Leon Trotsky

The Third International
After Lenin

III. Summary and Perspectives
of the Chinese Revolution:
Its Lessons for the Countries of the Orient
and for the Whole of the Comintern

(Part 3)

6. The Question of the Character of the Coming Chinese Revolution

7. On the Reactionary Idea of “Two-Class Workers’ And Peasants’ Parties” for the Orient

8. The Advantages Secured From the Peasants’ International Must Be Probed


6. The Question of the Character
of the Coming Chinese Revolution

The slogan of the dictatorship of the proletariat, which leads behind it the peasant poor, is inseparably bound up with the question of the socialist character of the coming, third revolution in China. And inasmuch as not only history repeats itself but also the mistakes which people counterpose to its requirements, we can already hear the objection that China has not yet matured for a socialist revolution. But this is an abstract and lifeless formulation of the question. For has Russia, taken by itself, matured for socialism? According to Lenin – NO! It has matured for the dictatorship of the proletariat as the only method for solving unpostponable national tasks. But the destiny of the dictatorship as a whole is determined in the last analysis by the trend of world development, which, of course, does not exclude but rather presupposes a correct policy on the part of the proletarian dictatorship, the consolidation and development of the workers’ and peasants’ alliance, an all-sided adaptation to national conditions on the one hand, and to the trend of world development on the other. This fully holds true for China as well.

In the same article entitled On Our Revolution (January 16, 1923), in which Lenin establishes that the peculiarity of Russia proceeds along the lines of the peculiar development of the Eastern countries, he brands as “infinitely hackneyed” the argument of European social democracy to the effect “that we have not matured for socialism, that we lack, as some of these ‘erudite’ gentlemen say, the objective economic prerequisites for Socialism.” But Lenin ridicules the “erudite” gentlemen not because he himself recognized the existence of the economic prerequisites for Socialism in Russia but because he holds that the rejection of the seizure of power does not at all follow, as pedants and philistines think, from the absence of these prerequisites necessary for an independent construction of socialism. In this article of his, Lenin for the hundred and first time, or, rather, for the thousand and first time replies to the sophisms of the heroes of the Second International: “This incontrovertible considerations [the immaturity of Russia for Socialism] ... is not decisive for the evaluation of our revolution.” [8] That is what the authors of the draft program refuse and are unable to understand. In itself the thesis of the economic and cultural immaturity of China as well as Russia’China, of course, more so than Russia’is incontrovertible. But hence it does not at all follow that the proletariat has to renounce the conquest of power, when this conquest is dictated by the entire historical context and the revolutionary situation in the country.

The concrete, historical, political, and actual question is reducible not to whether China has economically matured for “its own” socialism, but whether China has ripened politically for the proletarian dictatorship. These two questions are not at all identical. They might be regarded as identical were it not for the law of uneven development. This is where this law is in place and fully applies to the interrelationship between economics and politics. Then China has matured for the dictatorship of the proletariat? Only the experience of the struggle can provide a categorical answer to this question. By the same token, only the struggle can settle the question as to when and under what conditions the real unification, emancipation, and regeneration of China will take place. anyone who sags that China has not matured for the dictatorship of the proletariat declares thereby that the third Chinese revolution is postponed for many years to come.

Of course, matters would be quite hopeless if feudal survivals did really dominate in Chinese economic life, as the resolutions of the ECCI asserted. But fortunately, survivals in general cannot dominate. The draft program on this point, too, does not rectify the errors committed, but reaffirms them in a roundabout and nebulous fashion. The draft speaks of the “predominance of medieval feudal relations both in the economics of the country and in the political superstructure ...” This is false to the core. What does predominance mean? Is it a question of the number of people involved? Or the dominant and leading role in the economics of the country? The extraordinarily rapid growth of home industry on the basis of the all-embracing role of mercantile and bank capital; the complete dependence of the most important agrarian districts on the market; the enormous and ever-growing role of foreign trade; the all-sided subordination of the Chinese village to the city – all these bespeak the unconditional predominance, the direct domination of capitalist relations in China. The social relations of serfdom and semi-serfdom are undeniably very strong. They stem in part from the days of feudalism; and in part they constitute a new formation, that is, the regeneration of the past on the basis of the retarded development of the productive forces, the surplus agrarian population, the activities of merchants’ and usurers’ capital, etc. However, it is capitalist relations that dominated and not “feudal” (more correctly, serf and, generally, precapitalist) relations. Only thanks to this dominant role of capitalist relations can we speak seriously of the prospects of proletarian hegemony in the national revolution. Otherwise, there is no making the ends meet.

