Leon Trotsky

The Permanent Revolution

7. What Does the Slogan of the Democratic Dictatorship Mean Today for the East?

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

Losing his way in the Stalinist – evolutionary, philistine, and not revolutionary – conception of historical ‘stages’, Radek, too, endeavours now to sanctify the slogan of the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry for the whole East. Out of the ‘working hypothesis’ of Bolshevism, which Lenin adapted to the course of development of a specific country; which he changed, concretized and at a certain stage cast aside – Radek constructs a supra-historical schema. On this point he persistently repeats the following in his articles:

‘This theory, as well as the tactic derived from it, is applicable to all countries with a youthful capitalist development, in which the bourgeoisie has not liquidated the problem that the preceding social-political formations have left behind as a heritage.’

Just reflect upon this formula: Is it not a solemn justification of Kamenev’s position in 1917? Did the Russian bourgeoisie ‘liquidate’ the problems of the democratic revolution after the February Revolution? No, they remained unsolved, including the most important of them, the agrarian problem. How could Lenin fail to comprehend that the old slogan was still ‘applicable’? Why did he withdraw it?

Radek answered us on this point before: because it had already ‘been accomplished’. We have examined this answer. It is completely untenable, and doubly untenable in the mouth of Radek, who holds the view that the essence of the old Leninist slogan does not at all lie in the forms of power but in the actual liquidation of serfdom by the collaboration of the proletariat and the peasantry. But this is precisely what Kerenskyism did not produce. From this it follows that Radek’s excursion into our past for the purpose of solving the most acute question of the day, the Chinese question, is altogether absurd. It is not what Trotsky understood or failed to understand in 1905 that should have been investigated, but rather what Stalin, Molotov and especially Rykov and Kamenev did not grasp in February-March 1917 (what Radek’s position was in those days I do not know). For if one believes that the democratic dictatorship was ‘realized’ to such an extent in the dual power as to require an immediate change of the central slogan, then one must recognize that the ‘democratic dictatorship’ in China was realized much more fully and completely through the rtgime of the Kuomintang, that is, through the rule of Chiang Kai-shek and Wang Ching-wei, with Tang Ping-shan as appendage. [1] It was all the more necessary, therefore, to change the slogan in China.

But after all, is the ‘heritage of the preceding social-political formations’ not yet liquidated in China? No, it is not yet liquidated. But was it liquidated in Russia on April 4, 1917, when Lenin declared war upon the whole upper stratum of the ‘old Bolsheviks’? Radek contradicts himself hopelessly, gets muddled and reels from side to side. Let us remark in this connection that it is not entirely accidental that he uses so complicated an expression as ‘heritage of the formations’, plays variations upon it, and obviously avoids the clearer term,’remnants of feudalism, or of serfdom’, Why? Because Radek only yesterday denied these remnants most decisively and thereby tore away any basis for the slogan of the democratic dictatorship. In his report in the Communist Academy, Radek said:

‘The sources of the Chinese Revolution are no less deep than were the sources of our revolution in 1905. One can assert with certainty that the alliance of the working class with the peasantry will be stronger there than it was with us in 1905, for the simple reason that it will not be directed against two classes, but only against one, the bourgeoisie.

Yes, ‘for the simple reason’. What, when the proletariat, together with the peasantry, directs its fight against one class, the bourgeoisie – not against the remnants of feudalism, but against the bourgeoisie – what, if you please, is such a revolution called ? Perhaps a democratic revolution? Just notice that Radek said this not in 1905, and not even in 1909, but in March 1927. How is this to be understood? Very simply. In March 1927, Radek also deviated from the right road, only in another direction. In its theses on the Chinese question, the Opposition inserted a most important correction to Radek’s one-sidedness of that time. But in the words just quoted there was nevertheless a kernel of truth: there is almost no estate of landlords in China, the landowners are much more intimately bound up with the capitalists than in Tsarist Russia, and the specific weight of the agrarian question in China is therefore much lighter than in Tsarist Russia; but on the other hand, the question of national liberation bulks very large. Accordingly, the capacity of the Chinese peasantry for independent revolutionary political struggle for the democratic renovation of the country certainly cannot be greater than was the Russian peasantry’s. This found its expression, among other things, in the bet that neither before 1925 nor during the three years of the revolution in China, did a Narodnik (Populist) party arise, inscribing the agrarian revolution upon its banner. All this taken together demonstrates that for China, which has already left behind it the experience of 1925-27, the formula of the democratic dictatorship presents a much more dangerous reactionary snare than in Russia after the February Revolution.

