Leon Trotsky

Our Political Tasks


First published: 1904 as Nashi Politicheskiya Zadachi
Translated by: New Park Publications
Transcribed by: A. Lehrer in 1999 for the Trotsky Internet Archive

On-Line Edition’s Forward by the Transcriber

Our Political Tasks is Trotsky’s response to the 1903 split in Russian Social Democracy and a spirited reply to Lenin’s What Is To Be Done? and One Step Forwards, Two Steps Back. A passionate, insightful attack on Lenin’s theory of party organisation and an outline of Trotsky’s own views on party structure, this controversial work was later disowned by Trotsky after he joined the Bolsheviks. Though it is far from Trotsky’s best work on a literary level (the young Trotsky tends to be repetitive, excessively sarcastic, overly verbose and generally in need of a good editor), the work is, nevertheless, a remarkable insight into the young Trotsky’s thinking and a vibrant expression of his commitment to revolution. It is, at times, hauntingly prophetic in its predictions of where the Leninist conception of democratic centralism may lead. For example, in the chapter Down With Substitutionism in Part II of the book, Trotsky writes in what could be a description of Stalinism:

In the internal politics of the Party these methods lead, as we shall see below, to the Party organisation “substituting” itself for the Party, the Central Committee substituting itself for the Party organisation, and finally the dictator substituting himself for the Central Committee

It is very difficult to find an edition of this work in any language, as the book’s line on the party is not consistent with that of most Trotskyist organisations. Our Political Tasks fell into obscurity after the 1917 Revolution only to be used and misrepresented by Trotsky’s enemies during the leadership struggle, which followed Lenin’s death. The book (and, implicitly, the Marxist tradition of spirited debate and critical thought) was used to attack Trotsky for being insufficiently Leninist and to smear him with the accusation of Menshivism (for an especially vicious example see Stalin’s 1927 speech The Trotskyist Opposition Then and Now). In fact, Our Political Tasks outlines a political position which, while critical of Lenin’s, is also clearly revolutionary and distinct from what would become Menshevism.

This version is based on the English language translation published by New Park Publications in the early 1970s. Spelling and typographical errors have been corrected (and hopefully not replaced with new spelling and typographical errors) and several of the translation’s more egregious grammatical errors have also been corrected.

For another criticism of Lenin’s position on party organisation from a left wing perspective, see Rosa Luxemburg’s Organisational Questions of the Russian Social Democracy later republished as Leninism or Marxism? For Lenin’s views, see What Is To Be Done? and One Step Forward, Two Steps Back. For Trotsky’s later views on the 1903 split see chapter 12, The Party Congress and the Split in My Life.

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Last updated on: 19.4.2007