Against Democratic Centralism: Léon Blum 1920.
A True Hero of the Labour Movement.
Relevant citations to present debates,
Thus, the following question is posed: Do you or do you not accept this body of doctrine formulated by the Congress of the Communist International? And to accept – I hope there will be no divergence of opinion on this point – to accept means to accept with mind, heart, and will and with the intention of strictly conforming, in thought and action, to the new doctrine.
Any other kind of adherence would be a comedy, unworthy of the Communist International and unworthy of the French party. You are in the presence of a totality. “There is not even room to quibble over this or that detail. It is a question of looking at the unifying theme, the central idea. It doesn’t much matter if your acceptance entails this or that reservation about a detail. There is no trickery or deception in that. But if you contest the doctrine in its essentials, you really have no right to accept with second thoughts or mental reservations, to say “I agree, but I only pay lip-service, with the conviction that this is nothing but a joke, and that tomorrow the party will continue to live and to act as it did yesterday.” We are all agreed in rejecting such an interpretation. (Applause)
The Congress may believe this of us. With an effort at intellectual impartiality and honesty that no one here will deny, we faced the problem squarely and said to ourselves: “Studying the texts of the Communist International, its theses, its statutes” – and I will not dwell on the difficulties and really excessive slowness with which we were given each of the materials under discussion – “can we or can we not accept them?” For us to accept would really mean to accept in the strongest possible sense of the word.
We had the duty of making that textual examination. … What is the result? It is twofold. First of all (and I believe there will be no disagreement about this), we are in the presence of something new. Some have tried to prove the contrary, and perhaps will try again. I remember the meeting of the Federation of the Seine when I was responding to Frossard, who had made the most ingenious and clever effort to combine the communist theses with the traditional principles of the Socialist Party. I tried to show him that those theses reflected a force, a will to construct something new, differing entirely from the essential tenets of the traditional socialism we had until then known and practiced. I remember that the most qualified delegates of the Third International supported me.
“It’s true,” they said. “That is what we think; that is what we want. It is a new socialism that we want to create in our country and in the whole proletarian world.” That is what Lenin and Trotsky have said. It is what you yourselves said when returning from Russia. For example, Cachin, in the last letter that he sent from Moscow, spoke of a break with the past. Trotsky, in the most recent document that the Communist Bulletin has published, said that it was a new party.”
In our opinion, it is based on ideas erroneous in themselves, and contrary to the basic and invariable principles of Marxist socialism.
Furthermore, it is based on a sort of vast error of fact, which consists of generalizing to all international socialism certain ideas drawn from a local and particular experience, that of the Russian Revolution. It gives as a necessary and universal rule of action, for all international socialism, the experience of those who carried out and kept alive the Russian Revolution. T
his is what we think: novelty on the one hand, and error on the other; error of fact, error of doctrine. I will go over the points I have indicated and, for each one, I will show you how the statements made in our motion against joining the communist Third International can be justified.
First, party organisation. That organization born of the unity pact of 1905 and of the practice and experience of a decade (I don’t count the war years) – you know the essential principles on which it is based. A constitution having, above all, a popular character, in which, following the excellent formula of our statutes, the direction of our Party belongs to the Party itself. It is in the base of the Party itself, in the mass of militants and dues payers, that the Party’s collective will and thought are formed. That will and thought are transmitted from one level to another, from the Section to the Federation, from the Federation to the National Council, from the Council to the Congress.