Still another excursion by Radek, into an even further distant past, turns just as mercilessly against him. This time, it is the matter of the slogan of the permanent revolution which Marx raised in 1850:

‘With Marx.’ writes Radek, ‘there was no slogan of a democratic dictatorship, while with Lenin, from 1905 to 1917, it was the political axis, and formed a component part of his conception of the revolution in all [? !] countries of incipient [?] capitalist development.’

Basing himself upon a few lines from Lenin, Radek explains this difference of positions by the fact that the central task of the German revolution was national unification, while in Russia it was the agrarian revolution. If this contrast is not made mechanically, and a sense of proportion is maintained, then it is correct up to a certain point. But then how does the matter stand with China? The specific weight of the national problem in China, a semi-colonial country, is immeasurably greater in comparison with the agrarian problem than it was even in Germany in 1848-50; for in China it is simultaneously a question of unification and of liberation. Marx formulated his perspectives of the permanent revolution when, in Germany, all the thrones still stood firm, the Junkers held the land, and the leaders of the bourgeoisie were tolerated only in the antechamber of the government. In China, there has been no monarchy since 1911, there is no independent landlord class, the national-bourgeois Kuomintang is in power, and the relationships of serfdom are, so to speak, chemically fused with bourgeois exploitation. The contrast between the positions of Marx and Lenin undertaken by Radek thus tells entirely against the slogan of the democratic dictatorship in China.

But Radek does not even take up the position of Marx seriously, but only casually, episodically, confining himself to the circular of 1850, in which Marx still considered the peasantry the natural ally of the petty-bourgeois urban democracy. Marx at that time expected an independent stage of democratic revolution in Germany, that is, a temporary assumption of power by the urban petty-bourgeois radicals, supported by the peasantry. There’s the nub of the question! That, however, is just what did not happen. And not by chance, either. Already in the middle of the last century, the petty-bourgeois democracy showed itself to be powerless to carry out its own independent revolution. And Marx took account of this lesson. On April 16, 1856 – that is, six years after the circular mentioned – Marx wrote to Engels:

‘The whole thing in Germany will depend on the possibility of covering the rear of the proletarian revolution by a second edition of the Peasants’ War. Then the affair will be splendid.’

These remarkable words, completely forgotten by Radek, constitute a truly precious key to the October Revolution as well as to the whole problem that occupies us here, in its entirety. Did Marx skip over the agrarian Revolution? No, as we see, he did not skip over it. Did he consider the collaboration of the proletariat and the peasantry necessary in the coming revolution? Yes, he did. Did he grant the possibility of the leading, or even only an independent, role being played by the peasantry in the revolution ? No, he did not grant this possibility. He proceeded from the fact that the peasantry, which had not succeeded in supporting the bourgeois democracy in the independent democratic revolution (through the fault of the bourgeois democracy, not of the peasantry), would be in a position to support the proletariat in the proletarian revolution. ‘Then the affair will be splendid.’ Radek apparently does not want to see that this is exactly what happened in October, and did not happen badly at that.

With regard to China, the conclusions following from this are quite clear. The dispute is not over the decisive role of the peasantry as an ally, and not over the great significance of the agrarian revolution, but over whether an independent agrarian democratic revolution is possible in China or whether ‘a second edition of the Peasants’ War’ will give support to the proletarian dictatorship. That is the only way the question stands. Whoever puts it differently has learned nothing and understood nothing, but only confuses the Chinese Communist Party and puts it off the right track.

In order that the proletariat of the Eastern countries may open the road to victory, the pedantic reactionary theory of Stalin and Martynov on ‘stages’ and ‘steps’ must be eliminated at the very outset, must be cast aside, broken up and swept away with a broom. Bolshevism grew to maturity in the struggle against this vulgar evolutionism. It is not to a line of march marked out a priori that we must adapt ourselves, but to the real course of the class struggle. It is necessary to reject the idea of Stalin and Kuusinen – the idea of fixing an order of succession for countries at various levels of development by assigning them in advance cards for different rations of revolution. One must adapt oneself to the real course of the class struggle. An inestimable guide for this is Lenin; but the whole of Lenin must be taken into consideration.

