J. T. Murphy
Source: The Errors of Trotskyism
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
It is undoubtedly true that it came as a great surprise to the British working class when they saw the Communist International in the throes of a great controversy with Comrade Trotsky. Comrade Trotsky’s name had always been associated in our minds with Comrade Lenin. “Lenin and Trotsky!” These were the names with which we conjured in all our thoughts and feelings about the Russian Revolution and the Communist International. As the news of the Russian Revolution spread westward, these two figures loomed giganticly above our horizon and we never thought of the possibility of differences. We knew nothing of the history of the Russian Communist Party, and indeed, thought little, if anything at all of the Party. Party conceptions were not our strong points. We saw only leaders, Soviets and masses, and over all the great historical giants, Lenin and Trotsky.
This was quite natural to us. In those days we had had no revolutionary experiences. We understood nothing of the role of a revolutionary party. Theoretical training in revolutionary politics was in its extreme infancy. We were strong industrialists, steeped in the traditions of trade unionism. At the best our conceptions of revolution were limited to mass uprisings producing spontaneously the “right men to lead the masses to victory.” We commemorated the Paris Commune as the first example of the working class becoming the ruling class. But we never analysed this experience to discover the fundamental reasons of its defeat. We explained it historically in relation to the development of class war in general, and held up for mass condemnation the terror of Thiers and the bourgeoisie, but never thought of the significance of the absence of a revolutionary party of the proletariat—the Communist Party.
It was the same with the Irish revolt of 1916. We saw the magnificence of Connolly’s deed in marching his small battalions to the forefront of that event. We held up to ignomy the silent figure of British Labour, Mr. Arthur Henderson, the present secretary of the British Labour Party—in the Cabinet responsible for the shooting of the crippled Connolly propped in a chair in the courtyard of Dublin Castle. But we did not understand that Connolly was revealing in deeds the real role of the proletariat in a nation battling for its liberation from an Imperial power.
These things we had yet to learn, when first the inspiring names of Lenin and Trotsky symbolised for us the generalship of the workers’ revolution. True, Lenin impressed us differently from Trotsky—although it was difficult to think in those days of one apart from the other. Lenin certainly stood supreme, like a giant rock upon which all the storms of abuse, all the lies, all the gathering forces of international capitalism beat themselves in vain, while Trotsky seemed the embodiment of the drama of revolution, storming the heights, plunging to the depths, expressing all its moods. But we did not think of the Party which to-day is seen by its friends to be the most important instrument of the revolution, and by its enemies as the hated power which they scheme to discredit and destroy.
We heard of differences such as that concerning the signing of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty, but treated it as an incident and without appreciating its full significance. We read of the differences on the trade union question, but they seemed very far away from the workers here. Even the great controversy in the Russian C.P. in 1923 only reached a small minority and fewer still understood all that was happening. Our own Party was too young and politically immature to grasp the controversy, while the masses in the main were unaware of the burning questions agitating the Russian Communist Party. Here and there the capitalist press seized on reports to propagate the story of leaders quarrelling and of the Party going to pieces. The Labour movement treated their campaign as part of the game of calumny and did not give much attention to the question. It was not until our Party began to win a decided influence in the Labour movement, challenging the middle class leadership, that disputes began to sharpen concerning the Russian Revolution. Then the disputes took the form of challenges to fundamental questions such as the dictatorship of the proletariat, Soviets versus parliamentary democracy, the role of force, and not the differences in the Russian C.P. These issues have not even yet come up for discussion here.
Hence it is, when, towards the end of 1924, Comrade Trotsky published a new preface to his book “1917,” which transfers the issues raised in the controversies in the R.C.P. to the Communist International, that we get to grips with the fact that our heroes had profound differences.
Publishing houses in this country suddenly became interested in the defence of Comrade Trotsky against his critics. Messrs. Harrops published a “book for which Trotsky has been banished,” unmindful of the fact that Comrade Trotsky is still a member of the Political Bureau of the R.C.P., a not unimportant leading organ of the C.P.
