Révolution Socialiste  




CRP en el Perú




Letter from GB to LRP, May 28, 2007



Dear Comrades of the League for the Revolutionary Party,

We received on April 14 the letter from comrade Walter in the name of the LRP of the USA dealing with the Groupe Bolchevik’s tactics during presidential election of April and May 2007 in France.

Your contribution refers to two “declarations”, which are the last two editorials of the GB’s organ, Révolution Socialiste. These editorials referred not only to the presidential election but to the legislative elections, applying the analysis and the line defined by the 5th Conference of our organization in October 2006, about France workers’ movement after the restoration of capitalism in Russia.

The GB appreciates the interest you show in political life abroad and for its tactics. Thus it has translated your letter to distribute among its cells and also among the militants of the Permanent Revolution Collective who read French but not English.

Your reasoning, if we have understood it correctly, is the following:

1.  The line of the GB is critical support for the Parti Socialiste in the first as well as the second round of the presidential election.

2. One cannot electorally support a reformist party except if it is at the head of struggles.

3. The PS, according to the GB, has participated in the bourgeois attacks.

4. Consequently the GB is wrong to support the PS.

If this is true, one seeks to discover an alternative proposition, a better electoral tactic. But Walter says not a word about this. What’s more, the argument is false from end to end. Certainly, the LRP has the excuse of distance and lack of familiarity with mass reformist parties, as well as with two-round elections; but nothing excuse either the travesty of the position of the Groupe Bolchevik or silence about Comrade Walter’s actual position.


The entire argument of Cde. Walter rests on a deception


In Cde. Walter’s syllogism, premise No.1 is obviously indispensable.

As you point out in your January 21 statement, most of the votes that will be cast for workers' organizations will go to the PS rather than to the PCF or to the smaller centrist groups, for reasons of ‘electoral effectiveness.’ The PS is the only workers' party that has any chance of reaching the second round of the presidential election. Therefore it seems to us that your position, despite your disclaimer, amounts to a position of critical support for Royal and the Parti Socialiste.

This is inept, since the Groupe Bolchevik has written clearly:

Partisans of breaking every workers’ organization from the ruling class, Bolsheviks do not oppose the expression, however deformed and partial, of the struggle between classes by way of elections. In the first round as well as the second, in the presidential as well as the legislative, the votes of the workers can only go to the workers’ organizations and parties (PS, PCF. LO, LCR), and never to the candidates of bourgeois formations. (Révolution Socialiste No. 22, January 2007)

The Groupe Bolchevik cannot support any candidacy. Nevertheless, it calls on workers who can and who wish to vote to choose, on the first round, a candidate of an organization issuing from the working class (PS, PCF, LCR, LO) against all the bourgeois candidates. For the same reasons, if a candidate of a workers’ organization remains on the second round, the Groupe Bolchevik calls for voting for him or her, or for abstaining. (Révolution Socialiste No. 23, April 2007) 

Since when is a prediction a recommendation? If Bolsheviks say, “isolated struggles against layoff plans are very difficult” or “the youth revolt in poor neighborhoods adopts weak and counterproductive forms because if the isolation the workers’ movement has left it in,” only an imbecile or an ill-intentioned person would translate it to mean: “the Bolsheviks are oppose to strikes against layoffs and are partisans of the isolation of  youth devoted to being declassed.” If Cde. Walter affirmed that “it will probably rain in Paris during Pentecost”, must we then understand that “Cde. Walter wants it to rain tomorrow on the heads of Parisians”?

The French presidential election takes place in two rounds, under direct universal suffrage. If no candidate obtains an absolute majority on the first round, the two candidates who obtain the most votes in the first round remain on the ballot for the second. The legislative elections also allow for two rounds. If no candidate obtains an absolute majority in the first round in a given district, all those who obtained more than 12.5% of the votes can run in the second, and then the one who obtains the most votes is chosen to be the representative.

The Groupe Bolchevik analyzed, four months before the first round of the presidential election, that the PS would probably obtain many workers’ votes on the first round – more than in 2002, at the expense of its reformist competitors:

The proletariat and part of the youth will attempt to utilize the vote to realize what the union leaderships, the PS, the PCF, their adjuncts in the LO and the LCR have prevented them from accomplishing through the class struggle since the first round of the presidential election of 2002. In the Spring of 2007, millions of workers will vote in the presidential (and then in the legislative) election to sweep away Sarkozy, Villepin, Chirac (and also against the other bourgeois candidates Le Pen, de Villiers, Bayrou, Voynet ...). It is likely, because of electoral effectiveness, the vote of the “ouvriers” and “employés” [blue- and white-collar workers] will benefit the PS rather than the PCF, the LCR or LO, without their having many illusions in Royal and the PS. (Révolution Socialiste No. 22, January 2007)

In passing, the Groupe CRI, which you mention and which has published several articles from your journal, saluted the referendum of May 29, 2005 as an important success of the working class, as did all the products of the advanced decomposition of the Fourth International in this country. But how then explain that the electoral defeat of 2007 followed so rapidly after the victory of 2005, that the working class went in two years from more than 54% of the votes (“No” in the referendum) to... 6.5% only (LCR + LO + PCF + PT in the presidential)?