When in 1919 Lenin, especially in connection with the organization of the Communist International, unified the conclusions of the period that had gone by, and gave them an ever more finished theoretical formulation, he interpreted the experience of Kerenskyism and October as follows: In a bourgeois society with already developed class antagonisms there can only be either the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, open or disguised, or the dictatorship of the proletariat. There cannot be any talk of an intermediate regime. Every democracy, every ‘dictatorship of democracy’ (the ironical quotation marks are Lenin’s) is only a veil for the rule of the bourgeoisie, as the experience of the most backward European country, Russia, showed in the epoch of its bourgeois revolution, i.e., the epoch most favourable to the ‘dictatorship of democracy’. This conclusion was taken by Lenin as the basis for his theses on democracy, which were produced only as the sum of the experiences of the February and October Revolutions.

Like many others, Radek also separates mechanically the question of democracy from the question of the democratic dictatorship. This is the source of the greatest blunders. The ‘democratic dictatorship’ can only be the masked rule of the bourgeoisie during the revolution. This is taught us by the experience of our ‘dual power’ of 1917 as well as by the experience of the Kuomintang in China.

The hopelessness of the epigones is most crassly expressed in the fact that even now they still attempt to contrast the democratic dictatorship to the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, as well as to the dictatorship of the proletariat. But this means that the democratic dictatorship must be of an intermediate character, that is, have a petty-bourgeois content. The participation of the proletariat in it does not alter matters, for in nature there is no such thing as an arithmetical mean of the various class lines. If it is neither the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie nor the dictatorship of the proletariat, then it follows that the petty-bourgeoisie must play the determining and decisive role. But this brings us back to the very same question which has been answered in practice by the three Russian and the two Chinese revolutions; is the petty-bourgeoisie today, under the conditions of the world domination of imperialism, capable of playing a leading revolutionary role in capitalist countries, even when it is a question of backward countries which are still confronted with the solution of their democratic tasks?

There have been epochs in which the lower strata of the petty-bourgeoisie were able to set up their revolutionary dictatorship. That we know. But those were epochs in which the proletariat, or precursor of the proletariat, of the time had not yet become differentiated from the petty-bourgeoisie, but on the contrary constituted in its undeveloped condition the fighting core of the latter. It is quite otherwise today. We cannot speak of the ability of the petty-bourgeoisie to direct the life of present-day, even if backward, bourgeois society, insofar as the proletariat has already separated itself off from the petty-bourgeoisie and is pitted antagonistically against the big bourgeoisie on the basis of capitalist development, which condemns the petty-bourgeoisie to nullity and confronts the peasantry with the inevitable political choice between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Every time the peasantry decides for a party which on the surface seems petty-bourgeois, it actually offers its back as a support for finance capital. While in the period of the first Russian Revolution, or in the period between the first two revolutions, there could still exist differences of opinion over the degree of independence (but only the degree!) of the peasantry and the petty-bourgeoisie in the democratic revolution, now this question has been decided by the whole course of events of the last twelve years, and decided irrevocably.

It was raised anew in practice after October in many countries and in all possible forms and combinations, and everywhere it was settled the same way. A fundamental experience, following that of Kerenskyism, has been, as already mentioned, the Kuomintang experience. But no less importance is to be attached to the experience of fascism in Italy, where the petty-bourgeoisie, arms in hand, snatched the power from the old bourgeois parties in order to surrender it immediately, through its leaders, to the financial oligarchy. The same question arose in Poland, where the Pilsudski movement was aimed directly against the reactionary bourgeois-landlord government and mirrored the hopes of the petty-bourgeois masses and even of wide circles of the proletariat. It was no accident that the old Polish Social Democrat, Warski, out of fear of ‘underestimating the peasantry’, identified the Pilsudski revolution with the ‘democratic dictatorship of the workers and peasants’. It would lead us too far afield, if I were to analyse here the Bulgarian experience, that is, the disgracefully confused policy of the Kolarovs and Kabakchievs towards tile party of Stambulisky, or the shameful experiment with the Farmer-Labour Party in the United States, or Zinoviev’s romance with Radic, or the experience of the Communist Party of Rumania, and so on and so forth without end. Some of these facts are analysed, in their essentials, in my Criticism of the Draft Programme of the Communist International. The fundamental conclusion of all these experiences fully confirms and strengthens the lessons of October-namely, that the petty-bourgeoisie, including the peasantry, is incapable of playing the role of leader in modern, even if backward, bourgeois society, in revolutionary no less than in reactionary epochs. The peasantry can either support the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, or serve as prop to the dictatorship of the proletariat. Intermediate forms are only disguises for a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, which has begun to totter or which has not yet recovered its feet after disturbances (Kerenskyism, Fascism, Pilsudski’s regime).

