Leon Trotsky

Problems of the Chinese Revolution

Second Speech
on the
Chinese Question

May 1927

We are all of the opinion that the Chinese revolution lives and will continue to live. That is why the main question is not whether the Opposition issued a warning and when, and where (I assert that it did warn and take it upon myself to prove it); the question is not whether Trotsky or Maslow wanted to surrender the Chinese Eastern Railway; the question is rather what is to be done from now on to pull the revolution out of the morass into which it was led by false policy and to set it on the correct road. I want, in a few words, to go to the heart of the question and show the irreconcilable divergence between our position and Stalin’s.

Stalin has again declared himself here against workers’ and peasants’ soviets with the argument that the Guomindang and the Wuhan government are sufficient means and instruments for the agrarian revolution. Thereby Stalin assumes, and wants the International to assume the responsibility for the policy of the Guomindang and the Wuhan government, as he repeatedly assumed the responsibility for the policy of the former “national government” of Chiang Kai-shek (particularly in his speech of April 5, the stenogram of which has, of course, been kept hidden from the International).

We have nothing in common with this policy. We do not want to assume even a shadow of responsibility for the policy of the Wuhan government and the leadership of the Guomindang, and we urgently advise the Comintern to reject this responsibility. We say directly to the Chinese peasants: The leaders of the Left Guomindang of the type of Wang Jingwei and Co. will inevitably betray you if you follow the Wuhan heads instead of forming your own independent soviets. The agrarian revolution is a serious thing. Politicians of the Wang Jingwei type, under difficult conditions, will unite ten times with Chiang Kai-shek against the workers and peasants. Under such conditions, two Communists in a bourgeois government become impotent hostages, if not a direct mask for the preparation of a new blow against the working masses. We say to the workers of China: The peasants will not carry out the agrarian revolution to the end if they let themselves be led by petty-bourgeois radicals instead of by you, the revolutionary proletarians. Therefore, build up your workers’ soviets, ally them with the peasant soviets, arm yourselves through the soviets, draw soldiers’ representatives into the soviets, shoot the generals who do not recognize the soviets, shoot the bureaucrats and bourgeois liberals who will organize uprisings against the soviets. Only through peasants’ and soldiers’ soviets will you win over the majority of Chiang Kai-shek’s soldiers to your side. You, the advanced Chinese proletarians, would be traitors to your class and to your historic mission, were you to believe that an organization of leaders, petty-bourgeois and compromising in spirit, which has no more than 250,000 members (see the report of Tang Pingshan), is capable of taking the place of workers’, peasants’, and soldiers’ soviets embracing millions upon millions. The Chinese bourgeois-democratic revolution will go forward and be victorious either in the soviet form or not at all.

We will say to the Chinese Communists: The program of comrade Chen Duxiu, namely, to postpone the “reorganization” of the Hankow régime and the confiscation of the large landowners’ land until the war danger is eliminated, is the surest and swiftest road to ruin. The war is a class danger. It can only be ended by crushing the great landowners, by annihilating the agents of imperialism and of Chiang Kai-shek and by the building of soviets. Precisely in that lies the agrarian revolution, the people’s revolution, the workers’ and peasants’ revolution, i.e., the genuine national revolution (in the Leninist, but not in the Martinovist sense of the term).

Now on the internal questions of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

At critical moments like the present, the principal rule of revolutionary policy consists of thinking out a question to the very end and expressing one’s opinion completely, with entire clarity, without any hypocrisy, without reservations. It is a question of the Opposition in the CPSU and of what is going to happen in connection with the international difficulties and the prospect of war.

It would be manifestly absurd to believe that the Opposition can simply renounce its views. Such questions are decided by the test of events. An examination of the last half year since the Seventh Plenum has, in our opinion, shown and proved that the line of the Opposition stood the test of the greatest events of the Chinese revolution and made it possible to foresee and foretell correctly every stage in the question of the Anglo-Russian Committee, that is, in essence, the question of Amsterdam, and consequently also of the Second International.

