Moissaye J. Olgin


Counter-Revolution in Disguise

The Danger of Trotskyism

“Nobody dares speak aloud in Russia.”

“The Russian workers have bad dwellings, bad clothes, bad food. In consequence of malnutrition and bad hygienic conditions, epidemics are spreading among them.”

“Instead of proclaimed beautiful perspectives and particularly beneficial privileges, the workers of heavy industry have obtained an official eight-hour workday plus two hours overtime—shock-brigader and super-shock-brigader work under conditions where there is a constant lack of materials and instruments, where the machines and apparatus are continually out of order, the work rooms are not heated and ventilation is absent.”

“The system of ‘dekulakization’ and large-scale collectivization has turned Russia from a country of booming agriculture into a country of widespread ruin. Instead of the advantages promised to follow from collective creativeness and large-scale application of machines, the peasants have remained exhausted. Hard forced labor in the collective farms has led to a situation where the peasant cannot be the creator of the most necessary products.”

WHO are the authors of these statements? Do they emanate from the Trotskyite camp? They sound very much like Trotskyite declarations. Remember what Trotsky wrote about “bureaucratism” in Russia, about democracy being stifled, about absence of elementary rights under the “Stalinist regime”. Does it not resemble the statement that “nobody dares speak aloud in Russia”?

And now about the economic situation. Remember what Trotsky wrote about the conditions of the workers.

“Economic tasks are being set without any account being taken of the actual means. An increasingly inhuman load is being dumped on the shoulders of the workers. . . . Malnutrition plus forced exertions. The combination of these two conditions is enough to do away with the equipment and to exhaust the producers themselves. . . . One cannot believe one’s eyes. . . . Poor nourishment and nervous fatigue engender an apathy to the surrounding environment. As a result not only the old factories. but also the new ones that have been built according to the last word in technology fall quickly into a moribund state.” (Leon Trotsky, Soviet Economy in Danger, p. 21.)

And this is what Trotsky wrote about the situation of the peasants:

“The headlong chase after breaking records in collectivization, without taking any account of the economic and cultural potentialities of the rural economy, has led in actuality to ruinous consequences. It has destroyed the stimuli of the small commodity producer long before it was able to supplant them by other and much higher economic stimuli. The administrative pressure, which exhausts itself quickly in industry, turns out to be absolutely powerless in the sphere of rural economy. . . . One hundred per cent collectivization has resulted in one hundred per cent overgrowth of weeds on the fields.” (Ibid., p. 23.)

Is there any material difference between the last two quotations and the quotations at the beginning of this chapter? It is difficult to detect any. The spirit is the same. The substance is the same. Yet the first four quotations are taken from a publication called The Russian Fascist appearing in the United States of America in the Russian language (the magazine is published in Putnam, Connecticut, by a man named A. Vonsyatsky).

The Russian Fascists and the former leader of the October Revolution, Leon Trotsky, speak the same language.

What is the difference between them? One would be inclined to think that the fascists speak in the name of the dictatorship of capital whereas Trotsky speaks in the name of the Russian workers and peasants. But the fascists, too, profess to speak in the name of the masses. They appear in their publications as the great champions of the downtrodden and exploited—the oppressors and exploiters being, in their presentation, the Bolsheviks with Stalin at their head. The fascists, too, appeal in the name of democracy. They even say they are not against the Soviets. They only want “freedom of unhampered voting and the right to elect non-partisans into the Soviets”—a Trotskyite demand.

Are the fascists friends of the Russian masses? We do not think any enlightened person would believe that. Is Trotsky a friend of the Russian masses? Some people think so, but the fact that his statements so closely resemble those of the fascists should make them doubtful as to Trotsky’s real objective.

The difference between the fascists and the Trotskyites is this—that the fascist deception is easily detected by every thinking person whereas the Trotskyite deception is not so easily detected because it is covered with “revolutionary”, “Marxian”, even “Leninist” phrases.

