Max Shachtman


An Epigone of Trotsky – II

Ignorance as a Substitute for Marxism

(October 1944)

from The New International, Vol. X No. 10, October 1944, pp. 320–324.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

(Continued from the August issue)

We have already seen that our critic does not know what the “heart of Trotskyism” is, what are the sources of our criticism of Trotsky’s theory of the “degenerated workers’ state,” and that he does not even know what a trade union is. [1] We have also established that by Frankel’s involuntary admission, Trotsky’s conception of a trade union (which Frankel attributes to Shachtman alone) “is clear, it is consistent, it is harmonious with the Shachtmanite point of view on the Soviet Union.” There remain two of the original five points to deal with: the question of the roots of class rule and the question of the historical place of the Stalin bureaucracy.

The “ABC of Marxism”

Marxists view classes as the product of historical development, in other words, all classes have a past and a future, as well as the present. Shachtman’s “new exploitive class” is, in Shachtman’s own words, “without a past and without a future.” (Max Shachtman, The Struggle for the New Course, page 247)

Lenin insisted that the roots of all class rule are to be found in the productive foundations of society. He said: “The rule of the class is determined only by the relationship to property.” To explain the rule of his “new class,” Shachtman points not to the foundation but to the political superstructure. It thus turns out that Shachtman’s “indispensable correction” applies not only to Trotsky but to Lenin and Marx as well. But Shachtman simply forgets to mention such trifles.

“Wherein does the rule of the class [the proletariat] express itself?” asked Lenin. And he answered: “The rule of the proletariat expresses itself in the abolition of landed and capitalist property.” Not the introduction of nationalized property and planning but the abolition of the old property forms sufficed for Lenin.

How does Shachtman get around this? Very simply. He denies that his new class needs either to abolish previous property forms or institute new ones of its own.

Shachtman’s class that has no past and no future possesses for its “fundament” not property relations but the “ownership” of “political power.” Needless to add, this “ownership” in its turn has neither a past nor a future. Such tripe is, according to Shachtman, “the veriest commonplace of Marxism.” (Fourth International, May 1944, page 150)

This is typical Frankel: x parts ignorance (principal ingredient), x parts falsification (never omitted), x parts insolence (the style is the man), and x parts plain, ordinary, anhydrous muddleheadedness; the solvent is not even tap-water. This chemical analysis requires demonstration. Here it is.

Stalinism and the Roots of Class Rule

1. For Lenin, the roots of class rule are to be found in the productive foundations of society; Shachtman, however, who simply forgets to mention (note: “forgets to mention”) such trifles, points not to the foundation but to the political superstructure.

That Shachtman, who is in his way as human as Frankel, may forget to mention one trifle or another, is more than possible. But the trifle of which Frankel speaks with that mastery of sarcasm which marks him out from a world of dullards, was not forgotten by Shachtman. Not only was it not forgotten, but it is to this very trifle that the origin of the new ruling class in Russia was traced. In The Struggle for the New Course it says:

At bottom, classes have risen and come to power throughout history in response to the developing needs of production which preceding classes were unable to satisfy. This is the case, also, with the new ruling class in Russia. The Russian bourgeoisie had ample opportunity to prove that it could not, or could no longer, develop the productive forces of the country. It came upon the scene too late to play the historically progressive role it played in the Western countries ...

But if the bourgeoisie came too late, the proletariat of Russia came to power, so to speak, “too early.” It is of course more proper to say that the rest of the European proletariat did not come to power early enough. The results of this retardation of the world revolution are known. The isolated Russian proletariat, in a backward country, could not satisfy the needs of production, either. It could not satisfy them on a socialist basis. That was the quintessential point made by Trotsky in his theory of the permanent revolution. It was with this conviction in mind that he combatted the bureaucracy’s theory of “socialism in a single country.” The bureaucracy won, the revolution degenerated. But not in accordance with the predictions of Lenin or Trotsky. The revolution did not turn to capitalism. (Pages 241f.)

