Written: September, 1928
First Published: Serialized in the following issues of The Militant, New York, Volume 2, No 13, August 15, 1929; Volume 2, No 14, September 15, 1929; Volume 2, No 15, October 1, 1929; Volume 2, No 16, October 15, 1929 and Volume 2, No 17, November 1, 1929;
Source: Microfilm collection and original bound volumes for The Militant provided by the Holt Labor Library, San Francisco, California.
Transcription\HTML Markup: D. Walters
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Nothing so clearly characterizes the transformation of the official party of the Soviet Union as its attitude toward the problems of the international revolution. For the majority of the apparatchiks the Communist International has become a government department that is exclusively the concern of those to whom it has been entrusted as an official duty. In the last few years, the leadership has systematically made the party unaccustomed to taking a real interest in the inner life of the international labor movement, particularly of the world Communist parties. It must be said frankly: The present treatment of the internal processes occurring in the world working class by the Soviet newspapers is distinctly inferior to the information that used to be supplied by the best publications of the Social Democracy before the war. It is not possible to put any faith in the present rigidly official information, which is always adapted to the momentary interests of the leading circles. There is not even a pretense of following the day-to-day development of the labor movement and its internal struggles. Certain processes are suppressed, while others, on the contrary, are deliberately exaggerated; but even this is done episodically.
After a long interval, during which one party or another seems to disappear almost entirely from the range of vision of our press, there suddenly appears a “new danger,” a “new deviation”—a catastrophe! The reader, however, learns of this catastrophe only after the appropriate bodies concerned have “taken their measures.” The reader (that is, the party) is simply informed that the catastrophe, whose approach he had been entirely unaware of, has been happily liquidated thanks to the decision adopted yesterday by the presidium of the International and that the conditions for the prosperous and “monolithic” development of the national section involved are again assured. The monotonous repetition of this procedure stupefies the reader and plunges him into indifference. The average party member begins to regard the successive catastrophes in the International, like those in his own party, as the peasant looks upon hailstorms or drought: nothing can be done about it, we must have patience.
It is obvious that this phenomenon is conceivable only because of the heavy defeats of the international revolution. Moreover, the import of these defeats is never explained to the masses of the party, so as not to disclose the bankruptcy of the leadership. The destructive power of such methods is colossal. Only the great ideological, moral, and political capital inherited from the past, and the fact of the existence of the workers’ state created by the October Revolution, still makes it possible for the International to include in the ranks of its organization throughout the world (excluding the USSR) 400,000 to 500,000 members at the very most.
Theoretical dishonesty has become one of the most important weapons in the internal struggle. This fact alone is a sure indication of the deep-seated disease that is consuming the organism of the International. Ideological dishonesty in a revolutionary leadership is the same as sloppiness in a surgeon. Both inevitably lead to the infection of the organism. However, the theoretical dishonesty of a leadership is neither an accident nor a personal trait: it flows from the contradiction between the principles of Leninism and the actual policy of the Stalinist faction. The less its authority and cohesion, the greater its coercion. Discipline, as necessary as salt is to food, has in these last years been found to displace food itself. But no one has yet been able to live on salt. The selection of personnel takes place in conformity with the current line and the internal regime of the party. Communist fighters are more and more being replaced by bureaucratic department heads of communism. This is most clearly and crassly seen at the very focal point of Communist leadership: the central apparatus of the International.
Accordingly, it is of paramount importance to be aware of what kind of element, what political type, is represented by those who at the present moment hold the reins in the Communist International. I do not possess the general statistics and the political records of the bureaucracy of the International. But they are not essential. It is enough to indicate some of the most “conspicuous” figures that personify the present leading line and the present regime.
Bella Kun and Pepper
Since I do not propose to present a systematic study in these cursory notes, and since the gallery of the Stalinist International must begin somewhere, we will first of all name Bela Kun, without intending thereby to exaggerate his importance in either the good or the bad sense. In all justice, it must be recognized that Bela Kun, at any rate, is not the worst element in the leading circles of the International. He is flanked by two other Hungarian Communists: Varga and Pepper. All three play an international role, appearing almost continuously as teachers and guides of the national sections. Two of them, Kun and Pepper, are also highly qualified specialists in the struggle against “Trotskyism.” The short-lived Hungarian Soviet republic still casts a certain luster of authority upon them. Still, it must not be forgotten that these politicians did not have to conquer power; it was simply thrown at their feet by a bourgeoisie that had landed in a blind alley. Having assumed power without struggle, the Hungarian leaders demonstrated that they were not big enough to keep it. Their policy was a chain of errors. Let us confine ourselves to mentioning two of the links: first of all, they forgot about the peasantry, failed to give it the land; second, to celebrate the happy occasion, they merged the young Communist Party with the Left Social Democracy as soon as the latter began fawning on the [new] state power. Thus they showed—and particularly Bela Kun—that the experience of the Russian revolution had taught them to understand neither the peasant question nor the question of the role of the party in the revolution. Of course, these mistakes, which cost the Hungarian revolution its head, can be explained by the youth of the Hungarian party and by its leaders’ extreme lack of political preparation. But is it not astonishing that both Bela Kun and his Social Democratic shadow Pepper consider themselves justified in denouncing us, the Oppositionists, for underestimating the peasantry and failing to understand the role of the party? Where is it written that someone who, out of carelessness, has broken his neighbor’s arms and legs, is therefore qualified for the position of Professor of Surgery?
At the Third Comintern Congress, Bela Kun, flanked by his indispensable adjutant, Pepper, took an ultraleft position. They defended the strategy employed in Germany in March 1921, of which Bela Kun was one of the principal inspirers. Their position was essentially this: unless the revolution is immediately summoned forth in the West, the Soviet republic is doomed. Bela Kun endeavored many a time to convince me to “take a chance” along this path. I flatly rejected his adventurism and, together with Lenin, explained to him at the Third Congress that the task of the European Communists was not to “save” the USSR by engaging in revolutionary street theater but to seriously train the European parties for the task of winning power. Today Bela Kun, with all the Peppers, feels called upon to accuse me of “lack of faith” in the vital forces of the Soviet republic and of “speculating” solely upon the world revolution. What is called the irony of history here assumes the aspect of pure burlesque. Really, it is no accident that the Third Congress proceeded to the accompaniment of Lenin’s reiterated formula: “All this is nothing but the stupidities of Bela Kun.” And when I sought, in private conversations with Lenin, to defend Bela Kun against excessively harsh attacks, Lenin answered: “I do not dispute that he is a fighter, but as a politician he is worthless; the comrades must be taught not to trust him."
In Pepper, we have the consummate type of the man who knows how to adapt himself, a political parasite. Such individuals have attached themselves and will always attach themselves to every victorious revolution as unfailingly as flies stick to sugar. No sooner had the Hungarian Soviet republic collapsed than Pepper endeavored to enter into relations with Count Karolyi. At the Third Congress he was with the ultraleft. In America he became chief promoter of the La Follette party and dragged the young Communist Party into the swamp up to its waist. It is hardly necessary to say that he became a prophet of socialism in one country and one of the most implacable antiTrotskyists. Now he has made this his profession, as others run a matrimonial agency or sell lottery tickets.
On Varga I must repeat what I have said once before, that he is the consummate Polonius type of theoretician at the beck and call of any leadership of the Communist International. There is no question that his knowledge and analytical abilities make him a very useful and qualified worker. But there is not the slightest trace of revolutionary will or physical strength in his thinking. In this regard Varga is a miniature edition of a Kautsky. He was a Brandlerist under Brandler, Maslowist under Maslow, Thäl mannist under the void that is called Thalmann. Conscientiously and scrupulously, he always serves up the economic arguments for the political line of others. The objective value of his works is entirely limited by the political quality of the instructions upon which he himself has not the slightest influence. He defends the theory of socialism in one country, as I have said elsewhere, by invoking the lack of political culture of the Russian worker, who needs “consoling” perspectives.