The peasantry can follow either the bourgeoisie or the proletariat: But when the proletariat attempts to march at all costs with a peasantry which is not following it, the proletariat proves in fact to be tailing after finance capital: the workers as defenders of the fatherland in Russia in 1917; the workers – including the Communists as well – in the Kuomintang in China; the workers in the Polish Socialist Party, and also the Communists to some extent, in Poland in 1926, etc.

Whoever has not thought this out to the end, and who has not understood the events from the fresh trail they have left behind, had better not get involved in revolutionary politics.

The fundamental conclusion which Lenin drew from the lessons of the February and the October Revolutions, and drew exhaustively and comprehensively, thoroughly rejects the idea of the ‘democratic dictatorship’. The following was repeated by Lenin more than once after 1918:

‘The whole of political economy, if anybody has learned anything from it, the whole history of revolution, the whole history of political development throughout the nineteenth century, teaches us that the peasant follows the worker or the bourgeois ... If you do not know why, I would say to such citizens ... consider the development of any of the great revolutions of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the political history of any country in the nineteenth century. It will tell you why. The economic structure of capitalist society is such that the ruling forces in it can only be capital or the proletariat which overthrows it. There are no other forces in the economic structure of that society.’ (XVI, 217 [2])

It is not a matter here of modern England or Germany. On the basis of the lessons of any one of the great revolutions of the eighteenth or the nineteenth centuries, that is, of the bourgeois revolutions in thebackward countries, Lenin comes to the conclusion that only the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie or the dictatorship of the proletariat is possible. There cannot be a ‘democratic’, that is, an intermediate dictatorship.

His theoretical and historical excursion is summed up by Radek, as we see, in the rather thin aphorism that the bourgeois revolution must be distinguished from the socialist. Having descended to this ‘step’, Radek straightway stretches out a finger to Kuusinen who, proceeding from his one lone resource, that is, ‘common sense’, considers it improbable that the slogan of the proletarian dictatorship can be raised in both the advanced and the backward countries. With the sincerity of a man who understands nothing, Kuusinen convicts Trotsky of having ‘learned nothing’ since 1905. Following Kuusinen, Radek also becomes ironical: for Trotsky, ‘the peculiarity of the Chinese and Indian revolutions consists precisely of the fact that they are in no way distinguished from the western European revolutions and must, therefore, in their first steps [? ! ] lead to the dictatorship of the proletariat.’

Radek forgets one trifle in this connection: The dictatorship of the proletariat was not realized in a Western European country, but precisely in a backward Eastern European country. Is it Trotsky’s fault that the historical process overlooked the ‘peculiarity’ of Russia? Radek forgets further that the bourgeoisie – more accurately, finance capital – rules in all the capitalist countries, with all their diversity in level of development, social structure, traditions, etc., that is, all their ‘peculiarities’. Here again, the lack of respect for this peculiarity proceeds from historical development and not at all from Trotsky.

Then wherein lies the distinction between the advanced and the backward countries ? The distinction is great, but it still remains within the limits of the domination of capitalist relationships. The forms and methods of the rule of the bourgeoisie differ greatly in different countries. At one pole, the domination bears a stark and absolute character: The United States. At the other pole finance capital adapts itself to the outlived institutions of Asiatic mediaevalism by subjecting them to itself and imposing its own methods upon them: India. But the bourgeoisie rules in both places. From this it follows that the dictatorship of the proletariat also will have a highly varied character in terms of the social basis, the political forms, the immediate tasks and the tempo of work in the various capitalist countries. But to lead the masses of the people to victory over the bloc of the imperialists, the feudalists and the national bourgeoisie – this can be done only under the revolutionary hegemony of the proletariat, which transforms itself after the seizure of power into the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Radek fancies that when he has divided humanity into two groups – one which has ‘matured’ for the socialist dictatorship, and another which has ‘matured’ only for the democratic dictatorship – he has by this alone, in contrast to me, taken into consideration the alleged ‘peculiarity’ of the individual countries. In reality he has turned out a lifeless stereotype which can only divert the Communists from a genuine study of the peculiarity of a given country, i.e., the living interpenetration of the various steps and stages of historical development in that country.

