THE PRAESIDIUM of the Central Control Commission which met in June 1927 to take up the question of the expulsion of Trotsky and Zinoviev from the Central Executive Committee of the party failed to arrive at any decision. The question had not yet been given sufficient “preparation.” The principal art of Stalinist strategy consists in cautiously apportioning the doses in which blows are dealt to the party. Throughout June and July a tireless hounding of the Opposition ensued. The question of the expulsion of Oppositionists from the highest bodies of the party was carried before the joint plenary session of the Central Committee and the Central Control Commission which convened at the end of July and the beginning of August. At this Plenum, the question of the war danger was deliberately interlaced with the question of the Opposition so as to envenom to the highest possible degree the subsequent struggle against the latter. However, even the joint Plenum was unable to decide upon the expulsion of Trotsky and Zinoviev from the Central Committee. The Stalin faction had to gain a few more weeks in order to develop its agitation against the Opposition as the “ally” of Chamberlain.
We print below the speech delivered by the author of this book on August 1, 1927, on the subject of the war danger and the defense policy.
TROTSKY: You have allotted me 45 minutes. I will summarize as concisely as possible in view of the very wide scope of the subject under consideration. Your theses assert that the Opposition allegedly holds some sort of Trotskyist formulation on the questions of war and defeatism. New fictions! Paragraph 13 of your theses is entirely devoted to this twaddle. So far as the Opposition as a whole is concerned, it can in no way be held accountable for my former differences with Lenin, differences which, upon these questions, were altogether secondary in character. So far as I am personally concerned, I can make here a brief reply to the silly insinuations. Back in the time of the imperialist war, the appeals to the international proletariat – all of them dealing with war and the struggle against war – were written by me in the name of the first Council of People’s Commissars and in the name of the Central Committee of the party. I wrote the war section of our party program, the main resolution of the Eighth Party Congress and the resolution of a number of Soviet Congresses, the manifesto of the First World Congress of the Comintern, a considerable portion of which is devoted to war, and the programmatic manifesto of the Second World Congress of the Comintern which devotes considerable space to the evaluation of war, its consequences and future perspectives. I wrote the theses of the Third World Congress of the Comintern on the question of the international situation and the perspectives of war and revolution. At the Fourth World Congress I was assigned by the CC of the party to give the report on the perspectives of the international revolution and war. At the Fifth World Congress (1924) I wrote the manifesto on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the imperialist war. There were no disputes whatever in the Central Committee over these documents, and they were adopted not only without any controversy, but virtually without any corrections. I ask: How is it that my “deviation” failed to manifest itself throughout my entire long and rather intensive activity in the Communist International?
Now it suddenly appears, after my rejection of “economic defeatism” in 1926 – an absurd and illiterate slogan advanced by Molotov for the English workers – that I had presumably parted company with Leninism. Why then did Molotov hide his silly slogan in his back-pocket after my criticism of it?
MOLOTOV: There was no slogan at all.
TROTSKY: That’s what I say. There was nonsense, but no slogan. That’s just what I say. [Laughter] Why then was it deemed necessary to exaggerate rudely old differences which, moreover, were liquidated long ago? For what purpose? For the purpose of covering up and camouflaging the actual palpable and current differences. Is it possible to pose seriously the question of a revolutionary struggle against war and of the genuine defense of the USSR while at the same time orienting toward the Anglo-Russian Committee? Is it possible to orient the working class masses toward a general strike and an armed insurrection in the course of a war while simultaneously orienting towards a bloc with Purcell, Hicks and other traitors? I ask: Will our defensism be Bolshevik or trade unionist? That is the crux of the question!
Let me first of all remind you of what the present leadership has taught the Moscow proletariat during the whole of the last year. Everything centers round this point. I read you the verbatim directives of the Moscow Committee:
“The Anglo-Russian Committee can, must and undoubtedly will play a tremendous role in the struggle against all types of intervention directed at the USSR. It [the Anglo-Russian Committee!] will become the organizing center for the inter national forces of the proletariat in the struggle against all attempts of the international bourgeoisie to start a new war.”
Molotov has made here the remark that “through the Anglo-Russian Committee we disintegrated Amsterdam.” It is as clear as noon-day that even now he has grasped nothing. We disintegrated the Moscow workers together with the workers of the entire world, deceiving them as to where their enemies were, and where their friends.
