Notes of a Journalist


Source: The Militant, Vol. IV No. 17, 1 August 1931, p. 4.
Transcription/HTML Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Trotsky Internet Archive.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive ( 2013. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.

Manuilsky, the Leader of the Comintern

Nothing can be done about it: Manuilsky is at present the leader of the Comintern. The strongest side of this man lies in the fact that he does not take himself seriously. This is evidence that he is inclined to self-criticism. Whether it is because Stalin does not take the Comintern seriously, or for some other reason it was nevertheless decided that Manuilsky, who does not take himself seriously, is the most suitable man for the most suitable place. And who else was to be put there?

If a complete collection of the “works” of Manuilsky should be gathered, we would have, if not an instructive, at any rate an entertaining book. Manuilsky was always somebody’s armor-bearer, moreover, he changed his “knights” many times: he stayed longest with the not unknown Alexinsky. At present, Manuilsky as Yaroslavsky’s armor-bearer is one of the prosecution apprentices in matters of Trotskyist ideology. Under his own name and under pseudonyms, he has again and again proved the irreconcilability of Trotskyism and Leninism. But he has not always spoken this way. In 1918 Manuilsky issued a pamphlet in which he wrote that the “honor of liberating Bolshevism from national-limitedness and its transformation into a theory of international proletarian revolution, belongs to L.D. Trotsky”. [1] At one of the Plenums of the Comintern, Trotsky quoted this citation, “famous” in its way, in the presence of Manuilsky and with full justification ridiculed the citation and its author. The pamphlet was written by Manuilsky after the October revolution and what is more after its publication not a single hair fell from his head. It is true, it may be said but this was prior to the ... “trade union discussion”, and later on Manuilsky changed his views. Not in the least. Recently, we came across a quotation from an article by Manuilsky written in 1922, consequently, at the time when Lenin’s illness was already drawing its final balance under the relationships between Lenin and Trotsky. Here is what Manuilsky wrote in the article, devoted to the memory of Chudnovsky:

“... The Social Democrat, published in Switzerland by comrades Lenin and Zinoviev; the Paris Golos, which was subsequent to its suppression by the French police, renamed Nasha Slovo, directed by comrade Trotsky, will be for the future historian of the Third International the fundamental fragments out of which the new revolutionary ideology of the international proletariat has been hammered out.” (Annals of the Revolution, No. 1, page 229, 1922)

At present Manuilsky proves that during the war Trotsky was a pacifist and a Kautskyan, that Leninism and Trotskyism – are two irreconcilable entities, but in 1922, he maintained neither more nor less than that “the new revolutionary ideology of the international proletariat”, that is, the ideology of modern Communism, was created by Lenin and Trotsky. Precisely when did Manuilsky see the light of truth? Neither in 1914–1916 when he worked with Trotsky in the Paris paper, Nasha Slovo, nor in 1917–1922, when Manuilsky, together with the whole party, worked under the leadership of Lenin, was the light of truth revealed to him. Only after illness, and later on, death took Lenin out of the ranks, and the epigones, spurred on by a wave of Thermidorian reaction, declared war upon the ideological heritage of Lenin under the name of “Trotskyism”, did Manuilsky begin to recover his sight. By the way, not all at once. The “trinity” (Stalin, Zinoviev, Kamenev) kept him in the background for a long time, and only after it had by that brought him to semi-repentance, did it give him an ultimatum: open up a campaign against Rakovsky as an introduction to a campaign against Trotsky. Manuilsky, after wavering (Rakovsky’s prestige was too high) accepted the condition and thus bought himself a place on the Central Committee of the party. This deal was no secret to the broad party circles, because Manuilsky himself, with his characteristic cynicism, portrayed this deal with reference to persons, revealing his high talents as a raconteur of national and other anecdotes. We repeat, this man never took himself seriously, either politically or morally. And he has now been put at the head of the Communist International. And he is now working out the routes for the Spanish revolution!

Auerbach Caught with the Goods

In Moscow, there is published a Literary Gazette, the organ of the Federation of Soviet Authors. The critic of this paper is Auerbach. His rights to leadership of literature are determined, on the one hand, by the fact that he deserted in time the ranks of the Opposition, into which he came accidentally (I.N. Smirnov used to say about him: “He won’t stay with us – he’s too gluttonous”.) for the ranks of the bureaucracy, where he is quite at home; on the other hand, by the fact that he has absolutely no literary flair, to which every line of his own writings bear witness. In the Literary Gazette for February 19, Auerbach wrote an enormous article entitled Tempos of Self-Revelation (On Trotsky, Mayakovsky, and Fellow-Travelling). In the center of the article is a note by Trotsky devoted to Mayakovsky’s suicide. From this note, Auerbach extracts a quotation devoted to proletarian literature. The “self-revelation” consists of the fact that Trotsky has finally recognized openly the complete opposition of his views in the question of proletarian culture and proletarian literature to the views of Lenin. However let us produce the quotation from Trotsky’s article in the form in which it is quoted by Auerbach with his own parenthetical remarks.

“The struggle for ‘proletarian culture’ [quotation marks by Trotsky – L.A.] – something in the form of ‘general collectivization’ [his own quotation marks – L.A.] of all the intellectual achievements of humanity in the framework of the Five Year Plan – still had at the beginning of the October revolution a Utopian, idealistic character. It is significant that in this sphere, even then the contradiction between Lenin and the author of these lines was revealed.”

