WHAT is Trotskyism?
More than ten years ago, when Trotsky still enjoyed the privilege of membership in the Communist Party of the U.S.S.R., Stalin found in Trotskyism “three peculiarities which place it in irreconcilable contradiction to Leninism”.
Before we proceed we must say a word about the method applied here in discussing Trotskyism. The question is treated from the point of view of Marxism-Leninism. It is assumed that Leninism has proved itself correct both as the theory and as the practice of the revolution. It is therefore taken for granted that opposition to Leninism is incorrect.
Now, we are fully aware of the fact that many a reader may disagree with the Leninist point of view. He may be opposed to the proletarian revolution, to the dictatorship of the proletariat, to the socialist system. Such a reader may find solace in Trotsky’s attacks upon Leninism. But then he must admit that he seeks in Trotsky not a confirmation but a repudiation of the Leninist solution of the social problem. With a man of this kind, who draws from the muddy stream of Trotsky’s denunciations convenient arguments against Sovietism and against the Communists of his country, we have no argument on these pages. The only thing a person of this stripe is requested to do is to acknowledge that he uses the Trotsky ammunition against everything that Marx, Engels and Lenin stood for and against everything Stalin, together with the Communist International, stand for today.
Quite different it is with those who profess to be in favor of the proletarian revolution, who admit the necessity of organizing the working class for the struggle for the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of a Soviet power, and who recognize in Lenin the master-builder of the Bolshevik Party and the world-historic leader of the proletarian revolution. The following argument aims to show that you cannot be for the proletarian revolution and for Trotskyism; that if you accept Trotsky’s arguments you depart from Lenin; that Trotsky’s professions of Leninism are only a smoke screen behind which his disbelief in the proletariat and his mistrust of the Communist (Bolshevik) Party and its methods of struggle are hidden; that Trotskyism is in reality a weapon against the proletarian revolution, but one that is painted red in order to delude workers with a radical trend.
We may assume that those who are in earnest about the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment—on the principles laid down by the Russian Revolution—of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the now capitalist countries, including the United States, agree to the following fundamental propositions:
(a) That a Bolshevik (Communist) Party is the first prerequisite for a successful revolution;
(b) That there can be only one Bolshevik Party and not many in every country, and that the unity of such a party, its cohesion and therefore its striking power are of surpassing importance;
(c) That the backbone of the socialist revolution is the urban proletariat;
(d) That the Communist Party can accomplish the proletarian revolution only when it leads the entire working class, or at least a majority of it, in an armed uprising against the capitalist State;
(e) That the success of the revolution depends to a large extent upon the ability of the Party and the proletariat to ally themselves with great masses of the other exploited and oppressed groups and classes of the population, in the first place the exploited farmers, the lower middle class of the cities, the oppressed intellectuals, etc.;
(f) That confidence between Party leadership and Party membership is one of the major conditions for success and that mistrust of Bolshevik leadership, when unfounded, is undermining the revolution.
(g) That there can be only one Communist International which leads the Communist Parties of the world.
(h) That one cannot be a real revolutionist and fight the Soviet Union, since the Soviet Union is the greatest achievement of the world proletariat and the example of building Socialism.
But to return to Stalin’s definition. It must be remembered that Stalin made it at the time when Trotskyism was just beginning to raise its head. The tract, Trotskyism or Leninism, in which the definition is contained, was published in November, 1924. It is amazing how clearly Stalin saw both the meaning and the future development of Trotskyism at a time when Trotsky still loomed as one of the great heroes of the revolution.
The “peculiarities” of Trotskyism, according to Stalin, are:
First, Trotskyism is a theory of the so-called “permanent revolution”, which is but another name for the theory that it is impossible to build socialism in the Soviet Union.
Second, Trotskyism means lack of confidence in the Bolshevik Party allegiance, in its unity, in its hostility towards opportunist elements, which leads to the theory of the “co-habitation of revolutionaries and opportunists, of their groups and grouplets within the fold of a single party”.
