Leon Trotsky

The New Course

and the Revolution

(Outline of a Report that the Author Could Not Deliver)

  1. The essential conditions which not only prevent the realization of the socialist ideal but are, in addition sometimes a source of painful tests and grave dangers to the revolution, are well enough known. They are: a) the internal social contradictions of the revolution which were automatically compressed under War Communism but which, under the NEP, unfold unfailingly and seek to find political expression; b) the protracted counter revolutionary threat to the Soviet republic represented by the imperialist states.
  2. The social contradictions of the revolution are class contradictions. What are the fundamental classes of our country? a) the proletariat, b) the peasantry, c) the new bourgeoisie with the layer of bourgeois intellectuals that covers it.

    From the standpoint of economic role and political significance first place belongs to the proletariat organ ized in the state and to the peasantry which provides the agricultural products that are dominant in our economy. The new bourgeoisie plays principally the role of intermediary between Soviet industry and agriculture as well as between the different parts of Soviet industry and the different spheres of rural economy. But it does not confine itself to being a commercial intermediary; in part, it also assumes the role of organizer of production.
  3. Putting aside for the moment the question of the tempo of the development of the proletarian revolution in the West, the course of our revolution will be determined by the comparative growth of the three fundamental elements of our economy: state industry, agriculture, and private commercial-industrial capital.
  4. Historical analogies with the Great French Revolution (the fall of the Jacobins) made by liberalism and Menshevism for their own nourishment and consolation, are superficial and inconsistent. The fall of the Jacobins was predetermined by the lack of maturity of the social relationships: the left (ruined artisans and merchants), deprived of the possibility of economic development, could not be a firm support for the revolution; the right (bourgeoisie) grew irresistibly; finally, Europe, economically and politically more backward, prevented the revolution from spreading beyond the limits of France.

    In all these respects our situation is incomparably more favorable. With us, the nucleus as well as the left wing of the revolution is the proletariat, whose tasks and objectives coincide entirely with the tasks of socialist construction. The proletariat is politically so strong that while permitting, within certain limits, the formation by its side of a new bourgeoisie, it has the peasantry participate in the state power not through the intermediary of the bourgeoisie and the petty bourgeois parties, but directly, thus barring to the bourgeoisie any access to political life. The economic and political situation of Europe not only does not exclude but makes inevitable the extension of the revolution over its territory.

    So that if, in France, even the most clairvoyant policy of the Jacobins would have been powerless to alter radically the course of events, with us, whose situation is infinitely more favorable, the correctness of a political line drawn according to the methods of Marxism will be for a considerable period of time a decisive factor in safeguarding the revolution.
  5. Let us take the historical hypothesis more unfavorable to us. The rapid development of private capital, if it should take place, would signify that Soviet industry and commerce, including the cooperatives do not assure the satisfaction of the needs of peasant economy. In addition it would show that private capital is interposing itself more and more between the workers' state and the peasantry, is acquiring an economic and therefore a political influence over the latter. It goes without saying that such a rupture between Soviet industry and agriculture, between the proletariat and the peasantry, would constitute a grave danger for the proletarian revolution, a symptom of the possibility of the triumph of the counterrevolution.
  6. What are the political paths by which the victory of the counterrevolution might come if the economic hypothesis just set forth were to be realized? There could be many: either the direct overthrowal of the workers' party, or its progressive degeneration, or finally, the conjunction of a partial degeneration, splits, and counterrevolutionary upheavals

    The realization of one or the other of these eventualities would depend above all on the tempo of the economic development. In case private capital succeeded, little by little, slowly, in dominating state capital, the political process would assume in the main the character of the degeneration of the state apparatus in a bourgeois direction, with the consequences that this would involve for the party. If private capital increased rapidly and succeeded in fusing with the peasantry, the active counter revolutionary tendencies directed against the Communist Party would then probably prevail.

    If we set forth these hypotheses bluntly, it is of course not because we consider them historically probable (on the contrary, their probability is at a minimum), but because only such a way of putting the question makes possible a more correct and all sided historical orientation and, consequently, the adoption of all possible preventive measures. The superiority of us Marxists is in distinguishing and grasping the new tendencies and the new dangers even when they are still only in an embryonic stage.
  7. The conclusion from what we have already said in the economic domain brings us to the problem of the "scissors," that is, to the rational organization of industry and to its coordination with the peasant market. To lose time in this connection is to slow down our struggle against private capital. That is where the principal task is, the essential key to the problem of the revolution and of socialism.
  8. If the counter revolutionary danger rises up, as we h ave said, out of certain social relationships, this in no wise means that by a rational policy it is not possible to parry this danger (even under unfavorable economic conditions for the revolution), to reduce it, to remove it, to postpone it. Such a postponement is in turn apt to save the revolution by assuring it either a favorable economic shift at home or contact with the victorious revolution in Europe.

    That is why, on the basis of the economic policy indicated above, we must have a definite state and party policy (including a definite policy inside the party), aimed at counteracting the accumulation and consolidation of tbe tendencies directed against the dictatorship of the working class and nurtured by the difficulties and failures of the economic development.
  9. The heterogeneity of the social composition of our party reflects the objective contradictions of the development of the revolution, along with the tendencies and dangers flowing from it:

The factory nuclei which assure the contact of the party with the essential class of the revolution, now represent one sixth of the membership of the party.

