Leon Trotsky

Belgian Perspectives [1]

(June 1936)

Written: June 1936.
Publisher: From Revolutionary History, Vol.7 No.1.
Translated: Ted Crawford.
Online Version: Marxists Internet Archive, 2002.
Transcribed: Ted Crawford.
HTML Markup: David Walters.

6 June 1936

Dear comrade Fux [2],

I have had too little time to analyse the draft programme before the 16th. [3] The general idea in the text is undoubtedly right. As to the formulations there are some good ones and some less good and there are yet others that I would disagree with or are inaccurate.

A general remark: the text is too long. It contains arguments, historical examples etc. Well now, the programme must only contain our most basic ideas and objectives without trying to “demonstrate” them or prove them etc. This task falls entirely on our commentators, our press, our speakers and above all the living experience of the working class itself. The text of the programme must be as concise as possible and each thesis, each phrase and even each word must be unquestionable.

The programme must be able to last. Purely conjunctural considerations and questions must be dealt with in special theses (for example on the question of the USSR.) The programme must only deal with the most categorical things in the USSR, that is what is unquestionable from the theoretical point of view and imperative from our political point of view.

The elaboration of the programme is an extremely important work and demands the critical attention of all our comrades who can contribute something to this task. The first Bolshevik programme (1903) took months and months to elaborate with a vigorous discussion with Lenin, Plekhanov, Zasulich, Axelrod and Riazanov [4] without mentioning the less important people. The elaboration of the second programme (1919) took many months as well. In spite of the civil war numerous comrades took part in elaborating it. The Platform of the B-L Opposition (1927) was elaborated by at least 200 comrades over many months in committees and special sub-committees with a most careful editorship of each part and each paragraph.

What then is my conclusion? Do not start any work too hastily. Your national meeting should ask a leading committee to create a special body and to give them the text and other texts that may emerge or amendments, if there are any, for the discussion which should not be national but international. The part of your draft I have before me, is not really “Belgian”, that is to say national. It is, I suppose, the second part which has a more than national character. For the first, the general part, we have need of an acceptable text for every organisation which puts itself under the banner of the 4th International. Precisely because of this we are starting to work on a model text. The Belgian comrades could and should take part in this in the most active manner. But all this assumes that we postpone a definite acceptance of the programme.

Here is a suggestion for the “calendar” of joint work.

To send your text (perhaps edited and shortened) to every section of the 4th International by the end of June, with an invitation to join in the work.

We will have created, I hope, by the same date an international committee with the same objective.

For the international discussion we devote almost two months (July-August).

The month of September should be devoted to the final editing and the agreement by the respective bodies.

In that case we could have the programme by the month of October.

All that cannot prevent you elaborating the necessary texts immediately. Similar platforms, theses etc. can be reshaped, completed, and replaced at every change in the situation. As for the programme that is something else. It has to last for a whole historical epoch.

It is absolutely necessary to see the development of the new party in its historical context with its data, its quotations and its exact figures for all the organisations of the 4th.

Since Vereeken has stated publicly that you have lost your influence in Charleroi, you must be clear on this point. What are the relative forces of the ASR and Spartacus?

As for your disappointment as regards the elections, I do not share it. [5] I find the result rather encouraging given the situation and above all the preceding policy. Again almost immediately before the elections the ASR had repeated “We agree with Godefroid and his friends”. [6] During this time Godefroid expelled the so-called “Trotskyists”. At the time of the elections, using the authority which you had left him untouched, he declared, “Vote for the party and not for the ASR splitters!” What elements of terrible confusion! We must really admire several thousand workers in the Borinage and Charleroi who are so well oriented in spite of the major failures of the leadership. Now too it is Godefroid – and Liebaers [7] in Flanders – who are your most immediate and dangerous adversaries. They bar the route to the most important and decisive struggles. They must be pitilessly unmasked in all their mischievous emptiness. It is not enough to treat Godefroid as a “centrist”. There are centrists and centrists. There are those who are developing in a Marxist direction, there are centrists who are marking time; and there are centrists who are traitors. Godefroid belongs to the last category. This is a young bureaucrat on the make, empty, clever, ignorant and without scruples. Each of his articles gives an accurate picture of him. He has succeeded (thanks to the indulgence of our Belgian friends) in misleading the “Latin sections” [8] and has created a new international grouping. He must be pitilessly unmasked before the French, Spanish, American etc. youth. We must have a special report on the role of Godefroid for all the youth organisations. That would be a very useful piece of work comrade Fux.


1. Letter to Fux, Houghton Library Harvard (8225). Original in French.

2. Georges Fux (b.1911), Young Communist militant, went over to the Left Opposition in 1932, became the leader of the Leninist Youth in Charleroi before joining the Jeunes Gardes Socialistes in 1934.

3. The joint conference of the Action socialiste revolutionnaire, a tendency run by Trotskyists which had just been expelled from the POB, and the LCI which gathered together the Trotskyists who had refused to enter in 1935 and who produced Spartacus, had taken place in mid June and Fux had sent Trotsky the draft programme proposing union of the two organisations into a new party.

4. Georgi V. Plekhanov (1857-1918), a former populist, had introduced Marxism into the Russian working class movement and collaborated with Lenin within the RSDLP before 1903 and again just before 1914: Iouli O. Tserderbaum called Martov (1873-1923), a companion of Lenin before 1903 in the Emanipnation at Work group, then on Iskra, became one of the leaders of the Mensheviks; during the war he was an internationalist, he emigrated in 1920. Pavel B. Axelrod (1850-1928) an émigré at first followed Bakunin, became a Marxist and worked on Iskra before 1903, he then became a Menshevik and died an émigré. Vera Zasulich (1851-1919), a populist famous for her participation in individual terrorism, eventually rallied to Marxism, worked with Iskra and later joined the Mensheviks.

5. At the election the two ASR candidates lost, Leon Lesoil by a big margin at Charleroi and Walter Dauge by very little at Mons. The disappointment was great at least among those for whom Dauge was a political guide: the young leader of the ASR was actually not far from thinking that his election was a condition for the pursuit of the struggle to construct a revolutionary party.

6. On Godefroid, Trotsky thought that this leader of the Belgian JGS was a very dangerous centrist and warned his comrades that they must distinguish themselves from him and attack him which both Dauge and Fux refused to do.

7. Franz Liebaers (1895-1958) a leader of garment workers, from 1932 was general secretary of the Anti-Oorlogsliga, the Flemish “Liga” against war which symbolised, in Trotsky’s eyes, “pacifist centrism”. Trotsky had warned his Belgian comrades and notably Fux against Godefroid and Liebaers, whom, like Pivert in France, he held to be obstacles on the route to a new party.

8. The Belgian JGS and the Spanish JSU had just taken the initiative in a conference of youth organisations which constituted a tightening of pressure by the Cominterm on the young socialists.

Trotsky on Belgium

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Last updated on: 22.2.2007