“In Russia – and in the law of capitalist development Russia is just the antipode of England – the Communist Party, the former social democratic party, is older than the trade unions and created the trade unions. Today, the trade unions and the workers’ state in Russia are completely under the influence of the Communist Party, which is far from having its origin in the trade unions, but on the contrary created and trained them. Will comrade Louzon contend that Russia has evolved in contradiction to Marxism? Is it not simpler to say that Marx’s judgement on the origin of the party in the trade unions has been proved by experience to have been correct for England, and even here not one hundred per cent correct, but that Marx never had the least intention of laying down what he himself once scornfully designated as a ‘super-historical law’? All the other countries of Europe, including France, stand between England and Russia on this question. In some countries the trade unions are older than the party, in others the contrary has been the case; but nowhere, except in England and partially in Belgium, has the party of the proletariat emerged from the trade unions. In any case, no Communist party has developed organically out of the trade unions. But are we to deduce from this that the Communist International has originated wrongly? When the English trade unions alternately supported the Conservatives and the Liberals and represented to a certain extent a labour appendage to these parties, when the political organization of the German workers was nothing more than a Left wing of the democratic party, when the followers of Lassalle and Eisenach were quarrelling among themselves – Marx demanded the independence of the trade unions from all parties. This formula was dictated by the desire to oppose the labour organizations to all bourgeois parties, and to prevent their being too closely bound up with socialist sects. But comrade Louzon may perhaps remember that it was Marx who founded the First International as well, the object of which was to guide the labour movement in all countries, in every respect, and to render it fruitful. This was in 1864, and ‘the International created by Marx was a party’. Marx refused to wait until the international party of the working class formed itself in some way out of the trade unions. He did his utmost to strengthen the influence of scientific socialism in the trade unions – as first laid down in 1847 in the manifesto by the Communist Party. When Marx demanded for the trade unions complete independence from the parties and sects of the bourgeoisie and the petty bourgeoisie, he did this in order to make it easier for scientific socialism to gain dominance in the trade unions. Marx never saw in the party of scientific socialism one of the ordinary parliamentary democratic political parties. For Marx, the international was the class-conscious working class, represented at the time by a truly very small vanguard. If comrade Louzon was consistent in his trade union metaphysics and in his interpretation of Marx, he would say ‘Let us renounce the Communist Party, and wit till this party arises out of the trade unions. For the present French trade unions can only regain their unity, and win decisive influence over the masses, if their best elements are constituted in the class-conscious revolutionary vanguard of the proletariat, that is in a Communist Party. Marx gave no final answer to the question of the relations between party and trade unions, and indeed he could not do so. For these are dependent on the varying circumstances in each separate case. Whether the party and the trade union federation are mutually represented on their central committees, or whether they form joint committees of action in need, is a question of no decisive importance. The forms of organization may alter, but the decisive role played by the party is unalterable. The party, if it be worthy of the name, includes the whole vanguard of the working class, and uses its ideological influence for rendering every branch of the labour movement fruitful, especially the trade union movement. But if the trade unions are worthy of their name, they include an ever-growing mass of workers, many backward elements among them. But they can only fulfills their task when consciously guided on firmly established principles. And they can only have this leadership when their best elements are united in the party of proletarian revolution. [Leon Trotsky, ‘Communism and Syndicalism. On the Trade Unions Question’] [(in) Leon Trotsky, ‘On Marxism and the trade unions’, London, 1972]

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