Michel Pablo

The Building of the Revolutionary Party

Report to the Tenth Plenum of the International Executive Committee

(February 1952)

From SWP International Information Bulletin, June 1952, pp. 1–23.
Originally published in Quatrième Internationale, February–April 1952.
Transcribed by Daniel Gaido.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Shortly after the Third World Congress, the International Secretariat, under Pablo’s leadership, ordered the French section to carry out a tactic of “deep entry” into the French Communist Party. All party work was to be oriented toward supporting this entry tactic. At the Tenth Plenum of the International Executive Committee in February 1952, Pablo presented this tactic as a universal one applicable to all Trotskyist parties except those in countries where there were no strong Stalinist or Social-Democratic formations. The Building of the Revolutionary Party, the published excerpts from Pablo’s report to the Tenth Plenum of the IEC, is reprinted from SWP International Information Bulletin, June 1952.

With the elaboration and the application of the Transition Program, our international movement should have entered the stage of mass work. This is the sense in which Trotsky conceived if. It was to crown a long period of the development and functioning of the Trotskyist movement, which, beginning with the necessary stage of strict, ideological delimitation from Stalinism and other tendencies in the workers’ movement and of general propaganda, has obtained a degree of maturity which makes possible and even imposes the need of broad activity within the class. The conception and elaboration of the Transition Program to which the collective experience of the Trotskyist movement had made its contribution, reflected already this natural maturity of our movement in the realm of ideas.

Nevertheless, the particular conditions of the war which broke out shortly after the Transition Program was adopted did not permit the International and its sections to go through the experiences of the new stage, to develop without obstacles which would enable the entire movement to be involved and educated. During the war most of the sections were plunged into strict illegality with limited forces and have been persecuted by the imperialists and the Stalinists. In certain countries where the mass movement took on particular forms for its expression, our-weak sections, insufficiently experienced, as yet prisoners of a thought tainted with a certain spirit of formalism, schematicism and doctrinism, couldn’t appreciate the possibilities offered by these mass movements and did not integrate themselves into them and profit by them.

The result was that following the end of the war our movement as a whole did not as yet experience real mass work and a general propagandist character continued to dominate its activity. I say its activity and not its policy because what was as yet lacking in our movement at that time was not so much a concrete as against a merely general position on this or that political question (a trade union program adapted to the conditions of each country, a concrete analysis of the national political situation and concrete political slogans). But above all a milieu for concrete work, a concrete conception of the manner in which work in such a milieu is to be carried on and all this fitting within a framework of a concrete conception of building the revolutionary party in each country.

The stage of such activity started for our movement as a whole after the last war and has been going on since, reaching all the time new levels of maturity and achievement. Some of these represent new accomplishments – in the sphere of tactics and experience – for the whole workers’ Marxist movement since its beginning.

We will subdivide this stage into three phases in order to better understand the logic of development and the degree of progress accomplished: From the end of the war to the Second World Congress (April 1948); from the Second to the Third World Congress; since the latter.

In the first stage a number of our sections have exerted themselves to propagate and to apply under the concrete conditions in their countries the transition program which had become more timely than ever in the situation in which capitalism found itself following the war.

This was especially the case of most of our European sections and of the American Trotskyists, as well as our organizations in Ceylon and Bolivia. These two, for special reasons, had already acquired real mass influence.

In all these countries our organizations have progressed both in elaborating a concrete policy as well as real mass activity, participating broadly in electoral activity, in strikes, in trade union activity.

They have thus broken ideologically as well as in practical activity with their past as propaganda groups and have imperceptibly transformed themselves qualitatively into political groups more intimately tied to the life and struggles of the class.

This phase took place as a general rule under the sign of independent activity and organization of our forces.

The reasons for this orientation had their basis in our estimate at the time of the international situation, of Stalinism and of reformism. This estimate was essentially cor.rect.

The postwar situation in Europe, Asia, Latin America and even the United States (certainly to a lesser degree) was full of revolutionary possibilities. It was the class collaboration policy which the Kremlin carried out during the war with the “democratic” imperialist camp – a policy the Kremlin intended to continue, which negated these possibilities and cynically betrayed the interests of the revolution.

The Kremlin wished to avoid a full break with its ex-allies and was in search of a durable compromise with them. They on their part hadn’t as yet regained sufficient strength to begin the “cold war.”

Despite the advances by the Kremlin, the logic of the situation pushed naturally toward a rupture between the two camps and to their violent opposition. But the capi.talists had not as yet played their full hand and nobody could foresee exactly how much time would pass before such a rupture.

In reality it was the fall of Chiang Kai-shek, much more than the coup of Prague in February 1948, which undermined the possibility of an extended and viable compromise between the Kremlin and imperialism.

In any case, as far as the Kremlin is concerned, the period 1944–1947 proceeded under the sign of its counter.revolutionary policy of destroying the revolutionary possibilities in the situation. The masses deserting the old reformist parties flowed into the Stalinist organizations, but the policy of the latter disillusioned them and threatened to push them outside these organizations.

Under these conditions it was logical for our movement to go through the experience of essentially independent work which would permit the open denunciation without any restrictions of the clearly counter-revolutionary policy of the Kremlin and to polarize around our own organization the revolutionary elements disillusioned in this policy.

On the other hand, “entrist” or “essentially entrist” work in relation to the reformist organizations, weakened and discredited at that time in most of the European coun.tries, opened no serious perspective for our movement.

Nevertheless the special cases of England and Austria did not fail to attract the attention of the International even then.

The second stage started with the Second World Congress at the beginning of 1948, which coincided with the coup at Prague and the beginning of the “cold war.” In the field of tactics and the concrete building of revolutionary par.ties the Second World Congress made a special contribution concerning work toward reformist organizations. Between the Second and the Third World Congress, more specifically between the Second Congress and the Ninth Plenum of the IEC, October 1950, this work held the special attention of the International, because of the rehabilitation in the eyes of the masses of a number of reformist organizations and the parallel loss of Stalinist influence in the same countries (Belgium, Austria, the Scandanavian countries, Germany, etc.). The case of England which had been raised in advance of the World Congress was resolved shortly after the latter.