In contrast, the prediction of the GB has turned out to be on the mark, since the PS collected, on the first round, 3 million more votes than five years ago: Jospin obtained 6.5 million votes on April 21, 2002 (16.18 % of the votes) ; Royal won 9.5 million on April 23, 2007 (25.87 %). As for the rest of the workers’ movement, the PCF candidate Hue obtained 0.9 million in 2002 (3.37%), Buffet obtained 0.7 in 2007 (1.93 %) ; the candidate of LO, Laguiller, obtained 1.6 million in 2002 (5.72 %), 0.5 in 2007 (1.33 %) ; the candidate of the LCR, Besancenot, obtained 1.2 million (4.25 %), 1.5 million in 2007 (4.08 %).

In fact, for Marxists, the elections illustrated the bourgeois workers’ party nature of the PS and the PCF. The official categories “ouvriers”, “employés” and “professions intermédiaires” of the INSEE [National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies] correspond – approximately – to the working class. According to the inquiries of the polling institutions, 24% of the “ouvriers” voted for Royal on the first round, 54% on the second. The “employés” voted 25% for Royal on the first round, 54% on the second. The “professions intermédiaires” voted 31% for Royal on the first round, 49% on the second.

The sympathizers of the MEDEF and the CGPME (small enterpreneurs) voted 96% for Sarkozy. Royal, even though she had campaigned for “the reconciliation of French people with business,” convinced only ... 2% of the bosses. (L’Humanité, paper of the PCF, May 5, 2007)


The “appropriate circumstances” of Cde Walter


Cde Walter rejects the tactic which he falsely attributes to the GB (vote for the PS on the first and second rounds) without ever giving its positions on the PCF, LO the LCR and the PT.

When you call on workers to vote for the PS on the first or the second round, on the grounds that it is a workers' organization, you in reality say that a vote for Royal is a class vote. Does this not help solidify the workers' illusions in the PS? ... For these reasons... we think it is incorrect to call for a vote for the PS in the presidential election.

In 1977, James Robertson, based on the United States where there is no bourgeois workers’ party, created a rule for all elections in the world. Thirty years afterward, Cde Walter has invented another, which is worth hardly more and owes nothing to Trotsky. It allows for voting for reformist candidates if two conditions are fulfilled:

1.  That they are leading the masses in struggle;

2. That an important fraction of the workers is under the illusion that electing particular reformists would allow the advancement of their struggle.

To support his thesis, he cites no case drawn from the rich and long history of the workers’ movement. In place of an example, he satisfies himself with a citation from Trotsky which has nothing to say about elections in general, nor about tactics toward reformist candidates in particular.

“Reformism daily reaffirms the possibility of treason. But that does not mean that reformism and treason are identical at every moment. When the reformists take a step forward, one can make provisional agreements with them. But, when frightened by the mass movement, they betray it, to maintain the coalition  with them amounts to tolerating traitors and concealing treason. (“Critique of the program of the CI », 1928, part II, Ch 8, The Communist International after Lenin, PUF)

Cde. Walter is careless both with regard to Trotsky and to those he is writing to. The two sentences he invokes do not show that Trotsky has decided that it is no longer possible to vote for the British Labour Party. We are very anxious for cde Walter to prove this for us.

Trotsky’s advice does not apply to the GB, whose reduced forces do not permit us to at all impose a “coalition” with the reformists. Our organization has therefore not been able to commit the error of maintaining a front such as when the reformists betrayed a general strike.

In fact, the bloc with the PS, the PCF and the union leaderships, during the most recent mass movements in France, from 1995 to 2006, was the work of rotten centrism. The same products of the decomposition that the FI underwent announced that they rejected withdrawing in favor of the PS candidate in the second round of the presidential election of 2002 (some of them in the end voted for Chirac, along with the PS and the PCF). In the winter of 2005-2006 and in the spring of 2006, the bloc of all the reformists against the general strike was more than once extended to bourgeois parties, in the form of public meetings involving PCF, LCR, LO, MRC, PRG... (see Révolution Socialiste No. 20).