The Labour Publishing Co. catch on to a bourgeois dilletante suffering from hysterical hero worship to expose the ramifications of a great conspiracy to destroy the power, prestige and position of Comrade Trotsky. Nothing is too mean and contemptible for this individual to say of the leaders who differ from Comrade Trotsky. In “Since Lenin Died,” this writer, Eastman, claims that every speech and every act of the present acknowledged leaders of the R.C.P. and the Communist International has been determined by personal ambition for power—unmindful of the fact that Comrade Trotsky predicted economic ruin and disaster if the policy of his opponents was pursued, while the reverse has been the case. The whole capitalist and Labour press has taken up the cry in defence of Trotsky against the R.C.P. and the Comintern.
It is through this kind of introduction that the workers here learn that Trotsky had great differences with Lenin reaching back to the earliest days of the Russian Social-Democratic Party. It is with such an historical background as I have described that these differences are approached and we are called upon to study the “Lessons of October.”
Certainly our Party has some advantage in this matter. Young as it is, it has had five years of willing effort to approach the problems and tasks of a Communist Party. To that extent it is more able to approach critically the issues that are raised, and deal with them politically, without any subversive desire to either reduce Leninism to a gramophone record or to deal some personal blow at Comrade Trotsky. Here let us remind friend and foe alike that Comrade Trotsky belongs to our Party and not theirs. We know his services on behalf of the revolution, and we know his abilities and his worth. Comrade Trotsky can easily dispense with the services of those who have so vigorously taken up his defence. We are confident that he much prefers the criticism, fierce as it may be, of his comrades in the Communist International, than the hysterical heroics of Eastman or the “personal” views of Postgate and Brailsford and others who lavish their sympathies upon him. Comrade Trotsky deserves a better fate. He at least discusses the problems of the proletarian revolution, a fact which his admirers outside our Party ignore. They are so absorbed in romanticism, in “his athletic figure,” and “splendid head,” his “charming voice,” and “magnetic personality,” his “wonderful language,” and “thrilling exploits,” his “marvellous talent,” and “commanding presence,” that the significance of the political issues he raises are twisted or obscured. Opposition to him becomes a personal vendetta. The Russian Communist Party becomes a glorified Tammany fracas, and the leaders of the Communist International a bunch of mediocrities riding roughshod over millions of ignoramuses. We can dismiss this rubbish exemplified in Brailsford and Postgate, and the other hacks of bourgeois politics, as the worthless criterion of their political evaluations. Their concern is not to understand the realities of the struggle with Comrade Trotsky or to find the best ways and means to secure a victory for the working class. Their only concern is to discredit the Communist International by adding confusion to lies.
The following pages will show that the fight between Comrade Trotsky and the other leaders of the R.C.P. and the C.I. is not a personal vendetta or a conspiracy, but a conflict on political issues of fundamental importance to the fate of the proletarian revolution. They will also show that the controversy is not a new one, but goes back to the earliest days of the Russian Social-Democratic Party, of which we and the rest of the working class movement of this country knew next to nothing when first we became familiar with the name of Comrade Trotsky.
One fact should be kept well in mind in approaching all these struggles, and in our attempts to understand them. Whatever the differences, they are differences in a party, and between comrades who had one goal before them—the social revolution. The issues are not the issues of reformism versus revolution. The fight is not a fight between reformists and revolutionaries. The issues are issues vital to the revolution. The fight is between revolutionaries as to the ways and means and the pathway of the revolution. If these features of the controversy are remembered, then the critics outside our Party in this country are placed at a discount. For no party outside our Party has set before it the aim of revolution, or is interested in the tasks of revolution, except to make them more difficult. Their support and sympathy for Comrade Trotsky is not a response to his demand for a study of the “Lessons of October,” in the interests of our “October,” but the old bourgeois game of obscuring the real issues from the proletariat, attempting to divide the Communist International against itself in order that there shall be no “October.”
To frustrate these counter revolutionary attacks we reprint the famous preface of Comrade Trotsky to the first volume of his book “1917,” which has been the means of launching the discussion into the ranks of the Communist International. We add the replies of Comrades Zinoviev, Stalin, Kamenev, Bucharin, Kuusinen, Sokolnikov and Krupskaya, along with the letter of Comrade Trotsky to the C.C. of the R.C.Y. and the latter’s reply thereto. We are confident that when the workers have read this book they will dismiss the rubbishy criticisms levelled at the Communist International and be amazed at the degree of self-criticism to which its sections submit their experiences. Imagine the Labour Party or the I.L.P. submitting their experiences and the actions of their leaders to such a scrutiny! Why, they have not yet reached the stage when they dare be frank with themselves. But here is a party which fearlessly submits its experience to self-scrutiny, and unhesitatingly acts on the basis of its conclusions, and becomes stronger in the process. It is a fact which mocks all the petty bourgeois critics that the sequel to each discussion and crisis has been in direct contradiction to their prophecies. Always the Party is “going to pieces,” or going “conservative,” etc. But always the Party comes out of the crisis stronger, more united and more Bolshevik than before. So at the moment when Trotsky is being “banished” has “fallen” etc., the R.C.P. having rejected his deviations and administered its reproof, gives him new leading tasks as a disciplined member of the greatest working class revolutionary party that history has known. The workers of this country will observe this contrast and not forget it.