The decision to enter the Labor Party and the conception of the work to be done there was the first new experience of the International and by far the most important in the domain of entrist work in general. It has been developing since then in a manner considerably different, I would say almost qualitatively different, from “entrism” as it was practiced by our movement in the years 1934–38.

I will return later to the new objective and subjective conditions which have determined the new meaning of this “entrism.” But suffice for the moment to point out that in the entry into the Labor Party the International embarked on the course of long-term work within these movements and organizations through which flow – and most prob.ably will flow for another period – the fundamental political current of the class.

The International thus recognized a reality and con.sequently the necessity of envisaging the building of a revolutionary party through a common experience with the political majority of the class, an experience lived where this class was and would remain for a period. The essential forces of the revolutionary party would appear through differentiation or explosion in these mass organizations. This tactical conception was and is based, of course, on the perspectives of the evolution of the international situation as they began to be clarified for us at the beginning of the “cold war”: the relatively short period before the war breaks out; the new and decisive character of this war; the accelerated crisis of the capitalist regime which will in any case acquire a generally explosive character in the war itself. Between now and then the probable tightening of the ranks of the masses around their principal organizations – reformist or Stalinist depending on the country – and the differentiation taking place in general within the framework of these organizations. To try to shake, still more to replace, the bureaucratic leadership of the masses from the outside, by opposing to them our own independent organizations, would under these condi.tions threaten to isolate us from these masses and make us lose all the real possibilities of operating toward achieving this end much more effectively inside their movement.

Between the Second and the Third World Congress the evolution of the objective situation indicated has only reinforced us in these tactical conceptions.

But while after the entry in Britain this tactic appeared in general possible in relation to reformist organizations and met with ever better understanding throughout the International, the tactic of an approach to the Stalinist movement remained unchanged. We continued to count on the crisis of Stalinism and its decomposition. The principal reason for this was to be found in the actual crisis of Stalinism which in 1948–50 had reached its post.war culmination with the ripening of the Yugoslav affair. The Yugoslav explosion had its repercussion in all the buffer countries and all the Communist parties. This con.tinued up to the Korean war. This crisis was nourished by the contradictions between the objectives of the reactionary policy of the Kremlin in the buffer countries and the Western Communist parties and the needs and aspirations of the revolutionary masses which had flocked into these parties after the war. The outbreak of the Yugoslav affair and its gradual left-centrist course which the Yugoslav Communist Party outlined up to the Korean war, militated in favor of the broadening and deepening of this crisis. But the intensification of the “cold war” had led at the same time to a left turn in the policy of the Communist parties as compared to the line they followed until ap.proximately 1947 and placed the Stalinist movement in objectively new conditions.

This second factor clashed with the first and in a certain measure thwarted its effect. The Yugoslav affair during its progressive phase would have had infinitely more repercussions inside the international Stalinist movement if the Communist parties had at the same time maintained their ultra-right policy of 1944–47. Nevertheless what really reversed the centrifugal process in the Stalinist crisis was the general situation created by the Korean War and especially the disastrous effect which this situation brought about in Yugoslav policy. With the Korean War the “cold war” became enormously intensified and along with it the leftward development of the Stalinist policy was accentuated. On the other hand, the Yugoslav CP caught between internal difficulties and the increasing pressure of imperialism began to give ground to the latter.

All this contributed not to a disappearance of the crisis of Stalinism (this crisis in reality is permanent because it is due to the insoluble contradictions of Stalinism), but to its transformation into a continuous crisis inside the framework of the Stalinist organizations and movement. The masses and the militants oppose instinctively menacing imperialism above all else.

The Yugoslav affair which was at first a powerful stim.ulant for accentuating the centrifugal and dismembering aspects of the Stalinist crisis became a factor tending to reinforce the centripetal aspects of this crisis, since the discontented elements hesitated to break away for fear that in isolation they might break the class front just as Tito had done.

As we have already noted, the increasingly leftward development of Stalinist policy had the same effect. This new international situation as well as its new pressures on the Stalinist movement resulting from the Korean war had to gain our attention and influence our tactics, especially in relation to the Stalinist movement. It was no longer possible to proceed as if nothing had changed without the certain risk of taking the wrong road, of ossifying our movement on positions which moving reality and life had passed by and stagnating as a consequence of theoretical incomprehension and sectarianism. The Ninth Plenum of the IEC outlined the reorientation of our movement, that is to say, it began to bring our political analysis and our practical activity into conformity with the new international situation and its implications in the workers’ movement This Plenum outlined especially a new approach to the Stalinist movement within the framework of the new perspective for the evolution of the international situation and the new conditions in which Stalinism finds itself, especially the Communist parties having mass influence. This beginning of a reorientation was completed at the Third World Congress.

In its reports and resolutions the Congress laid the basis of a general tactic for our movement which would enable it to work for the building of the mass world revolutionary party within the framework of a whole perspective of the evolution of the international situation. With the Congress our movement attained an understanding never before reached of its tactic of penetrating the real mass move.ment and there to become its revolutionary leadership.

Every mental, intellectual approach to the objective re.ality is in principle a limited and incomplete approach. Thought seizes some aspects of reality, splits it up, immobilizes it and deprives it of its richer more complex content. Thought necessarily disfigures reality and, in order to be able to grasp it, breaks its unity, its movement The thought of our movement despite its superiority over non-organized and individual thought (which consequent.ly does not benefit from the discipline and the vigor of collective thought of an international movement having thousands of vantage points for observation and experience) is not exempt from these faults. It too falls constantly behind the objective processes and grasps them only with limitations.

Some objective fundamental things, some fundamental aspects of the objective reality, cannot be grasped, understood, except through experience and the natural maturing of thought in action.

The revolutionary movement despite the powerful arm of Marxist theory does not all at once become fused with the real movement of the class in each country. It does not grasp external reality in its particularities. It does not eliminate the doctrinal schematic barriers which separates it from reality, except through experience and the successive approximations of its thought to reality which are made possible and even imposed by experience.

With the Third World Congress we have the proof of the concrete maturing of the thought of our movement based on its entire past experience and its theoretical resources. This has made possible the elaboration of a whole tactical conception for the building of the revo.lutionary mass party. This is the most vital conception, that is, the most realistic in relation to the entire past of the revolutionary workers’ movement, the most adapted to a real understanding of the character of the epoch and the real mass movement this epoch engenders in every country.