“The strength of the proletariat in any capitalist country is infinitely greater than the proportion of the proletariat in the total population. This is due to the fact that the proletariat is in economic command of the central points and nerve centers of the entire capitalist system of economy, and also because the proletariat expresses economically and politically the real interests of the vast majority of the toilers under capitalism.

“For this reason the proletariat, even if it constitutes the minority of the population (or in cases where the conscious and truly revolutionary vanguard of the proletariat comprises the minority of the population), is capable both of overthrowing the bourgeoisie and of attracting subsequently to its side many allies from among the masses of semi-proletarians and petty bourgeois, who will never come out beforehand for the domination of the proletariat, who will not understand the conditions and tasks of this domination, but who will convince themselves solely from their subsequent experiences of the inevitability, justice, and legitimacy of the proletarian dictatorship.” [9]

The role of the Chinese proletariat in production is already very great. In the next few years it will only increase still further. Its political role, as events have shown, could have been gigantic. But the whole line of the leadership was directed entirely against permitting the proletariat to conquer the leading role.

The draft program says that successful socialist construction is possible in China “only on the condition that it is directly supported by countries under the proletarian dictatorship.” Thus, here, in relation to China, the same principle is recognized which the party has always recognized in regard to Russia. But if China lacks sufficient inner forces for an independent construction of socialist society, then according to the theory of Stalin-Bukharin, the Chinese proletariat should not seize power at any stage of the revolution. Or it may be that the existence of the USSR settles the question in just the opposite sense. Then it follows that our technology is sufficient to build a socialist society not only in the USSR but also in China, i.e., in the two economically most backward countries with a combined population of six hundred million. Or perhaps the inevitable dictatorship of the proletariat in China is “inadmissible” because that dictatorship will be included in the chain of the world-wide socialist revolution, thus becoming not only its link, but its driving force? But this is precisely Lenin’s basic formulation of the October Revolution, the “peculiarity” of which follows precisely along the lines of development of the Eastern countries. We see thus how the revisionist theory of socialism in one country, evolved in 1925 in order to wage a struggle against Trotskyism, distorts and confuses matters each time a new major revolutionary problem is approached.

The draft program goes still further along this same road. It counterposes China and India to “Russia before 1917” and Poland (“etc.”) as countries with “a certain minimum of industry sufficient for the triumphant construction of socialism,” or (as is more definitely and therefore more erroneously stated elsewhere) as countries possessing the “necessary and sufficient material prerequisites ... for the complete construction of socialism.” This, as we already know, is a mere play upon Lenin’s expression “necessary and sufficient” prerequisites; a fraudulent and an impermissible jugglery because Lenin definitely enumerates the political and organizational prerequisites, including the technical, cultural, and international prerequisites. But the chief point that remains is: how can one determine a priori the “minimum of industry” sufficient for the complete building of socialism once it is a question of an uninterrupted world struggle between two economic systems, two social orders, and a struggle, moreover, in which our economic base is infinitely the weaker?

If we take into consideration only the economic lever, it is clear that we in the USSR, and all the more so in China and India, have a far shorter arm of the lever than world capitalism. But the entire question is resolved by the revolutionary struggle of the two systems on a world scale. In the political struggle, the long arm of the lever is on our side, or, to put it more correctly, it can and must prove so in our hands, if our policy is correct.

Again, in the same article On Our Revolution, after stating that “a certain cultural level” is necessary for the creation of “socialism,” Lenin adds: “although no one can tell what this certain cultural level is.” Why can no one tell? Because the question is settled by the struggle, by the rivalry between tbe two social systems and the two cultures, on an international scale. Breaking completely with this idea of Lenin’s, which flows from the very essence of the question, the draft program asserts that in 1917 Russia had precisely the “minimum technology” and consequently also the culture necessary for the building of socialism in one country. The authors of the draft attempt to tell in the program that which “no one can tell” a priori.

It is impermissible, impossible, and absurd to seek a criterion for the “sufficient minimum” within national states (“ Russia prior to 1917”) when the whole question is settled by international dynamics. In this false, arbitrary, isolated national criterion rests the theoretical basis of national narrowness in politics, the precondition for inevitable national-reformist and social patriotic blunders in the future.

[Top of Page]

7. On the Reactionary Idea of “Two-Class Workers’
and Peasants’ Parties” for the Orient

The lessons of the second Chinese revolution are lessons for the entire Comintern, but primarily for all the countries of the Orient.

