Leon Trotsky

A Letter to the Communist
Workers of Czecho-Slovakia

(August 1930)


In the International press of the Left Opposition (Bolshevik-Leninists), we advanced several months ago the absolutely simple and irrefutable idea that the Communist parties of the capitalist countries, in connection with the enormous growth of unemployment, should raise an agitation for all round extension and facilitation of industrial commodity credits to the Soviet Union. We proposed to give this slogan even more concrete forms: on the basis of its Five Year Plan (the present plan or a modified one, we shall not deal with this question now), the Soviet government declares that it can give the United States, Germany, England, Czecho-Slovakia and others such and such quite definite orders for electro-technical units, agricultural machinery, and so forth, on the condition of credits for a definite number of years.

In this connection, the credit reliability of the Soviet government in the eyes of the capitalist world could be fully secured by the simultaneous growth of Soviet exports. Under the condition of large and well-apportioned industrial credits, the collective farms could really acquire a great economic significance in the near future, and the resources of agricultural exports could speedily increase. In the same way, with the receipt from abroad – on acceptable, that is, commonly capitalistic conditions of credit – of additional industrial equipment,, the export of oil, timber and so forth, could be considerably increased. With regard to Soviet exports, the conclusion of planned agreements for a number of years would also be possible.

The Soviet government is most directly interested in a detailed acquainting of workers’ delegations, factory committees and representatives of trade unions on the one hand, and representatives of capitalist governments and trusts on the other, with the corresponding planned propositions – it is understood, very strictly established technically and economically, and therefore capable of raising in the eyes of the workers the authority of the Soviet government as well as of warranting in the eyes of the capitalist, the credits demanded. Whoever knows how the economic relations of the Soviet Union to the capitalist governments were established, or, whoever knows even theoretically the ABC of the economic policy of the workers’ government in the capitalist encirclement, will not find anything contestable or dubious in the plan proposed above. At the same time, the necessity and urgency of an energetic campaign in favour of this campaign will flow quite obviously, from the present unemployment in capitalist countries, on the one hand, and from the acute need of foreign credits to the Soviet economy, on the other.

Nevertheless, with regard to our propositions, the Stalinist apparatus has given the signal: Reject, expose, condemn. Why? There are two reasons. There is no doubt that many Soviet bureaucrats consider that an education of this sort will not help but injure foreign credits. Let their 8okolnikov negotiate quietly with Henderson, and let the Communists keep rather still, so as not to frighten the bourgeoisie and not to repel it. There is no doubt that this is precisely the idea that animates the Stalinist bureaucracy and, above all, Stalin himself, when they come forward against the campaign proposed by us. For the august national-socialist bureaucrats talk with great contempt among themselves about the foreign Communist parties, considering them incapable of any serious action. The apparatus men, the Stalinists, have learned to place confidence only in the governmental summits and plainly fear the direct intervention of the masses in “ serious,” “practical” matters. This is the basic reason for the absurd and malicious rebuff which our proposal met with.

But there is also an additional reason. The Stalinists are in mortal fear of the growing influence of the Left Communist Opposition (Bolshevik-Leninists) throughout the world, and therefore they consider it necessary to reply with slander and vilification to every word it pronounces. Such directions are invariably issued to the whole apparatus of the Comintern.

The central organ of the Communist Party of Czecho-Slovakia, Rude Pravo, has fulfilled the commission as best it could. In its Issue of June 24, the campaign on behalf of unemployment proposed by the Czech Left Communists is subjected to a criticism which can only be termed rabid. With all its fury, it strikes one with its impotence. We will analyze the objections and accusations of Rude Pravo line by line. Not because we are interested in the officials who substitute the lack of ideas and arguments by rude abuse. but because we want to help the advanced workers of Czecho-Slovakia orientate themselves in this big and serious question.

