Leon Trotsky

A Political Biography of Stalin


Written: 1932.
Source: The Militant, Vol. V No. 27 (Whole No. 123), 2 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.

(Continued from last issue)

10. We give here a story by Shliapnikov (The Seventeenth Year, 1925, V. 2) about the change wrought by Stalin and Kamenev joined together at that time by the unity of their positions.

“The day of the appearance of the first issue of the ‘changed’ Pravda – the Fifteenth of March – was a day of rejoicing for the defenders. The whole Tauride Palace, from the men of affairs in the committees of the Duma to the very heart of the revolutionary democracy – the Executive Committee – was filled with the news: the victory of the moderate common-sense Bolsheviks over the extremists. In the very Executive Committee we were met with poisonous smiles. This was the first and only time that Pravda won the approval even of the stout defenders of liberal sense. When this issue of Pravda was received at the factories it caused complete perplexity among the members of our party and our sympathizers and malicious pleasure among our opponents.

“To the Petersbu’rg committee, to the bureau of the C.C. and to the editorial board of Pravda came inquiries: what is the matter, why did our paper renounce the Bolshevik line of Lenin and go over to the line of the defenders? And the Petersburg committee like the whole organization was caught unawares by this turn and therefore was deeply indignant and blamed the bureau of the C.C. The indignation in the sections was colossal, and when the proletarians found out that Pravda had been seized by the three former editors of Pravda who had arrived from Siberia, they demanded their expulsion from the party.” (The third was the former deputy Muranov.)

To this must be added the following: (a) Shliapnlkov’s exposition was worked over and extremely softened under the pressure of Stalin and Kamenev in 1925 (at that time the “three” still dominated!); (b) no denials of Shliapnikov’s story have appeared in the official press. And how can it be denied? Those issues of Pravda still exist.

11. The relation of Stalin to the problem of revolutionary power is expressed in a speech at a party conference (session of March 29, 1917):

“The provisional government, in fact, took the role of strengthening the conquest of the revolutionary people. The Soviet power and the social democracy mobilize forces, control, but the provisional government – persisting blundering takes the role of strengthening those conquests of the people, which in fact are already accomplished by them. Such a situation has negative, but also positive sides: it is not to our advantage now to force events, to quicken the process of the split-off of the bourgeois strata which later must unavoidably go away from us.”

Stalin is afraid “to push away the bourgeoisie” – the fundamental argument of the Mensheviks beginning with the year 1904.

”In so far as the provisional government supports the steps of the revolution, so far is it to be supported; and in so far as it is counter-revolutionary, support to the provisional government is unacceptable.”

Just so Dan spoke. In other words, is it possible to defend the bourgeois government before the revolutionary masses? The record further proclaims: “comrade Stalin publishes the resolution about the provisional government adopted by the bureau of the C.C., but says that he does not fully agree with it, and rather concurs with the resolution of the Krasnoyarsk Soviet.”

We cite the most important points of the Krasnoyarsk resolution:

“To make clear in full that the only source of power and authority of the provisional government is the will of the people who accomplished this overturn and whom the provisional government is obliged to obey completely —

“To support the provisional government in its activity in so far as it marches along the road of satisfying the demands of the working class and the revolutionary peasantry in the developing revolution.”

Such is the position of Stalin on the question of power.

12. The date, March 29, must be specially underlined. In this manner, more than a month after the beginning of the revolution, Stalin still talks of Miliukov as an ally: the Soviet conquers, the provisional government strengthens. It is difficult to believe that these words could be uttered by a reporter to the Bolshevik conference at the end of March 1917! Even Martov would not have put the question this way. This is the theory of Dan in its most vulgar expression: the democratic revolution as an abstraction within the confines of which participate the more “moderate” and the more “determined” forces; who divide the work among themselves: one conquers, who divide the work among themselves: one conquers, the other strengthens. And nevertheless, Stalin’s speech is not accidental. We have in it the schema of the whole Stalinist policy in China in the years 1924–28.

With what passionate indignation, notwithstanding all his reserve, Lenin, who succeeded in coming to the last session of that same conference lashed Stalin’s position:

“Even our Bolsheviks,” he said, “manifest trust in the government. This can be explained only by the fumes of the revolution. This spells the wreck of socialism. You comrades trust the government. If so, our ways part. I will rather remain in the minority. One Liebknecht is dearer than a hundred and ten defenders of the Steklov and Cheidze type. If you sympathize with Liebknecht and stretch even one finger to the defenders this will be a betrayal of international socialism.” (March party conference, 1917, Session of April 4. Report of comrade Lenin, page 44)

It must not be forgotten that Lenin’s speech and the reports in their entirety have been concealed from the party up till now.

