Leon Trotsky

Lessons of May Day in Austria

(Reflections from Afar)

(May 1933)

Written: 7 May 1933.
Source: The Militant, Vol. VI No. 29, 3 June 1933, p. 1.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan for the Trotsky Internet Archive.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2015. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.

On the First of May the workers of Vienna showed that in spite of all deception, treachery and disappointment, they do want to fight. Once again it became apparent how easily all the bureaucrats and semi-bureaucrats, the official ones as well as those of the half-hearted opposition, disguise their own lack of decision as a “depressed sentiment” among the masses. The workers want to fight. This is the most important conclusion from which we must proceed.

The First of May policy of the social democratic party consisted in creating for itself an alibi: before the government, in case the masses entered into struggle and suffered defeat; before the masses, in case the masses entered into struggle and achieved a victory. it is hard to conceive of a more disloyal and outrageous policy. It is disloyal because it leaves the masses with the illusion that they have a party and a leadership. It is outrageous because, in their most difficult hour, it leaves the masses which are accustomed to a centralized leadership, to seek a way out on their own hook.

The policy of the social democratic party excludes the possibility of a victory of the proletariat. At the same time, it excludes the possibility of any kind of stabilized regime. The proletariat will remain in a condition of excitement and of hope for a revolutionary solution. The bourgeoisie lives in constant dread of civil war. The military-police measures reveal their unreliability more and more every day. The petty bourgeois masses are becoming more and more nervous. The big bourgeoisie is becoming more and more convinced that without the dictatorship of Fascism it will not be able to maintain its order. In this way, the social democracy paralyzes the proletariat with its doubly disloyal, loquacious and cowardly policy and pours grist to the mill of Fascism.

The semi-oppositionists of the type of Max Adler (can Otto Bauer still be counted among them?) cover up and protect this policy of disloyalty “from the Left.” Among the working masses there still glows the hope that everything will be made good again from above, that the opposition will soon decide to point out the way of struggle. In this manner, irretrievable weeks and months are lost.

The Left wing of the social democratic opposition made the first attempt to act when it called upon the masses to demonstrate in the center of the city. The call had no effect. It could not have any effect, because leadership cannot come from an anonymous organization. The workers want to know with whom they are dealing.

It is not, naturally, a question of persons, but of the banner, the program, the slogan, the organization. Several Left social democrats who want to light, are perplexed because they have no “names.” The name is created in the course of the struggle. As long as the Left social democrats do not come out with a platform of struggle, their calls will get no echo.

The Communist party is paralyzed by the criminal policy of the Stalinist bureaucracy in Germany, by the theory and practice of social Fascism, the hopeless muddle in the question of the united front, the regime of simulation and falsehoods.

The Bolshevik-Leninists must look for connections with the genuine revolutionary elements in the Communist party and the social democratic opposition. It is not true that everything is lost in Austria. Great shake-ups, transformations in the masses are still possible. A small organization which knows what it wants can play an historical role under such circumstances.

Prinkipo, May 7, 1933

Leon Trotsky

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Last updated on: 3 September 2015