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Pierre Frank

Report on the Colonial Revolution

Presented by Comrade Pierre Frank

(October 1957)

Presented to the Fifth Congress of the Fourth International, October 1957.
From Fourth International (Paris), Vol. 1 No. 1, Winter 1958, pp. 27–32.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

The colonial revolution, the movement of the colonial peoples to free themselves from the imperialist yoke, was the dominant reality in the world during the years which immediately followed the period of the Second World War. It is only now that a factor of equally capital importance is added to the steadily continuing colonial revolution: the political revolution beginning in the workers’ states still under the yoke of the bureaucracy.

For more than a dozen years, revolutionary movements in colonial and semi-colonial countries have never ceased to shake the capitalist world. They have won decisive victories. The revolutionary tide continues to rise on all the continents which were colonized.

The colonial revolution has led revolutionary Marxists to a complete re-evaluation of their previous perspectives on the progress of the world revolution. In fact, from the first victory of the revolution, from October 1917, until the years immediately following the Second World War, revolutionary Marxists, that is to say, the Third International under Lenin’s and Trotsky’s leadership, then the Fourth International, had based their orientations on a different perspective which was as follows: the revolution started in the Soviet Union would extend itself and triumph in the West.

We certainly did not underestimate the revolutionary movements in the East. We can find in Lenin’s and Trotsky’s works phrases envisaging the possibility of victories of the revolution in the East, but these were merely possible eventualities. – The revolutionary Marxist strategy was mainly directed toward the West, toward Europe. The defeat of the second Chinese Revolution in 1927 did not make us give up the struggle for reform of the Communist International, because the centre of gravity of the workers’ movement still remained in Europe. We had been educated with the perspective of the German revolution, centre of the European revolution, centre of the world revolution. The German labor movement was the centre of the world labor movement, and it was only after its defeat that we moved on from the struggle for reform within the Third International to the struggle for the Fourth International. Even after the years of fascism, at the end of the Second World War, it was still on the revolutionary upsurge in Europe that we were essentially centred.

The march of events has, however, followed quite another road: the world revolution which won its first victory in the Soviet Union has first of all made its way through the countries which today we call underdeveloped, before its triumph in those countries where capitalism is the most developed. This is an event which has been much exploited by all sorts of revisionists in their fight against Marxism. But Marxism has already run into many others and is none the worse for it. In reality, Marxism is the only instrument which permits precisely to analyze, to understand, and to orient ourselves amid the extremely complex events of these last few years since the end of the Second World War.

The fundamental crisis of capitalism following upon the First then the Second World War has led to a considerable weakening of the capitalist system. At the end of the Second World War, confronted by an extremely intense revolutionary crisis, capitalism was confronted by a very serious choice. Unable to make a stand with equal strength on all fronts, it deliberately concentrated its forces on the European Metropolitan countries and kept minor forces in Asia. It was necessary for it to maintain the European bastions at all costs. Thanks above all to the betrayals of the Stalinist and reformist leaderships, it has succeeded in establishing a certain equilibrium – unstable, still, a certain equilibrium nevertheless – in the principal European countries.

On the other hand, in Asia where capitalism kept only limited forces and where the native bourgeoisie was also very weak, the colonial revolution in its march forward marked up a most decisive victory in China. Independently of the policy of the Chinese Communist Party, the uprising of the Chinese peasant masses was so powerful that it finally carried along in the struggle the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party. And it is the capitalist regime which was swept away.

Imperialism had scarcely regained a certain equilibrium, a sort of stability, in Europe, when it realized that it had lost quite decisive positions in Asia. It is then that it intervened, with the Korean War, in the attempt to halt the advance of the revolution in the Far East.

We have thus arrived at a situation which did not at all enter into the perspectives which we had before the war. The increased decline of capitalism, the very prolonged delay of the European revolution, and the colonial revolution’s marking up decisive victories – such is the picture, which has opened a new perspective, a much more concrete one, of the progress of the world revolution. At present, we witness the continuation of the colonial revolution and the first steps made by the political revolution in the workers’ states. The most probable perspective now is that the development of both is preparing the outbreak of the proletarian revolution in Europe, while the revolution in the U.S.A. will constitute the final link for the victory of the world revolution.

We do not present such a picture and such perspectives in order to draw a historical fresco. This is a question of primordial importance for such an organization as ours, which has set itself the task of guiding and leading the world revolution, taken as a whole; and this task is a concrete perspective for us, not in a distant future but in a relatively near future. It is a very important question to know where to concentrate our forces, to determine the objectives of the world revolution in this and that sector.

