A tribute to Pierre Broué

Greg Oxley of the French Marxist journal, La Riposte, pays tribute to the outstanding revolutionary, Pierre Broué.

The death of Pierre Broué during the night of the 25th and 26th July 2005 deprives revolutionary Marxism of one of its most outstanding representatives. Pierre devoted his entire life to the cause of the oppressed and exploited, and to the defence of revolutionary Marxist ideas.

As a very young member of the French Communist Party, he participated in the armed resistance to the Nazi occupation of France during the Second World War. In 1943, carrying the reactionary policy of "socialism in a single country" to its logical conclusion, Stalin ordered the dissolution of the Communist International. Repelled by the nationalist and reformist policies adopted by the communist parties under the pressure of the Stalinist regime in Moscow, Pierre Broué turned towards the Fourth International, which had been founded in 1938 by the former Left Opposition within the Communist International, on the basis of the theory and programme of genuine Marxism.

Throughout the second half of the 20th century, Pierre Broué, who became an accomplished writer and historian, did more than anyone else in France to recover and explain the real traditions and ideas of genuine Marxism which the Stalinists had tried to bury under a pile of slander and falsification. The drawing together, translation and publication of the writings of Trotsky, in order to make them available to the new generations of revolutionary youth, was in itself an achievement of enormous importance. In addition to that, his writings on the history of the Communist International and his monumental biography of Leon Trotsky form a priceless heritage for contemporary Marxists.

I first met Pierre Broué in August 2003. At the time, Trotsky’s grandson, Esteban Volkov, was staying at my home in Paris for ten days or so, on his way back from our international conference in Barcelona. For Esteban, it was unthinkable to be in France without visiting his lifetime friend Pierre Broué, and so we left together for Grenoble, where we met with Pierre in his small flat on the outskirts of the city.

This first encounter was a most memorable occasion for me. Pierre had been very ill in the preceding period, and was understandably not at his best in terms of personal presentation. And yet he still cut a remarkably imposing figure. He was a handsome, tall and elegant man, whose whole countenance gave an impression of dignity, integrity and intellectual courage.

Until a relatively short time before this meeting took place, Pierre had little first-hand knowledge of the work of Alan Woods and Ted Grant. While carrying out research relating to the heroic struggle of the Russian Left Opposition against the Stalinist dictatorship, a translation of an article by Alan Woods, published on the website of La Riposte, was brought to his attention. This was A la mémoire de Valery Sabline, which told the real story behind the film "Red October". This article led Pierre to read others on the In Defence of Marxism website, so that by the time we met in Grenoble, he already had a clear idea of the ideas we stood for.

Pierre was full of praise for the work of our international tendency. He agreed with us on all the fundamental issues, he said, and wanted to work together with us. It was agreed that he should meet Alan Woods as soon as possible. Unfortunately, Pierre fell even more seriously ill over the next few days. I visited him again, together with my wife and comrade, during the month of September, but the meeting with Alan Woods could not take place until the 9th October 2003.

This meeting with Alan was to mark the real beginning of our association with Pierre Broué. Pierre was on his hospital bed, in a remote clinic set in the beautiful surroundings of the mountains above Grenoble. He took ideas seriously and formulated his own with precision, both in English and in French. He was very enthusiastic about our "Leon Trotsky Project" for the publication of Trotsky’s major works in various languages, and immediately agreed to write an introduction to the first book in the series, the autobiography My Life. Alan recorded a brief interview with him, in the course of which he sent a warm message to Ted Grant, who was then in his 90th year. Ever since then, Pierre has considered himself to be a member of our international tendency. His magazine, Le Marxisme Aujourd’hui, published a number of texts from In Defence of Marxism. And we, for our part, were proud of his political support, collaboration and friendship.

I visited him for the last time in April of this year. His condition had improved considerably. He was lively and high-spirited, pulling books off his shelves and sorting through newspaper cuttings to bear out his ideas on this or that point. His life-long friend and collaborator, Jean-Pierre Juy, was also present, as was Jérôme Métellus from La Riposte.

Jean-Pierre kindly wrote to me shortly after his death. He told me that Pierre had died peacefully in hospital, without pain. This is a terrible loss, but Pierre Broué will live on in the hearts of those who knew and loved him, and above all in the spirit of the present generation of revolutionaries, who must now carry on his work, and build support for the ideas of genuine Marxism. There can no more fitting tribute to the memory of this remarkable man. The final triumph of Socialism will also be his victory.