All the arguments presented in defense of the Menshevik line in the Chinese revolution must, if we take them seriously, hold trebly good for India. The imperialist yoke assumes in India, the classic colony, infinitely more direct and palpable forms than in China. The survivals of feudal and serf relations in India are immeasurably deeper and greater. Nevertheless, or rather precisely for this reason, the methods which, applied in China, undermined the revolution, must result in India in even more fatal consequences. The overthrow of Hindu feudalism and of the Anglo-Hindu bureaucracy and British militarism can be accomplished only by a gigantic and an indomitable movement of the popular masses which precisely because of its powerful sweep and irresistibility, its international aims and ties, cannot tolerate any halfway and compromising opportunist measures on the part of the leadership.

The Comintern leadership has already committed not a few mistakes in India. The conditions have not yet allowed these errors to reveal themselves on such a scale as in China. One can, therefore, hope that the lessons of the Chinese events will permit of a more timely rectification of the line of the leading policy in India and in other countries of the Orient.

The cardinal question for us here, as everywhere and always, is the question of the communist party, its complete independence, its irreconcilable class character. The greatest danger on this path is the organization of so-called “workers’ and peasants’ parties” in the countries of the Orient.

Beginning with 1924, a year which will go down as the year of open revision of a number of fundamental theses of Marx and Lenin, Stalin advanced the formula of the “two-class workers’ and peasants’ parties for the Eastern countries.” It was based on the self-same national oppression which served in the Orient to camouflage opportunism, as did “stabilization” in the Occident. Cables from India, as well as from Japan, where there is no national oppression, have of late frequently mentioned the activities of provincial “workers’ and peasants’ parties,” referring to them as organizations which are close and friendly to the Comintern, as if they were almost our “own” organizations, without, however, giving any sort of concrete definition of their political physiognomy; in a word, writing and speaking about them in the same way as was done only a short while ago about the Kuomintang.

Back in 1924, Pravda reported that: “There are indications that the movement of national liberation in Korea is gradually taking shape in the form of the creation of a workers’ and peasants’ party.” [10]

And in the meantime Stalin lectured to the communists of the Orient that

“The communists must pass from the policy of a united national front ... to the policy of a revolutionary bloc between the workers and petty-bourgeoisie, In such countries this bloc can assume the form of a single party, a workers’ and peasants’ party, akin to the Kuomintang ...” [11]

The ensuing tiny “reservations” on the subject of the independence of the communist parties (obviously, “independence” like that of the prophet Jonah inside the whale’s belly) served only for the purpose of camouflage. We are profoundly convinced that the Sixth Congress must state that the slightest equivocation in this sphere is fatal and will be rejected.

It is a question here of an absolutely new, entirely false, and thoroughly anti-Marxian formulation of the fundamental question of the party and of its relation to its own class and other classes.

The necessity for the Communist Party of China to enter the Kuomintang was defended on the ground that in its social composition the Kuomintang is a party of workers and peasants, that nine-tenths of the Kuomintang – this proportion was repeated hundreds of times – belonged to the revolutionary tendency and were ready to march hand in hand with the communist party. However, during and since the coups d’ etat in Shanghai and Wuhan, these revolutionary nine-tenths of the Kuomintang disappeared as if by magic. No one has found a trace of them. And the theoreticians of class collaboration in China, Stalin, Bukharin, and others, did not even take the trouble to explain what has become of the nine-tenths of the members of the Kuomintang’the nine-tenths workers and peasants, revolutionists, sympathizers, and entirely our “own.” Yet, an answer to this question is of decisive importance if we are to understand the destiny of all these “two-class” parties preached by Stalin; and if we are to be clarified upon the very conception itself, which throws us far behind not only of the program of the CPSU of 1919, but also of the Communist Manifesto of 1847.

The question of where the celebrated nine-tenths vanished can become clear to us only if we understand, first, the impossibility of a bi-composite, that is a two-class party, expressing simultaneously two mutually exclusive historical lines – the proletarian and petty bourgeois lines; secondly, the impossibility of realizing in capitalist society an independent peasant party, that is, a party expressing the interests of the peasantry, which is at the same time independent of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie.

Marxism has always taught, and Bolshevism, too, accepted, and taught, that the peasantry and proletariat are two different classes, that it is false to identify their interests in capitalist society in any way, and that a peasant can join the communist party only if, from the property viewpoint, he adopts the views of the proletariat. The alliance of the workers and peasants under the dictatorship of the proletariat does not invalidate this thesis, but confirms it, in a different way, under different circumstances. If there were no different classes with different interests, there would be no talk even of an alliance. Such an alliance is compatible with the socialist revolution only to the extent that it enters into the iron framework of the dictatorship of the proletariat. In our country the dictatorship is incompatible with the existence of a so-called Peasants’ League precisely because every “independent” peasant organization aspiring to solve all national political problems would inevitably turn out to be an instrument in the hands of the bourgeoisie.