It is also useful to recall this re-evaluation that we have made in order to engage in a critical examination of ideas, conceptions, and writings of the past, so that we can judge them in the light of the perspective we had at that time and to understand why certain things appear to us mistaken today and to what extent they were mistaken. All we wrote, all we put forward, in the period preceding the Second World War and at the end of that war was conceived and written according to our previous perspective. We cannot engage in a serious critical examination by taking up only this or that idea, this or that phrase; we must place them in the overall perspective which existed prior to this situation.

For instance, some comrades have wondered whether the theory of the permanent revolution, which has been so well confirmed on the whole, did not however reveal certain lacunae, whether it might not be necessary to render it more flexible, and whether there might not have been some errors committed on this subject. For example, it is a very important fact that in China the proletariat did not intervene directly as the leadership of the revolution, and the proletarian leadership, was assured only indirectly through the leadership of workers’ party which furthermore did all it could to prevent the Chinese proletariat from acting. Another remark made by some comrades is that though the in a series of colonial and semi-colonial countries, is a certain industrialization which is not at all negligible, and which has been brought about under a bourgeois leadership. Another remark made by some comrades is that though the imperialist metropolitan countries have lost a certain number of colonies, this has not had immediately catastrophic effects on the capitalist system, since we have in the last few years witnessed a quite extraordinary economic “boom.” Lastly, the example of India has raised many questions among comrades. India obtained, under the leadership of the native bourgeoisie, an independence which was not merely formal, and she is playing a quite important role on the world scale. But we had maintained vigorously before the war that the Indian bourgeoisie would not be able to lead India to independence; we can quote quite characteristic sentences by Trotsky on this subject. The question is therefore raised: did we not underestimate the possibilities of the native bourgeoisie?

We must review all these observations, examine them one by one, but – as I have just said – we cannot make such an examination isolatedly. We have to situate these things in relation to the perspective we had formerly, in relation to the conditions existing at that time. For instance, in the case of China, there is nothing in common between the situation during the years 1925–27 and the situation of 1946–47 and afterwards. I have mentioned the withdrawal of a great part of the forces of imperialism from the Far East. Furthermore, the Chinese bourgeoisie had been considerably weakened during the years of war against Japan. Besides, the Chinese Red Armies received very serious armament. We were faced with completely exceptional circumstances, in which the factor of the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and its policy played a much less important role in the overall picture, not to speak of course of the extreme weakness, from a numerical point of view, of the Chinese proletariat in the whole population, which remained constant throughout the revolution. It is because of these exceptional conditions that we say that the example of China is quite exceptional, that it does not permit of diminishing at all the essential notion of the leading role of the proletariat in the revolution in under-developed countries.

Concerning the problems of the economy, i.e. the development of industrialization and the economic relations between the metropolitan countries and the colonial countries, I would rather leave this question to the report on political and economic perspectives in which it will be more broadly developed. In this report, you will find the explanation on the particular conditions, the reason why the loss of a certain number of colonies has not had catastrophic consequences for imperialism. But I believe it is quite clear, from the violence and the vigor of the imperialists’ resistance in the Middle East, that they understand the importance of the struggle and they are fighting in a situation which is for them extremely vital. This is much more decisive for them than what they have already lost.

Let us come to the example of India which is certainly by far the most important. It is quite sure that in 1948 we underestimated the degree of independence secured by India at that time. That is very clear when we reread the document of our Second World Congress on the colonial movements of that period.

What is the origin of this mistake that we committed? It is quite true, I repeat, that we oriented ourselves above all on more rapid victories of the revolution in Europe, which would have had very important repercussions on the development of the Indian proletariat. It would subsequently have made great progress and the Indian bourgeoisie would not have had so much room for manoeuvre as it in fact has had.

In this connection it is not a bad idea briefly to take up again certain theoretical problems, because I do not think that the question of national independence constitutes an essential part of the theory of the permanent revolution. This appears quite clearly when we retrace it back to its source, that is, when we examine the conditions in which Trotsky developed the theory of the “permanent revolution,” and re-read his principal writing on this subject, his book The Permanent Revolution.