The reader, we think, is getting some idea of who it is that “simply forgets to mention” the “trifles.” Let us continue.

“All modern nations,” we noted on page 219, “experience the need of an economic organization and strength that will enable them to survive.” The Russian bourgeoisie, however, was unable to develop the productive forces, an inability which conditioned its social impotence and the triumph of the Russian revolution under the hegemony of the proletariat. (A contrary view is a capitulation to Menshevism.) The proletariat, in turn, was able to develop the productive forces – in Trotsky’s words, make possible an “authentic rise of a socialist economy” – only with the state aid of the victorious Western proletariat. (A contrary view is a capitulation to Stalinism.)

The old prediction said: Without the world revolution, Russia will inevitably stagnate and then succumb to capitalism in the form of foreign imperialist exploitation; also, Stalinism is turning the country in that direction. The prediction, however understandable, was erroneous. A tremendous economic advance was made under Stalin’s “planning.” It was not a socialist advance – this prediction of Trotsky was absolutely borne out. But neither was it capitalist! It was not accomplished by restoring private ownership in the means of production and exchange or by abolishing the monopoly of foreign trade.

The productive forces were not developed by way of socialization (which implies a trend toward socialism) but by way of bureaucratic collectivism. The new bureaucracy was born, grew, and took power in response, not to the needs of society as a whole – the world proletariat is sufficiently capable of satisfying those – but to the organic needs of a backward, isolated country, existing in unique and unprecedented world conditions. (Page 242)

Let us temper the verdict with charity, and say: Frankel “simply forgets to mention” that he wrote his review before reading the book: Impossible! the reader may protest. Impossible or not, the statement has the virtue of mercifully avoiding the right name for Frankel.

Political Power and Property as Fundaments

2. For Lenin, the rule of the class is determined only by the relationship to property; Shachtman, however, tries to get around this by arguing that “his new class” establishes no new property forms of its own, and does not have property relations but the ownership of political power as its fundament.

That looks bad – but only if there lingers in you a faith that Frankel understands what he reads, or even reads what he reviews and condemns. It does not look so bad when you understand that the rule of the class is determined in the same way in Lenin’s conception and in Shachtman’s. The latter wrote in The Struggle for the New Course: “It is of the ABC of Marxism that the fundament of all social relations (that is, relations of production are property relations. That holds for the old slaveholding societies, for feudal society, for capitalist society and for the proletarian state.” (Page 233) “How,” asked Frankel, “does Shachtman get around” Lenin’s conception? Very simply: by sharing it.

But it is necessary to know what conception it is we share. Lenin speaks of property relations, of the relationship of a class to property, that is, to the means of production and exchange. Let us present a little more of the speech by Lenin at the 9th Congress of the Russian party in 1920, from which Frankel takes his quotations.

When the question of property was decided in practice, the rule of the class was thereby assured: thereupon the constitution wrote down on paper what life has decided: “There is no capitalist and landed property,” and it added: “The working class has more rights than the peasantry, but the exploiters have no rights at all.” Therewith was written down the manner in which we realized the rude of our class, in which we bound together the toilers of all strata, of all the little groups ...

The rule of the class is determined only by the relationship to property. That is precisely what determines the constitution. And our constitution correctly sets down our attitude to property and our attitude to the question of what class must stand at the head. (My emphasis – M.S.)

”And it added” – what Frankel failed to add: The working class has more rights than the peasantry, but the exploiters have no rights at all. “Therewith was written down the manner in which we realized the rule of our class.” Class rule is determined only by the relationship to property. “Our constitution correctly sets down our attitude to property and our attitude to the question of what class must stand at the head.”

Today, the working class does not have “more fights than the peasantry.” The capitalist exploiters have no rights at all in the Stalinist state, but neither have the workers or the peasants. The working class does not “stand at the head.” It is in the prison house that – so Frankel says – Stalin has made out of Russia.