Those organizations which in capitalist countries label themselves peasant parties are in reality one of the varieties of bourgeois parties. Every peasant who has not adopted the proletarian position, abandoning his proprietor psychology, will inevitably follow the bourgeoisie when it comes to fundamental political issues. Of course, every bourgeois party that relies or seeks to rely on the peasantry and, if possible, on the workers, is compelled to camouflage itself, that is, to assume two or three appropriate colorations. The celebrated idea of “workers’ and peasants’ parties” seems to have been specially created to camouflage bourgeois parties which are compelled to seek support from the peasantry but who are also ready to absorb workers into their ranks. The Kuomintang has entered the annals of history for all time as a classic type of such a party.

Bourgeois society, as is known, is so constructed that the propertyless, discontented, and deceived masses are at the bottom and the contented fakers remain on top. Every bourgeois party, if it is a real party, that is, if it embraces considerable masses, is built on the self-same principle. The exploiters, fakers, and despots compose the minority in class society. Every capitalist party is therefore compelled in its internal relations, in one way or another, to reproduce and reflect the relations in bourgeois society as a whole. In every mass bourgeois party the lower ranks are therefore more democratic and further to the “Left” than the tops. This holds true of the German Center, the French Radicals, and particularly the social democracy. That is why the constant complaints voiced by Stalin, Bukharin, and others that the tops do not reflect the sentiments of the “Left” Kuomintang rank and file, the “overwhelming majority,” the “nine-tenths,” etc., etc., are so naive, so unpardonable. That which they represented in their bizarre complaints to be a temporary, disagreeable misunderstanding which was to be eliminated by means of organizational measures, instructions, and circular letters, is in reality a cardinal and basic feature of a bourgeois party, particularly in a revolutionary epoch.

It is from this angle that the basic arguments of the authors of the draft program in defense of all kinds of opportunist blocs in general – both in England and China’must be judged. According to them, fraternization with the tops is done exclusively in the interests of the rank and file. The Opposition, as is known, insisted on the withdrawal of the party from the Kuomintang:

“The question arises,” says Bukharin, “why? Is it because the leaders of the Kuomintang are vacillating? And what about the Kuomintang masses, are they mere ‘cattle’? Since when is the attitude to a mass organization determined by what takes place at the ‘high’ summit!” [12]

The very possibility of such an argument seems impossible in a Revolutionary party. Bukharin asks, “And what about the Kuomintang masses, are they mere cattle?” Of course they are cattle. The masses of any bourgeois party are always cattle, although in different degrees. But for us, the masses are not cattle, are they? No, that is precisely why we are forbidden to drive them into the arms of the bourgeoisie, camouflaging the latter under the label of a workers’ and peasants’ party. That is precisely why we are forbidden to subordinate the proletarian party to a bourgeois party, but on the contrary, must at every step, oppose the former to the latter. The “high” summit of the Kuomintang of whom Bukharin speaks so ironically, as of something secondary, accidental, and temporary is in reality the soul of the Kuomintang, its social essence. Of course, the bourgeoisie constitutes only the “summit” in the party as well as in society. But this summit is powerful in its capital, knowledge, and connections: it can always fall back on the imperialists for support, and what is most important, it can always resort to the actual political and military power which is intimately fused with the leadership in the Kuomintang itself. It is precisely this summit that wrote laws against strikes, throttled the uprisings of the peasants, shoved the communists into a dark corner, and, at best, allowed them to be only one-third of the party, exacted an oath from them that petty-bourgeois Sun Yat-senism takes precedence over Marxism. The rank and file were picked and harnessed by this summit, serving it, like Moscow, as a “Left” support, just as the generals, compradores, and imperialists served it as a Right support. To consider the Kuomintang not as a bourgeois party, but as a neutral arena of struggle for the masses, to play with words about nine-tenths of the Left rank and file in order to mask the question as to who is the real master, meant to add to the strength and power of the summit, to assist the latter to convert ever broader masses into “cattle,” and, under conditions most favorable to it to prepare the Shanghai coup d’etat. Basing themselves on the reactionary idea of the two-class party, Stalin and Bukharin imagined that the communists, together with the “Lefts,” would secure a majority in the Kuomintang and thereby power in the country, for, in China, power is in the hands of the Kuomintang. In other words, they imagined that by means of ordinary elections at Kuomintang Congresses power would pass from the hands of the bourgeoisie to the proletariat. Can one conceive of a more touching and idealistic idolization of “party democracy” ... in a bourgeois part? For indeed, the army, the bureaucracy, the press, the capital are all in the hands of the bourgeoisie. Precisely because of this and this alone it stands at the helm of the ruling party. The bourgeois “summit” tolerates or tolerated “nine-tenths” of the Lefts (and Lefts of this sort), only in so far as they did not venture against the army, the bureaucracy, the press, and against capital. By these powerful means the bourgeois summit kept in subjection not only the so-called nine-tenths of the “Left” party members, but also the masses as a whole. In this the theory of the bloc of classes, the theory that the Kuomintang is a workers’ and peasants’ party, provides the best possible assistance for the bourgeoisie. When the bourgeoisie later comes into hostile conflict with the masses and shoots them down, in this clash between the two real forces, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, not even the bleating of the celebrated nine-tenths is heard. The pitiful democratic fiction evaporates without a trace in face of the bloody reality of the class struggle.

