Source: The Militant, Vol. V No. 11 (Whole No. 107), 12 March 1932, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcription/HTML Mark-up: 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.
We are reprinting below an interview granted by comrade Trotsky through the intermediary of Simon and Schuster, the American publishers of his latest work, The History of the Russian Revolution, to the N.Y. Times.
The presentation of his views – which are those of the International Left Opposition – is here given in a concise and trenchant form, so that every reader can at once grasp the general outlines of our position as well as the elementary causes of the struggle we are carrying on, can readily serve as a sort of guide or key to the other current writings of our comrade and to the literature of the Left Opposition as a whole.
Question: Will you give your appraisal of the Five-Year Plan and the economic perspectives confronting Russia?
Answer: The question of industrialization, and particularly of the Five-Year Plan, was one of the chief points of conflict between the Stalin faction and the Left Opposition, to which I belong. Up to February 1928, the Stalin faction considered it necessary to rest its power upon the strong peasant and refused to compel him to make sacrifices in the interest of industrialization. The very principle of planning was laughed at by the bureaucracy, “We depend upon rain, not plans,” they said. In 1925 I published a book, Toward Capitalism or Socialism? in which I proved that with proper leadership industry could show a 20 per cent yearly increase or more. Stalin and Molotov considered these figures fantastic and accused the Left Opposition of “superindustrialism.” These cursory comments on the history of the thing are sufficient to demonstrate my attitude to the Five-Year Plan; I consider it a gigantic step forward in the development not only of the Soviet Union but of humanity.
Question: Do you believe that the development of the Five-Year Plan has strengthened or weakened the possibility of building socialism in Soviet Russia alone without cooperation along similar lines in the rest of Europe?
Answer: This raises the question about socialism in a single country. The inevitability of socialism flows historically from the fact that the present productive forces of humanity have become incompatible not only with the private property in the means of production but also with present national boundaries, especially in Europe. Just as medieval particularism hindered the development of capitalism in its youth, so now at the peak of its development capitalism is strangling in the limits set by the national States.
Socialism cannot confine productive forces in the Procrustean bed of national States. The Socialist economy will develop on the basis of an international division of labor, the mighty foundations of which have been laid down by capitalism. The Soviet industrial construction is, in my view, a part of a future European, Asiatic and world-wide Socialist structure, and not an independent national whole.
Question: Will Soviet Russia be compelled to come to some sort of a compromise with Western capialism, assuming that she may not be able to pursue a Socialist policy single-handed? What form would such a compromise assume?
Answer: The “compromise” between the Soviet and the capitalist systems is not a question of the future but of the present. It is already a fact today, although not a very stable one. How will the interrelations between the isolated Soviet Union and world capitalism develop? Here a concrete prophecy is not easy to make, but in general I should cast the following horoscope: European capitalism is far nearer to a Socialist revolution than the Soviet Union is to a national Socialist society.
Question: What are the prospects of Soviet Russia’s relations with other countries in the political field if such a compromise proves feasible?
Answer: The Soviet Government is interested in maintaining peaceful relations. It has demonstrated its will to peace, and is still demonstrating it by every means at the disposal of a government. It is true that in Paris they consider the Soviet proposal of universal disarmament a proof of the belligerent intentions of Moscow, and on the other hand the refusal of France to take steps toward disarmament they regard as an expression of her peaceful intentions. Following the same logic the French official press considers the Japanese invasion of China am act of civilization, the Chinese resistance a barbarous act. Burglars, according to this logic, are not those who break into other people’s houses, but those who defend their own. It is difficult to concur in this.
Question: What is your attitude toward the Stalin regime today and why?
Answer: To answer this question I distinguish sharply two different conceptions: the Soviet regime as the regime of proletarian dictatorship and the Stalin regime, which is a bureaucratic perversion of the Soviet regime. It is with the aim of strengthening and developing the Soviet system that I wage a struggle against the Stalin regime.
Question: Do you still regard the present phase of the Bolshevist revolution as “Thermidorian”, and has your view as expressed in your autobiography been borne ouc by events since your departure from Soviet Russia?
Answer: I have never said that the present stage of the revolution was “Thermidorian.” The historic conception of Thermidor has a very definite content: it means a completion of the first stage of a victorious counter-revolution. A Thermidor in the U.S.S.R. could mean nothing else than the coming into power, although at first in a semi-disguised form, of the bourgeoisie, and consequently a breakdown of the October revolution. I have never, at any time or anywhere, said that the October revolution has broken down. This opinion is persistently attributed to me by the Stalin press for purposes which have nothing whatever to do with the interests of truth. What I have asserted and do assert is that there has grown up on the basis of the October revolution a powerful bureaucratic stratum in which both active and passive Thermidorian tendencies are very strong. However, their victory is still far off. The opposition to these tendencies consists of a struggle for the independence of the Communist party, the trade unions and the Soviets and for their vigilant control over the bureaucracy. This opinion was not formed by me after my exile from the Soviet Union; on the contrary, it was the cause of my exile. A bureaucracy does not tolerate any attacks upon its commanding role. The danger inherent in the Thermidorian tendencies of a bureaucracy was perfectly clear to Lenin. He gave warning against this danger in his last speech at the Eleventh Congress of the party in 1922. My last conversation with Lenin was devoted to this question. Lenin proposed that I form a bloc with him against that bureaucratism, the focal point of which he considered, and I also, to be the secretarial apparatus of the party led by Stalin. Lenin’s second illness prevented the carrying out of this plan.