Trotsky formulated his theory of the permanent revolution in relation to Czarist Russia, which was not only not a colonial or semi-colonial country, but on the contrary was an imperialism of a very particular type. The problem raised was not that of independence, but the following problem. Russia was an economically underdeveloped country, which had not yet solved the democratic tasks, in the first place the agrarian revolution. It was the tasks of the agrarian revolution that Trotsky put forward both in 1905 and in his 1928 book on the permanent revolution. The basic idea which Trotsky developed in relation to Czarist Russia and which was taken up again later concerning other economically backward countries, is as follows. The bourgeoisie of these countries, he says, is not able to fulfill the role played by the bourgeoisies of the modern capitalist countries who accomplished the revolutions of the XVIIth, XVIIIth, and XIXth Centuries. It is not capable of resolutely taking the leadership of the nation in order to fulfill thoroughly, right through to the end, the tasks completed by its predecessors. It is not able to do this, because it is attached by a thousand ties to imperialism, to landed property, and besides it is too weak and it sees rising up before it the menace of the native proletariat which forms an integral part of the world proletariat. Trotsky never said that the bourgeoisie would not undertake any struggle at all, but only that it would not carry this struggle through to the end; that it could not succeed in creating a stable bourgeois regime as did the bourgeoisies of the European countries in the XVIIth, XVIIIth, and XIXth Centuries; and that, under the new historical conditions, it is up to the proletariat, despite its numerical weakness, to take the leadership of the nation in solving the democratic tasks. The proletariat, in seizing the power, would of course not be able to limit itself to mere democratic tasks and would begin the tasks of the socialist construction of society. These few words recall the essence, the basis, of the theory of the permanent revolution. The principal chapter of Trotsky’s book on this subject is entitled: “The permanent revolution is the transformation of the nation under the leadership of the proletariat.”

The permanent revolution does not mean that the native bourgeoisie is not able to conduct a certain struggle against imperialism, that colonial society cannot experience any development under the regime of this native bourgeoisie. It signifies essentially that the native bourgeoisie cannot accomplish the entirety of the democratic tasks and, unlike its forerunners of the last centuries, it cannot install a regime by which capitalism would acquire a stability for a whole historical period. It is from this point of view that we must look at the situation in India, examine what has happened in India since the proclamation of independence.

In this period, the independence of India has become a sure fact. Yet the whole development which we have witnessed is not owing to the intrinsic force of the Indian bourgeoisie, but to the concurrence of most particular circumstances, above all on the international plane. We can see the circumstances that have been in favor of the Indian bourgeoisie. It has received support and aid from both the East and the West. I am not for the moment discussing the importance of this aid. In spite of these circumstances, the Indian bourgeoisie has not solved the democratic tasks; and Nehru’s regime, the regime of the Congress, is now approaching a new stage which, according to all well-informed observers, is full of dangers and will be decisive for the stability of the regime of the Indian bourgeoisie.

It must be noted first that the Indian bourgeoisie has not solved the problem of national unity. On the contrary, it acquired its independence only at the cost of an enormous amputation – the creation of Pakistan which is itself a country composed of detached pieces; and it is quite certain that the question of some form of reunification of India will be posed again on the order of the day. As to the agrarian question, it cannot be said that the Indian bourgeoisie has settled this question, it cannot be said even that it has tackled it. In the past period, Nehru has above all on the one hand exploited international conditions, and on the other played a Bonapartist role in Indian society, exploiting in particular the prestige acquired in the course of past struggles which were in fact conducted mainly under the leadership of the Congress Party.

On the economic plane, the new regime, the regime of the Congress, has not brought the masses very appreciable improvements, and it also offers them very few perspectives for the future. There are comparisons which one can or cannot make by means of statistics; but the masses make comparisons in their own way without looking at charts. More particularly, the Indian masses, like all masses in Asia, make their comparison with the development of China. It is due to the conditions of this comparison that Nehru proposed a second five-year plan destined to give hopes to the masses, to present to them a different road toward socialism, an Indian road toward socialism, a sort of cheap solution which would spare them all kinds of sufferings experienced by the Chinese population.

The second Indian five-year plan was conceived in a quite audacious manner; but once they started to carry it out, they found themselves faced by an economic and financial situation implying very serious dangers which considerably compromise the carrying out of the second five-year plan. India lacks foreign exchange. It is also suffering from inflation; and today it seems that all the projects of the second five-year plan are much compromised, unless India receives enormous credits. That is why we see the Indian government today begging to left and right, or rather to East and West, for quite considerable credits. Nehru starts to behave in a very modest way toward the United States in the attempt to obtain extremely important credits.