Therein lies the danger of Trotskyism.

One great world-wide victory was achieved by the world proletariat in October, 1917: the Bolshevik Revolution which established the dictatorship of the proletariat. For over 17 years the dictatorship of the proletariat has been ruling in a gigantic country. Successes which could not have been dreamt of under the old régime have been achieved in the comparatively brief span of time after the end of the civil war. Progress of industry which made the U.S.S.R., as far as heavy metallurgy is concerned, the first country in Europe and the second in the world, has actually transfigured the vast land, opening before it still greater and more staggering possibilities. Progress of agriculture, which transformed a country of twenty million small backward individual peasant holdings into a country of the most modern large-scale collectivized agriculture, put the U.S.S.R. on a firm foundation as regards the production of foodstuffs and raw materials and made it to a large extent, independent of the caprices of weather conditions. Heights of culture have been achieved which in many respects place the country far ahead of anything known in the capitalist world.

All this was accomplished not without struggles. Struggles against the former owners of wealth. Struggle against the White forces of the landlords and capitalists. Struggles against the imperialist armies of intervention. Struggles against the enemies that penetrated into every crevice of Soviet life in order to damage and wreck. Struggle against the village exploiters, the kulaks. Struggle against the intellectual saboteurs who offered every possible resistance to the workers’ rule. Struggle against the inefficiency, the lack of education, the lack of training on the part of the workers. Struggle against the backwardness of the peasantry. Struggle against old habits, centuries-old customs, prejudices, superstitions. Struggle against alien elements within the Communist Party who threatened to destroy its unity and impede therefore the progress of the revolution.

Under the leadership of the Bolshevik Party, with Lenin and Stalin and then Stalin at its head, all these difficulties have been overcome, most of the battles won, the foundations of socialism laid, the edifice of socialism nearly completed. The toilers of the Soviet Union are entering a new era, an era of abundance, of higher culture, of a more beautiful and colorful life.

For what is this economic progress if not a foundation for more and better goods to satisfy the masses? What is this cultural progress if not a means of raising Soviet humanity to a higher, more human level? What is the entire system if not the open road to still greater, still more marvelous progress?

Compare this with the downfall of industry and agriculture in the capitalist world, with factories shut down, cottonfields and wheatfields ploughed under, wheat burned, milk spilled into the rivers, tens of millions of workers thrown out into hunger and misery, thousands upon thousands dying, children destitute, young boys and girls roaming the roads, schools and colleges curtailed, teachers and technicians, high specialists and artists swelling the ranks of the unemployed and unable to produce culture. Compare the Soviet achievements with this huge waste of human energy, human talent, human possibilities—and the importance of the Soviet Union will stand out in a sharp light.

The Soviet Union is a beacon light for all the oppressed and exploited of the world. The Soviet Union has done away with the exploitation of man by man. It has done away with the oppression of minority nationalities, of colonies and semi-colonies. It has made the formerly oppressed sections of Russia inhabited by non-Russians into veritable gardens of national freedom where national culture blossoms—culture that is national in form and proletarian in content. It has developed the formerly backward regions to make them reach the level of the most highly developed regions.

The Soviet Union stands out as the example for the masses of the world. It shows how capitalist slavery and national oppression can be abolished. The Communist Party of the U.S.S.R. stands as the example of how the Parties of the proletariat in every country must be organized and how they must conduct their struggles in order to achieve the victory of the working class and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The Communist International is the organization which unites all the Communist Parties and makes them into one great Bolshevik world party, leader of the world revolution.

There is not a single revolutionary group among the workers and oppressed nationalities in the world that is not stimulated by the example of the Soviet Union. There is not a single expression of revolt among the masses that is not heightened and made more conscious and more decisive in consequence of the existence of the Communist Parties and the Communist International. Remove the Soviet Union from the political scene, destroy the Communist Party of the U.S.S.R., crush the Communist International—and you bring about the greatest defeat of the exploited, and the greatest triumph for the exploiters.