In Russia in 1917, the proletariat first took political power. Then, the proletariat-in-power “did abolish property and abolished it completely.” The “rule of the class was thereby assured.” The constitution then gave the proletariat ruling rights;it provided that the proletariat “must stand at the head.” The means of production and exchange became the property of the workers’ state. The setting up of a new class state by the Stalinist counter-revolution was accomplished by wiping all this out, by establishing fundamentally different property relations.

All wiped out? This is where Frankel is baffled. Isn’t it a fact that property is still nationalized, still state property? Do not the property forms set up by the Bolshevik revolution still remain? Isn’t it a fact that “the abolition of the old [capitalist] property forms sufficed for Lenin”? and that these old forms have not yet been restored by the counter-revolutionary bureaucracy?

Here we approach the nub of the problem.

The Nub of the Problem

The “abolition of the old property forms” would not have “sufficed for Lenin” if these forms (capitalist private property) had been burned out in a fire, inundated in a storm, or bombed into rubble by Flying Fortresses. The abolition sufficed because it was accomplished by the proletariat-in-power which converted capitalist property into the property of a proletarian state. By this action, the proletarian state completed (the first stage of) the transformation not only of the old property relations. What is the meaning of this distinction between “forms” and “relations”? Does it exist in reality or is it purely verbal?

Under capitalism, property exists in the form of capitalist private property. This simple sentence already shows what are the property relations under capitalism. Regardless of the political regime (be it monarchical, democratic, militarist, Fascist or even semi-feudal), the capitalist class owns the property (means of production, etc.) and the proletariat works, as Marx would say, “with conditions of labor belonging to another.” That is how we find the relationships of the classes to property. The state exists to maintain these relationships. The minute, therefore, you say “capitalist property forms” you have already said “capitalist property relations.” Similarly, under slavery and feudalism, and in general wherever property is privately owned. The class that owns the property is the ruling class.

But what about the society in which property is not privately but state-owned? Trotsky wrote about the Stalinist bureaucracy that “the very fact of its appropriation of political power in a country where the principal means of production are in the hands of the state, creates a new and hitherto unknown relation between the bureaucracy and the riches of the nation” (Revolution Betrayed, page 249). Let us re-emphasize: a new and hitherto unknown relation. This thought, however, needs supplementation: the seizure of political power by the proletariat in a country where it turns over the principal means of production to the hands of the state also creates a new and hitherto unknown relation between the rulers and the property. For the third time we emphasize: a new and hitherto unknown relation.

Why new? Why hitherto unknown? Because the proletariat, its revolution, and the social order whose establishment is its historic mission, differ fundamentally from all preceding classes, their revolutions and their social orders. The proletariat is not a property-owning class under capitalism; and it does not become a property-owning class when it takes power! When it takes state power, it turns the property over to its state. Its relations to property are then expressed only through its state. It “owns” the property only inasmuch as it rules the property-owning state. That is the only way the proletariat ever did own property, ever will own it and ever can own it. It owns it through its state, the workers’ state, through its political power!

That is why there is such lamentable ignorance in the sarcastic question: “Since when did a ruling class have for its fundament not property relations but the ownership of political power? Are the Fascists a new ruling class? Is an absolute monarch a new ruling class?”

No, the monarch was not a ruling class; the feudal lords were, because they owned the landed property. The fascists are not a ruling class; the bourgeoisie is, because it owns the means of production and exchange. The proletariat, however, is not merely “another” class, but a fundamentally different one: It does not and cannot own property. It can only “own” the state when it takes power. By that “ownership” it establishes state property which it organizes and operates so that it ceases to be state property and becomes social property. The state itself ceases to be.

Property Relations Under Stalinism

The complete expropriation of the political power of the working class by the Stalinist bureaucracy only makes this point clearer. The property forms seem to be the same as they were before: property exists in the form of state property. Therefore, cries Frankel triumphantly, it is still a workers’ state, even if politically degenerated!