SKRYPNIK: What a tone!
TROTSKY: The tone is suited to the seriousness of the question. You consolidated Amsterdam, and you weakened yourselves. The General Council is now more unanimously against us than ever before.
It must he said, however, that the scandalous directive I just read expresses much more fully, clearly and honestly the actual standpoint of those who favored the preservation of the Anglo-Russian Committee than does the scholastic hocus-pocus of Bukharin. The Moscow Committee taught the Moscow workers and the Political Bureau taught the workers of the entire Soviet Union that in the event of a war danger our working class would he able to seize hold of the rope of the Anglo-Russian Committee. That is how the question stood politically. But this rope proved rotten. Saturday’s issue of Pravda, in a leading article, speaks of the “united front of traitors” in the General Council. Even Arthur Cook, Tomsky’s own beloved Benjamin, keeps silent. “An utterly incomprehensible silence!” cries Pravda. That is your eternal refrain: “This is utterly incomprehensible!” First you staked everything on the group of Chiang Kai-shek; I mean to say Purcell and Hicks, and then you pinned your hopes on “loyal” Wang Ching-wei, that is, Arthur Cook. But Cook betrayed even as Wang Ching-wei betrayed two days after he had been enrolled by Bukharin among the loyal ones. You turned over the Minority Movement  bound hand and foot to the gentlemen of the General Council. And in the Minority Movement itself you likewise refuse to counterpoise and are incapable of counterpoising genuine revolutionists to the oily reformists. You rejected a small but sturdier rope for a bigger and an utterly rotten one. In passing across a narrow and unreliable bridge, a small but reliable prop may prove one’s salvation. But woe to him who clutches at a rotten prop that crumbles at a touch – for, in that case, a plunge into the abyss is inevitable. Your present policy is a policy of rotten props on an international scale. You successively clutched at Chiang Kai-shek, Feng Yu-hsiang, Tang Cheng-chih, Wang Ching-wei, Purcell, Hicks and Cook. Each of these ropes broke at the moment when it was most sorely needed. Thereupon, first you said, as does the leading article in Pravda in reference to Cook, “This is utterly incomprehensible!” in order to add on the very next day, “We always foresaw this.”
Let us take the entire tactical, or rather strategical line in China as a whole. The Kuomintang is the party of the liberal bourgeoisie in the period of revolution – the liberal bourgeoisie which draws behind it, deceives and betrays the workers and peasants.
The Communist party, in accordance with your directives, remains throughout all the betrayals within the Kuomintang and submits to its bourgeois discipline.
The Kuomintang as a whole enters into the Comintern and does not submit to its discipline, but merely utilizes the name and the authority of the Comintern to dupe the Chinese workers and peasants.
The Kuomintang serves as a shield for the landlord-generals who hold in their grip the soldier-peasants.
Moscow – at the end of last October – demands that the agrarian revolution be kept from developing so as not to scare away the landlords in command of the armies. The armies become mutual insurance societies for the landlords, large and small alike.
The landlords do not raise any objection to their military expeditions being called national revolutionary, so long as the power and the land remain in their hands. The proletariat, which composes a young revolutionary force in no wise inferior to our own proletariat in 1905, is driven under the command of the Kuomintang.
Moscow offers counsel to the Chinese liberals: “Issue a law for the organization of a minimum of workers’ detachments.” This, in March 1927! Why the counsel to the tops – Arm yourselves to the minimum? and why not a slogan to the rank and file – Arm yourselves to the maximum? Why the minimum and not the maximum? In order not to “scare away” the bourgeoisie, so as not to “provoke” a civil war. But the civil war came inevitably, and proved far more cruel, catching the workers unarmed and drowning them in blood.
Moscow came out against the building of Soviets in the “army’s rear” – as if the revolution is the rump of an army in order not to disorganize the rear of the very same generals who two days later crushed the workers and peasants in their rear.
Did we reinforce the bourgeoisie and the landlords by compelling the communists to submit to the Kuomintang and by covering the Kuomintang with the authority of the Comintern? Yes, we did.
Did we weaken the peasantry by retarding the development of the agrarian revolution and of the Soviets? Yes, we did.