Such is the genuine and only possible political mechanism of the “two-class workers’ and peasants’ parties for the Orient.” There is no other and there will be none.

*  *  *

Although the idea of the two-class parties is motivated on national oppression, which allegedly abrogates Marx’s class doctrine, we have already heard about “workers’ and peasants’ ” mongrels in Japan, where there is no national oppression at all. But that isn’t all, the matter is not limited merely to the Orient. The “two-class” idea seeks to attain universality. In this domain, the most grotesque features were assumed by the above-mentioned Communist Party of America in its effort to support the presidential candidacy of the bourgeois, “anti-trust” Senator LaFollette, so as to yoke the American farmers by this means to the chariot of the social revolution. Pepper, the theoretician of this maneuver, one of those who ruined the Hungarian revolution because he overlooked the Hungarian peasantry, made a great effort (by way of compensation, no doubt) to ruin the Communist Party of America by dissolving it among the farmers. Pepper’s theory was that the super-profit of American capitalism converts the American proletariat into a world labor aristocracy, while the agrarian crisis ruins the farmers and drives them onto the path of social revolution. According to Pepper’s conception, a party of a few thousand members, consisting chiefly of immigrants, had to fuse with the farmers through the medium of a bourgeois party and by thus founding a “two-class” party, insure the socialist revolution in the face of the passivity or neutrality of the proletariat corrupted by super-profits. This insane idea found supporters and half-supporters among the upper leadership of the Comintern. For several weeks the issue swayed in the balance until finally a concession was made to the ABC of Marxism (the comment behind the scenes was: Trotskyist prejudices). It was necessary to lasso the American Communist Party in order to tear it away from the LaFollette party which died even before its founder.

Everything invented by modern revisionism for the Orient is carried over later to the West. If Pepper on one side of the Atlantic Ocean tried to spur history by means of a two-class party then the latest dispatches in the press inform us that the Kuomintang experience finds its imitators in Italy where, apparently, an attempt is being made to foist on our party the monstrous slogan of a “republican assembly on the basis [?!] of workers’ and peasants’ committees.” In this slogan the spirit of Chiang Kai-shek embraces the spirit of Hilferding. Will we really come to that?

*  *  *

In conclusion there remains for us only to recall that the idea of a workers’ and peasants’ party sweeps from the history of Bolshevism the entire struggle against the Populists (Narodniks), without which there would have been no Bolshevik party. What was the significance of this historical struggle? In 1909, Lenin wrote the following about the Social-Revolutionists:

“The fundamental idea of their program was not at all that ’an alliance of the forces’ of the proletariat and the peasantry is necessary, but that there is no class abyss between the former and the latter and that there is no need to draw a line of class demarcation beween them, and that the social democratic idea of the petty bourgeois nature of the peasantry that distinguishes it from the proletariat is fundamentally false.” [13]

In other words, the two-class workers’ and peasants’ party is the central idea of the Russian Narodniks. Only in the struggle against this idea could the party of the proletarian vanguard in peasant Russia develop.

