“Better to be lost with Lenin than saved with Albert Thomas.” Building a revolutionary path in the face of Reformist Socialism

By Adeline Blaszkiewicz-Maison

The French Section of the Communist International (SFIC) was born notably from condemnation of the position of some socialists during the First World War. This discourse, which developed within the pacifist minority during the war, persisted and evolved until it became one of the ideological matrices of the nascent SFIC. Albert Thomas was a despised individual in the communist discourse then taking shape in the wake of the Russian Revolution. Thomas was the leader of the reformist wing of the French Section of the Workers’ International (SFIO), and he later joined the Sacred Union government in 1915 by taking on the strategic and symbolic role of Minister of Munitions. After 1919, he became the Director of the International Labour Organization, which the leaders of the Third International regarded as the ‘reformist agency of global imperialism’. This paper—based on articles in L’Humanité, grey literature from the early communist period, and Albert Thomas’ personal papers—explores the opposition between the two ‘enemy brothers’ of global socialism : Thomas and Lenin. The SFIC took shape in hostile national and international political circumstances that caused discourses to become more radical, but did not prevent dialogue and mutual observations. This ideological matrix evolved into either a mobilising force at the heart of rival forms of party and trade union activism, or a form of ideological co-dependency that both currents needed in order to build their political legitimacy.

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