But hold on a moment: What are now the property relations in Russia? That is, what are the relations of the various classes (or, let us say, the various social groups) to the state property? We have been told by Lenin, through Frankel, that the rule of the class is determined only by the relationship to property. Granted. But just how shall we now determine what the relationship is?

In a society where property is privately owned, the question answers itself: this class (or social group) owns the property, this class does not. Such an answer is obviously impossible in a society where property is not privately owned but state owned. To determine then the relations to property of the various social groups, is it not clear that we must first find out what are their respective relations to the state-which-owns-the-property?

“From the point of view of property in [ownership of] the means of production,” wrote Trotsky, “the differences between a marshal and a servant girl, the head of a trust and a day laborer, the son of a people’s commissar and a homeless child, seem not to exist at all.” (Revolution Betrayed, page 238)

That’s just the point, although Trotsky “did not draw the right conclusion. If you look at Russia from the standpoint of ownership of the means of production in the same way you look at a society in which these are privately owned – the trust head and the laborer have exactly the same property relations. Yet, in reality, their respective relations to property are as fundamentally different as the respective relations to property of the bourgeois and the proletarian under capitalism (except that in Russia the gap between the classes is so much greater!) The bureaucracy is the ruling class. It has all the political power, the proletariat has none.

That is why Frankel’s “irony” about Shachtman because the latter “points not to the foundation but to the political superstructure,” is so utterly out of place. He does not understand the historically unprecedented nature of the proletarian state power, the peculiarity of the proletariat as a ruling class. He does not understand what is unprecedented about the class rule of the Stalinist bureaucracy. He derides its “ownership” of “political power” as something quite secondary, because he cannot grasp the simple idea that where property belongs to the state, the “ownership” of the state power means the monopolization of all economic and social power. The bureaucracy is the ruling class because its “mere” political power makes it the owner of the conditions of production. It is always the relation of the owners of the conditions of production to the actual producers that shows us the real basis of a class society and establishes the true class character of the state. The Stalinist state is no exception to this rule.

What Depends and What Determines?

This is the nub of the problem, we said. Without understanding this essentially simple idea, the Stalinist counter-revolution will remain an enigma and a source of confusion. We wrote that our criticism of Trotsky’s theory “introduces into it an indispensable correction.” The key to this correction is given by Trotsky. If we quote Trotsky himself, this may be of help to Frankel, whose Marxism consists, in Lenin’s excellent phrase, of “swearing by God.”

In the Revolution Betrayed, Trotsky shows how bourgeois society has maintained itself and developed in spite of different political regimes and bureaucratic castes.

“In contrast to this, the property relations which issued from the socialist revolution are indivisibly bound up with the new state as their repository. The predominance of socialist over petty bourgeois tendencies is guaranteed, not by the automatism of the economy – we are still far from that – but by political measures taken by the dictatorship. The character of the economy as a whole thus depends upon the character of the state power.” (Page 250. My emphasis – M.S.)

Our whole difference with this basically unassailable statement of the problem lies in the fact that we draw the consistent conclusion. The new state is the repository of the property relations and is indivisibly bound up with them! The character of the economy depends upon the character of the state power! And that in contrast to bourgeois society! Once this is understood, the rest follows.

It is this conception that lay at the heart of Trotsky’s first theory of Russia as a degenerated workers’ state: the state is the repository of the property relations; the character of the economy depends upon the character of the state power. In this first theory, Trotsky, as Frankel would put it, “pointed not to the foundations but to the political superstructure.” That is why Trotsky used to repeat and repeat that Russia is still a workers’ state because the political power can be reformed, “that the proletariat of the USSR has not forfeited the possibility of submitting the bureaucracy to it, of reviving the party and of mending the regime of the dictatorship – without a new revolution, with the methods and on the road of reform.” (Problems of the Development of the USSR, page 36)

With the abandonment of the program of reform and the adoption of the view that the Stalinist bureaucracy can be overthrown only by a revolution, Trotsky was compelled also to abandon his first theory and to develop an altogether different one, namely, Russia is still a workers’ state because property: is still nationalized. This complete change has been demonstrated by us in detail and in several places, including The Struggle for the New Course. Frankel just acts as if he never heard of the point. His silence encourages the belief that our demonstration is irrefutable.

