Leon Trotsky

The Permanent Revolution

3. Three Elements of the
‘Democratic Dictatorship’:
Classes, Tasks and Political Mechanics

Transcribed and HTML markup for the Trotsky Internet Archive, a subarchive of the Marxists’ Internet Archive, by Sally Ryan in 1996.

The difference between the ‘permanent’ and the Leninist standpoints expressed itself politically in the counterposing of the slogan of the dictatorship of the proletariat relying on the peasantry to the slogan of the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry. The dispute was not concerned with whether the bourgeois-democratic stage could be skipped and whether an alliance between the workers and the peasants was necessary – it concerned the political mechanics of the collaboration of the proletariat and the peasantry in the democratic revolution.

Far too presumptuous, not to say light-minded, is Radek’s contention that only people ‘who have not thought through to the end the complex method of Marxism and Leninism’ could raise the question of the party-political expression of the democratic dictatorship, whereas Lenin allegedly reduced the whole question to the collaboration of the two classes in the objective historical tasks. No, that is not so.

If in the given question we abstract ourselves from the subjective factor of the revolution: parties and their programmes – the political and organizational form of the collaboration of proletariat and peasantry – then there will also vanish all the differences of opinion, not only between Lenin and me, which marked two shades of the same revolutionary wing, but what is much worse, also the differences of opinion between Bolshevism and Menshevism, and finally, the differences between the Russian Revolution of 1905 and the Revolutions of 1848 and even of 1789, insofar as the proletariat can at all be spoken of in relation to the latter. All bourgeois revolutions were based on the collaboration of the oppressed masses of town and country. That is just what invested the revolutions to a lesser or greater degree with a national character, that is, one embracing the whole people.

The theoretical as well as the political dispute among us was not over the collaboration of the workers and peasants as such, but over the programme of this collaboration, its party forms and political methods. In the old revolutions, workers and peasants ‘collaborated’ under the leadership of the liberal bourgeoisie or its petty-bourgeois democratic wing. The Communist International repeated the experience of the old revolutions in a new historical situation by doing everything it could to subject the Chinese workers and peasants to the political leadership of the national liberal Chiang Kai-shek and later of the ‘democrat’ Wang Ching-wei. Lenin raised the question of an alliance of the workers and peasants irreconcilably opposed to the liberal bourgeoisie. Such an alliance had never before existed in history. It was a matter, so far as its method went, of a new experiment in the collaboration of the oppressed classes of town and country. Thereby the question of the political forms of collaboration was posed anew. Radek has simply overlooked this. That is why he leads us not only back from the formula of the permanent revolution, but also back from Lenin’s ‘democratic dictatorship’ – into an empty historical abstraction.

Yes, Lenin refused for a number of years to prejudge the question of what the party-political and state organization of the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry would look like, and he pushed into the foreground the collaboration of these two classes as against a coalition with the liberal bourgeoisie. Lenin said: At a certain historical stage, there inevitably results from the whole objective situation the revolutionary alliance of the working class with the peasantry for the solution of the tasks of the democratic revolution. Will the peasantry be able to create an independent party and will it succeed in doing this? Will this party be in the majority or the minority in the government of the dictatorship? What will be the specific weight of the proletarian representatives in the revolutionary government? None of these questions permits of an a priori answer. ‘Experience will show!’ Insofar as the formula of the democratic dictatorship left half-open the question of the political mechanics of the alliance of workers and peasants, it thereby remained up to a certain point – without in any way becoming transformed into Radek’s barren abstraction – an algebraic formula, allowing of extremely divergent political interpretations in the future.