It is we, the international Trotskyist movement, who have achieved the greatest progress in tactical concep.tions since the birth of the workers’ Marxist movement. We achieved this by working for the real fusion of the revolutionary vanguard with the natural movement of the class however it is formed and expressed in each country; by eliminating all doctrinal schematic barriers separating formalist thought from revolutionary action; by eliminating sectarianism which is basically afraid to throw itself into creative revolutionary activity. This progress in understanding has been achieved by the majority of our cadres and a great part of our members. It remains naturally to impregnate the entire movement with these conceptions and to thus realize for the first time in the history of the international workers’ movement the exam.ple of a vanguard which is truly non-sectarian, that is, a vanguard which is closer than ever to reality and whose thought and consequent action has grasped more closely than ever, with less limitations than ever, the reality, life, the natural movement of the class of which it is to become the conscious and the revolutionary leadership. I now come to the conception of the whole of our tactic the Third World Congress arrived at. Its constituent elements as well as their dialectical ties can be found explicitly and implicitly in the text of the Congress reports and resolutions.

In the present report I propose to unfold this conception even more and to develop it more fully and more analyti.cally. I say that the Third World Congress has elaborated an entire tactic for our work in the real mass movement toward the end of building the revolutionary mass party in each country. In this sense it has taken up all the past conquests of our movement and has carried them to a higher level by fusing the apparently dissimilar elements into a tactical conception of the whole, more developed and more integral. This tactical concept of the whole is subordinated to the general political perspective worked out by the Third World Congress and flows from it The unity and the sense of this tactic cannot be seized except by those who approach it in the light of the gen.eral perspective.

This perspective is defined as that of the final crisis of capitalism and the extension of the world revolution, both precipitated by the upsets provoked by the last war, accentuated since the “cold war,” and which is now on the road to a decisive solution through decisive conflict, that is to say, which will in any case mark an entire historic epoch. In this development we say: the revolu.tionary forces start favorably situated and we do not foresee the possibility, that this relationship of forces will change in the years to come in a decisive fashion to the detriment of the revolution.

The counter-revolutionary war which united imperialism is preparing and toward which it is inexorably driven (if one excludes the hypothesis that a revolution will gain throughout the world including above all the United States before the war breaks out, or that imperialism including that of the United States will be so frightened as to yield without a struggle) in a relatively short time, this war far from arresting the destructive processes of capitalism will on the contrary carry them to a higher level – the international civil war, the war-revolution.

In this period, the most revolutionary in history (not of capitalism alone), which is already before us, when the final outcome of capitalism is at stake in a relatively short time, will also be decided the fate of Stalinism, that is, of the Soviet bureaucracy and its reactionary hold on parts of the revolutionary workers’ movement which it continues to influence.

We start with the conviction that the extension of the revolution will signify at the same time the certain death of Stalinism, that the final outcome of the struggle which has begun, independent of one or another initial temporary or episodic phase between now and then, will lead also to the destruction of Stalinism. This conviction holds nothing in the nature of a sentimental consolation or of a pious wish, but is founded on a profound comprehension of the objective forces engaged in struggle, on the nature and the contradictions of Stalinism, as well as on the results of the experiences in Yugoslavia, China, in the buffer countries, with other Communist parties during and after the last war. The new objective conditions under which the struggle for socialism is proceeding is determining a new dynamism for the spontaneous mass movement. These objective conditions have placed and are moreover constantly placing the organized political movement of the proletariat, in the different currents and organizations in which it manifests itself, in objective conditions which are equally new, that is to say, which determine new reactions on their part independent of one or another desire or plan of their leaders.

It is by starting with this kind of understanding of the character of the period, of the direction of its evolution and of the reactions which this, situation imposes and determines on the plane of the spontaneous mass movement as well as on the plane of their organized forma.tions that we elaborate our tactic as a whole. It is in this manner that we proceeded at the time of the Third World Congress.

The tactical conceptions which this Congress elaborated are all based on the analysis of the character of the period and its perspective. It is in that context that they find their meaning and unity of content. For under various forms our tactic is directed everywhere toward our integration into the real mass movement, taking into account its special characteristics in each country, in order to create the revolutionary leadership and the revolutionary party.

II. Three Sectors of Our Activity

With the Third World Congress our movement succeeded in unifying two elements in its tactical conception: A con.crete milieu for work, a concrete manner of working within it.

It is incorrect to say, as some have, that the Third World Congress has shown some kind of preference for work among the Stalinist workers and organizations to the detriment of other sectors of work. If it specially stressed the necessity for such work it was because, as we have already noted, this sphere has been the most neglected up to now, the one in which the lag behind the reorientation imposed by the new objective conditions was incontestably the greatest. As a matter of fact the tactical conception defined by the Third World Congress simultaneously trains its sights in three distinct directions according to the special characteristic of the mass movement in each country: essentially independent work; work directed toward the reformist workers and organizations; work directed toward the Stalinist workers and organizations.

A. The Essentially Independent Work

The texts of the Third World Congress have clearly indicated that for a whole category of very important countries where the obstacle of a strong reformist or Stalinist movement does not exist, the immediate central task of the Trotskyists is to act from now on as the revolutionary leadership of the masses. This category of countries includes above all Latin America and Ceylon. The United States, India, the countries of the Middle East, the African colonies, can be considered a part of this category with the following reservation: In all these countries the Trotskyists must from now on act as the revolutionary leadership of the masses even though it may be necessary in some of these countries to go through an experience with certain reformist, centrist or simply national currents and formations.

For example, the activity of the American Trotskyists is at the present stage essentially independent even though it calls for the necessity of a Labor Party in the USA, an eventuality which if realized would involve their entry into the Labor Party.

The activity of the Trotskyists in the Middle East and the African colonies may develop for a period inside the national movement which is rocking these countries, but it would from the beginning have to shoulder the tasks of a revolutionary leadership of the masses. The activity of the German Trotskyists might just as well be concentrated exclusively inside the Socialist Party, but it is also possible that it will still develop independently for a period, for example, if the Socialist Party should abandon its opposition to rearmament and thus isolate itself from the mass current.

Our activity must be considered essentially independent in all those countries where the existence of another leadership, reformist or Stalinist, has not been solidly established among the masses and consequently does not impose a long-term entrism such as we now envisage in all other cases.

