau Pivert et André Ferrat. (en anglais ):


The Commission on Spain reported to the Congress on the afternoon of Sunday, November, 1st, The Congress met under a Presidium of the German Delegation, composed of Jacob Schwab, Roger Royer and Fritz Sanders.
Jacob Schwab opened the second sitting of the Congress by welcoming the delegates to continue their work. He said he would not make a Speech owing to the amount of work the Congress had to get through in a short space of time.
The report of the Commission was presented by Michel Collinet (Revolutionary Left of the French Socialist Party, S. F. I. O.) and after discussion was referred back to the Commission for consideration of (further points which had been raised.


Marceau Pivert. (Revolutionary Left of the French Socialist Party). Comrade Pivert commenced by stating that it was his duty to explain quite clearly what was the exact state of mind of large masses of French Workers.
He believed that many of the French Workers felt that the great and supreme catastrophe which could come out of the Spanish Revolution, would be an outbreak of war—a general European War.
He examined the formula of neutrality. He said the French Government had been compelled to adopt this policy, otherwise they would have been forced to resign, and from his point of view, the position of our comrades in Spain would then have been infinitely worse. « He regretted that this was the only possible attitude they could have adopted in order to avoid a dissolution and so prevent the formation in France of a Government of National Union.
He insisted, however, that in spite of the fact that France had not been, able to help officially, nevertheless, what had been done unofficially was not negligible. «Was it not true, that the first attack upon Madrid had been forced back by the airplanes which had been sent to the help of the Spanish comrades from France?
Little had been done he agreed but he claimed that it had been as effective as it could have been, and certainly very much more so than would have been the case had another Government been in power. Obviously if a larger part of the French proletariat had power, and if it were possible for them to substitute a Workers’ Government, then the position would be simplified, and we should not be spending our time discussing this matter here.
The reality was that a large number of the French proletariat does not now appear to desire a Government of workers and peasants. In order to strengthen his argument, he paid particular attention to the attitude of the French Communists. They had been agitating for a Government which wag practically a Government of National Union. He said that at the present moment, most of. the opposition In France, on the part of the workers, came from members of the Third International, and the thing which interested them most was to strengthen the Franco-Soviet Pact. He insisted that most of their efforts were directed towards increasing the armed forces ore France, with the definite objective of making the Franco-Soviet Pact effective.
«We must face the facts. Where are the arms? They are in the hands of the War Office and the bourgeoisie. Until We have workers’ power ourselves, it is extremely difficult to send more arms to Spain, so long as they remain In the hands of the War Office. Any change of Government, such as is being agitated for by certain sections in Franco today in displacing the Popular Front Government, will make our acquisition of these arms even more difficult than now.»
It appeared so far as he could see, that the recent campaign of the Communist Party in France had been especially to consolidate democracy on a non-Hitler basis, and that the whole object of their activities in France was to strengthen the French forces of resistance. He then insisted that our duty was to endeavour to displace this by having a definite means of direct workers’ action. He referred to the one-hour strike which had taken place in Prance. This was very valuable as an illustration, but so far as he could see, it was perfectly obvious in France, that no effective help could be obtained from the Communist Party, and none could be obtained from any alternative Government. It was the duty of the French workers by continuous agitation to strengthen the arm of the French Government today, and by their own efforts to force it into direct contact with the problem and by means of direct workers’ action, to help our Spanish comrades.

Comrade Ferrat of the dissident Communists of Prance then adressed the conference.
He explained to the Congress that he did not accept the point of view advanced by Marceau Pivert regarding the effectiveness of the French Popular Front policy towards the struggle in Spain. In his opinion, the Popular Front, instead (if giving a clear lead to the workers, had temporised in exactly the same way as the British Labour Government had temporised. For precisely the same reasons that the British Labour Government lost power, and more especially, influence, among the workers of Britain, so in his opinion, the French Popular Front was running the risk of doing exactly the same. This was an historic fact. The watchwords of today would be the definite factors which governed the work of tomorrow.

He rejoiced that the criminal policy of neutrality had been denounced. The arguments in favour of neutrality were without force. The first, was that departure from neutrality might cause a general war. This argument was and it used always by those who are interested in the breaking down of the class struggle. A Marxist cannot accept this reasoning. The only guarantee for a Marxist is the class struggle in each country. The factor which causes war in an inert and feedle working-class. The factor which prevents war is a militant working-class which refuses to be used as cannon fodder.

The second argument was that a departure from neutrality would bring about the fall of the French Government. It must be pointed out that the French Radicals used the same argument when the workers occupied the factories. It was groundless then, and it is groundless now. The occupation by the workers of the factories enabled them to obtain conditions which they would never obtenaid had they not taken matters into their hands. In his opinion, the factor which would bring about the fall of the Popular Front in France, was their policy of temporisation. The more clearcut and Socialist is the policy and have the continued and wholehearted support of the workers.

In conclusion, he said, « No-one knows better than I what the Communist Party is. » and he felt it was our duty to take our stand entirely on the principles of the October Revolution to help our Spanish comrades by strong definite working-class action, and to see to it that the Spanish revolution was an incident in the world revolution which they were helping forward.

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