L. Trotzky

[Five Years of the Russian Revolution]

(November 1922)

Source: International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 102, 24 November 1922, p. 822.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan for the Trotsky Internet Archive.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2021. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.

The evening session opened at six. Comrade Trotzky in his speech said that the central political aim of every party was the conquest of political power. In the Second International this was merely a directive idea having very little bearing on practice. In Russia, on the other hand, this idea was a practical fact of revolutionist political strategy. The civil war did not begin in Russia until after the conquest of political power by the proletariat. It was only after the proletariat had seized power that the real significance of political power became clear to the Russian bourgeoisie, the rich peasants, the middle peasants, and the petty bourgeoisie.

In western countries there is a reversed sequence of events. In Italy, said Comrade Trotzky, we see a complete counter-revolution, although there has not been a complete revolution. In the west, the bourgeoisie is already organizing all its forces against the revolutionary proletariat, and the result of this will be that after the victory of the proletariat the counter-revolution will no longer have any reserves. The Communists of western lands will find the conquest of power more difficult than did the Russians, but it will be easier for them to maintain power.

Our tactics in the civil war were sound because we secured the support of the peasantry, whereas the democrats were the organizers of the counter-revolution.

For the building up of a new economic system, these factors were of primary importance: the degree of development of the forces of production, the cultural level of the proletariat, and the political situation upon a national and upon an international scale. Russia was in such a situation that political necessities often made it impossible to pay due attention to economic considerations. That was why War Communism had come into existence

War Communism was not adopted for the development of the forces of production. If the world revolution had taken place in 1919, evolution would have taken a different course in Russia. Nevertheless, we have secured noteworthy results. The land is in our possession; the Workers’ State has the means of transport at its disposal, foreign commerce is a State monopoly. We have the Red Army, the administration, the schools.

When the civil war came to an end, we were compelled in the capitalist environment to apply capitalist methods. We had to build up the new economic system of a new class by the old methods of the old capitalism. This led us to NEP (New Economic Policy), which was not merely a concession to the peasantry, but was a necessary phase of socialist evolution.

In Russia both a socialist and a capitalist accumulation are now in progress. What are our means of power in this struggle? The Worker’s State has political power and a socialized large scale industry; Russian capitalism is supported by world capitalism. Despite the unfavourable economic situation, more than one million workers are engaged in State enterprises. There are only 80,000 workers employed in the undertakings that have been leased. The State undertakings are better equipped and worked than the private undertakings. As far as commerce is concerned, the situation is less favourable; but even here State commerce comprises 70 per cent, of all the commerce in the country.

As to the concessions, I must own that there has been much discussion of this matter, but the concessions have not been extensive. There is no opportunity for the capitalists to work in accordance with broadly conceived plans; they live only from day to day; the danger involved by capitalism in Russia is much less serious than the danger which in western States threatens the capitalists from the approach of the world revolution.

Otto Bauer prophesied as long ago as the year 1917 that Soviet Russia would become a democratic republic. In 1919 he recognized the dictatorship of the proletariat and prophesied the victory of the world revolution. Bauer always has his wallet full of prophecies; now he announces that our willingness to recognize the old debts is tantamount to a capitulation. We reply that anyone who wishes to incur new debts is obliged it recognize old ones.

If Bauer thinks that the Soviet Power is an inevitable form for the development of capitalism in Russia, we reply: That is the very reason why we defend the proletarian dictatorship. Every dominant power, the bourgeoisie no less than others, has made concessions to subordinate classes. The working class, which is now the dominant power in in Russia is making concessions to the bourgeoisie We are not making concessions in perpetuity, but merely for a transitional period until the world revolution comes to our aid.

The yield of our labor is at the present time inadequate. This might be thought a strong argument against us. We point out, however, that revolution has always been an expensive way of transforming an economic system, and that the French bourgeois revolution made the condition of the people worse for several decades.

But the cost of the revolution is not in productive expenditure. The characteristic of the present situation may be summed up by saying that the working class is not yet competent to seize power, whereas the bourgeoisie has already become incompetent. But the chief reason why the working class is not competent to seize power is that the influence of Kautskyism over the working class is still far too great The present crisis of capitalism is not due to any accidental concatenation of circumstances; it is the historical crisis of capitalism. When the Third Congress was held, there was still a danger of Leftism; now we have to defend the Communist International against the danger of stagnation. Should the coalition of the Left come into power in France, and should the liberals and the Labor Party form a joint government in Britain, there is a danger of the coming of a new period of democratic illusions. In that event, we must remain a Party of naked truth, the only Party which does not attempt to humbug the workers.

Frossard says that the Party is “a great friendship” but the Party can only become a great friendship when it has undergone a thorough weeding out.

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