Leon Trotsky

Stalinism in Straits; Opposition on Upsurge

(June 1932)

Written: 10 June 1932.
Source: The Militant, Vol. V No. 28 (Whole No. 124), 9 July 1932, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan for the Trotsky Internet Archive.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2012. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.

In the development of the Comintern and, consequently, of the Left Opposition likewise, we are approaching a turn on a major scale. Great events reveal, once again, that false policies which are foisted by force upon the proletarian vanguard bring in their train cruel retaliation. There is not a single problem – literally not a single one! – wherein the insufficiency of the “general line” has not now exposed itself, in its stark, fatal clarity. Whenever a large concern is in straits, creditors from all sides swarm, and act all the more mercilessly the longer the settlement has been protracted.

The war danger in the East is the direct and immediate consequence of Stalin’s ruinous policy in relation to the Chinese revolution. The militarists of Japan threaten the Soviet Union because Stalin helped his ally Chiang Kai-Shek to strangle the revolution.

Thereafter the Stalinists propounded that Soviet China could be built on the foundation of the partisan warfare of the peasantry without immediate revolutionary insurrections in the cities. Years of adventurism weakened still further the Chinese proletariat. The responsibility for the present weakness of revolutionary China lies on the shoulders of the politicians of the “Third Period”.

For the last two or three years the Opposition never wearied of warning that the prize leaps in the industrialization of U.S.S.R. carried with them the threat of a break with the village; that the technically and culturally unprepared-for, “all-embracing” collectivization carried with it the threat of a crisis in staples At the present moment the warning has become a fact. The Stalinist bureaucracy, along this line also, has jammed itself into inexorable difficulties. Under the yoke of pressing necessity, it is now performing an economic about-turn of exceptional historical importance. But partly because it does not itself understand what it is doing, and partly because it is consciously fooling the party. In the name of prestige, it is disorienting and disarming the working class of the Soviet Union.

What further conditions are required in order to assure the revolutionary hegemony of the German proletariat within the nation; and of the Communist party within the proletariat? Herein too the Stalinist bureaucracy has contrived to doom the Communist party to a fraudulent passivity and a degrading impotence. From 1919 on, the German Social Democracy has worked unceasingly for Fascism. From 1923, the German Communist Party has worked unceasingly in the interests of the social democracy. Ignoring the lessons of the tragic experiences as well as our warnings, the Stalinist bureaucracy is at present driving the German proletariat in a bee line towards an abyss.

The unprecedented economic crisis has turned into the collapse of capitalist society. Bourgeois classes have set up a sorrowful howling in premonition of death. Yet, nevertheless official Communism in all countries suffers defeat after defeat. Why? For an answer we get, “The general line is incorrect, but the executives are poor.” As if executives descend from the sky! As if the gist of the general line does not consist precisely in suckling executives in its own semblance and image. As if the leaders are not responsible for those whom they delegate! The senseless and dishonest theory of the infallibility of the leadership is decomposing the Communist ranks, destroying the will of some, causing aversion in others. Redoubled Blows at the Opposition The settlement for the sins of several periods of epigone errors and crimes is face to face with us. Doomed by history, the Centrist bureaucracy with redoubled efforts clutches after tried methods. Having fallen into a vice between its classes enemies and the consequences of its own crimes, it redoubles, trebles its blows against the Left Opposition.

Seemingly everything has been tried already: vilifications, arrests, exiles, and firing squads. But no! In the Stalinist kitchen new dishes are being prepared from the decoctions and dregs of hatred and perfidy. Not so very long ago, Pravda reproduced photographic facsimiles of articles by Polish Fascists, passing out falsifications for the sacred truth. It was only yesterday that Izvestia reprinted with raptures the canards of a German Fascist sheet on the hoardings regarding the conspiracy of the Left Opposition with the social democracy. The matter did not rest here. A certain Buechner is writing, on instructions from the Stalinist bureau, a German book in which he attempts to link the Left Opposition with the police. Everything that was written and said in 1917 by the Mensheviks, the Social Revolutionists and the Kadets is here surpassed not only in stupidity but also in vileness.

When demonstrating the inner depravity of Bolshevism, the Mensheviks clutched at least at facts: they cited Malinovsky, a member of the C.E.C. who was put by the police into the State Duma. They cited that the police department assigned its secret agents to sustain that course, which was directed toward a split of the Bolsheviks with the Mensheviks. And finally, they cited that Ludendorff “patronized” Lenin, by bringing him through in a sealed train. The Bolsheviks replied with contempt to the scoundrels who attempted to turn the plots of the police, against the most revolutionary party, into a polemical weapon against that same party. Today Stalin completely repeats the tactics of Miliukov, Kerensky, Tseretelli, and Dan. With the sole difference that Stalin lacks even a vestige of facts. He manufactures them. The shady personage who writes under the name Buechner, relates that it seems that Trotsky’s Autobiography is published in Warsaw by the political police. And this canard is published in all languages; on this they desire to educate the Communist youth.

A certain Hungarian Fascist “dedicates” his book to Trotsky, and expresses his ironical “thanks”, in which hatred masquerades as wit. What conclusions could one draw from this episode? Did not revolutionists apply, only with greater success, that same method against their class enemies? Did not Lenin print his thanks to the English paper Times for some articles, or other, which he utilized in his own way? But there is a scoundrel to be found who in the columns of Pravda speaks out on this foundation of a union between Trotsky and the Fascists.