The peculiarities of a country which has not accomplished or completed its democratic revolution are of such great significance that they must be taken as the basis for the programme of the proletarian vanguard. Only upon the basis of such a national programme can a Communist party develop its real and successful struggle for the majority of the working class and the toilers in general against the bourgeoisie and its democratic agents.

The possibility of success in this struggle is of course determined to a large extent by the role of the proletariat in the economy of the country, and consequently by the level of its capitalist development. This, however, is by no means the only criterion. No less important is the question whether a far-reaching and burning problem ‘for the people’ exists in the country, in the solution of which the majority of the nation is interested, and which demands for its solution the boldest revolutionary measures. Among problems of this kind are the agrarian question and the national question, in their varied combinations. With the acute agrarian problem and the intolerable national oppression in the colonial countries, the young and relatively small proletariat can come to power on the basis of a national democratic revolution sooner than the proletariat of an advanced country on a purely socialist basis. It might have seemed that since October there should be no necessity to prove this any more. But through the years of ideological reaction and through the theoretical depravity of the epigones, the elementary conceptions of the revolution have become so rank, so putrid and so ... Kuusinified, that one is compelled each time to begin all over again.

Does it follow from what has been said that all the countries of the world, in one way or another, are already today ripe for the socialist revolution? No, this is a false, dead, scholastic, Stalinist-Bukharinist way of putting the question. World economy in its entirety is indubitably ripe for socialism. But this does not mean that every country taken separately is ripe. Then what is to happen with the dictatorship of the proletariat in the various backward countries, in China, India, etc.? To this we answer: History is not made to order. A country can become ‘ripe’ for the dictatorship of the proletariat not only before it is ripe for the independent construction of socialism, but even before it is ripe for far-reaching socialization measures. One must not proceed from a preconceived harmony of social development. The law of uneven development still lives, despite the tender theoretical embraces of Stalin. The force of this law operates not only in the relations of countries to each other, but also in the mutual relationships of the various processes within one and the same country. A reconciliation of the uneven processes of economics and politics can be attained only on a world scale. In particular this means that the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat in China cannot be considered exclusively within the limits of Chinese economics and Chinese politics.

It is precisely here that we come up against the two mutually exclusive standpoints: the international revolutionary theory of the permanent revolution and the national-reformist theory of socialism in one country. Not only backward China, but in general no country in the world can build socialism within its own national limits: the ‘highly-developed productive forces which have grown beyond national boundaries resist this, just as do those forces which are insufficiently developed for nationalization. The dictatorship of the proletariat in Britain, for example, will encounter difficulties and contradictions, different in character, it is true, but perhaps not slighter than those that will confront the dictatorship of the proletariat in China. Surmounting these contradictions is possible in both cases only by way of the international revolution. This standpoint leaves no room for the question of the ‘maturity’ or ‘immaturity’ of China for the socialist transformation. What remains indisputable here is that the backwardness of China makes the tasks of the proletarian dictatorship extremely difficult. But we repeat: History is not made to order, and the Chinese proletariat has no choice.

Does this at least mean that every country, including the most backward colonial country, is ripe, if not for socialism, then for the dictatorship of the proletariat ? No, this is not what it means. Then what is to happen with the democratic revolution in general – and in the colonies in particular? Where is it written – I answer the question with another question – that every colonial country is ripe for the immediate and thoroughgoing solution of its national democratic tasks? The question must be approached from the other end. Under the conditions of the imperialist epoch the national democratic revolution can be carried through to a victorious end only when the social and political relationships of the country are mature for putting the proletariat in power as the leader of the masses of the people. And if this is not yet the case? Then the struggle for national liberation will produce only very partial results, results directed entirely against the working masses. In 1905, the proletariat of Russia did not prove strong enough to unite the peasant masses around it and to conquer power. For this very reason, the revolution halted midway, and then sank lower and lower. In China, where, in spite of the exceptionally favourable situation, the leadership of the Communist International prevented the Chinese proletariat from fighting for power, the national tasks found a wretched, unstable and niggardly solution in the regime of the Kuomintang.

