THE EXILE OF TROTSKY

by
J. C. MARIATEGUI
 Variedades, February 23 1929
Translated by Michael Pearlman
Transcribed for the Internet by director@marx.org, July 26 1996
 

Trotsky exiled from Soviet Russia: here is an event to which international revolutionary opinion cannot become easily accustomed. Revolutionary optimism never admitted the possibility that this revolution would end, like the French, condemning its heroes. But what in good sense should not have been expected is that the task of organizing the first great socialist state would be fulfilled with unanimous agreement, without debate or violent conflicts, by a party of more than a million impassioned militants.

 Trotskyist opinion has a useful role in Soviet politics. It represents, if one wishes to define it in two words, Marxist orthodoxy, confronting the overflowing and unruly current of Russian reality. It exemplifies the working-class, urban, industrial sense of the socialist revolution. The Russian revolution owes its international, ecumenical value, its character as a precursor of the rise of a new civilization, to the ideas that Trotsky and his comrades insist upon in their full strength and import. Without vigilant criticism, which is the best proof of the vitality of the Bolshevik Party, the Soviet government would probably run the risk of falling into a formalist, mechanical bureaucratism.

 But, to this point, events have not proven Trotskyism correct from the point of view of its ability to replace Stalin in power with a greater objective capacity to realize the Marxist program. The essential part of the Trotskyist opposition's platform is its critical part. But in the estimation of those elements who might plot against Soviet policies, neither Stalin nor Bukharin is very far from subscribing to most of the fundamental concepts of Trotsky and his adepts. The Trotskyist proposals and solutions, on the other hand, do not have the same solidity. In most of what relates to agrarian and industrial policies and the struggle against bureaucratism and the NEP spirit, Trotskyism tastes of a theoretical radicalism that has not been condensed into concrete and precise formulas. On this terrain, Stalin and the majority, along with having the responsibility for administration, have a more real sense of the possibilities.

 The Russian revolution, which, like any great revolution, advances along a difficult path that it clears with its own impetus, has not yet known easy or idle days. It is the work of heroic and exceptional men, and for this very reason has only been possible through the greatest and most tremendous creative tension. The Bolshevik Party, therefore, neither is nor can be a peaceful and unanimous school. Lenin imposed his creative leadership until shortly before his death, but not even with this extraordinary leader's immense and unique authority were violent debates unusual inside the party. Lenin gained his authority with his own strength; he later maintained it through the superiority and perspicacity of his thought. His points of view always prevailed because they best corresponded to reality. Many times, though, they had to defeat the resistance of his own lieutenants of the Bolshevik old guard.

 Lenin's death, which left vacant the post of creative leader with immense personal authority, would have been followed by a period of profound disequilibrium in any party less disciplined and organic than the Russian Communist Party. Trotsky stood out from all his comrades because of the brilliant distinctiveness of his personality. But he not only lacked a solid and long-standing connection with the Leninist team. His relationship with the majority of its members had been quite uncordial before the revolution. Trotsky, as is well known, had an almost individual position among Russian revolutionaries until 1917. He did not belong to the Bolshevik Party, whose leaders, even Lenin himself, polemicized bitterly with him more than once. Lenin intelligently and generously appreciated the value of collaborating with Trotsky, who himself -- as the volume of his writings on the revolution's leader attests -- unreservedly and unjealously respected an authority consecrated by the most inspiring and enthralling work of revolutionary consciousness. But if almost all the distance between Lenin and Trotsky could be erased, the identification between Trotsky and the party itself could not be equally complete. Trotsky could not count on the full confidence of the party, as much as his performance as people's commissar merited unanimous admiration. The party machinery was in the hands of members of the old Leninist guard, who always felt themselves a bit distant from and alien to Trotsky, who, for his part, was not able to fully join them in a single bloc. Moreover, Trotsky, it seems, does not possess the special talents of a politician as Lenin did to the greatest degree. He does not know how to gather men; he is not acquainted with the secrets of managing a party. His singular position -- equidistant from Bolshevism and Menshevism -- during the years between 1905 and 1917, besides disconnecting him from the revolutionary team that prepared and realized the revolution with Lenin, must have disaccustomed him to the concrete practice of a party leader.

 As long as the mobilization of all revolutionary energies against the threats of reaction continued, Bolshevik unity was ensured by the pathos of war. But once the work of stabilization and normalization began, the discrepancies between individuals and tendencies had to manifest themselves. The lack of an exceptional personality like Trotsky would have reduced the opposition to more modest terms. In this case, it would not have come to a violent schism. But with Trotsky at the command post, the opposition quickly took an insurrectionary and combative tone to which the majority and the government could not be indifferent.

 Trotsky, moreover, is a man of the cosmopolis. Zinoviev, at another moment during a Communist congress, accused him of ignoring and neglecting the peasant. He has, in any case, an international sense of the socialist revolution. His notable writings on the transitory stabilization of capitalism are among the most alert and sagacious criticisms of the era. But this very international sense of the revolution, which gives him such prestige on the world scene, momentarily robs him of his power in the practice of Russian politics. The Russian revolution is in a period of national organization. It is not a matter, at the moment, of establishing socialism internationally, but of realizing it in a nation that, while a nation of 130 million inhabitants that overflows onto two continents, does not yet constitute a geographical and historical unit. It is logical that in this stage, the Russian revolution is represented by men who more deeply sense its national character and problems.

 Stalin, a pure Slav, is one of these men. He belongs to a phalanx of revolutionaries who always remained rooted in the Russian soil, while Trotsky Radek, and Rakovsky belong to a phalanx that passed the larger part of their lives in exile. They were apprenticed as international revolutionaries in exile, an apprenticeship that has given the Russian revolution its universalist language and its ecumenical vision. For now, alone with its problems, Russia prefers more simply and purely Russian men.

 The Russian revolution finds itself in a necessary period of prudence. Trotsky, personally disconnected from the Stalinist team, is an excessive figure on the stage of national achievement. One imagines him destined to carry the socialist gospel in triumph through Europe, with Napoleonic energy and majesty, at the head of the Red Army. It is not as easy to conceive him filling the modest role of minister in normal times. The NEP condemns him to return to his belligerent position as polemicist.

 



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