In addition, Lenin himself was in no way of the opinion that the question would be exhausted by the class basis of the dictatorship and its objective historical aims. The significance of the subjective factor – the aims, the conscious method, the party – Lenin well understood and taught this to all of us. And that is why Lenin in his commentaries on his slogan did not renounce at all an approximate, hypothetical prejudgment of the question of what political forms might be assumed by the first independent alliance of workers and peasants in history. However, Lenin’s approach to this question at different times was far from being one and the same. Lenin’s thought must not be taken dogmatically but historically. Lenin brought no finished commandments from Mt Sinai, but hammered out ideas and slogans to fit reality, making them concrete and precise, and at different times filled them with different content. But this side of the question, which later gained a decisive character and brought the Bolshevik Party to the verge of a split at the beginning of 1917, has not been studied by Radek at all. He has simply ignored it.

It is, however, a fact that Lenin did not always characterize the possible party-political expression and governmental form of the alliance of the two classes in the same way, refraining, however, from binding the party by these hypothetical interpretations. What are the reasons for this caution? The reasons are to be sought in the fact that this algebraic formula contains a quantity, gigantic in significance, but politically extremely indeterminate: the peasantry.

I want to quote only a few examples of Lenin s interpretation of the democratic dictatorship, with the reservation that a rounded presentation of the evolution of Lenin’s thought on this question would require a separate work.

Developing the idea that the proletariat and the peasantry would be the basis of the dictatorship, Lenin wrote in March, 1905:

‘And such a composition of the social basis of the probable and desirable revolutionary-democratic dictatorship will, of course, find its reflection in the composition of the revolutionary government. With such a composition the participation or even the predominance of the most diversified representatives of revolutionary democracy in such a government will be inevitable.’ (VI, 132. My emphasis [1])

In these words, Lenin indicates not only the class basis of, but also sketches out a specific governmental form of the dictatorship with a possible predominance of the representatives of petty-bourgeois democracy.

In 1907, Lenin wrote:

‘In order to be victorious, the “peasant agrarian revolution” of which you gentlemen speak must, as such, as a peasant revolution, take over the central power throughout the whole state.’ (IX, 539 [2])

This formula goes even further. It can be understood in the sense that the revolutionary power must be directly concentrated in the hands of the peasantry. But this formula also embraces, in the more far-reaching interpretation introduced into it by the very course of development, the October Revolution which brought the proletariat to power as the ‘agent’ of the peasant revolution. Such is the amplitude of the possible interpretations of the formula of the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry. We may grant that, up to a certain point, its strong side lay in this algebraic character, but its dangers also lay there, manifesting themselves among us graphically enough after February, and in China leading to catastrophe.

In July 1905, Lenin wrote:

‘Nobody speaks of the seizure of power by the party – we speak only of participation, as far as possible a leading participation in the revolution ...’ (VI, 228 [3])

In December, 1906, Lenin considered it possible to agree with Kautsky on the question of seizure of power by the party:

‘Kautsky considers it not only “as very probable” that “victory will fall to the Social Democratic Party in the course of the revolution,” but declares it the duty of the Social Democrats “to instil in their adherents the certainty of victory, for one cannot fight successfully if victory is renounced beforehand”.’ (VIII, 58 [4])