The whole quotation, as we see, is in quotation mark, and what is more Aeurbach correctly points out the single quotation marks by Trotsky himself. Auerbach is exact and scrupulous. But in spite of this, the Auerbachian style of the quotation, and particularly of its last phrase – “It is significant that in this sphere even then, the conflict between Lenin and the author of these lines was revealed” – is puzzling. Thus, Trotsky not only points out that he had disagreements with Lenin on a definite question, but he even hurries to emphasize the “significance” of the fact that these disagreements were revealed “even then”, that is, it would appear that Trotsky makes it his aim to reveal himself. This sounds somewhat puzzling. Auerbach, however, does not spare any comment. “First of all, what is most obvious,” he says, “is the frank declaration about the disagreements with Lenin.” Really Auerbach is correct. Something is obvious. Further on, it says: “We must be grateful: What is more pleasant to read than the acknowledgment by Trotsky himself of Lenin’s disagreement with his views on literature and general questions of culture.” The phrase is constructed in an illiterate manner, like the majority of Auerbach’s phrases, but it is possible to understand. The whole article ends with the conclusion: “The speed of the self-revelation is significant.”

In this manner, in the year 1930, Trotsky revealed himself in the fact that he did not agree with Lenin on his views on literature. On this score, Auerbach celebrates a victory and speaks of the speed of self-revelation. But in the year 1928, Trotsky was exiled to Alma-Ata, and in 1929 was expelled from the country for counter-revolutionary activity and the preparation of an armed uprising against the Soviet power. Of what significance, in comparison with this “fact”, is Trotsky’s disagreement with Lenin on his views on proletarian literature? Where and in what does the speed (!) of self-revelation lie here? Is it not the other way around? Does not this “disproportion” in the accusations reveal – Auerbach’s employers? Such is the political side of the matter But there is also another.

The fact is that Auerbach lied from beginning to end. The quotation which he made is not a quotation; it is a falsification: crude illiterate, insolent – à la Auerbach. Here is word for word the passage from Trotsky’s article which Auerbach disfigured:

“The struggle for ‘proletarian culture’ – something in the form of ‘complete collectivization’ of all the achievements of humanity in the framework of the Five Year Plan – had at the beginning of the October revolution a character of Utopian idealism – and precisely along this line met with a rebuff from Lenin and the author of these lines.”

In this manner, Trotsky says that the philosophy of proletarian culture “met with a rebuff from Lenin and the author of these lines”. But Auerbach says: “even then, the conflict between Lenin and the author of these lines was revealed” – neither more nor less! The man who poses as a proletarian critic turns out to be simply a base literary swindler. This time, he has been caught with the goods too crudely and in reality, relieves us of the necessity of making any further comment. However, we cannot help reminding that Auerbach’s mendacity assumes a still viler character because he himself is very well informed about Lenin’s and Trotsky’s relations to the Auerbachian margarine of literary and cultural philosophy. Auerbach knows how rigorously Lenin came out against the theoreticians of the so-called “proletarian culture” in the years when this movement had a revolutionary content, and was not gripped in the hands of the bureaucratic charlatans. Auerbach knows that if Trotsky had “disagreements” with Lenin on this question, they were perhaps expressed in the fact that Trotsky had a softer attitude than Lenin to the infatuations of the ideologists of proletarian culture and at times defended them before Lenin. Auerbach knows that Trotsky wrote his book on literature in agreement with Lenin, who insisted more than once that Trotsky should first of all work out the chapter devoted to proletarian culture and print it in Pravda. By the way, its publication was not accompanied by any comments or footnotes by the editor. Yaroslavsky – Yaroslavsky himself! – wrote to Trotsky that he agrees with the viewpoint he expressed. All this is known to Auerbach, because as one of the young aspirants to “proletarian literature,” he attempted more than once in those years to find in Trotsky a defender against Lenin’s views, but invariably met with rebuff.

Literally, whichever aspect you touch, the ideology of the Centrist bureaucracy is built upon lies, falsifications, on the disfigurement of the past. Just think of it: Here this Auerbach comes out as an instructor and tutor of the proletarian youth! He, Auerbach, paves the way for “proletarian” (!) “culture” (!!). People who can judge by symptoms should understand from this example alone what a fatal danger the present party regime represents for the development of a socialist society and to socialist culture.

Note by the Editor: In corrobation of Alfa’s remarks, we print the following parts of a speech of Trotsky together with the quotation by Manuilsky to which Alfa refers, as well as the interjections by Manuilsky during Trotsky’s speech:

TROTSKY: I know of only one single literary product – and I became aware of it also only a few weeks ago – in which the attempt is made to make a universal theory out of this theory, to present it as an improvement upon the theoretical attitude of Lenin. I will read this quotation to you. I need not say that I have absolutely nothing in common with this interpretation:

“Russian Bolshevism, born in the nationally-limited revolution of 1905–1906, had to go through the purification ritual of emancipation from all the typical features of national peculiarity, in order to receive all the civil rights of international ideology. Theoretically, this purging of Bolshevism of the national tinge adhering to it was carried through in 1905 by Trotsky, who sought to bring the Russian revolution into harmony with the whole international movement of the proletariat in the idea of the permanent revolution.”

This was written not by me, it was written in 1918 by a comrade who bears the name of Manuilsky.

MANUILSKY: So I did say something stupid, and you repeat it!

TROTSKY: Something stupid? Absolutely right! (Laughter) But you need have no concern about comrade Manuilsky; naturally this is a painful subject, for he himself calls it a stupidity. But comrade Manuilsky who has here attributed to me a tremendously heroic deed, without my having earned it, will soon again, without my having earned it, attribute to me two mistakes and in this manner draw his balance. (Laughter) (From the Minutes of the Plenum of the E.C.C.I., November 22–December 13, 1926, German edition, page 583. Berlin)


1. Unfortunately, I am obliged to make this quotation from memory, but I fully guarantee the accuracy of thought. – A.

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Last updated on: 13.1.2013