This situation in India provokes extremely serious worries among a number of bourgeois or social-democratic observers. Let us quote only two: the American journalist, Walter Lippman, who is a very well-informed specialist on international problems, and the principal economist of the Labour Party, Balogh. They declare that, if there is not a most considerable intervention by the capitalist countries, the United States and Great Britain, if there is not really decisive aid, it will be impossible to maintain the stability of the regime in India, and they add that there will then be a danger of India’s taking the road followed by China. Lippman goes even further to say that the Syrian affair is quite a minor affair in face of all that is beginning to appear on the Indian horizon.

I believe that nobody among us has any illusions – after all the experiences we have passed through – about the possibilities for capitalism to intervene in a decisive way in such a country as India to assure the stability of its regime. By this I do. not mean that bourgeois India will not receive any aid at all; nor do I mean that things are going directly toward a development of the proletarian revolution, but I believe that we must understand: it is not the stability but the crisis of the bourgeois regime which is on the order of the day.

The conclusion that we can draw from the experience of India is that, in the years from independence up until now, what has happened has not been the manifestation of the intrinsic strength of the Indian bourgeoisie, but has been due to its possibilities of playing, in a much more prolonged way than we could have imagined, a Bonapartist role, both on the national and the international scale. There has not been stabilization; the day of reckoning is later than we thought, but it is approaching. The transformation of the nation is not being carried out, and has not been carried out, under the leadership of the bourgeoisie. There has been a number of transformations, but not a fundamental one; the deadline is approaching and the problem of the transformation of the nation raises the problem of the leadership of the proletariat.

The example of India has extraordinary significance; it is decisive for a general explanation of what the possibilities of the native bourgeoisie in a number of colonial and semi-colonial countries have seemed to be in the past few years. In each case, there exist specific and particular factors which have played a role. They are different for India and for Egypt. But in no case has the native bourgeoisie played an important role because of its own strength. It has not stabilized the nation. Its role has been out of proportion with its own forces owing to the conditions in which it was placed. Let us recall once again these conditions: a considerable weakening of capitalism, a reinforcement of the workers’ states, and a prolonged delay of the proletarian revolution in the capitalist countries, above all because of the leaderships of the working class. The tempo of revolutionary developments has been modified and slowed down, but we are unquestionably approaching, or we have already entered into, a new stage. This situation appears very clearly in India, and, by the way, this will be a question that we shall have to examine as to our tasks in the organizational part of this congress.

In the Far East there also arises the question of Indonesia. There too movements of extraordinary importance are taking place: we have already seen in the last few months the very important results of the elections, which are the sign of an unusually powerful revolutionary impulse. I think that a qualified comrade will intervene on this question in detail in the course of the discussion, and so I shall not deal with it in this report.

If we are today witnessing a new revolutionary upsurge appearing on the horizon in the Far East, especially in India and Indonesia, the colonial revolution is now at its climax, on the other hand, in the Arab world, from Casablanca to Bagdad.

The whole world knows the extreme importance of those regions where this revolution is going on, from all points of view: political, economic, and military. At that point three continents converge: Asia, Europe, and Africa. Through it passes the shortest route between Europe and the Far East. It runs all the way from the borders of the Caucasian oil fields to that point on the coast closest to the American continent. The petroleum resources of the Middle East are very well known; now announcement is made of fabulous resources in the Sahara, which lies next to North Africa. It is thus understandable why the game being played on the international scale for these regions is so extremely savage. We face a situation full of great danger for the outbreak of the Third World War. Since the Suez affair, within a year’s time, we have already had several incidents, several crises, Jordan, and now Syria; we shall certainly experience several others. To quote Foster Dulles, we are leaning “over the abyss.”

Now let us move on to the question of the revolution’s own strength in the Arab countries. These may be divided into two groups, each having a more marked unity of its own: the Middle East on the one hand, and North Africa on the other.