Did we weaken the workers with the slogan of “minimum arming” – nay, not the slogan but the polite counsel to the bourgeois tops: “Minimum arming” , and “No need for Soviets”? Yes, we did. Is it to be wondered at that we suffered a defeat, having done everything that could have made victory difficult?
Voroshilov gave the most correct, conscientious and candid explanation for this entire policy. “The peasant revolution” ,he says, “might have interfered with the Northern Expedition of the generals.” You put a brake on the revolution for the sake of a military expedition. That is exactly how Chiang Kai-shek viewed the matter. The development of the revolution might, you see, make an expedition difficult for a “national” general. But, after all, the revolution itself is indeed an actual and a real expedition of the oppressed against the oppressors. To help the expedition of the generals, you put a brake on the revolution and disorganized it. Thereby the expedition of the generals was turned into a spearhead not only against the workers and the peasants but also – precisely because of that – against the national revolution.
Had we duly secured the complete independence of the Communist party, assisted it to arm itself with its press and with correct tactics; had we given it the slogans “Maximum arming of the workers!” “Extend the peasant war in the villages!” the Communist party would have grown, not from day to day, but from hour to hour, and its cadres would have been tempered in the fires of revolutionary struggle. The slogan of Soviets should have been raised from the very first days of the mass movement. Everywhere, wherever the slightest possibility existed, steps for the actual realization of Soviets should have been taken. Soldiers should have been drawn into the Soviets. The agrarian revolution would have disorganized the pseudo-revolutionary armies but it would have likewise transmitted the infection to the counter-revolutionary armies of the enemy. Only on this foundation could it have been possible to forge gradually a real revolutionary, i.e., workers’ and peasants’ army.
Comrades! We have heard here a speech made not by Voroshilov, the People’s Commissar for Army and Navy, but by Voroshilov, a member of the Political Bureau. This speech, I say, is in itself a catastrophe. It is equivalent to a lost battle.
TROTSKY: Last May, during the Plenum of the ECCI, when after finally assigning Chiang Kai-shek to the camp of reaction, you put your stakes on Wang Ching-wei, and then on Tang Cheng-chih, I wrote a letter to the ECCI. It was on May 28. “The shipwreck of this policy is absolutely inevitable.” What did I propose? Here is literally what I wrote. On May 28, I wrote:
“The Plenum would do the right thing if it buried Bukharin’s resolution, and replaced it with a resolution of a few lines. In the first place, peasants and workers should place no faith in the leaders of the Left Kuomintang but they should, instead, build their Soviets jointly with the soldiers. In the second place, the Soviets should arm the workers and the advanced peasants. In the third place, the Communist party must assure its complete independence, create a daily press, and assume the leadership of creating the Soviets. Fourth, the land must be immediately taken away from the landlords. Fifth, the reactionary bureaucracy must be immediately dismissed. Sixth, perfidious generals and counter-revolutionists generally must be summarily dealt with. And finally, the general course must be towards the establishment of a revolutionary dictatorship through the Soviets of Workers’ and Peasants’ Deputies.”
Now, compare this with: “There is no need for a civil war in the villages”, “Do not alarm the fellow travellers”, “Do not irritate the generals”, “Minimum arming of the workers”, and so on. This is Bolshevism! While our position is called in the Political Bureau ... Menshevism. Having turned yourselves inside out, you have firmly resolved to call white black. But your misfortune is that international Menshevism – from Berlin to New York –approves of the Chinese policy of Stalin-Bukharin, and being fully cognizant of the issue, solidarizes with your political line on the Chinese question.
Please try to understand that in question here is not the individual betrayals of the Chinese members of the Kuomintang, or of the Right and Left Chinese army commanders, or English trade unionists, and Chinese or English communists. When one rides in the train, it is the earth that appears to be in motion. The whole trouble lies in the fact that you placed hopes on those who were not to be relied upon; you under estimated the revolutionary training of the masses, the principal requirement for which is inoculating the masses with mistrust towards reformists, vague “Left” Centrists, and all vacillators in general. The fullest measure of this mistrust is the supreme virtue of Bolshevism. Young parties have still to acquire and assimilate this quality. Yet, you have acted and are acting in a diametrically opposite direction. You inoculate young parties with the hopes that the liberal bourgeoisie and the liberal labor politicians from the trade unions will move to the Left. You hinder the education of the English and Chinese Bolsheviks. That is the source whence come these “betrayals” which each time catch you unaware.
