1938-02 The Anathema of Cocoyan [Sneevliet]

What was bound to happen has happened. The above document appears to be a solemn anathema. Here we are expelled from the fraternal community of the International Secretariat of the Fourth International, of which Trotsky is the infallible head. We don’t know if a council of popes of this fraternal community was held before the heretic was judged and condemned. They concern themselves little with such solemnities at that address.

Since July 1936 there have been many clues that things could only come to this. It was then that the leadership of the RSAP left a conference which, following indications received from Oslo, was to fail to reach its true destination. Despite this that conference took on the meaning of a founding congress of the Fourth International. This meaning is unconditionally recognized by Trotsky’s “international organization.” Outside of this international organization no mortal realized that the Fourth International exists in any other way than as an idea which must be born and develop after the Second and Third Internationals have become unusable as guides for the working class’s forward march to socialism.

L.D.T. speaks of a period of five years of contact during which he hasn’t managed to make of Sneevliet and those who think like him “supporters of the Fourth International,” as he conceived it. In fact, before December 1932 there was no direct contact between the Dutch RSP and the group around Trotsky; there was a concordance of positions on several points. This sufficed to provoke their entering into contact with each other. L.D. Trotsky’s role in the proletarian movement and the Russian Revolution, his words and acts, exercised a sufficient force of attraction to awaken desire for contact. At that moment Trotsky and his people were still busy trying to cure the Third International. Several years before this we in Holland had already carried out our definitive break with the Third International.

After we had arrived at an agreement in the middle of 1933 on the subject of the constituting of new revolutionary parties and a new International it was agreed, through personal contact in Copenhagen between Trotsky and Sneevliet, to establish a link between the RSP [3] with the Trotskyist formation. From that moment the possibilities for effectuating commonly agreed upon preparatory work for the Fourth International were sought for. Normal organizational contact with Trotsky’s center only lasted until the founding of the RSAP in 1935. From the time of the fusion our party had abnormal ties with the Trotskyist center and the London Bureau. In the course of the first year of the existence of the RSAP a severe ideological struggle contributed to the political positions of the unified party being more in agreement with those of the Trotskyist center than with the London Bureau. The extremely abnormal concepts that revealed their existence in this Trotskyist center concerning an international center and its tasks; the every bit as abnormal organizational ideas in this center; the “abrupt turnings” in the field of tactics, policy and organization in this Trotskyist center and its subdivisions caused the situation to mature to a point where the delegation of the RSAP was led to withdraw from the international conference and to consider that the RSAP wasn’t tied by the results of this conference.

We are not now going to examine the points numbered by us in the act of accusation that forms the essential portion of the anathema. For some weeks a commission set up by the leadership of the party has been preparing the party’s position on the question of international relations. Certain of these points – numbers 2,3,5,6,7 – cause us only to raise question marks. We will not be able to judge them as long as we don’t have solid and probative documentation demonstrating the correctness of the accusations as they are formulated. On point 1 it is a question of a real divergence in points of view; the same goes for point 4. In relation to the Spanish Civil War we too see that a wrong was done to the Fourth International, but by the IS and, let us name him, by Trotsky.

Not a hair of our head dreams of denying Trotsky’s many great qualities as a revolutionary fighter. It is precisely because we attribute so much meaning to these qualities that we have for many years placed Trotsky’s articles within the grasp of Dutch workers. We take the liberty of doing so yet again in the future. But this appreciation changes nothing in the fact that experience has taught us that they are completely in error when they declare that the Fourth International can be constituted by this path alone, whose direction is known only to L.D.T. and is determined only by him. We and other organizations around the world that recognize the need for the Fourth International will determine in common within the framework of our own group the work that must be done for the Fourth International. Finally, there is a sentence in Trotsky’s anathema with which we are in complete agreement: “everyone must bear the responsibility for his political line.” We bear this responsibility also when we accept the necessary parting of the ways and even when we see with apprehension that a true worker’s party must be exposed to the “political education” of Trotsky’s center.

February 15, 1938
H. Sneevliet

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