Manuilsky, like Pepper, has a rather distinct notoriety even within the faction to which he now belongs. The last six years have thoroughly debauched this man, whose principal quality is his moral inconstancy. There was a time when he showed a certain promise, not theoretical or political, but literary. A certain flame, always feeble, burned in him. However, some kind of internal worm gnawed at him incessantly. Fleeing from himself, Manuilsky constantly sought someone to lean upon. He always had something of the “errand-boy” in him. Suffice it to say that for a long time he strove to remain attached to ... Alexinsky. During the war, Manuilsky did not conduct himself badly. Nevertheless, his internationalism was always superficial. The October days were a period of vacillation for Manuilsky. In 1918, he proclaimed unexpectedly (for me, above all) that Trotsky had liberated Bolshevism from its national narrowness. But no one attached any great importance to his writings. Manuilsky lived quietly in the Ukraine as an administrator of little abilitydistinguishing himself, however, as a fine narrator of anecdotes. Like all the present leaders, he came forward and began his rise only after the death of Lenin. His intrigues against Rakovsky served him as a springboard. The general esteem enjoyed by Rakovsky in the Ukraine was such that in 1923 no one dared to begin a campaign against him, despite all the urgings from Moscow. Manuilsky did dare. In private conversations between two anecdotes, he would openly admit whose commission he was discharging and proclaim his contempt for his employer, and even more for himself. His acquaintance with foreign countries predetermined the arena that would be chosen for his future exploits: the Communist International. A compilation of what Zinoviev and Stalin have said about him wouldn’t be a bad digest of political cynicism. On the other hand, matters would not be changed very much if one compiled what Manuilsky has said about Zinoviev and Stalin. At the Sixth Congress, Manuilsky appeared as the principal accuser of the Opposition. For anyone who knows the leading personnel and the past of the party, this fact by itself settles the question!
In the apparatus of the International and in the press, Valetsky plays a very conspicuous role. In Kommunistishe International and in Pravda he frequently denounces Trotskyism from the “theoretical” and “philosophical” viewpoint. He was created by nature itself for this sort of task. In the eyes of the younger generation Valetsky is simply a venerable unknown. The older generation has known him for a long time. At the opening of the century, Valetsky made his appearance in Siberian exile as a fanatical supporter of the Polish Socialist Party (PPS). At that time Pilsudski was his idol. In politics, Valetsky was a nationalist; in theory, he was an idealist and a mystic. He preached the theories of decadence, of faith in God and in Pilsudski. In our colony of exiles, he was isolated. When the PPS split as a consequence of the 1905 revolution, Valetsky turned up as a member of the more “socialist” wing (the Lewico [Left]), only to begin defending, there and then, an extremely Menshevik position.
Even at that time he fought against the theory of “permanent revolution": He regarded as fantastic, and even insane, the idea that the proletariat could come to power sooner in backward Russia than in Western Europe. During the war he was at the very best to the right of Martov. One can be sure that five minutes before the October Revolution, Valetsky was an irreconcilable enemy of Bolshevism. I have no information about when he became a “Bolshevik.” But in any case it was not until after the Russian proletariat had taken power firmly in its hands. At the Third Congress, Valetsky talked about between the line of Lenin and the ultraleftists. Under Zinoviev he was a Zinovievist, only to change opportunely into a Stalinist. His mobility and elasticity are not yet exhausted. It is easy for him, with his light baggage, to change from one train to another. Today, this former nationalist, idealist, mystic, Menshevik teaches the working class how to fight to win power, despite the fact that he himself first heard about this only after power had been won. People of Valetsky’s caliber will never conquer anything. But they are perfectly capable of losing what has been conquered.
Valetsky’s past is infinitely more serious. For many years he marched behind Rosa Luxemburg, while Valetsky always looked upon her with the blind hatred of a Polish chauvinist. But Valetsky assimilated the weak sides of Rosa Luxemburg much more fully than her strong sides, the best of which was her revolutionary inflexibility. In the end, Warski has remained to this day a “revolutionary” Social Democrat of the old type. This brought him close to Klara Zetkin, as could be seen clearly in the attitude they both took to the German events of 1923. Valetsky never felt himself quite at ease with Bolshevism. That explains his momentary “conciliationism,” based on a misunderstanding, toward the Opposition of 1923. But as soon as the lines became clearly drawn, Valetsky found his natural place in the official ranks. The struggle of the epigones against “permanent revolution” and the “underestimation” of the peasantry induced the timorous Valetsky to interpret Pilsudski’s victorious uprising as a sort of “democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry” and therefore to lead the Polish Communists into supporting this fascist coup d’etat. This solitary example gives the measure of Valetsky’s Marxist perspicacity and revolutionary firmness. Needless to say, having “confessed his error,” he is today one of the pillars of Stalinism. How this old companion of Rosa Luxemburg—who was an internationalist to the marrow of her bones—teaches the Polish workers the’construction of socialism in one country, I do not know. But it is highly doubtful that people of this type can teach the Polish workers how to wrest power from the bourgeoisie.
Let us, however, return to the central apparatus of the International, which Valetsky has left since he became a deputy in the Sejm [parliament].
For a long time Kiara Zetkin has been a purely decorative figure on the presidium of the Executive Committee of the Communist International. This cruel characterization might not have been necessary if Zetkin did not serve as a pathetic cloak for the methods that not only compromise her but also bring the greatest injury to the cause of the international proletariat. Zetkin’s strength was always her temperament. She never had any independence of thought. For a long time Rosa Luxemburg was her political pivot. Afterwards she looked for a new pivot in Paul Levi, and to a certain extent in Brandler.
After the days of March 1921, Zetkin did not simply revolt against the “stupidities of Bela Kun,” but she defended essentially the “old, tested policy” of the continuous accumulation of forces. In a conversation that Lenin and I had with her, Lenin kept repeating to her, mildly but insistently: “The youth will commit many stupidities, but they will nevertheless make a good revolution.” Zetkin exclaimed excitedly: “They will not even make a bad one.” Lenin and I looked at each other and were unable to restrain our laughter.
Zetkin’s brief and vague half-sympathies for the Opposition of 1923 were aroused only because I was against making the Brandler group the Comintern’s scapegoat for the German catastrophe of 1923. During 1923, Zetkin showed all the traits of a good old Social Democrat: she understood neither the sharp change in the situation nor the necessity for a bold change in policy. In the main, Zetkin takes no part in deciding questions. But her traditional authority is necessary as a veil for the Manuilskys, the Peppers, and the Heinz Neumanns.