The Opposition warned that the Chinese Communist Party under your leadership would inevitably come to Menshevist policies – for which the Opposition was at the time mercilessly condemned. It is with certainty that we now warn you that the British Communist Party, under the influence of the policies that you are foisting on it, is becoming inevitably poisoned by Centrism and conciliationism. If you do not turn the helm sharply, the consequences with respect to the British Communist Party will not be any better than those with respect to the Chinese party. The same thing applies to the Comintern as a whole.
It is high time to understand that the Centrism of Bukarin-Stalin is unable to withstand the test of events. The greatest events in the history of mankind are revolution and war. We have put the Centrist policy to the test on the Chinese Revolution. The revolution demanded decisive conclusions from vacillating directives. The Chinese Communist Party found itself compelled to draw these conclusions. That is why it has arrived – and it could not have failed to do so at Menshevism. The unprecedented collapse of your leader ship in China demands that you finally repudiate the policy which compelled you under the most difficult conditions to clutch at rotten ropes.
Next to the revolution the greatest historical test is war. We say beforehand: There will be no room during the events of war for the Stalinist and Bukharinist policy of zigzags, side-stepping and subterfuges – the policy of Centrism. This applies to the entire leadership of the Comintern. Today, the only test put to the leaders of the foreign communist parties is the question: Are you ready to vote night and day against “Trotskyism”? But war will confront them with far weightier demands. Meanwhile, the policy with respect to the Kuomintang and the Anglo-Russian Committee has obviously made them turn their eyes towards the Amsterdam and social-democratic tops. No matter how you squirm-the line of the Anglo-Russian Committee was the line of relying upon the rotten rope of the Amsterdam bureaucracy, whose worst section at the present time is the General Council. In the event of war you will have to stumble time and again over “surprises.” The rotten ropes will fall apart in your hands. War will cause a sharp differentiation among the present tops of the Comintern. A certain section will go over to the Amsterdam position under the slogan: “We want to defend the USSR seriously – we do not wish to be a handful of fanatics.” Another section of the European communists – we firmly believe they will be in the majority – will stand on the position of Lenin, on the position of Liebknecht that we are defending. There will be no room for the intermediate position of Stalin. That is why, permit me to say this frankly, all this talk of a handful of Oppositionists, of generals with out an army, and so forth and so on, seem utterly ludicrous to us. The Bolsheviks have heard all this more than once both in 1914 and in 1917. We foresee tomorrow all too clearly, and we are preparing for it. Never before did the heart of the Opposition beat with such an immutable conviction of its correctness. Never before was there such unanimity as now prevails.
ZINOVIEV and KAMANEV: Absolutely correct! [Zinoviev and Kamenev, as is well known, dld not hold out for long. – L.T.]
TROTSKY: Nor will there be any room for the gradual Centrist back-sliding with respect to biateral policies under the conditions of war. All the controversies will congeal, the class contradictions will become aggravated, the issues will be posed point-blank. It will be necessary to give clear and precise answers.
Which do we need during war-time: “Revolutionary Unity” or “Union sacrée”? The bourgeoisie has devised for the period of war and war danger a special political condition under the name of “civil peace” or “Union sacrée.” The meaning of this purely bourgeois concept is this, that the differences and squabbles of all bourgeois parties, including the social democracy, as well as internal disagreements within all parties must, you see, be silenced for the duration of the war – in the aim of the best possible befuddlement and deception of the masses. “Union sacrée” is the highest form of the conspiracy of the rulers against the ruled. Needless to say, if our party has nothing to hide in the political sense from the working class during peace-time, then this is all the more true during war-time when the purity and clarity of the political line, the profundity of the ties with the masses are life-and- death questions. That is why, under the incomparably greater centralization of our party, as compared with any bourgeois party, we permitted ourselves in the heat of the civil war to discuss in the sharpest possible way and to resolve in a democratic party way, all the fundamental questions of political leadership. This was the inevitable overhead expense by means of which the party worked out and reinforced a correct line, and fortified its revolutionary unity. There are – rather it would be more correct to say, only yesterday we still had – comrades who thought that after the death of Lenin, the absolute correctness of the leadership among us was assured to such an extent that it no longer required to be checked upon by the party. We, on the other hand, think just the contrary: Today the leadership requires a check-up and a change more than ever before in the entire history of our party. What we need is not a hypocritical “Union sacrée” but honest revolutionary unity.