Lenin persistently and untiringly repeated in the epoch of the 1905 revolution that

“Our attitude towards the peasantry must be distrustful, we must organize separately from it, be ready for a struggle against it, to the extent that the peasantry comes forward as a reactionary or anti-proletarian force.” [14]

In 1906 Lenin wrote:

“Our last advice: proletarians and semi-proletarians of city and country, organize yourselves separately! Place no trust in any small proprietors, even the petty ones, even those who ‘toil’ ... We support the peasant movement to the end, but we must remember that it is a movement of another class, not the one that can or will accomplish the socialist revolution.” [15]

This idea reappears in hundreds of Lenin’s major and minor works. In 1908, he explained:

“The alliance between the proletariat and the peasantry must in no case be interpreted to mean a fusion of the different classes or parties of the proletariat and the peasantry. Not only fusion, but even any sort of lasting concord would be fatal for the socialist party of the working class and weaken the revolutionary democratic struggle.” [16]

Could one condemn the very idea of a workers’ and peasants’ party more harshly, more ruthlessly, and more devastatingly?

Stalin, on the other hand, teaches that

“The revolutionary anti-imperialist bloc ... must, though not always [!] necessarily [!], assume the form of a single workers’ and peasants’ party, bound formally [?] by a single platform.” [17]

Lenin taught us that an alliance between workers and peasants must in no case and never lead to merger of the parties. But Stalin makes only one concession to Lenin: although, according to Stalin, the bloc of classes must assume “the form of a single party,” a workers’ and peasants’ party like the Kuomintang – is not always obligatory. We should thank him for at least this concession.

Lenin put this question in the same irreconcilable spirit during the epoch of the October Revolution. In generalizing the experience of the three Russian revolutions, Lenin, beginning with 1918, did not miss a single opportunity to repeat that there are two decisive forces in a society where capitalist relations predominate’the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.

“If the peasant does not follow the workers, he marches behind the bourgeoisie. There is and there can be no middle course.” [18]

Yet a “workers” and peasants’ party” is precisely an attempt to create a middle course.

Had the vanguard of the Russian proletariat failed to oppose itself to the peasantry, had it failed to wage a ruthless struggle against the all-devouring petty-bourgeois amorphousness of the latter, it would inevitably have dissolved itself among the petty-bourgeois elements through the medium of the Social Revolutionary Party or some other “two-class party” which, in turn, would inevitably have subjected the vanguard to bourgeois leadership. In order to arrive at a revolutionary alliance with the peasantry – this does not come gratuitously – it is first of all necessary to separate the proletarian vanguard, and thereby the working class as a whole, from the petty bourgeois masses. This can be achieved only by training the proletarian party in the spirit of unshakable class irreconcilability.

The younger the proletariat, the fresher and more direct its “blood-ties” with the peasantry, the greater the proportion of the peasantry to the population as a whole, the greater becomes the importance of the struggle against any form of “two-class” political alchemy. In the West the idea of a workers’ and peasants’ party is simply ridiculous. In the East it is fatal. In China, India, and Japan this idea is mortally hostile not only to the hegemony of the proletariat in the revolution but also to the most elementary independence of the proletarian vanguard. The workers’ and peasants’ party can only serve as a base, a screen, and a springboard for the bourgeoisie.

It is fatal that in this question, fundamental for the entire East, modern revisionism only repeats the errors of old social democratic opportunism of pre-revolutionary days. Most of the leaders of European social democracy considered the struggle of our party against SRs to be mistaken and insistently advocated the fusion of the two parties, holding that for the Russian “East” a two-class workers’ and peasants’ party was exactly in order. Had we heeded their counsel, we should never have achieved either the alliance of the workers and the peasants or the dictatorship of the proletariat. The “two-class” workers’ and peasants’ party of the SRs became, and could not help becoming in our country, the agency of the imperialist bourgeoisie, i.e., it tried unsuccessfully to fulfill the same historic role which was successfully played in China by the Kuomintang in a different and “peculiar” Chinese way, thanks to the revisionists of Bolshevism. Without a relentless condemnation of the very idea of workers’ and peasants’ parties for the East, there is not and there cannot be a program of the Comintern.

[Top of Page]

8. The Advantages Secured from the Peasants’ International
Must be Probed

One of the principal, if not the principal, accusations hurled against the Opposition, was its “underestimation” of the peasantry. On this point, too, life has made its tests and rendered its verdict along national and international lines. In every case the official leaders proved guilty of underestimating the rob and significance of the proletariat in relation to the peasantry. In this the greatest shifts and errors took place, in the economic and political fields and internationally. At the root of the internal errors since 1923 lies an underestimation of the significance, for the whole of national economy and for the alliance with the peasantry, of state industry under the management of the proletariat. In China, the revolution was doomed by the inability to understand the leading and decisive role of the proletariat;n the agrarian revolution.

From the same standpoint, it is necessary to examine and evaluate the entire work of the Krestintern, which from the beginning was merely an experiment – an experiment, moreover, which called for the utmost care and rigid adherence to principles. It is not difficult to understand the reason for this.