This essentially independent activity means as we have said to act from now on as the revolutionary leadership of the masses.

This character of the activity flows from our evaluation of the situation and the perspectives of its evolution. The situation is pre-revolutionary all over in various degrees and evolving toward the revolution in a relatively brief period. And this process from now on is in general irreversible.

The revolution even breaks out unexpectedly, as in Iran, Egypt and Tunisia.

The small nuclei of revolutionary Marxists can and must play the role assigned them by history, that of the revolutionary leadership. These nuclei can discharge this task and by so doing develop in a relatively short time into powerful currents, provided they are from now on prepared ideologically and politically, that is to say, if they have from now on a clear and profound understanding of the explosive revolutionary character of the period and if they elaborate a concrete policy and concrete tactic adapted to the particular conditions of their country. In a world, if they act from now on not as a general propaganda group but as the nucleus of the revolutionary leadership conscious of the needs and aspirations of the masses of their country and a concrete political answer to their problems.

It is this bold, aggressive, broad, flexible spirit that the Third World Congress wanted to instill in the Trotskyists of all these countries.

What the Congress documents said about the countries of the Middle East and the tactic to be adopted there for penetration of the national movements which are now convulsing these countries so profoundly, even prior to the expansion of the Iranian crisis, the Egyptian and Tunisian events, is a brilliant confirmation of the correctness of the evaluation and of the recommended tactic.

The resolution on Latin America also constitutes an example of such an understanding of the situation and of the tasks of the vanguard. This resolution warns the Trotskyists of these countries that the explosive revolutionary crisis of the Far East, extended to the Middle East, is their own inevitable future of a tomorrow which is very close, that they must consequently prepare themselves right away, quickly, to play their role as leadership, that this must express itself in the structure and spirit of their program, the boldness and flexibility of their activity. The resolution gives precise directions on all these points. Its spirit, conceptions, are even more important than the letter.

The Third World Congress tried to make a final break with all doctrinaire, formalistic, schematic petty-bourgeois barriers which interfere with a comprehension of the objectively revolutionary processes of our epoch and with their utilization at an opportune time.

Objectively the revolution may commence in unpredictable ways which appear contrary to the letter of books and documents and outside established schemas.

One must be prepared first of all to enter the struggle, confident that the logic of its development is infallibly that of the permanent revolution and grasping at the first handle offered by the situation (peasant movements, workers’ strikes, or national demonstrations) to go with the masses, demonstrate with them and be the first ones against imperialism. Even though they cry at the same time, “Long live King Farouk”; “Longlive Mossadeg”; “Long live Bourguiba” their second cry will inevitably be against the traitor king, the traitor paschas, the feudal-capitalist traitors, the cry of the Cairo demonstrators: “War and revolution!”

It is necessary to start where the masses themselves start: with the anti-imperialist struggle, for example; to organize it ourselves, seize the initiative, deepen it. It is necessary to have confidence in the masses, to avoid an over-estimation of their apparent apathy during any period, their inevitable temporary retreats, and it is necessary not to under-estimate the constant molecular processes taking place in its depths and operating in the direction of the revolution and which explain the abrupt qualitative transformations, the revolutionary explosions. It is necessary not to be late. It is necessary to act quickly, to be always ready, full of the spirit of revolutionary initiative and boldness. It is the character of the period which imposes this conception. It is necessary to under.stand it and to demonstrate it by acting adequately.

To the comrades of Bolivia and Ceylon the International now says: Power is within your reach, not ten years from now but immediately, within the few years ahead if not this very year. (This more particularly for Ceylon.) It depends largely on you, on your policy from now on, on your boldness, on your daily activity at the head of the masses in defense of their daily demands, on your fearless program for tomorrow, to gain the majority, even a parliamentary majority, and to constitute a workers’ government, the first step toward the real seizure of power in Ceylon, based upon the revolutionary mobilization and organization of the masses.

Naturally, the comrades of Bolivia and Ceylon must not stand alone in this struggle. The whole International, its leadership above all, must give them assistance and aid. We will be in solidarity with them and equally responsible for their success or failure.

B. The Work in the Direction of the Reformist Workers and Organizations

In countries where the reformist movement embraces the political majority of the class, where solidly established Socialist parties exist and still retain great influence over the masses, outclassing by far all other political formations, as in England, Austria, Belgium, Australia, Canada, Holland, the Scandanavian countries, Switzerland, Germany and with certain reservations India. It is the duty of the Trotskyists to work first of all in the direction of these organizations and the masses which they influence. The question of entry, even total entry, has to be faced if it hasn’t as yet been realized, because for all these countries it is infinitely probable that except for new and at present unforeseeable developments, the movement of mass radicalization and the first stages of the revolution, of the objective revolutionary situation, will manifest themselves within the framework of these organizations.

The principle forces of the revolutionary parties in these countries will arise from a differentiation or a blowing up of these organizations. These organizations cannot be smashed and replaced by others in the relatively short time between now and the decisive conflict. The workers who haven’t abandoned these organizations up to the present will not quit them so soon in the absence of another powerful pole of attraction. All the more so since these organizations, to the extent that they are really mass or.ganizations subject to the new objective conditions of the sharpening capitalist crisis, of the war preparations and the consequent inevitable deterioration in the living standards of the masses, will be obliged, whether they wish it or not, to give a leftward turn to the policy of the whole or of at least a part of their leadership.

Bevanism, varying in scale from one country to another, is an inevitable phenomenon of the present conjuncture for all these Socialist parties. Bevanism polarizes the discontent of the masses in these countries and will retain it within the framework of these organizations. Bevanism is at one and the same time an expression of the mass pressure in these parties and of the hope the masses cherish (and which it fosters) that a change is still possible from the rightist policy of these parties.

Just when and how Bevanism will be by-passed and a genuinely revolutionary tendency and leadership having a mass base will be created we cannot say at present with exactitude. What is certain is that it will first be necessary to go through the experience by penetrating it and helping it from the inside to develop to its last resources and consequences.