Among the men who in this last period have led the work of the International from the inner offices of the presidium of the Executive Committee, not the lowest rank is occupied by the representative of the Czechoslovak Communist Party, Smeral, who has today also become one of the inflexible knights of riseBolshevism. Smeral and inflexibility—that is like Tartuffe and sincerity, or Shylock and generosity. Smeral has passed through the solid Austrian school, and if he is to be distinguished from the Austro-Marxist type it is only by the fact that he has never risen even to that level. In the old Czech Social Democracy Smeral was in a semi-opposition, the nature of which was so much the more difficult to grasp since the “ideas” of Smeral always gave the impression of a spreading grease spot. One might say that Smeral countered the Czech social nationalism of Nemec and company with the idea of an Austro-Hungarian imperialist state, along the lines proposed by Renner, but without Renner’s knowledge and talent. The Czech republic was realized in the meantime—not as the result of the policy of Benes, Kramar, and Nemec, but as a by-product of the operations of Anglo-French imperialism. However that may be, an independent Czechoslovakia made its appearance and the Austro-Hungarian Smeral landed in a political blind alley. Which way to turn? There were not a few workers who, in the beginning, were intoxicated with the Czechoslovak state. There were still more workers whose hearts beat faster at the thought of the Russia of October. But there were none at all who grieved after the Austro-Hungarian Empire. That was when Smeral made his pilgrimage to Moscow. I remember outlining to Lenin my analysis of the psychological mechanism behind Smeral’s Bolshevism. Ilyich repeated with a thoughtful smile: “That’s likely ... you know, that’s very likely ... Types like that will come thronging to us now. We must keep our eyes open. We must test them at every step."
Smeral was profoundly convinced that renaming the Czech Socialist Party as the Communist Party exhausted the question.
At any rate, he did everything in his power to justify further the saying of Otto Bauer on the good Social Democratic parties in Europe: the Austrian Social Democracy and the Czech Communist Party. This year’s “Red Day” has shown tragically that five years of Zinovievist, Bukharinist, Stalinist, and Smeralist “Bolshevization” have given the [Czech] party, especially in the way of leadership, nothing—absolutely nothing. On the other hand, Smeral has taken root. The deeper the leadership of the International sank ideologically and politically, the higher Smeral rose. Such people constitute an excellent political barometer. Needless to say, for this patented “Bolshevik” we Oppositionists are inveterate opportunists. But the Czech workers should be told clearly that Smeral will never lead them to the conquest of power.
Another variety of the same species that has been developed in the Hotel Luxe during the last five years is Kolarov. His past is more serious because for a long time he belonged to the Tesnyaki (’Narrow") Bulgarian Party, which endeavored to remain on Marxist ground. But in spite of its apparent intransigence, this was a Marxism of wait-and-see propaganda, a passive and rather inert Marxism. In international questions the Tesnyaki inclined much more toward Plekhanov than toward Lenin. The ruin of Bulgaria in the imperialist war, then the October Revolution, pushed them toward Bolshevism. Kolarov settled in Moscow. In the first years that followed the revolution, we avidly grabbed every foreign Marxist, or rather everyone we supposed to be a revolutionary Marxist. Bearing this title, Kolarov was drawn into the apparatus of the International as a possible general secretary. But within a few months we unanimously abandoned these hopes. Lenin summed up his impression of Kolarov in terms that I do not want to write down here. In 1923, Kolarov further revealed his limitations in the Bulgarian events. The same result. While Lenin was still in the leadership it was decided to remove Kolarov from any leading role in the International. But after Lenin’s illness and death came the “revitalizing” struggle against Trotskyism. Kolarov immediately dipped himself in this baptismal font and came out reborn. He marched first with Zinoviev against Trotsky, then with Bukharin against Zinoviev; today he marches with Stalin against Bukharin. In a word, he is a watertight, fireproof, unsinkable Bolshevik of the Luxe.
Kuusinen is one of those who brought to ruin the Finnish revolution of 1918. Under the pressure of events and the masses, Kuusinen, in spite of his better judgment, found himself constrained to take a position for the revolution, but like the good philistine he was, he wanted to make the revolution according to the best vegetarian recipes. During the insurrection, with an eloquence all his own, he called upon the decent people to remain at home so that there would be no casualties. If, as in Hungary, events had thrown power at his feet, he would not have been quick to bend down and pick it up. But no one threw power to him. It had to be conquered. The situation was exceptionally favorable. All that was needed was revolutionary audacity and willingness to seize the initiative. In other words, those qualities were needed of which Kuusinen is the living negation. He showed himself literally incapable of taking the offensive against the Finnish bourgeoisie, who were then able to drown the heroic insurrection in blood. But to make up for it, Kuusinen developed considerable aggressiveness in relation to the left wing of the International, after he examined himself and discovered that, in the words of Shakespeare, he was no worse than those who were no better than he. Here, he risked nothing. He swam with the stream like those who commanded him. The petty logician became a great intriguer. Of the lies used by the epigones to poison the mind of the international working class in these last years, it can be said that the lion’s share belongs to Kuusinen. That may seem paradoxical. But it sometimes happens that the lion’s share falls to the hare. As was shown by his report on the colonial question at the Sixth Congress, Kuusinen has remained exactly what he was when he helped the Finnish bourgeoisie to slaughter the Finnish proletariat and later helped the Chinese bourgeoisie to smash the Chinese proletariat.
A very active role is now played in the International by such a person as Petrovsky-Bennet. It is individuals of this kind who make decisions today, since the official “leaders,” regardless of how competent they are, do not bother themselves, so to speak, with the problems of the International. In practice, it is the Petrovskys who direct, taking good care to cover themselves, that is, by getting an authorized endorsement for themselves whenever needed. But we will see that further on.
Petrovsky is a Bundist-Menshevik of the special American type, i.e., the worst kind. For a long time he was one of the pillars of the miserable and pitiful Jewish yellow Socialist journal in New York, which became enraptured with the German victories before it licked Wilson’s boots. Back in Russia in 1917, Petrovsky moved in the same Bundist-Menshevik circles. Like Guralsky, like Rafes, he rallied to Bolshevism only after the Bolsheviks had conquered power. He showed himself to be a diligent and adroit official in military work, but nothing more than an official. The late Frunze, an excellent soldier, but one who was not distinguished by any keen political judgment, told me more than once: “Petrovsky reeks of Bundism.” Not only in questions of military administration but also in political questions Petrovsky invariably aligned himself with his superiors. More than once I said in jest to my deceased friend Sklyansky that Petrovsky is trying too hard to support me. Sklyansky, who valued Petrovsky’s practical qualities and therefore defended him, replied to this complaint jokingly: “Nothing can be done about it; it’s his nature.” And, as a matter of fact, it is not a question of careerism in the narrow sense of the word, but of a self-sustaining instinct for adaptation, an urge for protective coloration, in short, organic opportunism.
Rafes, another variety of the same type, proved himself just as capable of being a minister of Petlyura as of being an adviser to the Chinese revolution. To what extent he contributed to the destruction of Petlyuraism by his support I will not try to judge. But that he did everything he could to bring the Chinese revolution to ruin is proved by every line of his reports and articles.
The native element of the Petrovskys, the Rafeses, and the Guralskys is behind-the-scenes bustle, matchmaking, and combinationism, diplomatic tricks around the Anglo-Russian Committee or the Kuomintang: in brief, floundering around the edges of the revolution. The flexibility, the adaptability of these people goes only so far; there is a fatal, built—in limit: they are organically incapable either of taking revolutionary initiative in action or of defending their views as a minority. And yet it is just those two qualities, which complement each other, that make a real revolutionary. Without the ability to stand obstinately in the minority, it is impossible to assemble a confident, firm, and courageous revolutionary majority. On the other hand, a revolutionary majority, even when once conquered, by no means becomes a permanent and irrevocable patrimony. The proletarian revolution marches over great heights and depths. There are dips in the road, tunnels, and steep declivities. And there will be an ample supply of these heights and depths for decades to come. That is why the continual selection of revolutionaries, tempering them not only in the struggle of the masses against the enemy but also in the ideological struggle within the party, testing them in the great events and at abrupt turning points, is of decisive importance for the party. Goethe has said that once you acquire a thing, you must win it again and again in order to possess it in reality.