The shilly-shallying Centrist policy cannot hold its own during wartime. It must turn either to the Right or to the Left, i.e., take either the Thermidorian road or the road of the Opposition. [Commotion in the hall]
Is victory in war possible on a Thermidorian path? Generally speaking, such a victory is not excluded. As the first step, repeal the monopoly of foreign trade. Give the kulak the opportunity of doubling the export and the import. Enable the kulak to squeeze the middle peasant. Compel the poor peasant to understand that without the kulak there is no other road. Raise and reinforce the importance of the bureaucracy, of the administration. Cast aside the demands of the workers as so much “guildism.” Restrict the workers politically in the Soviets, reestablish last year’s election decree and gradually extend it in favor of the property owners. That would be the road of Thermidor. Its name is – capitalism on the installment plan. Then at the head of the army would stand the lower commanding staff of kulaks, and the high commanding staff of intellectuals and bourgeoisie. On this road victory would signify the acceleration of the switch to the bourgeois rails.
Is victory possible on the revolutionary proletarian path? Yes, it is possible. Nor is that all. The entire world situation bespeaks the fact that victory is most assured in the event of war precisely on this path. But for that, we must first dispel the political twilight in which all cats appear to be gray. The kulak on the Right-is an enemy. The agricultural laborers and poor peasants on the Left-are friends. Through the poor peasant lies the road to the middle peasant. We must create a political environment which makes it impossible for the bourgeoisie and the bureaucracy to give free play to their elbows and to push the workers aside, while saying, “This is not the year 1918, my boy!” It is necessary that the working class itself be able to say: “In 1927, we are not only better fed, but politically we are greater masters of the state than in 1919.” Along this road, victory is not only possible, but is most surely secured, for only on this road will we have the support of the lower classes among the people of Poland, Romania and the whole of Europe.
Can the Stalinist Centrist course give victory? The course which vacillates between both camps, which promises first to comfort the kulak, to adopt his son and to cherish his grandson, and then irresolutely passes to the creation of the groups of poor peasants; which alters the electoral decrees from year to year, i.e., the Soviet constitution, first to the side of the kulak, and then against him, and then once again in his favor as was done in Northern Caucasus; which orients itself toward Chiang Kai-shek and Wang Ching-wei, Purcell and Cook, the perfidious tops, while confusing the rank and file – can this course give victory? This course has dictated to our Political Bureau the unbelievable decree of October 29, 1926, in relation to China which made it prohibitory to introduce the civil war into the Chinese village, which made it binding not to drive away the fellow travelers or the bourgeoisie, the landlords and the generals; or that other directive with the appeal to the liberal bourgeoisie to give the workers a minimum (!!!) of arms. This course irritates or dampens the ardor of some while it fails to win over the others; it loses the “friend” Wang Ching-wei and confuses the Communists. This course signifies constant clutching at rotten ropes. During peacetime such a course might persist for an indefinite period of time. Under the conditions of war and revolution, Centrism must turn the helm sharply either to the Right or to the Left. It is already splitting into a Right and a Left wing, both of which are incessantly growing at the expense of the center. This process will be inevitably speeded up; and the war, if it is thrust upon us, will invest the process with a feverish character. The Stalinist Center will inevitably melt away. Under these conditions the Opposition will be needed by the party more than ever before, in order to aid the party in rectifying the line, and at the same time preventing the disruption of revolutionary unity, and preserving the party cadres, its basic capital, from being dismembered. Because the overwhelming majority of the genuinely Bolshevik proletarian cadres – with a correct policy, with a clear line, and under the compulsion of objective conditions – will be able to reconstitute the policies, and steer a firm revolutionary course, not out of fear, but from conviction. It is this, and this alone, that we are striving to achieve. The lie of conditional defensism, the lie of the two parties, and the most despicable lie of an uprising – these lies we fling back into the faces of the calumniators.
TROTKY: But does not the criticism of the Opposition reflect upon the authority of the USSR in the international labor movement?