The distance between these two interpretations given by Lenin himself is no smaller than between Lenin’s formulations and mine. We shall see this even more plainly later on. Here we want to raise the question: What is the meaning of these contradictions in Lenin? They reflect the one and the same ‘great unknown’ in the political formula of the revolution: the peasantry. Not for nothing did the radical thinkers occasionally refer to the peasant as the Sphinx of Russian history. The question of the nature of the revolutionary dictatorship – whether Radek wishes it or not -- is inseparably bound up with the question of the possibility of a revolutionary peasant party hostile to the liberal bourgeoisie and independent of the proletariat. The decisive meaning of the latter question is not hard to grasp. Were the peasantry capable of creating their own independent party in the epoch of the democratic revolution, then the democratic dictatorship could be realized in its truest and most direct sense, and the question of the participation of the proletarian minority in the revolutionary government would have an important, it is true, but subordinate significance. The case is entirely otherwise if we proceed from the fact that the peasantry, because of its intermediate position and the heterogeneity of its social composition, can have neither an independent policy nor an independent party, but is compelled, in the revolutionary epoch, to choose between the policy of the bourgeoisie and the policy of the proletariat. Only this evaluation of the political nature of the peasantry opens up the prospect of the dictatorship of the proletariat growing directly out of the democratic revolution. In this, naturally, there lies no ‘denial’, ‘ignoring’ or ‘underestimation’ of the peasantry. Without the decisive significance of the agrarian question for the life of the whole of society and without the great depth and gigantic sweep of the peasant revolution there could not even be any talk of the proletarian dictatorship in Russia. But the fact that the agrarian revolution created the conditions for the dictatorship of the proletariat grew out of the inability of the peasantry to solve its own historical problem with its own forces and under its own leadership. Under present conditions in bourgeois countries, even in the backward ones, insofar as they have already entered the epoch of capitalist industry and are bound into a unit by railroads and telegraphs – this applies not only to Russia but to China and India as well – the peasantry is even less capable of a leading or even only an independent political role than in the epoch of the old bourgeois revolutions. The fact that I invariably and persistently stressed this idea, which forms one of the most important features of the theory of the permanent revolution, also provided a quite inadequate and, in essence, absolutely unfounded pretext for accusing me of underestimating the peasantry.

What were Lenin’s views on the question of a peasant party? To reply to this question, a comprehensive review would be required of the evolution of Lenin’s views on the Russian revolution in the period of 1905-17. I shall confine myself here to two quotations:

In 1907, Lenin wrote:

‘It is possible ... that the objective difficulties of a political unification of the petty bourgeoisie will check the formation of such a party and leave the peasant democracy for a long time in the present state of a spongy, shapeless, pulpy, Trudoviki-like [5] mass.’ (VIII, 484 [6])

In 1909, Lenin expressed himself on the same theme in a different way:

‘There is not the slightest doubt that a revolution which reaches ... so high a degree of development as the revolutionary dictatorship will create a more firmly-formed and more powerful revolutionary peasant party. To judge the matter otherwise would mean to assume that in a grown-up man, the size, form and degree of development of certain essential organs could remain in a childish state.’ (XI, Part 1, 230 [7])

Was this assumption confirmed? No, it was not. But that is just what Induced Lenin, up to the moment of the complete verification by history, to give an algebraic answer to the question of the revolutionary government. Naturally, Lenin never put his hypothetical formula above the reality. The struggle for the independent political party of the proletariat constituted the main content of his life. The woeful epigones, however, in their hunt after a peasant party, ended up with the subordination of the Chinese workers to the Kuomintang, the strangulation of communism in India in the name of the ‘Workers’ and Peasants’ Party’, the dangerous fiction of the Peasants’ International, the masquerade of the League Against Imperialism, and so on.

Prevailing official thought makes no effort to dwell on the contradictions in Lenin adduced above, which are in part external and apparent, in part real, but which always stem from the problem itself. Now that there have arisen among us a special species of ‘Red’ professors who are frequently distinguished from the old reactionary professors not by a firmer backbone but only by a profounder ignorance, Lenin is professorially trimmed and purged of all contradictions, that is, of the dynamics of his thought; standard quotations are threaded on separate threads, and then one ‘series’ or another set in circulation, according to the requirements of the ‘current moment’.

It must not be forgotten for a moment that the problems of the revolution in a politically ‘virgin’ country became acute after a great historical interval, after a lengthy reactionary epoch in Europe and in the whole world, and for that reason alone contained many unknowns. Through the formula of the democratic dictatorship of the workers and peasants, Lenin expressed the peculiarity of Russian social conditions. He gave different interpretations to this formula, but did not reject it until he had probed to the end the peculiar conditions of the Russian revolution. Wherein lay this peculiarity?

