James P. Cannon

Editorial Notes

An Apologist for Stalinism

(October 1931)

Written: October 1931.
First Published: The Militant, Vol. IV No. 29, 31 October 1931, p. 4.
Source: Microfilm collection and original bound volumes for The Militant provided by the Holt Labor Library, San Francisco, California. Additioanl bound volumes from Earl Gilman’s collection, San Francisco, California.
Transcription\HTML Markup: D. Walters.
Proofread: Einde O’Callaghan (February 2013).
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One of the surest signs of the influence of alien classes upon the course of the Stalinist bureaucracy in the Soviet Union is its rabid persecution of the left, proletarian wing of the party. It is the hounding, exiling, imprisoning, and murdering of the unwavering and incorruptible defenders of the ideas and the tradition of the October revolution which give the lie to every pretended “left” turn of the centrist regime and deprive it of the right to confidence. The defense of the proletarian dictatorship in the Soviet Union involves in the highest degree the unceasing exposure of the reactionary terror against the Bolshevik-Leninists and the most energetic defense of its victims. Every Oppositionist worthy of the name counts this among his first duties.

Weisbord, who assisted in the expulsion and terror campaign against the American Oppositionists, turned up – it will be recalled – two years later with the offer to instruct us how to interpret the principles of the Opposition in America. Now he is enlarging his territory. First he wanted to correct our misconceptions of the situation as Comrade Trotsky explained it; now it is Comrade Trotsky himself whom he takes to task.

Trotsky, who knows something about the bureaucratic degeneration of the Stalinist apparatus and its terror against the Leninist Opposition – and not by hearsay – has again illuminated this side of the question, among others, in his recently published thesis Problems of the Development of the USSR. Therein he demonstrates once more that “the Stalinist plebiscitary regime has been converted into a main danger of the dictatorship of the proletariat.” Against this reasoned and deliberate conclusion, Weisbord has intervened with a statement of his own, in which he corrects the “exaggerations.”

In this statement we read the following: “Comrade Trotsky declares there is not a trace of party democracy. Local organizations are selected and automatically reorganized by secretaries. Local secretaries are appointed. Congresses are arbitrarily postponed, delegates selected from the top, every spark of those features which go to make up the nature of a revolutionist crushed; Blumkins are shot down, Bessedovskys direct the purging of the party, etc.” All this is literal quotation from the thesis of Trotsky, but it is quoted with disapproval. Things are not so bad as Trotsky makes them out. Like the impartial judge who “sees both sides,” he comments: “We submit (1) that this evidence is exaggerated; (2) that while some of the above is true in part, yet this is not decisive as to whether there is a party.”

Exaggerated? Only “some” of it true, and that only “in part”? Where, how, and in what way, the Weisbord statement does not say, and cannot say. We know that the monstrous accusations against the Left Opposition (the “Wrangel officer” and so forth) were all exposed and refuted, but we do not know of a single instance where the Opposition was convicted of falsifying or “exaggerating.” Is there a trace of party democracy? Can a worker-Bolshevik stand up and speak out for the basic ideas of the October revolution without being sent to prison or Siberia? Was not the heroic Blumkin assassinated? Was not the organizer of the October revolution and the Red Army exiled to Turkey by a dicker with Kemal Pasha and kept there by an agreement with the bourgeois governments of Europe? Did not Bessedovsky help to purge the party of “Trotskyists” before he jumped over the fence into the camp of the White Guard?

We have one more question that is of the deepest concern to every revolutionist of the entire world: Is not the sick Rakovsky, the great hero and warrior of the revolution, being slowly and deliberately done to death right now in the bitter cold of Siberian exile? Exaggerations? No! We “submit” that Comrade Trotsky has only told the indisputable truth, and that this truth must be made known to the proletarian vanguard without any mitigation or glossing over of the cruel facts. It is not Trotsky who exaggerates the bureaucracy and the terror against the Bolshevik-Leninists, but Weisbord who minimizes and thereby apologizes for them.

The Weisbord statement is, of course, no accidental error. It has an intimate connection with the whole campaign he has conducted against the American section of the Opposition with ideas and slanders borrowed from the centrists and the right wing. Our national conference unanimously rejected the proposal of Weisbord to present his “views” before it. And rightly so. We have nothing in common with such “views.” It would have been a disgrace if a single delegate had expressed any doubts over this question. For our part, if we have to choose between the out-and-out Stalinist henchman who defends everything and the camouflaged apologist who blunts the edge of criticism – if we have to choose between the one who justifies the crimes and the one who “submits that they are exaggerated” – we prefer the former. It is best to have enemies out in the open. And if they conceal themselves behind the pretence of “adherence to the International Left Opposition” it is all the more necessary to drag them into the open.

Last updated on: 4.2.2013