The second theory of Trotsky is radically different from the first. Originally, the state was the repository of the property relations; now the “property relations” (nationalized property) are the “repository” of the state. Originally, the character of the economy was determined by the character of the state power (Frankel’s “political superstructure”); now the character of the state power is determined by the character of the economy.

If you understand and hold to the first, and only correct, conception of Trotsky, you understand why the counter-revolutionary bureaucracy, in conquering state power and establishing itself as the new ruling class, did not need “to abolish previous property forms or institute new ones of its own,” at least not in appearance. By completing its conquest of state power, the bureaucracy established new property relations. Thereby (will Frankel ever understand this?) it established property forms of its own, if by that is meant social property forms. When the proletariat was in power, property existed and was exploited in Russia in the form of property-of-the-workers’-state. With Stalinism in complete power, property exists and is exploited in the form of property-of-the-bureaucratic-collectivist-state. Stalinism has wiped out all the conquests of the proletarian revolution.

The trouble with Frankel, at bottom, is that he accepts and his party repeatedly disseminates the fundamental sophism of the Stalinist doctrine, which, in the new Russian constitution, legalizes the lie that state property equals “the possessions of the whole people.”

A Ruling Class Without a Past or a Future?

3. A ruling class without a past and without a future? In a terse, but all the more devastating reply, Frankel says: “Such tripe is, according to Shachtman, ‘the veriest commonplace of Marxism’.”

Neither the commonplaces nor the complexities of Marxism are made up of tripe. This we will grant. But only if we are allowed to add that discussions of Marxism should not be made up of forgeries. In the chapter on the bureaucracy as a new ruling class, Shachtman analyzes the hopeless contradiction into which Trotsky’s theory drove him in 1939 when he presented us with a proletarian revolution carried out in Russian-occupied Poland by the “counter-revolutionary workers’ state.” (Brave Frankel, like his friends, has not one word to say in defense of Trotsky on this point!) At the end of his analysis, Shachtman writes that “In comparison with this, our theory of the Stalinist bureaucracy as a new and reactionary exploitive class, and of Russia as a bureaucratic-collectivist class state, neither proletarian nor bourgeois, is the veriest commonplace of Marxism” (page 241). Several pages later, at the end of the volume, Shachtman writes, in an entirely different connection, about “the new bureaucracy, without a past and without a future” (page 247).

Frankel, who belongs to the “only moral people,” simply cuts away the couple of thousand words that separate the two quotations, pastes together the two unrelated clauses with a little trip, and passes it off on the public as a genuine check written “according to Shachtman.” Following right after this clumsy little forgery appears a sub-heading over another one of Frankel’s stern indictments of us. It reads (O Coincidence!): “A Petty Bourgeois Counterfeit.” The only comment this requires is two punctuation marks: !!

However, we did speak of the Stalinist bureaucracy as being without a past and without a future. It is a question that is best dealt with – in so far as it can be adequately treated in an article [2] – in connection with the final point raised (i.e., muddled up) by Frankel:

According to Marxists, the historical justification for every ruling class is the ability under its particular system of exploitation to raise the development of productive forces of society as a whole to a new level. Does Shachtman grant this ability to Stalinism, i.e., his own “new exploitive class”? ...

