Leon Trotsky

Stalin’s Political Biography


Written: 1932.
Source: The Militant, Vol. V No. 28 (Whole No. 124), 9 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)

17. Forcing his way through from abroad at last, Lenin rends and fulminates against the “Kautskianist” Pravda (Lenin’s own expression), Stalin steps aside. At the time when Kamenev defends himself, Stalin remains silent. Gradually, he enters on the new official line laid down by Lenin. But we cannot find one independent thought, one generalization over which it is worth stopping. When circumstances permit, Stalin stands between Kamenev and Lenin. Thus, four days before the October overturn, when Lenin demanded the expulsion of Zinoviev and Kamenev, Stalin declared in Pravda that he didn’t see any principle difference. (See in the same issue the article, An Awl in a Sack)

18. Stalin did not occupy an independent position during the period of the Brest negotiations He wavered, waited and remained silent. At the last moment he voted for Lenin’s proposals. Stalin’s confused and helpless position at that period is sufficiently, clearly, though not fully characterized by even the officially dressed up report of the C.C. (See An Awl in a Sack)

19. In the period of the civil war, Stalin was against the principles laid down as a basis for the creation of the Red Army, and behind the scenes, inspired the so-called “military” opposition against Lenin and Trotsky. Facts bearing on this are partly set forth in Trotsky’s Autobiography (Vol. 2, page 167, Military Opposition). See also Markin’s article in No. 12–13, Bulletin of the Russian Opposition, page 36.

20. In 1922, during Lenin’s illness and Trotsky’s leave of absence, Stalin, under the influence of Sokolnikov, carries a resolution undermining the monopoly of foreign trade. Thanks to the vigorous protests of Lenin and Trotsky this resolution was withdrawn (see A Letter to the Bureau of Party History by Trotsky).

21. In the same period, on the national question, Stalin occupies a position which Lenin accuses of bureaucratic and chauvinistic tendencies. Stalin, on his part, accuses Lenin of national liberalism (see A Letter to the Bureau of Party History by Trotsky).

22. What was Stalin’s conduct on the question of the German revolution in 1923? Here again, as in March 1917, he had to orient himself independently in a question on a large scale: Lenin was ill, a struggle was being waged against Trotsky. Here is what Stalin wrote to Zinoviev and Bucharin in August 1923 about the situation in Germany:

“Should the Communists (at the present stage) strive to seize power without the social democracy – are they ripe for this already, – this in my opinion is the question. On seizing the power we had in Russia such reserves as: (a) peace, (b) land to the peasants, (c) the support of the great majority of the working class, (d) the sympathy of the peasantry. The German Communists have nothing like this now. True, they have the Soviet Union as a neighbor which we didn’t have, but what can we give them at the moment? If now in Germany the power, so to say, will fall and the Communists will seize it, they will fall through with a crash. This is the ‘best’ case. And in the worst – they’ll be smashed to bits and thrown back. The thing is not in this, that Brandler wants to teach the masses, but that the bourgeoisie plus the Right social democracy would surely turn this teaching-demonstration into a general slaughter (at present they have all the chances for it) and would destroy them. Certainly the Fascists are not napping, but it is more advantageous to us for the Fascists to attack first: this will rally the whole working class around the Communists. (Germany is not Bulgaria). Besides, the Fascists in Germany, according to the data we have, are weak. In my estimation the Germans must be restrained, not spurred on.”

In this manner, in August 1923, when the German revolution was knocking at all doors, Stalin reckoned that Brandler had to be restrained, not spurred on. For missing the revolutionary situation in Germany Stalin carries the weightiest share of the responsibility. He supported the procrastinators, the sceptics, the delayers in Germany. In a question of world-wide historical importance he not accidentally took an opportunist position: in reality he only continued that policy which in March 1917 he conducted in Russia.

23. After the revolutionary situation was ruined by passivity and indecision, Stalin for a long time defended the Brandlerist C.C. against Trotsky, in this way defending himself. Thus December 17, 1924 – a year after the wreck in Germany! – Stalin wrote:

“This peculiarity must not be forgotten for a moment. It particularly has to be remembered in analyzing the events in the fall of 1923. First of all it has to be remembered by comrade Trotsky who indiscriminately (!) traces an analogy (!!) between the October revolution and the revolution in Germany, and unceasingly flays the German Communist party.” (Questions of Leninism, 1928 edition, Page 171)

In this manner Trotsky was guilty in those days of flaying Brandlerism and not patronizing it. From this it is clearly seen how fit are Stalin and his Molotov for the struggle against the Rights in Germany.

24. The year 1924 – a year of great turn. In the spring of this year Stalin still repeats the old formulas about the impossibility of building socialism in one country, and a backward one at that. In the fall of the same year he breaks with Marx and Lenin in the fundamental question of the proletarian revolution and constructs his theory of socialism in a single country, properly speaking this theory was nowhere unfolded or even expounded in a positive form by Stalin. It is based on two deliberately falsified quotations from Lenin. To not one refutation of it has Stalin responded. The theory of socialism in one country has an administrative not a theoretical basis.

25. In the same year Stalin creates a theory of a dual composition, i.e., a two class party of workers and peasants for the East. This is a break with Marxism and the entire history of Bolshevism in the fundamental question of the class character of the party. Even the Comintern in 1928 was compelled to retreat from a theory that for a long time ruined the Communist parties of the East. But the great discovery continues to figure even today in Stalin’s Questions of Leninism.

26. In the same year, Stalin conducts the subordination of Chinese Communism to the bourgeois party, the Kuo Min Tang, designating the latter as the “worker’s and peasants” party according to the model invented by himself. The Chinese workers and peasants are politically enslaved to the bourgeoisie by the authority of the Comintern. Stalin organized in China that division of labor which Lenin prevented him from organizing in Russia in 1917: Chinese workers and peasants are “conquering”. Chiang Kai Shek is “consolidated”. Stalin’s policy was the direct and immediate cause of the wreck of the Chinese revolution.

27. Stalin’s position – his zig zags – on the questions of Soviet economy are too fresh in the memory of our readers and we therefore do not stop to comment on them here.

28. In conclusion we recall Lenin’s Testament. It is not a question of a polemical article or speech in which one can justifiably surmise unavoidable exaggerations flowing from the heated struggle. No, in the Testament Lenin, calmly weighing each word, gives his last advice to the party, appraising each of his co-workers on the basis of the entire experience of their work together. What does he say about Stalin? (a) “rude”, (b) “disloyal”, (c) inclined to “misuse of power”. Deduction: “to be removed from the post of general secretary”.

A few weeks later Lenin dictated a note to Stalin in which he declared his intention of “breaking off all personal and comradely relations” with him. This was one of the last expressions of Lenin’s will. All these facts are established in the records of the July plenum of the C.C. of 1927.

* * * *

Such are some of the landmarks of Stalin’s political biography They give a sufficiently complete picture in which energy, will and determination are combined with empiricism, near-sightedness, organic inclination to opportunist decisions in big questions, personal rudeness, disloyalty and a readiness to abuse power for the suppression of the party.

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Last updated on: 23.12.2013