Leon Trotsky

The Theoretical Origin of Social Patriotism

The Source


Written: 1928.
Extract from: The Third International After Lenin, 1928.
Published: New Militant, Vol. 1 No. 44, 26 October 1935, p. 4.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2018. Creative Commons (Share & Attribute).

Culled from Leon Trotsky’s immortal classic, The Criticism of Fundamentals: the Draft Program of the C.I., which exposed the fountainhead of Stalinist degeneration the following section showed as far hack as 1928 how the revisionist theory of “Socialism in One Country” led immutably to social patriotism. This prediction, considered at the time of its presentation to the Sixth World Congress of the Comintern to be an academic deduction, especially in view of the solemn pronouncements of the Congress in favor of revolutionary defeatism, needed hardly seven years and another Congress of the C.I. to find its confirmation in life itself and in the official minutes and resolutions. Indeed, so true has this prediction become that the official organ Of the French Communist, Party speaks ad nauseam of the need to defend French culture and patrimony, as the inheritance of the working class alone, against German invasion. A casual glance at the Daily Worker will reveal a similar and probably more obnoxious social patriotic propaganda.Ed.


The principle question raised in the quoted passage, namely, THE CONCEPTION OF BUILDENG UP OF SOCIALISM IN ONE COUNTRY AS A SOCIAL PATRIOTIC CONCEPTION was undoubtedly formulated correctly. The patriotism of the German social democrats began as a patriotism of their own party, the most powerful, party of the Second International. On the basis of highly developed German technique and the high organizational abilities of the German people, the German social democrats were bent on the construction of their “own” socialist society. If we leave aside the die-hard, bureaucrats, careerists, parliamentary sharpers and political crooks in general, the social patriotism of the rank and file social democrats was a result of precisely in the building up of German socialism. One cannot think that the hundreds of thousands of rank and file social democrats – let alone the millions of rank and file workers – wanted to defend Hohenzollern and the bourgeoisie. No. They wanted to defend German industry, the German railways an highways, German technique and culture and especially the organizations of the German working class, as the “necessary and sufficient” national prerequisites.

A similar process took place also in France. Guesde, Vaillant and thousands of the best rank and file party members with them, and hundreds of thousands of rank and file workers in general believed that precisely France with her revolutionary traditions, her heroic proletariat, her high culture, her flexible and talented people was the promised land of socialism. Old Guesde and the Communard Vaillant, and with them the thousands and hundreds of thousands of workers did not fight for the bankers or the rentiers. They sincerely believed that they defended the basis and the creative power of the coming socialist society. They proceeded entirely from the theory of socialism in one country and made sacrifices to this idea, believing that “temporarily” this was international solidarity.

The comparison with the social patriots will of course be answered by the argument that patriotism in relation to the Soviet States is a revolutionary duty whereas patriotism in relation to a bourgeois state is treachery. This is surely so. Can there be any dispute on this question among grown-up revolutionists? But this incontrovertible idea becomes, as we progress more and more, a scholastic cover for deliberate falsehood.

Revolutionary patriotism can be only of a class character. It begins at patriotism to the party organization, to the trade union, and rises to national patriotism when the proletariat has captured power. Wherever the workers have power patriotism is a revolutionary duty. But that patriotism must be an inseparable part of revolutionary internationalism, the invincible conviction that the main class aim, even less so than partial aims, cannot be realized by national means or within national boundaries, constitutes the heart of revolutionary internationalism. If, however, the final aim has been realized, within national boundaries by the efforts of a national proletariat then the backbone of internationalism has been broken. The theory of the possibility to realize socialism in one country destroys the inner connection of the patriotism of the victorious proletariat with the defeatism of the proletariat of the bourgeois countries. The proletariat of the advanced capitalist countries is still on the road to power. How and in what manner it will march toward it depends fully and entirely on the question as to whether it considers the building up of socialist society a national or an international task.

If it is at all possible to realize socialism in one country then one can believe in that theory not only AFTER the conquest of power but also “prior” to it. If socialism can be realized, within the national boundaries of backward Russia then there is the more reason to believe that it can be realized in advanced Germany. Tomorrow the leaders of the Communist Party of Germany will surely bring forward: this theory. The Draft Program empowers them to do so. The day alter tomorrow the French party will have its turn. That will be the beginning of the downfall of the Comintern along the lines of social patriotism. The Communist Party of any capitalist country which will have become imbued with the idea that its particular country possesses all the “necessary and, sufficient” prerequisites for the independent construction of a “complete socialist society” will in substance in no respect differ from the revolutionary social democrats who also began not with Noske but who definitely stumbled on August 4, 1914 on this very same question.

If they say that the very existence of the U.S.S.R. is a guarantee against social patriotism because in relation to a Workers’ Republic it is a revolutionary duty, in this onesided utilization of a correct idea is expressed national narrow-mindedness. Those who say so have in mind only the U.S.S.R., closing their eyes to the entire proletariat of the world. To lead the proletariat to the idea of defeatism in relation to the bourgeois state is possible only by an international orientation in the program .on the main question and by a merciless resistance to social-patriotic contraband which is now still masked but which seeks to establish a theoretical nest for itself in the program of Lenin’s International.

(From Criticism of Fundamentals: The Draft Program of the C.I. Submitted July 1928. Pp. 72–75.)

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Last updated on: 6 February 2018