It is not our purpose in this introduction to take up the general discussion of Trotskyism. The chapters following Comrade Trotsky’s “1917” Preface do this most effectively. It is our purpose to show that the issues are not peculiarly Russian issues, but have a direct bearing upon the working class struggle in Britain and in every other country.
We have no quarrel with Comrade Trotsky for asking us to study “October.” Our “October” is before us and not behind us. But we do take issue with him in his manner of introducing “October” to us. His appreciation of the events in Bulgaria and Germany are belated; there is sufficient printed matter in this country in the pages of the “International Press Correspondence,” and the English edition of the “Communist International” to show that the leadership of the Executive of the C.I. was right in these crises, and not a year or two late, in discovering what ought to have been done. Nor do we agree with his singling out of “October” as the supreme test of a party and its leadership. The struggle for Communism is not concentrated in some one crisis in the war of the classes, but in many crises before and after “October.” The test of a Party and its leaders turns not only upon “October” but upon its capacity to keep the track towards Communism and surmount the repeated crises which inevitably beset a Party in a many years’ war. Had we Comrade Trotsky’s criterion, we should have to praise him for his action in October, 1917, and sack him for his failure in the German “October” of 1923. Let us study “October” by all means, but let us not forget that there is much to be done and many crises to face before we reach our “October.” These crises, every one of which test the Party from top to bottom, are as much a part of the war for Communism as “October” itself. It is this fact which compels us to view this controversy with Comrade Trotsky not only in its immediate incidence, but historically also.
Comrade Trotsky in his “Lessons of October” concentrates attention on the problems of leadership in the crisis of “October,” and deals with it in a personal sense more than a party sense, singles out leaders in order to condemn them, and completely ignores the Party which he claims, as well as we, is of fundamental importance to the success of the Revolution. He selects Comrades Kamenev and Zinoviev for special attention, and redirects attention to their mistakes concerning the “October” insurrection, not in any analytical manner to show that these mistakes must not be repeated by other parties and other leaders of the International, but only to shake the confidence of the Communist International in its present leaders. This will not do for us. These errors have been admitted by Comrades Kamenev and Zinoviev. Only so recently as the Fourth Congress of the Communist International Comrade Zinoviev expounded what he described as the “greatest error of his life.” (The Report of the Fourth Congress is printed in English and can be immediately read to confirm this.) Brailsford by the way, describes this degree of publicity, “a half-forgotten secret.” Surely a novel method of keeping a secret. The one thing which Comrade Trotsky does not refer to is the fact, that the Communist Party proved itself to be greater than these comrades, just as it has proved throughout its existence greater than Comrade Trotsky, and even greater than Comrade Lenin. The Party corrected these comrades exactly as it corrected and continues to correct Comrade Trotsky—by its collective thinking and the operation of its collective will.
No one of us will under-estimate or seek to minimise the giant’s part played by Comrade Lenin, but the distinguishing feature of Comrade Lenin’s life and work is the fact that he recognised that without the Party he was a voice in the wilderness. It was the recognition of this fact which urged him to ever concentrate his efforts upon the Party, and act through the Party. Had Comrade Trotsky pursued a similar course instead of setting himself against the Party, his contribution to the study of October, would have been written with some regard for the history of the Party as a whole, would have had a real value for the International, and his own errors in relation thereto would have proved as valuable a cause of reflection as the errors of Comrades Kamenev and Zinoviev. His discussions would not have provoked on almost every occasion a Party crisis, because of his violation of the first principles of our Party, or played into the hand of the enemies of the revolution by giving them opportunities to sling mud and lies at the Party. And here let us dispose of some of the lies put out by Eastman and the “Labour Magazine,” and other periodicals. It is a lie to say that “Lenin’s testament” was not read to the Russian Party Congress. It was read. It is a lie to say that the articles of Lenin were suppressed. They were not suppressed, even as Trotsky’s writings have not been suppressed, but published in cheap editions. And it is sheer rubbish to talk of “Lenin offering Trotsky his job.” Lenin had not the power to offer anybody his job. What is more to the point is the fact that no jobs held by Communists are their individual possession to offer to anybody, and Lenin would be the last man to ever suggest such an absurdity. All positions held by Communists belong to the Party and are determined by the Party. The attempt to treat the Communist Party from the same angle as the Labour Party, i.e., as a happy hunting ground for careerists reveals at once ignorance as to the nature of the Communist Party. Disillusionment on this score has been the fate of more than one careerist who could not stand the pace, even of the British Party, young as it is.
