Even Slander Needs Meaning

A Discussion with those Stalinists Who Reflect


Written: Summer 1933.
Source: The Militant, Vol. VI No. 43, 16 September 1933, p. 3.
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 every occasion the Stalinists repeat that the Bolshevik-Leninists whom they cull “Trotskyists” are working in favor of military intervention in the U.S.S.R. A shameless absurdity of this kind is calculated to mislead ill-informed people. The courageous man, the honest one, must inevitably say to himself: “It is impossible that such a thing is simply an invention, there must be some truth in it.” And unfortunately there are not a few of such courageous men in the world.

How then must one understand the aid that the “Trotskyists” will lend aid to intervention? Does that mean that the Bolshevik-Leninists are on the side of imperialism in the struggle against the U.S.S.R., that is, that they will be materially or politically interested in overthrowing the workers’ state with the aid of the military force of the imperialist bourgeoisie? There are people who even go as far as such assertions. In the majority of cases, these are slovenly careerists who are little concerned over intervention, revolution, Marxism and ideas in general they simply serve the master of today and will unhesitatingly betray this master in time of danger.

At bottom, these “udarniks” (shock brigadiers) of slander continue the tradition of the reactionaries, who, from 1914 onward and particularly from 1917, repeated indefatigably that Lenin and Trotsky were agents of the German General Staff. After 15 or 20 years in the course of which such events as the October Revolution, the Civil war, the creation of the 3rd International and the intransigent struggle of the Bolshevik-Leninists for the banner of Marx and Lenin against the degenerating bureaucracy have taken place – the Stalinists have withdrawn from the mud of the accusation formerly fabricated by the military espionage, by Miliukov, Bourtzev and Kerensky.

Others of the more prudent bureaucrats do not trust themselves to pose the question in the spirit of the British and Czarist counterespionage. They add a wise word: the Trotskyists, they say, objectively aid the counter revolution and the intervention. Such a formula, which itself pretends to objectivity, is in reality deprived of all content. Any mistake of the revolutionary party aids the enemy directly or indirectly but the whole question consists precisely in this: on whose side is the mistake? The Bolshevik-Leninists have demonstrated (and events have justified our arguments) that the policy of the Stalinist bureaucracy has aided the bourgeoisie and foreign imperialism against the workers in China; that it aided the British reformists against Communism; that in the U.S.S.R. it has aided and it aids the thermidorians and the bonapartists against the October Revolution; finally that it aided Hitler against the proletariat in Germany. Is this true or not? This is the decisive question Of course our criticism does not contribute to raising the authority of the Stalinist faction; but can one put the prestige of the bureaucracy and the vital interests of the world proletariat on the same plane? The Stalinist bureaucracy, which disposes in abundance of the services of publications, papers, “theoreticians”, journalists, has not even approached a refutation of our criticism. Is it not truly astounding that the C.I. has no book which draws the lessons of the German events of 1923, the Bulgarian insurrection and a series of other events of lesser extent. Thus, after the miserable report of Heckert they have put a cross on the study and on the analysis of the causes of the victory of German Fascism. By treating our criticism as counter-revolutionary the Stalinist bureaucracy merely says by that that we assail the principle of its infallibility. This principle has no need of demonstration: whoever doubts it is expelled from the organization and is locked in a prison in the U.S.S.R., then the family of the criminal is deprived of domicile and bread.

But is or is not the Opposition correct in its criticism? What then has military intervention to do with it? However in its chase for stronger and stronger arguments to justify its measures of physical destruction of the Leninists, the Stalinists with more and more frequency and always with greater obstinacy advance the argument of intervention. Their reasoning is constructed somewhat along the following lines: the “Trotskyists” say that Socialism in a single country is impossible; that the kulaks in the U.S.S.R. are not destroyed; that social democracy is not Fascism, consequently ... the “Trotskyists” press forward on the road of intervention. The conclusion here does not in any way at all flow from the premises. Only a little reflection is necessary to be convinced that the very conclusion stands in direct contradiction with the premises. Only a little reflection is necessary

to be convinced that the very conclusion stands in direct contradiction with the premises. The Stalinists themselves have repeated on numerous occasions that it is precisely the success of the construction of socialism which sharpen the hatred of the imperialists for the U.S.S.R. and by that brings closer the danger of intervention. But then is it not the Bolshevik-Leninists who declare that the actual successes are far from being as great as the Stalinist faction affirms? How then can this criticism push the bourgeoisie on the road of intervention? Let them explain that to us!

