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Boris Souvarine

In the International

The Crisis in the French Party

(November 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 101, 21 November 1922, pp. 811–812.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The French Communist Party has just held a Congress which was expected to solve the crisis in the Party. But all hopes and expirations have been blighted; the crisis has not been solved. On the contrary, the Congress has made it all the more acute. There is a general consensus of opinion among all the factions of the Party that a decisive intervention of the Communist International is inevitable.

On one point the French Congress was unanimous and that was to have recourse to the IV. Congress of the Communist International, in order to overcome its difficulties. All the factions in the Party have expressed their readiness to respect the decisions of the World Congress.

This fact forms the most prominent feature of the French Congress, which otherwise was so contused, so tumultuous and so misleading. It proves the attachment of the majority of the Party to the Communist International, the confidence of the vanguard of the French Proletariat in the international proletarian organization, established under the aegis of the Bolshevik Revolution. It allows us to assert that if misguided leaders were to attempt to drag the French Party into adventures similar to those initiated by Paul Levi and Serrati in their parties, they would not get the majority to follow them.

If the French Party has shown itself powerless in finding a way out of the critical situation into which it has brought itself, this is due to serious causes which all communists fully understand. Frossard has to a certain extent discerned and publicly demonstrated the origins of the crisis from the floor of the Congress.

“Our Party”, said he, “is an old social-democratic party which we wanted to transform into a Communist Party. It has preserved habits, traditions and methods which do not harmonize with the methods and tactics of the Communist International. By changing its name, our Party has not undergone a change of spirit when voting for the Tours resolution, which it had not read, it did not realize to what it was committing itself; it was under the impression that it was merely expressing a sentimental solidarity with the Russian revolution. Hence, its unwillingness to accept commands from the International ... Hence also the dissatisfaction of the International with the attitude of the French Party ...”

In speaking thus, Frossard said much that was true, yet he did not say all. There is no doubt whatever that a large section of the old party (and precisely the section which was following Frossard ana Cachin) adhered to the Third International in a vague sort of way, without realizing to the full to what it was committing itself. Another large section, however, the left wing, knew exactly what it wanted. It wanted a proletarian party, disciplined, centralized and organized for the struggle, freed from aspiring, professional politicians, a party which would be a true guide of the militant proletariat, which would not rest content with applauding the victory of the Bolshevik party, but would follow its example.

The Tours secession has not cleansed the Party of all the petty-bourgeois elements, neither had it eliminated every vestige of the old social-democratic spirit. This was known by the left wing of the Party, and also by the International. The left wing and the International have worked for the purification, the improvement and the strengthening of the Party, while the chief leaders of the party, of whom Frossard is one, instead of struggling against the social-democratic spirit, habits and methods, have preserved and encouraged them. This is the determining factor in the crisis, and about this Frossard did not say a word.

It is not sufficient to assert the survival of the social-democratic mentality and customs; one must struggle against them in order to overcome them.

Frossard was satisfied with taking a fatalist view of the evils from which the Party was suffering, and did nothing to remedy them. On the contrary, he thought it very clever not to interfere with them in order to counterbalance the influence of the communist forces of the left wing. Thus, the party having become passive, the petty bourgeois elements and the social-democratic spirit, instead of dying out, developed, – which would, not have happened had the party been alive. An avowedly reactionary right wing was established against which a serious struggle had to be carried on. Various tendencies came into being. The Party, absorbed by these inner struggles, was obliged to neglect its most essential external tasks.

Frossard endeavoured to justify his policy of equilibrium by making the following astounding statement from the platform of the Congress:

“Since the Tours Congress I have been confronted with the following alternative: either to follow the directives of the International and thus do harm to the Party, or not to follow these directives and in that case sever from the International. In order to safeguard the interests of the Party, and at the same time not to sever from the International I have maintained a policy of marking time.”

These words throw a vivid light on the crisis. In the opinion of the secretary of the Party, the interests of the International and those of the Party, are antagonistic. In order to spare both, it was necessary “to gain time”. Frossard congratulates himself on having done this. We can hardly imagine that the International shares his satisfaction, for the time “gained ” by Frossard was time lost for the Party.

It is not necessary to put forward theoretic objections to this, which would come quite spontaneously to the mind of every communist. It is sufficient to recall the experiences of the last two years, which indubitably show, that the French Party, in as far as it followed the directives of the International has progressed, – and it has retrogressed, inasfar as it ignored them. Every time that the Party met with an obstacle, it was only able to overcome it by getting its inspiration from the Communist International or by using the methods of the latter. Whatever has been profitable to the Party, that is to say, to the French revolutionary working class movement, is due to the influence, the initiative and inspiration of the International.

The rupture with the avowed lackeys of the bourgeoisie, the repudiation of the devious policies of the opportunist parliamentary socialism and of war socialism, the condemnation of the policy of national defence under a capitalist regime and of bourgeois pacifism, the idea of the proletarian dictatorship, the conception of a select, disciplined, centralized and well directed militant party, the participation in the economic struggle of the working class, the communist consolidation within the trade unions, the united front tactics, – all these features of the French Party, the latter owes to the Communist International.

The overwhelming majority of the Party is conscious of this, and it therefore quite rightly identifies the interests of French Communism with those of International Communism. To believe, like Frossard, that one can conceive of an antagonism between the International and one of its sections, is tantamount to ignoring the fact that sentimental attraction is not a sufficient reason to induce a party to enter into the International there, must also be a profound commonly of interests. This is real community of interests between the French Party and the international will break down the sophistries of Frossard.

And it is at a moment when the example of the Italian Party has become a classic, and when the German independent party has been absorbed by the old social democracy that Frossard enters upon a path which leads him, on his own confession, to a rupture with the International and to the formation of an independent party between the reformists and the communist parties.

The French Party will not follow him on that path. Once more it has understood that its salvation rests in the International. Once more the International will respond to its expectation. The IV. World Congress will in a few days time send forth words which will be law to all that is sane, conscious, serious and revolutionary in the Party.

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