Andrew Rothstein
(Written under the pseudonym C. M. Roebuck)

The Resignation of Trotsky

Trotskyism: A Peril to the Party

Source: Weekly Worker, January 23, 1925.
Publisher: The Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Proofreader: David Tate
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2008). 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.

Why has Trotsky Resigned his Post In the Soviet Government?

The Soviet Government is manned by the leaders of the Russian Communist Party. For eighteen months Trotsky has been conducting a violent discussion with the leaders of the Party. The overwhelming majority of the Party has been against Trotsky, but right up to this day he refuses to acknowledge that he was wrong.

To-day, however, he sees that he has no supporters in the Party, and that he stands absolutely alone: in other words, that he has lost the Party’s confidence. Therefore, he has offered his resignation as chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council, and his resignation has been accepted by the Central Committee of the Party.

What were the Points of Difference between Trotsky and the Party Leaders?

Nominally, the differences have been very many and various. In reality, they all reduce themselves to one. In the discussion of 1923, Trotsky advocated freedom to form fractions within the Party; the Central Committee said the Party must be single-minded, once it has thoroughly discussed its problems.

Trotsky said the Party must look upon its youth as its political barometer; the Central Committee said the Party, on the contrary, must give its youth a more thorough Marxist and Leninist training.

Trotsky set the “rank and file” of the Party against the officials; the Central Committee tried to bring the officials and the membership at large closer together.

Trotsky demanded the adoption of an “economic plan,” to guide the steps of the Party towards Socialist reconstruction for a period of years: the Central Committee declared that such a plan, in the changing and still unfathomed economic conditions of to-day, would either have to be scrapped in a few months, or must prove disastrous to real reconstruction.

Trotsky’s supporters defended the Right Wing of the German Communist Party, who failed to take advantage of the revolutionary situation in Germany in October, 1923, and Trotsky did not open his mouth to disavow them; the Central Committee condemned the Right wing, and approved their removal from the German Party executive.

Finally, he has written a book this year purporting to be a history of 1917, but in reality devoted to belittling the part played by the Party as compared with Lenin (indirectly with Trotsky himself), and particularly to throwing mud at the present Party leaders. The Central Committee takes the view that this is a renewal of the attack upon the Party made last year, in defiance of the decisions of the thirteenth Party Congress and the fifth World Congress. On all these points the Central Committee has been upheld by the vast majority of Party members. But the Central Committee has pointed out that all these points reduce themselves to one, namely, an anti-Party, anti-Bolshevik outlook on Trotsky’s part, which is no new event, and which springs from a petty-bourgeois intellectual psychology.

Why is Trotsky’s Present Attitude No New Event?

From 1903, when Trotsky helped to organise the first Menshevik fraction within the old Social-Democratic Party, until July, 1917, when he joined the Bolshevik Party, Trotsky was one of the bitterest enemies of the Bolshevik Policy and of Leninism, which he described as “unscrupulous utilisation of the ignorance of the masses in the interests of dictatorship” (practically the same language used later against the revolution by the Mensheviks). His opposition took different forms. Sometimes it took the form of policy, for example, in 1905 he advocated setting up a workers’ government pure and simple, and maintaining it by force if necessary against the peasantry; whereas Lenin pointed out that, in a country with 150 million exploited peasants, they must be the allies and not the enemies of the proletariat in the struggle against the capitalists. More frequently Trotsky’s opposition took the shape of tactical differences. For example, during the reactionary years of 1906-1912, the Mensheviks wanted, and attempted, to liquidate the illegal Party with a revolutionary programme, and to form a legal party, which could only have the programme of a friendly society. The Bolsheviks opposed this. Trotsky stood for an “agreement” between, the two groups—which in practice meant, freedom for the Mensheviks to liquidate the Party.

Trotsky took up the same attitude during the war—“harmony” between the Bolsheviks, who demanded a revolutionary struggle against the capitalists, and the jingo Socialists, who preached cooperation with the capitalists against the foreign “enemy,” i.e., the German workers. “Harmony” meant a free hand for the jingoes. Throughout these years Trotsky was either formally with the Mensheviks or effectively doing their work.