But not for a moment do we subscribe to the idea that Trotsky is a careerist raising objections and criticisms for the sake of a job, although it is a fact that careerists in this country have seized hold of the same objections as he to discredit the Bolshevik policy.
The very first struggle of the Leninists led by Lenin against Comrade Trotsky occurred on an organisational question in 1903, when the Bolshevik fraction was formed in the Russian Social-Democratic Party. What then was the issue? It was the question—shall membership of our Party be governed by subscribing to the Communist programme, or by actively working in some organ of the Party to achieve the programme? This may appear to be only a difference in words. It is, but in words which convey a world of difference in actual life. If one only subscribes to a programme any old form of organisation will do—even such a loose form as that of the Labour Party, which at present leaves the doors open wide to every middle class careerist, who may even be an enemy of the working class. But if one must work for the programme, then organisational forms and principles must be related to the tasks set forth in the programme. Comrade Trotsky did not see at that time, just as the ex-Party critics who sneer at “nuclei” work and even some of our Party members do not see to-day, that this question is not simply a “mere organisational question,” but a vital political issue involving the proletarian revolution—deciding whether the Party shall be a purely propaganda body or a fighting and leading body.
It was not merely that the Menshevik formula permitted inactive elements to remain in the Party, but that these elements were bound to be in the main middle class elements: and indeed the Mensheviks made no secret of this being their purpose. Still more, if there were no obligation to work upon the membership at large, the onus fell upon a small group in the centre—the “leaders,” as opposed to the “led.” At once the masses were relegated to the position of blind sheep, the leaders exalted to the position of superior beings above the masses instead of with them, and the revolution made an affair of “historical development” instead of the business of our own time.
Imagine for a moment an army in a war, with its leading officers merely subscribing to the aims of the war, talking about the aims, inextricably mixed up with the rank and file of the army, dependent upon spontaneous movements and general good luck. Yet such is the only comparison one can make of a party of “subscribers” to revolution. And just as there could be no victory for an army run on the principle of “subscribers” so there can be no victory in the class war run on this principle. The class war is longer, more difficult, and more complex, demanding organised work in every direction of proletarian activity. And this brings us to the particular form which the organisation question has assumed in Britain to-day.
The basic, most widespread activity of the masses of the proletariat is in the factories, mills and mines, etc. of industry. It is from this that all mass actions arise. A Party claiming to be a party of the proletariat cannot hope to make good its claim, or win the majority behind it, or lead them to battle if it is not a part of this life of the masses in the process of exploitation and struggle. How can it be part of this struggle in any real sense at all if not organised in the midst of it? And if organised, what other possible form of organised action presents itself other than that of the factory group as the unit? There is none. All other directions but touch the fringe of the proletariat; and without the majority of the proletariat see in the Communist Party their leader, and find in it the organised leader of their struggles, there can be no proletarian revolution. Revolts? Yes, but revolution, no. The alternative is parliamentarism, compromise, the continuation of capitalism. The organisational question, which is a “mere” organisational question to pedantic intellectuals, an irritant to “left-wing” editors and a hard revolutionary task for the workers is thus seen to be a first class political question vital to the revolution. Comrade Trotsky discovered this and admitted he had been wrong and Lenin right. Our Party comrades and other sincere revolutionary workers will make this discovery too, and long before we reach the problems of our “October.”