Rude Pravo says that the Czech Left Communists (Bolshevik-Leninists) demand that the Soviet Government “together with the Czecho-Slovak government, shall elaborate an economic plan for the solution of the crisis!!” The paper derides this idea which really is absurd, but which was invented by the editors themselves. The Soviet government should arrive at an agreement with the capitalist trusts and the bourgeois governments (in the event the latter take it upon themselves to guarantee credits) about a definite system of employment. The worker-Communists and sympathisers pursue in this struggle also another, no less important, aim: to help the workers’ state. But the task of the struggle in itself is accessible to the understanding of the broadest and most backward circles of workers, consequently also to those who look upon the Soviet Union with indifference.

As for a common plan “far the solution of the crisis” nobody even speaks about that. Only a socialist revolution can abolish the crisis. To permeate the workers with this idea is the direct duty of the Communist party. But it does not at all flow from this that the workers should not advance immediate demands for the diminution of unemployment and the amelioration of its heaviest consequences. The reduction of the working day Is one of the most important demands of this kind. Alongside of this stand: the struggle against the present rapacious “rationalization,” the demand for a broader and more genuine insurance of the unemployed at the expense of the capitalists and government. Perhaps Rude Pravo is against these demands? The granting of industrial credits to the Soviet state would have as its. consequence, not the liquidation of the crisis, but the amelioration of unemployment in a number of branches of industry. This is precisely how we must pose the question. deceiving neither ourselves nor others.

Or perhaps Rude Pravo has the point of view that Communists in general must not demand any measures capable of ameliorating the disastrous consequences of capitalism in relation to the workers? Perhaps the slogan of the Czech Stalinists has become: “the worse the better” ? This was the point of view held by the anarchists before the Flood.

The Marxists never had anything in common with this position.

But here Rude Pravo advances the objection that according to our plan, “the contradiction of principle between the Soviet state and the capitalist world is to be replaced by their mutual collaboration.” What this phrase signifies is hard to understand. If it has any sense at all, it can only be one: The Soviet state, in order to insure the contradictions of principle, must avoid economic connections with the capitalist world, that is, must neither export and import nor seek credits and loans. But the whole policy of the Soviet government, from the first day of its existence has had the directly opposite character. It has proved unalterably that in spite of the contradictions of principle between two economic Systems, collaboration between them is possible on the very broadest scale. The leaders of the Soviet state have more than once declared that even the principle of the monopoly of foreign trade presents advantages to the large scale capitalist trusts in the sense that it insures systematic orders for a number of years ahead. It cannot be denied that many Soviet diplomats and administrators have fallen over themselves in their advocacy of peaceful collaboration of the Soviet Union with the capitalist world and presented arguments incorrect in principle and out of place. But this is a question of another order. At any rate, principle contradictions of two economic systems that co-exist for a comparatively long time are not destroyed and not weakened by the fact that they are compelled, In this transition period, to conclude large scale economic transactions with each other, and some. times even political agreements. Is it possible that there are still “Communists” who have not yet understood this?

Further on, Rude Pravo writes still better: “The chief concern of the Soviets should be the elimination (?) of the capitalist crisis so that (!) the capitalist system, the blessing of hundreds, should be further preserved.” Every new phrase increases in senselessness, multiplies it, raises it to a higher degree. Does Rude Pravo mean that the Soviet republic, in order not to alleviate the capitalist crisis, should renounce the import of foreign commodities, of American technique, of German and English commercial credits, etc.? Only by drawing these conclusions would the phrase quoted above have any sense. But we know that-the Soviet government acts to the contrary. At this very moment in London, Sokolnikov is negotiating economic relations with England, trying to obtain credits. Is America, the president of the Amtorg, Bogdanov, is engaged in a struggle against that part of the bourgeoisie which wants to break off economic relations with the Soviet Union, and, what is more, Bogdanov demands the extension of credits.