During the first party purge, Lenin recommended that 99 percent of the former Mensheviks be thrown out. He had in mind Menshevism not so much as a conciliatory political line but rather as a psychological type—the adaptationism that constantly seeks protective coloration and is therefore ready to change its colors to Bolshevik red—so as not to have to swim against the stream. Lenin recommended that the party be pitilessly purged of those who adapt themselves. But after his death these elements began to play a great role in the party and a decisive role in the International. Guralsky crowned and uncrowned the leaders of the French, the German, and other parties; Petrovsky and Pepper directed the Anglo-Saxon world; Rafes taught the Chinese people revolutionary strategy; Borodin became state councilor to the national revolution. All are variations of one and the same basic type: parasites of the revolution.
Needless to say, Stalin’s present “left course” has in no sense disquieted this public. On the contrary, all the Petrovskys joyously enter into this left course today, and the Rafeses fight against the right danger. In this left-centrist campaign, which is three-fourths inflated and purely formal, the adapters feel themselves like fish in the sea, demonstrating cheaply—to themselves and to others—what remarkable revolutionaries they are. At the same time, they remain, more than ever before, true to themselves. If anything can kill the International, it is this course, this regime, this spirit, incarnate in the Petrovskys.
One of the chief inspirers and educators of the International after Lenin has undoubtedly been Martynov—a wholly symbolic figure in the history of the revolutionary movement. The most consistent, and consequently the most dull-witted, theoretician of Menshevism, Martynov remained patiently sheltered from the revolution and the civil war in a comfortable refuge, as a traveler shelters himself from bad weather. He ventured forth into the light of day only in the sixth year after October. In 1923, Martynov suddenly surfaced by publishing an article in the Moscow review Krasnaya Nov. At a session of the Political Bureau, in the spring of 1923, I said in passing, half in jest, half in earnest, but at any rate as a bearer of ill tidings: “Watch out that Martynov doesn’t worm his way into the party.” Lenin, his two hands around his mouth like a trumpet, “whispered” to me so that he was heard throughout the room: “Everyone knows very well that he is a blockhead.” I had no reason to contest this brief characterization, made in a tone of absolute conviction. I merely observed that it is obviously impossible to build a large party out of intelligent people only and that Martynov might get in accidentally under some other category. But the joke took a serious turn. Martynov not only wormed his way into the party, but he became one of the chief sources of “inspiration” in the Comintern. He has been brought closer and has been elevated—or rather, they have come closer to him and they have stooped to him—solely because of his struggle against “Trotskyism.” For this he did not need reeducation. He simply continued to fight “permanent revolution” just as he had done for the previous twenty years. Formerly, he spoke of my underestimation of bourgeois liberalism and bourgeois democracy. He has not changed the cliché: he has only inserted the peasantry.
In the Menshevik journals of the period of the reaction, there were plenty of articles by Martynov designed to prove that “Trotskyism triumphed for the moment in October, November, and December 1905” (literally) when the uncontrolled elements ran riot and extinguished all the torches of Menshevik reason. The highest upsurge of the revolution—October, November, and December 1905—was designated by Martynov as its “Trotskyist” decline. For him the true upturn began only with the Imperial Duma, with the bloc with the Cadets, and so forth, that is, with the beginning of the counterrevolution.
Having weathered in his refuge an infinitely more terrible replay of the “elements running riot”—that is, the October Revolution, the civil war, revolution in Germany and AustroHungary, the Soviet upheaval in Hungary, the events in Italy, and so forth, and so on—Martynov came to the conclusion in 1923 that the time had come to relight the torch of reason in the Russian Communist Party. He began where he had left off in the period of Stolypinist reaction. In Krasnaya Nov, he wrote:
“In 1905 L. Trotsky reasoned much more logically and consistently than either the Bolsheviks or the Mensheviks. But the flaw in his argument was that Trotsky was ‘too consistent.’ The picture he painted was a very precise anticipation of the Bolshevik dictatorship of the first three years of the October Revolution, which, as is well known, ended by landing in a blind alley, after having detached the proletariat from the peasantry, with the result that the Bolshevik Party was obliged to beat a great retreat” (Krasnaya Nov, no. 2, 1923, p. 262; my emphasis).
Here Martynov tells, with total frankness, what it was that reconciled him to October: the great retreat of the NEP, which was, incidentally, rendered necessary by the retardation of the world revolution. Profoundly convinced that the first three years of the October Revolution were nothing but the expression of the “historic error of Trotskyism,” Martynov entered the party and, without waiting for a moment, assumed the role of the heavy artillery in the struggle against the Opposition. This fact alone illustrates more eloquently than many theoretical arguments the profound evolution that has taken place in the upper circles of the party leadership in these last years.
Comrade B. Livshits, in his unpublished work “Lenin on the Dictatorship of the Proletariat and the Peasantry” (at the present moment, serious and conscientious works generally remain in the form of manuscripts; on ticklish questions only the shabby products of the apparatus are printed), gives an instructive political characterization of Martynov in a short note: “It seems to me,” he says, “that the political biography of this man invites special attention. Very much so. He came to the Narodniks after their degeneration had begun, when epigones set the tone (toward the middle of the ‘SOs). He came to Marxism and the Social Democracy only to preside over the backsliding of a section of the Social Democrats, from the platform of the Emancipation of Labor group and Lenin’s Petersburg Union of Struggle to the platform of opportunist Economism. Then this old opponent of Iskra came over to Iskra (when it was actually becoming the proMenshevik “new” Iskra), at the moment when the remaining editors were backsliding from their old political positions. While seeming to play only secondary roles in this group (outside the editorial board of Iskra), he actually provided in his ‘Two Dictatorships,’ the platform for the opportunist-conciliatory tactics of the Mensheviks in the 1905 revolution. Subsequently this Menshevik of yesterday, this most venomous anti-Bolshevik, came over to the Bolsheviks, but here again it was just at the moment (1923) when their leaders were turning into epigones and were already backsliding from Bolshevik positions. Remaining here also in secondary roles (outside of the Political Bureau and the presidium of the International), he actually provided ‘theoretical’ inspiration for the struggle against the Bolshevik faction of the party; his articles and speeches constituted a platform for the opportunist and conciliationist tactics of the Stalinists in the Chinese revolution .... Truly, a kind of fatality seems to accompany this individual."
The “fatality” of this figure coexists excellently with its involuntarily comic side. Slow and heavy of wit, created by nature for the baggage train of the revolution, Martynov is aglow with a noble passion: to make theoretical connections [to put two and two together theoretically]. Since he enters only into declining ideological currents or into declining branches of healthy currents, he manages, in his efforts to combine extremes, to bring every error to the height of absurdity. Having authored “Two Dictatorships” for 1905, he produced, in 1926-27, the formula “a bloc of four classes,” thereby giving theoretical expression to the fact that the Chinese bourgeoisie, with the help of the International, had seated itself firmly astride three other classes: the workers, the peasants, and the urban petty bourgeoisie. In March 1927, Martynov raised the slogan of a “transfusion of workers’ blood into the Kuomintang”—just at the moment when Chiang Kai-shek got down to the business of shedding the workers’ blood. When the “Anglo-Russian” and “Chinese” discussions opened up in the party, Martynov relived his youth by serving up the old Menshevism, without modifications or additions, in its most intact and most stupid form. While others made haste to hunt up and invent a theory to justify the political backsliding, Martynov brought one out of his pocket, thought out long ago, all finished, only slightly forgotten. That gave him a manifest advantage.
Now this “fatal” figure is one of the chief inspirers of the Communist International. Supposedly he is teaching revolutionaries how to orient themselves in various situations, to foresee the further course of revolutionary developments, to select cadres in advance, to recognize a revolutionary situation at the proper time, and to mobilize the masses for the overthrow of the bourgeoisie. A more malicious caricature cannot be imagined.