We would never think of even posing such a question. This very posing of the question of authority is worthy of the papal church, or feudal generals. The Catholic Church demands an unquestioning recognition of its authority on the part of the faithful. The revolutionist gives his support, while criticizing, and the more undeniable is his right to criticize, all the greater is his devotion in struggling for the creation and strengthening of that in which he is a direct participant. The criticism of the Stalinist mistakes may, of course, lower the “indisputable” and puffed-up Stalinist authority. But that is not the mainstay of the revolution and of the republic. Open criticism and actual correction of mistakes will give evidence to the entire international proletariat of the inner strength of the regime, which under the most adverse conditions is able to find internal guarantees for the assurance of the correct road. In this sense, the criticism of the Opposition, and the consequences already arising from it and which will arise to a greater degree on the morrow, in the last analysis, raises the authority of the October Revolution and strengthens it not with a blind but with a revolutionary trust of the international proletariat – and thereby raises our capacity for defense on an international scale.
The draft resolution of the Political Bureau says:
“The preparation for war against the USSR signifies nothing else but the reproduction on an extended base of the class struggle between the imperialist bourgeoisie and the victorious proletariat.”
Is that correct? Absolutely correct. But the resolution goes on to add: “Everyone who, like the Opposition in our party, casts doubt on this character of the war, ... etc.” Does the Opposition cast doubt on this general class significance of the war? Nonsense! It does not. There is not even a hint of it. Only those can assert the contrary who have themselves become completely lost in a maze, and seek to entangle others. Does this mean, however, that the general class meaning, undeniable to all of us, should serve as a cover for any and every blunder, and backsliding? No, it does not mean this. It provides no such cover. If we take for granted a priori and forevermore that the given leadership is the only conceivable and born leadership, then every criticism of the incorrect leadership will appear as a denial of the defense of the socialist fatherland, and a call to an uprising. But such a position is a pure and simple denial of the party. According to you, in the event of war, the party will serve only for the purpose of defense. But how the defense should be carried out, will be told the party by somebody else. Or again, to put it more succinctly and plainly: Do we, the Opposition, cast any doubts on the defense of the socialist fatherland? Not in the slightest degree. It is our hope not only to participate in the defense, but to be able to teach others a few things. Do we cast doubts on Stalin’s ability to sketch a correct line for the defense of the socialist father land? We do so and, indeed, to the highest possible degree.
In his recent article in Pravda, Stalin poses the following question: “Is the Opposition really opposed to the victory of the USSR in the coming battles with imperialism?” Allow me to repeat this: “Is the Opposition really opposed to the victory of the USSR in the coming battles with imperialism?” We leave aside the brazen impudence of the question. We do not intend to dwell now on Lenin’s carefully weighed characterization of Stalinist methods – of Stalin’s rudeness and disloyalty. We will take the question as it has been posed, and give an answer to it. Only White Guards can be “opposed to the victory of the USSR in the impending battles with imperialism.” The Opposition is for the victory of the USSR; it has proved this and will continue to prove this in action, in a manner inferior to none. But Stalin is not concerned with that. Stalin has essentially a different question in mind, which he does not dare express, namely, “Does the Opposition really think that the leadership of Stalin is incapable of assuring victory to the USSR?” Yes, we think so.
TROTSKY: The Opposition thinks that the leadership of Stalin makes victory more difficult.
MOLOTOV: And what about the party?
TROTSKY: The party has been strangled by you. The Opposition thinks that the leadership of Stalin makes the victory more difficult. The Opposition insisted on that with regard to the Chinese Revolution. Its warnings have been confirmed by events, to a frightful extent. It is necessary to effect a change in policy without waiting for a similar catastrophic test from within. Every Oppositionist, if he is a genuine Oppositionist and not a fraud, will assume in the event of war whatever post, at the front or behind the lines, that the party will intrust to him, and carry out his duty to the end. But not a single Oppositionist will renounce his right and his duty, on the eve of war, or during the war, to fight for the correction of the party’s course –as has always been the case in our party – because therein lies the most impor tant condition for victory. To sum up. For the socialist fatherland? Yes! For the Stalinist course? No!
60. The Minority Movement was the Left wing of the British trade union movement, inspired and initiated by the communists, but enjoying the growing support of hundreds of thousands of non-communist trade union members. By the time the British trade union leaders were prepared to withdraw from the Anglo-Russian Trade Union Unity Committee, the backbone of the Minority Movement was broken and it continued to decline to the point of complete dissolution.
Last updated on: 23.3.2007