Is common work possible? I have enumerated our diplomats to you, and I named only the most important ones. I could name hundreds and thousands of Opposition party workers in various posts at home. Will anyone dare to say that such Oppositionists, for example, as the People’s Commissar for Postal and Telegraphic Communications, Ivan Nikitich Smirnov, or the head of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection for the Army and Navy, Muralov, or the People’s Commissar for the interior, Byeloborodov, fulfil their duties worse than others? But the whole trick of the Party apparatus consists of removing the Oppositionists from their work, beginning with the skilled workers in the factories. They are persecuted, shifted around, driven out, regardless of the quality of their work, solely and exclusively because of their Opposition viewpoint, which they defend with party methods. As the Party Congress approaches, they are trying to send a member of the Central Committee, comrade Smilga, one of the oldest Bolsheviks, one of the heroes of the October revolution and the civil war, one of our outstanding economists, to the Far East, to Khabarovsk, for planning work, that is, simply to isolate him politically. In the same manner, they are trying to get rid of comrade Safarov, who has more than twenty years of uninterrupted Party work behind him, by proposing to him to leave as soon as possible, be it for Turkey, or Tierra del Fuego, or the planet Mars, or anywhere else, so long as he disappears. They are trying at all costs to ship one of the oldest Party members, Kuklin, a proletarian to the core, a former member of the Central Committee (he was removed from it for supporting the Opposition) to Britain, where he would be practically like a fish out of water. All of them are stainless revolutionists, fighters of the October revolution and the civil war. The number of examples could be multiplied endlessly. This method is ruinous. It disorganizes the Party. Common practical work is entirely possible. This has been demonstrated by all our experience. The guarantee for such common work in the interest of our workers’ state depends entirely upon the Central Committee which is, it is true, pursuing an exactly contrary course.

I repeat: conscientious common work is possible, despite the deepening of the differences during the last year. On international questions this has appeared clearly, because tremendous events have taken place there. But now developments are entering a new phase in internal questions. Not only war, but also war danger itself puts all questions harshly before us. Every class necessarily examines the fundamental questions of policy when faced with war. The kulak, the functionary, and the NEP-man raise their heads and ask: What kind of war will this be, what will we get out of it, with what methods will it be conducted? On the other hand, the town worker, the land worker and the poor peasant will also examine more sharply, in face of the war danger, the achievements of the revolution, the advantages and disadvantages of the soviet régime, and will ask: In which direction will the relationship of forces be changed by the war? Will it increase the role of the men on top or the masses below? Will it straighten out the proletarian class line of the Party or will it accelerate the shift towards the high-ups under the pretext of a “national war” (in the Stalinist interpretation)?

The bourgeois elements among us have grown very strong; the struggle of the two tendencies has its roots in the classes. Since there is only one party in our country, the struggle goes on inside our party.

With the greatest light-mindedness, or more correctly, with the most criminal light-mindedness, they have spoken here of shattering the Opposition, of splitting off the Opposition, and the speakers were those whose whole past gives them the least right to do so. But I shall not dwell on them. Such people are washed ashore by one wave and washed away by another.

Ustryalov, the shrewdest enemy of Bolshevism, has for some time demanded the expulsion of the Opposition and a split with it. Ustryalov is the representative of the new bourgeoisie which grows out of the NEP, and of the most virile section of the old bourgeoisie which wants to support itself upon the new. Ustryalov does not want to “skip over any stages”. Ustryalov openly supports the policy of Stalin and only demands of Stalin greater determination in liquidating the Opposition. Ponder over these facts.

On the other hand, when MacDonald appeals against intervention, he demands that the sensible “practical politicians” should not be prevented from putting an end to “the propagandists of the Third International“ – these are literally MacDonald’s words – , that is, that Stalin should not be disturbed in his work of smashing the Opposition. Chamberlain, with his brigand’s methods, wants to hasten the same process. The various methods are directed towards one aim: to smash the proletarian line, to destroy the international connections of the Soviet Union, to force the Russian proletariat to renounce its intervention in the affairs of the international proletariat. Can it be doubted that MacDonald will raise no objection to your refusal to permit comrade Zinoviev to attend the sessions of the Comintern? MacDonald will boast of his own farsightedness if you should carry out the policy of destroying and splitting off the opposition. MacDonald will say: The practical politicians are breaking with the propagandists of the Third International.