The peasantry, by virtue of its entire history and the conditions of its existence, is the least international of all classes. What are commonly called national traits have their chief source precisely in the peasantry. From among the peasantry, it is only the semi-proletarian masses of the peasant poor who can be guided along the road of internationalism, and only the proletariat can guide them. Any attempt at a short-cut is merely playing with the classes, which always means playing to the detriment of the proletariat. The peasantry can be attracted to internationalist politics only if it is torn away from the influence of the bourgeoisie by the proletariat and if it recognizes in the proletariat not only its ally, but its leader. Conversely, attempts to organize the peasants of the various countries into an independent international organization, over the head of the proletariat and without regard to the national communist parties, are doomed in advance to failure. In the final analysis such attempts can only harm the struggle of the proletariat in each country for hegemony over the agricultural laborers and poor peasants.

In all bourgeois revolutions as well as counter-revolutions, beginning with the peasant wars of the sixteenth century and even before that time, the various strata of the peasantry played an enormous and at times even decisive role. But it never played an independent role. Directly or indirectly, the peasantry always supported one political force against another. By itself it never constituted an independent force capable of solving national political tasks. In the epoch of finance capital the process of the polarization of capitalist society has enormously accelerated in comparison to earlier phases of capitalist development. This means that the specific gravity of the peasantry has diminished and not increased. In any case, the peasant is less capable in the imperialist epoch of independent political action on a national, let alone international scale, than he was in the epoch of industrial capitalism. The farmers of the United States today are incomparably less able to play an independent political role than they were forty or fifty years ago when, as the experience of the Populist movement shows, they could not and did not organize an independent national political party.

The temporary but sharp filip to agriculture in Europe resulting from the economic decline caused by the war gave rise to illusions concerning the possible role of the “peasant,” i.e., of bourgeois pseudo-peasant parties demagogically counterposing themselves to the bourgeois parties. If in the period of stormy peasant unrest during the postwar years one could still risk the experiment of organizing a Peasants’ International, in order to test the new relations between the proletariat and the peasantry and between the peasantry and the bourgeoisie, then it is high time now to draw the theoretical and political balance of the five years’ experience with the Peasants’ International, to lay bare its vicious shortcomings and make an effort to indicate its positive aspects.

One conclusion, at any rate, is indisputable. The experience of the “peasant” parties of Bulgaria, Poland, Rumania, and Yugoslavia (i.e., of all the backward countries); the old experience of our Social Revolutionists, and the fresh experience (the blood is still warm) of the Kuomintang; the episodic experiments in advanced capitalist countries, particularly the LaFollette-Pepper experiment in the United States’have all shown beyond question that in the epoch of capitalist decline there is even less reason than in the epoch of rising capitalism to look for independent, revolutionary, anti-bourgeois peasant parties.

“The city cannot be equated to the village, the village cannot be equated to the city in the historical conditions of the present epoch. The city inevitably leads the village, the village inevitably follows the city. The only question is which of the urban classes will lead the village.” [19]

In the revolutions of the East the peasantry will still play a decisive role, but once again, this role will be neither leading nor independent. The poor peasants of Hupeh, Kwangtung, or Bengal can play a role not only on a national but on an international scale, but only if they support the workers of Shanghai, Canton, Hankow, and Calcutta. This is the only way out for the revolutionary peasant on an international road. It is hopeless to attempt to forge a direct link between the peasant of Hupeh and the peasant of Galicia or Dobrudja, the Egyptian fellah and the American farmer.

It is in the nature of politics that anything which does not serve a direct aim inevitably becomes the instrument of other aims, frequently the opposite of the one sought. Have we not had examples of a bourgeois party, relying on the peasantry or seeking to rely upon it, deeming it necessary to seek insurance for itself in the Peasants’ International, for a longer or shorter period, if it could not do so in the Comintern, in order to secure protection from the blows of the communist party in its own country? Like Purcell, in the trade union field, protected himself through the Anglo-Russian Committee? If La Follette did not try to register in the Peasants’ International, that was only because the American Communist Party was so extremely weak. He did not have to. Pepper, uninvited and unsolicited, embraced LaFollette without that. But Radic, the banker-leader of the Croatian rich peasants, found it necessary to leave his visiting card with the Peasants’ International on his way to the cabinet. The Kuomintang went infinitely further and secured a place for itself not only in the Peasants’ International and the League Against Imperialism, but even knocked at the doors of the Comintern and was welcomed there with the blessing of the Politbureau of the CPSU, marred by only one dissenting vote.

