Leon Trotsky

“The Foundations of Socialism”


Written: 1932.
Source: The Militant, Vol. V No. 31 (Whole No. 127), 30 July 1932, p. 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.

The German liberal newspaper Berliner Tageblatt, dedicated a special number, in May, to the economic construction in U.S.S.R. The political article was written by Radek. To the question as to which, direction the development of the Union is taking, Radek answers as follows,

“In the fourteen years, which separate us from the October revolution, in Russia have been created the foundations of socialism. In monstrous struggles, in unceasing labor, a new society is being born.”

In such a general form these words, of course, can evoke no objections, particularly since they are published in the columns of a bourgeois paper. But Radek does not confine himself to this. Spurred on by an insatiable need to prove the sincerity of his repentance, he goes on to write,

“This situation is denied not only by outright enemies of the Soviet Union, but it is also impugned by Leon Trotsky; as he puts it, at such a time when in Russia there is a scarcity of milk, he who talks about the creation of the fundament of socialism compromises socialism. This remark shows only”, continues Radek, “that the author has lost those scales which formerly he was capable of applying to evaluate historical events.”

Radek, who renounced his own platform, is accusing others of losing their historical scales! However, of what should these consist? We quote the answer verbatim,

“Milk is the produce of cows, and not of socialism and in truth, one must really confuse socialism with the picture of that land where flow rivers of milk in order not to comprehend that a country may rise to the highest stage developments without temporarily thereby raising materially the condition of the national masses.”

What Is the Meaning of “Foundations”

For the moment let us put aside the clownish tone of the discussion. And let us try to extract from it the serious kernel. There is, first of all, in Radek’s answer the theoretical subterfuge, to which, in truth, Stalin resorted more than once when he was pressed to the wall. The matter concerns the tiny word, “the fundament” of Socialism. The present leaders of the Soviet Union have officially proclaimed that the country “has entered into socialism”. This assertion we called and continue to call criminal bureaucratic charlatanism. Radek keeps mum on the entry into socialism. Instead he advises us that in the Soviet Union there have been created the foundations or the fundament of Socialism. One can agree with this or disagree, depending upon what one understands by “fundament”.

Radek does not leave us without an answer on this point,

“If we are convinced – says he – that the fundament of Socialism has already been laid in Russia, it is because our judgment rests, in the first place, upon the fact that the possessing classes have disappeared and that the means of production are concentrated in the hands of the proletarian state.”

In this sense the fundament has been indubitably laid. But in such a formulation the subject of the dispute disappears altogether. Radek reduces his proof to the fact that Russia has passed through the proletarian overturn. There is no harm in reminding the honored readers of Berliner Tageblatt about it. Unfortunately, however, the proletarian overturn and the expropriation of the possessing classes took place as early as 1917-1918. And in the meantime the entry into socialism was made public in 1930-1931. We were advised about it not on the basis of the expropriation of the expropriators (we knew about this fact even formerly) but on the basis of the 100 percent collectivization, and the elimination of the kulak as a class. Why then, does Radek surrender without a blow the first line of trenches, “the Stalin line”? Why, while so bravely assuming military activities against Trotsky, does he immediately retreat far, far to the rear, and intrench himself in the line of 1918 that is threatened by nobody?

There is no gainsaying it, in the first years after the October overturn, all of us said tens and hundreds of times, “the foundation of socialist construction is laid with us.” And that was correct. But this meant only that the political, and the legal property prerequisites for the socialist transformation were created. And that is all!

Socialist Foundation in 1921

If it were possible to speak in any manner seriously with Radek on serious subjects, we would have made an attempt to explain to him that it is impossible, in 1932, in answer to the question whither does the development of U.S.S.R. lead to refer to the political “fundament” of the socialist construction. The insufficiency of this reference alone was exposed for the first time on a major scale in 1921 when the question of the reciprocal relations with the peasantry was posed point blank. The creation of the economic jointure between the city and the village was then proclaimed to be the creation of the genuine foundation of socialist construction. Of such nature was the basic task of the N.E.P. The theoretical formula of the jointure is very simple: the nationalized industry must provide the peasantry with products indispensable to it, in such quantity, of such quality and at such prices as would entirely eliminate or reduce to a minimum, in the reciprocal relations between the state and the basic mass of the peasantry, the factor of extra-economic force, that is, the administrative seizure of peasant labor. The discussion concerns of course not the kulaks, in relation to whom a special task is posed; to limit their exploiting activities and not to allow them to turn into the dominant power in the village. The establishment of a reciprocal relationship of voluntary “barter” between industry and rural economy, between the city and village would impart an immutable firmness to the political interrelation between the proletariat and the peasantry. To socialism, of course, in such a case, there would still remain a long and a difficult road. But on this fundament – on the fundament of a jointure between the city and the village acceptable to the moujik, the economic work could be confidently pushed ahead, without rushing apace or dropping back, by maneuvering on the world market and in accordance with the tempo of the development of the revolution in the Occident and the Orient. Not only would the road not have led to national socialism, but it would have been of use to nobody. It would suffice, if the still isolated economy of the Soviet Union became one of the preparatory elements of the future international socialist society. He who talks about “the fundament of socialism” in 1932 has no right to retreat to the line of 1918, without even making an attempt to hold to the line of 1921; i.e., without giving an answer to the question: Did we succeed, during the 12 years that elapsed since the introduction of the N.E.P. to realize the jointure, in the Leninist sense of the word? Did the 100 percent collectivization assure such reciprocal relations between the city and the village as would reduce the extra-economic force, if not to zero, then clearly approximately to it? In this is the whole question. And to this fundamental question one is still compelled to give a negative answer. The 100 per cent collectivization has come about not as the crowning and the fruition of an achieved jointure, but as an administrative screening of its absence. To keep mum on this question, to circumvent it, to beat around the bush with words, is to call the greatest danger’s upon the dictatorship of the proletariat ... But of course, it is not from Radek that one should except an analysis of the problem of the jointure.


From Radek one can only expect journalistic pirouettes. One cannot without some squeamishness observe those capers, let me say in conclusion, that Radek cuts on the question of the substance of socialism in the pages of a liberal paper. Socialism is not the land of rivers of milk. Do not demand milk from socialism. “Milk is the produce of cows.” If one takes into consideration that precisely around cows in the Soviet Union at present a battle is occurring, which takes on at times tragic forms, then Radek’s grimaces become utterly unbearable. One cannot but recall the merciless, reserved as it is, evaluation which Lenin placed on Radek at the VII party Congress, at the time of the controversy over the Brest-Litovsk peace. In reference to a remark of Radek that Lenin “conceded space in order to gain time”, Lenin remarked, “I take notice of comrade Radek, and I want to make note here that he has succeeded accidentally to say a serious thing. This time, it has so happened that comrade Radek has come out with an entirely serious statement.”

Lenin meant unequivocally to make clear that serious statements could emanate from Radek only accidentally, and in the guise of the rarest exceptions. With the years, matters on this score have no whit improved. There is less hair outside, and more light-mindedness within. Stalin proclaimed, “We have made entry into Socialism.” Don’t boast prematurely, objected the Opposition, for the babes still lack milk. A jester takes the spotlight, and jingling his bells announces that milk is the produce of cows and not of socialism. In Radek’s tone, one might answer with the Russian proverb, “Bide a day, bide till you’re gray, you can’t get milk from a buck-goat.” Even a buck-goat grown bald is capable only of prancing, not more. That is why we prefer to return to serious questions on more serious occasions.

return return return return return

Last updated on: 23.12.2013