This is why world capitalism hates the Soviet Union. This is why the world imperialist powers are always conspiring against the Soviet Union. This is why they are assiduously preparing for war against the Soviet Union. They know their enemy. They know the danger that threatens their domination and their very existence. They are bent on crushing, wrecking, destroying, wiping out the hated dictatorship of the proletariat.

He who helps them is an enemy of the working class and of all the oppressed. Trotsky and the Trotskyites belong to this camp.

There are soft-hearted and “fair-minded” intellectuals who think that Trotsky did not get a square deal. Those champions of “fair play” forget that it is Trotsky who did not give the Soviet Union a square deal. It is he that never was fair to the Russian workers and to their Communist Party. It is he who never came with a fair and square attitude but always kept skeletons in his closet. It is Trotsky who, while a member of the Central Committee and of its Political Bureau, plotted against the Party and therefore against the Soviet Union, against the very rule of the proletariat. When the Communist Party finally was forced to expel him, it was because he turned traitor to the revolution.

The stamp of renegade is burning on his forehead.

Those intellectuals who seem to be fascinated by the false glitter of his literary output should think a moment of what his activities actually amount to. He is supposed to be the champion of inner-Party democracy—he says so himself—but when it came to the trade unions of the U.S.S.R. he wanted to change them into a purely bureaucratic apparatus which ides from above, and for this purpose he proposed to give them “a severe shakeup”, to “rub them strongly with sand”. He was supposed to be the champion of rapid industrialization—for which he advanced unsound and essentially destructive measures—but when, under the leadership of the Communist Party and Stalin, industrialization did make phenomenal progress, he demands a halt, he laments the “break-neck” speed. He was supposed to be the champion of collectivization of the peasant holdings—if need be by force, which would have ruined the relationship between the workers and the poor and middle peasants and wrecked the revolution—but when collectivization finally did make rapid progress, he decries it as ruining agriculture and ruining the peasants. He was supposed to be “ultra revolutionary”, a Left oppositionist—by which he means a better Communist than all the other Commonists—but his activities have one aim: to undermine, to shatter, to weaken and consequently to destroy the Communist Party of the Soviet Union without which there can be no socialist construction and no Soviet Union either. He is supposed to be against “bureaucratism” in the Party and in the State apparatus—a danger which the Party and the Soviet State themselves fight against and mitigate, and which he, Trotsky, exaggerates a million times—but what he is organizing is tiny cliques of disgruntled bureaucrats, renegades with small capabilities and tremendous ambitions, thwarted individuals who could not achieve leadership in real Communist Parties, creatures poisoned by all the vices of capitalist politicians and having nothing to do with the masses. He is supposed to be dissatisfied with the policies of the Communist International and the Communist Parties in the various countries because—to him, he says—they are not radical enough, but whenever his followers engage in any kind of activities among the workers they follow faithfully and obediently in the footsteps of the William Greens, Matthew Wolls, John Lewises and other misleaders of labor. He is supposed to be the great advocate of the united front, accusing the Communist International of having ruined the German revolution by not proposing a united front—which is an accusation based on his own fabrications—but when a united front is developing, like that in France and in the United States, his grouplets join with the reformists against the united front, thus trying to put a monkey wrench into the machinery of uniting the workers for common struggle. He is supposed to be displeased with the Communist International because, he says, it is not advancing the revolution rapidly enough, but he himself is creating that abortive contraption, the fourth international, which is meant to fight not for the socialist revolution but for bourgeois democracy, i.e., for the perpetuation of exploitation and oppression. He covers himself with the name of Lenin—whom he fought most of his life and with whom he never fully agreed—he boasts of carrying forward the traditions of Lenin, but he does it in order to abuse the great genius who is continuing the work of Lenin at the present epoch and who is leading the Soviet masses from victory to victory, Joseph Stalin.