In the Middle East, it is Egypt which plays the leading role, and it will certainly play a more and more important role owing to the fact that it is the most industrialized country of this whole region, of all the Arab countries. This leading role is at present taken by a bourgeois leadership, that of Nasser. In his own way, and in terms which are not Marxist, Nasser has quite well described the situation which was developing and what his own conceptions were. We have several times quoted in our publications passages from Nasser’s book, The Philosophy of Revolution, in which he explains the intervention of the Egyptian officers’ corps to get rid of corrupted cliques, to transform their country into a modern state with an important economic development. After that, Nasser then explains his own observations: following the military coup d’etat which drove out King Farouk, instead of having the unanimity of the nation behind those who had carried out this coup d’etat, he saw a swarm of private aspirations and interests rise up. And he comes to the conclusion that in his country there is occurring a combination of two revolutions at once. On the one hand a revolution whose purpose is to liberate the country from the imperialist yoke; on the other hand, a social revolution in which the masses aim at greater well-being, at a new state of affairs.

In his own words – which are not Marxist terms – Nasser rediscovers what we have always said about the theory of permanent revolution, about the dual nature of revolution in under-developed countries. Of course, Nasser also describes his conception, his perspectives, his programme, which are those of a military man who wants things to be done in an orderly way. The two revolutions must not come about at the same time. First the political revolution, the liberation from the imperialist yoke. Once this one is completed, it will be decided at the top how gradually to improve the internal situation. It is very difficult to explain more clearly the conception of the present bourgeois leadership of the Egyptian revolution; it is worded quite clearly. Of course it will develop in a quite different way from what can be decided at the top.

Comrade Mischa will certainly speak on this problem of Egypt and the Middle East. He has already made an important contribution to the preparatory discussion for the Congress, all the more important in that it already outlines a programme for our movement in the Middle East. I wish to mention here only two points. In his articles, Comrade Mischa has very correctly shown the difference between Nasser’s and Peron’s attitudes toward the working-class movement. This difference is very important and very great; but I think that it is owing especially to the conditions themselves, to the fact that the workers’ movement in Argentina, unlike that in Egypt, had a great and long tradition of organization. It is probably the very logic of the struggle, the very logic of the development of the situation, which will compel Nasser also to take the working masses much more into account in the future. During the Port Said events, Nasser was bold enough to arm the masses, because the development of the workers’ movement is still very weak in Egypt. One can be sure that with the development of the situation, he will show much less daring in such situations, and that his attitude will be much more varied and complicated towards the working masses of Egypt.

Another point to which I wish to draw your attention is the organization which exists especially in Syria and Jordan, and which also engages in illegal action in Iraq. I am speaking of the Socialist Party of Arab Renascence, the Baath Party. At first sight, this party looks to me like an Arabian variety of a party of the M.N.R. type. We must study this very closely. Here is surely a political centre where Marxist currents can very well develop.

Now I come to North Africa. I will give only a few essential ideas. We shall surely have several speeches which will develop these problems. It must be so, because this is the most advanced point in the combat of the colonial revolution. It requires from us not only political support but also, as much as possible, material aid, to the revolutionary struggle which is taking place.

For years and years, the policy of French imperialism has been to try to split the three countries composing North Africa, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. It has done this first of all with the hope of maintaining its hold on the whole of North Africa, without granting any concessions. Then it gave a little to Tunisia; it is what was called “internal autonomy.” Next, it had to give Morocco what was called “independence in interdependence”; it was obliged to bring back the sultan who had been exiled to Madagascar.

Having granted Morocco independence, it had to give it to Tunisia immediately.

Under these conditions, French imperialism thought that it could maintain its authority more than ever in Algeria, which is actually the key to all North Africa. Without Algeria’s independence, Tunisia’s and Morocco’s are rather problematical.

All the calculations of imperialism were baffled, for the insurrection began immediately in Algeria in November 1954. French imperialism is making enormous efforts to crush the Algerian revolution. It keeps half a million soldiers of the regular army there, for a population of about 8 million inhabitants. It spends 2 billion francs a day. French imperialism can practically no longer find any natives there ready to play the part of Bao-Daï and to be imperialism’s servants. At the moment, the French parliament is discussing a “framework-law” to determine a new status for Algeria. It is being discussed by all French parties. It is being presented to all the governments of the world. It cannot be presented to the Algerians, because there is not one among them all to present it to. But why is French imperialism so obstinate and why does it go on with a policy which is visibly hopeless? Algeria does not have what French bourgeois call, in their own vocabulary, “valid counter-spokesmen,” because of the composition of society in that country. It is difficult, not to say impossible, for them to go through with a political transaction resembling that which they were able to bring off in other colonies. The reign of French imperialism in Algeria since the 1830s has caused the native landowners practically to die out. There are native bourgeois, but they are few, and it is very difficult to say that they form a native bourgeois class in a structural sense. The bourgeois stratum is very limited. There is also an Algerian petty-bourgeoisie, but it is extremely poor. It cannot be anything but poor when one realizes that the great mass of the population is not a proletarian population, a proletariat properly so-called; it is a kind of sub-proletariat, a sort of plebeian mass living in an extremely miserable way, such as there are few to be seen in the world. The best expression to describe this socially is the English word “pauper.” Even the French statistics, the official ones, admit that the great majority of this population has a total income in Algeria lower than the savings sent by the 400,000 Algerian workers living in France, and yet these are paid the lowest salaries while, doing the hardest work. I think that the official figure on the income of an Algerian family is 20,000 francs [approximately 42 dollars, or 15 pounds] a year. This is what explains the highly explosive nature of the Algerian revolution and the great difficulty imperialism has in finding a consistent social stratum of owners, capable of assuming the leadership of that country.