From this springs the conception of an entrist tactic in all these parties, but of a different kind from the entrism practiced before the war. Before the war, more precisely between 1934 and 1938, after Hitler’s victory and the threat which fascism exercised over bourgeois democracy and the workers’ movement, the Social-Democracy included, Trotsky conceived the tactic of entry into the Socialist parties which under these new conditions were obliged to struggle. But this tactic had a rather ephemeral character, of short duration, and with limited objectives. What was involved in general was to enter into these parties, to profit from their temporary left turn, to recruit members or to court certain thin leftist currents which were developing there, and to get out. It was not a question of facing the tasks of the war and revolution by remaining inside these parties. The entire conception of carrying out the entry and the work inside these parties was determined by this perspective.

Today it is not exactly the same kind of entrism which concerns us. We are not entering these parties in order to come out of them soon. We are entering them in order to remain there for a long time banking on the great possibility which exists of seeing these parties, placed under new conditions, develop centrist tendencies which will lead a whole stage of the radicalization of the masses and of the objective revolutionary processes in their respective countries. We wish in reality from the inside of these ten.dencies to amplify and accelerate their left centrist ripening and to contest even with the centrist leaders for the entire leadership of these tendencies.

Such developments are now possible in contrast with the prewar situation because the crisis of capitalism is vastly more profound and the mass movement vastly more powerful.

Does all this mean to say that the reformist parties will become revolutionary parties and that we are entering them not to destroy but in order to strengthen them? No, the reformist parties in their entirety such as they are will never be transformed into revolutionary parties but under exceptional pressure of the masses they can be transformed into centrist parties either in their entirety or in part.

We are not entering consequently with the illusion of transforming them into revolutionary parties but to help in the development of their centrist tendencies and to give it leadership. This whole process will not necessarily be a short one but neither will it extend over decades. We start always from the consideration that the development and decisive reckoning are a matter of several years to come and not in an indefinite or very distant future.

On the other hand, it is not excluded that reality, life, will place us before special conditions now unforeseeable which will modify our tactic. But to actfrom now on as we recommend inside these powerful reformist organizations is no handicap in such a case. On the contrary this is a guarantee that we will in such cases be the better prepared by the present work to adapt ourselves to them and to exploit them to our profit.

Every maneuver and every policy which runs the risk of prematurely cutting us off from the great mass of these parties must be considered false. The big danger threat.ening us is not as it was in the case of the small organizations we had entered (Young Socialists) to remain there too long when the situation became rotten; the great danger is to advance too fast, to mistake the movements of a limited vanguard for the radicalization and revolt of the great mass, which will in practice coincide with the outbreak of a real revolutionary crisis in the country.

Our objective is a dialogue with tens and hundreds of thousands of workers whose revolt against rearmament and war is inevitable. This is the objective for which our instruments of work must be fashioned. This is the objective for which our political platform inside the Socialist parties must be adapted.

As to the internal policy, this platform can be summariz.ed in the formula: THE SP ALONE TO POWER IN ORDER TO APPLY A SOCIALIST POLICY. Starting from the demands formulated by the reformist leaders for “a more equitable division of the rearmament costs,” our organizations in the SP must elaborate a platform of concrete measures (confiscation of all the profits of rearmament and of war; nationalization without compensation of the war industries; sliding scale of wages; workers’ control of production; price control through housewives’ committees; nationalization of the banks and basic industries; a plan for the welfare of the people (and no plan for war preparations, etc.) which corresponds with the preoccupation of the large masses; struggle against the rising cost of living, against the profiteers, against rearmament as such, struggle for the realization of socialism, etc. It is clear that this platform must start with the concrete conditions of each country and must include, for example, in Great Britain or in Norway (if the SP lost power there) defense of the progressive reforms introduced by the homogeneous labor governments or those under Social-Democratic leadership (social security, nationalizations, housing policy, etc.).

Our Platform on International Policy

This is the most difficult and at the same time the most important part of our action inside the Socialist parties. It is here that our organizations must act from now on with the idea of becoming the effective leadership of the masses from the moment they reach a given point of discontent and revolt. This signifies: That our platform must be such that it can be understood by great masses, can push them forward on the road of resistance to imperialism and war, can offer them a way out and a perspective which can be understood not only by a small vanguard but by all.

The general opposition to the war, the general sentiment that this war is wanted and is being prepared only by imperialism, principally by American imperialism, in in.stinctive suspicion of all “defense” talk by its own bourgeoisie, the will to defend the emancipating movement of the colonial people against the imperialist exploiters – these are right now factors which are present among tens of thousands of conscious socialist workers (as is demon.strated for example by Bevan’s platform which is a reflection of the rearguard rather than of the vanguard of the workers discontented with the leadership of the Labor Party). All these acquisitions combine at times into a vague sentiment that “After all the USSR must defend itself.” But we would disarm ourselves if we wanted to close the eyes of the great masses of the Western European countries to past and present Stalinist policy. Its disrepute – linked in Germany and Austria to the fear produced by the direct experiences of the masses – is a real factor in the political situation and if we wish to pursue a policy really capable of influencing and even of leading the masses, we must proceed from what is and not from what should be.

The masses correctly have no confidence in Stalin. In all these countries with a long social-democratic tradition and tradition of workers’ democracy, they sense instinctively the conservative and oppressive character of the Soviet bureaucracy. It is not our task to combat or to weaken this thoroughly healthy sentiment, as healthy as the sentiment of instinctive opposition to imperialism and war. It is not our task to sow illusions about the Stalinist bureaucracy in countries where its influence is declining or small.

This is why our platform on international political matters must be summarized as follows: LET US STRUGGLE FOR A SOCIALIST ENGLAND, FOR A SOCIALIST GERMANY, etc., the only means of avoiding imperialist war, of combatting the influence of the Soviet bureaucracy, of taking away from the Stalinists the leadership of the colonial revolution, and of liberating the people of the whole world from the fake alternative: imperialism or Stalinism, by confronting them with the real alternative: victory of imperialism or victory of the socialist revolution (of socialism).

On such a platform (break with the Atlantic Pact, unlimited aid to the emancipating movement of the colonies; withdrawal of all imperialist troops from Korea, Egypt, Vietnam, Malaya, etc.; the conclusion of treaties of peace and econonic aid with China and the liberated colonial countries; the conclusion of agreements of economic cooperation with the USSR and the peoples’ democracies; elaboration of an economic plan of world development for the whole non-capitalist zone of the world, etc.) we can combine the healthy anti-imperialist, and anti-Stalinist sentiments of the socialist workers and open a perspective which is truly the only way out for the international proletariat: The shifting of the center of gravity of the world revolutionary movement toward the industrially advanced countries.