The attempt to depict the Opposition as a group of leaders is a gross deception. The Opposition is an expression of the class struggle. The organizational weakness of the Opposition by no means corresponds to its specific weight in the Party and the working class. The strength of the present Party régime lies, among other things, in the fact that it changes the relation of forces in the Party by artificial means. The present heavy bureaucratic régime in the Party reflects the pressure of other classes upon the proletariat. Yesterday, eighty old Party members, tested Bolsheviks, sent a declaration to the Central Committee in which they fully support the standpoint which we are developing here. They are all comrades who have behind them ten, fifteen, twenty and more years of uninterrupted work in the Bolshevik Party. To speak of any kind of “Trotskyism” in the face of all these facts, is to falsify the question in a ridiculous and wretched manner. The revisionists label the revolutionary content of Marxism with the word Blanquism, the more easily to enable them to fight against Marxism. The comrades who are turning away from the Bolshevik line label the revolutionary content of Leninism “Trotskyism”, the more easily to enable them to fight against Leninism. We have had a classic example of this in the speech of comrade Kuusinen, out of whose mouth spoke a provincial German Social Democrat.

During the most recent period of Party development, the blows have been directed only against the left. The basic reason for this is the defeats of the proletariat in the international field and the strengthening of the right course flowing from them. The whole history of the working-class movement proves that great defeats result in a temporary triumph of the opportunist line. After the defeat of the great strikes in Britain and of the Chinese Revolution, they want to deliver a new blow to the Opposition, that is, to the left, revolutionary line in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the Communist International. There is no doubt that the most principled, most consummate speech was delivered here by the new leader of the new course, Martynov, the mountebank of the bloc of four classes. What does this signify? A still greater strengthening of the shift to the right. It means the threat that the tendencies of Ustryalov will triumph. The Ustryalovs do not want to skip over any stages or phases, that is why the Ustryalovs are now openly for Stalin. But they do not, of course, think of remaining with him. For them, he is only a stage. For them, it is a question of destroying the left barrier in the CPSU, of weakening the proletarian line, of transforming the soviet system into an instrument of the petty bourgeoisie, so as to proceed from there on the direct road towards the restoration of capitalism, most probably in the Bonapartist form.

The war danger puts all questions harshly. Stalin’s line is the line of indecision, of vacillation between left and right tendencies with actual support for the right course. The growth of the war danger will force Stalin to choose. He has made an effort here to show that the choice has already been made. After the massacre of the Chinese workers by the bourgeoisie, after the capitulation of the Political Bureau to Purcell, after the speech of Chen Duxiu in Pravda, Stalin sees the enemy only on the left and directs his fire against them. Dozens of old and tested Bolshevik Party comrades, chiefly from Moscow and Leningrad, warn the Party in their collective letter of the threatening internal dangers. We do not doubt that thousands of Party fighters will join with them, fighters who do not fear threats or provocations, and who, despite all mechanical barriers, will understand how to penetrate to the public opinion of the Party, and to redress the revolutionary line of Bolshevism through the Party and by Party methods.

Fraternizing with Purcell and baiting Zinoviev, eulogizing and painting up the bourgeois leaders of the Guomindang and baiting the Left Opposition in the CPSU and in other parties – one goes closely together with the other. This is a definite course. Against this course we will fight to the end. Stalin said the Opposition stands in one front with Chamberlain, with Mussolini and Zhang Zuolin. To that I answer: Nothing has facilitated the work of Chamberlain so much as the false policy of Stalin, particularly in China. The revolution cannot be made by halves. The London blow is the pay-off for the Martinovist course in China. On this path, only defeats can be accumulated.

Stalin obviously wants to make the attempt to present the Opposition as something like a defence corps for Chamberlain. This is wholly in the spirit of his methods. Yesterday Michael Romanov, today Chamberlain. But here he will miscalculate even more than he did with his hopes in Chiang Kai-shek and Purcell. Chamberlain must be seriously fought against, and the working class in the country and throughout the world must be brought to its feet and united. The masses can be brought to their feet, united and strengthened only through a correct class line. While we fight for a correct revolutionary line against the line of Stalin, we are preparing the best conditions for the struggle against Chamberlain. It is not we who are helping Chamberlain; it is the false policy.

Not a single honest proletarian will believe the insane infamy about the united front between Chamberlain and Trotsky. But the reactionary section of the petty bourgeoisie, the rising kulakdom of the Black Hundreds, can believe this, or pretend to believe this, so as to carry through to the end the suppression of the revolutionary proletarian line and its representatives. If you give the devil of chauvinism a finger, you perish. With his poisoned accusations, Stalin is extending this finger. We say this here and we will say it openly before the international proletariat.

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Last updated on: 4.3.2007