Of course this revolution in Algeria plays an explosive part also for the neighboring countries, i.e., Tunisia and Morocco.

Therefore, besides French imperialism, the native bourgeoisies of Tunisia and Morocco are extremely sensitive to what is happening in Algeria, for the social equilibrium in their countries is seriously threatened. In the course of the last month or of the last six weeks, we have seen Bourguiba, the most qualified representative of the Tunisian bourgeoisie, eliminating the monarchy, and we have also seen the Sultan of Morocco taking measures against a certain number of feudal landowners who had been too openly allied to French imperialism. Such measures in Tunisia and Morocco are preventive measures, concessions in face of the ferment which is going on in these countries, and which is stirred up, stimulated, and strengthened by the struggle of the Algerian people. Bourguiba, the most clear-sighted representative of the bourgeoisie of these countries, wants to find a solution which will enable a bourgeois regime to be established in Algeria. He has taken up, in a certain form, the idea of a North African Federation, which is indeed inherent in the historical development of these countries. But he especially hopes to be able to support, by means of the Tunisian and Moroccan bourgeoisies, whatever Algerian bourgeoisie there may be.

Concerning the working and poor peasant masses in Algeria, we must stress first of all that the native trade-union movement is now freed from the tutelage of the French federations. It must be noted that during all the former period, French imperialism prevented natives from leading the trade unions, from having their own trade-union movement; it preferred to have trade unions even under Stalinist leadership as long as they were dependent on a French federation led by Paris, and tied to it. It was the same thing in Morocco.

Concerning the struggle in Algeria, the National Liberation Front, which is today the real leadership of the Algerian revolution, first put the accent, during a whole period, on military problems, the problems of armed struggle, exclusively from a military point of view. Then it gave its attention to political and social problems, which became concretized in the programme adopted last year at its congress. We reproduced very large excerpts from these texts in La Verité des Travailleurs. Among the most important points, aside from the very important role it gives to the proletariat, the one which it seems most necessary to us to stress is the creation, the establishment, of an organization, a local administration on the basis of committees of a popular type. Of course this must be regarded in a quite relative way, given the complicated situation in which the Algerian revolution is developing.

Certainly the most serious brake on political development in the Algerian revolution is the criminal attitude of the leaderships of the French working class. They have practically done all that was possible, each with its own policy, to break up any action by the French proletariat in aid of the Algerian revolution. As we all know, there have been a few good words said, now and then, by the Stalinist leaders. But it was not really serious, and it is easy to understand that the Algerian Communist Party has in fact disappeared. Last year, when the Guy Mollet government called hundreds of thousands of workers back to the army to send them to Algeria, demonstrations took place throughout France. Spontaneously, the young men in the railroad stations did not want to go. The Communist Party did nothing to organize and develop these struggles, and on the contrary, where there were violent incidents, it denounced them as being the work of provocateurs.

Since the beginning of 1957, we have witnessed a very great political apathy of the toiling masses; and those whom we hear, those who demonstrate, are a reactionary, fascist minority, taking advantage of this situation. There is in France a series of petty-bourgeois movements, of left-wing petty-bourgeois personalities, who of course do not have an imperialistic attitude, who stand for the independence of Algeria or for negotiations with the Algerians; but their real attitude, if we get to the bottom of their thoughts, is that, let us say, of people supporting a good French Commonwealth, giving good advice in a paternalistic way. The Algerians were right, of course, when in their newspaper they sent them packing and invited them to sweep their own doorstep first.