The gist of Shachtman’s 128-page argument boils down to a representation of the crimes of Stalinism as the birthpangs that marked the rise of a new class to power. No more, no less. It is an elementary principle of Marxism that ruling classes rise in society through the operation of forces beyond the control of men’s consciousness, reason or will. The rise of new ruling classes can be retarded or facilitated but never prevented – until and unless these classes have exhausted their historic mission. In the light of this, what is Shachtman’s version of the evolution of the Soviet Union if not an attempt to supply an historical justification not for the ascendancy of a new class but actually for the abominations of the Kremlin?

Ex ungue leonem – you know the lion by his claws. Another species of animal, however, you know by its bray. From the braying, we gather that Shachtman is not only trying to provide an historical justification for Stalinism, “but actually for the abominations of the Kremlin.” Obviously a detestable creature this Shachtman. Much deeper he cannot sink.

However, if we fumigate the air a little and reflect a little, things look more cheerful.

The Historical Justification of Stalinism

In the first place, the two accusations are in conflict: Shachtman says the bureaucracy has no past and no future, and he gives the bureaucracy an historical justification. If it is historically justified, it has both an historical past and an historical future.

In the second place, Shachtman nowhere speaks of an historical justification of Stalinism, nor does he suggest that it has one. Here we have not a forgery, but an invention.

And in the third place, the only one in our movement who ever spoke of an historical justification of the Stalinist bureaucracy was – Leon Trotsky. As in the case of the definition of a trade union, Frankel does not know where Trotsky ends and where Shachtman begins (this is his only qualification for writing on either one of them).

On December 28, 1934, Trotsky wrote: “Indeed, the historical justification for the very existence of the bureaucracy is lodged in the fact that we are still very far removed from socialist society.” (The Kirov Assassination, page 10) Further, he notes that the Stalinist dictatorship is both a heritage of past class struggles and an instrument for preventing a new class struggle. “In this and in this alone rests the historical justification for the existence of the present Soviet dictatorship.” (Ibid., page 11) Again, in the same work: “It would be criminal to deny the progressive work accomplished by the Soviet bureaucracy.” (Ibid., page 25)

(This Trotsky pamphlet was translated by J.G. Wright. Wright is editor of the Fourth International. Without a murmur, he prints Frankel’s ignorant and venomous observations on “historical justification.” What does it matter? Who will read the answer to it? Is it against the “petty bourgeois opposition”? Is it true and harsh and tough and vicious? Well, so much the better! That’s how we rough-and-tumble proletarians (i.e., J.G. Wright! i.e., H. Frankel! i.e., J. Hansen!) write, and if you don’t like it you can lump it! Let’s print it, damnitall!)

In a sense, we are able to accept Trotsky’s characterization of the bureaucracy. That is why we are able to speak of the new class without a past and without a future – that is, without an historical past or future. If Frankel had resisted his penchant for tearing phrases out of their context, the meaning would have been clearer.

We say the Stalinist bureaucracy is a new ruling class because it is the “owner of the conditions of production.” Despite similarities in certain aspects with other class societies (the capitalist, for example), it differs basically from all of them in its own unique mode of production, in the “specific economic form in which unpaid surplus labor is pumped out of the direct producers,” in the distribution of the means of production and of the products of economy. As a result of unforeseen historical circumstances, it arose out of “the needs of production”; it did develop the productive forces in a way that no other class could under the given conditions.

We say this class is without a past. We seek thereby to distinguish it from the great and durable classes of history which, for various objective reasons (economic, geographical, etc.), went through a long evolution and decisively directed the course of social development. What Frankel says about “every ruling class” is true only in a manner of speaking, that is, with the necessary historical limitations. In other words, it is not true as an absolutely valid dogma. History is studded with the record of clases under whose rule society stagnated and which could not be fitted into Frankel’s rigid formula. Whoever does not know this had better rush to a serious history before he even pretends to speak about Marxism.