It is clear, that Rude Pravo was over zealous. It no longer strikes at the Opposition, but at the workers’ state. From the point of view of Rude Pravo, all the work of Soviet diplomacy and the Soviet commercial representatives appears to be work for the insurance of the capitalist system. This is not a new idea. The same point of view was held by the deceased Dutch author Gorter, and the leaders of the so-called Communist Labour Party of Germany, that is, by people of a utopian and semi-anarchist frame of mind, who thought that the Soviet government should conduct flu policy not as if it existed within a capitalist encirclement but in space. In their time, these prejudices were crushingly refuted by Lenin. Now the views of Garter are served up by the editors of the Czech Communist paper as profound arguments against the Left Communist Opposition (Bolshevik-Leninist).

These considerations take on a particularly ridiculous aspect by the fact that the Soviet government, especially in recent times, has considered it necessary once more to repeat that it even agrees, within certain limits, to pay the old czarist debt – provided that new credits are made available to it. On the other hand, the Soviet government recruits unemployed miners in Germany. Is it not thereby saving German capitalism? Repeating empty phrases, the pseudo-Communist officials simply close their eyes to everything that is going on in the world. Our proposal has two aspects: first, we want the bonds between Soviet and world economy, at present accidental, partial and unsystematic, to be included by the Soviet government itself into the framework of an extensive plan (we are not considering this question here now); and secondly, to draw into the struggle for the international economic positions of the Soviet Union the vanguard of the world proletariat, and through it – also the millions of workers. The whole essence of the campaign proposed by us lies in the fact that it can bind by a new and firm knot the need of the Soviet government for foreign products with the need of the unemployed for work, with the need of the proletariat for the alleviation of unemployment.

Further on, Rude Pravo becomes ironical: “It is a pity that the Messrs. Trotskyists did not tell us on what principals the general Czecho-Slovak-Soviet plan for the solution of the crisis should be constructed: on capitalist principles – but by that, aid would be given to the victory of capitalism within Russia; or on socialist principles – this would mean that the Trotskyists believe in the readiness of the capitalists themselves to introduce socialism.

Human stupidity is truly inexhaustible, and the worst form of it is the stupidity of the self-contented bureaucrat.

On what principles could the economic relations of the Soviet Union with the world market be based? Of course, upon capitalist principles, that is, on the principles of buying and selling. This is how it has been up to now. It will be that way in the future as long as the workers of the other countries do not abolish capitalism. And they will not do that – let us observe parenthetically – until they carry out a merciless purging among their “leaders,” chasing out the self-contented chatterers, and replacing them with honest proletarian revolutionists capable of observing, learning and thinking. But this is a question of a different order. Here, we are concerned with economics.

But will not collaboration on capitalist principles lead in reality, to the victory of capitalism in Russia? This would be so if Russia had no monopoly of foreign trade, supplemented by the dictatorship of the proletariat, and the nationalization of land, factories, mills and banks. Without a monopoly of foreign trade in the hands of the workers’ state, the victory of capitalism would be inevitable. But do the Left Communists (Bolshevik-Leninists) propose to abolish the monopoly of foreign trade? It was Stalin, together with Sokolnikoy, Rykov, Bukharin and others, who made an attempt upon the monopoly in 1922. Together with Lenin, we fought for the monopoly of foreign trade and defended it. It is understood that the monopoly of foreign trade is not an all-saving remedy. Correct economic plans are necessary, correct leadership, a systematic drawing of the costs of production in the USSR closer to the costs of production of the world market. But this again, is a question of a different order. We, at any rate, have in view such plans for foreign orders and credits as flow from the internal needs and tasks of Soviet economy and which are to serve the consolidation of its socialist elements.