Question: Is there need of modifying the Communist dictatorship in Russia and how should this be modified?
Answer: This question is closely bound up with the first two. The economic successes, it is needless to say, have greatly strengthened the Soviet Union. At the same time they have greatly weakened the position of Stalin’s official apparatus. In this there is no contradiction. In the first place, it is perfectly clear to all conscious elements of the population of the Soviet Union that the successes in the sphere of industrialization and collectivization became possible only because the Stalin bureaucracy came up against the resistance of its protege, the kulak, who refused to surrender his grain to the State, and thus the bureaucracy was compelled to take over and carry out the program of the Left Opposition. Stalin has dealt with our program in much the same way that the free-trader MacDonald has dealt with the protectionist program of Joseph Chamberlain, who also in his time was cruelly beaten at the polls. Today Chamberlain (I mean the father, not the son) is in any case more popular in England than MacDonald. To be sure, Chamberlain died long ago. But the principal leaders of the Russian opposition are alive. Rakovsky in Barnaoul is attentively following all the processes of industry and politics in the Soviet Union. A second and still more important cause of the weakening of the Soviet bureaucracy lies in the fact that the economic successes have greatly elevated not only the number of the Russian workers, but also their cultural level, their confidence in their own powers and their feeling of independence. All these traits are hard to reconcile with a bureaucratic guardianship. Nevertheless, the Stalin apparatus in its struggle for dominance has carried the bureaucratic regime to its utmost extremes. I want especially to emphasize this fact: the economic successes, as frequently happens in history, have not strengthened but, on the contrary, undermined the position of the ruling stratum. I consider important changes in the methods of the Soviet regime absolutely inevitable, and that, too, in the rather near future. These changes will involve a blow at the dictatorship of the Stalin bureaucracy, and will indubitably clear the road for a flourishing of Soviet democracy on the foundations laid down by the October revolution.
Question: Do you look forward to your return to Soviet Russia? Under what conditions would that be possible and what would be your program?
Answer: I think that the above-mentioned changes will make possible and inevitable a return of the Left Opposition to active work in the Soviet Union.
Question: You have been reported as urging the Communists in Germany to support the Bruening Government as a means of staving off the victory of Hitlerism – is that true? Why do you consider the present policy of German communism erroneous?
Answer: Dispatches to the effect that I have urged the German Communists to support the Government of Bruening are, of course, false. The Stalin press has attributed this plan to me, and the idea has been taken up by journalists who do not understand the situation. I proposed to the German Communists to carry out the policy of the so-called United Front. The Communists ought to propose to the Social-Democrats and to the trade unions led by them a program of cooperative, practical struggle against the attack of the Fascists. The Social-Democratic masses quite sincerely desire to wage such a struggle. If the leaders refuse, they will compromise themselves in the eyes of their own masses. If the leaders agree the masses, in practical action, will go beyond their leaders and support the. Communists. One must learn to make use of disagreements in the camp of opponents and enemies. Only with a policy as flexible as this is it possible to rise step by step to the top. Strategy involves maneuvers as well as assault. I have not the slightest doubt that the German Communist party, in spite of the resistance of the Stalin bureaucracy, will learn this strategy, through which alone bolshevism was able to win the power in Russia.
Question: What is your view of the present world economic crisis and its implications for the prevailing social order? Do you still look for world revolution as a likely consequence of the crisis or do you believe that capitalism may surmount the crisis and enter upon a period of stabilization? What would be the situation of Soviet Russia in event of stabilization? Has not the world economic crisis placed Soviet Russia before the need of revising her own economic policies?
Answer: The present economic crisis is an indubitable expression of the fact that world capitalism has outlived itself as a system. The question of the historic date when it will be replaced by another system will be decided, of course, in different ways for different countries, and especially for different parts of the world. Present-day Europe has no way out. Even though the automatic working of the laws of the market lead to a softening of the crisis in Europe after a year or two, the crisis will return again in a comparatively short time with redoubled force. The productive forces are being strangled in the national cells of Europe. The dilettante plan of M. Briand for a union of Europe has not emerged and never will emerge from the laboratory of the chancelleries and editorial offices. The ruling classes will cure the crisis with a further economic decimation of Europe and a strengthening of protectionism and militarism. Under these circumstances I see no prospect of a general stabilization of European capitalism.
Question: How do you view the position of the United States in the present world situation?
Answer: I think as a result of the present crisis the predominance of American over European capitalism will grow still more pronounced. In the same way, as a result of every crisis, you see a growth in the predominance of the big enterprise over the small, the trust over the isolated undertaking. However, this inevitable growth of the world hegemony of the United States will entail further deep contradictions both in the economy and in the politics of the great American Republic. In asserting the dictatorship of the dollar over the whole world the ruling class of the United States will introduce the contradictions of the whole world into the very basis of its own dominance. The economy and the politics of the United’ States will depend more and more directly upon crises, wars and revolutions in all parts of the world. The position of “observer” cannot long be maintained formally. I think that America will create the most colossal system of land, sea and air militarism that can be imagined. The conclusive emergence of America from its old “provincialism,” the struggle for markets, the growth of armaments, and active world policy, the experience of the present crisis – all these things will inevitably introduce deep changes into the inner life of the United States. The emergence of a labor party is inevitable. It may begin to grow with an “American tempo,” leading to the liquidation of one of the two old parties just as the Liberals have disappeared in England.
To sum it up, you must say the Soviet Union will be Americanized technically, Europe will either be Sovietized or descend to barbarism, the United States will be Europeanized politically.
Last updated on: 19.5.2013