Did Trotsky Change His Policy After 1917?

Trotsky entered the Party in July, 1917, and went through the November Revolution side by side with Lenin. During the next three years he made a great name for himself in history, and did splendid service to the Revolution, as organiser and inspirer of the Red Army. But even before 1923, already referred to, Trotsky deviated sharply, from the Party on two occasions of the highest importance.

One was in January, 1918, on the question of the Brest-Litovsk Peace, when Trotsky advocated a state of “neither peace nor war” with the German militarists, and as a result the Soviet Republic was forced to conclude a much more disadvantageous treaty than it would otherwise have done.

The second was in 1921, just on the eve of the new economic policy, when trade unions with the maximum of independence and mass support were required, and when Trotsky advocated the transformation of the Unions practically into State bodies. On both of these occasions Trotsky’s policy, if adopted, would have ruined the Revolution and done the work of the Mensheviks, i.e., of the capitalist class.

What Has Been Wrong with Trotsky all these Years?

Sometimes Trotsky has sacrificed all consideration of external circumstances for the sake of a smack at Lenin, or Lenin’s party, or at the present leaders of Lenin’s party. Sometimes Trotsky has abandoned the basis of Marxism altogether for the sake of a brilliant theory which sounded very revolutionary, but in reality spelt reaction. Sometimes Trotsky has been with the Mensheviks, sometimes with the Bolsheviks, and more often than not he has attempted to “rise” above both parties, or to “reconcile”—the irreconcilable. Always and everywhere he has tried to play, some unique, extraordinary and entirely individual part, and he has always and everywhere shown the maximum impatience of collective discipline and control, the maximum unwillingness to admit his mistakes.

All these characteristics point to one source—the outlook of the petty bourgeois intellectual, subjectively prompted by an enormous desire to assert himself and his own individuality, but in reality doomed to achieve nothing more than to express the wishes and aspirations only of the petty bourgeoisie—which, in their turn, are the wishes and aspirations of the capitalist class. Trotskyism (not always Trotsky) in practice, has played the game of Menshevism, because the petty bourgeois intellectuals, when they attempt to act apart from the proletariat, can only play the game of the bourgeoisie.

Why Did Our Central Committee Condemn Trotsky’s Attitude?

As soon as the discussion began in the Russian Party, the British capitalist press began pouring mud and venomous slanders on our Russian comrades, day after day. To the capitalist class this was a heaven-sent opportunity of starting a class attack on the workers in the press, deluding the British workers as to the real conditions in Russia, as a preliminary to economic and military attacks. The fact that the capitalist press “supported” Trotsky against the Party was itself conclusive. If our Party had maintained an attitude of neutrality, it would have shown that it was not a political party, i.e., a Party which intends to play a part in the class struggle but an academic sect, a hundred miles removed from politics. Those few comrades in our party who think that our Executive Committee should not have adopted any decision until it (or even until the whole Party membership) had become acquainted with the full text of Trotsky’s book (instead of with summary as was actually the case) only show that they have a terrible deal to learn yet before they become real Communists, i.e., class-conscious members of the revolutionary political Party of the proletariat. Those still fewer comrades who are actually prepared, at a moment when the capitalists are massing their forces for an offensive, to make an attack on the Central Committee, for adopting the resolution it did, show quite clearly that they have forgotten the political tasks of the Party, and the interests of the Party as a whole, in their eagerness to “score off” the Party lead, regardless of time, place, and circumstances. And it is just time, place, and circumstances which make all the difference between the harmless disputes of debating society and Trotskyist-Menshevik attacks which imperil the very existence and purpose of our Bolshevik Party. But our Party will repel the attacks as our Russian comrades have done and are doing: and it is to be hoped that any comrades who have made such mistakes will realise the anti-Communist, anti-Party, and anti-revolutionary path they have been treading, before it is too late, and before they have irretrievably reached the point at which it leads out of the Party and out of the Communist International.