Third, Trotskyism means distrust in the leaders of Bolshevism, an attempt at discrediting them, at besmirching them. With a prophetic understanding Stalin points out the dangers of Trotskyism.
“Wherein lies the danger of the new Trotskyism? In that Trotskyism, according to its entire inner content, has every chance of becoming the center and the rallying point of non-proletarian elements which are trying to weaken, to disintegrate the dictatorship of the proletariat.
“Trotskyism now comes forward in order to uncrown Bolshevism, to undermine its foundations.” (The October Revolution, p. 94.)
Redefining Trotskyism six years later (June, 1930), Stalin had only to elaborate on the “peculiarities” just mentioned. The activities of the Trotskyites fitted well Stalin’s original characterization. What he foresaw in 1924 as a possibility and a trend, had become an established practice.
“What is the essence of Trotskyism?” Stalin asks in 1930, and he finds it consisting in the following:
“The essence of Trotskyism consists, first of all, in the denial of the possibility of building Socialism in the U.S.S.R., with the forces of the working class and the peasantry of our country. What does this mean? It means that if, in the near future, help does not come in the form of a victorious world revolution, we shall have to capitulate to the bourgeoisie and clear the road for a bourgeois-democratic republic. Consequently, we have here the bourgeois repudiation of the possibility of building Socialism in our country masked by ‘revolutionary’ phrasemongering about the victory of the world revolution.
“The essence of Trotskyism consists, secondly, in denying the possibility of drawing the basic masses of the peasantry into Socialist construction in the countryside. What does this mean? It means that the working class is not strong enough to lead the peasantry after it in the task of shunting the individual peasant farms on to collective rails and that, if in the near future the victory of the world revolution does not come to the aid of the working class, the peasantry will restore the old bourgeois system. Consequently, we have here the bourgeois denial of the strength and opportunities of the proletarian dictatorship for leading the peasantry to Socialism, covered with the mask of ‘revolutionary’ phrases about the victory of the world revolution.
“The essence of Trotskyism consists, lastly, in the denial of the necessity of iron discipline in the Party, in the recognition of the freedom of factional groupings in the Party, in the recognition of the necessity of constituting a Trotskyist party. For Trotskyism, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union must be not a united and single militant Party, but a collection of groups and factions, each with its own central organization, press and so forth. And what does this mean? It means that following the freedom of political groupings in the Party must come the freedom of political parties in the country, i.e., bourgeois democracy. Consequently, we have here the recognition of the freedom of factional groupings in the Party, leading directly to the toleration of political parties in the country of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and all covered up with phrases about ‘internal Party democracy’ and ‘improving the regime’ within the Party.” (Joseph Stalin, Leninism, Vol. II, English Edition, pp. 391-393.)
The denial of the possibility of building Socialism in the U.S.S.R. can only discourage the Soviet workers, destroy their confidence, dampen their enthusiasm. The denial of the possibility of building Socialism in the countryside can only discourage the poor and middle peasants, weaken their struggle against the kulaks, undermine their confidence in the urban proletariat and its Party as leaders of the revolution and builders of Socialism. The denial of the necessity of iron discipline in the Party can only encourage breaches of discipline and thus weaken the strongest weapon of the dictatorship of the proletariat. It is for this reason that Stalin branded it (in 1930) as “an anti-proletarian, anti-Soviet, counterrevolutionary group, which painstakingly informs the bourgeoisie of the affairs of our Party”. (Ibid., p. 391.)
Today Trotskyism no more confines itself to “informing” the bourgeoisie. Today Trotskyism is the center and the rallying point for the enemies of the Soviet Union, of the proletarian revolution in capitalist countries, of the Communist International. Trotskyism is trying not only to disintegrate the dictatorship of the proletariat in the Soviet Union, but also to disintegrate the forces that make for the dictatorship of the proletariat the world over.
Our exposition will follow the “peculiarities” of Trotskyism in the order enumerated by Stalin. We shall have to add a number of chapters dealing with the recent exploits of the Trotskyites both in the United States and abroad.
Next: 4. Socialism in One Country