13. How did Stalin pose the question of war? Exactly like Kamenev. It is necessary to awaken the European workers and meanwhile to fulfill one’s duty in relation to the “revolution”. But how are the European workers to be awakened? Stalin gives the answer in an article on March 17:

“... we have shown already one of the most serious methods of doing it. It consists in compelling our own government to express itself not only against any plans of conquest – but to formulate openly the will of the Russian people to begin immediately negotiations for a general peace on conditions of renunciation by both sides of any conquests, and the right of nations to self determination”.

In this manner the pacifism of Miliukov-Guchkov was to serve as a means of awakening the European proletariat.

On April 4, on the second day of his arrival, Lenin declared with indignation at the party conference:

Pravda demands from the government that it should renounce annexation. To demand from capitalist governments that they renounce annexations – is nonsense, a crying mockery.” (The March conference of the party in 1917. Session of April 4. Report of comrade Lenin. Page 44)

These words were aimed entirely at Stalin.

14. March 14, the Menshevik-Social Revolutionist Soviet issued a manifesto about the war to the toilers of all countries. The manifesto was a hypocritical pseudo-pacifist document in the political spirit of the Mensheviks and S.R.’s who were persuading the workers of other countries to rise against their own bourgeoisie and themselves were going along in the same harness with the imperialists of Russia and the whole entente.

How did Stalin appraise this manifesto?

“First of all, undoubtedly the bare slogan ‘down with war’ is unsuitable as a practical road – One can’t help welcoming yesterday’s appeal of the Soviet of workers’ and soldiers’ deputies in Petrograd to the nations of the whole world to compel their own governments to stop the slaughter. This appeal, if it reaches the broad masses, will undoubtedly return hundreds and thousands of workers to the forgotten slogan ‘Proletarians of all countries, unite!’”

How did Lenin appraise the appeal of the defenders? In the already cited speech of April 4th he said: “The appeal of the Soviet of workers deputies – there is not a word permeated with class consciousness. There is nothing in it but lifeless phrases.” (The party conference of 1917. Session of April 4th. Report of comrade Lenin, Page 43) These words of Lenin are aimed entirely at Stalin. Therefore the reports of the March, conference are concealed from the party.

15. Conducting, in relation to the provisional government and the war, the policy of the Left Mensheviks, Stalin had no ground on which to refuse to unite with the Mensheviks. Here is how he expressed himself on this question at the same March conference of 1917. We cite the report literally.

“On the order of the day – Tseretelli’s proposal for unity.”

“Stalin: ‘We have to go. It is absolutely necessary to define our proposal on the line of unity. Unity is possible on the line of Zimmerwald-Kienthal.’”

Even Molotov, it is true, expressed doubts, though not very articulately. Stalin retorts:

“To run ahead and to anticipate disagreements is not necessary. Without disagreements there is no party life. Inside the party we’ll get rid of insignificant disagreements.” (March party conference. Session of April 1st. Page 32)

These few words say more than whole volumes. They show those thoughts on which Stalin was feeding in the years of the war and bear witness with judicial exactness that the Zimmerwaldism of Stalin was of the same stamp as the Zimmerwaldism of Tseretelli. Here again there is not a hint of the ideological irreconcilability, the .false mask of which Stalin, in the interests of the apparatus struggle, put on a few days later. On the contrary, Menshevism and Bolshevism represent themselves to Stalin at the end of March 1917 as shades of thought that can live in harmony in one party. Disagreements with Tseretelli, Stalin calls “insignificant disagreements” which can be got rid of inside one party. We see here how it becomes Stalin to expose the conciliationist relations of Trotsky with the Left Mensheviks – in 1913.

16. In such a position Stalin naturally couldn’t seriously oppose anything to the S.R.’s and Mensheviks in the Executive Committee where he entered as a representative of the party after his arrival. There is not to be found in the records or in the press one proposition, one statement, one protest in which Stalin in some measure clearly counterposed the Bolshevik point of view to the lackeyism of the “revolutionary democracy” before the bourgeoisie. One of the recorders of events of that period, a non-partisan half-defender, Sukhanov, the author of the above mentioned manifesto to the toilers of the whole world, says in Notes of the Revolution:

“For the Bolsheviks at this time, beside Kamenev, there appeared in the Executive Committee Stalin – during his modest activity in the Executive Committee (he) produced – not only on me – the impression of a gray spot, that sometimes glimmered dully and traceless. More about him there is nothing to say.” (Notes of the Revolution, Book, pages 265–266)

(To be Continued)

return return return return return

Last updated on: 23.12.2013