Under the circumstances thus created for the Algerians, the idea of socialism, the idea of communism, is particularly imperiled. There are European workers, even European Communists, who did not understand for a long time the difference between Guy Mollet and socialism, between Stalin and communism. For the workers of the colonial countries, whose cultural level is naturally very low, to distinguish socialism, communism, from Guy Mollet, Thorez & Co., becomes a difficult problem.

One very important factor for the future of the Algerian revolution is the existence of several hundreds of thousands of Algerians who have taken part in industrial life as workers in France, in the French workers’ movement, who have taken part in its struggles, and have given a good number of cadres to the workers’ movement such as factory delegates and trade-union militants, and who have an important part to play in the future of the Algerian revolution.

I should now like to say a few words on a question which surely preoccupies all militants, and on which they have little information outside of France. It is the question of the conflict between the two organizations: the National Liberation Front, and the M.N.A. We must answer first of all the assertion of Lambert’s group concerning the M.N.A. which they call the Bolshevik Party in the Algerian revolution. The M.N.A. is not a Bolshevik party. It is not even a workers’ party. The M.N.A., like the F.L.N., is a nationalist organization whose social composition is naturally linked to that of the Algerian population. The rank and file of these organizations is composed of workers and very poor peasants.

From the point of view of programme, it is impossible to see a great difference between the texts which are issued. Both of them want independence, an Algerian constitution, agrarian reform. If we, who are used to studying programmes with a microscope, do not see essential differences, it is clear that the Algerian masses, in turning on a broad scale to the Front and not to the M.N.A., do so for other reasons than those of programme What are the facts from this point of view? From the very beginning, the Front has had greater weight in the revolution in Algeria. At first, the M.N.A. had a very large majority among the Algerian emigration in France. By all the means for verification that we have at our disposal (responses to strike calls, the positions of Algerian delegates in the factories, etc.) we can – if not measure in a precise way, for these things cannot be measured – at least determine just what the tendencies are. On this point there can be no mistake. Today, the majority of the Algerian emigration, which was changing in 1956, is with the Front: and the M.N.A. holds its positions only in the North of France and in Belgium.

For the Algerian masses, it is the Front which is leading the struggle and this is the reason for their choice between the F.L.N. and the M.N.A. Actually, what we learned after a few months of armed struggle were the conditions in which it was launched. It was the men of the Front who began the combat.

The very few French militants who for many years had been watching the Algerian organization, the M.T.L.D., which after the war was the leading organization among the emigration and in Algeria, knew that a crisis was building up in this organization. Beginning in 1947, we learned of a whole series of incidents. They had individual aspects, and not a mass global aspect, but they were important political symptoms. The crisis took on a sharp character during the period 1952–1954, at the moment when the struggle was going on in Tunisia and Morocco, and when, by this struggle, the Tunisians and Moroccans were wrenching out some gains, while during that time the M.T.L.D. was impotent, powerless, and did not move. This brought on a crisis in the top ranks, which were torn among themselves. It also led a series of intermediate cadres, very numerous in this organization, the cadres of what was a para-military organization of the M.T.L.D., disgusted by the crisis at the top, to take the initiative of acting independently of the tops, and of beginning the armed struggle. At the top, after the split in the M.T.L.D., one of the tendencies was completely wiped out. The other one, that of Messali Hadj, for several months adopted a wait-and-see attitude toward the insurrection, and declared itself in favor of the armed struggle only about six months after it had begun. So, in Algeria, Messali’s tendency, the M.N.A., was unable to play an important part in the armed struggle. It is the F.L.N., created by the organizers of the insurrection, which has kept the leadership of the armed fight. It seems to us that this is an adequate explanation of the choice of the masses between the F.L.N. and the M.N.A.

Our attitude, and especially that of the French section, has been inspired by the desire to help, to the whole extent of our forces, the victory of the Algerian people. We did not think that this could be done by considering that the social and political contrasts were already clearly established in the revolutionary movements. We think that it is the development of the revolution, its progress, which will enable Marxist currents to arise and grow strong.

One more word must be said on the recent development of the M.N.A. Becoming more and more a minority, the M.N.A. – for reasons of pure manoeuvre, it seems to us – has taken disastrous positions. Did it hope for a better hearing from the Americans? In any case it has made declarations – to the United Nations, to the State Department, to the Adenauer government – which display what the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pineau, called in his speech to the United Nations last February, “pro-occidentalism.” Finally, it has organized Algerian trade unions in France, instead of calling upon the Algerian workers to go into the unions of the workers with whom they are in the factories.