The workers’ united front is not necessarily  a tactic for elections. Had there existed a revolutionary party in France in 2007, even a minority one, it would have had to present its own candidate against those of the reformists of all kinds. This was the position Stéphane Just advocated for the PCI, against Lambert and Moreno, who called for voting for Mitterrand on the first round in the French presidential election of 1981. This was the advice of Trotsky for the SWP for the American presidential election of 1940. Faced with the dilatory pretexts of the leadership of the American section, Trotsky recommended that they campaign for the Stalinist candidate, since the CPUSA  ran one against the Republican and above all against the Democratic candidate, Roosevelt. The SWP leadership’s electoral abstentionism in reality covered up its refusal to break its bloc in the unions with pro-Roosevelt bureaucrats.

Today, it is Cde Walter rather than the GB who nourishes illusions in the masses... and in the counterrevolutionary apparatuses themselves.


Which are the mysterious reformist parties who have not betrayed?


The united front applies to elections only if the communists lack the means to participate, or in the case of withdrawal when there are two rounds, as in France. In the case where candidates of parties issued from the working class, which preserve the confidence of a part of the working class, confront the direct representatives of the bourgeoisie, revolutionaries do not abstain.

Cde. Walter has a thermometer which permits him to know when the masses “hold the illusion that the election of particular reformists will aid or advance their struggle” and when they have illusion that “electing reformists will in some way aid the workers even in the absence of struggle.”

In reality, these feelings are evidently mixed together, and participation in elections generally implies the domination of the second component. The conditions dear to Cde. Walter were not mentioned by Lenin in 1920 when he advised the British communist organizations to support, almost everywhere, the Labour Party candidates:

We would put up our candidates in a very few but absolutely safe constituencies, namely, constituencies where our candidatures would not give any seats to the Liberals at the expense of the Labour candidates. We would take part in the election campaign, distribute leaflets agitating for communism, and, in all constituencies where we have no candidates, we would urge the electors to vote for the Labour candidate and against the bourgeois candidate. Comrades Sylvia Pankhurst and Gallacher are mistaken in thinking that this is a betrayal of communism, or a renunciation of the struggle against the social-traitors. On the contrary, the cause of communist revolution would undoubtedly gain thereby. (‘‘Left-Wing Communism in Great Britain’’, Left-Wing Communism: an Infantile Disorder, 1920)

Cde. Walter thinks that one must not vote for a reformist party which has betrayed.

Revolutionaries can critically support reformist candidates only so long as they stand at the head of the masses in struggle. ... The PS and its leaders have not at all been in the forefront of working-class struggles. On the contrary, as you have pointed out, this party – and Ségolène Royal in particular – have been participating in the bourgeoisie's attacks against the workers.

But can he say clearly which are the reformist parties that have not betrayed?

As the citation chosen by the comrade says, reformism and treason “are not identical at every moment.” Almost all the members of the GB have had an opportunity to participate in mass struggles at their place of study or of work. They know from experience that the betrayal of the struggle by the union leaders, the PS, the PCF, the LCR and LO (these are sometimes the same) does not appear clearly at every moment, and to all the workers, especially when no party or even a veritable organization denounces them and outlines an alternative orientation.

And elections occur rarely at the moment of struggle. When this is the case, the reformist candidates would be stupid to display their treacherous character overtly at such a moment. For example, in April 2007, all the candidates of the organizations issuing from the working class – Royal, Buffet, Laguiller and Besancenot – went to “support” the strikes of the PSA auto factory  at Aulnay.

In the 1930's, Trotsky completely ignored all the virtuous warnings of Cde Walter, both for the British elections of 1935 and the French elections of 1936. Responding to a young comrade who was won via the entry into the Socialist Youth, Trotsky recommended:

As for the legislative elections in France, I don’t think that we can accept a boycott. Propagandize for Committees of Action, yes. Oppose the future Committees of Action to the present electoral action, no! One can only boycott parliamentarism when one is strong enough to replace it by direct revolutionary action. (Letter to Fred Zeller, 1936)

Following this advice, the French section of the FI and the Revolutionary Socialist Youth presented several candidates and called, in the majority of districts, for voting for the PS-SFIO and the PCF-SFIC. He gave equivalent advice to a member of the British ILP:

The Labour Party should have been critically supported not because it was for or against sanctions but because it represented the working class masses. (L. Trotsky, “Once again the ILP”, November 1935, Writings on Britain, vol. 3, p. 117)

It is difficult to be more clear: revolutionaries give critical electoral support to reformists, when they don’t have their own candidate, for a sole reason: because the working class regards them as its representatives. Not because of their program. In this passage, the formula of Trotsky resembles very much the “permanent critical support tactic” which Cde. Walter denounces.


Is it necessary to systematically boycott the candidacies of the PS?