In an article I expressed myself to the effect that Japanese imperialism would hardly dare to throw an open challenge to the Soviet Union before it intrenches itself in Manchuria. In this connection the central organ of the American Communist (!!!) Party writes that Trotsky acts in the interests of the Japanese. To explain this away by stupidity would be too superficial; after all, stupidity has its limits. Here we have to deal with a corrupt functionary who will stop at nothing in order to earn his salary The purport of my article was to the effect that a struggle with the Red Army is too hard a nut for the teeth of Japanese militarism. The General Staff in Tokio has reasons to believe that I am better able to evaluate the strength of the Red Army than the New York yawpers who are under orders to snap at my calves. It is self-evident, of course, that great world problems are not resolved by isolated articles. But if one was to weigh the influence of articles, then my evaluation of the Red Army and the perspectives of the Soviet-Japanese War could serve in Japan only those elements that desire to hinder the war. But is it possible to answer barking and howling with arguments?

The “United Front”: Who with Whom?

These gentlemen depict Rakovsky as an enemy of the Soviet Union. For that, they seek a champion in Barbusse who in turn wants to lean on Vandervelde. With its hat in hand the Stalinist bureaucracy is now begging alms from the petty bourgeois pacifists. And inflexible warriors such as Sosnovsky, heroes of the Civil War such as Muralov and Gruenstein, such as hundreds and thousands of Bolshevik-Leninists, are in isolation and confinement, bound hand and foot.

Giving us over into the hands of the bourgeois police, the Stalinists declaim about our united front with the bourgeois counter-revolution. But in the eyes of the working class the capitalist governments of the world are aiding Stalin to surround the Oppositionists with a circle of barbed wire. No matter how Stalin’s agents lie, this single fact exposes to the ultimate the actual grouping of forces.

They wish to tie us with the Japanese staff and the Polish police. Kerensky in his time tried already to tie up the Bolsheviks with the German staff and the Czarist police. Kerensky proceeded with this all the more licentiously the hotter the ground under his feet became. Today he has found imitators. And of what sort? These people shot down Blumkins and sent out in their stead Agabekovs. We brand the name Agabekov on your foreheads. With this brand you shall walk about to the end of your days.

What does Stalin want? He wants to utilize the war danger for a new and if possible, physical annihilation of Bolshevik-Leninists. Letters from the U.S.S.R., that have reached us lately bear witness to the fact that the Left Opposition is achieving now throughout the entire land a second enrollment. In the industrial centers, in plants, factories and mines a new generation of Bolshevik-Leninists has appeared. Creative ideas do not die. Political facts teach The Left Opposition has demonstrated that it is unconquerable.

Stalin on the contrary has compromised himself on all sides. During the XVII conference he disgracefully kept silent on all problems. Not a word about the problems of Soviet economy! Not a word about the problems of Soviet economy! Not a word about the situation in Germany! “The Chief” who in the most responsible situations recognizes himself that he had best keep quiet, is a complete political bankrupt. Already in the circles closest to Stalin – we are written from Moscow – the functionaries are ironically whispering “Hadn’t we better ask for instructions from Rakovsky or Trotsky?” Out of this bureaucratic impotence has been born the most recent international campaign against the Left Opposition.

The work done by the Bolshevik-Leninists has not been done in vain. The fundamental documents and works of the Left Opposition have been issued in all languages of the civilized and semi-civilized world. In tens of countries there exist Oppositionist cadres that are to the marrow of their bones saturated with conviction in their correctness and in their historic right to victory. A great and an ineradicable conquest!

Unable to answer our criticism, enmeshed in contradictions, convicted by events, forced to keep quiet on the basic problems of politics, the Stalinist clique is making a final attempt to separate us from the official Communist parties by a criminological-political novel, the ineptitude of which in no wise palliates its vileness.

The Stalinists by their persecutions would like to push us on the road of a second party and the Fourth international. They understand that a fatal error of this type on the part of the Opposition, if it would not nullify altogether all its successes, would for years slow up its ascent. To counterpose oneself inimically to the Communist parties would mean under the given conditions to fulfill the program of the centrist bureaucracy. No, that is not our road! The intrigues of Stalin, his Buechners and his Agabekovs, exposed and unexposed, will not force us to change our course. We stand on the soil of the first four Congresses of the Comintern, and the doctrines and traditions of Bolshevism. The lessons of the October revolution, we and only we are applying to all the tasks of the world proletariat. Over our heads waves the banner of the Third International. We lay all claim to its historical inheritance.

The Opposition is Invincible!

Proletarian politics knows neither the feeling of chagrin nor the feeling of revenge. It is directed by revolutionary expediency. Before the working masses of the U.S.S.R. and of the entire world the Bolshevik-Leninists repeat,

“Today, as on the day when we first raised the voice of warning against the epigone bureaucracy, we are ready to a man to place ourselves at the disposal of the Comintern and of the Soviet state for the most common, the most onerous, and the most dangerous work. We are bound thereby to preserve steadfastly the discipline of action. Our condition is this alone: within the framework of the Comintern we must have the possibility of defending our ideas, i.e., the ideas of Marxism, in conformance with the elementary principles of party democracy.”

We know that the Stalinists will not accept our proposal: they lack the guts for it. In order to agree to it, they must not be afraid of us. But therein is the whole business, it is the fear of the Left Opposition that is at present one of the most important springs of activity of the utterly compromised apparatus.

We seek not friendship with the bureaucracy but a fighting collaboration with the proletarian Vanguard. In reply to provocations and the abject plots of the Stalinists, the Bolshevik-Leninists will come more closely to the Communist mass. As before, so now, our adherents will not limit themselves to exposing political mistakes and the crimes of leadership. Hand in hand with the rank and file of the party members they will fight for the banner of Communism – in the strike, in the street demonstration, in the election campaign, and in the more decisive battles when their hour shall strike.

Stalin may be able to make short shrift of individual Bolsheviks. But he will not strangle Bolshevism. The victory of the Left Opposition is assured by history.

Prinkipo, June 10, 1932

L. Trotsky

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Last updated on: 1.1.2014