Then it means, Rude Pravo becomes ironical, that the bourgeoisie will aid socialism! A fabulous argument! But why does it come Into the world so late? The majority of the complicated machines in the Soviet factories are imported from abroad. The Soviet trusts have concluded scores of agreements with the world monopoly trusts for technical aid (machines, materials, plan., formulae, etc.). The enormous Dnieper hydro-electric station is constructed to a consider. able degree with the aid of foreign technicians and with the participation of German and American firms. It would appear, then, that the bourgeoisie Is helping to construct socialism. And at the same time, the Soviet government, by makIng purchases In foreign countries, and alleviating the crisis, saving capitalism. It would seem that the roles have changed. Only they have not changed in reality, but in the head of the functionary of Rude Pravo. Alas, it is an altogether unreliable head!

How do matters really stand with the exchange of “services”? Of course, economic collaboration between the workers’ state and the capitalist world gives rise to a number of contradictions. But these are contradictions of life, that is, they are not invented by the Left Opposition but are created by reality itself. The Soviet government considers that the capitalist machines it imports strengthen socialism to a greater degrees than gold paid for them strengthens capitalism. And that is true. On the other hand, the bourgeoisie, in selling its machinery, is primarily concerned with its own profits. Some capitalists simply do not believe in the possibility of ccnstructing socialism. Others do not even think of it. Finally, the bourgeoisie now finds itself under the lash of a crisis and it is worried about its own salvation. This circumstance should be utilized for the strengthening of the Communist positions among the unemployed.

Learning from us for the first time that the bourgeoisie, In spite of its will, helps to construct socialism, Rude Pravo exclaims: “In this case, the ultra-Left Trotskyists are spreading worse illusions about world developments than-the social-fascists”.

In this phrase, again, every word spells confusion. First of all, we appear as “ultra-Lefts”, when we never were such. The deceased Gorter, mentioned above, was an ultra-Leftlst and that is what his present followers remain. In their opinion, foreign trade, concessions, credits, loans, etc., mean the death of socialism. Rude Pravo repeats these arguments, only less literately. The whole article of Rude Pravo analysed by us is a sample of the most absurd ultra-Leftism directed against Leninism.

Further:: What “illusions about world developments” are they talking about? Economic negotiations and agreements between two governments are calculated, it is understood, for peaceful relations, but they are far from a guarantee for such relations. When war flares up, all agreements are blown to perdition, even between two capitalist states. It is also clear that if the proletarian revolution should conquer, let us say, in England, the agreements of Stalin with MacDonald would be thrown away and substituted by a brotherly union of two proletarian states. However, in spite of the inevitability of wars and revolution, the Soviet government has concluded and still concludes economic agreements, sometimes for long terms: thus, some concessions are made for ninety-nine years ! The ultra-Leftists concluded from this-that the Soviet government laid aside the proletarian revolution for ninety-nine years. We laughed at them. Now the officials of Rude Pravo have carried over this argument against ... the “Trotskyists.” But by the change of address, the argument has not become any wiser.

If Rude Pravo seriously considers it its duty to defend proletarian principles in the sphere of the international politics of the Soviet government, why was it silent when these were actually trampled underfoot by the present Stalinist leadership? Let us recall two examples out of scores.

After the union of the Stalinists with the British strikebreakers – the trade union leaders – had thoroughly revealed its reactionary character, Stalin and Bukharin explained to the Praesidium of the Comintern that the Anglo-Russian Committee could in no way be broken up because it would worsen the mutual relations between the USSR and England. Out of the hostility of Baldwin and Chamberlain, Stalin attempted to find cover for his friendship with Purcell. This disastrous policy, which undermined British Communism for a number of years and did not serve the Soviet Union one particle, met, so far as we know, with the unalterable support of Rude Pravo. And where were these saviours of principle, when the Soviet government adhered to the Kellogg Pact, committing at one and the same time a crime in principle and a stupidity in practice? The Kellogg Pact is an imperialist noose for the weaker states. And the Soviet government adhered to the pact as an instrument of peace. This is a sowing of illusions in reality, an inadmissible smearing over of contradictions, and outright deception of the workers In the spirit of the social democracy. Did Rude Pravo protest? No, it merely joined in the chorus. What was the reason for the Soviet government’s adherence to the Kellogg Pact? The absurd hope of Stalin that in this way he would secure the recognition of the American government, credits, etc. The capitalists pocketed the Soviet’s adherence, very advantageous in fooling the American workers, and, it is understood, they gave nothing in exchange ... Against such methods of struggle for capitalist credits, the Bolshevik-Leninist conduct an irreconcilable light, while the officials of Rude Pravo join the chorus of their superiors. On the other hand, however, the plan of the campaign proposed by us does not contain even the shadow of a surrender of principles to the bourgeoisie or to the social democracy.