There is a man who now works in the propaganda department of the International—and functions virtually as its director—a certain Lentsner. However insignificant a figure he may be, it is well to say a few words about him, as a by no means accidental part of the whole. For a certain time, Lentsner worked as an editor of my Works. I first became acquainted with him in this connection. He was a product of the Institute of “Red Professors.” He had no revolutionary past. This by itself could not be held against him: he was young. He entered politics after the revolution was made. The worst of it was that the chaotic havoc wrought in every field made it possible for him to make his way as a “Red Professor” with a minimum of theoretical resources. In other words, the revolution for him signified above all a career. His ignorance particularly astonished me. In the annotations that he wrote, not only the thought but also the etymology and the syntax of the honorable “Professor” had to be revised. Above all, attention had to be paid to his excessive zeal: Lentsner resembled less a cothinker than a sycophant. In this period (1923) many impatient careerists and aspirants who had not yet found a place for themselves in the apparatus were still trying their luck here and there. Indulgence had to be shown for Lentsner’s superficial knowledge, however, because the more capable workers were overwhelmed with work: at that time the Oppositionists had not yet been removed from their posts.
Lentsner prepared the material for The Lessons of October for me, verified texts, collected quotations under my direction, etc. When the anti-Trotskyist campaign, a long time in preparation, was launched and was formally connected with The Lessons of October, Lentsner began darting his eyes in every direction and within twenty-four hours he switched his position. To secure himself more safely, he used the material he had prepared in a diametrically contrary sense, that is to say, against “Trotskyism.” He wrote a pamphlet, it goes without saying, on permanent revolution; this pamphlet was already on the press but at the very last moment the type was destroyed by the order of the Political Bureau: it was decided that it would really be too embarrassing to make arrangements with this personage. Nevertheless Zinoviev took him under his wing and wheedled him into the International. By the side of the Kuusinens and the Martynovs, Lentsner became one of the leaders of the daily work of the International. This Red Professor writes leading articles in the official review of the International. The few lines that I have read sufficed to convince me that Lentsner does not know to this day how to write two consecutive words correctly. But apparently there is no one among the editors of The Communist International to look after not only the Marxism, but even the grammar of the writers. These Lentsners are characteristic of the apparatus of the International.
Lozovsky occupies a leading place in the Red International of Labor Unions and an influential one in the Communist International. If, in the beginning, under the old leadership of the party, his role was purely technical—and even in this capacity was held in serious doubt and regarded as temporary—it is no less true that in this last period Lozovsky has reached the very front ranks.
Lozovsky cannot be denied certain aptitudes, a quickness of wit and a certain flair. But all these faculties have an extremely fleeting and superficial character in his case. He began, I believe, as a Bolshevik but withdrew from the Bolsheviks for many years and became a conciliator. An internationalist during the war, he worked with me in Paris on Nashe Slouo[Our Word], where he always represented the extreme right-wing tendency. In the internal questions of the French labor movement, as in the questions of the International and of the Russian revolution, he inclined invariably to the right-toward pacifist centrism. In 1917, he was the only one of the Nashe Slovo group that did not join the Bolsheviks. He was a fierce enemy of the October Revolution. He remained an enemy until 1920, I believe, mobilizing a part of the railway workers and trade unionists in general against the party. He did rally to the October Revolution earlier than Martynov; but at any rate, it was not only after the revolution had been made but also after it had been defended against the most menacing dangers. His knowledge of languages and of life in the Western countries carried him, in those years when the assignment of personnel was still very chaotic, to the Red International of Labor Unions. In the Political Bureau, when we found ourselves faced with this fact, we all—Lenin first of all—shook our heads; we consoled ourselves by saying that he would have to be replaced at the first opportunity. But the situation changed. Lenin fell ill and died. The changing of landmarks began, carefully prepared behind the scenes by the apparatus. Lozovsky floated to the surface. He found himself right in his element. Had he not polemicized against me during the war in defense of Longuetism and petty-bourgeois democracy in Russia? Had he not polemicized against the October Revolution, the Red terror, the civil war? After a brief pause, he resumed the struggle against “Trotskyism.” That assured his position in the Red International of Labor Unions and immediately created one for him in the Communist International. At the height of the Martynovist course, Lozovsky even stood on the left wing to a certain extent. But that is dangerous neither for Lozovsky nor for the International; for, despite all his apparent rashness, Lozovsky is perfectly aware of the limits beyond which leftism ceases to be encouraged. As frequently happens, an impulsive spirit mingles in Lozovsky with a conservatism in ideas. In a stirring article he can call upon the workers of South Africa or the natives of the Philippine Islands to overthrow their bourgeoisie, and forget his own counsel an hour later. But in every serious instance where he is responsible for decisions that must be made, Lozovsky invariably makes for the right. He is not a man of revolutionary action; he is an organic pacifist. The future will demonstrate this more than once.
The question of the leadership of the young parties of the East, which have colossal tasks before them, forms the darkest page of the International after the death of Lenin.
It is enough to say that there a leading role is given to Raskolnihov. Contrary to those whom I have named before, he is incontestably a fighting revolutionary, a Bolshevik with something of a revolutionary past. But only the frightful devastation of the leading ranks could bring things to the point where Raskolnikov turns up as a leader of—Russian literature and the Asiatic revolutions. He is just as ill-suited for the one as for the other. His deeds were always better than his speeches and articles. He expresses himself before thinking. It is certainly not bad to have him on your side in a civil war. But it is bad to have him on your side in an ideological conflict. When he returned from Afghanistan in 1923, Raskolnikov was bursting with eagerness for battle on the side of the Opposition. I had to hold him back very insistently, for fear that he would do more harm than good. For this reason or for another, he became an active fighter a few days later—in the other camp. I do not know if he studied the East very much during his sojourn in Afghanistan. But he did write lengthy memoirs of the first years of the revolution, in which he thought it necessary to devote not a little space to the author of these lines. In 1924, he revised his memoirs—which had already been published—and where he had put a plus sign before he now put a minus sign, and vice versa. This revision has such a primitive and puerile character that it cannot be taken seriously even as a falsification. At bottom, his is an essentially primitive manner of thought. Raskolnikov’s activity in the domain of proletarian literature will constitute one of the most amusing anecdotes in the history of the revolution. But that subject does not interest us here. Raskolnikov’s work as the director of the Eastern department of the International has a much more tragic character. It is enough to read Raskolnikov’s foreword to the report of T’an P’ing-shan to be convinced once more of the facility with which certain persons relapse into political ignorance when conditions are favorable. To T’an P’ingshan’s Menshevik report Raskolnikov wrote a eulogistic Menshevik foreword. It must of course be added that the report of T’an P’ing-shan was approved by the seventh plenum of the Executive Committee of the International [November 1926]. Just think of what pains and resources are wasted to lead people off the right road. Raskolnikov is not so much the responsible inspirer as he is the victim of this whole mechanism. But his unfortunate role as leader becomes, in turn, a source of the greatest mishaps and victims.