This first conflict on organisational issues finds its latest expression in the 1923 discussions in the Russian Communist Party. These discussions and the points raised by Trotsky are being made much of by the anti-Communist critics, Brailsford, Postgate, Eastman, and Co. They would make believe that the present leaders were and are opposed to Party democracy, when such was not and is not the case. Trotsky appears to them as the valiant I.L.P’er. and in some respects he certainly came very close to them—but it must be remembered, when this affinity is seen, that it was not only on the question of party democracy that Comrade Trotsky went off the rails. He slipped on two important questions tacked on to the problem of re-introducing measures of Party democracy.
It must be fairly obvious to anyone giving a moment’s thought to the problems of civil war that in its military phases the ordinary methods of Party democracy are bound to be minimised and bureaucracy to grow. The R.C.P. had become bureaucratic in many respects. There is not a leader in the R.C.P. but what has been as outspoken as Comrade Trotsky about this development, and it was clear that with the passing of the period of civil war and the introduction of the NEP there would naturally follow corresponding adjustments in the life of the Party. Everybody agreed, but it must also be clear that the relaxation of the Party cannot be permitted to weaken the Party by making it less homogeneous. Comrade Trotsky came forward with two amazing propositions—the youth as the “political barometer of the Party,” and the demand for what amounted to the right to organise fractions within the Party. In what consists Bolshevik Party democracy? In free and full discussion throughout the Party for the formulation of policy and the united action of every member of the Party from bottom to top in the carrying out of decisions. In general the election of higher district organs by the lower local organs of the Party. In the election of the C.C. by the Party Congress, composed of the representatives from the local organisations. To propose in an organisation based upon the proletariat, that the youth are the political barometers of the Party, is farcical. A much more important question, a much more important barometer for a proletarian party, especially after a period of civil war, is the question of the social composition of the Party. The NEP was letting loose the petty bourgeois elements again, and encouraging their development. Naturally many of them, realising the importance of membership in a ruling party, would welcome any modification in the Party which would facilitate their own advance. To single out the youth as the barometer, when the whole question is how to re-invigorate the Party with its primary forces—the proletariat—is to simply express a feeling that there ought to be a change, and measure its requirements in terms of persons and not social classes, to regard the problem as a biological problem instead of a political problem—a typical I.L.P. defect. No wonder the petty bourgeoisie seized on it and saw in it the weakening of the Party. Youth—so appealing to the petty bourgeois romantics who think of “noble heads,” “broad shoulders,” “magnificent figures.” Of course, let youth come forward; how much better they are than 200,000 manual workers of the factories. The latter are “so lacking” in the “critical element,” (says Eastman).
But what becomes of the Party of the proletariat steeled in class warfare? This is not democratising the Party, or re-vitalising it. It is decomposing it to the advantage of other social classes. Comrade Trotsky’s line in this, like that of the I.L.P. once again, is the line of the petty bourgeois. Can such face “October?”
Again, on the question of fractions. Comrade Trotsky pleaded that whenever two or three or more are gathered together with common views diverging from the Party’s view as a whole, they shall be permitted to organise as a group. What does this mean, or what can it mean, but the forming of a party within the Party, hampering the Party in the prosecution of its work? What need can there be for such a development when the Party discusses its line before action, and submits its experiences to self analysis? Such a development could only split the Party into fragments, and make it cease to be a Party of battle. This is quite possible in a party of talk, a Party which is a debating society, waiting for the revolution to come along—but certainly fatal to a party of struggle. It proves also that Comrade Trotsky had reverted to his old line of “subscribers” to revolution as against workers for revolution. It is a policy to which our Party cannot subscribe, or it will never be fit to face our October. A party of fragments can never face “October.”
Again, the complaint is made that the proposals for democratising the R.C.P. found Comrade Trotsky in conflict with the Central Committee.
It is said Comrade Trotsky wanted democracy to come from below, and the Central Committee wanted to introduce it from above. For Comrade Trotsky or anyone else to speak of introducing the Resolutions of the Party Conference from “below,” that is to begin with the locals spreading upwards, is to again forget the first principles of Bolshevik Party organisation, and thereby strengthen the political position of the opponents of the Party. Of what use is it to elect an Executive Committee if the decisions of the Party Congress can be effectively carried through without the election of such a committee? And this is what the proposals amounts to. It finds its echo amongst many industrialists in this country and also amongst reformist Labour leaders. The industrialists plead for more ballots, more referendums, impervious to the fact that they are simply transferring the Parliamentarism of the Labour Party to the industrial arena. The union leaders respond, and the “coming from below” turns out to be more often than not the means for preventing action than securing it.