Marxism does not say that the world, and everything in it, marches straight from primitive communism to slavery, then to feudalism, then to capitalism, then to the proletarian dictatorship and communism, with no reversions, sideleaps, combinations or “oddities” whatsoever. This is an utterly primitive conception of Marxism.

Marxism is No Supra-Historical Dogma

“My critic,” wrote Marx to the Russian Populist, Danielson, “must needs metamorphose my outline of the genesis of capitalism in western Europe into a historic-philosophical theory of the general course, fatally imposed upon all peoples, regardless of the historical circumstances in which they find themselves placed, in order to arrive finally at that economic formation which insures with the greatest amount of productive power of social labor the most complete development of man. But I beg his pardon. He does me too much honor and too much shame at the same time ...

“... Strikingly analogical events, occurring, however, in different historical environments [lead] to entirely dissimilar results. By studying each of these evolutions separately and then comparing them, one will easily find the key to these phenomena, but one will never succeed with the master-key of a historico-philosophical theory whose supreme virtue consists in being supra-historical.” (My emphasis – M.S.)

Marx often repeated the same thought. All classes and all ruling classes are not the same and do not always have the same characteristics. They cannot always be measured by the same criteria. The same obviously holds true of all societies, for in each of them, as Marx points out, the “prevailing element” is a different one. To apply the same criteria to the present ruling class and the present social order in Russia as is applied, for example, to feudalism, simply makes no sense from the Marxian or any other standpoint. “By studying each of these evolutions separately, and then comparing them, one will easily find the key to these phenomena.” This is what we have sought to do in our analysis of Stalinist Russia. A supra-historical master-key does not exist. Not even a thinker of Frankel’s stature can, if we may say so, forge one.

We say, further, that this new class has no future. Why? Because it arose at the stage of the final decay and crisis of class society. It has given no sign of an ability to resolve the crisis which the combined forces of world capitalism have failed to resolve. It is historically conditioned by the concrete circumstances of its origin. One of these circumstances is the existence of its origin. One of these circumstances is the existence of a modern proletariat which, on a world scale (but not on a national scale), is capable of breaking the fetters on the productive forces, on social development, on freedom, and thus resolving the last social crisis of humanity.

That is how it stands historically. Theoretically, it is conceivable that this new class may have “a future” and that on a world scale. Such a perspective might open up for it if, for example, it was conclusively demonstrated that the proletariat is organically incapable of resolving the crisis, of taking and holding power and employing it to inaugurate a classless society. Nothing of the sort has yet been demonstrated, much less demonstrated conclusively. There are some dilettantes and ex-radicals who confine themselves to just such speculations, and even make them their program of “action.” We for our part find little interest in them, and less need for them. Our task is the mobilization of the working class for the revolutionary assault against decaying capitalism. Our task is not ponderation over the growth and “future” of Stalinism, but the struggle against it for the future of the proletariat.

Successful struggle against a foe requires an understanding of his nature. That Frankel and his like do not understand, is already bad. That they refuse to understand – and a precondition of understanding is intelligent and loyal discussion, be it ever so vigorous – is worse. Frankel is only a minor epigone of Trotsky. Trotsky’s whole New Course is an instructive protest against the type of methods, outlook, procedure that Frankel and his friends represent. That is why Frankel speaks so cavalierly of Trotsky’s work. That is why he does not give the reader as much as an inkling of its contents. We have already suggested that he does not know much. But he knows enough to see that what Trotsky wrote in 1923–24 is a timely and thorough indictment of what he stands for. In this sense, a reading of The New Course may be recommended all over again as an excellent preparation for a fruitful discussion of “the Russian question.”


1. See A Defamer of Marxism, by Harry Frankel, in the May 1944 issue of the Fourth International, in which he comments on The New Course, by Leon Trotsky and The Struggle for the New Course, by Max Shachtman, and the first part of our reply in The New International of August 1944.

2. It can only be touched on here. It really requires and warrants ampler treatment. We hope to deal with it another time.

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