The gigantic role of the agrarian question and the peasant question in general, as the soil or the subsoil of all other problems, and the great number of the peasant intellectuals and those who sympathized with the peasants, with their Narodnik ideology, with their ‘anti-capitalist’ traditions and their revolutionary tempering – all this in its entirety signified that if an anti-bourgeois revolutionary peasant party was at all possible anywhere, then it was possible precisely and primarily in Russia.

And as a matter of fact, in the endeavours to create a peasant party, or a workers’ and peasants’ party – as distinct from a liberal or a proletarian party – every possible political variant was attempted in Russia, illegal and parliamentary as well as a combination of the two: Zemlya i Volya (Land and Freedom), Narodnaya Volya (People’s Will), Cherny Peredel (Black Redistribution), the legal Narodnichestvo (Populists), ‘Socialist-Revolutionaries’, ‘People’s Socialists’, ‘Trudoviks’, ‘Left Socialist-Revolutionaries’, etc., etc. For half a century we had, as it were, a huge laboratory for the creation of an ‘anti-capitalist’ peasant party with an independent position toward the proletarian party. The largest scope was attained, as is well known, by the experiment of the SR Party which, for a time in 1917, actually constituted the party of the overwhelming majority of the peasantry. But what happened? This party used its position only to betray the peasants completely to the liberal bourgeoisie. The SRs entered into a coalition with the imperialists of the Entente and together with them conducted an armed struggle against the Russian proletariat.

This truly classic experiment shows that petty-bourgeois parties based on the peasantry are still able to retain a semblance of independent policy during the humdrum periods of history when secondary questions are on the agenda; but when the revolutionary crisis of society puts the fundamental questions of property on the order of the day, the petty-bourgeois ‘peasant’ party automatically becomes a tool in the hands of the bourgeoisie against the proletariat.

If my old differences of opinion with Lenin are analysed not on the plane of quotations indiscriminately torn out of this and that year, month and day, but in their correct historical perspective, then it becomes quite clear that the dispute, at least on my part, was not over whether an alliance of the proletariat with the peasants was required for the solution of the democratic tasks, but over what party-political and state form the revolutionary cooperation of the proletariat and the peasantry could assume, and what consequences could result from it for the further development of the revolution. I speak of course of my position in this dispute, not of the position of Bukharin and Radek at that time, for which they themselves must answer.

How close the formula of the ‘permanent revolution’ approximated to Lenin’s formula is graphically illustrated by the following comparison. In the summer of 1905, that is, before the October general strike and before the December uprising in Moscow, I wrote in the foreword to one of Lassalle’s speeches:

‘It is self-evident that the proletariat, as in its time the bourgeoisie, fulfills its mission supported by the peasantry and the urban petty bourgeoisie. The proletariat leads the countryside, draws it into the movement, gives it an interest in the success of its plans. The proletariat, however, unavoidably remains the leader. This is not “the dictatorship of the peasantry and proletariat” but the dictatorship of the proletariat supported by the peasantry.’ [8] (L. Trotsky, The Year 1905, p.281)

Now compare these words, written in 1905 and quoted by me in the Polish article of 1909, with the following words of Lenin written likewise in 1909, just after the party conference, under the pressure of Rosa Luxemburg, had adopted the formula ‘dictatorship of the proletariat supported by the peasantry’ instead of the old Bolshevik formula. To the Mensheviks, who spoke of the radical change of Lenin’s position, the latter replied:

‘... The formula which the Bolsheviks have here chosen for themselves reads: the proletariat which leads the peasantry behind it.’ [9]

‘... Isn’t it obvious that the idea of all these formulations is one and the same? Isn’t it obvious that this idea expresses precisely the dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry – that the “formula” of the proletariat supported by the peasantry, remains entirely within the bounds of that very same dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry?’ (XI, Part 1, pp,219 and 224. My emphasis [10])

Thus Lenin puts a construction on the ‘algebraic’ formula here which excludes the idea of an independent peasant party and even more its dominant role in the revolutionary government: the proletariat leads the peasantry, the proletariat is supported by the peasantry, consequently the revolutionary power is concentrated in the hands of the party of the proletariat. But this is precisely the central point of the theory of the permanent revolution.