The industrialists grasp at forms of procedure when the real issue is the organisation of the struggle against reformism due to the fact that the trade unions have yet to be won to the class war line of working class interests. It is this control of working class organisation by leaders who are opposed to the class interests of the workers and refuse to lead the workers in the fight for those interests, that makes it necessary to organise the struggle “from below” in the unions and the Labour Party. But this cannot apply to a revolutionary party based upon the interests of the working class. To apply it to such a party is to utterly demoralise it by the introduction of the reformist forces it exists to destroy. To propose such a course at an important stage in the history of the revolution, when the Party was called upon to make a tremendous strategic move, to adjust itself to an entirely new mileu, as must be the case in the change from war Communism to the NEP, was to endanger the united action of the Party by separating the C.C. from the body of the Party. Obviously if the Party is to undertake an internal transformation at the moment it has to conduct a political manuvre it must retain unity. Such unity could only be secured under the central direction of the Executive. The high-sounding phrase of “action from below” proves to be nothing more nor less than Menshevik phrase-mongering. It reminds us of the would-be English revolutionary leaders who hide their own weakness in accusing the masses of never being ready and declaim, “They who would be free must themselves strike the blow.” Again—petty bourgeois deviation. How shall we face our October if these things take root in our Party?
It is difficult to avoid the impression that Comrade Trotsky’s divergencies, from Leninism on these inner Party questions have a common foundation in his political theories. Throughout his line of argument indicated and his political career and in his “Lessons of October,” there is a concentration on leaders and a lack of appreciation of the necessary nature of a Communist Party. All the time he seems to have before him a loose propaganda body, whose internal quarrels don’t matter much to the course of events, and in which leaders are, therefore, free to slam leaders, and fractions the leadership or one another. Even when he speaks of discipline, it is the discipline imposed by a few leaders. He has not Lenin’s idea of a Party which is a voluntary association of active leaders of the working class, maintaining contact with the workers at a thousand different points, and, therefore, bound together in the strictest voluntary and self-imposed discipline, in order to obtain the maximum co-ordination and effectiveness from this action on so many fronts at once.
The same impression is inescapeable in the book published by Harrops—“Lenin, by Trotsky,” which one reviewer most appropriately read as “Me and Lenin.” Trotsky essentially shines as an individual and not as a collective worker. This individualism, revealed in his organisational deviation, is reinforced by a theory of revolution which victimises him, and makes him more often than not the weather-cock of the revolution. This theory has been named the Theory of Permanent Revolution.
Briefly it can be summed up as follows. In the revolutionary crises that arise in the course of the revolutionary war of the classes, especially in the “Octobers” of the proletariat, the latter has no real allies. It is forced to forge its own weapons of warfare, to seize power, and to make temporary alliances with the peasants and petty bourgeoisie. But after the seizure of power, they have to face the enmity of the peasants and petty bourgeoisie, and fight them in order to bring in Socialism. The Russian workers are, therefore, dependent upon an alliance with the workers of the West in a world revolution. “The Proletarian Revolution of Russia must be supported with the State power of the workers of the West or perish.”
With this as a guiding theory, it is easy to understand his opposition to Lenin on the Brest-Litovsk Treaty, and his despair of the workers holding power in Russia without a revolution in Germany. He had no faith in the durability of the alliance with the peasantry, and had not worked out the means to be employed along the pathway to Socialism, especially in its class relations. Of course, he was not alone in this, and the precariousness of the first flew months of the Soviet power, as well as the quickening revolutionary tempo in Europe affected most people. But the C.P. under the leadership of Lenin held to the alliance of workers and peasants as the foundation of the revolution.
It is easy to see with this theory of “Permanent Revolution” as the guide why Comrade Trotsky went to extremes with war Communism, and in the discussion on the role of the trade unions proposed to supplement the syndicalist demand for control of production by the unions with the military organ of the state, thus turning the unions into productive organs of the State. This was a concentration on the proletariat against the peasantry who were chafing at war Communism Lenin and the R.C.P. answered with the NEP, and the development of the unions not as State organs, but as “schools for Communism.”
Again it provides the key to his theory of the “dictatorship of industry” in the economic crisis of 1923. Then he was in opposition to the policy of lowering industrial prices proposed to overcome the “scissors” crisis. He or his supporters (his group had divided their functions very laboriously) was opposed to the currency reform, or at least very critical towards it, on the grounds that inflation taxed the peasant in favour of industry.