No one who knows anything will deny that the hostility of the world bourgeoisie originates from the fear of the extension of the proletarian revolution in other countries. This danger, in any case, effects the world bourgeoisie more immediately than the “liquidation” of classes in the U.S.S.R. The Bolshevik-Leninists, as is known, accuse the Stalinist bureaucracy of having practically renounced the policy of world revolution. Whether this be basically true or not, in any case such an accusation should diminish and not augment the danger of intervention. And indeed one can bring tens and hundreds of proofs to bear that the bourgeois believes that the policy of “socialism in one country” is much more realistic, wiser, “national” than the policy of “Trotskyism”, that is of the international proletarian revolution. The criticism of the Left Opposition can only strengthen the diplomatic positions of Stalinism. A serious American bourgeois, Campbell, has shown the necessity of recognizing the Soviet Union by referring to the words of Stalin, saying that the course towards international revolution was liquidated with the expulsion of Trotsky. It is true that Stalin has disavowed these words. Let us admit that they were said to Campbell not by Stalin himself, but by one of his associates; let us even admit that Campbell, in order to make the greatest impression, has himself put this argument into Stalin’s month. At bottom that does not change the matter one iota. Campbell puts as a positive feature of Stalin that which the Left Opposition considers as a negative feature and the American bourgeois is right from his point of view.

In any case, to accuse the Stalinist bureaucracy of being nationally limited does not hinder, but facilitates “normal” and even “friendly” relations for it with the bourgeois states. What happens then to the lecture on intervention? It can however be said that that we do not exactly explain the basis of the Stalinist argumentation. Let us take their official press. We have at hand the last number of l’Humanité (August 2nd). Let us surmount the natural repugnance for slander and let us probe the arguments of he functionaries of 1’Humanité. Here as an example of “Trotskyist” counter-revolution, they cite the words of Simone Weil: “The diplomacy of the Russian State should inspire us with defiance in case of war as in case of peace, just as the diplomacy of the capitalist states, if not to the same degree.” Further on they cite the words of a so-called “Trotskyist” Prader: “The power which dominates the U.S.S.R. has nothing in common – in spite of its lies – with the October Revolution.” In alleging these two quotations, of which we cannot guarantee the authenticity of the text, the editors write: “These are word for word the same filth that appears in the press of the other white-Russian or French counter-revolutionaries, of the Renaissance of General Miller, in the Dernières Nouvelles of Miliukov and in Populaire of Blum-Rosenfeld.”

So the White-Russians accuse Soviet diplomacy of having sunk to the level of bourgeois diplomacy or having betrayed the heritage of the October Revolution. Can anything more stupid or more ridiculous be imagined? And in order to show what he really is the unfortunate functionary accomplishes more than he can: “the accusations of the two camps coincide word for word”.

In reality, the white guard press exerts all its strength to prove to the bourgeois governments that the Stalinist bureaucracy continues the criminal work of the October Revolution, that it does not limit itself to national aims and aspires as before to the world revolution, and that is why the conclusion of the Franco-Soviet non-aggression pact or the recognition of the Soviets by Spain are fatal mistakes, in other words, the reactionary Russian and world press tries to demonstrate that Soviet diplomacy is not “Europeanized” that is, that it is not bourgeoisified and it sees in its refusal to bourgeoisify itself a basis for intervention: there is at least some logic in that. But the Stalinists have nothing, except absurdities. The Whites hate the Soviets with a vehement hatred and precisely because of that they look for arguments that have political meaning. It is an entirely different thing when an appointed functionary defends a cause which is quite foreign to him: he throws into the same sack all the absurdities which come into his poor head.

The functionary receives his task for the day: connect Trotsky with the white emigrés in order by that to justify the repressions against Rakovsky and thousands of irreproachable Bolsheviks. Then how does the indifferent functionary act in the cause? He assuredly does not throw himself into a polemic with Trotsky or his comrades: such a polemic promises nothing good. He has neither facts nor arguments: where should he find such facts and arguments? The functionary finds two isolated quotations which have no relation with Trotsky and he sets his wits to work to identify these quotations with the point of view of the white guards which is directly contrary both in spirit and letter. In order to give proof of his zeal the functionary adds: “word for word”: In slandering he takes no care to give his slander even an appearance of sense. No wonder if the advanced workers more and more turn their backs on the dishonest, ignorant and traitorous functionary.


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Last updated on: 22 October 2015