When and under what conditions a colonial country will become ripe for the real revolutionary solution of its agrarian and national problems cannot be foretold. But in any case we can assert today with full certainty that not only China but also India will attain genuine people’s democracy, that is, workers’ and peasants’ democracy, only through the dictatorship of the proletariat. On that road there may still be many stages, steps and phases. Under the pressure of the masses of the people the bourgeoisie will still take steps to the left, in order then to fall all the more mercilessly upon the people. Periods of dual power are possible and probable. But what there will not be, what there cannot be, is a genuine democratic dictatorship that is not the dictatorship of the proletariat. An ‘independent’ democratic dictatorship can only be of the type of the Kuomintang, that is, directed entirely against the workers and the peasants. We must understand this at the outset and teach it to the masses, without hiding the class realities behind abstract formulas.

Stalin and Bukharin preached that thanks to the yoke of imperialism the bourgeoisie could carry out the national revolution in China. The attempt was made. With what results? The proletariat was brought under the headman’s axe. Then it was said: The democratic dictatorship will come next. The petty-bourgeois dictatorship proved to be only a masked dictatorship of capital. By accident? No. ‘The peasant follows either the worker or the bourgeois.’ In the first case, the dictatorship of the proletariat arises; in the other the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. It would seem that the lesson of China is clear enough, even if studied from afar. ‘No,’ we are answered, ‘that was merely an unsuccessful experiment. We will begin everything all over again and this time set up the " genuine " democratic dictatorship.’ ‘By what means?’ ‘On the social basis of the collaboration of the proletariat and the peasantry.’ It is Radek who presents us with this latest discovery. But, if you will permit, the Kuomintang arose on that very same basis: workers and peasants ‘collaborated’ – to pull the chestnuts out of the fire for the bourgeoisie. Tell us what the political mechanics of this collaboration will look like. With what will you replace the Kuomintang? What parties will be in power? Indicate them at least approximately, at least describe them! To this Radek answers (in 1928!) that only people who are completely done for, who are incapable of understanding the complexity of Marxism, can be interested in such a secondary technical question as which class will be the horse and which the rider; whereas a Bolshevik must ‘abstract’ himself from the political superstructure, focusing his attention on the class foundation. No, permit me, you have already had your joke. You have already ‘abstracted’ enough. More than enough! In China, you ‘abstracted’ yourself from the question of how class collaboration expressed itself in party matters, you dragged the proletariat into the Kuomintang, you became infatuated with the Kuomintang to the point of losing your senses, you furiously resisted withdrawal from the Kuomintang; you shrank from political questions of struggle by repeating abstract formulas. And after the bourgeoisie has very concretely broken the skull of the proletariat, you propose to us: Let us try all over again; and as a beginning let us once more ‘abstract’ ourselves from the question of the parties and the revolutionary power. No! These are very poor jokes. We will not allow ourselves to be dragged back!

All these acrobatics, as we have perceived, are presented in the interest of an alliance of the workers and peasants. Radek warns the Opposition against an underestimation of the peasantry and cites the struggle of Lenin against the Mensheviks. Sometimes, when one observes what is being done with quotations from Lenin, one resents bitterly such offences against the dignity of human thought. Yes, Lenin said more than once that denial of the revolutionary role of the peasantry was characteristic of the Mensheviks. And that was right. But in addition to these quotations, there also was the year 1917, in which the Mensheviks spent the eight months which separated the February from the October Revolution in an unbroken bloc with the Socialist Revolutionaries. In that period the Socialist Revolutionaries represented the overwhelming majority of the peasantry awakened by the revolution. Together with the SRs, the Mensheviks called themselves the revolutionary democracy and remonstrated with us that they were the very ones who based themselves upon the alliance of the workers with the peasants (soldiers). Thus, after the February Revolution the Mensheviks expropriated, so to speak, the Bolshevik formula of the alliance of the workers and peasants. The Bolsheviks were accused by them of wanting to split the proletarian vanguard from the peasantry and thereby to ruin the revolution. In other words, the Mensheviks accused Lenin of ignoring, or at least of underestimating the peasantry.