The great flaw in the whole theory lies in its unrealistic approach to the problem of class relations, a problem of the utmost importance both before and after October in every country. It approaches the problem from the doctrinnaire intellectual angle, and not in relation to the actual social relations developed in the process of struggle. Abstractly, the interests of the proletariat contrast with the interests of the petty bourgeoisie, and the peasantry who are essentially petty bourgeois in outlook. But obviously the role of these intermediary classes between the two primary classes, forces which fight out the battle of power, can only be supplementary to either side. In the era of imperialism they can play no independent role. They can neither introduce the new social foundation which must triumph over capitalism, or turn back the wheels of history to the stage of petty production. Considered politically, the task of the proletariat is to win the petty bourgeoisie from the influence of the bourgeoisie. Economically its task is by the aid of its state power to direct the development of its economy into higher forms leading to Socialism. Before our “October” the British proletariat must at least “neutralise” the middle classes, and win over the colonial peasantry, while it directs its main attack upon the big bourgeoisie. After October, the task will be, not to direct a frontal attack upon the petty bourgeosie, but to liquidate them through the development of Socialist economy. This is the Leninist policy in contradistinction to Trotskyism, which clearly leads by accentuating the differences between the proletariat and its allies to the driving of those allies into the hands of the bourgeoisie. This is the foundation of the undesired support which Comrade Trotsky has gathered around him, the reason why the NEP men look to him as their saviour. Not that Trotsky wants these supporters. He hates them with an intense hatred. This is a case of “good intentions paving the way to hell.” At least they pave the way to the isolation of the proletariat, and the inevitable collapse of the revolution.
The political line of Comrade Trotsky in practice represents the influence of the petty bourgeoisie, just as it does in his conceptions of inner party relations. If pursued by our Party, it would be fatal to the possibility of our ever facing the tasks of “October.” Instead of a united, centralised, democratic party, with its roots deep in the economic and social life of the proletariat, we would develop along the lines of the I.L.P.—and who would suggest that the I.L.P with its loose organisation and confusing political currents can ever do more than talk about Socialism? To lead the struggle, the Party must be in and of the struggle. To be a living fighting party, it must freely discuss its policy, but unitedly carry out its decisions under the leadership of its Central Committee. This kind of party has no room for fractions, no need for fractions, or for the cry “from below.” It is only this kind of Party that can face “October.”
The class political line of Comrade Trotsky, if applied by our Party as the leader of the proletariat of Britain, would mean and could mean nothing else but the minimising of the role of the middle classes and the farmers, the neglect of the colossal role of the colonial peasantry as reserves for exploitation by British imperialism—or as allies for the British revolutionary workers—and the creation of dangerous illusions about their own strength amongst the proletariat. This would be fatal to the revolution by letting loose a big middle class upon the proletariat. The task of the proletariat to feed the population of this country demands not an antagonising of the remaining agricultural forces, but essentially a durable working alliance “before” and “after” October, while the large middle class elements in a so highly industrialised country are great reserves for the bourgeoisie which only a policy of “neutralisation” can hope to minimise. In general, Comrade Trotsky would agree, but in the specific and concrete application of his policy, with his predilection for frontal attacks upon the petty bourgeoisie and peasantry which appear revolutionary, but may according to the incidence of the historical situation, be just the reverse, he would repeatedly create crises through running off the track of Communism, not only in our October, but before and after.
We cannot subscribe to Trotskyism on behalf of our Party. We want not a “subscribers” Party, but a “working” Party. We want not a loose federation of conflicting “fractions,” but a democratically centralised and united Party of the proletariat. We want no policy “of leading from below,” which sets the rank and file against its leaders, but a living homogeneous Party with its leaders closely united with the whole membership of our Party and the masses. We want no isolation of the proletariat, but a proletariat led by a Communist Party, marshalling around it with their support, the sum total of the social forces that can be directed against the main powers of capitalist imperialism. Without the continued active support of the peasantry and the colonial workers and, peasants, and the neutralising of petty bourgeois forces, our October and the proletarian revolution is out of the question. The tactics and strategy for such a policy are not contained in the theory of “Permanent Revolution,” but in the Leninism of the Communist International, as is proven in the following pages, and to which our Party subscribes.
J. T. MURPHY