Leon Trotsky

The New Course

Appendix 4
(Two Generations)

The leading circles of the Russian Communist Youth have intervened in the party discussion. In view of the fact that an article signed by nine comrades (Two Generations, Pravda, No.1) and an address to the Petrograd militants pose the questions wrongly and may do harm to the party if a wide discussion follows in the RCY, we deem it necessary to analyze their declarations and the reasons that prompt them.

The Petrograd address and the article by the nine say that the youth must not be flattered, that they are not the comptrollers of the party, that the new generation of the party cannot be counterposed to the old, that no degeneration threatens us, that Trotsky is guilty of all these mortal sins, and that the youth must be put on their guard. Let us see: Is that the situation?

In their article the nine say that Trotsky drags in the question of the youth by the hair (we shall return to this later on), that he adapts himself to the youth, that he flatters it. Let us hear what Lenin says on this score: “Soviet schools, workers’ schools have been founded; hundreds of thousands of young people are learning there. This work will yield its fruit. If we work without too much precipitateness, in a few years we shall have a mass of young people capable of radically modifying our apparatus.”

Why did Lenin speak this way of the youth? What drove him to it? The desire to get in good with the youth, to flatter them, to obtain their applause? Or was it his real understanding of the situation? It is least of all necessary to speak of “flattery” on the part of Trotsky, and there is absolutely no reason to contrast him to other leaders of our party. The nine comrades say that Lenin taught us to have a critical attitude toward the youth, not to encourage their shortcomings. Did not Comrade Trotsky follow this good advice when he said at the Eleventh Congress of the party, as he says now: “... That does not mean, of course, that all the acts and moods of the youth express healthy tendencies,” or elsewhere: “The youth of the schools, recruited from all the layers and strata of Soviet society, reflect in their disparate ranks all our sides, good and defective.” To judge from these quotations, Trotsky, far from flattering, criticizes.

The question of degeneration is likewise expounded erroneously. Trotsky speaks of the danger of degeneration both for the youth generation and for the old. To this, the editorial board of Pravda replies: “The theoretical danger of degeneration exists among us. Its sources lie in the possibility of a steady and gradual victory of capitalist economy over socialist economy and in the possibility of a progressive fusion of our administrative cadres with the new bourgeoisie. But there is nobody among us who does not see this danger”

Yet, what the nine comrades say in their articlle “This danger of political degeneration cannot exist among us” harmonizes in no way with this declaration. Consequently, the accusation and the defense are out of whack.

Let us pass to the most serious accusation: Trotsky counterposes the two generations, eggs them on against each other, “wants to undermine the influence of the tested Bolshevik general staff.”

Here is what Trotsky writes: “It would be madness to think of discarding the old generation. What is needed is that precisely this old generation should change its orientation and, by doing so, assure in the future the preponderance of its influence in all the work of the party.”

Where is this counterposing of the youth to the old, this desire to undermine the old cadres, which is at the foundation of the arguments of the two documents? It seems to us that if all the above quoted declarations of Trotsky are quietly and seriously examined, it is impossible to see in them any egging on of the two sections, any intention of animosity. On the contrary, Trotsky understands the “new course” as the best way of consolidating and raising the influence of the Old Bolshevik cadres.

But if all these legends, arbitrary interpretations, and distortions are rejected, and if the essence of the question of how to educate the young communists in the Leninist spirit is studied, it appears clearly that Trotsky is entirely right.

And if the nine militants of the RCY who spoke up take the trouble to examine more closely the situation of the young communist, who is best known to them, they will record the fact that the young communists party members feel not that they are party members in the RCY but “communist youth in the party.” That is a fact pointed out on many occasions by the most esteemed activists.

What is the deep-seated reason for this? It is that in the narrow party régime, the youth do not have the opportunity to partake in the riches accumulated through our party’s long years of work. The best means of transmitting the revolutionary Bolshevik traditions, and all the qualities inherent in the fundamental cadre of the party, is the “new course” of democracy applied “consciously by the old generation in the interest of preserving its leading influence.”

Thus, as to the essence of the question, it is not Trotsky who “dragged in by the hair” the question of the youth (which he connects with all the reasons prompting the “new course” of the party) but the authors of the letters who attribute to him a point of view he has never supported.

In actuality (although involuntarily) the nine comrades who brought the RCY into the discussion have reduced the latter to the question of two generations, without linking it to the totality of the discussion and to all the questions the party is posing at the present time. And when the question of the generations itself is posed wrongly, when it is distorted, all statements on it can only be regrettable; and if they lead to a discussion among the militants of the RCY, this discussion will unfold along a false line and will provoke the dissension Trotsky has spoken out against.

The Central Committee of the RCY has decided not to submit the questions raised in the party discussion to special consideration by the party members working in the RCY. We consider this decision entirely correct. In no case can it legitimize the abovementioned article. If the decision barring the introduction of the discussion into the RCY is correct and if militants of the Central Committee have deemed it necessary to plunge into this discussion not in order to say anything new, except for a clumsy accusation against Trotsky’s alleged bowing down before some “divine trinity” or other, how else is their action to be explained than as one prompted by the desire to have “the youth” strike a blow at Trotsky?

Nobody (and Trotsky less than anyone) has challenged the need of preserving the preponderant influence, the leadership, of the old cadre of the party. This need is more than obvious to all of us. It is not on this point that our discussion of the article of the nine revolves.

We are against attributing to leading comrades of our party thoughts they have not expressed; by that token, we are against an incorrect and distorted posing of the question, particularly before the young communists. We are against concealing the necessity of creating in the party the kind of situation that will permit the training of genuine Leninists, and not the kind of communists of whom Lenin said at our Third Communist Youth Congress:

“If a Communist took it into his head to boast about his communism because of the cut-and-dried conclusions he had acquired, without putting in a great deal of serious and hard work and without understanding facts he should examine critically, he would be a deplorable Communist indeed.”
[CW, Vol.31, The Tasks of the Youth Leagues (October 2, 1920), p.288].

We are for unity, and for the genuinely Bolshevik leadership of the party. We are far from shutting our eyes to the dangers that threaten the youth. Precisely because we are conscious of these dangers, we do not want to see the question of the “new course” obliterated under the pretext of defending the historic rights of the Old Guard of the party against nonexistent assaults.

V. Dalin, member of the Central Committee of the youth
M. Fedorov, Central Committee of the youth
A. Shokhin, collaborator of the Central Committee
A. Bezymensky, one of the founders of the youth
N. Penkov, one of the founders of the youth, member of the Moscow Committee
F. Delyusin, former secretary of the Moscow Committee
B. Treivas, former secretary of the Moscow Committee
M. Dugachev, activist of the Moscow Committee, one of the founders of the youth

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Last updated on: 4.1.2007