During the recent kulak revolts in the Volga area, the leaders put forward the slogan: “Down with the Communists, long live the Soviet power!’
What does this mean?
It means that the counter-revolution has finally had the ground cut from beneath its feet and has lost faith in itself. The counter-revolutionary plotters want to restore the monarchy, to put the Tsar back on his throne, to bring back the landlords. But they dare not say so openly, for they know that even ignorant peasants would drive them away with cudgels and pitchforks if they came with such slogans. The counterrevolutionaries began long since to conceal their true desires behind alluring words and attractive slogans. All the monarchists swore, during their revolts, by the slogan of the Constituent Assembly. But nowadays this slogan, too, has become finally played out. From the experience of Denikin and Kolchak everyone has been convinced that the Constituent Assembly serves merely as a temporary mask for the supporters of the noble and monarchical order. It is already impossible to catch even backward peasants with the slogan of the Constituent Assembly. Not only the proletarian, not only the village labourer, not only the landless poor peasant, but also the working middle peasant now knows, for he has been taught by experience, that only the Soviet power is sincerely and honestly striving to secure the interests of the working masses. Consequently, the peasants are giving firm support to the Soviet power – even that section of them who are discontented, rightly or wrongly, with the actions of the local authorities. The counter-revolutionary plotters are obliged to reckon with this fact, to imitate this outlook, and to inscribe on their banner: “Long live the Soviet power.”
Fifty year ago, when the revolutionary movement was only beginning in Russia, the revolutionaries were only a tiny handful in this immense country. The peasantry still believed firmly in the monarchy and reacted with horror to the preaching of the revolutionaries. There were cases in those days when the revolutionaries resorted to issuing manifestos in the name of the Tsar. That was, of course, a wrong step to take, and it was soon condemned by the revolutionary party; but the fact that revolutionaries appealed to the peasantry allegedly in the name of the Tsar shows how strong monarchist prejudices were, in those days, among the peasant masses.
The revolution has left no trace of these prejudices surviving. Instead of belief in the monarchy, in the Tsar, the bourgeoisie tried to create a belief in an above-class Constituent Assembly. In the first months following the suppression of the Constituent Assembly the peasants responded to this slogan. Experiencing all sorts of adversities and hardships in a country which had been exhausted by the war, by the Tsarist and bourgeois governments, the peasants sometimes took the bait and were ready to believe that the Constituent Assembly might ease their situation. But life has not left one stone of these prejudices upon another. And so, now, the sworn enemies of the working class and the working peasantry have been compelled to re-paint themselves in the guise of supporters of Soviet power. The banner of the Constituent Assembly has been cast aside by the kulaks and counter-revolutionaries like a useless rag. At the foot of their appeals we find signatures in the Soviet style, military leader So-and-so, military commissar Such-and-such. The counter-revolution has abandoned its last ideological positions and sees itself obliged to take its stand (hypocritically, of course) upon the ground of Soviet power. By so acting, the counter-revolution signs it own death warrant, because it testifies, over its own signatures, that there is no way out, no salvation for the people other than Soviet power.
True, the counter-revolution still has the possibility of agitating on the basis of the blunders, mistakes and even crimes committed by agents of the Soviet power. But the Soviet power itself wants to and will wage a struggle against them, with unremitting energy. In order that the apparatus of Soviet power may be improved it must be purged internally, and to this end what is needed above all is that a strict distinction be drawn between the rural bourgeoisie, the kulaks, and the working middle peasantry.
All Soviet executives at village, uyezd, volost and province level must make it central to their task to become closely associated in joint work with the middle peasants, while expelling the kulaks from the sphere of protection by Soviet laws and Soviet power.
Kulaks are not allowed into the Red Army. Kulaks must not be given military training. Watch out, in the strictest possible way, that, besides workers, only honest working peasants are mobilised.
Kulaks, together with the sons of the bourgeoisie, are to be sent into the rear levies: let them do the hardest kind of manual work, in the interests of the army and of defence of the Soviet land.
Kulaks must be ruthlessly expelled from the Soviets.
In the event of revolt, or of damage to railway lines and bridges, the kulaks of the nearest volosts are to be exterminated without mercy.
Where the deceived working middle peasants are concerned, we must proceed more by means of words, by persuasion, explaining to them that their salvation lies in ruthless struggle against the kulaks and close collaboration with the working class.
Like the snake in the fable, the kulak has changed his skin, he now swears by Soviet power, and he thinks that the working peasants do not recognise him. But the shrewd peasant answered the snake that had changed its skin: “Even though you are now in a new skin, your heart is still the same’ – and he beat that neighbour of his to death.
That is just how the working peasant will act, along with the working class, towards the counter-revolutionary kulak. He has repainted himself red, he is making himself out to be for Soviet power, but we shall show him no mercy.
Workers and peasants, the time has come to beat the counter-revolutionary kulak to death. 
 In this article Trotsky’s imagery is taken from Krylov’s fable of “the peasant and the snake”.The snake creeps into the house of a peasant whom he addresses as “neighbour”, saying that he has “absolutely changed”, as may be seen from his new skin, so that he is no longer to be feared. However, the peasant replies that, though the snake may have a new skin, his heart is still the same – and then kills him.
Last updated on: 27.12.2006