The Committee’s Reply to Comrade C.

The French text of this document was taken from Bulletin Mensuel de la IVe Internationale (zone libre), No. 2, April 1941.
The translation is by the Prometheus Research Library.

Continued from left column

In addition, this position seems to us sufficiently open to criticism as it is, without having to find ways to distort it or even make it say what it doesn’t say. Don’t forget (and what follows is not written with the intention of making excuses for the American position, but to clarify matters) that for our comrades it is a question of transitional slogans. C. counterposes trade-union control over the army to “Soldiers’ Committees.” That’s wrong! Control is only a slogan for an immediate demand, like our “Down with two years” [length of army service] or “Five francs pay” [for soldiers]. We say this, to reiterate, without calling into question the in­cor­rect­ness of the slogan “trade-union control of the army.” But if the first two slogans are ag­ita­tion­al, all the more so should the latter one be ag­ita­tion­al. Comrade C. sees a “sharp contradiction” between the fact that there are strikes and the slogan put forward by the SWP leadership. Now the CIO (headed by Lewis) generally supported the strike movement. Well, it is that same CIO which would probably be named by the SWP to “control” the army—because the union remains a union, even if its leader supports a reactionary candidate in the elections. So where is the contradiction between strikes and “control”?

Finally, we would point out that although trade-union “control” of the army seems to us a utopian slogan, without practical application and as such wrong (even isolated from its dubious context), we also know that for the last few months the Amer­ican fraternal party has been at the cutting edge of the strike wave, and that it has been doing nothing but “pushing this movement toward a revolutionary outcome.”

The Committee

It is true that the Committee has not yet written down its opinion in black and white concerning the SWP’s position. It felt, perhaps wrongly, that first the discussion should be started on the American documents, which already happened a few months ago. In cell meetings, comrades were unanimous in condemning the famous phrases: “We fight against sending into battle...” etc. And for the benefit of comrade C. we would point out that it was members of the Committee who were the first to stress the inappropriateness, the unfortunate nature of these phrases, to point out the more or less utopian character of the slogan “trade-union control of the army,” the all-too-obvious contradiction between the first part of the Manifesto (“not one man, not one penny, not one rifle for the bourgeois army”) and the second part, which was the “original” contribution (we maintain the epithet: everyone is free to interpret it as he wishes). It was our intention to subject this document to the most searching criticism—so much so that we didn’t include this first part in the Bulletin, since it merely confirmed our traditional position on war and the bourgeois army.

Once this critical assessment had been made—an assessment which C.’s informant R. did not con­tri­bute to—it seemed to us wise to await new in­for­ma­tion and documents. It was all the more wise in that the SWP seems to us to still have a clearly BL [Bolshevik-Leninist] position: genuine opposition to the war, anti-Anglophilia (but also clearly setting themselves off from the pacifists and isolationists), in a word an independent class policy. To date there has been no trace of union sacrée. And that is why their position on the army seems to us—pending further information—to be a gross tactical error if you will, but nothing more, at least for the moment.

Top Right