Let no one think that Trotskyism is mere disagreement with one or the other policy of the Soviet government, that it is mere propaganda. To be sure, Trotskyism uses the weapon of propaganda, the “arms of criticism”, but only to pass to “criticism by arms”, to the attempts at overthrowing the Soviet system by armed force. The murdering of Kirov is only an instance of what methods of struggle Trotskyism would like to develop, to assume gigantic proportions.

It is precisely for the purpose of bringing about such “developments” that the “Fourth International” is being attempted. “Is it possible to remove the bureaucracy ‘peacefully’?” asks Trotsky in The Soviet Union and the Fourth International (Pioneer Publishers, N.Y., English edition, 1934)—and the answer is negative. Of course Trotsky does not say that he wishes to destroy the Soviet Union. The Trotskyites speak about the “bureaucracy” only, i.e., about the Communist Party and the apparatus of the Soviet State. But it is quite clear from the outset that when these are removed, the Soviet system is overthrown. Trotsky advocates the formation in the U.S.S.R. of a party to accomplish this task. “The fundamental historic task,” he says, “is to create the revolutionary party in the U.S.S.R. from among the healthy elements of the old party and from among the youth.” (Ibid., p. 24.) This party, which Trotsky calls “revolutionary” and composed of “healthy elements” in the same way as Hitler calls his party “revolutionary” and “full of Germanic vigor”, is to wrest power not by the instrumentality of the existing Communist Party or the Soviet State institutions. “After the experiences of the last few years, it would be childish to suppose that the Stalinist bureaucracy can be removed by means of a Party or Soviet congress,” says Trotsky (p. 24). “No normal ‘constitutional’ ways remain to remove the ruling clique” (p. 25), i.e., to remove the organization of power of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Trotsky advances his thesis frankly: “The bureaucracy [State organization of the proletariat and the collective peasantry.—M. J. O.] can be compelled to yield power into the hands of the proletarian vanguard [the counter-revolutionary plotters and murderers of the Nikolaiev type.—M. J. O.] only by force.” (p. 25, emphasis by Trotsky.)

Does Trotsky envisage civil war? He prefers to call it by another name. He prefers to fire his followers by picturing a situation where they are so strong that “the Stalinist [Party and State] apparatus will remain suspended in mid-air”,—but he is at the same time very explicit. “Should it (the apparatus) still attempt to resist, it will then be necessary to apply against it not the measure of civil war, but rather measures of police character;” i.e., clubs, guns, gas bombs. But do not think that Trotsky shrinks before an armed uprising against the Soviet government. He says that an armed uprising is justified. “In any case what would be involved is not an armed insurrection against the dictatorship of the proletariat but the removal of a malignant growth upon it” (p. 25). Trotsky would have us believe that an uprising of counter-revolutionists—which by the nature of things must be assisted by the former landlords, manufacturers, kulaks and the officials of the tsar’s government—would not be an uprising against the dictatorship of the proletariat but the removal of what he chooses to call “a malignant growth” (he called Lenin “the leader of the reactionary wing” of the Social-Democratic Party). But not much acumen is needed to understand that an armed uprising against the Communist Party and the Soviet State would return the former exploiters to power. The Russian fascists in America also say that they want to preserve the Soviet system. They deserve as much credence as Trotsky.

A lurid light is thrown on Trotskyism by its open admission that it hopes for war to facilitate the overthrow of the Soviets. Which is closer, asks Trotsky in a delirium of wish-fulfillment: the collapse of the Soviet system by itself, without the action of the new party, or the emergence of such a party? Neither, would a reasonable human being say, because there is no danger of a collapse of the Soviet system and no prospect of the counter-revolution ever having a chance to build a mass party in the U.S.S.R. But here Trotsky reveals another angle of his outlook: “A major historical test—which may be a war—will determine the relation of forces” (p. 26). So this is it. The Trotskyites hope for an imperialist war to help the counter-revolution overthrow the Soviet system. They try to organize the “Fourth International” to “await a clear call” for an attack on the Soviet Union. War may be the occasion.

