Trotsky and Brandler; or
Lovestone and Principles

(May 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 22 (Whole No. 118), 28 May 1932, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Under the heading That Gibraltar of Principle!, the current number of the Workers Age drops another stink-bomb in its recently revived campaign against “Trotskyism” in general and comrade Trotsky in particular. After a lengthy period of silence about the Opposition, the last half a dozen numbers of the Lovestone sheet have devoted not a few columns to an abrupt renewal of the campaign in which they must be acknowledged as specialists, as people trained for just that kind of activity. The reason for this “turn”, which puzzled so many people for a while, has of course now become quite clear. The campaign coincided with the negotiations they were conducting for a return to the bosom of Stalinism, and was manifestly calculated to impress upon the party leaders the fact that, at least when it comes to calumniating the Left Opposition and pegging mud at it, the Lovestoneites take second place behind nobody. With the zeal of a Lodovico before the doubting Borgia – “Have I not stabbed men from behind? And poisoned water in the fountains? And mixed fatal drugs in wine-horns? Let me but try, excellent lord!” – our Lovestoneites have been engaged in proving their skill at the game of “anti-Trotskyism” to their prospective Comintern bosses.

An Expert on “Principle”

The latest Right wing effusion deals with comrade Trotsky, the Brandlerites and principle. Lovestone is expert on all three matters, especially on the last-named, for few people in the Comintern have juggled more successfully with the word than he. In his latest piece, he sets about, in the interests of truth, to reveal that “nothing is more threadbare, nothing is more fraudulent than the mantle of stern principle with which L.D. Trotsky loves to clothe himself! ... What has happened to this unbending pillar of political rectitude? Even Stachel can learn from him in political trickery, unprincipledness and intrigue.”

The basis for this delicate piece of vilification is a number of “facts” which Lovestone presents in defense of Brandler and Co. to “prove” that Trotsky created a “legend” about them and attacked them only after he had failed to win them for his faction by offering them various bribes – promises to whitewash the Brandlerists for their conduct in the German October (1923). Since the creation of myths has played such a prominent part in the struggle to discredit and crush the Left Opposition, it is worth our while to expose this new myth.

Lovestone, who knows better, now pretends that only “after the rejection of these overtures by Brandler, Trotsky made a right-about-face and began a venomous attack upon him and his political associates. It was at this time that he originated the notorious ‘October legend’.”

In other words, Lovestone, who is simply trying to present Trotsky as he, Lovestone, would have acted under the circumstances, accuses him of having invented his criticism of Brandler not on the basis of Brandler’s actual position during the German events but only after Trotsky had failed to make a factional ally of him. Unfortunately for this legend, incontrovertible evidence exists as to what comrade Trotsky’s position actually was before the catastrophic results of Brandler’s policy (that is, of Zinoviev’s and Stalin’s policy as well!) were fully clear. In the Material on the Conference of the Russian Communist Party, January 1924, it says:

“Comrade Trotsky, before leaving the session of the Central Committee (at the September 1923 Plenum, that is, a month before the decisive October days in Germany. – S.), made a speech which greatly excited all the Central Committee members. He declared in this speech that the leadership of the German Communist Party is worthless and the Central Committee of the German C.P. is allegedly permeated with fatalism and sleepy-headedness, etc. Comrade Trotsky declared further that under these conditions the German revolution is condemned to failure. This speech produced an astounding impression ...”

This citation alone would suffice to reveal the shabbiness of the myth which Lovestone and Brandler are now trying to create. But there is more. Lovestone is quite well aware of the series of articles written by comrade Trotsky in 1923, before the October days, in which he dealt with the problems of the impending German revolution. In them were already outlined those critical views which the policy of the Russian and German party leaders later justified with such disastrous results. Particularly was this true with regard to his article, Is It Possible to Fix the Date of the Insurrection? which encountered the charge of Blanquism and general opposition not only from the Rights in the German and Russian parties, but even from the ultra-Leftists à la Maslov, who made virtually the same arguments advanced by the Menshevik Martinov before the December 1905 uprising in Moscow when the same question was posed by Lenin.

Trotsky on Brandler

Further: Lovestone asserts that in the January 1924 theses of Trotsky, Radek and Piatakov, “the course and conduct of the Brandler Central Committee were thoroughly justified”. Nothing of the sort is true or possible. Comrade Trotsky’s position after the capitulation in Germany was clearly established in his The Lessons of October, which evoked a rabid campaign against him, not so much because of his criticism of the German party leadership but primarily because of his criticism of the Russian party leadership which was mainly responsible for the calamity in October. The manner in which Trotsky “justified” (and “thoroughly”, at that!) the Brandler group, is not the subject for Lovestonean “revelations” today, for public documents exist on the matter. Three years ago, in a letter to Souvarine which he made public, Trotsky wrote:

”After the frightful collapse of the German revolution of 1923, I gave Brandler a qualified protection; I declared it undeserved to put him up as the scapegoat when the responsibility for the catastrophe in Germany lay with the Zinoviev-Stalin leadership of the Comintern as a whole. I reached a negative estimation of Brandler only when I became convinced that he did not for a single moment want to, nor could he, learn from the great events. His retrospective estimation of the German situation of 1923 is quite similar to the criticism that the Mensheviks developed on the 1905 revolution in the years of the reaction.” (April 25, 1929)

That there, was justification for this refusal, as far back as 1924, to make Brandler a scapegoat and the insistence upon placing the responsibility where it belonged, was adequately revealed in 1926 when Zinoviev made public a letter sent him and Bucharin by Stalin, in which the latter had urged in 1923 that the German Communists “be restrained and not spurred on” and that the Fascists be allowed to come to power first!