The Indian movement is represented in the International by Roy. It is doubtful if greater harm could be done to the Indian proletariat than was done by Zinoviev, Stalin, and Bukharin through the medium of Roy. In India, as in China, the work has been and is oriented almost totally toward bourgeois nationalism. In the whole period since Lenin, Roy has conducted propaganda in favor of a “people’s party” which, as he himself has said, should be “neither in name nor in essence” the party of the proletarian vanguard. This is an adaptation of Kuomintangism, of Stalinism, and of La Folletteism to the conditions of the national movement in India. Politically this means: through the medium of Roy, the leadership of the International is holding the stirrup for the future Indian Chiang Kai-sheks. As for Roy’s conceptions, they are a hodgepodge of Social Revolutionary ideas and liberalism flavored with the sauce of the struggle against imperialism. While the “Communists” organize “workers’ and peasants’ parties,” the Indian nationalists are seizing hold of the trade unions. In India the catastrophe is being prepared just as methodically as it was in China. Roy has taken the Chinese example as a model, and he appears at the Chinese congresses as a teacher. It is not necessary to say that this national democrat, poisoned by an adulterated “Marxism,” is an implacable foe of “Trotskyism,” just like his spiritual brother Tan P’ing-shan.
Things are no better in Japan. The Japanese Communist Party is invariably represented in the International by Katayama. As fast as the leadership of the International was drained, Katayama became one of its Bolshevik pillars. To tell the truth, Katayama is by nature a complete mistake. Unlike Klara Zetkin, he cannot even be called a decorative figure, for he is totally devoid of any adornment. His conceptions form a progressivism very lightly colored by Marxism. By his whole make-up, Katayama is incomparably closer to the ideological world of Sun Yat-sen than to that of Lenin. This does not prevent Katayama from expelling the Bolshevik-Leninists from the International, and in general from deciding the destinies of the proletarian revolution by his vote. In return for his services in the struggle against the Opposition, the International supports Katayama’s fictitious authority in Japan. The young Japanese Communists look upon him with deference and follow his teachings. Why? It is not for nothing that there is a Japanese proverb: “Even the head of a sardine can be worshipped; the main thing is to have faith."
In the meantime, endless attempts are being made in Japan to unite the various “workers’ and peasants’ parties” of the right, center, and left, which constitute, all of them to the same degree, an organized assault upon the political independence of the proletarian vanguard. The diplomatic notes and counter-notes, the unity conferences and counter-conferences, increase and multiply, absorbing and corrupting the very few Communists, diverting them from the real work of rallying and educating the worker-revolutionaries. The press of the International gives hardly any news of the real revolutionary work of the Japanese Communists, of the illegal work, the building of the organization, the party’s proclamations, etc. On the other hand, we learn almost every week of new steps by a new committee for the reorganization of the left workers’ and peasants’ party in the direction of a union with the left wing of the centrist workers’ and peasants’ party, which, in turn, approaches the left wing of the right party, and so on without end. What has Bolshevism to do with this? What can Marx and Lenin have in common with this obscene trafficking?
But we will have to return more basically to the burning questions of the East from another point of view.
As can be seen, the general spirit of the changes that have taken place in the leadership of the International appears in full light in the procession of its responsible figures. The International is led by the Martynovs, by the conformers of every description. The French have the political expression rallié, which means ‘one who has become reconciled.” The need for such a term was born of the frequency of political revolution. If the republicans had to become reconciled to the empire, the royalists and the Bonapartists, in their turn, had to get used to the republic. They did not do this right away, but only after convincing themselves of the stability of the republican regime. They are not the republicans who fought for the republic, but those who graciously accepted positions and stipends from it. They are the ones who are called rallies. But one must not think that this type is peculiar only to the bourgeois revolution. The basis of ralliément is not the revolution but its victory, and the state created by this victory.
It goes without saying that true fighters, especially in other countries, not only among the younger generation but in a certain measure also among the older generation, have rallied and are rallying to the October Revolution. But the present regime in the International does not permit them to rise to the level of independent leaders, not to speak of revolutionary chiefs. It removes, sweeps away, deforms, and tramples under foot all that is independent, ideologically firm, and inflexible. It needs conformists. And it finds them without much difficulty, groups them together, and arms them.
The rallies include people of many shadings, from politically dull but honest elements, devoid of perspicacity and initiative, to out-and-out careerists. But even the best of these rallies (as psychology suggests and experience proves) demonstrate toward new revolutions the same qualities that they showed before and even on the eve of October: lack of foresight, of creative initiative, and of real revolutionary courage. The Kolarovs, the Peppers, the Kuusinens, the s, the Martynovs, the Petrovskys, the Lozovskys, and the other heroes who overslept, missed, or destroyed one, two, three, and even more revolutions, are undoubtedly saying to themselves: “Let a new revolution come our way and this time we will prove ourselves.” It is like the unlucky hunter who swears after every miss that he will take better aim at the next bird. Remembering their faults and uneasy at the idea that they have not been forgotten, these postrevolutionary revolutionists are always ready, on a sign from above, to prove their fearlessness to the four corners of the earth. That is why missed revolutionary situations alternate with no less tragic revolutionary adventures.
The best that can be done with all the varieties of Martynovs, Kuusinens, and Peppers is to keep them a good long distance away from the institutions where the destinies of the revolution are decided.
One can object that all the figures I have enumerated above are only of the second order and that the “real” leadership is concentrated in the Political Bureau of the Russian Communist Party. But that is an illusion. Under Lenin, the immediate leadership of the affairs of the International was entrusted to Zinoviev, Radek, and Bukharin. In the solution of all questions of any great substance Lenin and the author of these lines took part. Needless to say, in all the fundamental questions of the International, the key was in the hands of Lenin. Not one of the present members of the Political Bureau, with the exception of Bukharin, took the slightest part in the leadership of the International, and naturally that was not by mere chance. The nature of this work presupposes not only a certain theoretical and political level, but also the direct knowledge of the internal life of the Western countries and the knowledge of languages, permitting one to follow the foreign press continually. In the present Political Bureau, no one possesses even these formal qualifications, with the exception of Bukharin, who, while Lenin lived, was only a candidate member of the Political Bureau.
Lenin’s Testament, at first glance, gives Bukharin a somewhat contradictory characterization. On the one hand, he is spoken of as “a most valuable and major theorist of the party"; on the other hand it is pointed out that “his theoretical views can be classified as fully Marxist only with great reserve, for there is something scholastic about him (he has never fully understood dialectics)” [Collected Works, vol. 36, p. 595]. How can a nondialectician and a scholastic be a theoretician of a Marxist party? I will not dwell upon the fact that the Testament, written for the party with a definite aim, is permeated with the desire to “balance off”—to a certain extent—the comments on the leading figures of the party: Lenin carefully withholds any too marked praise just as he softens too harsh a judgment. Still, this has reference only to the form of the Testament and not to its essence, and it does not explain how the Marxist works of a writer who has not mastered dialectics can be “valuable.” Nevertheless, the characterization given by Lenin, despite its seeming contradiction meant to sweeten the pill a little, is not contradictory in essence and is entirely correct.
Dialectics does not do away with formal logic, just as synthesis does not do away with analysis, but is, on the contrary, supported by it. Bukharin’s mode of thought is formally logical and abstractly analytical through and through. His best pages are in the domain of formally logical analysis. Wherever Bukharin’s thought moves along the furrows already dug by the dialectical blade of Marx and Lenin, it can give valuable partial results, even if they are almost always accompanied by an aftertaste of scholasticism. But where Bukharin penetrates independently into a new sphere, where he is obliged to combine elements borrowed from different fields—economics and politics, sociology and ideology, or in general, the base and the superstructure—he manifests a completely irresponsible and untenable arbitrariness, pulling generalizations out of the clouds and juggling the ideas as if they were balls. If you took the pains to assemble and classify chronologically all the “theories” that Bukharin has served up to the International since 1919, and especially since 1923, you would end up with a scene from some Walpurgis Night, with the wan shades of Marxism being whipped about wildly by the icy winds of scholasticism.