On the contrary, his own condition, that “the reformist candidates lead the masses in struggle,” is ambiguous. For one thing, the electoral candidates are rarely those who are at the head of the masses in struggle; and for another, all the bureaucrats betray the struggles in one way or another.

Paradoxically, Cde. Walter’s rule would oblige us, in the case of struggles led by reformists, to participate in bourgeois elections. However, when the masses are “in struggle,” it is not obvious that it is necessary to accept elections, not to speak of supporting the reformists.

For example, Lenin always demanded boycotting the Duma elections in 1905. Since we are discussing France, Cde. Walter will permit us to evoke a situation of this kind. During the general strike of May 1968, de Gaulle, much shaken, retook the initiative after visiting the head of the French troops in Germany, General Massu. On his return, he issued a threatening declaration, at the same time proposing as a way out the upcoming legislative elections.

I will not withdraw. I have the mandate of the people, and I will fulfill it. ... Today I dissolve the National Assembly. ... Legislative elections will take place after the period indicated in the Constitution, unless we intend to muzzle the entire French people by preventing them from expressing that they are being prevented from living by the same means that prevent the students from studying, the teachers from teaching, the workers from working. ...  (C. de Gaulle, Speech, May 30, 1968, in L. Joffrin, May 68, Seuil, 1988)

That day de Gaulle galvanized the counterrevolution ... and gave the “reformists” the opportunity of ending the general strike. On June 23, on the first round, the Gaullist party, the UDR, got 43.65 % of the votes (Sarkozy on the first round got 31.11% in 2007) and, after the second round, 358 representatives out of 485.

In the aftermath of May 30, the general strike disintegrated from within, in the name of the dissolution of the National Assembly and preparation for new elections. ... Taking advantage of the illusions of the working class, the union apparatuses and the PCF, immobilizing the general strike, seized on the dissolution of the National Assembly in order to defuse it politically and transform it into a simple movement of demands and disintegrate it from within. The election results sanctioned the liquidation of the general strike and expressed the retreat of the working class. (La Vérité No. 543, April 1969)

In contrast to the PCF (at the time very much implanted in the working class) and the PS-SFIO (at the time reduced to almost nothing), the organization issuing from the French section of the Fourth International, the OCI (from which the Groupe Bolchevik itself has issued) denounced the call for elections instead of supporting the candidacies of the PCF and the SFIO according to the rule of Cde. Walter. The OCI committed many errors, in May 1968 and afterward, but it was right on this question.

There are therefore circumstances in which revolutionaries must try to oppose bourgeois elections and even boycott a vote. For other reasons, that was the position of the GB for the second round of the presidential election of 2002 and for the referendum on the Constitutional Treaty of the European Union.


In elections also, class against class!


We live in a difficult period.  But revolutionaries do not choose the conditions under which they live and fight collectively. In elections as well, they affirm that two classes oppose each other.

In the present state of the construction of the revolutionary working-class party, that is, at a catastrophic point after the destruction of the Fourth International in 1951-53 and the subsequent degeneration of all of its sections, including the French and the American, it is impossible to present candidates who defend communism and advance an action program, a transitional program for the current situation of the country. Nevertheless, not every workers’ organization has disappeared from the political scene.

The orientation of the Groupe Bolchevik is defined by the resolution “Construct a New Communist and Internationalist Party to Resolve the Crisis of the Workers’ Movement by Distinguishing the Revolutionaries and by a United Front Policy,” which has been available since its adoption on the GB website. It conforms to the traditions of the Communist International during Lenin’s lifetime and of the Fourth International during Trotsky’s lifetime.

Cde. Walter never says what he would propose to do in France in 2007. We are therefore reduced to some conjectures: either it is necessary to vote for the PCF, LO, the PT or the LCR since they are not reformist; or it is necessary to abstain in a permanent manner. The discussion would gain in clarity if the comrade stated his position.

The French Bolshevik-Leninists are not much impressed by radical phrases against all electoral support to the PS. They have stated that in practice, the majority of “Trotskyists” who reject the workers’ united front collaborate with former Stalinists, up to the point of jointly managing Gaullist institutions (that includes the CRI). During mass struggles, the enemies of “social-liberalism” generally form a bloc... with the PS, against the general strike. Over the years, we have seem not a few of them rejoin... the PS.

To go forward, we allow ourselves to ask you for some clarifications:

          What purpose does it serve you to analyze the PS as a bourgeois workers’ party?

          Can you specify what tactic you would have recommended for the French elections?

          Does your focusing on a relatively minor subject signify that you are in general agreement with the rest of the activities and positions of the Groupe Bolchevik and the Permanent Revolution Collective?

With our internationalist greetings,

The Central Cell of the Groupe Bolchevik