There is no doubt that Trotsky made an effort, in 1924, to persuade Brandler of the falsity of his position not only in the October days, when the revolution was there and Brandler failed to see it, but of his position after the defeat, when Brandler did “see it” after it had already slipped into the past. But this was known before Lovestone’s “revelations”, and known without his base interpretations. In a letter published by Trotsky, dated June 12, 1929, he relates (not for the first time) that he

“... did not come to this annihilating conclusion at one stroke. I had rather hoped that Brandler would learn. In the fall of 1923, he understood his lack of capacity. He himself told me repeatedly that he was unable to find himself again in a revolutionary situation. Yet, after he had missed the situation, he became exceedingly haughty. He began to accuse me of ‘pessimism’. He looked upon 1924 with lots of ‘optimism’. Then I understood that this man did not know how to distinguish the face of the revolution from its rear.”

Finally, Lovestone’s assertion that in 1926 Trotsky sought to make a Lovestonean horse-trade with Brandler whereby the latter’s support to the Opposition Bloc was to be bought by an unprincipled white-washing of the Brandlerists – we can confidently brand as a lie which Lovestone cannot begin to prove by authentic material.

Lovestone and Brandler

But since Lovestone has made bold to speak lightly of “political trickery, unprincipledness and intrigue” – that is, of qualities which have become so inseparable from his own name to everybody who knows anything about the past of the party – it will not be amiss to inquire a little into Lovestone’s relations to Brandler.

The Lovestone who defends Brandler with such affecting ardor was for years in the vanguard of precisely that faction in the International which (unlike Trotsky) did try to make Brandler and Thalheimer the solitary scapegoats for the October 1923 defeat. Was it not Lovestone (or was it Wolfe? Or Roy? No matter!) who denounced the “Trotskyists” for their “alliance” with Brandlerism? Let us not merely make charges but quote from documents. In his Pages from Party History, written on the eve of the 1929 party convention, Lovestone boasted:

“Our party has pursued an energetic policy in the struggle against Brandler and Thalheimer and other Right wingers and conciliators in the German party. In the Fifth Plenum of the Comintern, the comrades representing the viewpoint now held by the majority of the party were amongst the most aggressive in the struggle against Brandler, Thalheimer, Bubnik and the Trotskyist deviators from the Leninist line ...”

In his Appeal to the Comintern, after his expulsion from the party, Lovestone fulminated indignantly against any charges of alliance with Brandler. On May 14, 1929, this Galahad of purity in principle, this St. George slaying the dragon of political trickery, this gentle St. Francis who abhors intrigue, wrote:

“We do not believe that the Communist International will be fooled by the fraudulent accusation (as we see, “fraudulent” is not a new term with Lovestone! – S.) of Bedacht against comrades Gitlow, Lovestone, Wolfe, that they proposed to establish relations with Brandler and Thalheimer. The party records will show that it was over the protests of both Bedacht and Foster that the first resolution against Brandler and Thalheimer was adopted by the American Political Committee. Furthermore it was Bedacht who proposed in Moscow to comrades Gitlow, Lovestone and Wolfe to establish connections with Brandler and to keep a permanent representative in Berlin. This was instantly rejected by the comrades and it comes with bad grace from Bedacht to try to ascribe his proposals to others. When he is making his confessionals, it would be well for him to confess his own errors in place of ascribing them to others who did not share them.”

Isn’t this a gem of the purest water? Lovestone was then still peddling the real October legend, that is, the legend that Brandler and Thalheimer alone were responsible for the October disaster. He was then calling upon all true believers to spurn the Brandlerist, Bedacht, and to join with the genuine anti-Brandlerist, Lovestone. And when this paragon of virtue had lined up his followers on an anti-Brandler platform, he proceeded by painless degrees to lead them on to the pro-Brandler platform which he defends today. It is quite evident now that Lovestone is just the man chosen by God, nature and history to denounce Trotsky for unprincipledness, political intrigue and trickery.

When did Lovestone change his mind about the need of combating Brandler as a Right winger? Why did Lovestone change his mind? Just when and why did he “establish connections with Brandler”? What explanation has he ever given for the change? We do not know and we confess to being little concerned. Lovestone, who worships principle and recoils from intrigue and trickery (as is well known), is the sort of politician who denounces “Trotskyism” as the “crassest expression of the Right wing” one day, as “ultra-Leftism” the next day, and as anything else you please the flay after. Yesterday, Brandler was one of his favorite targets for the same vile slanders he now hurls at Trotsky; today, he has really given Brandler that white-washing which he dishonestly alleges that Trotsky was ready to give him; tomorrow, if he is called upon to do so, he will rediscover that Brandler, after all, always was an agent of the bourgeoisie.

Just think of it; for years this man was the leader of the American party, and one of the leaders of the Comintern!

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