The criticism of Kamenev, Zinoviev and others directed against Lenin was only an echo of the criticism of the Mensheviks. The present criticism of Radek in turn is only a belated echo of the criticism of Kamenev.

The policy of the epigones in China, including Radek’s policy, is the continuation and the further development of the Menshevik masquerade of 1917. The fact that the Communist party remained in the Kuomintang was defended not only by Stalin, but also by Radek, with the same reference to the necessity of the alliance of the workers and peasants. But when it was ‘accidentally’ revealed that the Kuomintang was a bourgeois party, the attempt was repeated with the ‘Left’ Kuomintang. The results were the same. Thereupon, the abstraction of the democratic dictatorship, in distinction from the dictatorship of the proletariat, was elevated above this sorry reality which had not fulfilled the high hopes – a fresh repetition of what we had already had. In 1917, we heard a hundred times from Tsereteli, Dan and the others: ‘We already have the dictatorship of the revolutionary democracy, but you are driving toward the dictatorship of the proletariat, that is, toward ruin.’ Truly, people have short memories. The ‘revolutionary democratic dictatorship’ of Stalin and Radek is in no way distinguished from the ‘dictatorship of the revolutionary democracy’ of Tsereteli and Dan. And in spite of that, this formula not only runs through all the resolutions of the Comintern, but it has also penetrated into its programme. It is hard to conceive a more cunning masquerade and at the same time a more bitter revenge by Menshevism for the affronts which Bolshevism heaped upon it in 1917.

The revolutionists of the East, however, still have the right to demand a definite answer to the question of the character of the ‘democratic dictatorship’, based not upon old, a priori quotations, but upon facts and upon political experience. To the question: What is a ‘democratic dictatorship’? – Stalin has repeatedly given the truly classical reply: For the East, it is approximately the same as ‘Lenin conceived it with regard to the 1905 Revolution’. This has become the official formula to a certain extent. It can be found in the books and resolutions devoted to China, India or Polynesia. Revolutionists are referred to Lenin’s ‘conceptions’ concerning future events, which in the meantime have long ago become past events, and in addition, the hypothetical ‘conceptions’ of Lenin are interpreted this way and that, but never in the way that Lenin himself interpreted them after the events.

‘All right,’ says the Communist of the East, hanging his head, ‘we will try to conceive of it exactly as Lenin, according to your words, conceived of it before the revolution. But won’t you please tell us what this slogan looks like in actuality? How was it realized in your country?’

‘In our country it was realized in the shape of Kerenskyism in the epoch of dual power.’

‘Can we tell our workers that the slogan of the democratic dictatorship will be realized in our country in the shape of in our own national Kerenskyism?’

‘Come, come! Not at all! No worker will adopt such a slogan; Kerenskyism is servility to the bourgeoisie and betrayal of the working people.’

‘But what, then, must we tell our workers?’ the Communist of the East asks despondently.

‘You must tell them,’ impatiently answers Kuusinen, the man on duty, ‘that the democratic dictatorship is the one that Lenin conceived of with regard to the future democratic revolution.’

If the Communist of the East is not lacking in sense, he will seek to rejoin:

‘But didn’t Lenin explain in 1918 that the democratic dictatorship found its genuine and true realization only in the October Revolution which established the dictatorship of the proletariat? Would it not be better to orient the party and the working class precisely toward this prospect?’

‘Under no circumstances. Do not even dare to think about it. Why, that is the per-r-r-manent r-r-r-evolution! That’s Tr-r-rotskyism!’

After this harsh reprimand the Communist of the East turns paler than the snow on the highest peaks of the Himalayas and abandons any further craving for knowledge. Let whatever will happen, happen!

And the consequences? We know them well: either contemptible grovelling before Chiang Kai-shek, or heroic adventures.


1. Chiang Kai-shek is the leader of the Right Wing, and Wang Ching-wei of the Left Wing of the Kuomintang. Tang Ping-shan served as a Cornmunist Minister, carrying out the line of Stalin and Bukharin in China. – L.T.

2. The Deception of the People by the Slogans of Freedom and Equality, May 1919, 4th edition, XXIX, 338. An English version was published in pamphlet form in the Little Lenin Library in 1934: see pp.34-35 of this pamphlet.

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