Today, that is, after the historical test has taken place, the utmost that can be said about the old differences of opinion on the question of the dictatorship is the following:

While Lenin, always proceeding from the leading role of the proletariat, emphasized and developed in every way the necessity of the revolutionary democratic collaboration of the workers and peasants – teaching this to all of us – I, invariably proceeding from this collaboration, emphasized in every way the necessity of proletarian leadership, not only in the bloc but also in the government which would be called upon to head this bloc. No other differences can be read into the matter.

In connexion with the foregoing, let us take two quotations: one out of Results and Prospects, which Stalin and Zinoviev utilized to prove the antagonism between my views and Lenin’s, the other out of a polemical article by Lenin against me, which Radek employs for the same purpose.

Here is the first quotation:

‘The participation of the proletariat in a government is also objectively most probable, and permissible on principle, only as a dominating and leading participation. One may, of course, describe such a government as the dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry, a dictatorship of the proletariat, peasantry and intelligentsia, or even a coalition government of the working class and the petty bourgeoisie, but the question nevertheless remains: who is to wield the hegemony in the government itself, and through it, in the country? And when we speak of a workers’ government, by this we reply that the hegemony should belong to the working class.’ (Our Revolution, 1906, p.250. [11])

Zinoviev (in 1925!) raised a hue and cry because I (in 1905!) had placed the peasantry and the intelligentsia on the same plane. He got nothing else from the above-cited lines. The reference to the intelligentsia resulted from the conditions of that period, during which the intelligentsia played politically an entirely different role from that which it plays today. Only exclusively intellectual organizations spoke at that time in the name of the peasantry; the Socialist-Revolutionaries officially built their party on the ‘triad’: proletariat, peasantry, intelligentsia; the Mensheviks, as I wrote at that time, clutched at the heels of every radical intellectual in order to prove the blossoming of bourgeois democracy. I expressed myself hundreds of times in those days on the impotence of the intellectuals as an ‘independent’ social group and on the decisive significance of the revolutionary peasantry.

But after all, we are certainly not discussing here a single polemical phrase, which I have no intention at all of defending. The essence of the quotation is this: that I completely accept the Leninist content of the democratic dictatorship and only demand a more precise definition of its political mechanism, that is, the exclusion of the sort of coalition in which the proletariat would only be a hostage amid a petty-bourgeois majority.

Now let us examine Lenin’s 1916 article which, as Radek himself points out, was directed ‘formally against Trotsky, but in reality against Bukharin, Pyatakov, the writer of these lines (that is, Radek) and a number of other comrades’. This is a very valuable admission, which entirely confirms my impression of that time that Lenin was directing the polemic against me only in appearance, for the content, as I shall demonstrate forthwith, did not in reality at all refer to me. This article contains (in two lines) that very accusation concerning my alleged ‘denial of the peasantry’ which later became the main capital of the epigones and their disciples. The ‘nub’ of this article – as Radek puts it – is the following passage:

‘Trotsky has not taken into consideration,’ says Lenin, quoting my own words, ‘that if the proletariat draws behind it the non-proletarian masses of the village to confiscate the landlords’ estates and overthrow the monarchy, then this will constitute the consummation of the “national bourgeois revolution”, and that in Russia this is just what the revolutionary democratic dictatorship of rite proletariat and the peasantry will be.’ (XIII, 214 [12]