Nowhere have the Trotskyites revealed themselves to such an extent.

Trotskyism does the same work as the open counter-revolutionists. In substance there is no difference between Trotskyism and Hearstism. But Trotskyism represents that peculiar danger that it is cloaked as “Left” Communism and that it emits phrases about “world revolution”.

The capitalists need various classes of agents to delude the workers, to destroy their unity, to divert them from the path of revolutionary struggle. The capitalists have their Roosevelts with New-Deal phraseology and “social-security” demagogy. Where the workers are no more willing to accept the Roosevelt demagogy, the capitalists have another agent, the union bureaucracy which pretends to speak in the name of labor while delivering the workers to their exploiters. Where the workers have advanced still further, there are the Socialist leaders, who, in the name of “democracy” (bourgeois-democracy, exploiters’ democracy), keep the workers from joining the Communist Party and engaging in revolutionary struggles against capitalism for Soviet Power. Whenever the workers are so radicalized that even the socialist deception can no more keep them chained to the chariot of capitalism, the latter has another agent—Trotsky and the Trotskyites. These come in the name of “Left” Communism. They come as the “true Leninists”. But the effect of their activities is the same—aid to capitalism by undermining all that is really revolutionary, by disheartening the workers, by spreading among them a panic in relation to the Soviet Union, by making them join the Musteites and similar elements—under the banner of the counter-revolutionary “fourth international”.

Trotskyism does not sink roots into the masses of the proletariat, but its danger for the Communist Party, and particularly for those petty-bourgeois intellectuals who are moving towards the Communist Party in the capitalist countries, must not be underestimated. It is the petty bourgeoisie that is, through Trotskyism, trying to disorganize and demoralize the revolutionary forces that are mobilizing against capitalism. The petty-bourgeois elements, says Lenin, “surround the proletariat on all sides . . . . they saturate it . . . . they demoralize it, they continually make it relapse into petty-bourgeois spinelessness, disruption, individualism, transition from enthusiasm to dismay”. This is true about the capitalist countries no less than it was true about the Soviet Republic in 1920. The petty bourgeoisie is surrounding the proletariat on every side, and Trotskyism is being continually regenerated as the expression of this particular brand of counter-revolution. It is only natural that the intellectuals, hailing from the petty bourgeoisie, should be particularly exposed to the danger of Trotskyism. The lot of the intellectuals in the present crisis is far from enviable. Hundreds of thousands have been thrown out of work. Scientific, educational and cultural activities have been crippled. The intellectual youth has almost no hope of getting work that would enable it to develop its talents and to lead a comfortable existence. The intellectuals are becoming radicalized. But, being petty-bourgeois, many of them have an aversion for the Communist Party, for its theory and practice. Here Trotskyism comes in handy. It gives the intellectuals of this kind a “way out”. It makes it possible for them to pose as Communists without participating in the class struggle. It gives them the opportunity to pose as “critics” of the Communist Party “from the Left” and thus satisfy their desire to appear “radical”. It gives them a platform from which to fight the Communist Party and thus satisfy their petty-bourgeois inclinations—without at the same time appearing reactionary. It supplies them with material for the mouthing of phrases about Lenin and Stalin, the Communist International and the world revolution while sticking deeply in the petty-bourgeois mud. It makes them believe they are “Communists” while it caters to all their petty-bourgeois hatred for proletarian discipline and proletarian straightforward revolutionary action.

And this is precisely the reason why Trotskyism must be branded as the enemy of the working class, why Trotskyism should be shunned by anybody who has sympathy for the revolutionary movement of the exploited and oppressed the world over.

It must be the supreme task of the toilers in every country to build the Communist Party, as section of the Communist International, and to follow its line of struggle against capitalism and for the Soviet System.