By developing such a platform, we will be able in practice to mobilize the masses far more readily against the war preparations and against the imperialist war itself, that is to say, lead the masses to defend the USSR and the peoples’ democracies in practice rather than by centering our agitation directly on the slogan, “defend the USSR,” or on: “we should be in the anti-imperialist camp even though it is led by Russia.” These slogans are only adequate on the level of individual propaganda, they, can convince some hundreds or even some thousands of advanced workers; but they cannot on this level and by themselves surmount the obstacles which a past of 30 years has created in the consciousness of the masses. This does not mean naturally that within the framework of our general propaganda, in our publications, etc., we should deal shiftily with the problem of the defense of the USSR. It only means that on this plane, as on the totality of questions, our work in the Socialist parties is no longer in the first instance a work of propaganda but is a work for the purpose of making the masses take a practical step forward. This is the task to which the general propaganda work must be subordinated.

Such an international platform permits of an equal utilization of the European question, which is important in several Socialist parties, to promote a revolutionary mobilization. The Europe of Franco, Churchill, Adenauer, Gasperi, Paul Reynaud or de Gaulle is a Europe for which no worker would move a finger. Socialist Europe, a Europe in which the Socialist parties will have taken power, can become the first world base for socialism, etc. In the same way we can counter on the Schumann plan question with such excellent slogans as: “First nationalize, then internationalize! First a Socialist government in each country, then an international Socialist authority, etc.”

III. Work in the Direction of Stalinist Workers and Organizations

All the preceding considerations in this report and more particularly those concerning work directed at the reformist workers and organizations should clarify and facilitate an understanding of the work in the direction of the Stalinist workers and organizations advocated by the Third World Congress.

It is explicitly indicated in the Theses as well as in the resolution on the international situation – and implied even more by the meaning and the line of these documents – that “in countries where the majority of the working class still follows the CP,” our organizations “should orient toward more systematic work among the ranks of these parties and the masses they influence.” (Theses, Fourth International, Nov.–Dec. 1951, p. 188)

“In all other countries where the revolutionary mass movement still remains mainly in the channel of Stalinist or Stalinist-influenced organization, our essential preoc.cupation should be to keep from being cut off from these masses, to seek to intermingle with them and to profit from the common struggle against capitalism and impe.rialism in order through this struggle to set them against the Soviet bureaucracy and Stalinism. (Resolution on the International Situation, Fourth International, Nov.–Dec. 1951, p. 195) – (Our emphasis)

In the countries where the mass movement has already taken on an open revolutionary character, directed by the CP, such as in the “Asian countries in revolt,” the World Congress has further clarified its line and indicated that in these countries “our movement should also be oriented toward work in the CPs and the organizations which they influence, so as not to cut ourselves off from the movement of the masses and to be able better to exploit the events of the war.” (Fourth International, Nov.–Dec. 1951, p. 189)

The question of entrist work in the mass Communist parties and the organizations which they influence has been posed by the Third World Congress itself, which, furthermore, emphasized the “essential” character of such activity by our organization.

But why then did the Congress specify at the same time the “necessarily independent” character of the latter? Because the super-bureaucratic character of the Stalinist movement and of the CPs above all does not permit a total entry of the kind we can effect, and which we are effecting in the reformist organizations. The essential activity of our organizations in the countries where the CP influences the majority of the working class or already leads its revolutionary movement must be directed towards these parties while remaining necessarily independent from the organizational point of view, that is to say, under the compulsion of maintaining independent outside organized forces.

It follows from this that in regard to the CPs – and at least for a period – we cannot practice total entry but entrism of a specific kind, sui generis, as we have indi.cated in the letter of the IS addressed to the Central Committee of January 1952 of the French PCI. We shall see that the very nature of the work which we have to carry on in the present stage in relation to Stalinist workers and organizations imposes such a division, such a unique fashion of operating. The political considerations which are the basis of such tactical orientations have been amply given in the documents of the World Congress, in the later documents of the International (Resolution on the Trade Union Question in France; letter of the IS to the January Central Committee of the PCI) as well as in this report itself.

I shall, however, emphasize several supplementary aspects of the question. Those who understand or say they understand the logic of the necessity at the present time of an entrist tactic in relation to the reformist mass organizations should normally understand more easily that the same considerations, to a greater and weightier degree, demand an analogous tactic toward the Stalinist movement now subject to the new objective conditions of the “cold war” and the perspective of the Third World War.

If the reformist mass organizations are capable under the pressure of the revolutionary development of their ranks – a development which we consider inevitable and which is determined in its turn by the inevitable objective evolution toward a revolutionary situation, toward revolutionary explosions, toward the final crisis – of an inevitable development of centrist tendencies, in the Stalinist movement where it has a mass base, there will inevitably develop much greater and more important centrist tendencies. Furthermore this is already in part started.

The evolution of the objective situation now reacts on every mass workers’ organization against the right opportunist tendency and for its transformation into centrism. This process will continue on an expanding scale with the evolution toward war and with the war itself. This process does not follow a straight line, repeat itself everywhere, etc., but is in general inevitable and proceeds in this general direction.

It is the extraordinary depth of the crisis of the capitalist regime, a crisis without a way out, whose course cannot be reversed which provokes all these phonomena. This must be understood once again.

Since the “cold war” Stalinism, the Soviet bureaucracy included, has been placed under totally new conditions as compared to the former situation. The right opportunist tendencies inherent in its nature are constantly thwarted, checkmated by the evolution of the situation, both by the attitude of the capitalists and by the reactions of the masses. The conditions which permitted it to play its game from 1934 to the end of the war will never again be renewed. In that period inter-imperialist antagonisms were still sufficiently virulent to provoke a break between two blocs of powers and a mortal conflict between them. A united imperialist struggle against the USSR was subordinated to the struggle between the two blocs of powers, and the policy of the Soviet bureaucracy of relying exclusively on this antagonism and on an alliance with one section of the bourgeoisie against the other, had some meaning. Today the breach produced in the capitalist world as a consequence of the emergence of China, the European “peoples democracies,” the colonial revolutionary movement and that of the masses in the advanced countries on the side of the USSR, makes any stable and viable compromise impossible and has brought to the fore the inevitable conflict between united imperialism and these varied forms and forces of the revolution.