That Lenin did not direct to the ‘right address’ this reproach of my ‘denial’ of the peasantry, but really meant Bukharin and Radek, who actually did skip over the democratic stage of the revolution is clear not only from everything that has been said above, but also from the quotation adduced by Radek himself, which he rightly calls the ‘nub’ of Lenin’s article. In point of fact, Lenin directly quotes the words of my article to the effect that only an independent and bold policy of the proletariat can ‘draw behind it the non-proletarian masses of the village to confiscates the landlords’ estates and overthrow the monarchy’, etc. and then Lenin adds: ‘Trotsky has not taken into consideration that ... this is just what the revolutionary democratic dictatorship will be.’ In other words, Lenin confirms here and, so to speak, certifies that Trotsky in reality accepts the whole actual content of the Bolshevik formula (the collaboration of the workers and peasants and the democratic tasks of this collaboration), but refuses to recognize that this is just what the democratic dictatorship, the consummation of the national revolution, will be. It therefore follows that the dispute in this apparently ‘sharp’ polemical article involves not the programme of the next stage of the revolution and its driving class forces, but precisely the political correlation of these forces, the political and party character of the dictatorship. While, as a result in part of the unclarity at that time of the processes themselves and in part of factional exaggerations, polemical misunderstandings were comprehensible and unavoidable in those days, it is completely incomprehensible how Radek contrived to introduce such confusion into the question after the event.

My polemic with Lenin was waged in essence over the possibility of the independence (and the degree of the independence) of the peasantry in the revolution, particularly over the possibility of an independent peasants’ party. In this polemic, I accused Lenin of overestimating the independent role of the peasantry. Lenin accused me of underestimating the revolutionary role of the peasantry. This flowed from the logic of the polemic itself. But is it not contemptible for anyone today, two decades later, to use these old quotations, tearing them out of the context of the party relationships of that time and investing each polemical exaggeration or episodic error with an absolute meaning, instead of laying bare in the light of the very great revolutionary experience we have had what the actual axis of the differences was and what was the real and not verbal scope of these differences?

Compelled to limit myself in the selection of quotations, I shall refer here only to the summary theses of Lenin on the stages of the revolution, which were written at the end of 1905 but only published for the first time in 1926 in the fifth volume of Lenin Miscellanies. (p.451 [13]) I recall that all the Oppositionists, Radek included, regarded the publication of these theses as the handsomest of gifts to the Opposition, for Lenin turned out in these theses to be guilty of ‘Trotskyism’ in accordance with all the articles of the Stalinist code. The most important points of the resolution of the Seventh Plenum of the ECCI which condemns Trotskyism seem to be avowedly and deliberately directed against the fundamental theses of Lenin. The Stalinists gnashed their teeth in rage at their publication. The Editor of this volume of the Miscellanies, Kamenev, told me flatly with the not very bashful ‘good nature’ that is characteristic of him that if a bloc between us were not being prepared he would never under any circumstances have allowed the publication of this document. Finally, in an article by Kostrzewa in Bolshevik, these theses were fraudulently falsified precisely to spare Lenin from being charged with Trotskyism in his attitude toward the peasantry as a whole and the middle peasant in particular.

In addition I quote here Lenin’s own evaluation of his differences of opinion with me, which he made in 1909:

‘Comrade Trotsky himself, in this instance, grants “the participation of the representatives of the democratic population” in the “workers’ government,” that is, he grants a government of representatives of the proletariat and the peasantry. Under what conditions the participation of the proletariat in the revolutionary government is permissible is a separate question, and on this question, the Bolsheviks will most likely fail to see eye to eye not only with Trotsky but also with the Polish Social Democrats. The question of the dictatorship of the revolutionary classes, however, is in no case reducible to the question of the “majority” in this or that revolutionary government, or to the conditions under which the participation of the Social Democrats in this or that government is permissible.’ (XI, Part 1, p.229. My emphasis [14])