It is highly characteristic of the leading political currents of recent years that at a time when tendencies in favor of liquidating the Profintern [Red International of Labor Unions] were very strong (its very name was deleted from the statutes of the Soviet trade unions), nowhere, so far as we recall, has the question ever been raised in the official press as to the precise conquests of the Krestintern, the Peasants’ International.

The Sixth Congress must seriously review the work of the Peasants’ “International” from the standpoint of proletarian internationalism. It is high time to draw a Marxian balance to this long drawn-out experiment. In one form or another the balance must be included in the program of the Comintern. The present draft does not breathe a single syllable either about the “millions” in the Peasants’ International, or for that matter, about its very existence.

[Top of Page]


We have presented a criticism of certain fundamental theses in the draft program; extreme pressure of time prevented us from dealing with all of them. There were only two weeks at our disposal for this work. We were therefore compelled to limit ourselves to the most pressing questions, those most closely bound up with the revolutionary and internal party struggles during the recent period.

Thanks to our previous experience with so-called “discussions,” we are aware beforehand that phrases torn out of their context and slips of the pen can be turned into a seething source of new theories annihilating “Trotskyism.” An entire period has been filled with triumphant crowing of this type. But we view with utmost calm the prospect of the cheap theoretical scorpions that this time, too, may descend upon us.

Incidentally, it is quite likely that the authors of the draft program, instead of putting into circulation new critical and expository articles, will prefer to resort to further elaboration of the old Article 58. Needless to say, this kind of argument is even less valid for us.

The Sixth World Congress is faced with the task of adopting a program. We have sought to prove throughout this entire work that there is not the slightest possibility of taking the draft elaborated by Bukharin and Stalin as the basis of the program.

The present moment is the turning point in the life of the CPSU and the entire Comintern. This is evidenced by all the recent decisions and measures of the CEC of our party and the February plenum of the ECCI These measures are entirely inadequate, the resolutions are contradictory, and certain among them, like the February resolution of the ECCI on the Chinese revolution, are false to the core. Nevertheless throughout all these resolutions there is a tendency to take a turn to the Left. We have no ground whatever for overestimating it, all the more so since it proceeds hand in hand with a campaign of extermination against the revolutionary wing, while the Right wing is being protected. Notwithstanding all this, we do not for a moment entertain the notion of ignoring this Leftward tendency, forced by the impasse created by the old course. Every genuine revolutionist at his post will do everything in his power to facilitate the development of these symptoms of a Left zigzag into a revolutionary Leninist course, with the least difficulties and convulsions in the party. But we are still far removed from this today. At present the Comintern is perhaps passing through its most acute period of development, a period in which the old course is far from having been liquidated, while the new course brings in eruptions of alien elements. The draft program reflects in whole and in part this transitional condition. Yet, such periods, by their very nature, are least favorable for the elaboration of documents that must determine the activity of our international party for a number of years ahead. Difficult as it may be, we must bide our time – after so much time has been lost already. We must permit the muddled waters to settle. The confusion must pass, the contradictions must be eliminated, and the new course take definite shape.

The Congress has not convened for four years. For nine years the Comintern has existed without a definitive program. The only way out at the present moment is this: that the Seventh World Congress be convened a year from today, putting an end once and for all to the attempts at usurping the supreme powers of the Comintern as a whole, a normal regime be re-established, such a regime as would allow of a genuine discussion of the draft program and permit us to oppose to the eclectic draft, another, a Marxist-Leninist draft. There must be no forbidden questions for the Comintern, for the meetings and conferences of its sections, and for its press. During this year the entire soil must be deeply plowed by the plow of Marxism. Only as a result of such labor can the international party of the proletariat secure a, program, a beacon which will illuminate with its penetrating rays, and throw reliable beams far into the future.

[Top of Page]


8. Works, Vol.XVIII, Part 21, pp.118f.

9. Lenin, Works,”The Year 1919,” Vol.XVI, p.458.

10. Pravda, March 2, 1929.

11. Stalin, Problems of Leninism, p.269.

12. The Present Situation in the Chinese Revolution.

13. Works, Vol.XI, Part 1, p.198.

14. Works, Vol.VI, p.113.

15. Works, Vol.IX, p.410.

16. Works, Vol.XI, Part 1, p.79.

17. Problems of Leninism, p.265.

18. Works, Vol.XVI, The Year 1919, p.219.

19. Lenin, Works, Vol.XVI, The Year 1919, p.442.

Last Part    |    3rd International After Lenin Index    |    Next Part

return return return return return

Last updated on: 14.4.2007