The Sixth Congress of the International brought the contradictions of the apparatus regime to its ultimate expression, and therefore to the point of absurdity. Outwardly, the leadership seemed to belong to Bukharin: he made the report; indicated the strategical line; presented the program and saw it adopted—no trifle, that—and, lastly, opened and closed the congress with general summaries. His domination seemed complete. And in the meantime everyone knows that the real influence of Bukharin upon the congress was next to nothing. The interminable babblings of Bukharin were like bubbles thrown up by a drowning man. In the meantime, without regard to the spirit of the reports—nay, even counter to this spirit—a regrouping went on among the delegates and their factional organization was consolidated. This monstrous duplicity disclosed what a secondary, subordinate, and even decorative role is played after all by “ideology” under the bureaucratic regime of the apparatus.
But now that there is no longer any reason to speak of the leadership of Bukharin, inasmuch as the main point of the Sixth Congress was to liquidate him, there remains Stalin. But here we fall from one paradox into another: for the man who is called today, with some justice, the leader of the International, did not even show up at the congress, and in his most recent speeches disposed of the questions of the program and the strategy of the International with a few meaningless phrases. And that again is no accident.
There is no need at all to dwell upon the grossly empirical character of Stalin’s policy. With more or less belatedness, it is only the passive reflection of subterranean class impulses. The strength of apparatus centrism for a certain period and under certain conditions lies in an empirical adaptation. But that is precisely its Achilles’ heel.
Those who do not know him find it difficult to imagine the primitive level of Stalin’s scientific knowledge and theoretical resources. When Lenin was alive, it never occurred to any of us to draw Stalin into discussions of theoretical problems or strategic questions of the International. The most he ever had to do was to vote sometimes on this or that question whenever the differences of opinion among the Russian leaders of the International necessitated a formal vote in the Political Bureau. In any case, up to 1924 it is impossible to find a single article, a single speech of Stalin dedicated to international problems. But this “special feature”—the fact that he was not bound personally by any ideological obligation or tradition to the fundamental theoretical and international questions—rendered him only all the more fit to lead the policy of retreat when the classes crushed by the October Revolution began to rise again in our country and to exert pressure upon the party. Stalin became necessary when the October film began to run backwards. “Every social epoch,” said Marx, invoking the words of Helvetius, “demands its great men; when they do not exist, it invents them” (Class Struggles in France). Well, Stalin is the great man “invented” by the period of the reaction against October.
It is known that Marxism does not at all “deny” the personal factor in history; on the contrary, better than any other doctrine, it is capable of elucidating the historical function of an outstanding personality. But the fetishism of the personal factor is entirely alien to Marxism. The role of a personality is always explained by the objective conditions contained in class relationships. There have been historical periods in which, according to the expression of an intelligent enemy, Ustryalov, “to save the country,” an outstanding mediocrity and nothing more proved necessary. In his Eighteenth Brumaire, Marx showed, according to his own words, “how the class struggle created the circumstances and the conditions that permitted a mediocre and vulgar personage to play the role of a hero.” Marx had in mind Napoleon III. The social subsoil of this Bonaparte’s power was the dispersed mass of small peasant proprietors, in a situation where the bourgeoisie and the proletariat neutralized one another’s influence. Essential elements of such a situation exist among us also. It is entirely a question of the mutual relationship of forces and the trends of development. We are still fighting to influence those trends. But in the meanwhile it is incontestable that the further the Stalinist regime goes, the more it appears as a dress rehearsal for Bonapartism.
Small-mindedness and contempt for questions of principle have always accompanied Stalin. In 1925, the Tiflis party paper, Zarya Vostoka [Dawn of the East], did him a bad turn by publishing his letter of January 24, 1911. In this letter Stalin calls Lenin’s bloc with Plekhanov for the struggle against the liquidators and the conciliators a “foreign tempest in a teapot”—neither more nor less-and then continues:
“In general, the workers are beginning to look upon the groups in emigration with disdain; let them get into a rage to their hearts’ content; we, however, think that whoever really has the interests of the movement at heart, works—the rest will take care of itself. My opinion is that the result will be best.” [This letter is not in Stalin’s Works. It was intercepted by the tsarist police and published along with other police files on Stalin in Zarya Vostoka on December 23, 1925. Stalin had first used the term “tempest in a teapot” to describe Lenin’s philosophical polemics with Bogdanov in a June 1908 letter.]
Thus, in 1911, Stalin disdainfully left it to Lenin to “get into a rage” in his struggle against liquidationism. As for the group that Lenin formed ideologically, Stalin called it contemptuously “a foreign tempest in a teapot.” What disgusting hypocrisy is Stalin’s retrospective intransigence today concerning the old ideological disputes.
But it is not only a matter of 1911. In the spring of 1917, the semidefender of the Fatherland, Stalin, was in agreement in principle that the party should unite with the defender of the Fatherland, Tseretelli. In the minutes, concealed up to now, of the party conference in April 1917, we read:
“Order of Business: Tseretelli’s proposal for unification.
“Stalin: We ought to go. It is necessary to define our proposals as to the terms of unification. Unification is possible along the lines of Zimmerwald-Kienthal."
To the fears expressed by certain delegates to the conference, Stalin replied:
“There is no use running ahead and anticipating disagreements. There is no party life without disagreements. We will live down trivial disagreements within the party."
The differences with Tseretelli appeared to Stalin as “trivial disagreements,” just as six years earlier Lenin’s theoretical struggle against liquidationism seemed to him “a tempest in a teapot.” In this cynical contempt for political principles and in this conciliatory empiricism lies the whole basis of the future alliances with Chiang Kai-shek, of the collaboration with Purcell, of the theory of socialism in one country, of the two-class workers’ and peasants’ parties, of the unity with the Martynovs, the Peppers, and the Petrovskys for the struggle against the Bolshevik-Leninists.
Let us quote another letter of Stalin, written on August 7, 1923, on the situation in Germany: “Should the Communists at the present stage try to seize power without the Social Democrats? Are they sufficiently ripe for that? That, in my opinion, is the question. When we seized power, we had in Russia such resources in reserve as (a) the promise of peace; (b) the slogan: land to the peasants; (c) the support of the great majority of the working class; and (d) the sympathy of the peasantry. At the moment the German Communists have nothing of the kind. They have of course a Soviet country as a neighbor, which we did not have; but what can we offer them? ... If the government in Germany were to topple over now, in a manner of speaking, and the Communists were to seize hold of it, they would end up in a crash. That, in the ‘best’ case. While at worst, they would be smashed to smithereens and thrown way back. The whole point is not that Brandler wants to ‘educate the masses’ but that the bourgeoisie plus the right-wing Social Democrats [are] bound to turn such lessonsthe demonstration—into a general battle (at present all the odds are on their side) and exterminate them [the German Communists]. Of course, the Fascists are not asleep; but it is to our advantage to let them attack first: that will rally the entire working class around the Communists (Germany is not Bulgaria). Besides, all our information indicates that in Germany fascism is weak. In my opinion the Germans should be restrained and not spurred on.” [This letter is not in Stalin’s Works; the translation is from Trotsky’s Stalin, vol. 2, p. 182.]
To this amazing document, which we must refrain from analyzing here, it must simply be added that in the spring of 1917, before the arrival of Lenin in Russia, Stalin did not pose the question of the conquest of power in any more revolutionary a manner than he did in 1923 with regard to Germany. Is it not evident that Stalin is therefore the most qualified person to brandish the thunderbolts over Brandler and the right wing in general?
As to Stalin’s theoretical level, finally, it is enough to recall that, in seeking to explain why Marx and Engels rejected the reactionary idea of socialism in one country, he declared that in the epoch of Marx and Engels “there could be no question of the law of uneven development in the capitalist countries.” There could be no question of it! That is what was written on September 15, 1925!