In this quotation from Lenin, it is again confirmed that Trotsky accepts a government of representatives of the proletariat and the peasantry, and therefore does not ‘skip over’ the latter. Lenin furthermore emphasizes that the question of the dictatorship is not reducible to the question of the majority of the government. This is altogether beyond dispute. What is involved here, first and foremost, is the joint struggle of the proletariat and peasantry and consequently the struggle of the proletarian vanguard against the liberal or national bourgeoisie for influence over the peasants. But while the question of the revolutionary dictatorship of the workers and peasants is not reducible to the question of this or that majority in the government, nevertheless, upon the victory of the revolution, this question inescapably arises as the decisive one. As we have seen, Lenin makes a cautious reservation (against all eventualities) to the effect that should matters reach the point of participation by the party in the revolutionary govern ment, then perhaps differences might arise with Trotsky and the Polish comrades over the conditions of this participation. It was a matter therefore of possible difference of opinion, insofar as Lenin considered theoretically permissible the participation of the representatives of the proletariat as a minority in a democratic government. Events, however, showed that no differences arose between us. In November, 1917, a bitter struggle flared up in the top leadership of the party over the question of the coalition government with the Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks. Lenin, without objecting in principle to a coalition on the basis of the soviets, categorically demanded that the Bolshevik majority be firmly safeguarded. I stood shoulder to shoulder with Lenin.

Now let us hear from Radek. To just what does he reduce the whole question of the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry?

‘Wherein,’ he asks, ‘did the old Bolshevik theory of 1905 prove to be fundamentally correct? In the fact that the joint action of the Petrograd workers and peasants (the soldiers of the Petrograd garrison) overthrew Tsarism (in 1917 – L.T.). After all, the 1905 formula foresees in its fundamentals only the correlation of classes, and not a concrete political institution.’

Just a minute, please! By designating the old Leninist formula as ‘algebraic,’ I do not imply that it is permissible to reduce it to an empty commonplace, as Radek does so thoughtlessly. ‘The fundamental thing was realized: the proletariat and the peasantry jointly overthrew Tsarism.’ But this ‘fundamental thing’ was realized without exception in all victorious or semi-victorious revolutions. Tsars, feudal lords, and priests were always and everywhere beaten with the fists of the proletarians or the precursors of the proletarians, the plebeians and peasants. This happened as early as the 16th century in Germany and even earlier. In China it was also workers and peasants who beat down the ‘militarists.’ What has this to do with the democratic dictatorship? Such a dictatorship never arose in the old revolutions, nor did it arise in the Chinese revolution. Why not? Because astride the backs of the workers and peasants, who did the rough work of the revolution, sat the bourgeoisie. Radek has abstracted himself so violently from ‘political institutions’ that he has forgotten the ‘most fundamental thing’ in a revolution, namely, who leads it and who seizes power. A revolution, however, is a struggle for power. It is a political struggle which the classes wage not with bare hands but through the medium of ‘political institutions’ (parties, etc.).

‘People who have not thought out to the end the complexity of the method of Marxism and Leninism’, Radek thunders against us sinners, entertain the following conception: ‘The whole thing must invariably end in a joint government of workers and peasants; and some even think that this must invariably be a coalition government of workers’ and peasants’ parties.’

What blockheads these ‘some’ are! And what does Radek himself think? Does he think that a victorious revolution is not bound to reflect and set its seal upon a specific correlation of revolutionary classes? Radek has deepened the ‘sociological’ problem to the point where nothing remains of it but a verbalistic shell.

How impermissible it is to abstract oneself from the question of the political forms of the collaboration of the workers and peasants will best be shown to us by the following words from an address by the same Radek to the Communist Academy in March 1927:

‘A year ago, I wrote an article in Pravda on this (Canton) government designating it as a peasants’ and workers’ government. A comrade of the editorial board assumed that it was an oversight on my part and changed it to workers’ and peasants’ government. I did not protest against this and let it stand: workers’ and peasants’ government.’