In spite of all their negative sides, the cells of the Soviet institutions assure the party its leadership of the state apparatus; which also determines the great specific weight of these cells. A large percentage of old militants take part in the life of the party through the medium of these Soviet cells.

The rural cells give the party a certain contact (still very weak) with the countryside.

The military cells effect the contact of the party with the army, and by means of the latter, with the countryside too (above all).

Finally, in the cells of the educational institutions, all these tendencies and influences mingle and cross.

  1. By their class composition, the factory cells are, it goes without saying, fundamental. But inasmuch as they constitute only one sixth of the party and their most active elements are taken away to be assigned to the party or the state apparatus, the party cannot yet, unfortunately, lean exclusively or even principally upon them.

    Their growth will be the surest gauge of the success of the party in industry, in economy in general, and at the same time the best guarantee that it will retain its proletarian character. But it is hardly possible to expect their speedy growth in the immediate future. As a resuIt, the party will be obliged in the next period to assure its internal equilibrium and its revolutionary line by leaning on cells of a heterogeneous social composition.
  2. The counter revolutionary tendencies can find a support among the kulaks, the middlemen, the retailers, the concessionaries, in a word, among elements much more capable of surrounding the state apparatus than the party itself. Only the peasant and the military cells might be threatened by a more direct influence and even a penetration by the kulaks.

    Nevertheless, the differentiation of the peasantry represents a factor which will be of help to us. The exclusion of kulaks from the army (including the territorial divisions) should not only remain an untouchable rule but what is more, become an important measure for the political education of the rural youth, the military units and particularly the military cells.

    The workers will assure their leading role in the military cells by counterposing politically the rural working masses of the army to the renascent stratum of the kulaks. In the rural cells, too, this counterposition applies. The success of the work will naturally depend, in the long run, upon the extent to which state industry succeeds in satisfying the needs of the countryside.

    But whatever the speed of our economic successes may be, our fundamental political line in the military cells must be directed not simply against the Nepmen, but primarily against the renascent kulak stratum, the only historically conceivable and serious support for any and all counter revolutionary attempts. In this respect, we need more minute analysis of the various components of the army from the standpoint of their social composition.
  3. It is beyond doubt that through the medium of the rural and military cells, tendencies reflecting more or less the countryside, with the special traits that distinguish it from the town, filter and will continue to filter into the party. If that were not the case, the rural cells would have no value for the party.

    The changes in mood that manifest themselves in the cells are a reminder or a warning to the party. The possibility of directing these cells according to the party line depends on the correctness of the general direction of the party as well as upon its internal régime and, in the last analysis, on whether we come closer to solving or attenuating the problem of the "scissors."
  4. The state apparatus is the most important source of bureaucratism. On the one band, it absorbs an enormous quantity of the most active party elements and it teaches the most capable of them the methods of administration of men and things, instead of political leadership of the masses. On the other hand, it preoccupies largely the attention of the party apparatus over which it exerts influence by its methods of administration.

    Hence, in large measure, the bureaucratization of the apparatus, which threatens to separate the party from the masses. This is precisely the danger that is now most obvious and direct. The struggle against the other dangers must under present conditions begin with the struggle against bureaucratism.
  5. It is unworthy of a Marxist to consider that bureaucratism is only the aggregate of the bad habits of office holders. Bureaucratism is a social phenomenon in that it is a definite system of administration of men and things. Its profound causes lie in the heterogeneity of society, the difference between the daily and the fundamental interests of various groups of the population. Bureaucratism is complicated by the fact of the lack of culture of the broad masses. With us, the essential source of bureaucratism resides in the necessity of creating and sustaining a state apparatus that unites the interests of the proletariat and those of the peasantry in a perfect economic harmony, from which we are still far removed. The necessity of maintaining a permanent army is likewise another important source of bureaucratism.

    It is quite plain that precisely the negative social phenomena we have just enumerated and which now nurture bureaucratism could place the revolution in peril should they continue to develop. We have mentioned above this hypothesis: the growing discord between state and peasant economy, the growth of the kulaks in the country, their alliance with private commercial industrial capital, these would be given the low cultural level of the toiling masses of the countryside and in part of the towns the causes of the eventual counter-revolutionary dangers.

    In other words, bureaucratism in the state and party apparatus is the expression of the most vexatious tendencies inherent in our situation, of the defects and deviations in our work which, under certain social conditions, might sap the basis of the revolution. And, in this case as in many others, quantity will at a certain stage be transformed into quality.
  6. The struggle against the bureaucratism of the state apparatus is an exceptionally important but prolonged task, one that runs more or less parallel to our other fundamental tasks: economic reconstruction and the elevation of the cultural level of the masses. The most important historical instrument for the accomplishment of all these tasks is the party. Naturally, not even the party can tear itself away from the social and cultural conditions of the country. But as the voluntary organization of the vanguard, of the best, the most active and the most conscious elements of the working class, it is able to preserve itself much better than can the state apparatus from the tendencies of bureaucratism. For that, it must see the danger clearly and combat it without let up.

Thence the immense importance of the education of the party youth, based upon personal initiative, in order to serve the state apparatus in a new manner and to trans form it completely.

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Last updated on: 4.1.2007