Of course, our position does not copy that of the Lambert group, just substituting one organization for the other. We do not identify ourselves with the F.L.N., which would be politically wrong. We support the Algerian revolution as it is, with its present leadership as it is. This does not at all prevent us from giving our political estimate of the policy of the organizations and the leaderships of this revolution.

I have stressed several points; there are still many other aspects of the Algerian revolution to be treated. But I remind you once more that it is the farthest advanced point of the colonial revolution today. Supported only by the other colonized peoples, or those recently freed from the imperialist yoke, it is betrayed every day by the traditional organizations of the proletariat, which have done everything in their power to mislead the French proletariat which is directly concerned with the victory of the Algerian people. It is our duty to intervene everywhere in the movement of the working class to put an end to this scandalous situation. The whole history of our movement is marked by actions, as vigorous as possible, to attract the attention, to stir up the action, of the workers’ movement, towards the place where the revolution is grappling closely with the class enemy. We must remain faithful to our tradition in the case of Algeria.


North Africa and the Middle East bring us to the main bulk of the African continent. The imperialists already feel there, in varying degrees, the peoples’ desire of liberation. These peoples start out from a lower level, we often witness the decomposition of tribal structures, and because of this, the transition to socialism will be more abrupt and complicated.

A general survey of these questions has been given in an article by Comrade Germain during the preparatory discussion for this Congress. But it is obvious that we cannot stop at that point. We have to examine carefully the existing movements, the mass movements, the organizations of the intelligentsia who play a very important part in the life of these countries. The trade-union movement also begins to be widely developed there, and in several African countries, we have witnessed widespread strike struggles.

In all these movements there exists a deep intellectual search for fundamental answers to the problems of the African revolution. The formation now of a few valuable Marxist cadres could have a decisive effect upon the course of the revolution in those countries.

In this report I do not intend to develop the situation and the problems of our party both in Latin America and in Ceylon. The delegates from these countries will do it far better than I could. I will confine myself to a single remark in each case.

In Latin America the first act of force ordered by the United States, the intervention against the Arbenz government of Guatemala, took place at the time of our last Congress. Since then there has occurred the action against Peron. And now, the situation in Bolivia is rising to a paroxysm. But all these events also demonstrate, especially in the example of Argentina, the impossibility for imperialism and its agents in those countries to succeed in stabilizing any regime whatever for however short a time. The same would hold true, if eventually imperialism were to bring back Peron in order to check the social disintegration in Argentina.

As for Ceylon, we wish to stress before the Congress the courageous resistance of our section against the communalist currents on the language question. This attitude strengthened the party and we are convinced that it will pay us dividends before long.

It now remains for us to see how the discussion on the colonial revolution can be concluded. At the meeting of the International Executive Committee which had put this item on the agenda, there were planned: a general preamble – to be prepared by the I.S. – and special texts on the revolution in different parts of the world – which were to be written especially by comrades of sections which are, and with good reason, more directly concerned with these questions. Unfortunately, owing to the considerable tasks of which we are all aware, these last documents are missing. Only a few articles for the discussion could be written by some comrades.

The Colonial Commission which was named at the beginning of this Congress met before the opening of this discussion. It examined what could be done and finally proposes this to you. On one hand, the discussion is to be carried on here on the report and the general preamble, and we must by the end of this Congress have an amended and perfected preamble. But this preamble by its very nature will remain too general. The Commission proposes to use the presence here of many qualified comrades in order to work up texts on the situation in a certain number of countries of the greatest importance for the colonial revolution. These texts should be ready before the end of the month following the Congress. With them the I.S. would prepare a text of synthesis on the present state of the colonial revolution, and this text would be submitted to the next session of the International Executive Committee which would adopt it definitively in the name of the Congress. This is the solution which seems to us to be the most practical.


For us, it is not only a text that is in question. All of us here are aware of the significance of the colonial revolution for the victory of socialism. In all colonial countries, in all the movements of colonial peoples, there is a search, an ardent desire to understand, to find the solutions for their emancipation. This text that we have to prepare must be not only a document for us, for our own activity as the Fourth International; it must be prepared as a tool for great masses of militants among the colonial peoples, as a weapon for their combat. By helping these men to fight, we shall hasten the progress of our movement. The victory of the colonial peoples is also a victory of the Fourth International.

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Last updated: 9 October 2015