The Soviet bureaucracy is being driven into the final and decisive conflict; the Stalinist movement everywhere is pinned between this reality and the reactions of the masses in the face of the endlessly aggravated crisis of capitalism.

Under these new conditions which the Soviet bureaucracy did not set up on its own accord but to which it is forced to submit, Stalinism again brings forth centrist tendencies which will gain the upper hand over right opportunism.

How far will these tendencies go? Can they transform the nature of Stalinism, make the Communist parties into real revolutionary parties?

Absolutely not so long as these dependent parties will be controlled by the Soviet bureaucracy which even though it is itself compelled – under the new conditions – to pursue a more leftward policy, to appeal to the masses, to seek to support itself on them, will do all this only on the condition of subordinating all of its own actions to the question of its bureaucratic control of the masses, a control which must not be endangered.

The zig-zags of the Soviet bureaucracy do not change its reactionary nature which is determined by its social nature as an omnipotent privileged caste in the USSR. But zigzags always exist in its policy and are determined in turn by the pressure brought to bear on it by imperialism and by the masses.

We have learned in the light of the experiences of the war and since then, of Yugoslavia and China in particular, to distinguish between the Soviet bureaucracy and the mass Communist parties, and to take into account what can happen to this party when they find themselves under exceptional conditions and are swept along by a powerful revolutionary mass movement.

Under such conditions these parties inevitably develop more and more pronounced centrist tendencies and begin to outline a revolutionary orientation. Such a development, which we have already experienced, is destined under the new conditions created by the sharpening of the “cold war,” the drive towards war and the war itself to take on even more considerable proportions, and it is on this centrist development that we must base ourselves in our tactic. This means, as in the case of the reformist organizations that the future of the revolution and of the revolutionary party in the countries involved will depend in the coming years on the fate of these centrist tendencies.

To intermingle henceforth with the forces which constitute their base, to follow them and help them in their dynamic development and fight for their leadership – that is the concrete realistic fashion for our organizations to work for the building of the revolutionary party. Will these centrist tendencies conquer and transform one or another mass Communist party in its entirety?

We do not know, we cannot know. That is not decisive. What we know, what we should know is that the essential forces of the revolutionary party of tomorrow will emerge from these tendencies and that this will in any case be produced through a break with the Soviet bureaucracy.

In what exact form we cannot as yet predict. But these considerations already determine the kind of work we must carry on in relation to the Stalinist workers and organizations, the perspectives and the goals of this work.

I return here to a series of points included in the IS letter to the Central Committee of the French PCI and which in my view concretizes the conception of this work through the example of one country, namely, France.

What is involved in a country like France is carrying through, further and further, a special kind of entrist policy in relation to the organizations and workers under Stalinist influence. This means that the nearer the war approaches, the larger and larger part of our forces must be established in the various political and trade union organizations led or influenced by the Stalinists, including the French CP, and must remain and work there, with tactics adapted to the character of each of these organiza.tions and governed by the principles of a long-term task. The independent part of our organization will have as its main task to facilitate an understanding by the Stalinist workers of our revolutionary line and our work within their movement.

“The entire internal and external work of the Trotskyist organization will thus have as its aim to speed up the radicalization of the Stalinist workers and their develop.ment of a revolutionary leadership emerging basically from within their own movement through the experiences of the struggles to come and the tasks which these strug.gles will impose on the mass of Stalinist militants.

“Let us now examine the various special aspects of this orientation, though we do not pretend to exhaust the subject in this one letter.

“The experience which the International is opening up in this field is up to now unique in its history, and to carry it out will require time as well as the full and loyal collaboration of the leadership of the sections involved in this work.”

To be able to reintegrate himself in the CGT unions after having been expelled or to enter any trade union unity group, one will not hesitate, for example, to give up if necessary the sale of Unité or even Vérité, to conceal his Trotskyism if the bureaucratic leadership makes this necessary and if we ourselves decide that this is a condition for facilitating our integration.

We had believed that all these questions had been entirely clear for a long time to all the members of our movement.

Let us continue.

If we have defined the policy which the International intends to follow in France as a special kind of entrist policy, it was because of the special character of the Stalinist movement, the extremely bureaucratic leadership of which prevents us from proceeding exactly as we would in a reformist movement of the same importance. Otherwise we would be – and would have been for a long time already – for a policy of total entry. The nature of the Stalinist movement imposes on us in reality a combination of independent work along with the task of entry, with the following special characteristics:

The independent sector will assist the “entrist” work by supplying the forces, directing them from the outside, developing the themes of our policy and our concrete criticisms of the Stalinist policy, etc. ... in simple, clear fashion, with no restrictions other than those of wording and formulation, which must be studied so as to find increasing response from the Stalinist militants.

The independent sector will continue all of its present essential activities, in the plants, the trade unions, among the youth; and will continue the work of recruiting, espe.cially among the best elements within the Stalinist move.ment who have been pointed out by our comrades who have made the entry.

Although our steady purpose will be to maintain and increase our forces within the Stalinist movement (and for a long period), it may well be that in the case of certain Stalinists who have been pointed out to us from within their movement, it may be preferable to accomplish the job of making them into Trotskyists by bringing them into the independent sector.

The independent sector will be composed of all those who are strictly necessary for conducting the work as a whole; plus those who for one reason or another, and despite all our efforts, are not able to integrate themselves into the Stalinist movement; plus those for whom we con.sider it preferable and even necessary that they should carry on the work of Trotskyist indoctrination in the independent sector. The members of our independent sector will abandon none of their activities in the plants and the unions, in conformity with our ideas on joint action, unity, strategy of the struggles, etc.; they will not cease to take the initiative in pushing and leading the organiza.tions and the struggles wherever conditions permit; but they will always see to it that such activities are carried on in relation to the whole of our work in France and the attention we are giving above all to the Stalinist militants, to our experiences above all with them, and understood above all by them.

If our French organization involves itself in this policy which we have briefly sketched in some of its broad outlines, the result would be, in a certain length of time, a genuine integration of dozens and dozens of our members in real mass work, within the Stalinist movement itself.

