Moissaye J. Olgin


Counter-Revolution in Disguise

The Anglo-Russian Committee

THE Trotskyite attitude towards the problems of the world revolution is an outgrowth of Trotsky’s basic error about the impossibility of Socialism in one country.

Out of numberless questions we select the following as typical:

The Anglo-Russian Unity Committee;
The Chinese Revolution;
The question of the Third Period;
The question of social-fascism;
The German situation.
The crowning glory of all these policies appears in the shape of that marvelous new structure, the Fourth International.

  *  *  *  

The Anglo-Russian Unity Committee was organized in 1926 for the purpose of bringing about common action of the workers against imperialism, against war, and for world trade-union unity. It consisted of representatives of the trade unions of the U.S.S.R. and of the British trade unions. It was to bring to the British workers and to the workers of the world a better understanding of the situation and aims of the Soviet workers, to help revolutionize the British workers in their fights against British imperialism, and to increase the influence of the Soviets among the workers of the capitalist countries.

Why did the leaders of the British trade unions agree to the formation of such a committee? Because the workers in Great Britain and other countries were becoming radicalized; because the influence of the Bolshevik revolution among the workers of all countries was growing; because the trade unions of the U.S.S.R. impressed the workers of other countries as sharing in the State power of the Workers’ Republic, and because the Communists everywhere advocated the necessity of unity of the working masses on the economic field.

Why did the leaders of the Soviet trade unions agree to enter such a committee? They knew perfectly well the character of even the “Left” wing of the British trade union leaders: Purcell, Cook and others. But they saw in this committee an opening for contact with the broadest masses of Europe. The committee was a sounding board from which the voices of Bolshevism would be heard on a wider range among the workers of England and other countries. Above all things they saw in it a weapon for the defense of the Soviet Union at a time when the imperialists were perfecting their plans for an attack on the Soviets. The tradition of the proletarian Action Committees against British intervention in the Soviet Union in 1920 was still fresh.

Through the Anglo-Russian Unity Committee the question of a united front of struggle against capitalism and war was presented to large masses of toilers in the capitalist countries. Delegations of non-party workers to the Soviet Union are a common occurrence. Purcell and his comrades were allowed to come to the U.S.S.R. and were accorded friendly receptions. In exchange, representatives of the Soviet Union were given a chance to appear before broad masses of the British workers to present their revolutionary views.

The opposition was “against”.

In a pamphlet by the theoretician of Trotskyism in the United States, Max Shachtman, the assertion is made that the Anglo-Russian Unity Committee was “a political bloc between the reformists of England and the Russian party bureaucracy” (Ten Years, p. 39). As a matter of fact it was not a bloc; it was not even an alliance; it was a committee for the propaganda of trade union unity. It was a committee that opened up before the Soviet unions the possibility of exposing even the “Left” leaders when the occasion arose. This came about after the collapse of the general strike in Great Britain in May, 1926. The British leaders of the Anglo-Russian Committee then swung to the Right; they began to hide from the British workers their belonging to the unity committee; in fact they were trying to wriggle out from under the obligations agreed upon by entering the committee. This gave an occasion for the Soviet trade unions to appear before the British workers and to explain to them the treacherous rôle of the “Left” union leaders. And it was just at this moment that the Trotskyites became most vociferous, demanding the breaking up of the committee.

An ingenious theory is presented by the above mentioned Trotsky disciple in the United States. He stresses “the falsity of the conception” that such leaders as Purcell, Cook, Hicks, Swales, and Citrine can become “the revolutionary organizers of the world’s working class against imperialist war and for the defense of the Soviet Republic”. Oh profound theoretician! Oh penetrating tactician! The Communists had to wait until 1933 to learn this consummate wisdom about the reformist leaders remaining reformist leaders. Mr. Shachtman conveniently forgets that when the united front is built in which a reformist leader is forced to join, it is not the leader but the masses under his influence that are won for the defense of the Soviet Union and for other revolutionary tasks.

Mr. Shachtman clinches his deadly attack with this broadside: In the Anglo-Russian Committee he sees the hand of the “Stalinists” who are frantically in search for “anti-interventionists” and who attempt “to convert the Communist Parties into Soviet border patrols”. (Ibid., p. 39.)

Mr. Shachtman does not want the Communist Parties to be border patrols of the Soviet Union. Why should he if the Trotskyites do not think that socialism is being built in the Soviet Union? He says so quite plainly: “The Stalinist conception of the rôle and nature of the Anglo-Russian Committee flowed directly from the theory of socialism in one country. According to the latter, Russia could build up its own nationally isolated socialist economy, ‘if’ only foreign military intervention could be staved off.” To the Trotskyites this is not so. The staving off of foreign military intervention therefore is for them not the prime task of the international proletariat.

One more thing should be noted in connection with the Anglo-Russian Committee. Just at the time when the situation became more difficult, when the betrayal of the British general strike raised greater obstacles in the way of the Soviet approach to the British workers, when it was necessary to use more patience and more flexible tactics in relation to these workers, the opposition shrank before the difficulties. In true petty-bourgeois fashion it fell into a panic. The expression of this panic was the demand of withdrawal. The demand sounded “ultra-revolutionary”. It was—defeatism.

Next: 9.  The Chinese Revolution