L. Trotzky

Who Are the Traitors?

(30 May 1922)

Source: International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 46, 9 June 1922, pp. 341–342.
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Moscow, May 30th, 1922

The Social Revolutionary Party, at present occupies the centre of attention, but quite differently than at the time of the March Revolution. It often happens in history that some party of other, some man or other, is at first obscured from view, is forgotten for some time and then is again remembered. The Social Revolutionary Party succeeded in a few months, one might say in a few weeks, in getting into power over the whole of Russia – so if seemed at least – and afterwards lost its influence just as quickly and faded into insignificance. The approaching trial affords us the opportunity of reviewing the strange fate of the Social Revolutionary Party. This explains the interest it arouses: it is produced by the necessity for understanding and arriving at certain conclusions.

I will only touch on one side of the question here, which it seems to me has not received sufficient attention in our press and which is nevertheless of great importance: the position which the humbler sections of the party, the rank and file, its minor officials respectively held or now hold in the party.

At the beginning of the present century Plekhanoff called the Social Revolutionaries, “Social Reactionaries”. This was appropriate in so far as it described the petty-bourgeois, reactionary components of its world outlook which threatened to convert the party into a tool of bourgeois counter-revolution and did in fact so transform it. As soon as the petty-bourgeoisie separates itself from the proletariat it always inevitably becomes a tool of the bourgeoisie. In the struggle against Czarism and feudalism the party played a revolutionary role. It aroused the peasants, it stirred large groups of young students to political activity, it assembled around its standard considerable groups of workers who were not yet either materially or mentally separated from the village and who considered the revolution not from the proletarian class point of view, but from the shapeless point of view of the “worker”. The terrorists entered into the duel and sacrificed their lives for the lives of Czarist dignitaries. We criticized this method, for we were of the opinion that the Sazonovs and the Kaliayeffs would have been more useful to the cause of the revolution if they had combined their energy with the energy of the working masses instead of increasing their individual force by the explosive force of dynamite. But our work among the masses, our criticism and our exposition of terror converted these terrorist acts into external incentives for the revolutionary activity of the masses. It often happened at demonstrations that the most self-sacrificing Marxist workers went hand in band with the self-sacrificing “Narodniki” workers in order to oppose the Czarist Police and Cossacks by armed force. Later on these met in the prisons of Siberia, on the way to prison and in exile. Among the humbler sections of the party there were always excellent, determined and self-sacrificing elements to be found in spite of the theoretical vagueness of their ideas.

Already at that time a chasm was beginning to separate the young Petrograd textile worker belonging to the Social Revolutionary Party, who at any moment was prepared to sacrifice his life for the cause of the working class, from the intellectuals of the Avksentiev type, from the Heidelberg and other students, philosophers, Kantians. Nietszchians who at that time differed in no way from the petty-bourgeois radicals of France, with the exception of their greater illusions and their inferior culture. At that time it was clear to the Marxists how widely these two groups would diverge from the influence of the “Narodniki” ideology; and the future parliamentarians, political place-hunters who for the moment were in no hurry surrender their Socialist phraseology.

In consequence of the war and the revolution the dissolution of the Social Revolutionary Party was enormously accelerated. The complete political and moral decay of the upper sections of the party was accelerated by the fact that the great events compelled clear and exact answers and did not permit of vacillation. Thus we see how Tchernoff at Zimmerwald unexpectedly adhered to the Extreme Left; thus renouncing the idea of the “National Party” and how he later on sat in a bourgeois cabinet and recommended the July offensive hand in hand with the Entente countries. This terribly zig-zag course of the leader of the party already foreshadowed its approaching final eclipse.

A great quantity of trained energy however still existed in the party. The heroic past of the party (its sacrifices, the death sentences, Siberian hard labor, deportations) held, as a result of our backward social relations (the peasant majority!), the holiest, subjectively revolutionary parts of the rank and file of the party under the party banner, at the time when the stupefied upper circles of the parly had become perfectly ripe for open official flunkeyism to imperialism and counterrevolution. The whole of the play of the Central Committee with the members of the fighting organizations, from the political and moral aspect, took place at the time of the transition period: the rank and file seriously accepted the slogans of the party, proceeded in the old direction and proceeded courageously to the end. They were prepared to kill, to sacrifice their lives against other lives. Their subjective motives were revolutionary. They were only behind the times, they did not see the enormous change that had taken place in the whole world situation. The upper circles saw this. They know all too well that the terrorist campaign against the Soviets was financed from the same monetary sources which but yesterday financed Nicholas against us and against the Social Revolutionaries. The upper circles of the party could not be ignorant of this. They did not act influenced by their traditions and by inertia. They speculated upon gaining advantages; they were conscious of their treachery, of their part as renegades. They therefore conducted this diplomatic play with themselves, with history, with the imperialist Allies and before all with their own party and the rank and file. The Tchernoffs and the Avksentievs profited by the heroism of the Sazonovs and Kaliayeffs and placed the honest and self sacrificing members of the organization at the disposal of Noulens arid Lockhart. What these members of the fighting organization grasped the significance of historical events in the new world situation, when they convinced themselves that they were throwing their bombs at the behest of the French Embassy and the Roumanian Embassy, they shrank back from their own deeds. The more determined and self-sacrificing they had previously been in their fight against the Bolshewiks with the methods which the Social Revolutionaries learned during the time of suppression, the greater now was their indignation and resentment.

Some of them meditated longer than others, some went abroad, some placed their lives at the disposal of the Workers’ Republic and carried out the most dangerous tasks on the front in the civil war. Some are still wavering. With a sort of unfailing instinct however, the bourgeois press of the whole world denounced the stand taken by Semenov and Konopleva with the cry of “renegades”. At the time of the blockade of Soviet Russia it came to the final opinion that the Social Revolutionaries of whom they previously knew nothing were only the Left Wing of the anti-Soviet front or a transmitting fighting mechanism for the terrorist measures ordered from Paris and London. And then one suddenly met with a revolt, a direct stroke of treachery on the part of this Left Wing! A betrayal of the cause which at present unites Tchernoff with Poincaré. The spiritual revolt of Semenov, Konopleva and others against the Central Committee of the party and against the real masters working behind the scenes of this Central Committee, against the Social Revolutionary Party in its actual attitude, is in reality the immediate consequence of all that the past of the Social Revolutionary Party has to show in revolutionary spirit and in heroism. There is only one clear answer to the great and simple question: which and what cause were all these Social Revolutionaries serving who were killed in terrorist duels and in street battles, or died in Siberian hard labor and exile; the cause which is espoused by the Tchernoffs together with the Noulens, the Poincaré and the Lloyd Georges, or the cause of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Soviet Russia which, as Genoa demonstrated, is fighting alone against the raging imperialist bloodhounds! Those Social Revolutionaries who have stood up against the corrupt clique which is. still attempting to profit by the revolutionary traditions of the party can declare with a calm conscience that they are the trustees of all that the past of the Social Revolutionary party has to show in heroism and greatness during the time of suppression and illegal work.

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