In this way we will be able to follow the whole dynamic evolution of the Stalinist movement, itself determined by the evolution of the international situation, and we will be situated in the best position to profit from the developments.

Such a policy will have the immediate result of giving a number of our members a field of work; it will create among the Stalinist militants an atmosphere for understanding our fundamental political positions and our criticisms of the contradictions and the fundamental errors of Stalinist policy; it will even strengthen numerically our organization as a whole through the support of Stalinist elements.

I will complete this point with an examination of several special problems posed by the work oriented toward the Stalinist workers and organizations.

First of all, concerning our independent press, its content, its form. Our press, we have stated, must be written above all to help the entrist work, to give political direc.tives to our forces operating inside, to find the maximum response among the Stalinist workers and members, to facilitate their political development.

Since we are here concerned with openly Trotskyist organs and in view of the fact that they are directed not at reformist but at revolutionary workers, who take a stand on generally communist ground, on revolutionary ground, who have the same preoccupations and the same goals as we, the task of our organs is to develop fully our entire policy, all of its themes, to criticize Stalinist policy clearly, unequivocally, concretely, etc. “with no restrictions other than those of wording and formulation, which must be studied so as to find increasing response from the Stalinist workers and members.”

At the present stage, we will center our compact pedagogic, but unequivocal and clear argumentation on the reactionary utopian character, so incompatible with an effective mobilization of the class and a real struggle against war, of the two themes of Stalinist policy: peaceful co-existence; national unity and independence.

We are naturally not lacking in arguments which would sharpen the doubts already existing on these two themes among the most advanced Stalinist workers and members, and to show them in a simple, concrete fashion the impasse, nationally and internationally, to which Stalinist policy (which is above all the policy of the Kremlin) is leading and the obstacles it raises to an effective and efficacious mobilization of the class, the only class capable of really struggling against the war.

Adequate but more prudent discussions on these themes must be conducted inside the Stalinist organizations themselves by our entrist elements, but they will have to use caution so as to avoid isolation from their milieu or expulsion. Our press will in reality have as its task to present in a comprehensible fashion to the Stalinist workers and members the necessity of a class orientation in order to effectively oppose the war preparations of the imperialists as well as the war itself. The logic of a class orientation makes itself felt more and more because of the absurdity, continual failure in the face of reality, the impasse to which present Stalinist policy leads. The Stalinist leadership itself feels the pressure of the situation, of its logic, and seeks a way out from the impasse of its own policy. But naturally, since it is a prisoner of its past policy, of the pressure of the Kremlin and of its own bureaucratic nature, it only succeeds partially, confusedly and bureaucratically, in a jerky and contradictory fashion.

An example of this is the fashion in which it wishes to resolve the question of united action and united front on the trade union and political levels between the reformists and its own forces.

In France for example it occupies a position on this question half way between a correct united front policy from top to bottom and a “third period” policy of the united front from below.

The Trotskyists now have an opportunity they have never had before to speak to the Stalinist workers and members and to facilitate their understanding, their evolution.

In concluding this report which is already very long, I find it necessary to repeat that I am far from considering that I have exhausted this subject. But the spirit of our tactic is clear; the general line and more precise directives are there already. For the rest, let us have confidence in collective elaboration by our movement, in the initiative and flexibility of our national leaders and cadres.

All of us here, I believe, are firmly convinced that the Third World Congress has freed our movement of the last of its residual sectarian obstacles to a far greater degree than any other international assembly and discussion in our movement and that its directive “to achieve our penetration in the real mass movement” will not meet with failure.

Our movement is on the road to fusion, and will effec.tively and completely, fuse with its class, will follow it in its natural march, will live its experiences and will do all to help it attain its historical goals, which are now so close.

Naturally the orientation which we demand now of our whole movement does not proceed without encountering resistance resulting from the inertia, past habits, inevitable lack of comprehension by a series of elements confronted by the fundamental changes which have come about during and after the war and the tumultuous, rapid character of the objective revolutionary processes of this epoch.

Some people are surprised, astonished; and flounder about in a vain effort to fit the new rich explosive reality into narrow and circumscribed mental schemas. They then revolt not against the schemas but against those whom they call iconoclasts and visionaries. They react, they sulk, they cry scandal, they hang on to their schemas, they no longer understand.

Naturally it is the duty of the International to have patience with slower comrades, to explain its line again and again. This it has done, it does and it will do. But within certain limits. It cannot consent to postponing activity on this line with the object of first persuading everybody of the correctness of its line. There is always a remnant in the movement consisting of worn-out elements or those subject to enemy pressures and forces, who will never understand. There is always a sectarian sediment, especially in a movement such as ours which has been isolated from the great masses for so long, which cannot be reeducated by arguments.

We must pass over to action and let action persuade those who are lagging behind.

The Third World Congress has overthrown the last sectarian barriers to our activity. The question now is one of going ahead and occupying everywhere and in good time our positions for the final struggle. We do not have a very long period ahead of us to accomplish this task. Events are developing rapidly. Even if two or three years, and even a little more are left us before the decisive struggle, that is not a great deal of time in which to prepare ourselves. On the contrary it is necessary to act fast, to deploy our forces, to proceed immediately to integrate ourselves all over in the real mass movement. This is why discussions on the tactical applications of the line of the Third World Congress cannot be protracted. For a year now we have lost extremely important, precious time in certain countries and are aggravating our lag behind the real situation in these countries.

Our movement, just like the working class movement as a whole, suffers from the contradiction between the needs of the objective situation, which is more extraordinary than ever, and subjectively inadequate. But unlike other currents in the workers’ movement which enjoy mass support, we at the present stage have no support, no main strength outside of the clarity and breadth of our thought, the speed and flexibility of our action.

The epoch, the period demand of the revolutionary party that its revolutionary leaders and members must be more capable, more complete than ever before. They demand, in reality, Cadre Parties, that is, parties which have an ever larger number of cadres with a vision of great depth and breadth. Our movement should in its entirety, in its overwhelming majority, have attained such a level in order to confront this period and to accomplish its tasks. Otherwise it runs the risk of being crushed under the enormous pressure of an unprecedented situation which it did not learn to understand and by tasks which it did not succeed in fulfilling, mainly for lack of understanding.

February 1952

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Michel Pablo
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Marxist Writers’

Updated on: 10 April 2015