Thus, in March 1927 (not in 1905) Radek was of the opinion that there could be a peasants’ and workers’ government in contradistinction to a workers’ and peasants’ government. This was beyond the editor of Pravda. I confess that for the life of me I can’t understand it either. We know well what a workers’ and peasants’ government is. But what is a peasants’ and workers’ government, in contrast and as opposed to a workers’ and peasants’ government? Please be so kind as to explain this mysterious transposition of adjectives. Here we touch the very heart of the question. In 1926, Radek believed the Canton government of Chiang Kai-shek was a peasants’ and workers’ government. In 1927 he repeated this formula. In reality, however, it proved to be a bourgeois government, exploiting the revolutionary struggle of the workers and peasants and then drowning them in blood. How is this error to be explained? Did Radek simply misjudge? From far away it is easy to misjudge. Then why not say it: I did not understand, could not see, I made a mistake. But no, this is no factual error due to lack of information, but rather, as is now clear, a profound mistake in principle. The peasants’ and workers’ government, as opposed to the workers’ and peasants’ government, is nothing else but the Kuomintang. It can mean nothing else. If the peasantry does not follow the proletariat, it follows the bourgeoisie. I believe that this question has been sufficiently clarified in my criticism of the factional Stalinist idea of a ‘two-class, worker-peasant party’ (see The Draft Programme of the Communist International; A Criticism of Fundamentals). The Canton ‘peasants’ and workers’ government’, in contrast to a workers’ and peasants’ government, is also the only conceivable expression, in the language of present-day Chinese politics, of the ‘democratic dictatorship’ as opposed to the proletarian dictatorship; in other words, the embodiment of the Stalinist Kuomintang policy as opposed to the Bolshevik policy which the Communist International labels ‘Trotskyist’.


1. Social Democracy and the Revolutionary Provisional Government, 4th edition, VIII, 262-263; Selected Works, English edition, III, 35.

2. Political and Tactical Considerations in Questions of the Agrarian Programme (Chapter 4 of The Agrarian Programme of the Social-Democrats in the Russian Revolution of 1905-1907), 4th edition XIII, 262-263; Selectd Works, English edition, III, p.243.

3. The Paris Commune and the Tasks of the Democratic Dictatorship, 4th edition, IX, 120, gives only the concluding section of this article, which does not include the passage quoted, on the grounds that the manuscript is not in Lenin’s handwriting, though extensively corrected by him.

4. The Proletariat and Its Ally in the Russian Revolution, 4th edition, XI, 337.

5. The Trudoviks were representatives of the peasants in the four Dumas, constantly vacillating between the Cadets (Liberals) and the Social Democrats. – L.T.

6. Revolution and Counter-Revolution, 4th edition, XIII, 104.

7. The Aim of the Struggle of the Proletariat in Our Revolution, 4th edition, XV, 3.

8. This quotation, among a hundred others, shows in passing that I did have an inkling of the existence of the peasantry and the importance of the agrarian question as far back as the eve of the 1905 Revolution, that is, some time before the significance of the peasantry was explained to me by Maslov, Thalheimer, Thälmann, Remmele, Cachin, Monmousseau, Bela Kun, Pepper, Kuusinen and the other Marxist sociologists. – L.T.

9. At the 1909 Conference, Lenin proposed the formula of ‘the proletariat which leads the peasantry behind it,’ but in the end he associated himself with the formula of the Polish Social Democrats, which won the majority at the conference against the Mensheviks. – L.T.

10. The Aim of the Struggle of the Proletariat in Our Revolution, 4th edition, XV, 333 and 339.

11. See Results and Prospects, The Proletariat in Power and the Peasantry.

12. About the Two Lines of the Revolution, 4th edition, XXI, 382.

13. The Stages, Direction and Prospects of the Revolution, 4th edition, X, 73-74; Little Lenin Library, English edition, Vol.VI, The Revolution of 1905 (1931), pp.54-55.

14. The Aim of the Struggle of the Proletariat in Our Revolution, 4th edition, XV, 344.

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