These are all the arguments of the central organ of the Czecho-Slovak Communist Party. They should arouse a feeling of shame in every serious Communist for the political level to which the leadership of one of the largest sections of the Comintern has sunk.

But all these arguments probably pale before the concluding argument of the article. Rude Pravo declares that our whole proposition is a sort of snare and has as its aim to mask “the real attempt at a manoeuvre, to be precise: the responsibilities, for unemployment is to be thrown upon the Soviet Union which does not give us sufficient orders ... instead of compromising the worthless capitalist system, the industrial crisis is to serve to compromise the Soviet Union.”

These lines seem incredible, but here too we are quoting verbatim. If Rude Pravo considers our plan erroneous, it has, of course, the full right to prove that such a mistake may help the class enemy. Every mistake in the revolutionary strategy of the proletariat is of advantage to the bourgeoisie to one degree or another. Every revolutionist can make a mistake and thus unwillingly help the bourgeoisie. A mistake should be criticised mercilessly. But to accuse proletarian revolutionists of consciously constructing a plan with the aim of helping the bourgeoisie and compromising the Soviet Union can only be done by functionaries without honour and conscience. But it is not worth thought: all this is too stupid. It is only too obvious that it was done under orders. The executors of the order are but too miserable. But on the other hand, we must not forget for a minute that these gentlemen ceaselessly compromise the Soviet Union and the banner of Communism

So we Bolshevik-Leninists want to throw the responsibility for capitalist unemployment upon the Soviet Union. What opinion has Rude Pravo of the intellectual abilities of the Czech workers? It is understood that not one of them will take it into his head that the Soviet Union is capable of placing orders to an extent that would liquidate unemployment in the capitalist world, or even in one large capitalist country. Any one of ten workers met on the streets of Prague would declare the very idea absurd that such inconceivable demands can be made upon the Soviet Union or that It can be comprised for “insufficient” orders. Why is all this? What is all this good for? Matters are just the other way around. The political aim of the campaign is to attract to the side of the Soviet Union those workers who are at present indifferent to it or even hostile. In so far as the capitalist governments and parties, the social democratic Included, counteract the campaign, they will compromise themselves in the eyes of the workers. Their political loss will be all the greater, the more seriously and practically the Communists carry on the campaign. No matter what the economic results may be, the political advantages, at any rate, are guaranteed. The workers drawn into the campaign around this live and acute question of unemployment, will in the future also, come forward as the defenders of the USSR In the event of a war danger. Such methods of mobilization of the workers are far more substantial than the repetition of naked phrases about an imminent intervention.

But we will not conceal from our comrade workers that we would by no means entrust the execution of much a campaign to the editors of Rude Pravo. These people are capable of ruining every action. They do not want to think they are incapable of learning. But from this It does not flow that we should give us the mass struggles for the interests of the Soviet Union, but merely that we must renounce the good for nothing leaders. Here we approach the general question: the regime of the Comintern, its policy and the selection of its bureaucracy. We need a proletarian purging, a renewal of the apparatus, a renewal of the course, a renovation of the regime. This is precisely what the Left Communist Opposition (Bolahevik-Leninists) is fighting for. The most immediate aim of our struggle is the regeneration of the Communist International upon the basis of the theory and practice of Marx and Lenin.

L. Trotsky
PRINKIPO, August 21, 1930

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