What would be said of a mathematician who came to maintain that Lagrange, Hauss, or Lobachevsky could not yet know of logarithms? With Stalin this is no isolated case. If the chopped-up eclecticism of his speeches and his articles is examined, one will perceive that they consist almost entirely of such pearls and diamonds of almost virginal ignorance.
In his attacks, first against “Trotskyism,” then against Zinoviev and Kamenev, Stalin always struck at the same target: the old revolutionary emigres. The emigres are people without roots who think only of the world revolution. . . . But today new leaders are necessary, who are capable of realizing socialism in one country. The struggle against the emigres, which is in a sense the continuation of Stalin’s 1911 letter against Lenin, is an integral part of the Stalinist ideology of national socialism. Only a complete ignorance of history allows Stalin to have open recourse to this manifestly reactionary argument. After every revolution, the reaction began with the struggle against the emigres and foreigners. Were the October Revolution to recede to another stage on the Ustryalovist road, the next, the third set of leaders would certainly set themselves to hunting down the professional revolutionaries in general: for while these cut themselves off from life, going underground, those others, the new “leaders,” were always rooted in the soil!
In truth, never did the provincial-national narrow-mindedness of Stalin appear so brutally as in this scheme to make the old revolutionary emigres into bogeymen. For Stalin, emigration signifies the abandonment of the struggle and of political life. It is organically inconceivable to him that a Russian Marxist, having lived in France or the United States, should have engaged in the struggle of the French or the American working class, not to speak of the fact that most of the time, the Russian emigres performed important functions in the service of the Russian revolution.
It is curious that Stalin does not observe that his “well-rooted” blows against the old “uprooted” emigres strike first of all at the Executive Committee of the International, which is composed of foreign emigres in the Soviet Union where they are invested with the leadership of the international labor movement. But it is upon himself, as “leader” of the International, that Stalin is striking the most painful blows: for it is impossible to imagine a more consummate “emigre”—that is to say, a more isolated one—than he is toward all the foreign countries. Without any knowledge of the history and the internal life of the foreign countries, without personal knowledge of their labor movements, without even the possibility of following the foreign press, Stalin is today called upon to hammer out and to settle the questions of the world revolution. In other words, Stalin is the most perfect incarnation of the caricatured type of emigré pictured in his imagination. That also explains why the incursions of Stalin into the field of international questions, beginning with the autumn of 1924 (the day and the date can be established without difficulty), have always this episodic, broken, accidental character, without being any the less injurious for that.
It is not by chance that Stalin’s thoroughly cynical empiricism and Bukharin’s passion for playing with generalizations have marched side by side for a relatively long period. Stalin acted under the influence of direct social impulses; Bukharin, with his little finger, set heaven and hell into motion in order to justify the new zigzag. Stalin regarded Bukharin’s generalizations as an unavoidable evil. In his heart, he believed as before that there was no reason to get excited over theoretical “tempests in a teapot.” But ideas in a certain sense live their own life. Interests become fastened to ideas. Basing themselves upon interests, ideas weld people together. Thus, while serving Stalin, Bukharin nourished the right group theoretically, while Stalin remained the practical organizer of the centrist zigzags. Therein lies the reason for their parting of the ways. At the Sixth Congress, this split became all the more scandalously obvious, the more they tried to disguise it.
Stalin’s real, but not purely formal, interest in the International is determined by the anxiety to get the necessary support from the leading cadres for the next zigzag in domestic policy. In other words, what is demanded from the International is apparatus obedience.
At the Sixth Congress, Bukharin read from a letter of Lenin to Zinoviev and himself in which he warns them that if the sensible but not necessarily obedient people in the International are driven out and replaced by obedient idiots, they will certainly destroy it. Bukharin risked bringing forward these lines only because they were necessary to defend himself against Stalin. In actuality, Lenin’s warning, which rings so tragically today, embraces the regimes of Zinoviev and of Bukharin, as well as of Stalin. This part of Lenin’s legacy has also been trampled under foot. At the present moment, not only in the Russian Communist Party but in all the foreign Communist parties without exception, all the elements that built up the International and led it in the period of the first four congresses have been removed from leadership and cut off from the party. This general change of the leading cadres is of course not accidental. The line of Stalin requires Stalinists and not Leninists.
That is why the Peppers, the Kuusinens, the Martynovs, the Petrovskys, the Rafeses, the Manuilskys, and their sort are so useful and irreplaceable. Adaptation is their native element. In seeking to obtain the obedience of the International, they realize their highest destiny. For many of these parasites, the maximum of bureaucracy has become the preliminary condition for their maximum personal “freedom.” They are ready to make any kind of right-about-face, on the condition that they have the apparatus behind them. At the same time they feel themselves to be the direct heirs of the October Revolution and its harbingers throughout the world. What more do they need? Verily, they are building an International in their own image.
This “work,” however, contains a fatal deficiency: it does not take into account the resistance of the material, that is to say, the living masses of the workers. In the capitalist countries, the resistance appears much sooner, for there the Communists have no apparatus of coercion. Despite all their sympathy for the October Revolution, the working masses are by no means disposed to put confidence in every cudgel appointed as a leader or to worship the “head of a sardine.” The masses cannot and do not want to understand such apparatus machinations. They learn from great events. But now they see nothing but mistakes, confusion, and defeats. The worker-Communists feel the atmosphere growing cold around them. Their uneasiness is transformed into ideological ferment, which becomes the basis for factional groupings.
It is clear: the International has entered a period in which it must pay heavily for the sins of the last six years, in the course of which ideas were treated like worthless bank notes, revolutionaries like functionaries, and the masses like an obedient chorus. The gravest crises are still to come. The ideological needs of the proletarian vanguard are breaking through, bursting the barrelhoops of the apparatus. The false monolithism is crumbling to dust in the International more rapidly than in the Russian Communist Party, where the holding devices of the party apparatus have already been entirely replaced by economic and governmental repression.
It is not necessary to point out the danger represented by factional splitting. But up to now no one has succeeded in overcoming factionalism by lamentations. The conciliationism about which they complain so much in all the resolutions is still less capable of weakening factionalism. It is itself a product of the factional struggle and, at the same time, the partly processed material for new struggles. Conciliationism is unavoidably called upon to differentiate itself and to be reabsorbed. Every palliation or concealment of differences of opinion would only increase the chaos and give the factional formations a more durable and painful character. The growing turmoil of factionalism can be overcome only by means of a clear line of principle. From this standpoint, the present period of avowed ideological struggle is a profoundly progressive reality. One should remember, however, to compare it not with the abstract ideal of “unity” but with the bitter reality of these last years.
Three basic lines have come to light on an international scale. The line of the right, which is a hopeless attempt to resuscitate, under new conditions, the prewar Social Democracy, in the best case of the type of Bebel (Brandler and others). The line of the left, which is the continuation and the further development of Bolshevism and the October Revolution. That is our line. Finally, the line of the center (Stalin and his partisans), which wavers between the two principal lines, shrinking back from one at one moment and from the other at the next, devoid of any principled content of its own and always, in the last analysis, serving as a screen for the right wing.
Personal regroupings will take place, even in the higher circles. As for the bulk of the Communist masses, inside and outside of the party, the process in which they will define their position still lies entirely ahead. The problem is, therefore, to win the masses. This struggle must be endowed with the greatest intransigence. The masses will never be won by hints or by half-words. The dialectic of development is such that the International can be saved from the peril of factional collapse only by a bold, firm, and intransigent grouping together of the international faction of the Bolshevik-Leninists.
Last updated on: 22.9.2007